Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

April 02, 1958

THE PRESIDENT. Just before I walked across the street in the beautiful sunlight and saw this revolution in Washington weather, someone called my attention to a passage in the Bible. It is in the Song of Solomon, second chapter. Read the verses 11 and 12.1 That is my announcement. [Laughter]

1 For, lo, the winter is past,

The rain is over and gone;

The flowers appear on the earth;

The time of the singing of birds is come,

And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;

Q. Alvin A. Spivak, International News Service: Mr. President, will you tell us, sir, what you want to accomplish through reorganization of the Defense Department and how you want to accomplish it; particularly would you say now how much added authority you feel that the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff should have?

THE PRESIDENT. How long am I allowed for this talk? [Laughter] Let's start with this statement with which I am sure you will all agree. In modern times there is no such thing as a separate ground, air, or sea war. The defense of the United States requires the planning for and if necessary the use of all of our defense forces as an integrated team. This places before a centralized authority, the Secretary of Defense, the task of making strategic plans. To conduct or to execute strategic plans, you have to have unified commands. We have those now. But those unified commands, if they are to be responsive completely to the decisions of the Secretary, must be organized by him, their missions must be given, he must determine their strength, the composition of the forces that will be capable of carrying on the defense of the areas or area that he may prescribe.

This means, in turn, that those commands have properly to be supported by the personnel replacements, by the special training given in the services, by every kind of supply and equipment item that they need. And he has to be able to dictate the amount of that, often the types.

For example, if he determines that in one theater you need more strength of a particular kind, he has to be able to give that command, because our operational forces must be responsive to him in this day of quick reactions to do this job.

So, then, first of all, the direct responsibility of the Secretary of Defense is in making the strategic plans and setting up the organisms by which they are carried out. Then he has a supervisory responsibility of making certain that they are supported logistically.

Now, as auxiliary problems, these unified commands have to be properly equipped--with new weapons, for example. No one knows exactly which one of the particular services or the components in the unified command would use a particular weapon, but the unified command needs it.

So we start in again with a centralized function of research, and development of the new weapons is initiated and controlled, directed, by the Secretary of Defense. He does it, not through setting up new organisms; because, after all, we keep the traditional form and outlines of our defense establishment; but he, through his properly constituted deputy, allocates the jobs, contractual responsibility, inspection, and so on.

Finally, to get these things done, he has to have a certain degree of financial flexibility. How that flexibility is to be conferred, that authority for that flexibility, is a problem for the Congress. But the flexibility to make possible the changes that occur day by day in the world situation, strengthening one group, pulling back from another group, all of that sort of thing requires the decisive influence of the Secretary of Defense. Always supporting, advising, and helping him in every way is his Joint Chiefs of Staff. They are the ones that in the name of the Secretary of Defense run all of these unified commands.

Now, when you ask the question how much additional power is given to the Secretary of Defense, I can say only this: I don't think that the changes in substantive law are necessarily great. But we must make clear what the responsibility of the Secretary of Defense is, his authority, and therefore what restrictive provisions of the laws on that flexibility must be removed.

Now, what I want to say--that the plan which I hope to give in this outline to the Congress tomorrow noon is going to follow the lines that I have just described.

Q. Donald J. Gonzales, United Press: Mr. President, last week you said you were not aware of the possibility of a Soviet statement on ending tests. Mr. Dulles said yesterday this possibility he believed has been discussed in the last 10 days or 2 weeks. Could you give us a review of administration thinking on this point and give your reaction to the Soviet announcement, please?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I didn't say that we didn't know anything about it or had suspected--for a long time it has been suspected, but we didn't have any proof that it was going to occur.

Now, I don't know of any better answer than has already been given to you about this particular subject than that already given by Secretary Dulles after complete and long discussions with me and with complete agreement as to our memories of events and what we think about it.

So I just relate this one principal fact, that we had discussed this thing as a possibility on our own side--that is, unilateral abandonment of tests--and decided that it was not good for the United States at this time.

Q. Ray L. Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, is it your feeling that Congress is passing antirecession bills too hastily?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Scherer, let's be sure that we are talking about the right things. You say antirecession bills. You have to know that they are antirecession. Now, if they are really effective in antirecession, I don't know that they should be regarded as too hasty. But I will say this: the judgment, the thinking, the study, the examination and analysis of all these things so as to determine that they are effective and not injuring the long-term prospects of our economy, that is a very crucial and difficult task. And therefore, I don't see how they can be done very hastily.

Q. Lloyd M. Schwartz, Fairchild Publications: Mr. President, an increasing number of people, the latest being Bernard Baruch, are advocating price cuts rather than tax cuts as the best way to pull us out of this recession. I wonder what your reaction to this is, whether you feel manufacturers ought to re-examine their price policies at this time.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I have talked about this certainly at least indirectly and adverted to this subject time and again. I believe that there has got to be business leadership and labor leadership that are exercised if a free economy is going to operate successfully over the years.

Now, you said Mr. Baruch gives a particular formula. I think I read a great deal of his testimony and I found he covered the field pretty widely. I have respected his opinion over the years, as most of you know. I have been rather intimate with him for 30 years and listened to him, and certainly I take all of his advice seriously.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post: Mr. President, with the testing and the Summit issues apparently in an impasse between the U. S. and the Soviet Union, do you see any forthcoming initiative on our side of change of program or proposals that can break this; or is the arms race just going on indefinitely?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, you do get somewhat into the realm of speculative thinking. I have not abandoned hope that there will be a sufficient conciliatory attitude by the Soviets so that there can be a constructive Summit meeting. The testing thing of which you speak, I think is just a side issue, I think it is a gimmick, and I don't think it is to be taken seriously; and I believe anyone that studies this matter thoroughly will see that that is not any harsh opinion on the matter.

But this doesn't mean that we should fail to seek some common ground where there is a beginning made toward agreements in which we can work better cooperatively.

Let me read you just a little. You say we have been doing the same • things, and I am just going to take the subjects--I am not going to read this whole paper. I will give you this paper if you can get copies made. This is just the subjects that the United States has proposed unilaterally, not with others with respect to our allies--unilaterally:

The Baruch plan, 1946; the preparation of realistic measures for inspection and control; the open skies proposal; the peaceful use of outer space; the transfer of nuclear weapon stocks to peaceful use--I mean, even cannibalizing these stocks so that we could use them for power and such other peaceful uses; freedom of travel; and the limitation of the U. N. veto.

All of these have been proposed seriously by the United States unilaterally.

And I want to bring this one thing out. I don't think we are being negative when you are firm but are standing on what you believe to be the truth, the facts, and the welfare of the free world, including specifically the welfare of the United States.

So I don't think you are negative just because you are firm.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) Press Herald: Mr. President, in many countries there is criticism of the United States for our mechanization at the expense of human beings. In your study of the present relatively small unemployment, have you considered mechanization and its relation to future mass unemployment and its effect on the character of the American people?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mrs. Craig, you are raising one of the greatest philosophical questions that I know of, and I have read a great deal in this field.

I believe this. There are several aphorisms that occasionally apply to particular problems, and one of them is this: whatever saves the time and the effort of humans does give them greater opportunity for self development in their moral, their intellectual, and cultural sides. Therefore, I believe that automation--that is what you are really speaking of is not a wicked thing at all. I think, on the contrary, it is a great


Now, you can say this, and we should put this caveat in immediately. There are many countries that are not ready to do this kind of thing. If you have a country that is very much overpopulated, has a heavy population, you don't want to be giving them tractors when they need a single-blade plow. You don't want to be giving them great automatic machinery for agriculture; they haven't learned really to use a steel hoe. These things have to develop within a country, and you couldn't take our system right now--insofar as I can see--and put it any other place, except possibly some of the more highly developed countries of Europe.

So I think any good thing or any invention, any so-called scientific material progress in the world is just like a weapon or any other force of nature. It can be used reasonably for the good of mankind or it can be used unreasonably and unwisely.

I believe that automation ought to be used in the United States. But I think that we should be able through business and labor leadership, again, to make the proper use of it and not just say it has one purpose only and that is to throw people out of work.

Q. Mrs. Craig: And the character of the American people.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will tell you a little story. A fellow was telling me a story to say what was happening to our people, and he said:

"Now, just a few years back, you take a workman whose job was to make wheelbarrows. He could come at night occasionally and say, 'Mary, today I made the best wheelbarrow I have made in my life. I got the handles just so, properly shaped and they fit into my hands so well, it was so light, and the ease of turning on the beatings was so great. It was really a remarkable job. I did even a new paint job on it to get it so it just was right, was perfect. And he had the great feeling of accomplishment, of serf-expression and creation. What does a man now have in one of these great factories? He takes a piece of metal, and he goes, Whiz, whiz, tfft. [Laughter] What has he got to look for?"

Now, I say this: we have got to educate people that when we have saved their time in doing this, that there is something useful. I don't care whether it is in art or literature or recreation or whatever it is, it is something that makes the race better and not worse. Therefore, I do not believe that leisure, in itself, is wicked as long as you use that leisure for some reason in which the human spirit finds satisfaction.

I didn't know I was going to get into preaching a sermon here--I am sorry.

Q. Laurence H. Burd, Chicago Tribune: Mr. President, on the question of a tax cut, some economists have argued that if a substantial tax cut were made promptly there would be little loss in total revenue because of the stimulating effect on the economy that it would have as compared with not cutting taxes. What do you think of that, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course this has been argued pro and con. Mr. Baruch yesterday said he couldn't think of anything being greater folly than a general tax cut. I believe that there are factors on each side of this business. But I do believe, again, when you stop to realize what can happen in an economy such as ours when we have to handle these matters as political matters and not as economic matters, you can get some very bad effects. And so, without trying to go into any particular effect, I would say this: this is one of those occasions where we have got to stop and look very, very steadily. Although some of my very warmest friends, men I respect in the economic field just as deeply as I do anybody else, believe that the number one thing to do is tax cuts, others are just as much on the other side. I do believe it is one of those things we have really got to look at and make sure we are right.

Q. Henry N. Taylor, Scripps-Howard: Mr. President, last week you told us you were convinced that any major nuclear test could be detected if there were a test ban. Yet the response to Russia which we were told you approved personally says test bans could be "evaded in secrecy." I wonder if you could clear up this problem.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think Mr. Dulles said that we are not certain that there have not been tests, particularly if they were underground or if they were so small and in so remote regions where you would not pick up debris and where the usual instruments would not be sensitive enough to pick them up. Now, I do not believe that you can explode things in a great super-megaton character and expect not to have evidence of it.

Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, two points, sir, on the psychological aspects of this test ban problem. first, might it not have taken some of the sting out of Gromyko's Monday announcement if this Government had announced previously that it had considered but rejected as phony a unilateral test suspension? And second, do such members of your official family as George Allen of USIA take any direct hand in the policy planning of Government on matters of this kind?

THE PRESIDENT. Why he is one of the members of the Security Council that is invited as a matter of course. He is always there. Now, with respect to your first question, I think it is a question that I couldn't answer specifically. It might have been a better propaganda move. But we looked at the whole thing as a propaganda move and because of that reason I thought that it would be better to say nothing at the moment. It could have been a mistake. I don't say that it wasn't.

Q. Sarah McClendon, Manchester (New Hampshire) Union Leader: Mr. President--

THE PRESIDENT. You certainly travel. [Laughter]

Q. Mrs. McClendon: Thank you, sir. About 3 weeks ago, I believe, Senator Styles Bridges was asked if he thought there was a "palace guard," and he said he thought there might be and there might be at times information withheld from you purposely by some members of this "palace guard." Now, apparently this has caused quite a bit of comment over the country and some correspondents and I wondered if you take precautions to see that you get information, not just from one or two channels, but from a variety of sources.

THE PRESIDENT. You know, sometimes it seems almost useless to try to answer questions because the answer to me seems so obvious. Now, since 1941 I have been in a position where I have had to use staffs; and certainly if I were not kept well acquainted with the basic facts of my problem, then I would have certainly been ineffective, and at least on a few occasions I think we did a little bit better than average.

Now, this business of "palace guard" is like other expressions that we get in the habit of using in this country that to my mind have no meaning. Of course you have to have a staff. And it would be ridiculous to think that everything that each member of that staff heard had to be repeated to me each day in that office. I would never have anybody else in there, that is certain, and I would be worn out in a week, because they hear everything.

Now, they do sort out the things that are interesting to Government and to me and make certain that I get them, whether they are recommendations from important people or ideas or facts or statistics, anything else.

But on top of the "palace guard," that you want to call it--I have the National Security Council, I have the Cabinet, and on top of that I have this: direct orders to every member of an executive department or independent agency that he can come to me directly at any time and no staff officer can stand in his way.

So I think it is just ridiculous to talk about this kind of thing, because it means this: do you understand how to get staff work done properly or don't you? And the people that don't know anything about staff work, there is no use talking to them.

Q. John Scali, Associated Press: Mr. President, Mr. Dulles said yesterday in answering questions that the Russians had scored a certain propaganda victory in their announcement of a ban on nuclear testing. He also said we are not doing the best job we can in this field and that we should do better, even though we operate at a disadvantage because we hew to the truth; whereas, the Russians do not.

My question, sir, is: what plans are there for improving our planning in operations in this field so that we can better compete with the Russians?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it is merely this: not only getting the best man that we can think of--I believe Mr. Allen is certainly experienced in this field--but on top of it, working with him in the development of his own plan to see whether or not we can improve the thing and so sell this program to the Congress that they will support it properly.

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, has any thought been given to the re-establishment of the psychological warfare board which would give you more flexibility than the National Security Council?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, didn't the National Security Council--the OCB has issued ..

As you know, for a considerable time I had a great deal of planning and thinking on that, including, for a while, a Special Assistant to the President. We have found that the better way to do it is through the OCB. But I must say it is one of those subjects that pervades all activities and echelons of Government in almost every office. I just don't believe a psychological warfare board is good.

I do think this: I do think that we could put possibly an individual, probably in one of the departments--possibly State--where he could have that sole job to do and be on the level where he could be cooperating with the OCB and other places like that all the time. I think maybe we have not exploited the full possibilities of that.

Q. Mr. Brandt: Does not the Coordinating Board have to get their directions from the National Security Council?

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, yes; yes.

Q. Mr. Brandt: Isn't that rather cumbersome?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, they don't have to get their directions on our ideas about psychological warfare, they don't have to get that. What they get is the basic policies, to make certain that they are being executed in a coordinated fashion. That makes it necessary that they study what is the psychological effect, whether it be in India or Burma or South America, of a particular order here. And then they find that over in another operation it isn't quite coordinated, and that is the job that gets into psychological warfare all the time.

As an auxiliary to that, they have to bring us, on their own initiative, recommendations in the field.

Now, as I say, it is possible that we could point it up a little bit more. I have talked of it often with Secretary Dulles and others, but, frankly, it hasn't been an easy one to organize.

Q. Rod MacLeish, Westinghouse Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, back on the recession for a moment, you seemed unhappy with the housing bill although you signed it. I wonder if you could spell out your philosophical dissatisfactions with the housing bill?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the greatest one in this particular case was this: that the Congress refuses to allow interest rates to go to whatever level the market determines and therefore they are not salable in the private market. This being so, you ban, really, private financing to take the initiative and do a job on a competitive basis, but you put the federal Government into it.

For example, they have prescribed that VA mortgages at 4 3/4 percent will be purchased by the federal Government at par. Now, in many cases I think these will come in, unless long-term interest rates will go down faster than they have yet. This will mean that we will be putting a billion and a half of federal money into this. They will be discounted, you see, and we will have to pay a premium, in effect, for them; and, therefore, we will lose a lot of money. That's the biggest reason.

Q. Mr. MacLeish: Excuse me, sir. Did you feel that the urgency of the present economic situation was sufficient to override that objection to the bill?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you know that I wanted to get more housing. I have been working since last August, conferring with the Chairman of the federal Reserve Board and others right on down the line. We carefully weighed the advantages and disadvantages. I had a very difficult decision, I thought, to make, for the simple reason I am quite sure if we don't approach this thing sensibly we are just building trouble for ourselves in the future that will make this one look very easy. And therefore, this is not something to do lightly, just because you are appropriating a lot of money. You are not going to get the private economy inspired and stimulated just by spending federal money. I would rather have private citizens spending their money than just the federal Treasury.

Now, that is exactly what I feel about it. But here we thought the advantages overbalanced the disadvantages, and therefore I sent along a message which I hoped would be effective.

Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: Mr. President, going back to your point, sir, about psychological warfare and the OCB, at the beginning of this year, or perhaps earlier, there was some talk of bringing Mr. Nixon down from the Hill and making him Chairman of the OCB with a view to helping the psychological warfare effort and also with a view to giving him some executive experience in the executive branch of the Government. That, however, was apparently rejected. Could you tell us the background of that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think it is very simple. The Vice President has constitutional duties. It would be impossible as a matter of practice to give, within the executive department, the Vice President specified duties, because if you happen to have a Vice President that disagrees with you, then you would have an impossible situation. Then you say his experience in executive duties. I don't know of any Vice President that has ever been given the great opportunities to participate in difficult decisions, conferences, and every kind of informative meeting that we have than Mr. Nixon. But I decided as a matter of good governmental organization that it would not be correct to give him a governmental position in the executive department.

Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and thirtieth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:29 to 11:00 o'clock on Wednesday morning, April 2, 1958. In attendance: 231.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/234636

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