Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

August 25, 1959

THE PRESIDENT. To start this morning's conference I will read a short statement about my forthcoming visit to Europe.

[Reading] I am about to embark on a journey which I wish could be extended until I had visited the capital of every nation on this globe that, like ourselves, is dedicated to individual liberty and dignity, and wants only to live under a government established by the consent of the governed. The fulfillment of such a wish is not now possible, but my itinerary does include the Federal Republic of Germany, Great Britain, and France, all of which are, with us, immediately concerned with problems involving our relations with the Soviets. I shall have conversations with the head of government of each of these countries and of Italy, and with the President and Secretary General of the NATO Council.

The trip has several purposes:

To pledge, once again, in the several capitals I shall visit, America's devotion to peace with honor and justice; to support Western unity in opposing, by force if necessary, any aggressions; and to preserve the defensive strength required for our common security.

To suggest to each of the responsible officials whom I shall meet that we, together, restate our readiness to negotiate realistically with the Soviets on any reasonable and mutually enforceable plan for general or special disarmament; to make a real beginning toward solving the problems of a divided Germany; and to help in reducing, otherwise, tensions in the world. In pursuing these purposes, to reiterate jointly that regardless of pressure or inducement we shall never retreat from our ideals or principles or weaken in our resolution to remain secure as we continue the search for peace.

To discuss with each head of government problems common to that nation and ours.

To reassure, through the President and Secretary General of NATO, the dedication of the United States to the North Atlantic Treaty and to say again to every free nation with which our country is associated in bilateral or multilateral treaties that we seek to be a loyal partner in our common enterprise, which is the advancement of freedom and human standards and the furthering of a just and lasting peace.

To suggest to each of the several heads of government that we, together, explore ways and means in which our governments may equitably and effectively cooperate in helping solve one of the most pressing problems of our time, that of assisting to advance the cultural, health, and living standards of the almost two billion people in the world who are citizens of the newly developing or underdeveloped countries. [Ends reading]

With respect to this last purpose, I want to say that this, today, if not merely one of the most pressing problems, could easily be the most.

Two billion people are going to find some way of expressing their convictions that they do not have to live in conditions that are completely unsatisfactory by any minimum standard that we set up for humans. Unless the civilized world, not just ourselves, but the civilized world is willing and ready to share in the burdens of making it possible for these people to achieve progress in this area, this world is going to have tough going.

It is because of this deep conviction of mine, not only that I am going to present this matter to my associates and to others, because some of it, of course you know, is performed also in the United Nations, but it is one reason that I am pleading so earnestly with the Congress to look at this terrific problem and consider very seriously before they cut down further the appropriations made for mutual security.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press International: Mr. President, there is some criticism in the morning papers of your going to Russia. Now, in this connection, sir, I would like to ask a two-part question:

Do you think that Mr. Khrushchev would have agreed to come to this country if you had not agreed to exchange the visit; and, secondly, should Mr. Khrushchev, while he is here, engage in some of his typical attacks on the United States, would that affect your plans for going to Russia? In other words are there any conditions attached to your trip to Russia?

THE PRESIDENT. First of all, take your first part of your question: I invited Mr. Khrushchev to come to this country because of several reasons. The first of them is that I wanted to explore for myself whether this man personally was ready or had any intention of making a suggestion that the free world could study and possibly accept, and in doing so put us all on a better path toward, first of all, reducing tensions and, secondly, to the development of greater programs in the future.

Secondly, I wanted to make certain that he was in no doubt--not as to America's strength in the industrial sector or military sector, he knows all that; but I wanted him to see with his own eyes a free people living and working. I think this is a tremendous lesson for anyone who has any sense of responsibility. The mere fact that a number of people have opposed this idea publicly and through advertisements, that to my mind is one of the lessons he can learn. We don't resent it. Everybody in this country is able to make his own convictions and his own opinions and he is certainly at liberty to express them. I think it is one of the fine lessons that he can learn, and it may have some effect.

Now, without going further into that part of it, I think it would be unrealistic to say that circumstances could not alter a part of a decision already made.

In my original invitation I suggested that he come and that at some time later I would make a visit to him. Now, there could be circumstances arise that would make such a thing unrealistic. I don't know. But as of now, and assuming that the visit here at least does no damage, then I would think that I have committed myself, as I say, in the absence of unforeseen circumstances, to make a short visit to Russia.

Q. Peter Lisagor, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, to follow up that question, part of the criticism is that your visit to Russia somehow or other will erode the Presidential prestige to a ceremonial visit of that kind.

Would you care to comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT. Someone might say that it might erode my prestige; I think here it would be farfetched to say it erodes Presidential prestige because the next President is certainly free here to make his own decisions. But I tell you this: what we are talking about now is finding some little break, some little avenue yet unexplored through which we can possibly move toward a better situation. It seems to me that everybody is forgetting what we are doing to ourselves. We are putting now, just in the engines and the training and preparations of war something on the order of $41 billion every year. No one seems to stop to think about what that is doing to this country.

We have got to get before the Congress right now the most serious problem in debt management that you could possibly imagine. These expenditures are the things that are making this problem, and it has to be handled intelligently, in turn, or we are going to be in trouble.

Finally, if this thing goes on and on indefinitely into the future, where is the explosion point?

These are the things, it seems to me, that the facile critics ought to stop and think about. This is a serious business. I think any President that refused finally to use the last atom of prestige or the last atom of his energy, by failure to do this, to do this discovery if it is possible to discover, then I think he indeed ought to be condemned by the American people.

Now, that is what I am trying to do, and I get a little bit weary about people that just say, "Well, this would be a terrible blow to Presidential prestige," or any other prestige. We are talking about the human race and what's going to happen to it.

Q. Thomas N. Schroth, Congressional Quarterly: Mr. President, in connection with this debt problem, would you give us your views on the veterans pension bill which is now before you, and on which you are expected to act before you leave for Europe?

THE PRESIDENT. Well I don't know that I have to act; I think I have got 4 or 5 days yet. I don't have to be here when I have to act.

Q. Mr. Schroth: I just said you were expected, you don't have to

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, you don't! [Laughter]

The whole study just came to my desk this morning. I've had a legislative meeting, and that took almost up to this moment, so I haven't had a chance to study its final arguments pro and con.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) Press Herald: Mr. President, when Senator Johnson was asked about a possible invitation for the Soviet Prime Minister to address Congress, either together or separately, he said that such an invitation was up to the State Department and the White House. Would you think it useful to include an address in either one or both Houses in Mr. Khrushchev's program?

THE PRESIDENT. Well Mrs. Craig, I never, myself, heard of any intervention by the State Department, and certainly I've never made any, in recommending, even, action on the part of the President as to inviting a particular person before them. I would think this is completely in their hands and no one else's.

Now, in the Foreign Relations and Foreign Affairs Committees, they might ask the State Department to say, "Do you think this is a good thing or not a good thing," but as far as I know, there has never been any intervention by the executive department on this.

Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post: Mr. President, there is to be a World Fair in 1964. Some business leaders would like to see it staged here in Washington, D.C. Would you favor the idea?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, showing how little I know about the factors that would even allow me to make a guess rather than a prediction, it occurred to me that the town of my birth, Denison, Texas, might be a good place to have one. [Laughter]

Q. Robert C. Pierpoint, CBS News: Mr. President, on the subject of the Communist invasion of Laos, the SEATO Pact I believe has a clause which would allow any of the former states of Indochina to ask for help from the SEATO nations in case of Communist invasion.

I would like to ask, first of all, has Laos asked for help against the Communists; and, secondly, are we considering giving that help, whether they have asked or not?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know whether they have asked the headquarters of the SEATO; they have asked us.

But you make a premise: you say "a Communist invasion." Now, I do not know that the State Department has yet given me any declaration that this is, in fact, invasion. The fact is, though, that the Laotians are in such a fix that they want some help to reinforce their police forces and the units they keep for internal order. We have got it under study as a matter of urgency. Indeed, again I should like to request all of those people that have to make some decisions about our mutual security program, right today and tomorrow, whenever it's coming off, that they better look at this kind of a system which is a thing that doesn't give you many, let's say, full sleeping nights.

Q. William Knighton, Baltimore Sun: Mr. President, would it be possible for you at this time to clear up for us the apparent mystery surrounding the alleged hint by Mr. Khrushchev of a new proposal on Berlin pertaining to a corridor to be controlled by West Germany, and whether it was conveyed to you by Dr. Milton?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the last part first: no, to that one. Milton hasn't said a word to me about it.

I have heard of such a suggestion. I have never discussed it with the State Department, with any of our allies; I do not know whether any implication could fairly be made from any remark that Mr. Khrushchev has made that this is even in his mind as a hint. But I have heard of it; and I think, indeed, at one of the little dinners I had we chatted about it awhile, but never anything further than that.

Q. Andrew F. Tully, Jr., Scripps-Howard: Sir, there has been a lot of discussion in recent days about the kind of official reception Mr. Khrushchev is going to receive here. Are you going to meet him at the airport?

THE PRESIDENT. As of today, yes; and the reason I say it today is, of course, we naturally assumed that he was head of government and not head of the state. We were informed as of last evening by the Soviet Foreign Ministry, and I should say that this is their decision which we would respect, that Mr. Khrushchev as Chairman of the Council of Ministers is in effect their Head of State; or at least is coming in his visit here as the head of the state. As head of state, I shall meet him at the airport.

Q. Mr. Tully: Does that mean a state dinner too, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Wall, I don't know about that. I never thought of it as a state dinner. I would, of course, have to give him a dinner. Now, I never thought of it as a state dinner--and I would expect--[laughter]--

But the character and details of these things have not yet been worked out. I don't know exactly what he would like to do yet.

Q. Roscoe Drummond, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, in your opening statement you gave assurances to several allies and others that certainly in your discussions with Mr. Khrushchev there is going to be no departure from ideal and principle.

THE PRESIDENT. That is correct.

Q. Mr. Drummond: I thought I observed that you made no reference to the question of the captive nations, and I wondered if this point applies equally on that aspect of policy.

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Drummond, since 1952 I have been making talks of more or less public nature about this point. I stated then, and I have stated a hundred times since, while I am here America will never concede that there has been a sound, durable or working peace that could be called global until these nations have had the right to express their own convictions, their own opinions and desires about their own fates; and then as far as the United States was concerned, it would never cease to use every peaceable means--and I have always emphasized that word "peaceable"--peaceable means to give them such an opportunity.

Q. Lambert Brose, Lutheran Layman: Mr. President, when Mr. Khrushchev comes over here and sees how obsessed many Americans are with the material things of life, swimming pools, expensive cars, short work hours, easy educational courses, some people feel that instead of going back impressed with our strength, he will get the idea that we will be easy to defeat in an economic or political, or even military war, and I'm just wondering, do you think that contention has any merit?

THE PRESIDENT. I think that the strength of America is in its people. We can put it this way: I do not believe it's necessarily true for each of us that we could get up and, with Patrick Henry, say "As for me, give me liberty or give me death"; but I believe that basically this is what you might call our national spirit. I believe that the American Nation will never surrender its liberties to any kind of outside threat or aggression; rather, they would die.

I believe he is bound to see that. Of course, he is going to a number of cities. You may know I invited him to go to Abilene, Kansas; I thought he would certainly see something different than he would in big cities. He is going to see the big cities and he is going I believe to one small town, or fairly small town, Ames, Iowa; and of course he'll be in Des Moines. So that's the only place he really comes close to what you might call rural, and what I like to think often, thinking Americans.

Q. Henry N. Taylor, Scripps-Howard: Sir, you say that the Government of Laos has asked for reinforcements in their present difficulties. Have they asked for troops to help them?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I didn't say "reinforcements." I said they asked for assistance--in terms of money.--

Q. Mr. Taylor: Money and equipment, sir, or--

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I didn't check up the details this morning. I knew of this request, I just got it this morning, and it's right in the midst of urgent study this morning.

Q. Charles E. Shutt, Telenews: Would you care to comment, sir, on the current steel strike, as to whether either side might need prodding a bit in the negotiations?

THE PRESIDENT. Actually, I have kept very clear of any alleged reports or alleged information as to the attitudes of each side. For that particular point I rely on the newspapers only, because I am not going to have my own convictions and opinions colored by this kind of thing.

Now, so far as the strike is concerned, for the moment at least, I repeat this one thing: I still insist that free bargaining means that these people must solve their own problems. I have urged all of them, both sides, not only in this strike but any other that is impending or even thought of, that negotiations must not contribute to inflation because here is a terrible enemy ready to pounce on us anytime we get unwary.

Finally, I say that when the national security or our national health is in danger, then and then only am I expected to act by the Taft-Hartley Act.

Q. J. F. Ter Horst, Detroit News: Sir, could you tell us whether in your conversations with the Republican legislative leaders this morning they gave you any clue as to the outcome of the labor reform bill?

THE PRESIDENT. I have a note. [Laughter] The reason of this note is because rather than to answer any question about a particular bill I just want to make one short statement about the legislative future as I see it, for the rest of this session. Rather than answering about one specific item, I prefer to comment on a number of items still pending before Congress which I most earnestly hope will be acted upon before this session adjourns.

On three of these I am today addressing a letter to the Vice President and the Speaker of the House. These items concern debt management, highway construction, and the FHA authorization. Each of these is a presently operating Government program. Each needs to be adequately handled before adjournment or there will be serious repercussions to the country.

In addition to these operating programs, I reiterate my earnest desire for passage before adjournment of a number of other key measures. These include an effective labor reform bill, a civil rights program such as I urged upon the Congress, adequate appropriations to carry forward the imperatively needed mutual security program. Finally, I stress my disappointment that the Congress has been either unwilling or unable to enact sound farm legislation as I have urged throughout this session.

There are, of course, many other important measures still before the Congress, and I would hope that these also would be passed. But those I have listed here dearly demand attention before the Congress doses its doors.

With respect to the labor bill, it was up for discussion and the hope was expressed very earnestly that the Conference would reach some kind of a conclusion within the next couple of days. If that happens, of course my hope is that it will be very close to the House version.

I want to talk about another bill just for a moment; that is to ask all of you, and everybody else that has given any thought to this problem of debt management, to understand and to do your best to make others understand the very serious implications of failure to act.

Our savings bonds--40 million people own them. It is completely unfair that they are now compelled to get an income off their bonds, that many bought as a patriotic duty, that is completely out of line with what the market today will give for bonds of equal security and validity.

I want to point out especially the tremendous inflationary effect of putting all of our financing in the short-term area. If we do this, we are going to so increase the money supply that the inflationary effect will be really great.

Finally, what you might call our sense of responsibility in our fiscal management is being watched not only by our people, by the bankers and everybody else that understands what is happening, but it is being watched very closely abroad. These countries have very great investments in our stocks, or in amounts of our reserves that are earmarked, that they have earned and are theirs; and if we don't show the kind of sense of responsibility in our management, then these people will begin to question whether or not our money should be now the standard, or practically the standard, for the whole world that it is.

Q. Frank van der Linden, Nashville Banner: Sir, regarding the labor reform bill, AFL-CIO Vice President James Carey has sent a letter to 229 members of the House who voted for that bill, and says that some of these members have accused him of in effect political blackmail because he said that his people would urge all the working people to cast their lot against them and take appropriate action.

What do you think of that kind of a tactic?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am not going to say anything at all about his action because that is done on his own responsibility. I would say this: I assume that every Congressman who has voted on this has voted his own conscience, and I don't think any man is going to surrender his conscience because of any kind of threat or implied threat that involves the polls.

Q. E. W. Kenworthy, New York Times: Mr. President, the nuclear test negotiations are expected to recess this week. If this recess continues beyond October 31st, do we intend to continue the tests?

THE PRESIDENT. The decision--no decision concerning the continuation of our voluntary abstention until after this recess has been accomplished, and until the last item of the records have .been studied and looked over.

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Is this debt management question serious enough for you to call a special session of Congress if this session does not pass adequate legislation on the subject?

THE PRESIDENT. Of course, Mr. Brandt, there could be some measure that might make it less than mandatory to look at this thing again; but if nothing at all is done, then I think this becomes a question of the gravest import and I would have to get all my financial advisers, the Chairman of the Economic Advisers and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board and the Secretary of the Treasury and all the rest of us, and just really get down on it.

Q. Frank Bourgholtzer, NBC News: Do you think, Mr. President, that with regard to Laos that Premier Khrushchev has sufficient authority to put a stop to whatever form of Communist activity there is in Laos?

THE PRESIDENT. That is one of the questions that bothers lots of people. I simply could not make a really intelligent estimate.

I would think that a country as large as Red China, and their, you might say, the little appurtenances hanging around them would not be, could not be controlled as to details of their actions from Moscow; but I should think Mr. Khrushchev's influence would be an important factor.

Q. Sarah McClendon, Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader: Sir, recently you approved the Secretary of State's appointment of Mr. Charles Coolidge to a position where he will review the disarmament policy of this country on behalf of Defense and State Departments.

I know that he has been appointed to jobs in the past by both Mr. Truman and yourself of high position, but I wonder if you took into consideration this time the fact that in 1950 he was a member of this Dover group in Boston that approved the armistice terms of the Chinese Communists, and that those terms are still part of the Communist international program?

THE PRESIDENT. I did not know that.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and sixty-ninth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 11:28 to 12 o'clock on Tuesday morning, August 25, 1959. In attendance: 233.

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/235259

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