Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

May 28, 1958

THE PRESIDENT. Good morning. Please sit down.

As you know, the crises in Lebanon and France continue, and therefore the inadvisability of discussing them at the moment, it seems to me, is as valid as it was 2 weeks ago when I made the same remark. So, I think we will take these two questions and take them off the list for the day.

Q. Dayton Moore, United Press International: Mr. President, what led you to decide against an antirecession tax cut?

THE PRESIDENT. It looks to me like you are trying to present a loaded question.

Q. Mr. Moore: No, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. I am not so certain that it is an antirecession tax bill. As I have told you, I have constantly--with the best advice both from within and without Government that I can get to study this matter of tax revision each day--there have been many frequent conferences each week certainly. The decision at the present is to go ahead with asking for the renewal of the corporate tax and the excise taxes. Along with that, of course, there are before the Congress now the tax reforms and reductions that I have asked for in small business, and I would hope that they would take that bill up after passing the first one that I spoke of. But, as of now, to us the situation does not warrant any tax reduction that will create greater deficits.

Q. Pat Munroe, Tampa Tribune: Mr. President, in a recent editorial the Tampa Tribune charged that our diplomats failed to learn foreign languages and mingle with the people. They sum it up as "Scotch and soda diplomacy."

THE PRESIDENT. Who said this?

Q. Mr. Munroe: The Tampa Tribune. Do you feel that the charge is justified, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. I put it this way: I believe that we have been too careless probably in not insisting that each of our officers in the foreign Service learns a language. I think this is a vital requirement, really, in these days.

Now, I think it is easy to use such wisecracks as "Scotch and soda diplomacy." After all, there is a certain deportment that is observed worldwide in this whole business of diplomatic exchange; and if a diplomat in this country, for example, spent his time just going around haranguing crowds and attempting to cause trouble, we would resent it.

So I think there has to be a rule of reason that is observed in the conduct of any individual who has the privilege and the duty of representing the head of the state in another country. There is a deportment that is accepted, and while I do not by any manner or means condone just soft living instead of work, I think that the concept of going around to .be a virtual foreign demagogue in somebody else's country would be equally objectionable.

Q. William H. Lawrence, New York Times: Respecting your suggestion about France, sir, but in the light of the general situation in Europe in this time of crisis, are we as a government being forced to reappraise our military and our political policies for the defense of the West?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, with respect to the general thing, it is exactly as you do with respect to the economic situation. Every day there are conferences to see what new duty, new responsibility, may devolve upon us because of things that are happening in the world. There is no such thing as establishing a policy, including military forces and all that sort of thing, in this world and then standing on it. You have to look it over.

The situation right now seems to be one where the active study of those things is a little bit more intensive than it is normally, but that is all you can say. You have to watch every movement as it comes up.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post: Mr. President, in connection with Mr. Lawrence's question there have been some suggestions from both the Pentagon and the State Department that there is a new look being taken at the small war problem and our ability to move small forces overseas in a hurry, especially the airlift part of that problem. Is this something that you have asked or are particularly interested in?

THE PRESIDENT. I think that is one of those problems again that comes up every time you have--almost--a meeting on the matter. Now of course many people would like to be able to have airplanes, sitting on bases doing nothing, suddenly to pick up a full division or two divisions and go off some place in the world. I think that again just the rule of reason has to apply, and I think it does. We have got a good airlift, well dispersed, to suit our deployments elsewhere in the world, and I think it is pretty good all the way through.

Q. Andrew F. Tully, Jr., Scripps-Howard: Sir, the cost of living has gone up again. Can't something be done about it?

THE PRESIDENT. I wish it could. [Laughter] We are always, you know, on this matter of the prices. Prices reflect wages and other costs, and I am told by economic analysts that the price of anything that we buy--say this microphone--that its costs are reflected, I believe, something up to 80 percent in labor costs. So as these people get money for services, whether it is direct services or services that go into the manufacture of this thing, prices are bound to go up, and I don't know what the Government can do as long as it insists upon the freedom of an economy to establish its own price and wage levels.

The Government can do, of course, in its fiscal management--that is one of the reasons we are so watchful in this whole economic situation. One of the things that we do want to keep is a sound dollar, because if we don't, we are going to destroy the value of everybody's pension, everybody's insurance policy. Today, through a modern industrialized nation more than ever, we, the older people, people that have gone past the retirement age, are living on pensions; and those pensions, if they are going to deteriorate through the constant rise, apparently inevitable rise of cost of living, we are going to be in very, very serious trouble. So I am devoted, and I know the whole administration is, to keeping the dollar sound, which means keeping the cost of living stable.

Q. Roscoe Drummond, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, if the Alaskan statehood bill is defeated today, as appears rather likely in light of the adverse vote yesterday, what do you feel the American people should think about the integrity of party platforms?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think you are asking me to make some comments that probably are not completely justified until it really gets down into the philosophy of platforms.

Now, my own point is: I respect them. I did not in '52 or '56 accept nomination until I could see the platform and give my word, my pledge, that I would support it so far as I were able.

I believe, therefore, with both platforms urging statehood both for Hawaii and, with the proper consideration for defense requirements, for Alaska, that we should carry out the pledges of our platforms.

Now that is what I believe; and it is the reason that I, my people, have constantly gone down to the Congress to present my view on this basis. I think every one of my state of the Union messages has recommended it; in addition, my liaison officers and so on try to point out that this is a thing where I feel a duty.

Q. Joseph R. Slevin, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, in deciding that a tax cut is not warranted at this tune, could you tell us what assumptions were made about when an upturn may develop and about when the country may return to full employment?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am certainly not a prophet, and therefore I am not capable of saying when I believe that all of the important indices of economic activity will show a healthy upturn. Some have shown certainly greater strength, greater resistance to slowdown and to decline, and there is ground to believe that the worst of our problems are behind us.

But you can point to the continued decline in automobile sales and durable hard goods and so on. That seems to be the weakest point. One other thing is the long-term interest rates have not lowered at the same rate as the shorter ones.

Our bill rate, I think, is lower than it has been now in several years. It is, I believe, something like -56, and I think it was up at one time, oh, 5 or 6 times that. But if we could get long-range interest rates down by another quarter or maybe even a half percent, I believe that would be a great encouraging sign.

Q. Daniel Schorr, CBS News: In the past, Mr. President, you have given us reminiscences of your meetings with some of your wartime military colleagues. Without any reference to any current international crisis, could you recall for us your meetings with General de Gaulle and your impression of him?

THE PRESIDENT. I will say only this much: manifestly he is part of the present crisis, and I cannot talk about it. Therefore I wouldn't try to analyze his characteristics, qualifications, attitudes, and philosophies. I wouldn't do that even if there were no crisis, because he is manifestly of a great influence at this time.

I will say this: I happen to be one of those people that liked him. I had a long experience of friendly contact with him, and I think one of the very latest things I did after leaving SHAPE, coming back here in '52, was a dinner down at the Order of the Liberation, with General de Gaulle. We had a long talk about the world and the future of the world. That is, I think, enough for reminiscence for that at the moment.

Q. Charles E. Shutt, Telenews: Sir, in the past you described our recession as flattening out, and you say this morning that the worst of it is behind us.


Q. Mr. Shutt: Do you see a perceptible start on an upgrade, on an overall picture?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I'd say this: there are certain of the indices that look that way; but just as one swallow doesn't make a summer, I am certainly not going to show that a slacking off of the new applications for unemployment insurance and all that sort of thing--those do not yet, to my mind, warrant a flat prediction that now we are on the upper leg. I want to see a few more things happen. I say that we are weathering it well; and I believe, of course, that the prior boom had a lot to do with the recession. Now I think it has largely spent its force. I certainly pray so.

Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: Mr. President, you will recall, sir, that you regretted the defeat last session of the bill for relief of chronically depressed areas. Now at this session such a bill, a combined operation of Senator Paul Douglas and Senator Payne of Maine, a bipartisan thing, has already passed the Senate, but supporters of the bill are fearful that it may be blocked in the House unless, they say, a strong push comes from the White House in time. Now would you comment on the importance of legislation providing a real program for depressed areas?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course you know this: time and again I have recommended congressional action. But, I would like to point out, I am pushing a defense bill. I am pushing reciprocal trade. I am pushing mutual security. I am pushing a lot of other programs. So I don't know whether I could just take time off and push here for a week or so on the one you are talking about. But I will do this: I will ask my people to analyze it to see whether there is anything in it that would prevent me from doing so. I am in favor of the principle.

Q. Mary Philomene Von Herberg, Pacific Shipper: Mr. President, have you reached any decision as to the financing of the superliner? You spoke about it 2 weeks ago.

THE PRESIDENT. No, there has been no final recommendation made to me yet.

Q. Richard Harkness, National Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, Secretary of Defense McElroy addressed the Governors' Conference last week in Miami. He foresaw a continued high level of defense spending. He said that unless we were able to economize and cut Government expenditures elsewhere, that he foresaw, as he put it, more than just a possibility of wage and price controls. Do you agree with him, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Harkness, I didn't know that he had made that particular point in his talk, but of course he is talking about eventualities. If they come about, something would have to be done, I am sure.

Of course, defense spending is going to be at a high level. As compared to our traditional practice, they are enormous. Now, I do believe this: I do believe that the United States has now caught its breath and is not quite so apt to use the words "urgent" and "critical" as it was last fall after the first Sputnik was put into the air. I believe that we should critically examine every dollar we spend for defense. I believe that we must be alert to the damage that extravagance there can cause us. I believe that through the unification of the services in a much better fashion and more responsive to the Secretary of Defense's single direction, we will get some economics. And they are very important because, right now, if you take and try to program ahead exactly the schemes and plans that the Defense Department has already put down on their blueprints, and then begin to cost them out, in a couple years you will find that these costs are rising very rapidly as you get into the great field of procurement of the very expensive weapons.

Consequently, I say we must be alert to this and keep sanity in this whole business of expending, all the way across the board.

I would think this: I would deplore any attempt to fix, in times of peace, wages and prices. I believe we are, to that extent, deserting some very long-term principles that are good for this country. But when people begin to believe it as emergency, then something might have to be done, but I am certainly not ready to predict it now.

Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, I hope this doesn't fudge on your embargo, sir. The United States is the most powerful government in the non-Communist world, and yet we seem to be almost powerless to influence crises such as in North Africa, the Middle East, and Indonesia even before they become crises. Is there a lesson in these things for us, admitted that we can't always be perfect? Is there something lacking in our foreign policy?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't think you would put it in terms of criticism of policy. What you apparently would be talking about is operations, execution. I think the policy of the United States, observed now for a good many years, of helping the less developed countries to increase their own standards of living to become partners in the free world--that is, the world that believes in self-government and so on-- is a good one. We have to defend against our communistic opponents at the moment, but we have to, on the positive rather than the negative side; we have to help those countries.

I think that general policy is good. But in every single situation that comes up, you have got a new problem, and here is one of your troubles today. There is no possibility in any single instance that I know of where you can isolate a problem between the country that you represent, say, and the one I represent. You try to do something and it affects three other countries. I don't care where you go, whether you go to the Mideast, you go to the far East, if you talk to Formosa, you are affecting somebody else. If you are talking France, you are talking about somebody else, and it is the same way, whether it's Tunisia or anything else. So that the carrying on of foreign policy is a very intricate business, and it becomes, you might say, almost an art rather than any science. I believe that free countries such as ours have got to observe the principles that we observe among ourselves: live and let live.

We cannot make ourselves the boss, whether it be of a country in Africa or anywhere else. We have got to be partners in good faith.

Now we can therefore influence, and we can argue, and we can urge, and we can send special emissaries, which I have so often done, to go and talk about special problems that may cause trouble or are certain to cause it; but I just don't believe that we can use the communistic method of being dictatorial. Whether you use money, whether you use politics, or whether you use force to do it, you can persuade; but if you are going to be an equal, then you have got to act as an equal.

Q. Mr. Morgan: May I just ask for a clarification on one point, sir?


Q. Mr. Morgan: Did you imply in your answer that in some of the execution of our foreign policy we may have fallen down?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I just say I don't know that you can do any better. This is a very complicated thing, and so far as I know--and I have sat in many of these conferences--the individuals that come to see us state exactly what I am stating to you now. This is so complicated that you have to go--you try to lay out a program, a plan, work it if you have got it here, if you go here you have to defend from that, you have to move over here. It is a very difficult, intricate thing, and I don't care what head of a state or government has been here or that I have gone to see has acknowledged the intricacies of today in manipulating, you might say, the foreign plans of any free country.

Q. Richard L. Wilson, Cowles Publications: Do you see any contradiction, sir, between the pay rise that is being granted to federal workers and your advice to business and labor to hold the line?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, now, Mr. Wilson, you mean in the talk I made on May 22d?

Q. Mr. Wilson: Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. I acknowledged the need for correcting inequities, and there are certain inequities that have come up in the payrolls and pay scales of employees.

Now the Congress put in a percentage basis for the postal workers, a percentage larger than I wanted and I thought was adequate, and, therefore, would be going beyond the point where justice demanded that you should do something.

In any event, the good points of that bill, it seemed to me, outweighed the disadvantages, and I took it; although I made some very stringent restrictions on my approval so far as the pay scale was involved.

Q. Mr. Wilson: This is a case, sir, where federal pay is being raised by a billion and a half dollars a year.

THE PRESIDENT. A billion and a half?

Q. Mr. Wilson: A billion and a half--the military pay, postal, and the new classified civil service.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the military pay, as you know, we have been trying to get for several years, during the time that the companies and that the society has gone forward in its scale, in its whole scale.

The same way, it's 3 years since you have gotten anything for the civil workers, and the cost of living [increase] was just under 7 or a little more than 6 percent, I believe, when I put my recommendation in; and so I recommended 6 percent. But then it went up a little further, and I said, "All right, 7 ½ is a good one."

Now the overall permanent thing is 7½, but actually it's 10. Now, I don't like that; and, moreover, what I don't like is they didn't give the supervisory employee a cent--zero for him and 10 or 10½ down here. I think to compress these wage scales, again, is a very bad thing. So there are many things I don't like about it, but I just didn't see how I could improve it.

Q. Mr. Wilson: You don't feel it is a contradiction?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, partially; yes. But the partial contradiction is something that I believe you can't help.

Q. Sarah McClendon, Sherman (Texas) Democrat: Sir, yesterday we saw something very unusual. We saw the Democratic leader of the House and the Democratic leader of the Senate go completely along with you on opposing tax cuts. Can you tell us how you attribute your success in that regard?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think this: I was born in the State of both these gentlemen, and I was born in the district that one of them represents. [Laughter]

Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: When the Eisenhower doctrine went through the Congress, sir, it was represented to the Congress as a measure to deal primarily with overt aggression of Communist origin. Now lately in the Middle East crisis a new interpretation has been given, namely that under the Mansfield amendment to that resolution you now have power to intervene with the force of arms if you please to deal with any aggression. Do you have in your own mind a different interpretation from what it was originally?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think it is different from what we finally felt it was after the thing was passed. I had forgotten it was Senator Mansfield, but there was an amendment passed that we had a very long study about around here. We felt that as long as it was a friendly government, one with which we have associations like military assistance and so on, there were probably certain actions that we might be able to take that were beyond just a mere overt aggression from a Communist-controlled state.

However, that has never been invoked in any way, and I am not sure that the lawyers--I have forgotten exactly what the lawyers said about it, but that is my own interpretation of it.

Q. William H. Stringer, Christian Science Monitor: Further on this question of wage-price restraint, about July 1st there will be a steel wage increase and a price increase. Have you given any thought to inviting Roger Blough and David McDonald to the White House to work out some restraint there? There is some feeling that you could put the cloak of national interest around such a program of restraint.

THE PRESIDENT. I have never had these two gentlemen simultaneously in my house. Now, each of them knows how deeply I believe that labor and business leadership must be exercised if free enterprise is to work in the way that I think the mass of America would like to see it work and believe it should work.

I assume you are thinking of a place or an incident in which the President would bring these two people in and, by the prestige of the office, force them to accept something. Actually as I recall, and I could be wrong, I think there is an automatic raise in the steel contract already, and there is no contract to be made. Therefore it would be some abstention apparently on the part of the labor union that would be needed. I don't know that that particular question has caught us, but I don't believe that there is a great deal of value unless you would have an incident of an emergency character that would come out of such thing.

Q. Mr. Stringer: McDonald is rather shaky in his union now, and it would take some White House effort to put the cloak of statesmanship around this--

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know. Maybe he isn't shaky, he doesn't act shaky. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and thirty-sixth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:30 to 11:00 o'Clock on Wednesday morning, May 28, 1958. 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/233489

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