Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

April 16, 1958

THE PRESIDENT. Good morning. Please sit down. I am ready for questions.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, what do you think top officers should do if they feel they cannot in good conscience support your Defense reorganization program in public speeches or before congressional committees? Should they stay in the Service or get out?

THE PRESIDENT. You have asked a big one, and there are many ramifications.

First of all, a man who has a duty to appear before a congressional committee or any other body that has a right to question him and is asked for his personal convictions about anything in the services, why, I think he has an absolute duty to give those convictions.

But you group together, Mr. Arrowsmith, public speaking or, in other words, apparently propagandizing, and giving testimony to Congress, and that is an entirely different thing.

The Secretary of Defense, with delegated authority to command the Defense Department, is certainly not to be ignored, to have all his people insubordinate after he has decided things that have to be done.

So, I would say that it is the circumstances that surround any particular incident which you are describing, and if a man has a duty to give his convictions, he should do so freely; and there is certainly no thought, ever, of reprisal of any kind.

In any event, it would be only the attempt to show publicly insubordination, and doing it voluntarily, that would be something that would require correction, not necessarily throwing him out of the Service.

Q. Thomas N. Schroth, Congressional Quarterly: It has been suggested in Congress that members of Congress and high administration officials disclose their resources in amounts of their personal income while holding office. Would you give us your views on this question?

THE PRESIDENT. No, because I haven't any views to present. for myself, I have given the last cent of mine, as long ago as 1952, and there has been no reason for changing, in my own case; but that was during a campaign when the question of income came up, and I do not see where a Congressman elected to office has any responsibility for doing so.

Now, when you appoint a man who is acting in a particular type of judicial or semi-judicial and executive capacity, like in one of the other commissions, I have never thought about it; and so at this moment, certainly, I wouldn't express a conviction.

Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: Mr. President, you were one of the first, I believe almost the first person to argue that missiles would have a serious effect upon the reorganization of the Pentagon. And I have often wondered why, in the first 5 years of your administration, that question was not brought up by you personally and something done about it at that time.

THE PRESIDENT. I think the answer to that is I have had plenty of troubles over the 5 years. You will recall that we started a partial reorganization plan in 1953; but the missile at that moment had not become, first, an effective weapon in any distance--even the Nike was almost experimental--and it did not seem that that was a big factor that we should advance in an argument that, to my mind, has become very, very important.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post: Mr. President, you told us last week, sir, that you thought Dr. Killian might make public some of his findings on the test detection and control question, that you would talk to him when he returned. Could you tell us what has happened since?

THE PRESIDENT. I didn't forget it. I asked him specifically that, and he said the study is going forward actively, intensively, and at the moment he wouldn't want to expose anything of his thinking and his ideas on it.

Q. Mr. Roberts: Does that preclude, sir, the publication of anything?

THE PRESIDENT. It precludes this: it precludes anything until my Scientific Advisory Committee has given me their conclusions.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) Press Herald: Mr. President, in a speech yesterday former Secretary of State Acheson, who has had some experience with Presidents going to Summit meetings, made a fundamental criticism of Presidents going to such meetings. He said that involvement of a President in these meetings impairs the final and detached judgment which a President must reserve.

THE PRESIDENT. Mrs. Craig, I have agreed with that from the beginning; but meetings, for example, like the recent NATO meeting, where there were other purposes in mind, is not quite the same thing as meetings of the kind where you were trying to solve very serious problems and where the parties to the meeting are in complete or, at least, in rather emphatic opposition.

I think there is a very great deal to what Secretary Acheson says on this, although I will add this one thing: if, finally, you believe that this is the only way to make some progress, well, then, I always say I am still ready to take the risks, if we find any real promise for bringing this forward step about.

Q. William H. Lawrence, New York Times: There seems to be some confusion, sir, and therefore some controversy about precisely what you propose as to future defense appropriations, whether they should go to the Secretary of Defense in a lump sum with him to dispense as he sees fit, or whether the Congress would allocate large parts. Will you tell us precisely what your legislation would do on that?

THE PRESIDENT. Never, in all the years I have been in the military, or since, have I advocated the making of appropriations in one single lump sum to the Secretary of Defense or to any other individual.

This idea has been bruited about and brought to my attention more than once--on this basis, though, that if you made them to the Secretary, then the Congress, instead of segregating and separating appropriations by service, would do it by functions throughout the Defense organization, and this would not be any abdication of the congressional responsibility.

But, for myself, I have merely asked for this much flexibility: the flexibility that will allow the Secretary of Defense, responsible with his-I like to call it, the Secretary of Defense-Joint Chiefs of Staff mechanism, a single group that will give the proper single direction to your strategic planning, strategic operations, and then a sufficient support and financial supervisory influence and flexibility in finances to make the strategic plan work.

And, that is all I ever asked for. I don't think we should go for more.

Q. Mr. Lawrence: May I ask, sir


Q. Mr. Lawrence: You have not then given your approval in principle to this other idea that the money might go to the Secretary and be allocated by function?

THE PRESIDENT. Never have I given that to it; never have I given approval to the idea and never have I recommended it, never in my life. Now, there is this about it: you will recall, I believe in my state of the Union message or maybe it was in my military message of more recent date, I did say that I thought the Secretary ought to have research and development funds appropriated to him so he can put those very, very expensive programs in the places where they could be best coordinated and best carried out by the several services. [Confers with Mr. Hagerty]

My Good Man Friday here reminds me of something, that I am sending not only a letter to the Congress today, but with it will be the exact terminology of the provisions in the bill that we propose; so that by noon today you will have exactly the language of it.

Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post: Mr. President, in talking about the recession to us recently, you said you had to think not only of the present but of the years ahead.

Sir, what did you have in mind? Were you thinking about the danger of inflation, too much money being pumped into the economy, or were you expressing a hope that before you leave the White House you will be able to balance the budget again and--just what did you have in mind, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, quite naturally I would hope that this country can in good time get back onto a budget balance. That is, in my mind, necessary if we are going to have conservative fiscal operations in this country, and logical ones.

Now, what I was talking about was what I thought was uncoordinated and unwise operations that are brought forward in the name of antirecession measures but which aren't necessarily that. I do not believe merely to begin talking about billions and billions for building up some tremendous structures that, at this moment, are not needed by our economy, I do not believe that those are necessarily antirecession measures.

It takes years, certainly months and often years, to get them ready before you begin to employ people.

So I think that you have got to be very, very careful about just proposing great public works things as antirecession measures, remembering that if you have all of these great measures coming to the peak of their expenditure curves at the same time, what this country will need to appropriate and take out of the private pocketbook to pay for these things is going to be very great indeed.

So, I am trying to say: let's try to be reasonable. Let's try to use some common sense and not just get a Sputnik attitude about everything.

Q. John Scali, Associated Press: Mr. President, the debate in the french Assembly which led to Premier Gaillard's downfall included some highly anti-American attacks, including charges that french policy was being made in Washington by an American Government which is more interested in the friendship of President Bourguiba; and also accusations that American policy had fostered dictatorships. What do you think of a criticism of this kind, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, to start with, I have not read all the details of the debate of the french Assembly.

Now we well know that for many years, indeed in a long sojourn I had in Paris in 1928, I found that one of the favorite political gimmicks in the country was to jump--in those days it was "Uncle Shylock" because of the controversy over World War I debts.

As of now, the United States, it seems to me, has made our policies crystal clear. I have personally had a long talk with Premier Gaillard, whom I had not earlier met, one of the prominent Frenchmen I hadn't known. We had a most friendly talk. To my mind, we had a complete agreement for policy.

We recognize the great ties of tradition, historical friendship between the french and major portions of Africa, and we were hopeful that those ties could be employed to bring about better political and economic relations with the two areas.

So, again, I believe here is just a political gimmick to hurt something, but in fact I know of nothing that gives justification for the kind of criticism that you are referring to.

Q. Sarah McClendon, Austin American-Statesman: Mr. President, Sarah McClendon of the Austin American-Statesman -- [laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. You don't mind if I seem to laugh; and what was that paper again?

Q. Mrs. McClendon: Austin American-Statesman.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much.

Q. Mrs. McClendon: Sir, some of the Congressmen on Capitol Hill are filled with wonderment as to why you have been so energetic in fighting this community facilities bill when they point out that, unlike the rivers and harbors bill, it would provide immediate help, and to many cities that need a small public works. And one of the Congressmen, Congressman James Wright of Texas, offered to say, if you would be so kind as to--he suggested--leave off some of your golf and go out and visit some of the small cities, that you would see this great need.

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know who the Congressman is, but I'll tell you this: I have probably--I have visited many, many more small towns, villages, and farms than he has.

Q. Henry N. Taylor, Scripps-Howard: Mr. President, on the fall of the french Government, again, I wonder if you could tell us how you feel this development will affect the possible Summit conference or NATO defense arrangements and our future relations with the Arab States?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you can't make any predictions of that kind for the simple reason there has been no successor for the Premier yet named or approved, and you don't know what will happen.

After all, any discussion even of the Summit meeting has not gotten to the point where I think this particular fall of the government would have anything to do with it; and the only NATO incident I know of is the meeting of the defense ministers, who are meeting only to hear a report. So I think that would cause no trouble because there will be a caretaker government.

I am certainly not going to speculate on what will be the effect on the Arab countries.

Q. Ronald W. May, Madison (Wis.) Capital Times: Mr. President, the Code of Ethics of the Civil Aeronautics Board has been praised by many people, and the Board says that members of these regulatory commissions should be treated as judges and should not accept any, I think it says, any unusual entertainment funds from members of the regulated industries. I wonder whether you agree with that and what you would do or think if you learned that a member or other members of regulatory commissions had spent lengthy vacations, not in connection with conventions or meetings, with persons who had major cases pending before these boards?

THE PRESIDENT. It is not my place to comment on the ethics of people who are serving in these particular boards. Now, there is one law, maybe it applies only to one commission, maybe to all, I have forgotten, but it does authorize by law certain emoluments from private sources that these people can take as they make speeches and go to different meetings of various kinds.

The other comment is this: if there is any evidence shown of malfeasance or violation of law that should be taken notice of by the Attorney General, he would manifestly be required to do it.

Q. Dayton Moore, United Press: former President Truman testified Monday before the House Ways and Means Committee that the recession is so serious that a $5 billion tax cut for middle and low income groups is urgently needed. What is your thinking as of today on the need of a tax cut and its form?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am not commenting on anybody else's recommendations and suggestions.

I have made my position crystal dear on this business of tax cut.

When I can be convinced that this tax cut will be for the benefit of the United States, why then, it will be taken up.

I do want to point out: if we say we are going to save this kind of money, for example, for fixing or lowering interest rates on the national debt, the question comes, how do you do that?

You have to, let's say, fix the rate by a federal board and then they would have to, if necessary, flood the country with money to keep that rate at a sustained basis. This means with that kind of money running around, then prices have to go up.

Now, if we are going to try to start fixing of interest, low interest rates, and let prices go up and continue to mount, that is a kind of program that I, for one, would never go for.

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: The proposed Summit conference has been compared with the Geneva conference that you attended. Could you tell us whether you think your participation in the Geneva conference, on net, was worthwhile?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I'll tell you: remember, it is not to be compared too exactly with the Geneva conference, because we stated in advance that we knew of no particular advantage to be gained, we were really trying to create an atmosphere. You will remember that in the statements of a number of us at that time, not only here in the United States but in some other countries, the idea was to get a better atmosphere in the hope that some of our problems then could be discussed more fruitfully and possibly get some kind of agreement.

Now, we have gotten to the point where the specific problems themselves are brought up, and the Russians say, or Soviets say, there are certain ones they won't discuss. We say if you don't discuss those, you cannot discuss anything that is worthwhile. Therefore we are having this trouble.

Now, for the contusion as to what the Geneva conference accomplished: at the moment, I think there was at least this satisfaction in the free world--and even when they found in October, only 3 or 4 months afterward, that the Russians would accept none of the proposals of the foreign ministers for wider contacts and all that sort of thing--there were

17 proposals in that one field, they didn't accept a one--I think there was still that satisfaction that at least we went to see whether people could just deal in a more friendly fashion in governmental circles.

To that extent, then, I'd say that was about all. I wouldn't have any brief now to file as to the accomplishments of the Geneva conference.

Q. Richard L. Wilson, Cowles Publications: I don't know whether your answer earlier to Mr. Roberts precludes your answer on this question: I wanted to ask you about the reports on the recent Russian atomic tests. There have been reports from Stockholm. There are reports here in the Senate that these tests were very dirty and left a very heavy residue of atomic material in the atmosphere. I wondered if you could tall us what the official Government reports are on that and whether it constitutes a dangerous situation.

THE PRESIDENT.. I don't think in any general sense that they have been sufficiently numerous and powerful to create any dangerous situation. But, after all, there is always some danger around in localities.

The exact levels or differences on this particular one happen to be a statistic I haven't looked at and so I couldn't comment. But it does remind me to ask Admiral Strauss what he has on that.

Q. Carleton Kent, Chicago Sun-Times: Mr. President, yesterday a spokesman for the Army Ballistic Missile Agency told a congressional committee that within a year the Army could shoot a man up in a rocket some 150 miles and bring him down again safely. He said that this agency has had an application for permission to go ahead with the project lodged with the Defense Department for 3 months.

He is afraid that the delay might allow the Soviets to get ahead of us in this project too. Has this matter been brought to your attention?

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, I read the papers. [Laughter]

Q. Mr. Kent: Do you have any feeling about the project?

THE PRESIDENT. Let me ask you--I will discuss this for just a moment, but first I will ask you a question: Do you want to volunteer? [Laughter]

Q. Mr. Kent: If I can have time to answer--[laughter]--this spokesman said that they had the volunteers on hand already.

THE PRESIDENT. Oh! I see. You don't have to.

I have an advisory, scientific advisory committee. I have great faith in their sincerity, in their disinterestedness so far as different services and different agencies are concerned, in bringing about the things that they believe should be discovered and accomplished in the space field.

Now, that group published a short introduction, they called it, to outer space, and they gave a whole list of objectives, and I believe they put them in timing as "soon" and "late," and "later," and finally, "still later," something like that. They didn't try to specify months and years and they did not put a manned space vehicle, of any kind, "early."

Now, I do not question that this scientist believes that this can be done, and possibly it can be; but first of all I would want the advisory committee to say, would that idea be for the moment useful, and I would like to have what their thought is on it.

Q. Charles E. Shutt, Telenews: Secretary Dulles told us yesterday that in his own opinion the apparent misuse by the Soviets of international diplomacy for propaganda purposes was a considerable danger to peace. Would you subscribe to that view, sir, and do you believe that a continued policy of propaganda by the Soviets might endanger the proposed Summit meeting?

THE PRESIDENT. You are asking a double-barrelled question all right, but there is no question that there has been a very great departure in accustomed usage of diplomatic communications and channels.

This is evidenced by the one thing of taking communications between heads of government or heads of state and publishing them immediately. These are normally considered to be the most confidential type of communication.

In fact I have never, except when my correspondent has suggested so, I have never even admitted that I wrote a letter, that I received a letter, and certainly I have never exposed any of its contents and I wouldn't do so. This is, I think, somewhat in accordance with the accepted practices, so therefore you must conclude that this publication of everything that is communicated between such individuals must be for propaganda purposes and therefore it at least has this very serious effect: you do not take as seriously such a communication as one that has, you might say, included within itself evidence of its good faith and sincerity.

Therefore, I don't want to make any comment particularly with respect to the peace or to the Summit meeting, but I do say it is not good practice.

Q. Mr. Shutt: Mr. President, are you saying, sir, it is something you will have to live with?

THE PRESIDENT. That I don't know.

Q. Jack L. Bell, Associated Press: Can you give us any indication of what you intend to do about the interstate highway bill?

THE PRESIDENT. I have today until midnight to send my message, and it will be down, I assure you, or the action I will take will be taken by midnight. [Laughter]

Q. Benjamin R. Cole, Indianapolis Star: Next year is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, and a commission created last summer was finally filled and went into business last November; but, due to certain delays, they haven't yet got their executive officer named, and really begun to operate. And I wonder if you would be so kind as to comment on what your hopes for that commission are, and what the value to the world and to the Nation a year dedicated to Abraham Lincoln and his ideals might be.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the latter part, of course--any one of us here could make a speech, some of you a great deal more eloquently than I.

The first part, I wouldn't want to comment on, because I don't know what the commission's difficulties are; but I would say this: any time we are rededicating ourselves to the common sense and to the statesmanship and the human compassion and wisdom of that man, it is good for all of us.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and thirty-second news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:30 to 11:01 o'clock on Wednesday morning, April 16, 1958. In attendance: 256.

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/234680

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