The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. Be seated. Good morning. I have no statements. We'll go right to questions.
Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, could you give us your views, sir, on the situation today when Washington visits by world leaders who are obviously important to our foreign policy are under critical attack in this country, and particularly in Congress.
I refer specifically to the visit today of King Saud, and the reported plans for Marshal Tito to visit the United States.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, it will probably take a little time to answer your question completely.
First of all, let's get this clear in our minds. You don't promote the cause of peace by talking only to people with whom you agree. That is merely yes-man performance. You have got to meet face to face the people with whom you disagree at times, to determine whether or not there is a way of working out the differences and reaching a better understanding.
Now, the visits between heads of state are dictated by such considerations as eliminating misunderstandings and determining whether or not there are practical steps to take in the promotion of peace and, today, the diminution of armaments--certainly worthy causes, and should be pursued with all the strength and all the wisdom we have.
In this light I am always obliged to any man, any head of state, who will come and talk to me when we think we have solutions that might be advanced by this kind of meeting, and they don't demand that if I want to talk I have to come and see them. Most of them recognize the difficulties that I have in my peculiar constitutional position.
I therefore deplore any discourtesy shown to a visitor who comes to us representative of a government or of a people, and whose purpose is to see whether he can assist in ameliorating any of these difficulties.
Now, this does not necessarily imply any approval of any internal actions in such countries. It means simply that the promotion and the development of peaceful programs today is the most important work of statesmen, and that is what we ought to be about.
Q. William McGaffin, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, four years ago in your state of the Union message, you mentioned the need for restraint by State and local governments and interested groups of citizens in their demands that the Federal Treasury spend more and more money for all types of projects.
Last week, however, you said at your press conference that as long as the American people demand and, in your opinion, deserve the kind of services that this budget provides, we have got to spend this kind of money.
Sir, many persons are puzzled by this change in your thinking, and they say that they feel that someone has given you a wrong steer on what the American people want. They feel that what the American people want more than anything is a break in the rise in prices and a cut in taxes.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I haven't changed my mind at all. I said--I remember using the expression--I said I think they deserve those services. I was talking about the kind of things that have now become accepted in our civilization as normal, that is the provision of social security, unemployment insurance, health research by the Government, assistance where States and individuals are unable to do things for themselves.
For example, this schoolroom shortage that we have, I think, is very largely traceable to the fact that during the long war years there was just no building, and the income was all taken off, that was available, by the Federal Government, so these States find themselves in a rather difficult position. We were in a national war. They lost the income which went to provide shells and soldiers and planes, and so on, and here they are without schools.
Someone has to do something about it, and I think for what we call the one-shot or one-time action in this matter, the Government has to put its credit behind the building of buildings.
Now, that is the kind of thing that I think we must do. At the same time, no one has worked as hard, or certainly, harder than I, for four years to get down governmental expenditures. We simply must, it seems to me, do these things more economically and constantly work to determine what is necessary for the Federal Government to do and what is not.
I personally still adhere to Lincoln's generalization. You must do for people what they cannot do for themselves, or so well do in their individual capacities, but in other things Government ought not to interfere; but that is a very hard line sometimes to determine.
Q. John Scali, Associated Press: Mr. President, some time ago you told us that you consider John Foster Dulles as the greatest Secretary of State of our time. In the past week, in presenting your Middle East program before Congress, he has come under rather sharp attack from some Senate Democrats who contend that his policy has been disastrous to our British and French allies.
In view of this, could you tell us, sir, whether you still hold the same view of confidence in the ability of your Secretary of State, and secondly, whether you believe his actions in any way have contributed to our present international difficulties?
THE PRESIDENT. Let me answer your second question first. Secretary Dulles, to the best of my knowledge and belief--and I keep, I assure you, very close touch--has never taken any action which I have not in advance approved. I insist again that these matters are not taken spasmodically, impulsively. They are not policies developed off of top-of-the-head thinking. They take weeks and weeks, and when they come out and are applied, they have my approval from top to bottom.
Secondly, I think I once described before this group something of the life of Secretary Dulles. His grandfather having been Secretary of State, he started at the age of six years old, believing honestly in his heart that the greatest position in the world was that of Secretary of State; and honestly, I think he still believes it, and he should.
The Secretary of State of the United States is the greatest and most important job in the world, and that is what he is filling. And, as I say, he should believe that.
Now, during those years he studied and acquired a wisdom and experience and knowledge that I think is possessed by no other man in the world. I am the last person to say that he and I have not made mistakes. We are human, and if we haven't made mistakes, then we have done nothing, we have just been sleeping for all this time, and I am sure that we haven't been doing that. We have been working hard.
Now, all of these critics, I notice this: they don't bring out any particular project. They just talk about great blundering and lack of leadership. I have seen no proposals, no constructive proposals, for what even should have been done with the benefit of hindsight. On the contrary, we just hear these generalized attacks, which I assure you are easy to make. But I have no reason whatsoever for changing my opinion of Secretary Dulles, as I expressed so often to you people.
Q. Pat Munroe, Albuquerque Journal: Mr. President, my question concerns the fact that under present law members of Congress are able to spend public funds secretly on travel without making any open accounting for same.
As the leader of your party, will you favor a proposed bipartisan effort in Congress to require a compulsory release of this information?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am not going to answer specifically in detail such a question as this, because there may be some reason, of which I am unaware, for the practice in certain instances.
As far as I am concerned, though, I stand on this general truth: there is no expenditure of public moneys, except only involving that where the public security itself is involved, that should not face the light of day any time any citizen inquires for it.
Q. John L. Steele, Time Magazine: Sir, in connection with the proposed investigation of the handling of the Middle East policy by two Senate committees, there seems to be a great deal of demand for executive department material. Is there a line in your mind which establishes the appropriateness of rendering such material to them? Specifically, do you feel that you are able to give to the committees your correspondence with government leaders abroad?
THE PRESIDENT. Why, by no means. It would be a betrayal of confidence. I have letter after letter that is written to me with the understanding, implicit or explicit, that it will be seen by no one but me. It is for my private information and guidance. Of course, Congress is not asking for any such thing as that.
Q. William H. Lawrence, New York Times: Mr. President, as Commander in Chief, sir, do you share Mr. Wilson's complaint about the National Guard?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, you know better, really, than that. Anything that people in the National Guard have done, they have done in accordance with existing law. No matter how they have entered any of our military services, it is controlled by law.
Now, here is the one thing about the National Guard. The law provides that men between 17 and 18½, I believe are the years, can enter the Guard directly, and for years I have struggled to make of the Guard an efficient first-line of defense. And I assure you it is never going to be, in this day of terrible weapons and the kind of warfare that places a premium on skill and discipline and training, it is never going to be the kind of force we need, until we get these recruits having at least six months of good, hard basic training.
Now, that is correct. I am talking about the training of the Guard. I am not pointing a finger at anyone, and I am sure Secretary Wilson wasn't. He was shortcutting and making a very, I think, unwise statement, without stopping to think what it meant, because these men have not been slackers when they have entered the military service in accordance with the law.
Q. Roscoe Drummond, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, a day or so ago Mr. Carmine DeSapio of New York said in an interview that he thought that your great majority in the last election came about almost exclusively because of your personal popularity, and he went on to say that, in light of that fact, there was probably nothing Mr. Stevenson could have done or nothing the Democrats could now do to alter that, unless you were no longer in politics.
I would like to ask if you share that estimate of why you won the election.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, sometimes you people get rather personally embarrassing around here.
But, of course, I don't. At least, I tried to put it on this basis: I told you people time and again during my first Administration, "I believe in certain things. I am laying out certain programs and interpreting them into legislative proposals. I believe that is the program on which I should be returned if I ever run again, or the Republicans of the future that embrace such a program should be returned to office, or not returned to office."
Certainly, I tried to make it a test of the validity of programs for the welfare of the United States. Now, if Mr.--whatever his name is--DeSapio has--I didn't mean any disrespect; I meant only the name had slipped my mind for a moment. But if he has a different view, he is entitled to it.
Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, we have a United States Senate election in Texas on April the 2d, and since the November election, I believe, your New Republicanism has been spelled out much more by you and others.
I was wondering if you gave the Republican candidate for the Senate in Texas the other day any new hints on campaigning, since he and you have the same ideas about the New Republicanism.
THE PRESIDENT. No, I didn't give him any hints. I think he is a very fine young man and certainly would make a fine representative of Texas in the U. S. Senate, as far as I am concerned.
Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, your disarmament adviser, Mr. Stassen, said recently that if Christian Herter had been the Republican vice-presidential candidate, the G.O.P. would have won control of both Houses of Congress. I wonder if you can comment on this. For so long--well, I have forgotten it.
THE PRESIDENT. You are not of the age yet you should forget part of your questions. [Laughter]
It used to amuse me during the war, you would fight a battle and achieve something sometimes that no one had dreamed was possible, but then everybody came along and showed you if you had just done it some other way, why, you would have won twice as big a victory and the war would have been shortened by months.
Now, I will say this about such speculation as you just quoted to me. I believe it is more your job than mine to make such speculation, so I will leave it to you.
Q. Charles S. von Fremd, CBS News: Mr. President, some Democrats are complaining that you and your Administration have stolen what they consider their traditional domestic Democratic policies, and we have observed, of course, that you do seem to be attempting to remake or rebuild the Republican Party.
The question, sir, is: Would you spell out or define the difference between your philosophy of Modern Republicanism and the so-called New or Fair Deal policies of the Democratic Party?
THE PRESIDENT. Well--and again I have done this, I assure you, before--but fundamentally, the difference is this. I agree that there are many functions now performed by government, either in a leadership or referee, or sometimes operational capacity, that would have been unthinkable only as much as fifty years ago. They have become part of our national life, and we should do them effectively and efficiently. I won't again try to enumerate them. You know mostly what they are.
But this is what I say: If we have respect for the kind of economy, for the institutions that have brought us to where we are today, with our productivity, our power and our advance in every type of civilization on the intellectual, the educational, the health, physical, moral side, we will understand we must preserve the initiative of the people, which, in my opinion, means government as close as possible to that person where he can take the maximum interest in it and influence it to the maximum degree.
If we don't have that kind of thing, he begins to say money comes from Washington or help comes from Washington free, and he wants more all the time, because it is coming from an outside source. Where he is paying all or part of that, he says, "Let's look at this with a jaundiced eye."
So the difference is this. I believe that, first of all, the Government itself must be honest fiscally. It must have an honest fiscal policy and it must not indulge in doing anything by deficit spending except in emergency. I fail to find any such philosophy in what you called the New Deal. I believe in the decentralization of power geographically, back to the geographical units where it is best exercised; and finally, I believe in preserving the soundness of our money, in the interests of all of the people who are going to live on pensions and retired pay.
Now, those are the three things that I think we must never forget as a concomitant to all of the services that we perform. And if we do, then to my mind we have gone on a loose sort of existence that will be bound to destroy the kind of life that we have tried to establish and have maintained in this country.
Q. William V. Shannon, New York Post: Mr. President, this is in line with your answer to the first question asked by Mr. Smith. You said that you felt internal conditions in these countries should not prevent your discussing affairs of peace with heads of state.
I was wondering, with this reference to internal conditions, whether you intended to take up with King Saud conditions of slavery and racial and religious discrimination that are known to exist there, in your talks with him.
THE PRESIDENT. I, of course, would not be discourteous enough now to state what I was going to discuss with the King, nor the attitude I was going to take. But I will say that I have frequently in the past plead for equal treatment for all American citizens with all people with whom we deal.
Q. Frank van der Linden, Nashville Banner: In view of your remarks regarding the decentralization of Government, I wondered if you planned to appoint to the TVA this year a new director more in line with your type of thinking. As you know, one of the terms of the Democrats expires.
THE PRESIDENT. No, I didn't. As a matter of fact, it hadn't been brought to my attention.
Q. Mr. van der Linden: Well, a gentleman named E. F. Mynatt has already been mentioned in the paper as the candidate, so I wondered if you had in mind replacing a Democrat with a Republican on that board.
THE PRESIDENT. I will have to take a look when it comes up. You have given me my first intimation that the thing is this imminent.
Q. Richard L. Wilson, Cowles Publications: Mr. President, I wonder if you would clarify a statement that you made earlier. I think you said in the present tense, "... if I ever run again." What were you referring to there, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. No; I was talking about the past. I said I stated during my first Administration that, "if I should ever run again," I wanted to run on policies and not on personalities.
Q. Mr. Wilson: I wondered, sir, if you might not be referring to the possibility of the repeal of the twenty-second amendment.
THE PRESIDENT. Look, I will give you people a piece of news. They can repeal it if they want to. I shall not run again. [Laughter]
Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, you have emphasized many times that one of your basic objectives, indeed perhaps the basic objective, is peace, the avoidance of the big war. Secretary Dulles even told Congress the other day that you would lean over backward before you committed American troops in the Middle East.
My question is: Do you think there is a danger of creating a psychological atmosphere in which we wouldn't want to go to any kind of war, brush fire, police action, or whatever, even though it might be vital to the larger peace?
THE PRESIDENT. I think that is a very sound question, because in trying to put over one truth, we sometimes obscure equally important truths on the other side.
I think if any one of us had to get up in a position of crisis, we probably would not have the courage, quite, to say what Patrick Henry said. But I believe that for this Nation of ours as a whole, Patrick Henry's truth still holds, his statement still holds, when he said, "Give me liberty or give me death."
I believe the United States believes that. So I, so far at least, have not worried too much about leading the United States down the path where there would be no loss, no emergency, no tragedy that wouldn't bring them back to face willingly the necessity of defending their freedoms by force.
Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: Mr. President, following up on Mr. Morgan's question, sir, would you tell us what you think about the trends in the North Atlantic Treaty since the Lisbon force levels were originally put in, and secondly, what you expect to happen there in the light of the withdrawal of French troops from Europe, and the apparent impending withdrawal of British troops.
THE PRESIDENT. Personally, I think this. I think that understanding is growing among the NATO nations at a degree far greater than appears on the surface, and I do not mean merely understanding in the general sense. I mean a common understanding of how they would move to defend themselves in case of emergency, and how they are ready to cooperate one with the other.
Now, there is, of course, this terrible difficulty between France and the Algerian part of the nation--they, at least the French, so consider it part of the nation--that has taken away from France most of the NATO forces. And again, because of financial considerations, Britain has felt that she was putting out too much money, at least in the German area.
Nevertheless, the problem remains the same.
Our understanding among the NATO nations, I believe, is unchanged. And while the methods of defense will change from day to day and month to month, I believe that the determination and the spirit of cooperation among them all is as strong as ever. And therefore I believe that, regardless of these things which you point out, and which for the moment are real difficulties, I believe they will be overcome.
Q. Mr. Reston: Sir, do you intend that we should keep our six divisions there, or even increase them, to make up for those that have gone away, in order to maintain the present level?
THE PRESIDENT. There has been no suggestion that I know of from NATO that we should increase our forces. But, on the other hand, we have made no suggestion that our forces should at this moment be reduced.
Merriman Smith, United Press: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and first news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:34 to 10:59 o'clock on Wednesday morning, January 30, 1957. In attendance: 208.
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/233811