Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

June 03, 1959

THE PRESIDENT. I have no statement to make.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press International: Mr. President, when the Big Four foreign ministers were here last week, you expressed the hope for what you called a measure of progress at the Geneva foreign ministers meeting as being necessary for a later summit conference. 1 And against that background, I would like to ask you a two-part question:

1 On May 28, after the President's meeting with the foreign ministers who had recessed the Geneva Conference to permit them to attend former Secretary Dulles' funeral, the Press Secretary to the President issued the following statement:

This morning the President, with Secretary Herter present, received the Foreign Ministers of France, the United Kingdom, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The President said that he had followed the Geneva Conference proceedings with close attention, remaining in constant contact with Secretary Herter. He expressed the hope that the thorough exchange of views that are taking place there would lead to a better approach to the solution of the problems that confront us in Europe. He, of course, stressed the necessity of finding peaceful solutions to our problems.

The President likewise expressed the hope that on their return to Geneva the foreign ministers would be able to achieve that measure of progress which would make a subsequent meeting of heads of government desirable and useful.

One, sir, whether you have detected from Geneva any evidence of this progress which you feel is necessary as a prologue to a summit meeting; and second, whether from Geneva or the statements recently by Premier Khrushchev, whether you sense any cooling off by the Russians toward the idea of a summit meeting?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the first answer is no, there has not been any detectable progress that to my mind would justify the holding of a summit meeting.

Now, I think I have expressed before my readiness to interpret satisfactory progress or define satisfactory progress rather liberally, because it would be unrealistic to believe that the foreign ministers could make a number of agreements that would be significant to the world and would of themselves promote a much more peaceful situation in the world. This is because these foreign ministers are, after all, acting for someone else, delegates of their governments, and these matters have to be brought back and studied carefully.

Nevertheless, I think that as the very least, we should expect, as Mr. Herter said in his opening statement, that we could see where we are apart on issues, whether we could narrow these gaps, and whether we could define the areas where it was going to be worth while for us to confer; that is, at the summit.

This would be, say, at least a decent working paper. But at the same time this crisis was brought about, the crisis that called for a summit meeting or which was used by some to call for a summit meeting was by the unilateral action of the Soviets with respect to Berlin. Therefore, there certainly should be some agreement that until a reunification of Germany could, in the future, be brought about, there should be a clear commitment that we will not be impeded in exercising our rights and privileges with respect to West Berlin; things of that kind. That, I would say, is specific.

Now, there are other ways, of course, in which there could be progress in the way of opening up contacts, exchanges of persons, of ideas, of books, and press comments, and all that kind of thing, some of the gaps into the Iron Curtain, back and forth.

Now, with respect to the speculating as to what the Soviets want, whether or not they want a summit meeting more or less than they did some months back, I don't know.

I will say this: some of the statements made by Mr. Khrushchev were certainly not calculated to ease tensions and to promote, you might say, a relaxed atmosphere for the conduct of negotiations at Geneva.

Q. J. Anthony Lewis, New York Times: Mr. President, at a meeting here the night before last, the question of the ceiling on interest rates on Government bonds was discussed with congressional leaders. I wondered whether you had come to a decision yet, Mr. President, on asking for a raise in that ceiling.

THE PRESIDENT. I said in my State of the Union Message that because of the very facts of that particular fiscal year, there would have to be a raise of some kind effected in the debt ceiling. There was a conference with the congressional leaders present, with two or three of my own staff, with Secretary Anderson. There was a general discussion of this whole problem, the problem of the debt and the management of our governmental finances.

The purpose of the meeting was not to reach decisions then, but to see whether we could concert our thinking so that the Treasury Department would be in position to make specific proposals and give them to the Congress. This has not yet been done, and no specific decisions made.

Q. Lloyd M. Schwartz, Fairchild Publications: Mr. President, the steel wage negotiations appear to be stalemated with a strike probable at the end of the month. Would you consider invoking the Taft-Hartley Act's cooling-off provision if a strike appears to be imminent?

THE PRESIDENT. I would have to wait for the time to come before I would make a decision of this kind.

Q. Robert C. Pierpoint, CBS News: Mr. President, do you agree with the charge of some of the Republican congressmen that anti-Semitism may be a factor in Admiral Strauss' confirmation difficulties on Capitol Hill?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I didn't know that this charge emanated from Republicans.

I will say this: if it is brought forward seriously, this is indeed tragic. We have here a man of the highest type of character, ability, devoted many years of his life to public service; and to see such a false charge thrown at him in order to belittle him or hurt him would be very, very sad, I think.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, in these discussions on raising the interest rate that were held here the other night, will you please tell us what was said about the impact that this might have on the people generally?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know that this particular point came up for discussion at that meeting, for the simple reason that the impact ought to be well understood, I should think, by all our people, if the Nation cannot borrow money.

As of now, the rate is fixed for any money except below 5-year money, and if you put the total $283 billion or $288 billion finally in short-range money, then the people will be so badly hurt that we have just got to do something.

Q. Frank van der Linden, Nashville Banner: Sir, John L. Lewis and Jimmy Hoffa both said they don't think Congress should pass any labor law at all this year. This looks like it may slow down the passage of the bill in the House somewhat.

Do you think the Congress should go home this year without passing a real labor reform bill?

THE PRESIDENT. I most certainly do not. You know, I am disturbed by what seems to be becoming habit in this country, to adopt certain theories that Marx advanced. One is that there is inevitable a bitter and implacable warfare between the man that works and the man that hires him. To my mind this is absolutely and completely un-American. It is not the way a free country must work. Every last workman, down to the lowliest, the most menial task you can think of, is just as important as any manager or any capitalist that invests in a company.

We have got to talk about cooperation, how do labor and management and capital cooperate to produce the wealth that this country needs? That is what we mean by an expanding economy.

These new labor laws, as I see it, are simply to protect the man that is working with his hands to help create this wealth. This is not any kind of punitive law, it is simply--well, Senator McClellan himself put in a "bill of rights." This is one of the things that I approved of. I was sorry to see it watered down. And it is protecting the laborer from the racketeering practices on the part of a few men in the labor field. That is the kind of thing it is for, and I would certainly like to see American thinking be directed toward 177 million people that are trying to get ahead, and not with some internecine warfare that is useless and futile and destructive.

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, have you a reply to Mr. Lewis' charge that you are against labor in the steel negotiations and have interfered before the negotiations have really begun?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course that charge is completely untrue. I have never interfered with anyone. Now, I have, before this body and others, stated that I believe that both sides have to exercise self-discipline or this country is in a bad time. I have talked to businessmen urging that their products be priced just as low as they can make them, and if there were places where they could reduce prices I would be delighted. I do not want to see, though, this so-called wage-price spiral continue until we get to the point that something drastic has to be done.

Now, Mr. Brandt, I must tell you this: so far as any interest of mine with respect to the relatively few in management and in the big capitalist class, it is very, very little as compared to what I think about the mass of people that do work with their hands and minds and at their typewriters and everywhere else to produce this wealth. But I do say this: they mustn't do things that damage themselves.

This is a very serious problem that requires the finest thought that can be developed, and we shouldn't be talking about it politically with any thought for the advantage that an individual is getting for his own personal political ambitions, or a party for the furthering of its political fortunes. It should be a very serious thing because it means America, be we Democrats or Republicans or Independents or anything else.

Q. George C. Wilson, Congressional Quarterly: Mr. President, since your 1959 Federal aid to schools proposals have not received much attention on Capitol Hill, would you support your 1957 school aid proposals as an alternative to the Democratic--

THE PRESIDENT. You are expecting my memory to be a little bit more perfect than it is at this minute. For 6 years I have been--7 years, I guess, now--putting in something on the educational bill. The details of your question, let Mr. Hagerty answer.

Q. E. W. Kenworthy, New York Times: Mr. President, in 1957, when you asked Congress to create the Development Loan Fund, you stressed the need of having long-term availability of funds. Senator Fulbright has now suggested that this need be met by Treasury borrowing authority. Would you support that?

THE PRESIDENT. I do not believe in borrowings for any purpose for this Federal Government in times of prosperity unless there is a great emergency facing us. I believe we must pay our way and, as I have said to you before, we should begin reducing this debt. If we don't, we have almost unsolvable problems confronting us all the time.

Now, I do believe in the authority for making long-term commitments if you are going to administer the Development Fund properly, efficiently, and effectively. Exactly the way the money is going to come out through it, get into it and so on, has got to be studied. I would not favor just borrowing without going through Appropriations Committee for that system.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) Press Herald: Mr. President, did you have any indication during the visit of the foreign ministers or since that Mr. Selwyn Lloyd might soon leave his post?

THE PRESIDENT. No, indeed. As a matter of fact, I think that Mr. Macmillan's forthright statement on this in the House of Commons was not only sincere, but I think it was a very timely statement that he has made in view of the rumor that was published in one of the London papers. I think there is nothing to it whatsoever.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post: Mr. President, a moment ago, when you were discussing the Berlin situation, I believe you said that you felt there should be a clear commitment on the Soviet part, as to Western rights in West Berlin. Do you mean, sir, that this commitment should be made as part of the agreement to have a summit meeting, or do you mean that this commitment should be made without any time limit and not merely to get to the summit, so to speak?

THE PRESIDENT. I say that until the Germans participate themselves, as a whole, in settling these problems we ought not to have any more questions or difficulty about the Berlin question, that's what I mean.

Q. Mr. Roberts: Well, may I ask, then, do you mean that this commitment should be given before--as a condition, in your mind, for having a summit meeting?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't like to call it condition. I would just say this: I don't see how the head of any self-respecting government can go to an international conference in response to any kind of thing that can be interpreted as a threat.

Q. William Knighton, Baltimore Sun: Mr. President, has the interservice dispute over the merits of the Army's Nike-Hercules versus the Air Force's Bomarc reached the point where you as Commander in Chief have to step in and make a decision?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think it necessarily has to come to me in a specific decision. I am not sure whether I told you before, but at least it is public property, that the Defense Secretary is now making a complete and exhaustive study of the missile field. These problems are not as simple as they may sound. You cannot take the capabilities of one weapon and compare it with the capabilities of another and necessarily say that the one that you think is going faster, further, and higher is a better one. You have a whole--it is more than a family, it is a whole bevy of these missiles; and with supporting aircraft and other forms of defense, these have to integrate.

Now, this overall study which is, I think, scheduled for very soon--I would say within 10 days certainly--it will try to correlate all these factors and give any conclusions that they up to this point have been able to make.

As of now, I am standing behind the defense system and plans that I recommended to the Congress some time back in January or February. But if this study shows the need for some modifications, I am quite ready to assist in making them.

Q. Ruth S. Montgomery, Hearst Newspapers: Mr. President, following up on that same question, several Senators said that lately you have spoken out rather sharply to them about what you have termed the munitions lobby which you feel has been bringing some pressure on some of the Congressmen to try to change your defense program and plan.

Could you comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know who has a right to carry outside the White House any remarks I have been making, and to make those remarks public property. That is supposed to be a little bit of a private place over there, although maybe not always.

I don't think I have used that word, Miss Montgomery, in public. I may have; I am not saying I didn't, but I don't believe I have.

I do say this: obviously political and financial considerations get into this argument--rather than merely military ones--that is produced when people have to advertise very strongly about a particular thing companies do; obviously something besides the strict military needs of this country are coming to influence decisions.

Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, the political experts have been wrong before, but some of them are speculating that there is a very real possibility that the Republicans can take the Presidency again in 1960 and again lose the Congress.

Would you have any counsel to your successor of either party in dealing with a Congress of opposition, and what do you think about this apparently increasing American political phenomenon of splitting tickets?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Morgan, I would be glad to discuss that question sometime when we have got about 2 hours by ourselves-[laughter]--because it is very serious. Personally, I detect a more vocal support for some change, even in basic constitutional change, so that we could incorporate into our system some of the features of the parliamentary system. But, as I say, this is a very long thing and we will have to do it a little more at our leisure, I think.

Q. John Scali, Associated Press: Mr. President, if there is satisfactory progress at a foreign ministers level at Geneva, what would you think of the concept of a series of summit meetings at which the world leaders could get together and try to ease world tensions?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have no opinion about this because it would be entirely on the basis of results and the promise of further results. I have put myself on the record, as often as I was asked the question, that I am ready to go anywhere, any time, where I am quite certain that tensions will be lessened and where the confidence of people will rise rather than be decreased.

Now, I see, after you go to one meeting, it could very well be the kind of results to say, "Well, this is profitable; all right, we will go another time." I have no objection as long as there is improvement and progress.

Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: Mr. President, you and Secretary of Labor Mitchell have recently been receiving bouquets from the leaders of the railroad unions for signing the railroad benefit legislation which now extends unemployment insurance to 52 weeks, and the question that some other members of organized labor are asking is, if it is good for railroad workers, why isn't it good for unemployed workers generally? I wonder whether you have any comment on that, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. For a long time I have been arguing that the States should have more uniform standards, and that those that had such short periods for unemployment insurance should be extended. Most times this has been set at 26 weeks, and I think that is the figure that I have taken in the past.

Now, I signed a bill that was about as closely balanced between advantages and disadvantages as I have ever had to study. I kept it on my desk until the last minute to see whether I could get any new information.

I finally decided on balance it should be signed. But let's remember this: this is a group that is not under OASI. It is a different group, and I am not sure that I would--well, I am quite certain I would not take all of the features of that bill and make them part of my own particular plan for solving this problem in a broader base.

Q. Carleton Kent, Chicago Sun-Times: Mr. President, it was reported yesterday that at your conference with Republican leaders you expressed yourself as disturbed over the polls which have shown that the Republican Party is experiencing some kind of a decline. If that is true, can you discuss your plans with us for improving the Party's position?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know as there is any news about this, because I have been disturbed about this for the last 6 years. [Laughter]

Even in a very overwhelming vote given to the national ticket in '56, when we lost both Houses, it printed the way to a very serious study and you might say revolutionary effort. I think there are plans afoot that will bring improvement, and I think they can be discussed a little bit later when the committee that we have got working on this will report.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, there have been some contentions that the usefulness of Lewis Strauss will have been hopelessly compromised even if the Senate should confirm him. Do you believe he will be able to operate effectively, particularly in his relations with Congress, in view of this bitterness that has developed?

THE PRESIDENT. I have seen no criticism whatsoever of his work in the last 8 months, when he has been filling this post. And therefore, I see no reason whatsoever that he can't do it efficiently, no matter how long he stays there.

Q. Lambert Brose, Lutheran Layman: Mr. President, in this connection, may I ask do you feel that all these attacks on Mr. Strauss by the Democrats, and even by Senator Langer of your own party, are motivated solely by political considerations, or do you see the possibility of perhaps some honest difference of opinion on his qualifications?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, here and there I should think that it would be a strange thing if any individual in the world commanded the complete respect and admiration and affection of every other individual. So I suppose there is some room for honest differences of opinion.

Q. William M. Blair, New York Times: Mr. President, there has been pending in the Congress proposals for putting a ceiling on price support loans to individual farmers. Do you favor a ceiling such as the $50,000 suggested, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. I have recommended it before, and I am not so sure as I was as high as 50,000.

Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: Mr. President, at the time of the lynching in Mississippi of Mack Charles Parker, you voiced your deep concern and you said you were going to follow the investigation very closely. In view of this expressed interest, I wondered if the Justice Department consulted with you when the FBI was withdrawn from the case.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, they were informed through--the Attorney General's Office informed me; they felt it was necessary.

Q. Laurence H. Burd, Chicago Tribune: Mr. President, in connection with divided parties in the Presidency and Congress, you spoke of some people thinking in terms of a constitutional change. Have you looked into that yourself, and do you lean in that direction?

THE PRESIDENT. Strangely enough, this is one thing that, when we had a leisurely hour, Secretary Dulles and I often talked about. We decided that it was better, from our own opinion, our own conviction, to stick with what we have, but try to make it work a little bit better.

I believe that if we come into the business of parliamentary government, it would be so strange for us we just wouldn't know how to work it probably as well as some of the others do. But on top of that, I think there are many advantages of ours. The only thing we ought to do, I think, is make it work a little better.

Q. Earl H. Voss, Washington Star: Mr. President, when the Geneva negotiations on nuclear tests resume next Monday, are we planning to press for your latest April 13 proposal, for the first phase, banning of atmospheric tests, or are we ready to discuss the Soviet Union's latest proposal?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you will remember, in that letter I said that what we are aiming for is a much broader agreement that would contemplate control of all types of bans--above the atmosphere, in it, and under the surface.

Now, what I did propose: I said, could we not make a start in the atmospheric thing, which would have two or three things. One, there would be no increase in the pollution of the air, such as it is, and it would be rather simple to detect. Therefore there would be very, very minor arrangements in inspectional systems as compared to what you would have to have in a broader base. But just exactly what turn the June the 8th opening will have, I don't know.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and sixtieth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:32 to 11:01 o'clock on Wednesday morning, June 3, 1959. In attendance: 207.

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/234917

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