The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. Please sit down.
I would like to make a little announcement about the Red Cross, particularly in view of the fact that we have just had these serious tornadoes in Texas and Oklahoma. The Red Cross national drive for funds, I understand, is lagging badly, and I would like to enlist the help of this body in giving a plug for the Red Cross throughout the nation wherever your papers and your voices will reach. Thank you very much.
Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, I guess you know that your trip to Gettysburg last Friday got quite a bit of attention when the newsmen who were traveling behind you were flagged down for speeding and trying to keep up; and they also reported that your car seemed to be going over the limit at times. I wonder whether you would care to express your views on this matter.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't mind expressing my views.
First of all, I have for a good many years sat in the back seat of an automobile and used it as a conference place, which I was doing on that occasion. I have no more idea of the speed we were proceeding than anyone would have, had he not been present. But because of those stories I have issued orders that we will be particularly careful never to exceed the speed limit at any place.
Now, a good many of you people have followed me all over the continent for more than four years; none of you has ever called my attention to the fact that I have been causing you any inconvenience back there; and I wasn't aware of it until I read it in the paper.
Q. Frank van der Linden, Nashville Banner: Mr. President, as you know, a vacancy occurs on the TVA Board next month, and I was wondering what qualifications you had in mind for the man who would fill that position; whether he would have to be an Eisenhower Republican or an Army engineer like General Vogel, or, what did you have in mind on that?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I haven't got anything specifically in mind for the person you are talking about. Of course, it is a board that is required to be bipartisan, and I don't remember whether the man going out is a Republican or Democrat. Now, as far as I am concerned, there are a good many appointments in the Federal Government where partisan politics has no part to play. We try to get the best man.
In that one, you certainly have to get a qualified individual, who would be a man knowing something about public utilities, their financing and, in general, what I would call a middle-of-the-road philosophy in all of this field of governmental intervention in local affairs.
Q. Ray L. Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, there seems to be a growing feeling in Congress that the school construction bill is dead for this session, largely for reasons of economy, both inside and outside Congress. Are you prepared to classify this bill as a casualty?
THE PRESIDENT. As what?
Q. Mr. Scherer: As a casualty?
THE PRESIDENT. No, by no means. I was so disappointed last year when we failed to get the bill that I immediately announced I was going to try in this session to get it on a four-year program instead of a five-year.
I have tried to make clear time and again that I think the Federal Government has not any proper role in the operation and in the general maintenance of our public school system. It belongs to the localities and the States. But, as I pointed out to this body before, through a series of circumstances, many of which the local people could not help at all, we got way behind in schools, in schoolrooms. And I have come to the conclusion that because some of those difficulties were brought about by national emergencies, the National Government ought to help, and I say help only--that is, beyond the power of the State to get those buildings built, and then turn the whole thing back to the States, and have nothing more to do with it.
I believe it is a necessity; and the longer it is neglected, the more we will suffer as a nation in the long run; because I believe with Franklin that freedom and free government depend upon an educated citizenry.
Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, there have been several printed reports in the past week that you are considering or thinking about, when world conditions permit, stepping out of office and turning over the reins of government to Vice President Nixon. What do you think of these reports?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think it is the worst rot that I have heard since I have been in this office.
I frankly know of no reason why any speculative writer should at least doubt my basic integrity and honesty; and when I gave to the people of the United States the opinion of the doctors that I could undertake again a four-year tour of duty as President, I said it was my intent and purpose to carry it honestly and do it that way. Now, I cannot imagine where these stories came from, and I can say no more about it.
Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) Press Herald: When Mr. Brownell was testifying before the House Judiciary subcommittee recently in support of the Administration bill on Presidential disability, Members expressed objection to having the Cabinet, with the Vice President, make the decision.
Some said that the Cabinet would be so loyal to the President they would never certify he was disabled. The other side said that the Cabinet might gang up with the Vice President to oust the President. Would you tell us why you chose the Cabinet as the organ to do it?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, in the first place, let's get one thing clear: all we sent to Congress was a suggestion of how something might be done, and we sent it because we thought in view of all the studies going on down there they would want the results of those studies. I have no official function in the amending of the Constitution, and what we proposed was an amendment to the Constitution.
Now, in all the study of it, here is what we ran into: there are only two people in the United States that are elected by all of the people, the President and the Vice President. And we ran into the feeling that the people of the United States would resent very bitterly any effort or any opportunity for anyone antagonistic to the President just to give him the old heave-ho on a political basis and get rid of him.
So, take in the one case, the first case we covered: the President himself knows, let's say, he is going into a hospital for a very dangerous operation of some kind, and he may be out for seven days or eight days, where he can't even communicate with anyone. He says, "All right, I am temporarily disabled," and it is provided for that way.
There could be a case where a man has a stroke that was slight, from which he would recover. We have great statesmen in the world today that recovered from a couple of them and carried on for years. But he wouldn't be able to say, "I am incapable of acting," because he would be unconscious.
Now, the Vice President, as we see under the present wording of the Constitution, the Vice President himself has to decide this. But he has always been reluctant to do it because he says, "How would we turn it back at the end?" or "Do I become President for the whole time or am I Acting President or am I really the President?" And it is astonishing how full our records are of contrary opinions on this.
Now, so we said, all right, the Cabinet is appointed by the President. So if the Vice President decides that the President is out of circulation for a brief time or longer time, he goes to the Cabinet, lays it before them, and if a majority of the Cabinet, presumably friends of the President, appointed by him, say, "Yes, that is right," he takes over. And until the President is again able to say, "I now resume, I am now able to resume my office," why, he would continue to act in that capacity.
Now, we must remember that behind this whole thing is the ability and the power in the Congress to impeach a President. Presumably, if a President got in such shape that he was just acting wildly and unconstitutionally, that would happen. That is the final protection of the people against a President who is absolutely unable to discharge the functions of his office but doesn't know it.
In other words, we assume we are dealing with honest people; we are not dealing with people who are jockeying against each other to seize power. We are dealing with honest people, and that is what this amendment does.
Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post: Mr. President, since we have last seen you, sir, there have been reports printed both here and abroad, that either on last election day or the day before, you invited Prime Minister Eden and Premier Mollet to fly to the United States to announce a cease-fire in the Suez war, in the White House. Could you tell us the facts of these reports?
THE PRESIDENT. To announce this in the White House?
Q. Mr. Roberts: Yes, or here in Washington.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I can tell you that. No, that was never done.
Now, I never, as you know, discuss the details of communication between myself and heads of other governments, and for obvious reasons, because these people expect their communications, their confidence, to be respected. I do.
But I would say this: we had a great deal of conversation about the wisdom of such a meeting, and we talked it over, and we talked it over several times, and finally decided until the situation was such that it would be understood by the whole world, we should not have it; and then later we decided there should be a bilateral meeting instead of tripartite.
Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, with regard to this commission that you might appoint for investigating the monetary situation, there are two bills, I believe, before Congress that have your support: one phase of the bills calls for exemption from the conflict-of-interest statutes for the members whom you might appoint. I wonder if you would appoint bankers to investigate themselves?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would think that anybody in the United States that is heavily engaged in business is certainly concerned with our monetary system. So if you would make a strict application of the conflict-of-interest laws, you might have a situation that no one of substance could serve. That is the whole thing.
No, I don't think you would appoint bankers entirely, of course not.
Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Can you tell us anything about the reported Communist military buildup in North Korea in violation of the armistice terms? There have been written reports that Admiral Radford has recommended that the United Nations forces be reenforced with new weapons, including jet aircraft, because of the Communist buildup.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know that; so far as I know, Admiral Radford has never made any recommendation in those terms.
We have watched the situation in North Korea as closely as it is possible for us, with the existence of the armistice line; and the situation has, for a long, long time, been unsatisfactory because we have reasons to believe that the armistice is not being kept in its original terms north of the line. We have been keeping it, and this puts on us a great burden, because we have to support, in many cases, obsolete equipment, when the other side doesn't.
Q. Martin S. Hayden, Detroit News: Mr. President, the press associations have carried various reports from Poland of newspaper editorials complaining that the reception of the Polish delegation which is negotiating for aid does not meet the statement or the proffer of aid that the Administration gave last October, just after the Polish uprising. I would like to ask, sir, has there been any basic change in the Administration's ideas on giving aid to the Gomulka regime?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, there has been no basic change in policy, none at all.
There has been a long negotiation as to details being carried out, and I think it is always fair to say that our attitude is on the more moderate side than is the one that is on the side that is requesting aid. That is just habitual.
But, as far as encouraging this growing independence of Moscow, we believe in that; and we don't believe that you are going to have, for example, a complete freedom achieved by any satellite government, with free government practiced all at once.
We believe it is going to be a series of steps by which those things will finally be achieved; and, therefore, we try to help each step as far as we can, and not force a nation to believe "We are completely and absolutely dependent on Moscow for our livelihood and no place else."
Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, I think you have had some conferences this week on mutual security and mutual defense with Mr. Herter. There was one report that Mr. Herter thought that there could be some reductions in expenditures next year. Is that true or will they be increased?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think I took up this subject a week or so ago here. The program that we put in still represents to us our very best estimate of the size and scope of the program that represents the minimum that we can afford if we are to be safe and to proceed in the achievement of the objectives we seek in the free world.
Now, this does not mean that you cannot find ways of saving money here and there in the present appropriations. For example, I think it was here I said that the Defense Department had found out that they could still further reduce the amount of carryover, because they would be safe in view of their shortening up of the lead time needed for procurement. Therefore, they could save something there.
There were certain stocks of spare parts now available for use, which are no longer used in our Armed Forces; and then there had been some repricing of goods. That kind of thing is a saving for one year, but it is not a change of program. That I will insist again: the program that we visualize in our four billion four hundred million is the program we believe is the least we can do.
Q. Mr. Brandt: Mr. President, on that point, the talk is on the Hill of reducing economic aid. Is there any plan of reducing the economic aid?
THE PRESIDENT. None that I know of.
Q. William McGaffin, Chicago Daily News: Sir, the '58 budget calls for the addition of 40,000 persons in the executive branch, which already employs about 2,400,000. Will the Federal Government continue to require additional personnel each year, or do you find merit in a House subcommittee's suggestion that two million persons should be enough to run the executive branch, and that the extra 400,000 should be reduced through attrition, with an annual saving in the budget of a billion dollars?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, it is a question, of course, that can't be answered yes on one side, and no, specifically, on the other, for the simple reason that I don't particularly agree with their two million figure.
On the other hand, I don't agree that we need 40,000 more, because I have fought this from the beginning, and right now, as I think you know, there is an order in the Federal Government that nobody can fill vacancies in that [any] department now except with the express approval of the Bureau of the Budget, because I am convinced that if we are careful enough, we can still find places to save. And I must say that the 40,000 that you quote is a figure that I didn't know was exact. But we are trying to reduce the number, that I assure you, and from my own feeling we can still cut it a great deal without suffering.
Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: Mr. President, last week Secretary of Labor Mitchell praised the work of Congressman John Fogarty for his protection of the Administration budget-Mr. Fogarty is a Democrat--in respect to the proposed budget for the Labor Department, and which has been--of course the Congress has hacked away at that until it is very much in danger. Now, the larger--Mr. Mitchell couldn't say, couldn't find the words necessary to praise any Republican support of the budget because there wasn't any in the House.
Now, I wonder, sir, if there is any way that the White House can bring to bear pressure on the Republicans in Congress to do the kind of work that now a Democrat seems to be doing?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, you pose a very long and involved question, I will say that. But I will tell you this: that at every means at my disposal, I tried to get all Congressmen and particularly Republican Congressmen to understand why these budgetary sums have to be presented to the Congress if we are to carry out the programs for which we are either already responsible by statute or which we have promised in our own programs.
Q. John Scali, Associated Press: Mr. President, Secretary of State Dulles told us yesterday that developments which he expected within the next 94 to 48 hours would pretty much determine whether there was a prospect of serious negotiations with the Egyptians on the Suez Canal. Since that time, the Egyptian Government has replied to our suggested changes in their plan for running the Canal.
Could you now tell us, sir, whether in your view the prospect for serious negotiation has been advanced by the Egyptian reply?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, the serious negotiation is going on as long as there is any prospect whatsoever for conciliation on both sides to reach a satisfactory answer. This is the problem that, in general, is assigned to the Secretary General of the United Nations. On our own part, we are supporting the United Nations and urging all nations in the area to do likewise.
Now, I think when he mentioned an hour or a number of hours, that was merely because I think he understood that Egypt intended to submit some kind of a message within that time. But as long as the Secretary General believes there is a chance, we continue to support the United Nations.
Q. Matthew Warren, DuMont Television: Mr. President, there appears to be some concern over the inefficiency of the postal service and the size of the postal deficit. In your opinion, sir, would an increase in postage rates solve both of these problems?
THE PRESIDENT. I didn't understand the first part of it. I understand what
Q. Mr. Warren: There appears to be some concern over the inefficiency
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
Q. Mr. Warren: --of the postal service as well as the size of the deficit. Would a postal increase take care of both of these problems'--
THE PRESIDENT. Well.--
Q. Mr. Warren: --a rate increase?
THE PRESIDENT. Of course, General Summerfield believes that the amounts he put in for are necessary if he is to continue the service at its present level of excellence and without curtailing it in any fashion. At the same time, that budget that he put in provides for a very considerable deficit; and if we get the necessary raise in postal rates we will not only eliminate that deficit, but I believe probably there would be some money saved in the budget.
Now, I don't want to commit him that way; that is the way I remember the figures, and it has been some weeks since I looked at them.
Q. Donald J. Gonzales, United Press: Mr. President, have you given any personal assurance or made any commitment to Chiang Kai-shek that we would help defend Quemoy and Matsu if those islands were attacked?
THE PRESIDENT. I sometimes get a little weary, I must tell you, answering the same questions time and time again.
I have never given any assurance to anybody in the foreign area that goes beyond the law and the intent of the Congress or of treaties made thereunder. I have never given any kind of private assurance of the kind you refer to.
Q. Edwin A. Lahey, Knight Newspapers: A lot of people down in Florida would like to see you. Do you have any plans for a vacation now?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I thought I was going to get there by way of Bermuda, but due to a number of reasons we had to change the plans. I have no present plans for going there.
Q. Charles L. Bartlett, Chattanooga Times: Mr. President have you anyone in mind yet for that TVA directorship?
THE PRESIDENT. No.
Q. Laurence H. Burd, Chicago Tribune: Mr. President, you spoke yesterday at the Advertising Council of the need for keeping high taxes and the way to peace and, as far as you can see conditions now, would you expect that you could recommend any general tax cut during this term, during your presidential term?
THE PRESIDENT. During my presidential term? Well, I certainly hope so, because certain of these programs that we are now urging, we hope will not have to be long continued. We would hope that there is some, if not a breakthrough, some amelioration in the tenseness of the foreign situation; there would be various ways in which we could save some money.
In addition to that, let's remember this: the country is increasing by almost three million people a year. Our income or our national product goes up, if we can have any continuation of the experience of the last few years, and gradually there will come about conditions that are much better. As we can push down on one side and raise on the other, we ought to be able to have some tax reduction.
I do believe this, and I stick to this principle: we have got to decide what programs we are going to execute, and we have got to provide the money for that. We must not go to deficit spending. After you go to deficit spending--there ought to be some little margin to pay on that huge debt, and all the rest of it ought to go to tax reduction.
Q. Mr. Burd: Are you now hoping in terms of some time next year in connection with that tax cut?
THE PRESIDENT. I would like to, but I am not even trying to be that specific. I am saying this budget, of course, has got to be a very popular thing, and it is an easy thing to make speeches about, but it is a very hard thing to do much about.
Now, let's not forget the first thing we did was to cut spending very tremendously when we came in here, and the next thing we did was to give tax relief in the terms of $7 billion in '54.
We are committed to that kind in the belief that the lower you keep your Federal expenditures, probably the higher you will keep your economy, the healthier it will be for everybody in the United States financially. But if we are going to carry out these programs, if we are going to wage peace abroad and try to provide the leadership and the services at home that our people demand, then we have got to pay for it, and we have got to provide the money, and we mustn't provide that money in deficit spending.
Q. William H. Lawrence, New York Times: The withdrawal of Israeli troops finally was preceded by certain assumptions on your part--
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
Q. Mr. Lawrence:--that Israel could expect in the future free transfer through the gulf and of the canal.
Now, Egypt has announced that she will deny Israel the use of the canal; and I wonder, in the light of that speech you made on February 20, and using your approximate--
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
Q. Mr. Lawrence:--language, whether the time has arisen for the society of nations to deal firmly with Egypt for any future violations of her international obligations?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think that any mention of the canal was in different terms than the terms that were used with respect to the Gulf of Aqaba and the Gaza Strip; and in my correspondence with Mr. Ben-Gurion, there has been--he did not even mention the canal difficulty as one of the assurances he would need before he could withdraw any troops.
Now, I did say this: we should not assume that Egypt will violate the 1888 Convention, but the only excuse they have, as I see it, is their claims to belligerency. Exactly how that point is to be settled, I don't know. They are claiming that their belligerent fights allow them to stop the transit of vessels in the canal: but where we did say we would use our full offices, good offices, to secure a proper respect for Israel rights was in the Gulf of Aqaba and in the Gaza Strip.
Q. Charles W. Roberts, Newsweek: Mr. President, since we talked to you last, sir, the Democrats have swept the State election in Michigan, and retained a Senate seat in Texas. I wonder if you regard this as a bad omen for your party in the 1958 congressional elections?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't see that it would point to any victory by the Republicans, but I will say this: I think the Republicans are alert to the situation, and are really going to work.
There is a grand group of them, women, meeting here in Washington today, and have been here for the last three days, and I think they are meeting with determination to go out and preach the gospel in support of this Administration's policies, and to win the elections that are coming up.
Q. Paul Wooton, New Orleans Times Picayune: Mr. President, there is a committee of the Presidents of this hemisphere that have been studying the expansion of economic programs. Have they made any progress?
THE PRESIDENT. They are meeting again on April 29, yes. It is a committee of presidential appointees; in our case my brother, Dr. Milton Eisenhower, serves on it. And they have met twice I believe; first, to identify the problems in which they could work, and next, to organize an agenda; and now they are meeting again on April 29; and I have every belief that some real good will come out of that in promoting understanding of each other's problems.
Q. Charles S. von Fremd, CBS News: Mr. President, along that same line, sir, there has recently been some Latin-American criticism of United States private industry investments in Latin-American countries. Now, the Commerce Department special study group says that this is not so, that American business invests more money in Latin America than it takes out.
From what you know of the matter, do you think that our private industry investments in Latin America are sound and fair?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, the "sound and fair," of course, is terminology that you have to apply to each country and to each loan or to each investment.
This I am certain of: that American private money has been for many years seeking legitimate opportunities for investment in South America. Some countries have welcomed it, and it goes there more easily. Others have not been so friendly in the past, and it didn't go there so much. But I think now the situation is rapidly becoming better in all the countries.
Q. Rowland Evans, Jr., New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, your budget is now under review in the Budget Bureau. Could you tell us how long that review will take, and whether you anticipate any substantial reductions to recommend to Congress below the present budget?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, substantial--I don't anticipate any changes in terms of amounts big enough to, to be, let's say, startling.
I am not thinking in terms of $2 billion, for example. But I am requiring that they go over every cut so far recommended by the committees in the House to see what might be absorbed; in others to say, "All right, this means a diminution of service or some other kind of a cut in the services we are performing," to identify them, and show them to the Congress, and say, "That won't be done hereafter," and in other cases to see whether we can find any instances where the immediate new appropriations wouldn't have to be so big. These are what you might call a tightening up exercise all the way through, if we can find it; it is not abandoning any program.
Q. Mr. Evans: Sir, could I ask one more question on that? You said earlier tax cuts would be possible because some of these programs are not permanent, they're temporary. Could you identify one or two of those?
THE PRESIDENT. For example, I recommend the school program for four years. I want four years; and I want it stopped, if necessary, by constitutional amendment. I just want it stopped right there. I don't want to get into anything that we can't continue, that we shouldn't continue, that kind of thing; and there are other things.
Take disaster relief: you don't know when disasters are coming, but you have to have enough money. You would hope that finally we got an insurance program and all the other things that would take up some of that burden.
Another thing that you are hoping is that States would pick up what we think is a legitimate share of the chit for some of these things. There are all sorts of programs that are designed to save money, as well as spend money.
Q. Lillian Levy, National Jewish Post: Mr. President, in the light of Egypt's stand on the Suez, both in ignoring the six principles of operation, laid down by the United Nations, to which he had agreed, and in continuing to maintain belligerency there against Israel against the armistice rules to which he had agreed, do you believe that Egypt under Nasser is susceptible to moral pressures such as would lead her to show a decent respect for the opinions of mankind?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am not going to speculate here upon the character and the reliability of any other individual carrying responsible positions in the world.
I am saying we are going to support the positions that we have taken in the past, and we are going to support the United Nations in their efforts to secure justice for all in that area.
Merriman Smith, United Press: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and sixth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:30 to 11:05 o'clock on Wednesday morning, April 3, 1957. In attendance 265.
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/233183