Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

June 18, 1958

THE PRESIDENT. Good morning. Please sit down.

Ladies and gentlemen, this morning I want to start off with two or three announcements, the first of which I have dictated, because I want to give it to you exactly as I intend it.

I showed this to Mr. Hagerty, who is just now having it mimeographed in order, if you are interested, that you can have the exact wording, rather than an abbreviated version.

[Reading] The intense publicity lately surrounding the name of Sherman Adams makes it desirable, even necessary, that I start this conference with an expression of my own views about the matter.

First, as a result of this entire incident, all of us in America should have been made aware of one truth--this is that a gift is not necessarily a bribe. One is evil, the other is a tangible expression of friendship.

Almost without exception, everybody seeking public office accepts political contributions. These are gifts to further a political career. Yet we do not make a generality that these gifts are intended to color the later official votes, recommendations, and actions of the recipients.

In the general case, this whole activity is understood, accepted, and approved.

The circumstances surrounding the innocent receipt by a public official of any gift are therefore important, so that the public may clearly distinguish between innocent and guilty action.

Among these circumstances are the character and reputation of the individual, the record of his subsequent actions, and evidence of intent or lack of intent to exert undue influence.

Anyone who knows Sherman Adams has never had any doubt of his personal integrity and honesty. No one has believed that he could be bought; but there is a feeling or belief that he was not sufficiently alert in making certain that the gifts, of which he was the recipient, could be so misinterpreted as to be considered as attempts to influence his political actions. To that extent he has been, as he stated yesterday, "imprudent."

Now, the utmost in prudence must necessarily be observed by everyone attached to the White House because of the possible effect of any slightest inquiry, suggestion, or observation emanating from this office and reaching any other part of the Government. Carelessness must be avoided.

My own conclusions of this entire episode are as follows:

I believe that the presentation made by Governor Adams to the congressional committee yesterday truthfully represents the pertinent facts. I personally like Governor Adams. I admire his abilities. I respect him because of his personal and official integrity. I need him.

Admitting the lack of that careful prudence in this incident that Governor Adams yesterday referred to, I believe with my whole heart that he is an invaluable public servant doing a difficult job efficiently, honestly, and tirelessly.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, so far as I am concerned, this is all that I can, all that I shall, say. [Ends reading]

If there are any questions from any part of this body, they will go to Mr. Hagerty and not to me.

I have another announcement. This is about the presence in Washington of the President of the Philippines, a man heading a people traditionally our friends, our firm allies, and therefore not only the entire Government but the entire people take great satisfaction in his visit to us today.

And, finally, the execution of Nagy and Maleter. I cannot think of any incident that could have and has more shocked the civilized world. These two men were not guilty of evil doing. They were fighting for their own country, to eliminate or to reduce the domination by force of their country on the part of the Soviets. Good faith was violated in their execution, the story of which has just come to our attention in this country.

It is clear evidence that the intent of the Soviets is to pursue their own policies of terror and intimidation in any way they choose, to bring about complete subservience to their will.

I think there is no incident that should have more alerted the free world to the lack of confidence that we are compelled to feel in the words and actions of these Communist imperialists. I am ready for questions.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, I don't know whether this transgresses your embargo or not, but some Republicans running for re-election say they are going to have difficulty facing the voters on the Adams-Goldfine issue in the light of this administration's 1952 attacks on the so-called mess in Washington. Do you care to comment on those Republican views?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I think not, Mr. Arrowsmith.

I have given you my statement. It is what I believe is demanded and expected and needed in the circumstances.

Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, this question has not to do with Mr. Adams but Government procedure possibly regarding Mr. Goldfine. May I state it to see whether it falls within or without your embargo?

In past instances, Mr. President, when difficulties of this kind have come up regarding propriety, you have stated, you have indicated strongly that one of the most important matters is to get the facts out.

House investigators say that to them one of the most important matters is how Mr. Goldfine viewed this relationship with people in the Government, and that the only way they can really find this out, is to whether he claimed as business deductions the gifts he made on his income tax. Apparently the only way they can get the income tax returns is by a special Presidential order through the Department of Justice. If you were so asked, would you be inclined to make such an order?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think I would consult the Attorney General and precedents in like cases.

I have nothing else to say, because I don't know anything further about it. It's a question that has come suddenly, and I have no other way of answering it.

Q. Rod MacLeish, Westinghouse Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, you spoke of the Nagy and Maleter executions, sir. I detect the note of shock that the free world, everyone, has felt in this. Does this indicate to you that a new and harder line is being pursued in the Soviet Union? Does this negate the chances of a Summit conference and further fruitful negotiations with the Soviet Union on outstanding political questions that are before the free world now, or--the two sides, now?

THE PRESIDENT. Well I think I should like to answer that question in this way: there has been a very great feeling in the free world that possibly we have been reluctant to acknowledge that the Soviets were more ready to negotiate, and to negotiate in good faith.

The news from the free world today is that the revulsion that people are feeling everywhere is evidenced in a number of places, in a number of countries--picketing or demonstrating in front of Soviet Embassies and so on.

So I would say anything of this kind that shocks the whole free world, its whole conscience and its whole beliefs, is detrimental to fruitful negotiations.

Q. William McGaffin, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, Senator Douglas, of Illinois, follows a practice of sending back any gifts that are worth more than two dollars and a half. Do you feel, Mr. President, that everybody in Government should set some modest limit on the amount of a gift that he would accept?

THE PRESIDENT. I've never dreamed of putting it in just that way. for example, you people here, a good many of you once gave me a heifer, and the lady reporters did the same thing. Now, I'm sure that heifers cost more than two dollars and a half.

I do not care what anyone else does, I try to be guided by rule of reason.

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: In view of the Hungarian situation and the latest messages you had from Mr. Khrushchev, is there any value in continuing the correspondence with Mr. Khrushchev?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Brandt, I don't believe I can answer that categorically. I want to take the whole thing again in advisement. I shall have serious discussions with my advisers.

I do say that the whole thing has been a very great setback to my hopes, and while my hopes have not been based on any tangible advancement in recent months, in the conciliation-of respective positions, still hope is one thing that does keep you working and trying.

And here, as I say, I think the whole sense of shock to the free world is going to be a very great obstacle to further--

Q. James P. Reston, New York Times: Mr. President, do the procedures that you have approved in the Adams case apply to all federal officials?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know what you mean by "apply." I haven't approved any procedures. I am saying what I believe and what my conclusions and convictions are as a result of an incident, or series of incidents. I have never said anything except that I expect the highest possible standards, not only of conduct but of appearance of conduct.

Q. Mr. Reston: I was merely trying to get straight, sir, whether you thought that any other official in the Government could do what Mr. Adams did and get your approval.

THE PRESIDENT. Oh! Well, I'd say this: in the executive departments--and I suppose that is what you are talking about--I would believe that the standard of conduct in the White House should be impeccable. I would expect the same thing in all other departments, but I am not quite so close to their many individuals, except for the Cabinet officers themselves, that: I could act directly. They would, themselves, have that responsibility.,

Q. Richard L. Wilson, Cowles Publications: Mr. President, over a period of years, and possibly due to the increased relationships between business and Government, there have been many of these instances of so-called favoritism and special treatment which have come up. I wonder if this hasn't created a relatively new situation which justifies a thorough study so as to establish a basis of morals and ethics in this general field.

THE PRESIDENT. You raise a very pertinent philosophical question. When you come down to it, I think there is no possible way in which elected officials can be called to account except by their own consciousness of good or evil intent except only when they do something that outrages either the legal bounds that are set for us or, let's say, the public opinion of the United States.

This does not have the same exact application to an executive department because there people are normally appointed during the pleasure of the President and for the time being, except for those in independent agencies which have term appointments.

So, I would say that there is normally a greater concern about everybody in the executive departments, and I think there is normally a greater care taken to see that their conduct is all that it should be.

Q. Gordon White, Salt Lake City Deseret News: There have been some suggestions recently that a peace commission be set up to explore new ways toward peace; and perhaps in light of the Nagy incidents and, as you say, distrust, perhaps this might find some more fruitful means than we followed. Mr. Benson has said that the Cabinet has perhaps discussed informally the idea. Would you be in favor of that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I can't, at the moment, see where any particular usefulness would come about by the appointing of a brand new commission.

I know of no subject that is so much discussed within the Government, particularly the State Department, Defense Department, and the White House, by others that come in. Every kind of businessman, publisher, professional man, particularly if he has had an interest in foreign affairs, is listened to, normally his testimony, views, are put down, they are looked at. I have, once in a while, occasional lunches or dinners where the whole subject is brought up, or in some of its aspects; and I would doubt that a permanent, and I suppose that is what you are talking about, a permanent commission might be useful.

On the other hand, I'll say this: if we can find anything that will be useful in this terrible problem, why, I would be the first to welcome it.

Q. John M. Hightower, Associated Press: Mr. President, would you say under what, if any, conditions you might be prepared to take military action in connection with the Lebanese crisis?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you cannot describe the actions, of course. As of the circumstances, as we now understand them, we cannot be certain as to exactly what they are.

Now we do know that the United Nations group has gone out there, and General Hammarskjold is taking this whole matter under his earnest and personal view. I should say that it would be dependent somewhat upon the judgments of the armistice team and the Secretary General as to what we might have to do.

But I would not want at this time to make predictions.

Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: About a year ago, the question was raised here, in your news conference, on the advisability of there being a Presidential scientific adviser. You have since appointed one in the person of Dr. Killian.

Now, I wonder whether, in view of the rapidity and range of scientific development and the growth of governmental responsibilities in this area, whether a department of science might not be the next important step in governmental structure.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, science is a little bit like the air you breathe-it is everywhere; and just to get a department, separate department of air--[laughter]--I had better take that subject on the negative for a moment.

To get a department of science, I am not so certain that it would be particularly useful; but I do say this: in every possible way, every department of Government, and particularly Defense, State, and I, are doing our best to get the finest opinions and convictions of these people that it is possible to obtain.

As a matter of fact, one of my appointments today is with the Advisory Committee under Dr. Killian, and if I thought there was any need for further formalized organization of this matter and this subject, I should refer it to him at once for a study, a complete study in his group.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, would it not be a good idea to set up rules and specific scope of work for the Office of Assistant President, so that we, the public, would know what the dudes and responsibilities are?

I heard the Chairman of the Subcommittee of the Legislative Oversight Committee say the other day that it might be necessary, that they did not even know at that particular time officially what the office paid; and, since, I believe we have been informed by Mr. Hagerty; but they did not know what the duties are and that nowhere in Government is this spelled out.

He said it might be a question for the Civil Service Commission, the Civil Service Committee of the House, or the Judicial--Judiciary Committee of the House, or the Government Operations Committee to inquire into it; but, actually, they don't know enough about the office, and the public is so interested. Couldn't we spell that out?

THE PRESIDENT. I have never thought of trying it, but I would say this: if you will take the Constitution and all the laws of America and find out exactly what my duties are, you will find that in some form, minor or major, he is involved in assisting me, that's his whole task. I have a personal staff to help me get together all of the facts, information, opinions that belong not specifically to any particular department; they help me to get these things so marshaled that I can sit and make decisions. They do not make the decisions; it's not their function to do it, and no one attempts to do it. Whatever I, therefore, have to do, he has in some measure to do--although the gauge of that measure is difficult--in every single problem that comes up.

Q. Clark R. Mollenhoff, Des Moines Register: Mr. President, a little while ago here you spoke about the Adams case, and saying if it went beyond legal bounds it would be an entirely different problem. And Chairman Harris stated Sherman Adams actually admitted he violated the law in getting information from the FTC and submitting this to Mr. Goldfine, in violation of some rules and regulations there.

I wondered if you were aware of that situation of the charges of Mr. Harris, and wondered if you could distinguish this from some of the cases like the Caudle and Matthew Connelly case and the other Truman problems.

THE PRESIDENT. first of all, I think you have violated the injunction I placed upon you; but at the same time there are certain pertinent facts, that would help to answer your question, that Mr. Hagerty has; and there are more details of that kind I think you should take to him.

Q. Francis M. Stephenson, New York Daily News: Mr. President, on May 15th the Soviets put a Sputnik up weighing 2900 pounds, I think, and previously they put up one of half a ton and one of 184 pounds; and the first two are down and the third one soon will be I guess. But I would like to ask--can we match that thrust to put that weight in the sky, and I would also like to ask, if I may, how we stand with the Russians on the intercontinental missile.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, the second one, no one knows exactly; these are all results of calculations, estimates that you can make, and they are largely secret, as you know.

But now, with respect to the thrust, at the beginning of this experimental work--and, frankly, it practically began in 1955 or thereabouts, but there was some technical work of a very relatively minor character accomplished before that--I think that in the whole guided missile, that is, the ballistic missile, I don't believe we ever put more than one to three million dollars a year before 1955, or '54.

Now as to whether or not we have yet the engines properly designed and of the strength to bring up that size of thing, I couldn't at this moment tell you. But I do know that our plans, programs of development, are the kind that will put up any kind of missile or any kind of satellite that we believe will be necessary.

By the way, there was a question answered for me yesterday that one of you people put up about 2 or 3 weeks ago: a young man, one of the prizewinners of the high school student contests for the Bausch & Lomb--he is getting a big scholarship--he stated that he wanted to be the first man to visit the moon, and so I thought I have got one volunteer that really wants up there. But I do think that there will be, before too long, all the engines of all the strength we shall need.

Q. Ruth S. Montgomery, Hearst Headline Service: Mr. President, do you plan to invite General de Gaulle to Washington any time in the near future?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Miss Montgomery, those things, you know, always come about as a result of diplomatic exchanges, and to find out what is convenient for the visitor and for the host.

Actually, I think you know Secretary Dulles is going to Paris, I believe it is the 5th of July, and he expects to have fruitful talks with General de Gaulle. I imagine that if there is any interest at that moment, the question could be discussed then.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) Press Herald: In view of the execution of Nagy and his colleagues by the Soviet overlords of Hungary, will you still seek authority from Congress to give foreign aid to the Soviet satellites?

THE PRESIDENT. I will help. I would give aid to anything that I would think would help to weaken the solidarity of the Communist bloc.

If we can set up centrifugal as opposed to centripetal forces, we are, in my mind, doing a great service for the free world. And, through trade, through possibilities for these people--I suppose, the ones we are talking about now are Poland and Yugoslavia--if they can make stronger their independent action, vis-a-vis the Soviets, that is all to the good.

It has often been said, you know, that trade follows a flag; it's entirely possible, too, that the flag tends to follow trade; and there could be some trading in this way that would awaken new interest in these countries to pull away from Moscow. I think to that extent we would be advantaged.

Q. William H. Lawrence, New York Times: We have not had an opportunity, sir, to have a press conference with you since your talks with Prime Minister Macmillan. Could you give us, in your view, the major accomplishments?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Lawrence, for 5 years I have tried to create the possibility that heads of government could have informal talks among themselves without creating great expectations, without creating the necessity for consulting on an agenda, and finally, getting out one of these customary communiqués. In other words, there is tremendous value by a very meeting of heads of government on an informal basis. Indeed, one of the reasons that I was so anxious to go to Panama a year or so ago, in spite of the fact that I still had an open wound, and I went back to Paris after I had had a sudden illness, because I wanted the opportunity there to see these heads of government informally, discussing with them our problems, everything from mutual security to Cyprus, any subject that you wanted to speak about.

Now, here we found this: among ourselves we, as individuals and as governments, we have remarkable unity of outlook and we certainly hope to be helpful with our own friends and associates in other informal conversations with them in keeping the free world feeling a little bit more united even than it now is.

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

THE PRESIDENT. No one gives me an opportunity to talk about defense !

Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and thirty-seventh news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:00 to 10:30 o'clock on Wednesday morning, June 18, 1958. In attendance: 257.

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/233596

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