The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. Good morning. Please sit down. I have no statement of my own.
Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, despite your belief that the Federal receipts will go up this year, there are members of both parties in Congress who don't think your 1959 budget will balance. Joe Martin, for example, said at the White House this week that the 1959 budget is precariously in balance, and that he fears Congress will add to your figures rather than stay within them.
With such a situation in prospect, would you prefer to go to deficit financing or would you prefer raising taxes to maintain a balanced budget?
THE PRESIDENT. You are giving a lot of "ifs" there, Mr. Smith, and I accept them as a part of the question. But I would say this: we can't tell exactly what's going to happen because you used the words "precarious balance" which means at least narrowly balanced, and there could be additional costs because, after all, we are estimating expenditures and receipts over a basis of 18 months. This means things can happen in the financial world, things can happen in the political world, so no one knows for certain.
My own feeling would be this: a reasonable amount of expenditure, even if that did mean somewhat upsetting that precarious balance, as you called it, is better than talking about a tax bill at this time.
Q. William McGaffin, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, a year ago when you were asked about the size of the fiscal '58 budget, you said you thought Congress should cut it if it could. Sir, do you extend the same invitation to Congress to cut your fiscal 1959 budget if it can?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think that I have asked Congress again in this way, to help the Executive to find ways in which expenditures of less importance and priority can be either deferred or at least not increased. Now, that is exactly what I have asked before.
Q. Mr. McGaffin: Well, Mr. President, even so, the size is larger than it has ever been before in peacetime. And there has been some feeling that you didn't trim the budget, the nonmilitary part of it, as heavily as you indicated you were going to in your Oklahoma City speech.
THE PRESIDENT. I put it this way: I personally believe that all of these expenditures of lower priority should be reduced, if it is humanly possible.
Now, when you say "humanly possible," this means can it be done with agreement between the Congress and executive department to get it done; and it is not as easily done as it is to be said.
Q. David P. Sentner, Hearst Newspapers: Mr. President, in your message to Congress, you stated that you anticipated an improvement in the economy during the remainder of 1958. Would you care to tell us on what you based this conclusion?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think that it is perfectly simple. I have a number of economic advisers. Several departments of the Government are interested mainly in the economic situation and outlook. We have coming constantly into the Treasury Department and others a whole series of bankers in performance of their duty. The consensus of all these people, as I see it, is an upswing rather than a continuation of any downturn during the period.
Q. Pat Munroe, Chicago American: Mr. President, your speech in Chicago next Monday kicks off the Republican election bid. Can you give us some idea of what other efforts you will be making this year in behalf of your party?
THE PRESIDENT. I think I would put it in this way: for a good many years I have lived by the political philosophy that I have tried publicly to describe many times, even before I had any slightest dream of being involved in politics myself. I think as early as September of 1949, I tried to outline my philosophy. I still believe in that philosophy; I try to practice it and live by those principles.
I believe that the Republican Party, as a whole, its majority, believes those things, and that is the kind of group--those are the kind of people which I will do my best to help elect. I believe that that solidarity in the Republican Party is far more strong than it would appear at times, even in some of the writings that you people send to us.
Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, perhaps there is no area of government in which you need less to draw on your advisers and can draw more from your personal experience than the military. Two points: could you give us your personal reaction to the Gavin episode, and could you expand somewhat on your state of the Union message in that part on the military, and tell us how you think unification, in reality, in the Pentagon, can move from the discussion to the actual stage?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't mind discussing it at all.
Now, the first question: to my mind, it was the act of a man of a particular personality, and I have no comment whatsoever. If the man wanted to retire, it was his right, period.
Now, the rest of it: it is perfectly clear, it certainly must be clear to most of you people, that my own convictions about the proper organization of the Defense Department are rather fixed. Since 1947, I have given many, many active hours to this kind of study. I have reviewed the whole military record as I have known it for 45 years and, therefore, I think my views are completely objective, and with nothing whatsoever of personal bias in them.
But I have this: I am the Commander in Chief for a fixed period, and at least we know that I am not going to be in this job more than 3 years. Now, my personal convictions, no matter how strong, cannot be the final answer. There must be a consensus reached with the Congress, with the people that have the job of operating the services, to get the very finest kind of organization we can; and I am certainly hopeful that it goes in the direction of what I believe. But I would be the last to ask for a detailed organization in which I believe because, I say, organization has got to be effective after there has passed from the scene a man who happens to have particular strong convictions in the matter.
Q. Mr. Morgan: You are not saying, sir, or are you, that you will not fight for unification of the services?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, now, just a minute. I don't know who you are fighting. I am trying to put before the Congress a plan which I think will be effective. Certainly in the discussions and many conferences that will go on in the formulation of the plan that I have in mind, there will be a good deal of argument, no question about it, and my views will certainly be expressed the very best I can; and, as I say, if the trend and tendency is not in that direction, then I couldn't possibly have anything to do with it.
Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post: Mr. President, Monday is the fifth anniversary of your taking office. From the sidelines this fifth year looks pretty rough, what with Little Rock, Sputnik, Khrushchev, and so on. Could you tell us, Mr. President, on the eve of this anniversary how you feel physically, and how you feel about your august office?
THE PRESIDENT. I think this ought to be a serial presentation-[laughter]--don't you?
First of all, about my physical condition: I have had three illnesses, with serious implications at least, and this after a history of remarkable health throughout my lifetime. So to that extent, the illnesses have contributed to this roughness of the passage that you have been describing.
For myself, I feel very well indeed. If I had sunlight this afternoon and had 2 hours, I would like to be on the golf course right now, and that is what I would like to do.
But no one can tell what the physical future is.
I am optimistic enough to say this, that as long as I am able, I am going to carry on just exactly as I have in the past, and with no thought of it, and from there on it is in the lap of the gods, and that's that.
Now, with respect to the 5 years, I can say this: I do not believe that it is very much rougher than I anticipated. As long ago, in some of my modest writings, as 1947, I was describing the difficulties that I saw in the world, believed that they were there, and I thought they would increase.
I still think that the great preoccupation of America must be to maintain its liberties and freedoms; it has got to do it against a great threat which puts a most tremendous demand upon our form of government, because everything they do that is harmful is singly directed.
We are not only directed by millions of people, but our propaganda sources come from a thousand different directions, and oft confusing, and frequently mutually conflicting, so that it's a very hard time.
I think, of course, any economic difficulty you have is related to the bigger problem, the struggle between the independent nations and the slave states; and because of the costs of that sort of thing, we are stopped from doing some of the great constructive things in this country and abroad that could well be done right now for the we/fare of our people but which have to be deferred because of this fact that two people must agree if we are going to have peace, just the same as it takes two to make a quarrel.
Now, this is the kind of problem we are living through. I believe it is one that we must have the stamina and the character to live with, to do something logical and reasonable. That is the reason I answered Mr. Morgan's question without going into specific details of what I expect to do in every facet of reorganization. We must find reasonable answers, and we must not only find them reasonable, but then we must enforce them so that our country remains free, both from external threat and from its own efforts in doing it.
Q. Charles W. Roberts, Newsweek: Mr. President, in your letter to Premier Bulganin on Sunday, you said that you were ready to meet with him and other leaders of states, as appropriate, states that had interests in the questions he had raised in his letter to you, and in the proposals you made. Does this open the door to Red China and the satellite nations attending the Summit conference when it occurs, or do you rule that out?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I had never even thought of a request that would include Red China at this time.
I think that, from one of Mr. Bulganin's messages, or his memorandum, he himself suggested the idea that there must be and probably could be other nations; and I think I was merely saying that, as appropriate, of course that could be done. The big point that was made was that the meeting, any such meeting, must be properly prepared; and I would like to call your attention, you people, to the fact that on May the 10th, 1957, Mr. Khrushchev in an interview said that the subjects of any Summit meeting would necessarily have to be properly prepared before there was any Summit meeting.
Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: Mr. President, on that subject, what do you have in mind by preparation? Everybody is talking about negotiations and preparations. But do you have in mind instructing Mr. Thompson to create an ambassador's committee? In other words, what is the next step?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, as a matter of fact, you would not have any specific plan on this until again you had an agreement of principle that you were going to begin the preparatory system.
My own belief is that you start, first of all, through your normal diplomatic processes. You could have, too, a preliminary ambassadorial meeting, because, after all, the foreign ministers themselves cannot stay forever. They have to have some knowledge of what is to be talked about, what are the problems that are excluded, and then they begin their studies. And, finally, there must be very clear indication and real clear evidence through the foreign ministers' meetings that there are to be profitable agreements, profitable conversations, between the Summits or, in my mind, they would not be valuable.
Q. Mr. Reston: On that point, Mr. President, have you considered asking Prime Minister Bulganin to publish your letter, as a first step so that the
THE PRESIDENT. I think it says in the letter--I think if you will read the letter, if you did--
Q. Mr. Reston: I did, sir.
THE PRESIDENT. All right. It said, "I hope that this letter will have the same publicity in Russia that we gave yours," as I recall. Now, maybe in one draft that might have gone out, but that is the way I remember it. [Confers with Mr. Hagerty.]
Sorry, I have apparently made a goof. Isn't that in the letter? Mr. Hagerty: No, sir.
Q. Sarah McClendon, Camden (N. J.) Courier-Post: Mr. President, the first nuclear ship is being built at Camden, and Mrs. Eisenhower is to come up in May for a proper ceremony in launching it. My editor would like to know if it is true that you are going to accompany her.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I didn't know that she had yet been invited. Q. Mrs. McClendon: What did you know?
THE PRESIDENT. I do want to--no, I don't know anything about it, Mrs. McClendon, I am sorry.
I do want to clear up this one thing: a letter or document of the kind which I am now discussing goes necessarily through many, many drafts; and so, if that particular section was omitted, then I would say this: I would hope that my letter got exactly the same degree of publicity in the Soviet areas that theirs has received in ours. And so I thought that I knew something here that I obviously didn't.
Q. Robert J. Donovan, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, since our last press conference there has been a good deal of discussion about releasing the non-secret phases of the Gaither report. Could you tell us what your attitude in this is, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT. Mine is exactly the same as, I think, I have told you people in similar situations many times.
I get together sometimes civilian panels, but sometimes governmental panels, in which we do our best to give to the people of the panel information, including very secret information, and always with one proviso: that the conclusions they reach and the advice they give me is of a privileged character.
Now, while I haven't been in any congressional hearings, I am told that the basic facts and information of this report made to me have been given in executive sessions to committees of Congress. But I have no intention myself of making any kind of report of this type public because if I did I would [be] stopping the habit of calling such conferences, and I think I need them.
Q. Frank van der Linden, Richmond Times Dispatch: Sir, you agreed last fall, I believe, to have a meeting with Congressman Adam Clayton Powell of New York. That meeting never could be fitted into your schedule. We were wondering whether that delay had anything to do with the fact that the Justice Department was still investigating Mr. Powell's income tax case. Is there any connection between those two?
THE PRESIDENT. I will have to look this one up. I haven't heard one word of this since the--I do remember that there was some attempt made and, I think, a tentative agreement that I was to meet him. I can't be sure, but this is the first time I have heard of the whole thing since then.
Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, could we clarify your answer to the first question? Did I understand you to say that you would prefer a reasonable amount of definite [deficit] spending to a tax increase?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think it is almost necessary to answer that way, Mr. Arrowsmith, for this reason: we don't know exactly what is going to be happening. The first thing, the assumption is that there is going to be a good advancement in the economy. This means there is more income. That being so, you certainly don't want to be raising taxes to get some funds that are probably available or we hope will be available on the present tax basis.
In the same way, we are going to have possibly some expenditures. I have heard this, at least in the papers, that they are looking toward some increased expenditures. If they do, and they seem to be necessary to everybody, they will have to be financed.
If we don't have as much income as we do, then it would seem to me it would be a bad time to raise taxes, because you want that economy to have a little needle, a needle rather than a checkrein on it. So I think that some necessary expenditures, even if it means a small deficit, would be better than to start now the question of tax-raising.
Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: This relates to earlier questions on the economic situation, which is dipping down a little further, and unemployment, it is anticipated, will be going up, and other economic indicators don't look so good. Does the administration plan to invoke any measures for the protection of the economy, other than fiscal and banking policy or waiting for a defense program to get going?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, you say "the administration." As a government, it has at this moment no legal direct controls over the economy. We have indirect controls through the Federal Board which does manage the supply of money for the country, and that has a very strong effect on the economy.
Now, I don't anticipate that at this moment the Government will propose anything to the Congress that would be in the way of controlling, or doing something specific, merely because of the economy. I don't think it is a good time to do it. I don't think it is necessary to do it right now.
Q. Michael J. O'Neill, New York Daily News: Mr. President, Secretary Dulles has been coming under increasing criticism as you know, both here and abroad, and it has been reported that he recently submitted his resignation to you and that you rejected it. I wonder if you could confirm this report and tell us whether or not you feel that this criticism is in any way impairing--
THE PRESIDENT. Have you seen that report or have you written it yourself?
Q. Mr. O'Neill: No, sir; but it was in the newspapers.
THE PRESIDENT. It was? Well then, I would say, I would class it as trash.
Q. Mr. O'Neill: Yes?
THE PRESIDENT. The last person that I would want to see resign is Mr. Dulles. I don't mind saying this: I think he is the wisest, most dedicated man that I know. I believe he has got greater knowledge in his field than any other man that I know. And in spite of the fact that many criticisms of him have been voiced in the newspapers, and so on--I cheerfully admit that--I assume that I know as many of the leading figures of the world as does the average governmental official; and their personal, intimate evaluations of Mr. Dulles, as given to me, by no means indicate any desire except that he stay right squarely on the job, and that is where he belongs.
Q. John M. Hightower, Associated Press: Mr. President, in your exchange of letters with Premier Bulganin, you outlined eight or nine proposals to be discussed, I suppose, at that meeting.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
Q. Mr. Hightower: He had a similar number, most of which you either rejected or discounted.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
Q. Mr. Hightower: Do you regard your proposals item by item as essential to be included on an agenda, or would you be prepared to negotiate on the content of the agenda?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think somewhere along the line you will have to negotiate the content of the agenda because otherwise there will never be a meeting of any great profit, and, as I said, I quoted Mr. Khrushchev himself, who himself said this in just this last year--'57.
Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Is there any move within the administration to bring Dr. Oppenheimer back into the Government scientific field ?
THE PRESIDENT. Not the slightest I have ever heard of. I thought Dr. Oppenheimer's case was completely settled and was an issue that was in the past.
But I would say this: that any new information that became available that could make it look that a reopening of this case would be wise, why I certainly would have no objections, because personally I don't know the individual; and so I just say this: there is no move that I know of any kind to reopen the issue.
Q. Mr. Brandt: Well, Admiral Strauss left it up to Dr. Oppenheimer, and apparently he has no intention, and that was the reason I asked.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, all I know about it is what you just reported.
Q. Elizabeth Carpenter, Arkansas Gazette: Mr. President, what do you think is the wisest next step in the Little Rock school situation, and how soon would you expect to take it?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would hope that the local officials in Little Rock could soon express their confident intention of maintaining order and peace in their town. That having been expressed, I see no reason for keeping any of the National Guard.
Q. Mrs. Carpenter: Then does that mean you are waiting for word from Governor Faubus?
THE PRESIDENT. No.
Q. Mrs. Carpenter: That he has--
THE PRESIDENT. No, no. I don't think that the State has any--as far as I know, in the local situation, I don't know that the State office is the one that is responsible for the police duties and peace and order duties in the city. I think it probably belongs to the locality.
Q. Richard L. Wilson, Cowles Publications: Mr. President, when you were temporarily incapacitated last fall, there was a great deal written and said about the question of your resignation, and in some instances suggestions were made by some public officials, and in some newspapers, that you should consider that possibility. I would like to ask you if you did consider it, and what your general attitude toward that subject is?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have not considered it in a specific way with that particular illness. As a matter of fact, in a matter of a couple of hours, doctors were assuring me that at least there was no damage to whatever intellectual faculties I have--[laughter]--and, therefore, I was not feeling any compulsion to make a specific decision at that time.
But I will say this: any time that I believe, or any group of eminent doctors would say, that I am not really up to doing my job, then I would personally, feeling as I do, I would have no recourse except to resign.
Q. Thomas N. Schroth, Congressional Quarterly: Sir, it has been repeatedly said you will have to fight mighty hard to get the controversial elements of your programs through Congress this year. Can you tell us whether you have any special plans to persuade Congress or individual Congressmen to support your program, such as offering or withholding support at the forthcoming election?
THE PRESIDENT. Such as what?
Q. Mr. Schroth: Offering or withholding support at the forthcoming elections?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't deal on that basis.
I do every possible thing I can in the way of consultation, communication, both within the Congress and with people outside of Government, to persuade them of the soundness of the views that I have put before the Congress for, in my opinion, the welfare of the United States. That I will continue to urge and argue far more behind the scenes than in front, but, nevertheless, I will argue for it as long as I have strength to do it.
Merriman Smith, United Press: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and twenty-fifth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:33 to 11:04 o'clock on Wednesday morning, January 15, 1958. In attendance: 270.
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/233412