Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

July 17, 1957

THE PRESIDENT. Please sit down. I have no announcements.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, since you have had an opportunity to discuss your civil rights program with Attorney General Brownell, are you aware that under laws dating back to the Reconstruction era, that you now have the authority to use military force to put through the school integration in the South, and are you aware, too, sir, that part 3 of your current bill carries this forward from the Reconstruction era?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, first of all, lawyers have differed about some of these authorities of which you speak, but I have been informed by various lawyers that that power does exist. But I want to say this: I can't imagine any set of circumstances that would ever induce me to send Federal troops into a Federal court and into any area to enforce the orders of a Federal court, because I believe that common sense of America will never require it.

Now, there may be that kind of authority resting somewhere, but certainly I am not seeking any additional authority of that kind, and I would never believe that it would be a wise thing to do in this country.

Q. Louis R. Lautier, National Negro Press: Mr. President, I wonder if you would give us the benefit of your thinking on enforcement of the fourteenth, as well as the fifteenth amendment, with respect to civil rights.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you are asking me to become something of a lawyer in a very short order here, but I will.

As for the moment, I have announced time and again the objectives I am seeking in civil rights, and the means that I want from the Legislature in order that everybody will know where they stand, and it can proceed in an orderly manner.

I issued a little statement last evening, republishing what the objectives are. The matter is now, as you know, under debate in the Senate, and I think that for the moment the best thing to do is for most of us to let them do the debating, and we will see what comes out. I am very hopeful that a reasonable, acceptable bill will come out.

Q. William S. White, New York Times: A little bit further on civil rights, please, sir, specifically there is a bipartisan amendment in the Senate put in last night by Senators Aiken and Anderson which would take out of the bill all injunctive power except to deal directly with the right to vote, and I would like to ask you, sir, if you would comment on how you would look at a bill if it ultimately came out with only the voting right protected by injunction.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think the voting fight is something that should be emphasized. Certainly I have emphasized it from the beginning. If in every locality every person otherwise qualified, or qualified under the laws of the State to vote, is permitted to vote, he has got a means of taking care of himself and his group, his class. He has got a means of getting what he wants in democratic government, and that is the one on which I place the greatest emphasis.

Now I am not going to discuss these amendments in detail as they come up because it would be endless. I do say that I follow the debates in the Senate with the greatest of interest, and we will see what comes out. And then I hope it will be--and, as I say, I believe it will be--a satisfactory bill.

Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, yesterday in commenting on the latest scramble in the Kremlin, Secretary Dulles used the terms "flexible modernists seem to have"--I think I am being literal--"seeming to have won out over iron rod fundamentalists." You add to that the fact that another man in ascendency is one with whom you had close contacts and respect during the war, Marshal Zhukov, and you get what could be apparently an encouraging situation.

My question is, sir, whether you think this Kremlin leadership is indeed somewhat more flexible, and if so, would you consider sometime in the future inviting one or two of them to the United States?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it is a rather long and involved question, but I think I can get at it fairly simply in this way: Certainly, the changes in the Kremlin are the result of some fundamental pressures within the country. Now, apparently the group that went out were those that were, could be called, the traditionalists. They were the hard core of the old Bolshevik doctrine, whereas those that stayed and seem now to be in the ascendancy are apparently those who have been responsible for decentralization of industrial control, all that sort of thing. Therefore, the idea that they are trying to be flexible to meet the demands, the aspirations, requirements of their people, I think seems to be sound.

Now, you referred to General Zhukov, and I must say that during the years that I knew him I had a most satisfactory acquaintanceship and friendship with him. I think he was a confirmed Communist.

We had many long discussions about our respective doctrines. I think one evening we had a three-hour conversation. We tried, each to explain to the other just what our systems meant, our two systems meant, to the individual, and I was very hard put to it when he insisted that their system appealed to the idealistic, and we completely to the materialistic. And I had a very tough time trying to defend our position, because he said: "You tell a person he can do as he pleases, he can act as he pleases, he can do anything. Everything that is selfish in man you appeal to him and we tell him that he must sacrifice for the state." He said, "We have a very hard program to sell." So what I am getting at is, I believe he was very honestly convinced of the soundness of their doctrine and was an honest man.

Now, since that time I have had very little contact with him, meeting him only in Geneva, as you know; so merely because he is there would not in itself create a reason for a meeting between us of any kind although, as I say, there is a history of past good cooperative effort between us in Berlin.

Q. William H. Lawrence, New York Times: The Girard case decision has stirred a move in the House to add a resolution to the mutual security bill, outlawing or nullifying the Status of Forces agreements. If this were adopted, what would be its effect on our system of alliances and our whole defense posture, in your view?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Lawrence, for some six or seven years now I have been actively engaged first in trying to get the Status of Forces Treaties recognized and accepted by all the nations involved, and since then in supporting them. They are absolutely essential to the system of alliances we have now, and without them those alliances will fall to pieces, because we would be compelled to bring our soldiers home.

Now, I have made my position clear about the importance of these treaties. I have made them clear to the leaders of both sides in the Senate and the House of Representatives, and I must say in both places I have run only into good understanding and, so far as I can see, the certainty of support of that idea for the welfare of America.

I believe that in this system of alliances we have, which gives rise to our program of mutual security assistance, that in that thing rests today the security of the United States of America. I believe it with my whole heart. I have given a great deal of my life to the theory.

When I left Columbia University, and went back merely because I believed in this and not because it was any attractive post at the moment--on the contrary, it was a very severe and exacting post in SHAPE. I think that if the United States could only understand that we are dealing with sovereign nations whose prides, whose traditions, whose whole attitude toward their own sovereign rights is just as strong as in our own country, and that these are people that we are trying to win as friends and keep as friends. We are not trying to dominate. We are not trying to establish a new system of international imperialism of some kind.

We are hanging together because we are equals and friends and believe in the same things, and out of that comes this mutual security program, the Status of Forces Treaties. And I think that a single incident like the Girard has been whipped up into a size completely out of proportion to its importance, because I think there has been a total, since these have been in effect, of 30,000 cases that involved a decision as between our Government and some other as to the disposition of the man, and this is the first time that anything of this kind has attracted such public attention.

Q. Peter Lisagor, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, Secretary Dulles yesterday disclosed that consideration is being given to a plan for establishing nuclear stockpiles of weapons and fissionable materials for NATO powers. Now if one of our purposes in the disarmament talks is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to a fourth power, or to other powers, can you tell us what the logic is of establishing a stockpile in which 15 other nations will have nuclear weapons?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think that it is exactly logical, because if you are going to defend yourselves against nuclear attack, then all of those people attacked ought to have the right, the opportunity, and the capability of responding in kind.

Now when you talk about the fourth country manufacturing, this kind of a system would make it unnecessary for others to manufacture, and you wouldn't have every country spending its resources and its attention to building of these weapons and creating a situation which, everybody acting independently, could be very dangerous.

Now I don't know what he told you about a plan. What we have just been doing is studying means and methods of making NATO effective as a defensive organization. This means they must be armed properly. Now that is all there is to that. There is no specific program laid down at this minute by which are taking place all these things that you mentioned.

Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: In view of the overwhelming importance of science to modern life, it has been suggested that a scientist be given a policy position, either in the Cabinet or on the White House staff, something like the role that Gabriel Hauge plays in economics. Have you given any thought to such a proposal?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, no. We have got the National Science Foundation, you know, and Dr. Waterman and Dr. Bronk are always available to me for instant consultation. Then, of course, we have our scientists in the AEC and Defense Department and other places. It hadn't occurred to me to have one right in my office, but now that you have mentioned it I will think about it.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, is it not inconsistent on the part of the Administration to oppose letting FBI statements be used by the defense attorneys in a trial, and yet in the Girard case, taking a statement derogatory to Girard that was given for use in the trial, and making it public, and giving it to the courts before a trial is really in progress?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you get a little bit involved here for me. But, now, in the first place, there has been always, it is reported to me, a willingness on the part of the Justice Department to give specific papers out of the FBI files to the defense, if the defense can show or say that they have reason to believe that their statements made before a trial are different from what a man made in the past, and the statements he made in the past are on file there in the FBI, then I believe they have always made it a practice of making that particular paper available.

What they have opposed is the widespread opening of the FBI files. In any one file in the FBI records, fifteen people may be mentioned, some of them only once and in most derogatory fashion, because somebody that didn't like a man in a little village can say, "Well, he is a skunk," or worse, and it will be down there in the report submitted by the individual.

You could do incalculable damage, to my mind, just by opening up the FBI files. It would be terrible.

Now, as far as putting out information that might have been derogatory or might have been derogatory to Girard's chances in his trial, we did our very best to avoid putting out anything. And you will recall that one of the times here I said I would not discuss this in detail because I am not going to say anything that would be harmful to this boy when he has a trial. But, finally, our Government officials had to appear before a lower court and then before the Supreme Court to get the authority to follow the provisions of the treaty, so I imagine that through that process certain information came out that otherwise would never have come out.

Q. Richard L. Wilson, Cowles Publications: Mr. President, I would like to ask you another question, sir, on Marshal Zhukov. He is the Defense Minister of the Soviet Union. Do you think an exchange of visits between him and the Defense Secretary Wilson would serve a useful purpose?

THE PRESIDENT. It might. You know, I should like to make this clear again. There is nothing that I wouldn't try experimentally in order to bring about better relationships as long as we observe this one very necessary caution, which is, you must not have meetings that, by their very holding, or by their very occurrence, give rise to great hopes which, if unrealized, create a great wave of pessimism.

I know of nothing that has occurred in our time where greater optimism, or enthusiasm almost, must be maintained in the work itself to carry it forward, than in this whole business of beginning disarmament, of relieving tensions in the world.

The alternative is so terrible that you can merely say this: all the risks you take in advancing or in trying to advance are as nothing compared to doing nothing, to sitting on your hands.

Q. Frank van der Linden, Nashville Banner: Mr. President, sir, the southern Congressmen who voted against your civil rights bill sent you a letter Monday in effect asking you to accept some [p.553] amendments toning it down, and you issued a statement yesterday which stood by all four points of it. I wondered if that statement was in effect a rejection of that request or

THE PRESIDENT. Not at all. As a matter of fact, I haven't had a chance yet to read the letter thoroughly. It has just come to my desk, and it is apparently a personal letter couched in very reasonable and proper language, and I expect this afternoon sometime to get to read it in detail.

Now I hadn't gotten far enough to see that they recommended changes. The part of it I read supported the theory that there were possibilities under the language, particularly of section 3 I believe it is, as now written, that could open up great dangers, and they hoped that that would be closed.

Q. John Scali, Associated Press: Mr. President, there have been reports from London, sir, to the effect that there might be a recess in the negotiations there because some representatives seem to be discouraged at Russia's unwillingness to make any substantial concessions to back up their earlier offers. Could you tell us your view on this?

THE PRESIDENT. I would be against any recess that was merely occasioned by someone getting tired. Now, once in a while, as new ideas come forward it is necessary to have a recess so that each of these delegations can go and, with their own governments, study them in detail, their implications, their meanings, and so on. But a recess merely because people are tired and a bit discouraged is the very kind of thing that I oppose with all my might. We simply must not get discouraged in the work and in the process.

Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: Mr. President, for many years, indeed for some generations, there has been a controversy about the disposition of Presidential papers. In some cases Presidents or their families have bottled up the papers for sometimes 50 or 100 years. In other cases, members of the Cabinet have taken many papers away and exploited them for their own purposes.

My question, sir, is whether this is a subject that you have given some thought to, and whether there are any ground rules which [p.554] you have laid down for the orderly use of these papers in the future.

THE PRESIDENT. Only this, Mr. Reston: I have told the entire staff that in my opinion anything that dealt with the official operations, attitudes of this Government, that that belonged to the public, and that that should go to some proper repository.

Actually the State of Kansas has appropriated some money for buying ground and I believe for making designs; and a group of friends, I think, are engaged in the preliminaries of getting a library established in the town where I was raised. Now everything that is other than personal goes there. Now the personal, I would like to keep during my lifetime. And then as far as I am concerned the same repository can have them, because they will be just a burden. After all, they fill a room this size, file cases accumulated over the years. So far as I am concerned, the whole thing is open.

Now, I think I would ask the executor of such a library that if by any chance I have in letters spoken disparagingly of someone still alive, I would hope that they would keep that particular letter secret until that other person was gone from the scene, too. In other words, I don't think that even after a man is gone that his thoughts and ideas that could create nothing but dissension and quarrels should be opened until they can't do any damage.

Q. Mr. Reston: Could I clarify one point about Mr. Morgan's question on General Zhukov?


Q. Mr. Reston: Do you want to leave the inference that it is difficult to defend the proposition that democracy is a more idealistic system than communism?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I said this: I said when you are talking with the Communists you find it is a little difficult, for the simple reason that you say a man can earn what he pleases, save what he pleases, buy what he pleases with that. Now, I believe this, because I believe in the power for good of, you might say, the integrated forces developed by 170 million free people.

But he says that "We say to the man 'you can't have those things. You have to give them to the state,'" and this is idealistic because they ask these people to believe that their greatest satisfaction in life is in sacrificing for the state, giving to the state. In other words, he takes the attitude that they don't force this contribution, they are teaching a people to support that contribution.

So, when you run up against that kind of thing--look, Mr. Reston, I think you could run into people you would have a hard time convincing that the sun is hot and the earth is round. I don't say that I don't believe it. I am merely saying that against that kind of a belief you run against arguments that almost leave you breathless, you don't know how to meet them.

Q. John M. Hightower, Associated Press: Mr. President, could you tell us what is the status of the consideration of this atomic stockpile for the NATO allies? Is it something which is still simply an idea, or is it something which is in the process of negotiation?

THE PRESIDENT. NO, I don't think I care to say anything further about it, except this: for a long time we have tried to be completely open with our NATO allies to make them partners. Now, on the other hand, we have laws, and those laws have to be obeyed, and sometimes those laws will not permit arrangements in time of peace that would be quite as full as you would otherwise make.

Q. Rowland Evans, Jr., New York Herald Tribune: Following Mr. White's question earlier, sir, are you convinced that it would be a wise extension of Federal power at this stage to permit the Attorney General to bring suits on his own motion, to enforce school integration in the South?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, no; I have--as a matter of fact, as you state it that way, on his own motion, without any request from local authorities, I suppose is what you are talking about.

Q. Mr. Evans: Yes, sir. I think that that is what the bill would do, part 3. [p.556]

THE PRESIDENT. Well, in that, we will see what they agree on. As a matter of fact, my own purposes are reflected again in the little memorandum I published last evening, and I am not trying to go further than that.

I personally believe if you try to go too far too fast in laws in this delicate field that has involved the emotions of so many millions of Americans, you are making a mistake. I believe we have got to have laws that go along with education and understanding, and I believe if you go beyond that at any one time, you cause trouble rather than benefit.

Q. Mr. Evans: May I ask one more question on that? Then, if you amended that to allow the Attorney General to move only in case a local or State official requested the Attorney General's assistance, you would accept a thing like that?

THE PRESIDENT. I am not going to say what I would accept and what I would reject. I'm just saying I told you what my objectives are, why I'm trying to do it. Now we will see what the Senate brings out.

Q. Lillian Levy, National Jewish Post: How much do you think, sir, Soviet influence in Syria and Egypt and the shipment of Soviet arms to these countries have contributed to the recently renewed tensions in the Middle East?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you say "recently renewed tensions." There has been some outbreak of border incidents, but I think that it is not necessarily true that they are generally increased tensions. As a matter of fact, I think there is some indication that both sides were quite ready to stop these.

Now, I do say, at the same time, answering the other part of your question, that the shipping of Soviet arms and support into these areas cannot possibly contribute to peace and the lessening of tensions. It must have the opposite effect.

Q. Rod MacLeish, Westinghouse Broadcasting: Sir, yesterday it was announced there would be a 100,000-man cut in our Armed Forces over the next six months. I wondered if this decision had [p.557] any external significance, that is, in relation to the Disarmament Conference in London, where things seem to be going in a rather discouraging vein at the moment.

THE PRESIDENT. No. In getting as perfectly balanced military program as you can in this day and time, and with all of the conflicting considerations that enter into it, both the Secretary and I believe that we have been a little stronger in manpower than is necessary.

Now, just exactly what that manpower is--the level--is a matter of experimentation step by step. We believe that combat units should be streamlined, that headquarters should be greatly reduced in strength, that certain of our logistical arrangements can be revamped to save men, and we simply believe we have been a little bit too strong in men.

Q. Charles S. von Fremd, CBS News: Referring to your tentative vacation plans, is it your intention to remain in Washington until the Senate has finished its debate, or might you go to Newport after the House finishes its work?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think if the House once takes a recess, so that the only legislative activity here is the debate in the Senate, that there would be no official reason why I shouldn't go as far as Newport, where I am only an hour and a half or an hour and forty minutes away anyway, and, of course, with perfect communication which you find on a military base.

In addition to that, I find, apparently, that my view on that must be rather strenuously supported by a number of newspapermen, in view of the questions that have been going to Mr. Hagerty. [Laughter]

Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: Mr. President, I understand that tomorrow Secretary Dulles is meeting with some newspaper representatives about the matter of coverage of the news in Red China. Can you tell us if you now favor letting American reporters in there? I am thinking particularly of full coverage rather than limited. [p.558]

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think I will say anything about it until after that conference they have tomorrow.

Q. Kenneth M. Scheibel, Gannett Newspapers: Mr. President, have you made any assessment yet of the effects of the steel price increase relative to the question of controls?

THE PRESIDENT. No. As I told you last week, the economic people believe that if there can be some absorption of the increase of prices by the processors, and possibly even some resistance by the buying public, it may not have as much effect as we fear.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post: Mr. President, is your statement, sir, that a visit by Marshal Zhukov might be useful, based on your personal acquaintance with him, or the fact that he is Defense Minister, or a belief that the Red army now has a new role in the Soviet Union as a political force?

THE PRESIDENT. No. The question was whether meetings between the two Defense Ministers might bring about something. I said, and, of course, it well might, because what you are constantly testing are statements, and then the extent to which those statements are trustworthy, carried out and supported by deeds and actions that are provable.

Now, as I say, at one time, I repeat, Marshal Zhukov and I operated together very closely. I couldn't see any harm coming from a meeting between the two Defense Ministers, if that could be arranged.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and sixteenth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:33 to 11:04 o'clock on Wednesday morning, July 17, 1957. In attendance: 221.

For statement on objectives of the civil rights bill, referred to throughout the conference, see Item 133 above.

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/233359

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