The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. Please be seated.
This morning, instead of an announcement, I have a little request. I hope each of you will speak very distinctly because I am having a little temporary difficulty with my hearing.
Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, in that connection, Jim Hagerty has been accusing us of being doubly interested in your cough in the hope of getting out to Arizona which, of course, is not true. But could you tell us how your cough is and when do you plan to leave? [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. Well, you know, it is an awkward time. We have had this Mid-East situation on our hands for a long time; and while it has gone through certain stages and the outlook is brighter, there are still many details daily that come up and, as you know, the Secretary of State had to leave for Australia yesterday, the Vice President is out of the country; so it is rather awkward to go at this minute.
Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, the Bureau of Labor Statistics in their last look at the cost of living anticipated further price increases, and the line on the cost of living seems to be bending a little, and continuing to bend. Do you have anything in mind to attack this continual rise?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, that is one of the reasons that I have directed such a careful review of the entire budget. With this cost of living continuing to rise, it is necessary we all watch our spending to the utmost degree.
Now, for every purpose that was provided for in the budget, I still am in favor. In other words, I don't believe in abandoning any project that the United States requires for its own welfare and the good of its people.
I do think that we can vary the speed, and the investigation I am now making through the Cabinet and other responsible officers is to see whether some of these can't be slowed up in order to reduce our spending and take that much pressure off this rising curve of which you speak.
Q. William McGaffin, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, sir, I would like to ask you a question about your personal regime, if I could. Could you tell us whether you drink bottled water or water from the tap here in the District?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't mind telling you, no.
For a good many years the doctors--because I traveled so much and all around--have always had me on a particular water, the name I forget. I think it's Mountain Valley, as I remember.
Q. Mr. McGaffin: That is bottled water?
THE PRESIDENT. Bottled water; I have drunk it for years. I do drink tap water here at home, but that is just because I figure it is just as good as the bottled water.
Q. Mr. McGaffin: Well, some people in the District have quit drinking the District water because they don't approve of the fluoridation. You know, there is a chemical added to the water, and the advocates contend that it slows down tooth decay in children; but the opponents of this idea insist that it may pollute the water, may make it unsafe for drinking. There is a big controversy going on in New York City at the moment.
THE PRESIDENT. I know that.
Q. Mr. McGaffin: As to whether they
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I'll tell you, in the White House I drink it often, very often.
Q. Frank van der Linden, Nashville Banner: Mr. President, there have been some proposals in Congress to amend your civil rights bill so as to provide a trial by jury in these injunction cases that might come up under it. Do you think personally that the right of trial by jury is important enough to guarantee it in the civil rights bill?
THE PRESIDENT. That was in the contempt cases?
Q. Mr. van tier Linden: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT. I'll tell you, you are asking a question now that I think is so legal in its character that you ought to go to the Attorney General. While I have talked about it a little with my people, I don't know really enough about it to discuss it well.
Q. Mr. van der Linden: Sir, the Attorney General said that while it would be guaranteed in criminal cases, it wouldn't be guaranteed in the civil cases, and that seems to be one reason there is some opposition to the bill.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would have to be guided by my lawyers because they get into legal quirks that I don't know anything about.
Q. Don Whitehead, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, the Fairless committee report says that the mutual security effort would be strengthened if the Administration had greater discretionary authority to use these funds.
How do you feel about the need for greater discretionary authority in the use of these funds?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think that every time I have gone to the Congress, even before I was President, when I was in other capacities, and in my messages since, I have asked for some flexibility in the handling of these funds, contending that there would be greater economy and efficiency out of the amount spent. And I believe that thoroughly.
Q. Charles W. Bailey, Cowles Publications: Sir, in connection both with the budget and the mutual security program--
THE PRESIDENT. Excuse me; a little louder, please.
Q. Mr. Bailey: In connection with both the budget and the mutual security program, sir, there have been a number of suggestions on the Hill that the only place that substantial cuts can be made in the budget is in the foreign aid section.
Now, do you think that some substantial trimming can be taken in that area or do you think you have got to have just about everything you have asked for?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't think you can take substantial cuts there and still support the welfare of the United States and the world.
I think we asked for 4.4 billions, of which about 2.9 [2.5]1 as I recall is for military assistance. They are plans to which we are committed, and about 1.5 [1.9]1 for all other, and if you were interested enough to read my inaugural address and the several messages I have addressed to the Congress, you know how greatly I believe the free world is depending upon some intelligent economic development in these underdeveloped areas.
1 The correct figures in brackets were supplied by the White House immediately following the close of the news conference.
Q. Charles S. von Fremd, CBS News: Mr. President, even though your so-called Middle Eastern doctrine was passed, it took two months of debate to bring this about.
There are signs that economy-minded Senators have joined with so-called isolationists in opposing your doctrine; and does this, plus the fact that you cannot seek another term, indicate to you that you will have less congressional cooperation in the second term?
THE PRESIDENT. No, not at all. That bill was finally passed, wasn't it, 72 to 19? I don't think you could ask on such a subject for a very much greater majority. I was definitely pleased.
Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post: Mr. President, in the resolution as passed by the Senate, apparently to be approved today by the House, the original concept suggested in your version of authorizing you to use the Armed Forces was stricken out, and we understand you have approved the substitute voted by the Senate.
Does this mean, sir, that you accept the constitutional interpretation that you have always had, as Commander in Chief, the right to send the Armed Forces into action in such a situation in the national interest without that specific authorization?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't think, Mr. Roberts, that I have to go into the constitutional argument again. I would point out that I haven't spent my life in the study of constitutional law.
I do think the legislative history of this resolution shows that the Senate approves--the Congress approves of what we are trying to do in the area, and that is the important thing.
Q. William H. Lawrence, New York Times: Mr. President, could you tell us some more about this temporary hearing difficulty of which you complain, sir? Is it related in some way to your cough? What do your doctors say about it?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, so far as I am concerned, it feels like a cold in the head; that is all. [Laughter]
Q. Mr. Lawrence: But it is definitely related to the same--
THE PRESIDENT. Oh, yes; yes.
Q. Mr. Lawrence: --the same condition that produced the cough?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, temporary, or something.
Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, yesterday Speaker Rayburn told the House members that he thought it was very bad taste for some members to use threats of a Presidential veto while the House was discharging its duties in considering a bill. I am wondering if the use of these threats of a Presidential veto have your approval?
THE PRESIDENT. I have never authorized anyone to say what I was going to do or not to do in the event of the passage of a certain bill, not even my closest associates.
Now, many of these people, some of them very good friends of mine, know what I believe, know the things for which I stand very firmly, and those things of which I disapprove. So, what I assume--I hadn't heard of this incident of which you speak--I assume what these people were doing--were giving their calculations or their estimate of what I would do; but I have never authorized anyone to say such a thing.
Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, the current studies of ways to provide more office space-the current studies of ways to provide more office space in the White House have inspired several proposals. One is for the erection of a new office building across the street, which would include offices for the President. Another is for building a private residence for the President, and turning the White House into something of a museum.
I wonder how you, as the present tenant, feel about it?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, none of these proposals will affect me personally. By the time they become implemented, I will be doing something else somewhere.
Now, so far as I am concerned, the White House is too much a symbol, to most Americans, of what our country means for it to be abandoned as the residence of the Chief Executive. I would oppose that, I think, as a matter of my citizen's convictions.
Q. Donald J. Gonzales, United Press: Mr. President, you told us on February
THE PRESIDENT. A little louder, please.
Q. Mr. Gonzales: I say, on February 6, you told us that you were going to talk to Mr. Dulles about the problem of newsmen going to Red China. Would you tell us the result of those talks, and whether there is any prospect of a change in the Administration's policy on this issue?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I did talk to him, and I think Mr. Dulles was asked the question a day or so ago in his press conference, and he answered it.
We have studied this very earnestly to see how we could secure from China more news without appearing to be accepting Red China on the same cultural basis that we do other nations, and it is one we are still studying.
I can't offer at this moment any change in policy. I merely say we keep examining it.
Q. Charles L. Bartlett, Chattanooga Times: Mr. President, Secretary Humphrey said last night the only way you can get any real cuts in the budget would be by revision of the programs already on the statute books. I wondered if you had in mind to propose any such revisions of existing programs?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, as I say, of course, we are going through an intensive study; and, remember this: long before this budget ever went to Congress I gave orders for the kind of study that is going on now, has been going on, and will continue to go on; that is to find out whether it does represent the minimum in services and programs that the United States requires.
Now, as I told you, some of these, I think, can be slowed up. We don't have to pursue them in the same speed at a time like this when everybody is contesting for the dollars, everybody is contesting for materials, because of a very great prosperity in the country. So the effect is to drive up prices. The Government should, to the ultimate of its ability, cut back.
Now, there may be here and there some program that doesn't occur to my mind right now, that might be abandoned. But I think what the Secretary unquestionably meant is the slowing up and not taking them with the same speed that we were considering.
Q. Henry N. Taylor, Cleveland Press: Last spring, sir, Mr. President, Congress authorized $5 million to help Cleveland stage the pan-American games in 1959. A request for this money is in your budget, this appropriation. However, there are reports that it may be cut.
In 1955 you said you were in favor of the games. Are you in favor now, and if so, do you intend to act personally to save this appropriation?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I hadn't heard that the appropriation was in danger.
Of course, I am in favor of the games. I believe that the pan-American games will do a very great deal to further what has been a very definite objective of every President that I know of for the past many years, which is to solidify relationships with all of Latin America. This continent ought to be drawn closer together.
Now, I am not going to speculate now about the appropriation because it hasn't come to my attention. But it was my understanding that about that sum was needed as our contribution to make these games a success.
Q. Robert J. Donovan, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, coming back to Mr. Clark's question, I wonder if I could ask you, do you think there is a need for modernizing the office space of the White House and whether there is a practical outlook for something along the lines of the Heller report, say, within the next four years?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, as you know--yes, I do believe that it is necessary to modernize the White House, and that is the reason, after the Heller report, that we asked for the Commission to study the thing.
I would think that it ought to be a perfectly disinterested, objective study made, and one that can command the respect of Congress, and not made from any personal or subjective viewpoint at all.
Q. Francis M. Stephenson, New York Daily News: Mr. President, you mentioned your health. Would you tell us how you do feel?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I didn't mention my health. I mentioned I have had some trouble hearing.
I have had a rather stubborn cough that comes from some irritation in what the doctors refer to as the trachea. Now, that cough has continued until apparently I have caught a little cold with it, and that has affected my hearing. Although the cough is better, my hearing temporarily is not good.
Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, Len Hall's friends tell us that he seems to expect some Government job, Federal Government job, before he runs for governor. Is such a Federal job under discussion for Mr. Hall?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, actually you are giving me some news, and I haven't any prospective vacancy in sight that I know of-where my mind would turn to.
I want to make clear I admire his qualities; I think he is a very fine American, and if I had a suitable post, I have no doubt that his name would occur to me, but it hasn't at this moment come up.
Q. Martin S. Hayden, Detroit News: Joe Martin left the White House yesterday, and reported to us much of what you said about favoring budget cuts if you don't cut service. He also said, however, he thought a substantial cut was possible, and listed $3 billion as what he would call substantial.
I wonder if your studies now indicate any hope in your mind that there can be a $3 billion reduction?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I wouldn't speculate at this moment on the size of it. I can only tell you exactly how we are approaching it, what we are doing. These--
I will tell you a little bit of an amusing story. I had a letter from a friend of mine out West, and he was very much upset about the size of the budget. But it happened in the last, very last, paragraph of his letter he mentioned the drought, how long it had lasted, and what was I going to do about it--that he thought this was getting pretty tough. So I answered his letter and told him that I agreed with him in his concern about the budget, but asked him now which was the important part of his letter, his request or his criticism. And he just sent it back and he said, "You've got me there," and laughed.
Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: Mr. President, in the past you have emphasized the importance of making precise statements in the field of foreign policy so that there would be no doubt or miscalculation.
I was wondering how you applied that to the question of the Government's policy of exercising the right of free passage through the Gulf of Aqaba. What does an American shipper, what can he assume for example at the present time? Can he assume that he will be protected by the ships of the United States if he does go through it?
THE PRESIDENT. I believe I said, unless my memory serves me false, unless there were a contrary finding by the World Court.
Now, the Gulf of Aqaba, as you know, is from 12 to 19 miles wide, I believe, and the straits, themselves, the Straits of Tiran are narrow. But on one side is one country, on one side the other. So we stated we were prepared, with other maritime nations, other principal maritime nations, to declare this an open, an international, waterway, and so use it.
Now, as to the exact details of how that is done, Mr. Reston, I would have to wait until I consult with the State Department to see exactly what the steps were, but that is exactly our opinion at this moment.
Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: Mr. President, as you may know, sir, the AFL-CIO has recently adopted a code of ethical practices to guide the activities of its affiliated organizations. Now, in view of this action by organized labor, do you believe the National Association of Manufacturers and the U. S. Chamber of Commerce might usefully go and do likewise?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, once I had a chance to look at what they have done and what the situations of the two are, I wouldn't mind giving you an opinion. But I can't this morning because I would be talking absolutely without having studied this question one second.
I would say this: I am for equal treatment for all Americans by the organizations to which they belong, as well as by Government, but I would have to take a look at this subject.
Q. Kenneth M. Scheibel, Gannett Newspapers: Mr. President, during the debate in the House yesterday on the farm bill, Chairman Cooley of the Agriculture Committee said that during the four years of your farm program the losses have tripled, the surpluses gone up from two and a half billion to eight billion dollars, and despite controls, farm production set a record in 1956. I wonder if you would comment on Mr. Cooley's criticism.
THE PRESIDENT. No, I think you had better go to the Secretary of Agriculture. Some of those things listed may be actual facts; but, remember this: our surpluses were being accumulated under the old 90 percent of parity, because the new law didn't go into effect until 1955. So I would have to take a look at the whole situation before I would want to comment on it.
Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: Could you give us your appraisal of the present situation now in the Middle East, particularly as relates to Israel and Egypt?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I wouldn't want to give a personal appraisal. I merely would point this out: that from the beginning, the Secretary of State and I have insisted that the mere solution of one or two preliminary phases of the problems that were brought about by last July 26 did not solve the underlying causes of the difficulty, and that we thought the United Nations ought to address itself to those difficulties to see if they could be solved.
Then we introduced in the United Nations resolutions which we were hopeful will bring something about.
Q. Charles E. Shutt, Telenews: Mr. President, in line with your answer, sir, there has been some criticism of late against this Administration as placing too much reliance in the United Nations rather than establishing America's foreign policy itself, in other words, declaring our foreign policy, and not depending too much on the United Nations. What is your view about that, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would doubt that there is anyone here that really feels the United States ought to try to stand up above the world, flex its muscles, say "I am the policeman," and go everywhere and try to compel people to follow its own dictates, to include its form of government and everything else.
We voluntarily joined an association which is to further international law and to secure peace with justice. As long as we can operate through that organism, we should do so; and in spite of all its failures, and in spite of its admitted weaknesses, I think that it would be well for all of us at times to look on some of the things it has accomplished. After all, it does mobilize world opinion, and nations are still very sensitive to world opinion.
Q. Thomas V. Kelly, Washington Daily News: Mr. President, getting back to the pan-Am games, sir--
THE PRESIDENT. Speak a little louder, please.
Q. Mr. Kelly: Getting back to the pan-American games in Cleveland.
THE PRESIDENT. All right.
Q. Mr. Kelly:--apparently there is a good deal of opposition among the Cleveland delegation on the Hill itself to appropriating the money for the stadium. And a number of prominent Washingtonians have suggested that since Washington hopes to build a stadium, too, it might be combined, and the games might be held here, if they are cancelled out in Cleveland.
Would you endorse the pan-Am games in Washington if they can't be held in Cleveland?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know who selected Cleveland in the first place. I assume it was a pan-American body and I certainly wouldn't want here to say that I will alter their decisions.
Q. Mr. Kelly: Well, the Pan American Union said they would be delighted to have them in Washington.
THE PRESIDENT. They did? Well, it is one I would want to look at. I would have to know every detail on that before I would want to make any statement.
Q. Joseph R. Slevin, New York Herald Tribune: Do you agree with the Fairless committee conclusions that $7.9 billion a year of collective security aid should be adequate unless there was a major change in the world situation, and that grant aid should be used only in exceptional cases?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, these people, on the basis of their own study, have made certain specific conclusions. I think grant aid should be held to the minimum, but there are instances where grant aid only will help, and I don't suppose they intended to eliminate those.
Now, the report, although I have read it hastily, is now under intensive study by the staff, and I wouldn't want to comment on its specific provisions throughout until I have the benefit of their study.
Q. Hazel Markel, National Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, there have been many reports about, since election, about Miss Adkins possibly being given a high diplomatic post or a high Government post. I believe that she is seeing you today, and I wondered if there was anything you could tell us about that.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I know she is coming in to see me today, but I don't know about what, and this is the first time I have heard any suggestion that she was interested in any way in a Government post. [Confers with Mr. Hagerty] I am just told by Mr. Hagerty she is coming in to discuss more active participation by women in the Republican organization.
Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) Press Herald: It is reported that you told King Saud that Israel is here to stay. Did you gather any hope from the King that he might accept that?
THE PRESIDENT. I have never spoken to anyone since 1948 about our international problems in that area that I didn't start it off with this, "We must recognize that Israel is an historical fact, it has got to be dealt with, and its problems are those of any other nation."
There is no question in my mind that would cast doubt on that statement, and I have said it to everyone, not merely to the King.
Q. Lloyd M. Schwartz, Fairchild Publications: Mr. President, the other day Secretary of Labor Mitchell testified before the Senate Labor Committee and presented specific recommendations on extending Wage-Hour Act coverage. I wonder if you could tell us whether you have endorsed those specific recommendations or whether he was making those on his own.
THE PRESIDENT. No. In their general terms, which was that I felt that the minimum wage should be extended to those firms where they had over a hundred employees and more than $1 million gross business a year, those general terms, I approved of them, although I admit that there might be some exceptions shown where they would not be applicable; but that is the general program which I endorsed.
Merriman Smith, United Press: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and third news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:32 to 11:00 o'clock on Thursday morning, March 7, 1957. In attendance: 231.
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/233116