Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

March 21, 1956

THE PRESIDENT. Please be seated. I have a couple of points that I should like to discuss briefly this morning.

The first one is the progress we have made on the Hoover Commission reports.

As you know, the first Hoover Commission dealt solely with the problems of organization in the Federal Government.

The second Hoover Commission was set up with a much broader charter that directed it to go into the functions of Government--indeed, whether they should be performed at all-give its recommendations respecting basic activities of the Federal Government. Consequently, its recommendations were deeper, more far reaching, and took longer study to determine their applicability than did those recommendations of the first Commission.

Out of the 360-some recommendations of this Commission, some 320-odd pertain in some way or other to the Defense Department.

The Defense Department has just sent me in a report1 that 85 percent of those 320-some recommendations have been accepted wholly or at least in substance, and that the other 15 percent are of the type that are undergoing constant examination. Of course, in other departments there has been comparable progress, but the reason that the Defense record brings such great satisfaction to me is because it involves so many of the recommendations of the Commission.

1See Item 64.

This calls, I think, for sort of a vote of thanks to the Hoover Commission. It proves the soundness with which they worked, the task force that they had in the Defense Department; and it is, I think, a record of fairly speedy but nevertheless thoughtful examination of these recommendations in their application to the Federal departments; and from them we expect to realize real economies and improvements in efficiency.

I am expecting Secretary Dulles back this evening, and should see him briefly.

Tomorrow morning at 8:30 we will have a bipartisan meeting of the legislative leaders in the Cabinet room of the White House, and he will report to them. Then during the course of the day and the following day he will report to two committees of Congress, and on Friday evening to the American people over television, I think, at 10:30.

These trips, of course, are onerous burdens on an individual, but we have found them extremely worthwhile. The personal contact with leaders of other countries is something that we have tried to bring about and to sustain, and we find that through it we gain better understanding of common problems than we do merely by trusting to the normal diplomatic exchanges.

This same kind of theory lies behind the meeting to which I will go next Monday down at White Sulphur Springs, and also it is behind the invitation that I extended to Prime Minister Nehru, which he has accepted. And as, I believe, already published, he will be here in early July.

Those meetings again will be informal, without agenda.

He and I both agreed that we would like to have some quiet spot where we can discuss our common problems, and I must say I am highly gratified that he was able to accept my invitation. We realize it is not easy for any head of government to accept such an invitation and to leave his country for that length of time, but it will be right at the end of the Commonwealth Conference in London, and he will take advantage of being that near, and come across the Atlantic.

I think that is all I have in announcements, and we will go to questions.

Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, Senator Kefauver says the large vote in the Minnesota primary indicates a revolt against your farm program. Can you give us your view of what happened in Minnesota yesterday?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, no, I can't give any analysis of the Minnesota vote yesterday. But I do say this: Minnesota is, of course, a very important State in the country; it is the first very large State that has a primary. And I remember that back in 1952, I think, the great write-in vote in Minnesota in my case did as much as any other single thing to convince me that I should look at this political business a little bit more seriously than I had up to that moment.

I was certainly honored by what they did; so, the same way, this is something to be studied and see exactly what it does mean.

Now, with respect to the farm problem, I believe that farmers, as well as others, understand that this administration is working hard to produce a program that gives them a hundred percent of parity in the market place, and if you try to do that hundred percent parity merely by passing laws to that effect, we are going to pile up trouble that we cannot possibly solve, because it means just piling up of reserves and of surpluses, in the products in which we already are oversupplied.

I believe that the program sent to the Hill on this farm problem is comprehensive, helpful, not only helpful today in helping the farmer with his present problem of giving him some income out of the business of eliminating acres from production, but in the long-term for that man's children and for his children's children, you will have a sound program. You can't possibly have it merely by passing large rigid price support laws and saying, "We will pay this."

If you would apply this to every product in the country, we would certainly be soon in a very bad hole.

With respect to that bill as it now stands, I don't think it is a good bill. I don't think it is workable. I think it would bury the farmers under surpluses that they couldn't stand, and it would break the prices still further. But I do point out that there is still a conference to go through, and I think those conferees, looking at this thing sensibly, may write a good bill, one which can really be helpful to the farmer.

Q. David Sentner, Hearst Newspapers: Mr. President, can you give your reaction to the continued attack on Stalin by the new Soviet regime?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you ask a question, of course, that no one can give you a positive answer except those that are doing it.

There are all sorts of speculation, but there is one thing about it, and this may have some influence: I suppose most of you have read at least parts of Stalin's "Problems of Leninism?' Well, now, in that you find certain doctrines, but this collective leadership is now following other methods in other areas in its foreign relations. Therefore, you had to repudiate something about Stalin, and possibly they just go the whole way and repudiate the man as well as some of his doctrinal works.

Q. Charles von Fremd, CBS News: Mr. President, I would like to ask a related question, sir, in your answer to the repudiation of Stalin. Do you think there is a danger of future consequences with our allies because of the Russian repudiation of Stalin, that our allies may now believe that the Soviet Government has adopted a new policy and a better one?

THE PRESIDENT. I think that there is no question in the minds of most of our allies, at least in the minds of those with whom I have talked, that the basic communistic objective has not changed; therefore, I do not believe they will allow their guards to fall carelessly and complacently.

But you have to set over against that the clear understanding of our own motives and our own ideas and plans.

We know that we want only peace. We want peaceful relations with those nations in the world that will be friendly with us. We want to promote trade; we want to promote interchange of travel and of ideas, exchange of scientific information, everything of that kind that we believe will advance the standards of the human race.

But those purposes and aims, clear as they are to us, are not well understood abroad.

I have a lecture I was reading last night, and I am sorry I can't remember the man's name. He is a foreign professor who has been serving over here 2 years, and he has arrived at certain answers with regard to this thing. I believe I am going to circulate it as widely as I can, I think it has got some of the best ideas I have seen on it. But we must make certain that our own peaceful intentions stand out and our idea of preserving the independence of the people with whom we deal stands out in clear opposition to what we believe to be the aims and purposes of the other side.

Q. Marguerite Higgins, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, right along that line, in light of the renewed Arab accusation that the U. S. is reverting to a support of colonialism in the Middle East, would you clarify United States policy on the African movements for national independence?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, first of all, with my approval, Ambassador Dillon made a speech yesterday in France, and that expresses our hope that there can be equitable and fair, just settlements of these great problems that affect these countries.

Now, these two areas have a very definite measure of interdependence between them. We know that--I'm talking now about France and Algeria--and therefore it seems to us in the best interests of both sides that we arrive at some composition that does recognize legitimate rights of one side but, at the same time, does not completely disrupt a relationship that probably should exist.

This is our idea in all of these areas that have their local antagonisms and troubles, whether it is Mid-East, whether it is Africa or whatever the area, to try to help these countries see on either side of a quarrel that their best interests lie in some composition, in mediation rather than in conflict, because today, as never before, the several nations need the help of each other in advancing their own economies and in increasing trade, so that there can be advancing standards of living and the proper aspirations of people can be gradually achieved.

Now, I recognize, this is an easy speech to make. It is a hard thing to bring about, because you have got age-old antagonisms; you have all sorts of fanatical thought brought to these problems that has no place really in it, except as it is always there; and you have, of course, the Communists interfering when they can.

Nevertheless, it remains our sincere effort in all of these areas to try to retain friendships with both sides and, therefore, use our good offices to bring about a decent solution.

Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: Mr. President, would you kindly clarify for us your thinking about the relationship between the Executive and the Legislature in these difficult areas? For example, if the Middle Eastern situation is so serious as to be placed before the U. N. as a threat to the peace of the world, why is it not serious enough to be placed before the Congress to see what the sense of the Congress is about it?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, as I see it, the two committees, the Foreign Relations Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee, are set up to keep in constant contact with the State Department, which is the executive agency for handling these affairs. The policymaking officials of that department, the heads, appear constantly before these committees and keep them informed.

Only recently, Secretary Dulles told me how many times he had appeared before one of the committees of Congress since he has been here; I assure you it is a formidable number, and the same way with the Under Secretaries.

Then, there are bipartisan meetings when there seems to be a reason for having them.

I agree with you they should be kept informed, but our agency is through the committees.

Q. Mr. Reston: Mr. President, do you draw a distinction between informing them and the procedure followed in the Formosa Straits question where you presented it as a resolution?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, there I asked for certain authority, and I had to ask for action from them.

Now, let's be perfectly clear: the Constitution holds the President responsible for carrying on the foreign relations of the United States of America; you can't get out of that. And, consequently, knowing that to carry on those foreign affairs you need the approval of Congress, because you need appropriations often, you need organizations set up, you do keep them informed just as a matter of practical workings of a political organization.

On top of that, in such matters as you see a treaty coming up or a resolution, you get them in and confer with them in advance, and try to discover whether there is any better idea than your own.

I am certain of this--I will put it this way: I have been assured there have been more meetings of a bipartisan character and of the informative type as between the Executive and the proper committees of the Legislature in this past 3 years than any similar 3 years of the past.

Certainly, we are doing our best, and where we failed, it is of the head and not of the heart.

Q. Charles E. Shutt, Telenews: Atomic scientist Ralph Lapp announced yesterday that it was perfectly possible for scientists to construct a billion ton TNT nuclear bomb, and termed it as a suicide weapon, that could only be carried by a freighter. Could you tell us how this information might affect the importance of the disarmament talks that you discussed recently?

THE PRESIDENT. No. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't make any real comment upon it.

While I have been told many times that there is no theoretical limit to the size of these instruments which can be made, there is, I think, a practical limit, as long as you are thinking of using it only against someone else. There is size of targets. There is an old saying, "You do not drive a tack with a sledge hammer." So when you have gotten something, let's say, of a maximum tactical size, useful size, why I would think you would go no further.

Now, this possibility that he expresses, I think we will have to turn that over to social scientists because I don't know how to try to answer it.

Q. Thomas N. Schroth, Congressional Quarterly: Some Republican Congressmen have referred to the present session as a do-nothing Congress. With the Easter recess coming on, how would you say that your legislative program is progressing this year in Congress, and how does it compare with previous years of your administration?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I haven't drawn up any scoreboard for this time of the year. Usually in these dealings, we put down-really on a board--the number of bills that we consider essential parts of the program, and then during the course of the session we keep track of where it is, when it gets through one House or when it comes out of committee, and so on and so on. I haven't thought of comparing that scoreboard with any of the past years.

I do feel this: the road bill seems to be making some progress. The farm bill, which I thought started out pretty well, got into quite a jam, and I have already expressed myself this morning about it.

The school bill seems to be on dead center. I am hopeful that the aid bill will soon be passed; and I think the normal appropriation bills will come through on schedule. So I couldn't give you an estimate of the comparison.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, following Mr. Reston's questions, could you tell us how seriously you do consider the Middle East situation, and just exactly what is your hope that the U. N. will do at this meeting, which you have requested or which the U. S. has requested?

THE PRESIDENT. The United States is committed to using every peaceful means to bring about the effectuation of its policies.

Now, that means that constantly we must support the United Nations effort because that is what it is set up for. It is an organism set up by the nations of the world to do just that. Along with it we have made the 3-party declaration of May 1950 and we take that very seriously.

We would believe that any outbreak of major hostilities in the region would be a catastrophe to the world. As you know, all of Western Europe has gradually gone to oil instead of coal for its energy, and that oil comes from the Mid-East. The region is of great--as a matter of fact, it is of extraordinary--importance to all the free world, so that just for material reasons alone we must regard every bit of unrest there as the most serious matter.

Now, I do not say that we are going to be able to eliminate prejudices, but if we can support the commission team over there, all of us, with our moral strength, trying to make these people see that mediation is the true road to their own prosperity, maybe we can get somewhere.

But I am just saying that so far as it is possible, we never give up trying to bring every peaceful influence we can into settling these quarrels around the world.

Q. Mr. Roberts: Well, sir, are you suggesting that this U. N. session should send Mr. Hammarskjold or someone like that out to try to mediate this?

THE PRESIDENT. The details of our plan will be published at the proper time. They are not out yet.

Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: With regard to the situation in Alabama, Mr. President, how do you feel about Negroes being brought to trial for refusing to ride the Montgomery buses?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you are asking me, I think, to be more of a lawyer than I certainly am. But, as I understand it, there is a State law about boycotts, and it is under that kind of thing that these people are being brought to trial.

I think that the statement I made last week on this whole subject represents all the views that I now have to make; and I do believe that it is incumbent on all the South to show some progress. That is what the Supreme Court asked for. And they turned it over to local district courts.

I believe that we should not stagnate; but again I plead for understanding, for really sympathetic consideration of a problem that is far larger both in its emotional and even in its physical aspects than most of us realize.

Q. Douglass Cater, The Reporter Magazine: Mr. President, your school construction bill is on dead center, as you said, mainly because of controversy over whether it should be used as an instrument of desegregation. I wonder if you have any ideas of a positive approach that could be taken to get it off dead center and get some legislation this year?

THE PRESIDENT. I have expressed myself on that subject several times. I don't think I have anything further to add to that.

Q. Sarah McClendon, Port Arthur News: This question concerns the Texas City tin smelter, which is the only tin smelter on the North American Continent. I believe you are getting ready to submit a report on this to Congress,1 and the preliminary reports are that you are going to recommend that it be closed. I wonder if you have studied the possibility that if you close this plant you are handing a monopoly on tin production over to the British?

THE PRESIDENT. Did you ever look up the records on that tin smelter?

1 In transmitting the report (March 29, 1956; H. Doc. 371, 84th Cong., 2d sess.) the President stated that he concurred with its conclusions (1) that the determination as to the practicability of establishing a permanent tin-smelting industry in the United States be left to private enterprise and (2) that the Federal Government terminate its operation of the Texas City smelter not later than June 30, 1956. The President added that he would have no objection to the continuation of operations of the smelter until January 31, 1957, to provide time for completing negotiations for its sale, as recommended by the Director of the Office of Defense Mobilization.

Q. Mrs. McClendon: Yes, sir; I looked up some of them.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think you will find it is not an efficient tin smelter. It is one of those things that we got into because of war reasons, and it is not the kind of smelter that works efficiently today. I will say this: the report that you are now speaking of has not reached my desk, and I have not approved anything at this moment. But it is a very poor economic showing that thing makes.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: When you were discussing Prime Minister Nehru's visit, you said you would like to have a quiet spot to discuss current policies. Are you going to meet Nehru in Washington or some other place, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I imagine that we will meet here, but just where we will land finally, I can't tell you now. But he did express something that I agreed with thoroughly, and that was if we could be away from the ceremonial and the too official ends of this business, that we could probably get more done.

Q. Rowland Evans, Jr., New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, there are some indications that some Negro leaders may be in the process of switching their political allegiance from the Democratic to the Republican Party. If you accept that premise, sir, could you discuss possible reasons for this?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have got a very good one. I have told you a dozen times that it is anybody's judgment as to whether I am doing my job well or not doing it well, but as far as I am concerned, I am trying to do it for 166 million people, not for any group.

I don't care how you define them, how you separate them geographically or racially or religiously, I am for America, and that is what I am trying to do. So if they want to come in under that umbrella, I welcome them with open arms.

Q. William H. Lawrence, New York Times: Mr. President, returning to this Nehru business, the Reverend Billy Graham told us in the White House lobby yesterday that he had strongly urged upon you that you yourself go to India as one of these means of making people better understand our motives and our policies. Would you care to comment on the suggestion?

THE PRESIDENT. Since the day I came into this office, I have been trying to figure out a logical way for me to go to places where I should very much like to go without instantly getting involved in going to a dozen others; that would instantly prove it a physical impossibility, you see.

Now, India is one of the places that, for 20 years, I have wanted to go; I haven't made it yet, and I would very much like to go to it. I would like to go to some other places, too, but India is one of the very important ones that I should like to visit. But I have never solved this problem of how can you go to one place and not go to a dozen.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) Press Herald: Mr. President, this is related to Mr. Lawrence's question. You give a good deal of time to the Reverend Graham, and I wondered if you would tell us why you feel the interest in him? Are you thinking of mobilizing the religious countries of the world against communism?

THE PRESIDENT. Actually, this is the first time I had realized I had given a great deal of time to him. I see him normally on a matter of a few minutes, and yesterday, I believe, was probably the longest visit I ever had with him. No, he did visit me at my farm; I had lunch with him.

Now, this is what I see in Billy Graham: a man who clearly understands that any advance in the world has got to be accompanied by a clear realization that man is, after all, a spiritual being.

He carries his religion to the far comers of the earth, trying to promote peace, trying to promote mediation instead of conflict, tolerance instead of prejudice.

Now, he does that in this country, he does it abroad. Therefore, because of the very great crowds that he attracts to listen to him, I am very much interested in Billy Graham's activities, but for that reason only. I have never discussed with him any plan for mobilizing nations, no.

Q. Mrs. Craig: Well, sir, he has spoken of mobilizing Christianity. My thought was that perhaps you were thinking of mobilizing all religions against the nonreligious Communists.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have certainly often in public talks, although I have never thought of putting this in any kind of a plan, I have in public talks pointed out that this is, underneath it all, a battle between those people who believe that man is something more than just an educated animal and those who believe he is nothing else. That is exactly what it is. It is atheism against some kind of religion.

And I believe that we should do our very best to get people to feel the way we do, because along with this underlying basic fact is this: religion ordinarily tries to find a peaceful solution to problems.

So, therefore, I think it goes hand in hand, and I would certainly like to see every pulpit take some cognizance of this problem; I really do.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, Leonard Hall told us the other day that he had discussed campaign plans with you. Are you in a position to say yet just how much travel you may be able to do in the fall?

THE PRESIDENT. No. He has never discussed it in that much detail with me, Mr. Arrowsmith. He merely said that, by and large, he doesn't propose or suggest that I do what I called "barnstorming" or "whistle-stopping," not at all.

Q. J. Anthony Lewis, New York Times: Mr. President, along the line of Mrs. Craig's question, do you have any plans to mobilize religious or other leaders of the South to your point of view of moderation and progress on the segregation question?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I just mentioned that just now. I said that is one thing that Billy Graham teaches not only abroad, he teaches it among ourselves. Frankly, I believe that the pulpits do have a very great responsibility here.

This is a very tough one, and people have to search their own hearts if we are going to get a decent answer and keep going ahead.

Now, let's don't try to think of this as a tremendous fight that is going to separate Americans and get ourselves into a nasty mess. Let's try to think of how can we make progress and keep it going and not stop it. Now that, I believe, the pulpits can help on.

Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, a number of prominent southern conservative Democrats supported you actively in 1952, and many of these since have indicated their defiance of the Supreme Court's decision on segregation. In view of what you said just a moment ago, would you accept such support in '56?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't believe they expressed their defiance. I believe they expressed their belief that it was in error, and they have talked about using legal means to circumvent or to get along, whatever the expression they have used.

I do not believe that anyone, the ones that I know, have used the words "defy the Supreme Court," because when we carry this to the ultimate, remember that the Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, is our basic law.

The one thing is, though, the basic law appears to change, as I pointed out last week. It was one thing in 1896, and it is a very greatly different thing now.

So, there are emotions, very deep emotions, connected with this problem. These people have, of course, their free choice as to what they want to do.

As far as I am concerned, I am for moderation, but I am for progress; that is exactly what I am for in this.

Q. Paul Niven, WTOP News: Sir, you advocated in your state of the Union message home rule for the District of Columbia. A bill to that effect has passed the Senate, but is bogged down, as such bills often are, in the House District Committee. Do you have any hopes it will come through at this session?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I couldn't express an opinion on it at this moment, because that is one that has not come to my attention lately. I would have to look it up. But I will.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's eighty-third news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:31 to 11:05 o'clock on Wednesday morning, March 21, 1956. In attendance: 212.

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/233050

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