The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. Sit down, please.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have several announcements this morning. The first one involves the yearly campaign for the Red Cross, and I think I could profitably use the whole half hour if I would try to express what I really believe about it.
Seventy-five years this organization has been serving America; in a way, it has been sort of the conscience of America, America doing here and abroad what we, as citizens, believe should be done, and acting as our agent in carrying out the relief and other kinds of duties that have done so much for humanity and have meant so much to us, because we felt that through this Red Cross we are enabled to discharge or to satisfy our real desire to be humans.
Last year was a very tough year for them. We had the big flood in New England. Mr. Roland Harriman, the President, was on the job from the beginning, did a magnificent job, and had to have a special drive, you will recall, for funds. While they were still operating in that area, they had the big floods in the Northwest, just before Christmas.
Even today the Red Cross is helping some 11,000 American families to get through a period of great distress and emergency, so they can again begin to function as normal citizens.
I would like to have each of you exercise your best talents as eloquent supporters of the Red Cross, and put out the best appeals that you know to double the quotas they ask, and do it quickly, to show what we really think of this great organization that has served us so long in peace and war.
The next thing I would like to say is how gratified I am that President Gronchi and his wife have come over to visit this Nation so early in his administration.
It is evidence of his great concern in the Western alliance and in the organization of free nations.
It is the first time that the head of an Italian State has visited us, and I think that it should be especially gratifying to the many millions of our citizens of Italian extraction.
Certainly to me, both officially and personally, it is a source of gratification, and I am certain that wherever they go--they are going to be in the North American Continent about 2 weeks--I hope that wherever they go they will experience that same kind of warm welcome and gain the feeling that we really respect this great member of the Western alliance.
The next thing I want to mention are two bills that are before Congress now on which I have previously made many urgent recommendations.
One is the farm legislation. Now, as you know, I am unalterably opposed to rigid price supports but, with the Secretary of Agriculture, I have sent to the Congress a very broad program for assisting farmers to achieve their proper share of the national income, and to do it in such a way as to preserve their independence and avoid, to the utmost, unnecessary controls.
Now, there is one thing about that legislation: it is needed now. Farm income is now down.
This is not merely a matter of 10 years from now, although we have attempted to draw our program, that while it helps now it will be applicable over the long run and assist the farm community to regain its proper place in our economy. So what I urge is speedy positive action on that legislation.
The other item of legislation in which I am very deeply concerned, now up, is the Upper Colorado Basin.
I have more than once expressed my conviction before this body that I believe water is rapidly becoming our most valuable natural resource, and here's an opportunity, at last, to treat this whole, great, mighty Colorado River as a single entity, to treat it on a basin basis, instead of merely local and individual. We should get busy and get on to it.
There was one feature of it that was originally controversial because of the belief on the part of some conservationists we would destroy wildlife in one section of the area. That dam, Echo Park Dam, has been eliminated.
I think their fears were groundless, but it has been eliminated and removed that particular bone of contention. So again I hope that we can have positive action on that as rapidly as possible.
Now, my next announcement involves something more personal, but I think it will be of interest to you because you have asked me so many questions about it.
I have promised this body that when I reached a decision as to my own attitude toward my own personal future, I would let you know as soon as I reached such a decision.
Now, I have reached a decision. But I have found, as I did so, that there were so many factors and considerations involved, that I saw the answer could not be expressed just in the simple terms of yes and no. Some full explanation to the American people is not only necessary, but I would never consent to go before them unless I were assured that they did understand these things, these influences, these possibilities.
Moreover, I would not allow my name to go before the Republican Convention unless they, all the Republicans, understood, so that they would not be nominating some individual other than they thought they were nominating.
So, for both reasons, because I don't know for certain, that the Republican Convention, after hearing the entire story, wants me, I don't know whether the people want me, but I am--I will say this: I am asking, as quickly as this conference is over, for time on television and radio. I am going directly to the American people and tell them the full facts. And my answer within the limits I have so sketchily observed, but which I will explain in detail tonight so as to get the story out in one continuous narrative, my answer will be positive, that is, affirmative.
Now, because I do intend to give the details of this story tonight, I do not intend to have it as a subject for further conversation this morning, because I believe that is the only answer I promised this particular group, a yes or no, as far as I could give them.
Now, I am done with my announcements, and we will go to questions.
Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, since your answer is affirmative, would you again want Vice President Nixon as your running mate?
THE PRESIDENT. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't mention the Vice Presidency in spite of my tremendous admiration for Mr. Nixon, for this reason: I believe it is traditional that the Vice President is not nominated until after a presidential candidate is nominated; so I think that we will have to wait to see who the Republican Convention nominates, and then it will be proper to give an expression on that point.
Q. Charles S. von Fremd, CBS News: Mr. President, I just wonder if you could clarify that further; should you be nominated by the convention, would you like to have the Vice President?
THE PRESIDENT. I will say nothing more about it. I have said that my admiration and my respect for Vice President Nixon is unbounded. He has been for me a loyal and dedicated associate, and a successful one.
I am very fond of him, but I am going to say no more about it.
Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, could you tell us, sir, when you arrived at a positive decision?
THE PRESIDENT. I will say this one thing: it probably will be in my message this evening, but I will say that I was arguing about it yesterday morning. [Laughter]
Q. Laurence H. Burd, Chicago Tribune: Mr. President, what time are you requesting to go on the air?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I can't tell you for sure, but Mr. Hagerty will put that out as quickly as he possibly can. But I would assume it would be somewhere in 9:30 to 10:30 area; that would be normal.
Q. John L. Steele, Time-Life: Mr. President, are you able to tell us within your embargo with whom you discussed this problem?
THE PRESIDENT. Everybody that I thought was my friend, and some that I wasn't so sure of. [Laughter]
Q. Charles W. Roberts, Newsweek: Sir, I wonder if you could tell us whether you are planning an active cross-country type of campaign or a more inactive type?
THE PRESIDENT. That is one of those things you will be perfectly assured of this evening.
Q. William Theis, International News Service: I just wanted to retrace one statement. You said, "My answer will be positive." Did you add the word "affirmative" after that?
THE PRESIDENT. And "affirmative." That's what I said. I said by that I mean "affirmative." I think that is what I said.
Q. Jack L. Bell, Associated Press: Mr. President, in view of your statement, would you consent to the entry of your name in primaries where consent of the candidate is necessary? That would involve almost immediate action in Wisconsin and California.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Bell, I have been so busy with my own decisions that this is one I haven't yet reached. Now, I would know of no reason for standing in the way. I did give a particular answer in New Hampshire, but apparently that now is not applicable to the case you speak of.
Q. Mr. Bell: No, this is where you would have to give consent.
THE PRESIDENT. I will give the answer later.
Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, your announcement will undoubtedly take many people out of the race. Do you want competition in this for the nomination?
THE PRESIDENT. I have tried to make it just as clear as I can that any Republican that would like to do this job, I would like to see him put his case before the public just as earnestly as he knows how.
Q. Mr. Brandt: Will you campaign actively for the nomination?
THE PRESIDENT. I will tell you those things this evening.
Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Would you tell us if you think that--have you heard whether your veto of the gas bill has helped or hurt your chances in some sections?
THE PRESIDENT. I haven't the slightest idea, but I will say this: as I said in my veto, there was what I believe to be a minor section of a great and vital industry I thought was guilty of arrogant and indefensible action.
Now, my great friends in the oil industry--and it is filled with them--have sent me telegrams, if not of complete satisfaction and applause, at least they have accepted it as an honest act. I am really proud of the way most of them, the great vast majority, have acted.
Q. Betty Beale, Washington Star: Mr. President, sir, would you care to say what Mrs. Eisenhower's reaction was to your decision?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I wouldn't say that right now, except this: Mrs. Eisenhower and other members of my family, at the beginning, have said, "This is your decision. We will conform."
Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Sir, no one has been franker than yourself in revealing the state of your health. How would you expect this issue to be handled in the campaign?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I hadn't given it any thought, but as for my part, I am going to try to be just as truthful as I can be. I believe this: I think even people who would classify themselves probably as my political enemies do believe I am honest. They may call me stupid, but I think they think I am honest. [Laughter]
Q. Walter Kerr, New York Herald Tribune: I wonder if you could tell us, sir, what you regard at the moment as being the major issues in this campaign?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't think I want to sort them out and now define them as issues.
What I am going to say is this: I have a record established before the American people; that is my campaign.
Q. William V. Shannon, New York Post: As you may know, four of the southern State legislatures have passed interposition resolutions stating that the Supreme Court decision outlawing segregation has no force and effect in their States; and I was wondering what you thought about this concept of interposition, and what you thought was the role of the Federal Government in enforcing the Supreme Court decision?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, you have asked a very vast question that is filled with argument on both sides. You have raised the question of States rights versus Federal power; you have particularly brought up the question whether the Supreme Court is the last word we have in the interpretation of our Constitution.
Now, this is what I say: there are adequate legal means of determining all of these factors. The Supreme Court has issued its own operational directives and delegated power to the district courts.
I expect that we are going to make progress, and the Supreme Court itself said it does not expect revolutionary action suddenly executed. We will make progress, and I am not going to attempt to tell them how it is going to be done.
Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, would you tell us in your own words or analyze for us what you think of your present state of health.
THE PRESIDENT. I will this evening.
Q. Mr. Smith: Well, can you give us a little bit this morning?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I think not. The trouble is, Mr. Smith, it opens up a variety of questions for doctors and myself and the rest of it, and I think I have got to have a little time to tell that story.
Q. Richard L. Wilson, Cowles Publications: Mr. President, do you consider the lack of Republican control of Congress to be a handicap to your administration? If you do, what action will you take to attempt to get a Republican Congress?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, the latter part of your question I am not going to answer now because it is going over into the field of the future.
This is what I believe: if we are honestly dedicated to a two-party system, that is, to a single party responsibility in this country, then the Legislature and the Executive should properly be in the same hands, so that there can be responsibility fixed without crimination and recrimination. So to that extent you may interpret it as you please, but this is not to deny that in many things which I wanted, I have had active and vital Democratic support in certain of the programs that I have advanced. But I do say if we are going to adhere to the two-party system as a fundamental part of our political doctrine, we should--certainly whenever it is humanly possible--have these groups under the control of the same party.
Q. Mr. Wilson: Do you believe, sir, that the existence of a Democratically-controlled Congress has prevented the adoption of any important part of your program?
THE PRESIDENT. I have never analyzed it in that way, Mr. Wilson. And I couldn't say that for sure, but I do say, as I just admitted, that in many instances I have had definite Democratic approval.
Q. Charles T. Lucey, Scripps-Howard: What is your reaction, sir, to Mr. Nixon's characterization of Chief Justice Warren as a Republican Chief Justice?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am not going to comment on his comment; I never do. But I will say this: once a man has passed into the Supreme Court, he is an American citizen and nothing else in my book until he comes out of that Court. I would never admit that he longer had a political designation.
Q. Charles E. Shutt, Telenews: Mr. President, not to press you about your health, sir, but as of right now, do you feel well enough to hit the campaign trail?
THE PRESIDENT. I will answer those things this evening.
Q. Peter Lisagor, Chicago Daily News: Can you tell us whether you consulted Vice President Nixon on your decision?
THE PRESIDENT. Oh, yes. I consulted Vice President Nixon all the time, and no later than, I think, yesterday afternoon.
Q. Edward W. O'Brien, St. Louis Globe-Democrat: Mr. President, if you are renominated, sir, are you quite hopeful of being re-elected?
THE PRESIDENT. Am I what?
Q. Mr. O'Brien: If you are renominated, are you quite hopeful of being elected?
THE PRESIDENT. This is in the hands of the American people. I say my campaign is the record.
Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, how many persons were in on your secret?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think since last evening there have been probably half a dozen.
Q. Mr. Folliard: How about before that, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, there could have been no one because I didn't know myself. [Laughter]
Q. William S. White, New York Times: Mr. President, can you tell us, sir, what the most decisive consideration was for you in the decision you have reached?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, that is very difficult, but I think that my talk this evening will probably indicate it quite clearly. When you come down to comparisons, I am not certain what influences a man most in this world.
Q. Hazel Markel, National Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, can you tell us had you made up your mind previous to your heart attack that you would run for a second term?
THE PRESIDENT. You know, Miss Markel, that is one secret I don't think I will ever tell anybody. [Laughter] Possibly in my papers that can be opened 25 years after I have passed on, why, it will be told.
Q. Kenneth M. Scheibel, Gannett News Service: Mr. President, this is another secret a lot of people .would like to -know: if the Congress passes the 90-percent supports and sends it to you, will you veto that bill in view of your opposition to it?
THE PRESIDENT. I give an answer that I must have given at least 15 times before this body. I never predict what I am going to do to a bill before it gets to me.
Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, may we have your permission to quote, prior to the release of the transcript, your phrase there, "My answer will be positive, that is, affirmative"?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
Q. Ray L. Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: Can we have it all, Mr. President, everything you said this morning?
THE PRESIDENT. No, not in quotes, because I may have been guilty of some very bad grammar. I think that if you will give Mr. Hagerty a chance to correct the mistakes, why, then, it will be all right.
Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: Mr. President, in the light of your decision, sir, will you press in this session of Congress for clarification of the Constitutional flaw about succession in the Presidency?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, as quickly, I think, as legislation could be drawn up that would convince us all that it did clarify and would satisfy the conflicting ideas on the thing, I would be for it right away, just as soon as possible. It has nothing to do, though, with me, and I assure you of this: my answer would not be affirmative unless I thought I could last out the 5 years.
Merriman Smith, United Press: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Eisenhower's eightieth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:31 to 10:52 o'clock on Wednesday morning, February 29, 1956. In attendance: 311.
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/233006