The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. Good morning. Please sit down.
Let's begin the questions.
Q. Dayton Moore, United Press: Mr. President, do you think the unemployment drop reported by the Census Bureau yesterday marks the beginning of an upturn in the economy?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't think you could make that categorical a statement. While the figures showed something in the order of 600,000 increase in employment and the same amount in unemployment, the seasonally adjusted figures would be not quite as favorable as those; therefore you can't say, "Well, now, we are on the highroad to an advance."
I do believe that there is very continued and emphatic evidence that the decline is flattening out; that is, it seems to me, the implication of those figures.
Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, Senator Anderson said the other day, in public, that he thought the State Department wanted clean bombs but that the military was stockpiling dirtier bombs. Can you tell us about this policy of bomb stockpiling and is it possible for us to sell, so called, a policy of clean bombs unless we actually destroy or immobilize the dirty bombs that we have?
THE PRESIDENT. As you people all know, the proportion, the cleanness, you might say, is a function of size--as we now know it; and without future research and test, I think that the big bomb, the hydrogen bomb, is now something in the order of 4 percent dirty, whereas the very small ones were largely 100 percent.
No military officer that I know of has ever even suggested that we have dirtier bombs, certainly no official suggestion of that kind comes from the Defense Department. On the contrary, we have looked constantly for cleaner bombs so that you could have a more local and advantageous tactical use of the nuclear weapon rather than just a shotgun method. So that, right now, these tests that we have are to see how far we can go with this problem, at least I was told by the Chairman of the AEC that at least 40 percent of these tests have their principal purpose to get cleaner bombs.
The whole policy, therefore, of the United States is to have cleaner ones, ones that will not be so horrible in their capacity for mass destruction throughout the country, and more localized in their operation. Q. Mr. Morgan: Mr. President, what do we do with the dirty ones?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, the dirty ones unquestionably could be reworked, when you once know exactly how to do this. But, so far, I don't think there has been any reworking of the material in the bombs because of the fact that there is only a part of them in which this capability has been learned.
Q. Robert C. Pierpoint, CBS News: Mr. President, in view of recent reports that the United States is changing its disarmament policy, could you review for us our present position on disarmament?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know what these reports are that you are mentioning. We have taken no new official position since the London conferences of last year when, in company with our associates, we presented to the Soviets a very, what we thought, comprehensive and sensible disarmament program and particularly pointed out how we thought beginnings toward it could be taken. As you know, those were refused by the Soviets.
We have been under a considerable amount of correspondence with them but there is no general change in the program.
Q. Pat Munroe, Albuquerque Journal: Mr. President, on April 13th, Senator Chavez of New Mexico, who is up for reelection, used an Air force plane to take a large party of friends from Albuquerque to SAC Headquarters in Omaha and return. I wonder what you think of this.
We have been under a considerable amount of correspondence with general practice of the personal use of military equipment by members of Congress, sir.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, now, you referred to a specific incident on which I cannot comment because I don't know its details.
I do know this: the Defense Department arranges for visits to SAC Headquarters by publishers, by businessmen of all kinds. They do it on a fairly frequent sort of basis; and I assume that the personnel in each of those trips is selected by the Defense Department.
As far as details, I don't know one single thing about it, because I haven't heard about this one.
Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post: Mr. President, I would like to ask the question based on a letter to the editor in the Washington Post this morning.
It is from a Chester M. Way of St. Petersburg, Florida, and he writes: "Why should the President of this country be subjected to personal interviews with the press? Doesn't he have enough serious problems confronting him each day without being heckled by the press?" [Laughter]
Then he goes on to suggest that you put out all news through your Press Secretary.
Well, that is one viewpoint, Mr. President.
Another is that the Presidential news conference is a great American institution. It is a means whereby the President gets his views to the people, something that stimulates interest in government and an important part of the democratic system.
What is your view on it, Mr. President, please? [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. Well, now, Mr. Folliard, here is a funny thing: I like these press conferences; and I admit, at the same time, there are sometimes questions that strike me as being so inconsequential or for some purpose other than just getting information before the public or before ourselves that I can have the normal human minor irritations that come from them.
Now, let's get to this thing in a little bit broader way.
I can understand the feelings of this man who apparently believes that this doesn't have the same effect that we believe it could have. This is what I think he forgets: the Presidency is not merely an institution. In the minds of the American public the President is also a personality. They are interested in his thinking. They like the rather informal exchanges that come from the representatives of various types of publications from various geographical areas, and so on. At the same time, they believe that the President, who is the one official with the Vice President that is elected by the whole country, should be able to speak to the whole country in some way.
Now, this press conference habit, which started back some years, with each President has undergone some innovations.
As you know, we here started the television and the radio on a live basis, whereas, when these things started, they were on the basis of questions submitted by you people; they were written, they were selected then by the press officer and maybe even drafts of answers given, and the President approved them and that was a press conference.
Now, to my mind, that is just not good enough in modern America. I believe they want to see, is the President, probably, capable of going through the whole range of subjects that can be fired at him, and giving to the average citizen some concept of what he is thinking about the whole works.
So I say emphatically my view is on the second--that is, that the press conference is a very fine latter-day American institution.
Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post: You said, sir, that Admiral Strauss had told you that at least 40 percent of the forthcoming tests would be on the perfection of cleaner weapons. What are the other 60 percent? What is the aim there?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I said they would be exclusively this--I don't know, maybe 100 percent--that this is one phase of the tests; but I did say 40 percent, their major purposes. But you have all sorts of things, of pressures, of different altitudes, and things that happen that these scientists always want. But as I understand it, and I think I am correct, 40 percent are dedicated almost completely to this development of clean weapons.
Q. Andrew F. Tully, Jr., Scripps-Howard: Sir, you've had a fairly busy time since your last illness; and last week when you showed some irritation, some of the commentators wrote and said that it was a sign that the strain of office was beginning to tell on you. Do you agree with that?
THE PRESIDENT. [Laughing]. Well now, first of all we make the presumption that I was irritated, and you have your own judgments on it.
But it might be that, occasionally, I think the questions are a little bit more personal than they need be. Whatever is the cause, I will say this: I would be less than human if I were always a Pollyanna, and I wouldn't suspect that anyone thinks or suspects that I am that kind of a person. And therefore, if something annoys me, I possibly show it a little bit.
I don't attempt to be a poker player before this crowd. I try to tell you exactly what I am thinking at the moment when the question is posed.
Q. Laurence H. Burd, Chicago Tribune: Mr. President, there seems to be some difference of opinion as to how much time the President should spend in town and how much time he should spend out of town, if this isn't too personal. Some people say they think the President should stay home almost all of the time; others say it is such a tough job that he certainly should get away when he can.
What is your own attitude, sir, and do you feel when you are out of town that it has any particular effect on your conduct of the Presidency?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, take the last part. When I am in some other part of the United States, I cannot see that it makes a very great difference in the way the Presidency is conducted, except, of course, when there are times of real tension and difficulty. So, if you have times when there is a great deal on the legislative platter, you try to take only the weekends when they are not busy and go off.
Now, on the contrary, I don't think that a person, just by sitting in this post, will be doing his job best if he sits in Washington. He is, after all, President of the United States; and I think he has got a right to go any place in the United States he chooses. In fact, you will recall one question I got just last week--someone, I believe a Congressman, reported if I'd go around and see little towns more, I would be a better President. He has got something there.
I do not believe that any individual, whether he is running General Motors or the United States of America, his phase of it, can do the best job by just sitting at a desk and putting his face in a bunch of papers.
Actually, when you come down to it, when you think of the interlocking staffs and associates that have to take and analyze all the details of every question that comes to the Presidency, he ought to be trying to keep his mind free of inconsequential detail and doing his own thinking on the basic principles and factors that he believes are important so that he can make clearer and better judgments.
And, I tell you, that is the problem of the Presidency--not to give all the details of why some man was fired for this or some other little thing, but to make clear decisions over the best array of facts that he can get into his own brain.
Q. Robert W. Richards, Copley Press: Mr. President, this is another personal question along the line of Mr. Folliard's and Mr. Tully's. Your show of Dutch dander last week has been interpreted in some quarters as an indication that the burdens of the office are becoming onerous and that you would step aside in favor of Mr. Nixon. I know you have allayed that rumor before, but would you care to do it again?
THE PRESIDENT. I just say this: I took on something that I think is a duty, and I'm going to perform that duty as long as I think I am capable of doing it.
Q. William Knighton, Baltimore Sun: Mr. President, you have emphasized, sir, that you have no desire to merge three armed services into one; but except for sentimental reasons, why wouldn't it be a good idea to have one complete consolidated service, say even one uniform?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I can answer that question in a very simple way: you can take anything, any organization made up of many people, and it gets fixed into certain procedures and methods of operation. We have things that become at first traditions, customs of services. Many of those things are very valuable finally in developing a morale, a pride, a very deep desire to do duty within the framework to which this man is used to operating. Consequently, to destroy all that is just starting de novo, and starting de novo in my opinion would be wrong.
Now, you can take our form of government and say today after a hundred and seventy some, a hundred and eighty years, does every kind of organism that we set up, is that correct? Well I don't know; you start from one end and go to the other, because we have got so many of them no one knows the whole group. And in every business you have the same thing--not all businesses are organized the same. So, I would say that it would not even theoretically today be good just to merge it and make one single service.
But I will say this: the conditions of warfare that made it completely easy to differentiate between land warfare and sea warfare at one time, with the air covering the whole works--with all of us intermingled with our weapons and our functions with all the rest, it just doesn't make sense to be completely differentiated as we were before.
Q. Ray L. Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: A question about Indonesia. The Prime Minister of Indonesia calls on the United States for a clear effort to prevent the United States citizens from aiding the rebels. He claims Americans are flying rebel planes. What is your reaction of that, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I didn't get that particular detail.
I had a discussion about this one this morning, and I can say this only: when it comes to an intrastate difficulty anywhere, our policy is one of careful neutrality and proper deportment all the way through so as not to be taking sides where it is none of our business.
Now, on the other hand, every rebellion that I have ever heard of has its soldiers of fortune. You can start even back to reading your Richard Harding Davis--people were going out looking for a good fight and getting into it sometimes in the hope of pay, and sometimes just for the heck of the thing. That is probably going to happen every time you have a rebellion. I do not believe there could possibly be anybody involved in anything they say more than that.
As I say, we will unquestionably assure the Prime Minister, through the State Department, that our deportment will continue to be correct.
Q. Alvin A. Spivak, International News Service: You said over the weekend that there can be no compromise or retreat on the essentials of your defense reorganization program. In view of the opposition of some key Congressmen to parts of it, won't some bending be necessary on both sides if it is to go through?
THE PRESIDENT. No. As I see it, it is this: either we are going to do the right thing for the country and its defensive mechanisms, or we are not.
Now, every single concession was made in the long plan that was studied again--as a matter of fact, these studies go back, as you know, to 1946--and there has been every possible concession made to the individual pride and the morale and all the rest of each of the services so as to get from each the very best that it can develop. But, the essentials of the plan that I laid out and on which I asked work, and which finally was interpreted in forms of a specific law, are, to my mind, mandatory if the United States is going to be properly defended and as economically as possible.
Again, I believe, I used the word last Saturday morning that I am not rigid in saying exactly this word must be used for that one. After all, you can say "and" instead of "also," and a few other words. But when it comes down to the meaning, I repeat again what the meaning of this whole thing is: a nation's strategy is devised as an entity, as a unified thing; this defensive strategy cannot be the function of any separate forces of any kind--they must be a unified thing; it must be directed under unified control.
Now, the amount of supervisory control that is given to the Secretary of Defense by these bills is that amount which will make it possible for him to carry out a unified strategy effectively. When you come down to it, that is the very core and basis of the thing, and any retreat from that, to my mind, is retreat to a certain degree of defenselessness that is inexcusable.
Q. Charles E. Shutt, Telenews: Sir, you recently performed a role as a baseball scout. I wonder if you could give the baseball fans of this country the details of that role, please.
THE PRESIDENT. Well as a matter of fact, there was more made of it than it actually deserved.
Mr. Rickey was a guest of mine one evening at a stag dinner. It happened that one of the doormen in the White House, a Negro, is a very splendid type of man, and he came to me, speaking about Mr. Rickey, and said that his son was going to work out under Mr. Rickey this spring.
Then, the boy came with his high school team. I think he was the star pitcher, a fellow about 6 feet 4, left-hander, I believe, and I had a little talk with him. So I mentioned this whole business to Mr. Rickey, and that is how much of a scout I was.
Q. Felix Belair, New York Times: I think it fair to say, Mr. President, I think there is some dissatisfaction in both major political parties with the obvious candidate to succeed you as President. I wonder, do you think that the President has any responsibility to encourage those not in political life to seek the Presidency?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't know exactly what the purport of your question is.
Q. Mr. Belair: That is not a loaded question, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Well I mean this: I don't know that I have any responsibility for trying to groom any successor.
Q. Mr. Belair: Not "groom," Mr. President. I had in mind, in a general sense, to suggest that perhaps the parties themselves might go outside what we might call professional politicians to seek possible candidates.
THE PRESIDENT. I think there should be a choice among men that the public and the parties seem to believe are of the kind, the quality, that they believe could be successful in performing the tasks that are laid out.
Now remember this: with respect to the case between Mr. Nixon and me, we are warm friends. I admire him and I respect him. I have said this dozens of times. More than that, I have got a duty, as I see it, to keep him as well informed on the operations of this Government, all of the major decisions, as I possibly can; because, if I don't, and I am incapacitated for any reason, he has to start completely new--he doesn't know where he is.
As of today, I am sure he respects every single man in the Cabinet or the Security Council. He knows a great deal about the whole organism of the executive department, and he is certainly right up with everything.
Now, when it comes to the successor, as far as I am concerned, the candidate will be named by the Republican Party, and I submit that I think there are a lot of darn good men that could be used.
Q. Stephen J. McCormick, Mutual Broadcasting System: Mr. President, again there is talk on Capitol Hill of the need for a decision for a tax cut. Senator Johnson made note of this. Do you feel that we are now approaching that stage again where a need may be
THE PRESIDENT. Every time this question is asked about a tax cut, it really can't be answered unless we want to discuss at very great length what exactly are we trying to bring about. Just a tax cut of itself does not necessarily mean a revival of economic activity and of increased prosperity. If a tax cut is to be talked about just as a tax cut, then I'd say I would want a more specific type of question.
Now, on the other hand, I have had people talking about the excise taxes on transportation believing that because of the depressed condition of railroads, or at least some of the railroads in this country, that here would be one great way to inspire a lot of economic activity all around the country. Others talk rather indirect--rather than a direct tax cutting they want to stimulate the renewal of your productive machinery by more rapid write-off of taxable property such as machine tools and so on. By doing that, they say, you don't then have to wait until your machine is worn out and let your technology get way behind, you just go ahead and get this thing, under proper Emits set by the Congress, so that it is not too expensive to go and get the newest equipment all the time-which stimulates activity.
So, just to say a tax cut in itself is going to do a lot is not, in my opinion, correct. I repeat as I have before, and as I think has been understood with the leaders on both sides of the Hill, all of us must really have a very close and studious analysis of the situation before we make any real move. This is a difficult, a very difficult question.
Q. John Scali, Associated Press: Mr. President, foreign Minister Gromyko has denounced our proposal for an Arctic inspection zone as a pure publicity stunt. He says it is not worth talking about because the proposed zone includes a huge area of Soviet territory and not a foot of United States proper. He made this criticism in arguing that proposals of this kind should be considered only at the Summit. What do you think of these views?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will say this: I think that my reaction to Mr. Gromyko's speech this time was not irritation or resentment or even a defensive feeling because of his charge. It was rather that of sadness.
This proposal was made as seriously and as honestly as it could be made by the United States--I mean this specific proposal this moment. It has always been a part of a larger proposal, as you know, but this specific proposal was because of their charge that they were running risks and there was greater danger because of the alerting practices of our Air force.
So, in order to allay those fears, to make it so that each of us could believe that this one great strategic route across the Pole and across the Arctic regions could be denied or at least examined, we proposed this as a way of allaying the suspicion about this alerting of our planes, and at the same time thought that it could probably be accepted by them as so sensible and so easy to do that maybe we could use it as the first step toward an agreement between ourselves that, having been successful, might lead on to something better.
So, as I say, to think that in this we were just trying to score a propaganda point, well, to my mind it's just--almost silly to talk of it in that way. It was a very serious proposition, and I still hope that they would reconsider their opinion on it.
Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and thirty-fourth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:32 to 11:02 o'clock on Wednesday morning, April 30, 1958. In attendance: 241.
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/234719