The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. Good morning. Please sit down. I'm sorry I'm late. I couldn't help it.
We'll take the questions
Q. Alvin A. Spivak, International News Service: Mr. President, after yesterday's legislative leaders' meeting with you, Senator Knowland said that he thought you would veto the unemployment relief bill as it was reported from the House Ways and Means Committee. Would you refuse to approve the bill in its present form?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have never made exact predictions as to what I'd do with any bill. But, of course, the provisions of bills are under study from the moment that they are proposed in the Congress.
I don't mind saying that there are very great differences between the proposal for jobless pay that I have made and one that has come out of the committee, and I think it has grave defects. The particular one that worries me more than anything else is the complete elimination of State influence, ignoring of State standards and, in fact, as I see it, it would tend to be very destructive of the whole unemployment insurance system as now devised.
So, with those defects it would certainly have to take my very serious consideration.
Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, in the past you have spoken of the importance of separating the independence of the three branches of government.
Your administration has been opposing the Jenner-Butler legislation to impair the authority of the Supreme Court. But day before yesterday the Judiciary Committee, thanks to a combination of votes of southern Democrats and right-wing Republicans, approved two important parts of that legislation. The votes included those of Senator Watkins and Senator Dirksen, who, in the past, often have been in your corner on that Committee.
What do you think this does to the administration's chances of defeating the legislation; and what is your comment on the subject in general?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I can't comment in too detailed fashion here, because this action of yesterday, to which you refer, is something that has not yet been brought to my notice. But, I will say this: I do believe most emphatically in the separation of powers.
But, let's not be too didactic, you might say, in exactly what the meaning of that expression is. After all, the Congress, for example, establishes the parts of the executive department, and the executive therefore is not completely ever free of the legislative authority.
As an example, they have the authority over the purse. So there is a connection, an interlocking connection, between all of these departments, and I think that it would be false to say that any law that the Congress tried to put in about the courts would be interfering with their independence. for example, we have been trying, as you know, to get a lot of additional judges, which we haven't done. But on the other hand when we get down to this, just law interfering with the constitutional rights and powers and authority of the judiciary, I think that that will have to take a lot of studying, and by very fine lawyers, before I could see the justification of any law.
Q. Rod MacLeish, Westinghouse Broadcasting Company: Sir, a few weeks ago you said you felt we were approaching the bottom of the recession. Commerce Secretary Weeks said, on Sunday, I believe, that he thought the worst of it was at hand. What is your judgment of the progress of the recession now, sir? Have we reached this bottom, or where do you advise we stand?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't know whether your exact--remember, there are all sorts of indices and not all of them would ever reach their bottom simultaneously. There have been evidences that the rate of decline has been flattening out. This has been evident now for 2 or 3 weeks, and therefore there is that much hope in the indices as you read them.
But, I must say this: I am not trying to be a Pollyanna and just say everything is lovely, and that's that. There is still a lot of agonizing reappraisal every day, if you are going to stay on the job here.
Now, people come in and blithely say, "Have a tax cut." No one stops to think about this: defense is expensive, and is growing more expensive, and we have got to be ready to pay those defense costs for the next 4050 years, possibly. It isn't an emergency thing that we meet there. We are meeting a minor emergency internally, but let us not forget the grave international emergency as we are preoccupied with our immediate sources of income to each of us at this moment.
So, I say: you have got to look down the road, and I am completely supporting the Secretary of the Treasury's informal agreement with leaders, both sides of the Hill, as to if and when we should have to have any tax legislation; that will then be decided among the whole group.
Q. John Scali, Associated Press: Mr. President, Mr. Sobolev, the Soviet delegate to the United Nations, complained yesterday because the Security Council had not adopted his resolution which complained about our flights toward the Antarctic [sic]. He said that had the Security Council adopted this resolution that it would have produced an atmosphere which would have been more productive for a Summit conference.
What do you think of this view and what can you say generally about the flights that we have undertaken?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course there has been a lot of overstatement. If you were going to exist and your military establishment is going to exist in this day of possible surprise, you must make sure that big and expensive planes are gotten off fields that could be targets. Once they are off, they have to get proper orders, but that is all that this particular thing is--the essentials of this particular idea that was so exploited by Mr. Gromyko.
Now, Mr. Sobolev yesterday did a lot of quoting of statements from military men and Secretaries in the Defense Department, and I dislike, of course, to see him given ammunition; but, as to what the Soviets now are trying to do with respect to the Summit or any other method of having fruitful negotiations is really puzzling to me. I talked it over with several of my associates this morning, and I don't see that there is any really good guess or conclusion to give at the moment.
Q. Ray L. Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: One guess from Europe is that the Russians do not want a Big four Summit conference, but rather one between yourself and Mr. Khrushchev. Would you be willing to attend such a conference if it should come down to that?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, you say, "if it should come down to that." [Laughter]
Let's remember this: the United States does not speak authoritatively for all of the countries that are associated with us in our opposition to communism, but the Soviets do. Therefore, any such maneuver as that I could interpret as nothing except a determination or an effort on their part to divide and to weaken.
I would think if there were special problems between ourselves, not affecting anybody else--for example, some financial problem between the two of us or any problem of that kind--then there would be diplomatic means of settling it. If necessary, you might even possibly have your foreign ministers. But I think that a so-called Summit conference as between two of us at this time would be difficult to justify.
Q. Peter Lisagor, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, the Russians brought their charges against the United States as though this country alone were engaged in such operations. Can you tell us why the administration has been silent about Soviet submarines which have reconnoitered near the edge of American territorial waters?
THE PRESIDENT. As a matter of fact, I don't know what has been stated; I don't know of any facts that haven't been published. You are making a statement there that there is rather a campaign along our coasts. You'll have to get the facts on that one, because I haven't any such facts.
Q. Charles W. Roberts, Newsweek: Sir, Republican National Chairman Meade Alcorn said yesterday that it is not in the cards for the Republican Party to win control of the Senate in this fall's elections. Do you share that gloomy view?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I didn't know he said that. As a matter of fact, he came to make a report to me yesterday morning and he was most, I thought, enthusiastic and encouraging. I don't know why he should say that.
For my part, I have never yet admitted defeat on any fight I had to fight. I once had to participate in a high school team that played against a college, and we still made a pretty good show of it, but we didn't admit in advance that we were going to be licked. And I'm not doing it now.
Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post: Mr. President, Senator Lyndon Johnson said the other night that the Government was lacking in courage and boldness in dealing with the recession. He didn't mention you, sir, but I think his audience thought you were his target. Do you feel that the Government has been lacking in courage and boldness?
THE PRESIDENT. Listen, there is no courage or any extra courage that I know of to find out the right thing to do.
It is not only necessary to do the right thing, but to do it in the right way, and the only problem you have is: what is the right thing to do and what is the right way to do it? That is the problem.
This economy of ours is not so simple that it obeys to the opinions or the bias or the pronouncements of any particular individual, even to include the President. This is an economy that is made up of 173 million people, and it reflects their desires; they're ready to buy, they're ready to spend, it is a thing that is too complex and too big to be affected adversely or advantageously just by a few words or a little this and that, or even a panacea so alleged.
So, what I say is: courage and boldness are very fine things when you know you have got a plan that is really effective, and that is in battle or here.
Q. Francis M. Stephenson, New York Daily News: Mr. President, in that connection I believe you talked this morning with two Cleveland auto dealers about "You Auto Buy Now" campaign--
THE PRESIDENT. That's right.
Q. Mr. Stephenson: --and also about their decision to bond the price of cars at the suggested price put on by the factories. I wonder if you care to comment on that?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, these two men were most interesting. One of them was Mr. Conway, and the other one, whose name slips my mind for the moment--
Q. ( Speaker unidentified ): Blaushild.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
They have put on this "You Auto Buy Now" in Cleveland. They got very splendid results.
They have gone into other cities; and now, as a follow-up to that program, they are trying to get the associations of auto dealers, themselves, I understand it, to bond themselves to give fixed firm prices, sales prices, on each car, so that this business of undercutting and every other kind of bad practice will not keep people from buying. If everybody knows what he has to pay, and these people are so bonded, then confidence tends to go up. But, if he says, "Well, I heard that I can get such a car in Washington, but if I go over to Baltimore I can get it $ 150 cheaper," then he is shopping around like that all the time.
They are trying to do something on a national scale, and I wouldn't be surprised if they are going to do something, because they are really a pair of workers.
Q. William Knighton, Baltimore Sun: Mr. President, several weeks ago in connection with that last question, you sort of gave advice to some businessmen that they should now begin to give us the things we want instead of the things they think we want. Would you care to give us what reaction you had to that from business officials particularly?
THE PRESIDENT. Can I quote Mr. Conway?
Mr. Conway is a Cadillac dealer in Cleveland, and he said, "Mr. President, what we need now is more and better salesmanship and more and better advertising of our goods." He said, "I hope that you'll get a chance to repeat that at this meeting." And I'll repeat them!
Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post: Sir, your proposal to change the atomic energy law to allow certain nuclear information to be given to allied countries seems to be in some difficulty in Congress on the grounds that the Congress is not clear what the intention is; that is, whether the administration's intention is to turn over the means or information for making megaton-size bombs or just kiloton-size weapons. In fact there has been a suggestion that the legislation limits such transfers to 2 kilotons and below the practical size. Would you comment on just what you have in mind?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, this is a very complicated, but it's a most important point that you raise.
Let us not forget that in 1940 or '41, '42, Britain and America started in to develop an atomic bomb. As a result of two or three agreements, it was generally agreed at that time that the information available to either would be made available to the other, except only insofar as commercial advantages and uses might be concerned.
Now, I hope I am not going to be here held to a complete perfection of memory over the past many years, but I am saying what happened as I remember it.
Finally, in spite of a lot of negotiations to get this information properly exchanged under that initial agreement, there was a law passed, a very restrictive law, and that became immediately binding on all of the Government in this country, so there was never any exchange of this information.
We went ahead with all of the many engineering processes already developed, tested, and many of them thrown away but the good ones kept; so our whole atomic industry went on in developing into and through the hydrogen bomb, which took place, of course, after that original agreement and after that law.
Now, the other countries, allies, have tried to keep ahead of this business and particularly Britain, as you know, has actually tested bombs, hydrogen and atomic. But they are still lacking much information of the way to use this thing, how to use the clean or cleaner weapons. There are many things that they don't know. So, therefore, they would very much like to know these things which we are quite sure the Russians already know.
We are anxious to keep our allies strong. We want them to have the use of just as modern weapons as we do, and we believe it is to the great benefit of the United States for allied countries that are making an effort in this atomic field to have such information that will make them stronger in atomics.
Exactly what are the fears in the minds of the committee, I don't know. But I do know that as a security problem, it seems to me if we are going to have allies, we should not withhold from them information necessary to them, particularly when it is already known by our opponents.
Q. Mr. Roberts: Could I ask this additional point? Are you saying that this information should be made available only to the United Kingdom because they are in the nuclear business?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, France is in it, too. As a matter of fact, I think some of it wouldn't be good, it wouldn't be useful to anybody else unless they have got some method and something they are doing. We might get means and methods, let's say, of getting other people to use some of our weapons or we could have all sorts of allied organizations that could use our own weapons; but if they're going to make them, then they have need for information, not if they don't.
Q. Sarah McClendon, San Antonio Light: Sir, yesterday in the House Armed Services Committee Congressman Kilday wrung an admission from Secretary McElroy that at some future day when not an Eisenhower and not a McElroy are in the Government, we might have different types of individuals who might want to be dictatorial, and at that time if they wanted to, they could transfer all the troop units from Army, Navy, Air Force, and even Marines and leave none under the present Secretaries or Chiefs of Staff.
Now, would that not enable one man someday to have a personalized military force if he were of such a turn?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I've got one question to ask you: have you read the law?
Q. Mrs. McClendon: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT. No, you haven't, I don't think. Now look, let's get this clear. There are set up certain operational commands that are under the direct authority of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, operating in the name of the Secretary of Defense. The services themselves are not weakened in any respect, in all their tasks of recruiting, training, keeping a reserve, getting their manufacturing, procurement, all the rest of it, and all the mass of the appropriations are made directly to them.
Now look, Mrs. McClendon, it might be just as, wall, sensible for you to say that the Congress is suddenly going nuts and completely abolishing the Defense Department, so why don't we do that instead of just giving a big personal army?
I think it is just not possible if we are sensible people.
Q. Spencer Davis, Associated Press: Senator Mansfield said yesterday, Mr. President, that the Eisenhower administration is claiming peace in the far East when, actually, no more than a tenuous truce exists in Korea, Formosa, and Viet-Nam.
He said, further, that Republicans endorsed President Truman's action in entering the Korean War so enthusiastically that they wanted to go on and fight in China and would be fighting there today had they not been restrained by the Democrats. Would you comment on that, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. No.
Q. Henry N. Taylor, Scripps-Howard: Sir, for some time you have been advising the American people on the recession to get out of it by buying. I wondered if you could tell us, sir, what purchases you have made yourself and what sort of things you may be buying?
THE PRESIDENT. Do you want to go see my personal aide, who buys my things? I don't know.
Q. Rowland Evans, Jr., New York Herald Tribune: If the economic situation is so serious, sir, as you indicate it is, that you ask for special emergency unemployment pay for workers whose benefits have expired, why is it not serious enough to also take care of workers who were never under the unemployment compensation system? In other words, how do you answer the Democratic majority in Congress, who claim that your proposal is discriminatory against those who are not covered?
THE PRESIDENT. Was the original unemployment insurance bill discriminatory?
Q. Mr. Evans: I think that the leaders in Congress can give you a better answer on that, sir.
THE PRESIDENT. I assumed you knew something about it. Now, the fact is that the administration recommended some time back that we do not be so restrictive in that insurance, and we went down from the limit at four employees under one employer to one. Now, actually, what we are trying to do is to avoid the destruction of the State system.
If you are going to take everybody, regardless, and just say, "All right, here's so much money," and put it out, and everybody takes it, and then even wanting to go back to July 1957, I would not know, first of all, how you could do this thing administratively; and, second, I don't see how you can do anything but destroy the insurance system.
You are now simply and straight on the dole, and on nothing else. I just don't believe that is good business.
Q. Felix Belair, New York Times: It has been pointed out that in the recession of '53-54, you adopted the suggestion of the then Economic Advisory Chairman and approved tax reductions up to about seven billion. Well, the progress of the recession to date is much greater, I mean it has fallen below the then earlier recession.--
THE PRESIDENT. It is deeper.
Q. Mr. Belair: Is there any way to pinpoint why you approved a tax cut then and not now?
THE PRESIDENT. I think first of all you would have to pinpoint all of the causes of the recession of that time and of now. You'd like to see all of the conditions of money in the savings banks, all the rest of the things of that kind, and then what are you going to do?
Moreover, you must remember that it was many months we were working on that tax bill, and we are just trying to be right, as nearly as it is possible for humans to be right.
I have no--I have told you a thousand times--I have no panacea to reverse recessive trends and go back on the highroad of prosperity. But as I listen to people, there we seem to hear more about confidence and the need for confidence. People say they have got the money. These two men I have described this morning came in and said, "We have all sorts of people come in and want to buy an automobile, and they suddenly say, 'Well, we are afraid this is just not the right time." They don't know why; he said they don't give an answer.
On the other hand, I don't believe that just suddenly to say here is some kind of a tax cut, and no one would know what it would look like by the time you got done, I don't believe that, in itself, restores confidence; I believe there are a lot of things. And when you go over the whole field of effort that has been made since last September, right on down, I think there is a very impressive record here. I do believe, as I say, this curve has been flattening out for some time; so, I don't think we should get hysterical about any of this business.
Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: The administration has proposed disclosure legislation on health, welfare, and pension funds.
THE PRESIDENT. Of what?
Q. Mr. Herling: The administration has proposed legislation on health, welfare, and pension funds for all types of such funds.
The Senate Labor Committee has come out with such a bill. Now, Senator Knowland has tied an amendment onto that bill which may either slow it down or defeat it.
What is your opinion of the bracketing of one type of legislation with another, especially when it involves your own legislation, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. I think that the legislation that I recommended and suggested to Congress some time back took into account all types of funds--not just welfare, but all the funds in the unions, and certain disclosures.
I have forgotten the exact details but my impression was, which I can check up before the next press conference, that Senator Knowland was trying to put in certain of the other actions that I have recommended before.
That is what I believe; I will take a look, if that isn't true.
Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: Mr. President, when your visitors were there this morning, Mr. Conway and the other gentleman, talking about advertising and salesmanship and things like that as a way of combating the recession, did the subject come up of just lowering prices? I mean that seems--seemed to be
THE PRESIDENT. They themselves, and they were talking automobiles, and of course they are both automobile dealers and belong to the association, they did not talk about that; but they tacitly admitted, I thought, that some of them seemed to be awfully expensive.
Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and thirty-third news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:35 to 11:06 o'clock on Wednesday morning, April 23, 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/234709