The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. Please sit down.
Ladies and gentlemen, a few weeks ago someone asked about possible changes in high posts. Today there will be announced the departure of Arthur Flemming from his office in Defense Mobilization organization, and I shall nominate Gordon Gray to fill his post.
There is one other little item I noticed on my calendar this morning, of interest. That is an auditorium for Washington. The commission that has been appointed to study it is coming in to see me, and I hear they have reached a unanimous conclusion. So it is possible that we will have a really suitable auditorium in Washington, here, for the Capital City.
I will go to questions.
Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, can you give us your views on the United Nations resolution calling on Israel to withdraw her remaining forces from Egypt, and whether we might join in applying economic sanctions if Israel doesn't comply?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, Israel, of course, is a nation established by the United Nations, and the other day there was a resolution passed, I think, by seventy-some to two, saying that she should withdraw her forces.
I personally believe that Israel has what our declaration calls a decent respect for the opinion of mankind, and I believe that she will withdraw her forces, and I wouldn't want to speculate on future actions of the United Nations or of this country, to any degree. But I certainly say this: we are committed to the support of the United Nations.
Q. Lillian Levy, National Jewish Post: Mr. President, in the light of what you have just said, would not the same then apply to Egypt, or doesn't Egypt have the same regard for the United Nations as you indicated you believe Israel does have, since ever since 1951 she has continued to disregard the U.N. Security Council resolution asking that free passage be permitted for Israel through the Suez?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, that has been the question that has been argued, I mean, been consistently to the fore in the last several years, but I am not aware of any resolution the United Nations has enacted to do anything about it.
Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, you have a Supreme Court vacancy, and in the past you have said that you preferred to name men to the Court who have Federal judicial background. At the same time, there are recurrent speculative reports that either Attorney General Brownell or possibly Governor Dewey might be under consideration.
Can you shed any light on this situation for us?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will tell you exactly my attitude toward the thing. Now, I wouldn't use the word "always" and "without exception." I don't mean that when I announce or give a policy such as I described to you people. I prefer to get people who are now sitting Federal judges, or sitting on State supreme courts. That is where we got Mr. Brennan, as you will recall, from the State Supreme Court of New Jersey.
Now, there could be, of course, the selection of a man who was a practicing lawyer. But as far as I am concerned, it would have to be a very unusual circumstance and a man who enjoyed in the United States a reputation in the law something like the late John W. Davis, Elihu Root, or someone of that character. I have told you time and time again this is one place where I do not consider political affiliations or anything else, except the criteria I gave you before.
Q. Charles S. von Fremd, CBS News: Mr. President, do you think that the visit of King Saud to this country, and your talks with him, have been successful?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, "successful," of course, is a word that you have got to apply to a specific case. I think there has been much of the underbrush of misunderstanding cleared away by his visit.
I firmly believe that a better understanding exists between his government and ours as the result of the visit, and I think that our progress in keeping a peaceful and maybe even eventually a united Mid-East has been advanced by his coming here.
I might add in that connection that I saw yesterday the Crown Prince of Iraq, and this morning I am seeing Mr. Malik, and I am grateful for their reasonable attitude and, for a matter of fact, for their support of the efforts the United States is trying to make to keep peace in the area.
Q. William McGaffin, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, sir, the United States has been lagging on oil deliveries to Western Europe, one reason being that the Texas Control Board has not okayed a step-up in production in Texas. According to latest reports, Great Britain is down to about two weeks' oil supply. In view of the threat which that represents to her economy, do you plan, sir, to do anything about the situation?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, there are certain powers given to the President where he could move into the whole field of State proration. I think the Federal Government should not disturb the economy of our country except when it has to.
On the other hand, I believe that the business concerns of our country, the people that operate the tanker lines, the people that produce the oil, and all other agencies, including those of the proration boards, should consider where do our long-term interests lie. Certainly they demand a Europe that is not flat on its back economically.
So I think that our oil deliveries to Europe must be equal to all of the capacity of the transportation facilities that we have.
There is some oil, as you know, coming through what is called the TAPline. There is some oil that is coming around the cape. There is some coming from Venezuela, and there is some from ourselves.
Now, all of this oil must flow in such a quantity as to fill up every tanker we have operating at maximum capacity. And if that doesn't occur, then we must do something in the way, first, I should say, of conference and argument and, if necessary, we would have to move in some other region or some other direction, either with our own facilities or with others. But it must be done. We must not allow Europe to go flat on its back for the want of oil, if the oil can be provided.
Q. Carleton Kent, Chicago Sun-Times: Do you have any feeling that prolonged consideration of your Middle East doctrine in the Senate would impair its effectiveness?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, as I pointed out, time is important in this area because we know of certain developments going on that are not certainly in our best interests.
On the other hand, I certainly have never quarreled with the right of the Congress of the United States to examine every proposal seriously, earnestly and dig to the bottom of it, and contemplate its possible effects.
Now, I do deplore any kind of delay that is just for the sake of delay. That I would deplore if it occurred.
Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, a Senate Armed Services subcommittee has reported that the United States has never been more vulnerable to Soviet attack than now. Would you please give us your views as to the relative military strength present and future of the United States and the Soviet Union?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, no one could quarrel too much with the very first part of your statement, because the progress in the building of big, fast bombers, and progress in production of missiles that have not yet, let's say, reached the range and accuracy that you would want, but in short range are very effective--the vulnerability of any nation is probably greater than it ever was, because one bomb today can do the damage of probably all that we dropped on Germany in World War II.
But when you come to the relative position of the United States, we have in all fields of the military activity developed our weapons, our weapons systems, our doctrine, our plans, and our equipment to the point that, I think, relatively we are in as good a position as we have ever been in time of peace. And I don't believe that that position by any manner of means is deteriorating at the rate that some people would have you think.
Q. Martin S. Hayden, Detroit News: Mr. President, in both your state of the Union message and in the--Hayden of the Detroit News.
THE PRESIDENT. And in the what?
Q. Mr. Hayden: Hayden of Detroit News. I am trying to obey the rules.
THE PRESIDENT. O. K.
Q. Mr. Hayden: In two messages you have pointed out the danger to the economy if business takes undue profits or if labor demands too much wages.
In connection with the oil industry, as a result of the Suez crisis, the oil industry says that it has to increase prices, and many of them have. Has it come to your attention as to whether this is justified or an undue increase?
THE PRESIDENT. I haven't seen that study, and Arthur Flemming has not yet reported to me what are the real reasons for that rise.
Now, when I said business and labor must discharge their responsibilities and exercise their authority in conformity with the needs of the United States, I wasn't merely asking them to be altruistic by any manner of means. Their own long-term good is involved, and I am asking them merely to act as enlightened Americans.
Now, unless this happens, United States then has to move in more firmly with so-called controls of some kind, and when we begin to control prices and allocations and wages, and all the rest, then it is not the America we know.
Now, the reason that I am so concerned about all this is that I believe any intelligent man can see the direction we will have to go, unless there is some wisdom exercised not only in government but throughout the whole economy.
Q. Sarah McClendon, Longview News and Journal: Sir, there is quite a controversy that has developed over this matter of educational television channels which were assigned to schools and colleges, which some commercial enterprises want to take away and have reassigned to them.
I wonder if you think we should leave these educational channels with the schools and colleges, for their development.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have not had a recent study presented to me on this question; but speaking only from what I believe to be the eventual good of the United States, and not knowing as of now anything of many more channels being available through improvement of techniques and equipment, I would say we must preserve channels for educational purposes.
Q. Frank van der Linden, Nashville Banner: Your Senate leader, Mr. Knowland, has said he expects the Senate to pass a civil rights bill in the spring of this year. I wonder, did you personally urge your leaders in the House and Senate to try to pass this bill early in this session, to avoid a Southern filibuster?
THE PRESIDENT. The timing of such things I leave entirely to the leaders in Congress. I have said as emphatically as I know how, that I want a civil rights bill of the character that we recommended to the Congress. In it is nothing that is inimical to the interests of anyone. It is intended to preserve rights without arousing passions and without disturbing the rights of anybody else. I think it is a very decent and very needful piece of legislation.
Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: Last week, sir, you gave us a rather hopeful report about the state of the defenses of Western Europe. And now, this week Larry Norstad has given us a somewhat pessimistic view. My question is this: Are we wrong in being apprehensive about these impending British cuts in Western Europe, particularly in Germany, or did you get some assurance from Mr. Sandys, when you saw him, as to what they would actually do there?
THE PRESIDENT. I am sorry, but you are asking me questions where--in this case--where most of my conferences have been in a very secret field. What is now in the public domain I am not certain, and therefore, I have to tread a very careful path.
I am not aware of what General Norstad's remarks were, but I will say this: he visited me and was happy with his job, delighted to have it, believed that he could operate there effectively, and did not describe to me any situation in which he felt very pessimistic.
Now, of course, this is based upon the hope that soon some French forces will be returning from Algeria if they can settle this terrible question, and that Germany will proceed with the organization of its own divisions. The matter of Britain's exact intentions, I can't talk about, because, as far as I know, it is all in confidence.
Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, you conferred the other day with National Guard officials who said afterward they were still opposed to the idea of six months of active training. Do you see any prospect of that Pentagon order being modified, or any compromise in the picture on this thing?
THE PRESIDENT. As a matter of fact I talked this morning with the Secretary, the Chief of Staff, just as I talked with the National Guard a few days ago.
No one quarrels with the theory that every guardsman should have six months of good, solid, sound training. The only question that the guardsmen have, as I understand it, is, what will be the effect on the recruiting? What will be the effect on their strength?
And what I told them was this: that no matter how we went about the training of the Guard, that I would exert every bit of influence there is in the Presidency to prevent the Guard falling materially below its present strength.
Now, how this thing will work out, I do not know, but as I told you the other day, I am personally for a far better trained individual in the Guard because I believe it is money wasted if we don't have it. I don't mean the whole Guard's money is wasted. I mean, that individual is wasting money if he doesn't get this basic, sound training that is needed.
Q. Garnett D. Homer, Washington Star: Mr. President, referring to your mention earlier of the District of Columbia auditorium business, could you say now whether you have any preference for any one of the three sites that the Commission has endorsed as suitable, and could you say whether you approve a proposal under which the Federal Government would pay for the required land while the Commission raises the funds to build a building?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I can answer that only this way. They are coming this morning to give me the several arguments. believe there is about a dozen of them altogether. I think I am seeing them on my next appointment, and they will give me the several arguments both as to the site and to the sharing of expenses.
Q. Charles E. Shutt, Telenews: A moment ago, sir, you were discussing our defenses in connection with a possible Soviet attack. Could you give us the benefit of your thinking, sir, as to whether you think such an attack is possible, is about to take place?
THE PRESIDENT. Oh, for goodness sake, of course anything is possible in this world in which we live. The older you grow the more you will understand that.
But I say this: the likelihood of any nation, possessing these great weapons of massive destruction, [using them in an attack] grows less, I think, every year.1 I believe as their understanding of them grows, then the less the chance that they would go on an adventure that brought these things into play, because, as I see it, any such operation today is just another way of committing suicide.
1 Sentence corrected by direction of the White House immediately following the news conference to include the phrase in brackets.
Q. Peter Lisagor, Chicago Daily News: Dr. Albert Schweitzer is reported to have sent you a letter asking the United States to support France on the Algerian question. Can you tell us what your reaction to that letter has been?
THE PRESIDENT. I haven't seen any. If any letter has come in from Dr. Schweitzer, I don't want to--sometimes they take two or three days to reach my desk, but I haven't seen any. I don't know what he said. But I will say this: from my knowledge of Dr. Schweitzer, I think he is a very knowledgeable, wise man. I would like to see what his views are.
Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Yesterday Secretary Dulles indicated a new aspect in this tiresome but highly important question of American prisoners in Communist China, and the movement of American correspondents there. He said, he told us that in effect Peiping was saying that they would not release American prisoners until we let American reporters go in, and he said that he didn't think that this Administration should be a party to such a thing.
In point of fact, however, we have in the past actually ransomed for money people out--trapped--in Communist countries. My question is: Under the circumstances, is this in fact an immoral thing? Does it possibly have some aspects of a good deal? You might be able to get rid of some reporters.
THE PRESIDENT. I don't believe I would want to comment on the thing until I talked again to the Secretary of State. This is a new thought that has come in, a quid pro quo arrangement, and we have tried to keep this thing on the basic principle that people carried out their promises first, before you did anything else, had any further relations. But I will talk to him about it and see exactly what it is he is speaking of.
Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: This is another aspect of the civil fights matter. Governor Sherman Adams wrote to the Negro leaders in Montgomery several weeks ago that it wouldn't be possible for you at this time to make a speech in the South on the moral issues in the desegregation conflict, and as you know, some of them have been very disappointed at that. Could you tell us why it wouldn't be possible now?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think I have a pretty good and sizable agenda on my desk every day, and as you know, I insist on going for a bit of recreation every once in a while, and I do that because I think it is necessary to keep up to the state of fitness essential to this job.
Now, I have just got as much as I can do for the moment. And I will say this, however: I have expressed myself on this subject so often in the South, in the North, wherever I have been, that I don't know what another speech would do about the thing right now.
Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) Press Herald: Mr. President, Congressmen in relation to the National Guard controversy are suggesting that instead of six months the boys recruited into the Guard take three months in two successive summers. Would that meet your requirement of six months' good, hard training?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know how this thing will finally be settled. But as a military commander, if you will permit me to put on the uniform again momentarily, no, it wouldn't, for the simple reason, after three months of military exercises you have a man that is fit, he is up to the bit and he is ready to go on and take the more advanced training that he gets in the second three months. As he comes back at the end of a year, after that first three months, or comes back after nine months, he has softened up. You have to go through a lot of preliminary exercises again to get him ready.
I believe that six months' exercises, I would say this, in one batch--and I am talking now as a military commander--would be worth, certainly, nine months in two separate parts.
Q. William H. Lawrence, New York Times: Mr. President, there has been a good deal of talk, sir, about broadening the role of the Vice President in the executive branch during the second term, and would it be your view that these would be largely ceremonial such as the African trip that was announced yesterday, or do you have some specific either policy making or policy executing duties that he might undertake?
THE PRESIDENT. Of course, the role of a Vice President in an Administration is exactly what the President makes it. I happen to have very positive and particular views about the thing.
I believe that it is almost showing indifference to the welfare of the American people, unless you keep the Vice President aware of everything that is going on. Even if Mr. Nixon and I were not good friends, I would still have him in every important conference of Government, so that if the grim reaper would find it time to remove me from this scene, he is ready to step in without any interruption and, certainly, without being completely unaware of what is going on in the Government.
Now, I must object to one part of your question when you say that a trip to a foreign country is merely ceremonial. No man in this Nation can go to another, and particularly to a new one, and spend a few days there gathering impressions, seeing the people, without benefiting himself for better service to his own country. So while it is a ceremony, the purpose is not entirely ceremonial. That, I assure you.
Q. Andrew F. Tully, Jr., Scripps-Howard: Mr. President, sir, you have been quite active lately. I wonder if you could tell us if you feel as well these days as you did before your heart attack.
THE PRESIDENT. I feel as well, yes.
Q. Mr. Tully: As well?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, indeed.
Q. Charles W. Roberts, Newsweek: Mr. President, the appointment of Mr. Alcorn as Republican Chairman seems to be a step at remaking the party. I wonder what other plans you have during your second term for remaking the party, particularly with reference to the 1958 primaries and congressional elections.
THE PRESIDENT. In doing what to the party? I didn't quite get you.
Q. Mr. Roberts: In remaking or rebuilding the Republican Party.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have said time and again that I believe the Republican Party, as such, must look the world in the face today, determine what it needs, adapt its traditional principles to those needs, and support them in an enlightened and dynamic way.
Now, as far as I am concerned, that is what the Republican Party should be. I work for that in every way I know how, because I do believe that unless it carries on in what you might call this, a forward-looking way, but with the definite resolution and determination to preserve the basic principles of diffusion of governmental power, of sound fiscal policies and a sound dollar, in the long run it is not worthy of being where it is.
Now, the methods that will be used, I would use any method that is honorable to get more people enlisted under that banner.
Q. Mr. Roberts: Would that extend, sir, to the selection or helping select candidates for the coming elections?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't interfere in that.
Q. Ray L. Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: Is it your impression that King Saud will now undertake to explain your Middle East doctrine to the other countries of the Middle East in a favorable light?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know. The King has assured me of his friendliness toward this Government, his understanding of what we are trying to do, and I believe I have--maybe, as I have read in the paper--that he is going to see his associates in a conference when he goes back.
Q. Hazel Markel, National Broadcasting Company: There was a report out of London last night, I believe, that you perhaps would meet with the British Prime Minister in Bermuda, in the near future. Can you tell us anything about that?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, Miss Markel, I would like to tell you every detail of these, but as I have said before, until there is complete agreement between our countries as to the time and place of meetings, I don't say a word about them. So if it came out of London, why, they must know something in its exact form that I am not quite sure of. But then is when I announce it, and I can't do it before then.
Q. Ruth S. Montgomery, International News Service: Mrs. Wilson was a little upset last week by your mild rebuke of her husband. Are you a little upset by her mild rebuke of you? [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. I think I am too old a campaigner to be bothered by many things.
Q. S. Douglass Cater, Jr., Reporter Magazine: In regard to Israel, you indicated that we would support the United Nations, but then when I referred to the fact that certain of the infringements on Israel's sovereignty had been violated, you said the United Nations had not done anything about it.
THE PRESIDENT. No, we were talking about the passage of Israel's ships through the canal.
Q. Mr. Cater: Yes. Well, this would be a violation of Israel's sovereignty, as I understand it.
THE PRESIDENT. No, it is a violation of the 1888 Treaty.
Q. Mr. Cater: Well, I'm sorry. This has been the criticism, that the United Nations which is a composite of the actions of the nations, has not tended to protect the rights of Israel, and I wondered if there is anything we can do to assure that we believe that the United States, in all of these conferences that be able to do this, if they do withdraw their troops.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, now, I would hope no one here would believe that the United States, in all of these conferences that take place in what we call the final settlement of basic troubles in the region, is not trying to protect and assure the rights of all in every respect, and is not trying merely to get some formula that would just stop fighting for the moment.
The whole gamut of complaints must be looked at, studied, and they must be satisfied, if we are going to have permanent peace, and the United States is interested in that.
Merriman Smith, United Press: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and second news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:32 to 11:02 o'clock on Wednesday morning, February 6, 1957. In attendance: 215.
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/234089