The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. Please be seated.
I have no announcements this morning, gentlemen.
Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, now that the House Appropriations Committee has cut the Defense budget by two and a half billion dollars, what do you think of it?
THE PRESIDENT. I have seen the detailed report only a very short time, but as far as I can work out, about one billion three of this money they are talking about is not a budget cut at all; it is reducing balances and funds that are the reserves under which the Defense Department operates. In other words, it is nothing in the world but a bookkeeping operation and will not reduce 1958 expenditure by one cent. So, it will not provide an additional nickel to the Treasury Department.
Five hundred million of that I had suggested to them in my letter to the Speaker of the 18th, I think it was, to the effect that they could, if they saw fit, reduce it by that much. We thought we would get along; I didn't think it was particularly wise, but it doesn't hurt.
Now, there is other money like that. A part of it is calculating on the deutschemarks we will get--another very hypothetical figure because we don't know exactly how many deutschemarks we will be paid by Western Germany; and if it is not made good, they know very well on the Hill that they will have to make up that money through supplementals.
But, we do get down to a billion two [$1.2 billion], that is direct cuts. I think it's about 600 million in the Air Forces, 200 million in the Army, and three or four hundred million in the Navy.
Now, in making up this budget, as I told you before, I and my associates cut it way down below what the uniformed services had requested and they thought and believed to be necessary. We had taken the figure of two million eight,1 as it now stands, and, realizing that it was going to be very difficult to stay at that strength, had trimmed the budget down until we thought that it was the bare minimum.
1The figure used here refers to the 2,800,000 military personnel authorized.
This billion two, therefore, is going to cut directly into defense. Somewhere programs in aircraft procurement, guided missile development are going to have to suffer if it stands. So, I am very hopeful that the Senate certainly restores every bit of the money here taken out that has to do with cutting into the defense program that has been designed, because I believe that that program is just as low as it should be.
The bookkeeping money that was taken out we will try to live with, reserving the right if those reserves go down to the danger point, that we have to go back to Congress.
Q. Frank van der Linden, Richmond Times Dispatch: Mr. President, Senator Byrd of Virginia said that your recent plea for the budget as a defense budget ignored an increase in the last few years in civilian and nondefense spending, something in the neighborhood of five billion I think a year, and he insists that you could still cut this budget five billion a year.
I wondered if you would welcome a chance to call the Senator in and perhaps have him show where he thinks that it can be cut.
THE PRESIDENT. I'll tell you, Senator Byrd is my good friend, and I admire him; but I outlined in a talk a week ago exactly what that twenty-six billion dollars, what he is talking about-where it goes and what it does.
Now, I haven't heard anybody coming along, arguing that we should cut seriously into the farmers' returns, that we should seriously reduce the amount of money we are paying for veterans, and certainly no one arguing that we should quit paying interest on our public debt.
Now, there you account already, out of that twenty-six, for seventeen billion dollars of this money; so you have nine billion that you are going to cut five billion out of. Well, that is going to be quite a trick, if you can do it.
Q. Charles von Fremd, CBS News: Mr. President, you have taken your budget defense to the people twice in a week's time now, sir. Does your case now rest, or do you plan to speak out in the future publicly, such as you did on radio and television?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, as long as I am in a fight, I never rest until the United States gets what my associates and I believe to be necessary for the operation of this Government, for the protection of ourselves in this critical world, and for the waging of peace. I shall never stop until a decision is reached.
So, these two speeches were an effort to be informative, that more people could understand what we are doing, what the budget itself covers; and last night, mutual security: what does it mean to us, to every last man, woman and child in the United States.
Q. Robert J. Donovan, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, last week, sir, you were asked if you intended to punish Republican Members of Congress who didn't go along with your program. Leaving out the question, the concept of punishment, would you be more disposed to support those who do back your program and less disposed to back those who do not, next year?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, if you want to make that statement within reasonable--and what I would call logical--grounds, I think it will be a pity if ever we tried to organize in this country political parties that are based upon slavish adherence to every detail and concept of government that can be advanced, because then you will have nothing but a whole group of splinter parties, probably 170 million political parties, as far as I can see. Therefore, each party should encompass a very great deal--I mean a very wide range--of political thinking.
But, I do believe this: when a political party gets together and agrees upon a platform and that platform is presented to the American public as the political basis on which they are going to try to conduct the Government if elected, they should remain true to it. I believe they should stick with it through thick and thin unless conditions so change that anyone would understand that some change would have to be made in this platform.
So, I have no right and no desire to punish anybody. I just say this: I am committed to the support of people who believe, as I do, that the Republican platform of 1956 must be our political doctrine.
Q. Charles W. Roberts, Newsweek: Mr. President, in that connection it has been suggested by some columnists that Senator Knowland should resign as majority leader because he is opposed to so much of your program. Would you care to comment on that?
THE PRESIDENT. The organization of the Senate and of the political parties within the Senate is a matter for Senate decision and for the party decision in the Senate. It has never even crossed my mind to ask the resignation of anybody because they are not direct subordinates of mine.
Now, I do believe this: that if you will look up the record you will find that, at least Senator Knowland not long ago said this, that his record of support for things which I have advocated was very good indeed, the highest percentage, I believe he said, in the Senate.
He has differed with me on some very important points, and I think some of them are critical and they represent real differences, but it does not mean that he is my enemy. It means that he has got some very strong convictions on the other side of the fence.
Q. William H. Lawrence, New York Times: Mr. President, to carry Mr. Donovan's question a step further, if I might, sir, in previous elections, both '52 and '56, you have always supported every Republican who was running for the Senate or the House without regard to their voting record. I am wondering whether that will continue to be your attitude in '58, or whether you do have some degree of enthusiasm with which you support those who help you, and those who don't do anything for you.
THE PRESIDENT. Now, I hope that I will never be accused of being so namby-pamby that I don't have degrees of enthusiasm about people that stand with me and those that stand against me.
Now, what I do want to make clear is this: I most earnestly believe that the Congress and the White House should be occupied and controlled by the same party, whenever this is humanly possible that this could be done, for the reason then you can fix responsibility. We get into the picture of who is taking credit for what. I recall in the last election that some of the other party were claiming credit for having thought of the soil bank first, and now this year the soil bank money has been cut out in the House. Incidentally, I hope it will be restored in the Senate.
But, the point is: who is responsible for these things in the minds of the people? And I believe, therefore, that a President should stand for the organization of the House and the Senate by his party; and to that extent, of course, I am for whoever the Republicans of any particular State or district nominate. But when it comes down to who I am for enthusiastically, and who I am for merely because they are Republican, there is a very wide difference.
Q. Peter J. Kumpa, Baltimore Sun: Sir, I wonder if you could tell us about some of the reaction that you had to last week's television speech, and whether or not you feel that the speech itself has attained your goal that you set out.
THE PRESIDENT. From the very beginning of the submission of this budget to the Congress, which was, of course, very large, there have been correspondence and communications come to the White House. Now, at first, they were all--or, I say they were all, they were certainly predominantly either questioning or actually opposing, hostile; as these speeches have done this, as time has gone on and press conferences and other people's speeches have explained the purposes, the necessity for these great expenditures, there has been a gradual turn in the tone of this correspondence, until we now find, as of today for example, the correspondence is very much in favor of the Administration's stand.
But, this has been a slow turn, and how much of that can be attributed to a speech, I don't know. I don't know how effective such speeches are. I do know they at least clear my conscience in the effort to make America see what I believe to be so necessary for our welfare.
Q. David P. Sentner, Hearst Newspapers: Mr. President, can you tell us whether the supplying of modern weapons to South Korea has begun?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't think that there has been any actual move in that direction. There has been, of course, for some many months a knowledge that we were operating under a very, very bad handicap when we knew that this armistice was not being carried out in the North, and merely being carried out in the South, and some way has to be found out of the dilemma. I don't think there has been any actual concrete move in that direction yet.
Q. Mr. Sentner: There has been a report that the National Security Council has made a decision. Do you know of that?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, if the National Security Council made a decision, I know of it because I don't miss them--[laughter]but at the same time, I don't talk about National Security Council's decisions anywhere.
Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, I wonder, in view of these recent storms, if you or anyone under you have asked the Weather Bureau to step up their research.
THE PRESIDENT. No, I haven't; but there is a research that is going on, both publicly and privately. For example, my friend, Lou Douglas, out in Arizona, is in a project that offers some great results. Really, it is a good question in this regard, that if we could get some real warning of these things, and find out about them, we could certainly save lots of money and lots of distress.
Q. Spencer Davis, Associated Press: You have given assurances to Japan and to other countries that the United States is working toward an end to nuclear tests when acceptable agreements can be reached. At the same time there are reports that the United States is now actively preparing for H-bomb tests in the Pacific next year.
Could you say if that is true?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think the next series of tests that are coming off are all in Nevada, and I don't know of any beyond that. They have not been brought up to me.
Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Congressional tax experts say that spending in fiscal year '58 will be a billion dollars more than your 71.8 estimate. Have your experts given you that same information--regardless of appropriations?
THE PRESIDENT. 71.8 was NOA1 wasn't it? Wasn't it new authority--authorization?
1 Term used by the Bureau of the Budget, meaning "new obligational authority."
Q. Mr. Brandt: No, for spending and--
THE PRESIDENT. Seventy-three--all right.
Q. Mr. Brandt: --in revenue, leaving you a surplus.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I tell you right now we are having this difficulty: for the forecast of expenditures in, what year was it, '57?
Q. Mr. Brandt: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT. There are certain departments that are running over seriously and we are having a hard time keeping them down, no matter what we do, and to keep up the programs that we are either authorized or directed by law to carry out. Whether or not these will run over in '58, I don't know, I have had no such warning.
Q. Mr. Brandt: And they have not informed you that it would affect your tax reduction program?
THE PRESIDENT. Oh, tax reduction program comes when you prove that you have the money in sight. I would never agree to tax reduction when we are in the precarious state of balance we are now. We are working our very best to keep this budget in the black and the next one in the black, and we certainly expect to do it.
But, I certainly have not gone to the point yet where we can be talking about tax reduction.
Q. Stewart Hensley, United Press: Have you been filled in on this controversy concerning whether American or Japanese courts should try the American soldier in Japan who is accused of manslaughter? Do you have any views on this, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. You have used a strange word "filled in." I have been talked to about it at very great length and both the State Department and the Defense Department are working on it very hard so that we keep our international agreements, but that we make certain that no injustice is done to any American. The man is actually at this moment in the hands of American authorities.
Q. Louis R. Lautier, National Negro Press: On the basis of the weekly reports from your congressional leaders, are you satisfied with the progress being made by Congress on your domestic program, particularly Federal aid to school construction and civil rights?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, you say "are you satisfied."
I have learned that progress in Congress is a very spotty thing. It goes along, and there is nothing done for a long time, and suddenly there is a great burst of energy and you are signing bills almost faster than you can write.
This is what I know from my reports of our leaders in the Congress: both of these bills, they are making their best efforts to bring them up and to do the best they can to get them passed.
Q. John Scali, Associated Press: Mr. President, over the weekend Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko, in talking about disarmament, said the only fair basis to decide which territories to throw open to aerial inspection would be for the United States and Russia to swap territory on a mile-for-mile basis. Now, since Russia seems to have more territory to swap than we do, what would you think of any such arrangement?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, strange I hadn't heard of that particular thing, although it has been implicit in some of the suggestions that I have seen. I don't think we could possibly do it on a mile-for-mile basis unless each wanted to select an area where it was completely insignificant. I think that we have got to reach honest understandings on these things in which each can have confidence which is fair, and the world can see is fair.
I just do want to take this occasion to say one more word about disarmament. It seems to me that the more any intelligent man thinks about the possibilities of war today, the more he should understand you have got to work on this business of disarmament. I think our first concern should be making certain we are not ourselves being recalcitrant, we are not being picayunish about the thing. We ought to have an open mind and make it possible for others, if they are reasonable, logical men, to meet us half way so we can make these agreements.
Now, on the other hand, any nation that is facing a government which has a history of breaking of treaties, and so on, that we have encountered in our dealings with the Soviets over these past years, we have to be especially careful of the inspectional systems, systems in which we can have confidence. We must, at the same time, though, keep our minds open and keep exploring every field, every facet of this whole great field, to see if something can't be done. It just has to be done in the interest of the United States.
Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post: On that same subject, sir, could you tell us what you feel is the essential point that you are aiming at here? Is it in fact disarmament or arms reduction or an effort to freeze the arms race where it is, or lower tensions by eliminating the element of surprise attack? Is the word "disarmament" in fact a fair description of what is under negotiation?
THE PRESIDENT. Of course I think everything which you discuss comes under the general heading of "disarmament." Even if you agreed to limit armaments, it is disarmament to the extent that you are not pushing any further, I mean if you would say we will stop where we are now. Partial disarmament is still disarmament.
This is what I believe: you mentioned just casually the words "world tensions" or the phrase "world tensions." That has got to be diminished or there is going to be no progress in the other. At the same time there has got to be progress in some kind of disarmament or there is going to be no reduction in world tensions.
Here is something that you have got to look at as a package, and I think it would be futile to hope for a complete or a final drastic agreement, answer in the first instance. I believe it has got to be gradual because each side will want to test the confidence of the other, and so if we can make the first simple moves which will give us each a chance to test the good faith, the efficiency of inspectional systems, all the rest of it, then I think you can confidently hope to take the next step, and the next step, until we can get to a place where these defense budgets, whether they are reported honestly in dollars, as is ours, or concealed in a great and enormous work program, as in the case of Russia, are brought down within reason so that so many man-hours don't have to go into the production of weapons.
Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: Mr. President, in answer to an earlier question you said that you couldn't seriously consider tax reductions at the present time.
I should like to ask you if you have considered, or you and your financial advisers have talked about reduction of tax privileges as a means of increasing Treasury revenue? I have particularly in mind the efforts by Senator Williams and Senator Douglas to reduce or end the 27 1/2 percent depletion allowance enjoyed by the oil companies.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, the 27½ depletion allowance has not come up lately, but I must say that both the Secretary of the Treasury and I, I think, have made several statements on the basis of eliminating these fast tax write-offs except in the most direct cases where the security of the country is involved.
Now, there are other places where the Secretary of the Treasury is trying to stop all these leaks and he has a group working all the time, and we hope certainly when the time for tax reduction comes around, to submit a complete list of what we believe is correct.
Now, the 27½ percent depletion allowance, I am not prepared to say it is evil because, while we do find I assume that a number of rich men take advantage of it unfairly, there must certainly be an incentive in this country if we are going to continue the exploration for gas and oil that is so important to our economy.
Q. Ray L. Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: On the general subject of getting along with Congress, you told us a while back you didn't believe in desk-pounding, but rather in convincing people. Could you discuss in a positive way your philosophy of Presidential leadership, particularly vis-a-vis Congress?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, with respect to Congress, of course, the first thing you must do is to respect their organization. In other words, I would never go behind the backs of anybody in trying to deal with an individual if there is an organization set up. If it is--let's say it's one of your newspaper organizations--if I wanted to discuss it, the first person I naturally go to is the president. I don't go down and try to start a rebellion against him. If he says, "No, I can't see anybody," I'd say, "After all, this is a free country."
Now, in the same way, if leadership of Congress is definitely against a project in which I am interested, I am not barred, and by no means do I ever expect anyone to try to bar me from seeing the individual Senators or Congressmen that I believe are sympathetic and can help. But the point is, you always go first to the leadership and notify them of what you are doing.
Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, this is a kind of sequel to Mr. Scherer's question, sir.
I wonder if you would care to give us your own analysis as to what has been happening in the country. You were re-elected last November by a whopping majority, the largest on record, and leaving all of your Republican associates far behind. However, since then your popularity, though still high, according to the pollsters, has fallen sharply. The Congress seems to be in what might be called open revolt against much of your program.
Have you analyzed the reasons as to why you are in the position that you are in?
THE PRESIDENT. No, not particularly, for this reason, Mr. Morgan: I believe that these so-called popularity curves tend to go up and down. This is the simple way I go about it: I made at least a limited campaign in 1956, at least limited as compared to 1952, and I took the Republican platform and I spoke for it and I made my pledges and promises to the people, based on that platform.
I intend to carry it out to the very best of my ability.
My associates in the executive department believe the same.
If others disagree with us, then they must put up something constructive in its stead. And I will say this: so far as I know, every Republican who spoke in 1956 did accept that platform at least implicitly, if not explicitly. Certainly, I did explicitly, and I expect to adhere to it.
Louis Cassels, United Press: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and eleventh news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:31 to 10:58 o'clock on Wednesday morning, May 22, 1957. In attendance: 201.
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/233301