Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

March 14, 1956

THE PRESIDENT. Good morning. Sit down, please.

I have one or two points I would like to speak about briefly this morning. First is the visit of Mr. Costello, the Prime Minister of Ireland. I am to meet him shortly after the close of this conference, and am looking forward, of course, to seeing him, since it is his first visit as Prime Minister to our country.

I want to make a slight correction on a statement I made last week.

Someone asked me when I had my first hint of the change of Russian policy to an economic penetration of the Mid-East, and I thought it was the Geneva Conference. But I was questioned when I went home, and we looked up all my correspondence. I find it was in an exchange of letters with Bulganin before the foreign ministers conference sometime, I would say, toward the first of October, or something of that order, rather than July.

As you know, every week, I am saying something about the farm business. I don't want to talk about any special bill or special provision now, but I do want again to emphasize this: the planting season is rushing up on us, we need the farm bill now, and I couldn't overstate my anxiety for speed in getting a good farm bill for our farmers; because, as I say, the planting season is rushing up on us; indeed, in the South it is already here.

Finally, I want to mention the Cyprus question very briefly. Here is a place where two of our very best friends are engaged in an argument with very great difficulty.

Now, we are friendly to both, not only friendly in the sense of traditional friendships with these two peoples, but on top of that, both are vitally necessary to NATO. Their cooperative effort in NATO is essential to the success of that great organization.

So we are ready to do anything that is reasonable and practicable to help in reaching some solution, but the solution itself is going to have to be reached by the people most greatly concerned.

It is a very tough problem, a very complicated problem; but I do want to emphasize that both those peoples are ones with whom we want to preserve our historic friendships.

Now, we will go to questions.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, your success in the New Hampshire primary was rather taken for granted, but we wonder what you think of the rather large write-in vote for Vice President Nixon?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will make this comment: apparently there are lots of people in New Hampshire that agree with what I have told you about Dick Nixon.

Now, because you opened that question, I am going to say one thing more about it and then, as far as I am concerned, I will never answer another question on this subject until after August.

Anyone who attempts to drive a wedge of any kind between Dick Nixon and me has just as much chance as if he tried to drive it between my brother and me.

We are very close, as I have told you before. I want to say again what I said last week or a week before; I will say it in exactly the terms I mean: I am very happy that Dick Nixon is my friend. I am very happy to have him as an associate in government. I would be happy to be on any political ticket in which I was a candidate with him.

Now, if those words aren't plain, then it is merely because people can't understand the plain unvarnished truth.

I have nothing further to add.

Q. Alan S. Emory, Watertown Times: Mr. President, I would like to ask two questions in reference to former Governor Dewey of New York: first, could you tell us what role you would like to see him play in the fall campaign for the Republicans; and, second, if you should be re-elected, would you offer him a post in your administration?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, I am very hopeful and I have every confidence that Governor Dewey will, as he has in the past, support the program, governmental economic program, that this Government has always stood behind.

As far as any predictions about what will happen should I again be given the responsibility I now hold, I have nothing whatsoever to say, and I will say this in this case: no one has ever suggested it until just now.

Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, southern members of Congress, including a couple of Republicans, have posed a direct challenge to both the other branches of Government, first, in the implied if not declared threat to block your appointments to the judiciary, which might find disfavor on the racial issue; and, second, in a manifesto which was introduced in Congress on Monday, in which some 100 members of the House and Senate commit themselves to try to overturn the Supreme Court decision on segregation. Would you comment on those developments, sir, particularly with reference to what you think the Executive responsibility is and should be.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you are asking a question that we are probably going to be busy on for a while.

First, I have nothing whatsoever to say about their right to confirm or not confirm. The constitutional duty of the Senate to act as it sees fit upon the nominations sent up by the President is clear.

I could urge publicly, and I probably would if I thought there were unnecessary blocks, but that is their business, and that doesn't call, as I see it, for any further comment.

Now, the first thing about the manifesto is this: that they say they are going to use every legal means. No one in any responsible position anywhere has talked nullification; there would be a place where we get to a very bad spot for the simple reason I am sworn to defend and uphold the Constitution of the United States and, of course, I can never abandon or refuse to carry out my own duty.

Let us remember that the Supreme Court itself talked about emotionalism in this question, and it was for that reason that it said, "Progress must be gradual."

Now, let us not forget there has been some progress. I believe there is something on the order of more than a quarter of a million of Negro children in the border and some southern States, that have been integrated in the schools, and except for a certain area in which the difficulties are greatest, there has been progress.

As a matter of fact, there was not long ago a decision by the Supreme Court of Texas to the general effect that anything in the laws or in the Constitution of the State of Texas that was in defiance of the Constitution of the United States was null and void.

So, let us remember that there are people who are ready to approach this thing with moderation, but with the determination to make the progress that the Supreme Court asked for.

If ever there was a time when we must be patient without being complacent, when we must be understanding of other people's deep emotions as well as our own, this is it. Extremists on neither side are going to help this situation, and we can only believe that the good sense, the common sense, of Americans will bring this thing along. The length of time I am not even going to talk about; I don't know anything about the length of time it will take.

We are not talking here about coercing, using force in a general way; we are simply going to uphold the Constitution of the United States, see that the progress as ordered by them is carried out.

Now, let us remember this one thing, and it is very important: the people who have this deep emotional reaction on the other side were not acting over these past three generations in defiance of law. They were acting in compliance with the law as interpreted by the Supreme Court of the United States under the decision of 1896.

Now, that has been completely reversed, and it is going to take time for them to adjust their thinking and their progress to that. But I have never yet given up my belief that the American people, faced with a great problem like this, will approach it intelligently and with patience and with understanding, and we will get somewhere; and I do deplore any great extreme action on either side.

Q. Anthony Lewis, New York Times: Mr. President, in connection with the racial troubles in the South, sir, it has been suggested that you could use your influence for moderation by calling some white and Negro leaders from the South together here to discuss ways of relieving tensions. Do you see any point at which that would be useful?

THE PRESIDENT. I not only think it would be useful, but if you will look at my state of the Union message, I plead for a joint commission authorized by Congress. The reason I want it authorized by Congress is a simple one: because then they can subpoena witnesses and bring people in and compel them to testify.

Now, if I merely call in a party and let everybody air their views, that would be one thing to do. But it is not the thing I want done.

This decision was made, as I recall, in 1954, and we are getting along now to where some real investigative body ought to be watching it and looking at it all the time. I would like to have that body organized, bipartisan, and with every point of view represented on it, and as quickly as possible.

Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: Last week, Mr. President, you said there was no point in supplying arms to Israel because she is outnumbered by the Arabs. I would like to ask if we haven't followed the policy of helping smaller nations, such as the Chinese regime on Formosa, when they were threatened by much larger neighbors?


First of all, I want to say this about this Mid-East question. I have been working long hours lately, going far into the evening -- most of them deal with the Mid-East -- with the best understanding and the best brains of people that represent both sides that I can get hold of.

I said that had been our policy in the past, that we believed that if we could avoid by any way at all an arms race and use the power of the United Nations and our own Tripartite Declaration, that would be the best way of keeping the peace.

There is no blinking the fact that in that area our interests are very gravely jeopardized, if there is going to be war break out; and, therefore, we have got to explore every possible means. We have foreclosed on nothing.

I never said, and I am sure that the Secretary of State has never said, that we would not furnish arms to Israel. We were hoping for a better solution.

Q. John L. Steele, Time Magazine: In that connection, sir, are you able to tell us if this country is about to make a new approach to the United Nations, seeking a peaceful settlement in the Middle East; and, two, if you were considering asking Congress, as you did in the case of Formosa, for a resolution of authority to do what may be necessary in that area?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the second part of your question has not yet arisen, that has not yet come up as part of our study.

But, as to the first part, that is one of the elements as to exactly what representation to make to the United Nations. That is under study at this moment, and as quickly as it is formulated, why, it will automatically publicize itself.

Q. Francis M. Stephenson, New York Daily News: Mr. President, before the door is closed on the Nixon case, I wonder if-last week you said you would ask him to chart his own course; and I was wondering if he has done that.

THE PRESIDENT. You said before the door is closed. [Laughter] You spoke about five minutes--

Q. Mr. Stephenson: I tried to get my foot in.

THE PRESIDENT. You spoke about five minutes too late. I will say this, however: he knew what I was going to say this morning.

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, Senator Knowland said that the revised Bricker amendment had been discussed at the "Big Four Conference" at the White House. Have you any comment now on the revised proposal?

THE PRESIDENT. You know, every morning over here I learn something. This is the first time I have heard our legislative meetings each week called the "Big Four Conference." [Laughter]

Yes, we discussed it yesterday morning--merely that we would hold it off and examine this whole thing again when Mr. Dulles got back.

As a matter of fact, we have not yet the committee reports on the hearings and deliberations in the committee and, therefore, we are not certain of the meanings of particular phrases; so I am not going to discuss the particular phraseology of that present resolution. But I did make a comment on this thing, I think, just last week or the week before, in which I said exactly the same thing.

Q. Marvin Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, strictly in the interests of clarification and not to trespass on grounds that you have barred, but did we understand you correctly to say that you would be happy to have Mr. Nixon "on any political ticket on which I am a candidate"?

THE PRESIDENT. That's exactly so. I said that last week.

Q. Richard L. Wilson, Cowles Publications: Mr. President, as you know, the Senate has passed a two-price system for wheat which appears to guarantee 100 percent of parity on the portion of wheat consumed for food domestically. I would like to get your views on that, particularly as to whether or not you think it vitiates the flexible parity principles sufficiently to draw your opposition to the present bill?

THE PRESIDENT. This passed only yesterday, and as a matter of fact, I was talking about it this morning. Its exact language I have not seen. But I would say this: here is a system that has been argued back and forth for many, many years; and as to what I would do about a bill, again the only thing I can say is I would have to see a provision of this sort in the context of the whole bill of which it is a part before I would know what I would do.

They did, as I understand, make this a permissive, or an authorization, rather than a directive.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Mr. President, have you given your approval to a study that is reported to be under way by the Navy,. that the Navy take over the submerged lands and keep them for naval stores?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have learned something else; I didn't know they were studying that. The submerged lands, I believe by law, are to a certain extent owned by the States. Now, beyond that, whether or not there is anything in the offing, I don't know; they haven't brought it to me yet.

Q. Anthony H. Leviero, New York Times: Mr. President, this is the 43d anniversary of the Presidential press conferences. I wonder if you have any observations to make on it, and do we ever overlook any questions? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. I will say this: once in a while, when some member of my staff comes in and says--just almost shakes his finger in my face--"That is what you are going to be questioned on this morning," I go back and I will say, "Who was that that was so smart?" So, I don't think you overlook them; they probably don't just interest you.

As a matter of fact, I think this is a wonderful institution. While I have seen all sorts of statements that Presidents have considered it a bore and it is a necessary chore to go through, it does a lot of things for me personally.

For one thing, at least once a week I have to take a half hour to review in my own mind what has happened during that week, so that I don't make errors just through complete inadvertence and failure to look them up.

Moreover, I rather like to get the questions because frequently I think they represent the kind of thinking that is going on. don't mean in tone--everybody is always, of course, very polite and respectful--but I mean the character of the questions frequently shows just exactly what is the thinking that is going on.

Now, this group of people here are sent here undoubtedly because they represent the better class of reporters available to the papers and the associations that send them; consequently, their mass opinions or the general impressions ought to have some value, I think, in any democratic government.

So, all in all, while I didn't know you were 43 years old today, I congratulate you and I hope you continue another 43 years.

Q. Charles S. von Fremd, CBS News: Mr. President, some members of a House subcommittee which is pursuing or examining the problems of civil defense believe, on the basis of testimony they have heard, that we do not have an adequate civil defense program today. Some Civil Defense officials have told them they can't get sufficient funds from Congress and, apparently, there is also a lack of volunteers in some parts of the country. Is there anything you think could or should be done to improve or strengthen civil defense?

THE PRESIDENT. I think if you would go back over the last 3 of these 43 years you are talking about, you would find that I have made several very eloquent speeches on this subject here in this room.

Civil defense by its very nature is a critical local problem. You cannot give civil defense to Atlanta from New York City or vice versa. The people on the spot have got to take an interest or it cannot be done.

You could appropriate billions, you could put every kind of device and arrangement throughout this country, but unless people themselves will take the interest, and this means learning what they must do in the event of a catastrophe, civil defense will never reach the state of efficiency that it should.

Now, I am talking about the people who are themselves concerned. But, you know, this is a hard kind of thing to get a free people to do. They are busy, and they see someone going along and carrying out his problem, his job. Maybe it is to get under a helmet and go down and be a volunteer member of the fire department. Well, someone sort of grins and says, "Boy Scout," and that is dismissed that way.

This thing is more serious, and here is the great reason that it is more serious: the more effective our civil defense, the greater is the deterrent power of this country against the outbreak of any war. The more that other people know that we take this thing seriously and are prepared to do what need be to defend ourselves, not only in the military sense but in our homes, in our cities, then once we get that started we will have no problem of getting the money for the mechanical defense of cities.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post and Times Herald: Last week, sir, when you said that you would take yourself out as a candidate if there was any adverse change in your health, a number of us drew the inference that you also meant you would resign the Presidency under similar circumstances. Is that a correct inference? And, as a matter of historical interest, did you yourself consider that at the time of your illness last fall?

THE PRESIDENT. Why, last fall, the second that I could talk to my advisers, the first question I wanted to know, "How quickly can I be ready to carry on my duties?"

And, remember, I was meeting with my staff--I will say this, and I don't know whether this is anything against the newspaper profession, but I was meeting with my staffs and getting their reports and working weeks before they would allow me to see a newspaper. Now, just why that is, I don't know. But I guess they thought maybe some news was bad. [Laughter]

But as far as resigning is concerned, I have told the American people this: that I am making myself available for additional duty if they want me, and on the basis that, I told them, I believed I was capable and would remain capable as far as I could determine. When I believe I am not capable, I will not be there, and that's all there is to it.

Q. Alice F. Johnson, Seattle Times: Mr. President, about a year ago when you announced your decision on the international routes in the Pacific, you said you were giving a temporary certificate to Northwest Airlines because they were still on subsidy. Subsequent audits proved that they had gone off of subsidy the month before you made the announcement. In view of that fact, would you be willing to give them permanent operating rights in the Pacific now?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know the subsequent orders. What happened was that this case was renewed. I sent it back to the Civil Aeronautics Board for further study. I have heard that they have reached a conclusion, and have started it up toward me, but it has not been staffed through and I have not yet seen it, so until I see that I can't make an answer.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) Press Herald: Mr. Malenkov, who is in charge of the Soviet Union's electric power stations, is going to England to study their power stations. What is your general attitude toward Soviet officials visiting our country for such purposes?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, now, I would say this: we are not talking now about military secrets; we are talking about the kind of scientific knowledge that is available in the journals of the associations, of the literature of our great universities, and is available to them. So that if we were on a basis of exchanging visitations with the Russians in the scientific field, I certainly would not be one to hold them out of our civil institutions of that kind--let them take a look.

But I would want a quid pro quo: unless I saw theirs, they wouldn't see mine. I don't believe that we just put these things out as--there is no bait about them. If we are going to have a real exchange relationship, let's have them real, that's all I say.

Q. Lloyd M. Schwartz, Fairchild Publications: Mr. President, have you picked a successor yet to Assistant Attorney General Barnes, of the Antitrust Division?

THE PRESIDENT. They had some names up, but I think, as I remember there was no one picked; but those, no, those are published by the appointments going to the Senate, and there is never any announcement made about them in advance.

Q. Peter Lisagor, Chicago Daily News: I ask this question, perhaps, out of a faulty memory, but is your disclosure about the first hint of Middle Eastern action by the Soviet Union through a Bulganin letter in October, I think you said--was that the first disclosure of such a letter with Premier Bulganin, and if so, could you tell us what the nature of that hint was?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, no, I merely mentioned it. I have said before that I have periodic exchanges and communications with Bulganin.

Now, when I went to look it up, I knew that it was in connection with some conference, but my memory had played me a trick. Instead of the one to which I went, it was merely the one in which I was conferring with others; and in connection with that work I did write this letter, and had an answer, and that was before the foreign ministers conference. But I think I have not discussed any item in that letter otherwise.

Q. William V. Shannon, New York Post: Mr. President, as you know, the Federal aid to schools bill is tied up in both Houses because of the Powell antisegregation amendment, and a group of Democratic Congressmen have written you asking that you declare that you will not allocate Federal funds to any school district that refuses to comply with the Supreme Court decree on desegregation. And Mr. Powell, who is not in this group, has said that if the President would issue such a declaration he would withdraw his amendment, and it would then be up to the executive department to pick and choose where to enforce the Supreme Court decision.

I was wondering if you would comment on their request.

THE PRESIDENT. I am not going to make any declaration in advance of any law that is placed in front of me. I never do, and I want to see the law first.

Merriman Smith, United Press: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Eisenhower's eighty-second news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:33 to 11:01 o'clock on Wednesday morning, March 14, 1956. In attendance: 194.

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/233035

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