Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

April 25, 1956

THE PRESIDENT. Please be seated. We will go right to questions.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, the Communist leader Khrushchev in London says that Russia will soon have guided missiles with H-bomb warheads capable of hitting every point or any point in the world. Now, Governor Stassen last night in London talked with Mr. Khrushchev on disarmament issues, and Mr. Stassen said he was sending you an immediate report.

I wonder if you could tell us first, sir, how you evaluate the Khrushchev statement, and second, have you heard from Governor Stassen?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will answer it in reverse order because I know the exact answer. Yes, I heard from Governor Stassen, had his report this morning, which is long enough to require more study than I have been able to give it before I would want to comment on it at any length.

Now, I know of no reason why the Soviets should be making misstatements in this field, and certainly I don't accuse them of any such thing. But I do want to point out there is a very, very long distance between a laboratory capacity or capability of doing something and making an instrument, a really efficient, effective instrument of war.

These instruments are, of course, very expensive, require elaborate guiding equipment, and we know how expensive these things are when you put them on airplanes. So it is not a simple matter that we are talking about when we are talking about these things that are useful in the event of war.

Q. Ray L. Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, could you give us any specific views on how NATO might be broadened politically and economically?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, no, I couldn't give you specifically, Mr. Scherer, for this reason: here is something that I have been interested in for the past 4 or 5 years, and I have always believed that a greater usefulness was inherent in the organization that was established by the NATO nations than was to be represented merely in its usefulness as a military organization. Now, the Secretary of State, at the meeting just within a few days--the NATO meeting--is going to make certain proposals, and they will be there discussed, and if there is any agreement among the NATO nations, why, then, it will be published.

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, could you amplify your thought of Saturday night about the board of rotating members on foreign aid and foreign policy?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I wasn't talking so much of foreign policy in its, you might say, theoretical or abstract sense as I was on foreign aid of all kinds, because here is such a big field.

I am not ready to amplify it particularly, Mr. Brandt, for this reason: there are a number of people that have had ideas in this field, and I am trying to correlate them, get them together and see if we are all thinking along the same lines. I do believe that we need a more disinterested, let us call it bipartisan, or unpartisan, or whatever you want to call it, study of these very major problems.

Officials, whether elected or appointed, or whether in Congress or in executive departments, are busy. They are always busy trying to get their desks cleared for the day. There is very little time in Government, as you know, for thinking, for contemplating, for pondering, and that has to be done.

Q. Mr. Brandt: May I ask another question? Will that be in time for this present session to help your recommendations?

THE PRESIDENT. I wouldn't think that you could do anything like this hurriedly. I believe if we get such a thing established, I would like to do it with the greatest possible cooperation of everybody that has an interest in the Government. And I believe it will take quite a while before we have it.

Q. Mr. Brandt: Have you got any reports from Congress that your bill is in good shape?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't put in a bill. Oh, you mean the foreign aid?

Q. Mr. Brandt: The foreign aid.

THE PRESIDENT. Oh. Well, all I get are reports that they are studying it. There is some opposition, always is. And there are some people supporting it. Some people of course think that we are being far too meager in what we're proposing. So just how it will come out, I wouldn't predict at this moment.

Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, Khrushchev and Bulganin indicated the other day that they would like to pay a visit to this country some time after the election. Can you tell us how you feel about this idea of their coming to the United States?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I didn't note that, and so I haven't made any formed conclusions on it. I wouldn't want to be quoted as meaning that I couldn't change my mind, but as of this moment, I see no useful purpose to be served.

I think that the particular issues in which there should be some agreement are well understood. They were thoroughly discussed at Geneva. They were discussed by the foreign ministers in October last, and I think until there is some new idea brought forward, there will be very little use of repeating such a visit.

Q. Carleton Kent, Chicago Sun-Times: Mr. President, have you formed any conclusion on the suggestion that the United States and her allies distribute foreign aid through the United Nations? If so, could you discuss it for a minute?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the United States has always been, I think, by far the biggest contributor to important matters of this kind in the United Nations. I believe we have put in 50 percent, at least, of the money that has gone into the technical assistance program of the United Nations, and I think we pay 60 percent of the freight in the child welfare program.

We would be very happy to see the United Nations take a bigger and firmer hold and get more nations that are capable of contributing, more nations into the thing, if for no other reason than to make certain there was no political purpose behind it.

In the meantime, we are constantly studying our own methods to see how we can promote mutuality of interests and not merely be in the position of attempting to dictate or to bribe somebody.

Far from seeing anything against it, I would be in favor of seeing the United Nations take a more active interest in this business.

Q. David P. Sentner, Hearst Newspapers: Mr. President, would you care to comment on the revised highway bill which is about to be taken up by the House?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I can't comment on it too much, because while I talked about it yesterday, I am not sufficiently aware of all its details to discuss it at any great length.

Anyway, I rarely discuss details of legislation until I finally see it in its finished form. I have learned that a bill that comes out of Congress often bears little resemblance to the way it went in. But I still stick to this one thing: we need highways badly, very badly, and I am in favor of any forward, constructive step in this field.

Q. Charles S. von Fremd, CBS News: Mr. President, many Republicans on Capitol Hill are now saying openly that they think the Democratic-controlled Congress is a do-nothing Congress. Are you beginning to agree with them in this?

THE PRESIDENT. I have never indulged in that kind of talk. People that are accustomed to partisan bickerings, why, I suppose they have things they want to say. As far as I am concerned, I don't challenge anybody else's motives. I want to get results through thrashing out things on the anvil of logic and good sense, what is good for America. That is my sole purpose. I am not going to challenge anybody else's motives.

Q. William H. Lawrence, New York Times: Some time ago, Mr. President, you told us that you had asked Vice President Nixon to chart his own course and then report back to you. Has he done this?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, he hasn't reported back in the terms in which I used the expression that morning, no.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Mr. President, I wonder if you think it is quite fair to give price support to corn farmers when they are not under the limitations of acreage controls, and not do the same thing for the cotton farmer or the wheat farmer.

THE PRESIDENT. One thing that made the corn farmer considerably different from others was the fact that the high supports of wheat and the low supports on corn finally had the corn market in almost a debacle, because there were so few farmers really participating.

Now, trying to handle agriculture across the board, the administration proposed, as you know, a 9-point program last January. They have been working very hard to get it through. Failing to get that bill, and particularly in time to do any good now, we had to take measures that we would be far from recommending as an all-time or a permanent thing, but we had to take measures that did recognize the situation which agriculture and its important parts had reached.

Q. Charles E. Shutt, Telenews: It has been suggested, sir, that a possible Summit conference might effect a settlement, a peaceful one, in the Mid-East. Do you think that would be a good idea, and would you be willing to participate in such a meeting, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, first of all, I repeat what I have said so many times. Where I think it would promote peace, I will meet with anybody and practically anywhere, as long as it is in keeping with the dignity and the self-respect of this country.

Now, I don't know among whom this Summit conference that you speak of is supposed to take place. Was it to be the head of Israel and the head of Egypt and Britain and a few more that are interested in the area, or who was it?

Q. Mr. Shutt: France and Russia and the United States included, sir, including Russia on the basis that of some--

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will only say this: in all such proposals, as always, you have to take a look at all the details that are placed before you, what is the purpose, what is the way in which people are coming there; if you think it would be a useful thing, then, of course, I would always do it. But I would have to be convinced it were useful.

Q. Ruth Montgomery, International News Service: Mr. President, Democratic strategists here last weekend decided that from now on they were going to make you the direct target of all their attacks instead of members of your Cabinet. Do you have any comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think it is perfectly correct. I am the head of the administration, and I have been shot at before. [Laughter]

Q. Rowland Evans, New York Herald Tribune: Back on missiles for a second, sir, could you tell us, one, whether you think it is very important that the United States achieve an accurate long-range missile before the Soviet Union; and two, if you do think that is important, could you tell us why?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, frankly, one of the great reasons is psychological in this field. We have been very busy, the whole world, in developing weapons of very great destruction. One of them is the great, fast bomber, armed with these new types of explosive weapons and flying at such heights and such speeds that interception is very, very difficult indeed.

So there has developed a great power for destruction that as long as both sides have it probably tends to work as a deterrent both ways. When you bring in the guided missile, you bring it in as a reinforcement to a capacity that exists. You can make your own judgment whether it exists in sufficient force, but it does exist. So the guided missile, then, would be to reinforce that capacity for destruction.

Now, I do believe this: you can scarcely overemphasize the psychological value of such a weapon, because it has sort of a terrifying, let us say, result upon the human mind to think of something flying off through space at several times the speed of sound and at tremendous altitudes, and coming down then with these great hydrogen bomb bursts. It would be a terrific thing. But as I pointed out, those things are not simple. They are very expensive, and it will take a long time to produce them, even after the secret is first achieved.

Q. Mr. Evans: Could I ask one more question?


Q. Mr. Evans: Do you still say as you did in February that the United States is making the maximum effort? There are Democrats who say we are not.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am sorry you said "Democrats." There are lots of people saying we are not. [Laughter] But there are only so many scientists, there are only so many facilities, and you get to a point where mere expenditure of money in a field like this does no good. My own conviction, supported by that of many, many experts, is that in this field we are somewhere certainly around the limit.

Now, no man, I believe, in the world would say by just doing one thing more somebody out in the woods might find out something, but as far as the employment of the best scientists in several different areas, in several different groupments, is concerned, we are working at top speed on this whole thing.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) Press Herald: Mr. President, Mr. Stevenson and one of the members of the Atomic Energy Commission have suggested that the United States should halt its tests of the H-bomb. Would you comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I usually ask you people not to quote someone else when you want me to talk, because I don't comment on somebody else's opinion. They are entitled to their own opinions. But I do want to point this out: it is a little bit of a paradox to urge that we work just as hard as we know how on the guided missile and that we stop all research on the hydrogen bomb, because one without the other is rather useless. So we go ahead with this hydrogen bomb--not to make a bigger bang, not to cause more destruction--to find out ways and means in which you can limit it, make it useful in defensive purposes, of shooting against a fleet of airplanes that are coming over, to reduce fallout, to make it more of a military weapon and less one just of mass destruction.

We know we can make them big. We are not interested in that any more. So this whole thing goes together: the guided missile, with an expensive thing that is a one-shot thing, is really effective because it has a tremendous blow when it gets to the end of it. So if you don't work on one and get the right kind of explosive to use there, why work on the other?

So I think research without test is perfectly useless, a waste of money. And, goodness knows, I don't want to do this. If the world would allow us to put the money in schools and all the rest of the things, we all know what would result, the great benefit of mankind. But as long as we have to do it, let's do it right as best we know how.

Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, you seemed to be so much more at home in your off-the-cuff remarks to the editors the other night than in your prepared speech that I dare to ask this question:

Have you had time to ponder the problems of communicating Government purpose and policy to the ordinary citizen? Official statements always seem to have to be so general. Mr. Dulles said the other day that it is time to raise NATO to the totality of its meaning. Democrats undoubtedly could furnish similar vague statements on their side.

Have you any suggestions as to how to improve political semantics?

THE PRESIDENT. You know, you must stick to small words when you're talking to me. [Laughter]

The reason that I made my off-the-cuff talk was to try to convey to editors, to the press in general, to all media of mass communications, that there is a terrific responsibility resting on everybody in this country, not merely on Government, not merely on the President, or not merely on the Congress.

If a nation is going to lead, I point out again, it is absolutely impossible for the individual to delegate his responsibilities in the field to political figures, even the most trusted. We must know, because a policy doesn't become translated into national leadership until the nation is truly leading.

Now, the nation expresses itself through its elected heads and through its Congress, and so on, but we need an understanding in this country of what is going on in the world, what are the troubles, what are the difficulties, why can't we make better progress?

I'd put it this way: I know of nothing more important than that the United States gain a constantly improving understanding of what are the main difficulties in the world, what are the principal ways of attacking those difficulties so we can achieve a program of peace.

So my first statement is merely this: that it isn't just on Congress, it isn't on the Democrats or on the Republicans, it isn't on the President alone. They have very great and responsible duties. But it is on everybody who sees or believes he sees some of the basic factors in this problem and has some little ability or opportunity to explain them to others, because they are very, very serious.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, some time ago you described to us on the arms control issue what you considered to be the opposing approaches of the U. S. and the Soviet Union on the control problem. Was there anything in Governor Stassen's report that would indicate any sign of change on the Soviet approach?

THE PRESIDENT. Not so far as I have seen. As I say, I have not studied the entire report and I can't say that there isn't something in the fine print I haven't read yet. But as far as I know, there has been no change in the approach to the problem.

Q. Elie Abel, New York Times: Mr. President, on this matter, sir, getting back to the question of communicating with Congress in this case, there seems to be very considerable apprehension in Congress over this foreign aid thing, particularly the long-term commitment feature, and any number of responsible congressional leaders have been telling us that they don't understand precisely what this commitment is to mean and precisely how it is to operate.

Could you expand a little bit, sir, on what kind of project specifically you have in mind and what kind of authority you would settle for?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, first of all, it is quite clear that one Congress cannot commit another. Any policy in the United States has to have yearly appropriations to carry it out, and there is no disposition to try to ignore those facts in the problem. But a nation wants to start a great dam or a great school system, both of which you think would be very important in bringing it along into a position where it could support freedom, could raise its economy to the position it could.

Now, you say, "All right. We will give you X million dollars a year to help this out. We will take some of it in a loan, we will take some in soft currency and spend it in your country, with regular arrangements."

But they say, "All right. That is all right for this year. But how about next? There is an election in the United States."

Well, all that you are asking for and all you can ask for in a long-term commitment is that you take such projects as that, enumerate them, specifying them if you want to, but generally classifying them rather than enumerating them, because you don't know when one will come up. And for a very small part of this sum--I believe we said $ 100 million, is all--let Congress announce its intention to support that kind of an approach, which doesn't do anything for the future except it convinces the other fellow with whom we are dealing that the United States as a whole, not just the President, not just the Secretary of State, believes in this sort of long-range help in this particular type problem. That is all there is to it. There is no additional authority except it is the backup; it is the backup by Congress of a commitment the President would normally have to make by himself.

Q. Roscoe Drummond, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, may I ask another question about Mr. Nixon? Even though he may not have replied to you in the same terms that you used at the press conference, I would like to ask if he had replied in any manner which gives to you an impression as to whether he would like to be renominated?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am not going to talk about impressions, Mr. Drummond, for the simple reason that a fellow can get those rather erroneously at times. At least, they have about me, at times.

I would say this: he hasn't given me any authority to quote him, any answer that I would consider final and definitive.

Q. Edwin L. Dale, New York Times: Mr. President, it has been rather widely reported that your Secretary of the Treasury and Chief Economic Adviser both had serious reservations about the latest increase in interest rates by the Federal Reserve. There is a rather long history of this situation. I wonder if you have any comment on it.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think the only comment I can logically make is this: the Federal Reserve Board is set up as a separate agency of Government. It is not under the authority of the President, and I really personally believe it would be a mistake to make it definitely and directly responsible to the political head of the state.

The Federal Reserve Board had the unanimous conclusions of their eleven district boards that this rediscount rate ought to be raised, and after studying the whole situation they decided to go ahead and do it.

Now, of course, the thing was argued for a long time. Certain individuals had viewpoints on the opposite sides of the fence. But having done it, I do have this confidence in the Federal Reserve Board: they are watching this situation day by day. They are watching whether money dries up, because there are two things about money: one, it gets a little dearer in its cost to the borrower; the other is that it is just not there to borrow. They are watching it very closely, and I personally believe that if money gets to what is normally referred to as too tight, they will move in the other direction in some way or other as soon as they can.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, on the basis of the latest reports to you, could you tell us what you think the prospects at this time are for a tax reduction during this session of Congress?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have discussed this with you people before. I see, so far, no logical reason for reducing taxes, and I really believe it would be not to the good interests of America to reduce them at the moment.

We are in a time of very high income. We certainly must be able to run our Government now without going into debt to do it or we never will. And I want to point out, in each of the past two years we have had to get a temporary increase in the debt limit to tide us over the months, the fall months, when income is low and outgo is high so that we run up to something like two hundred eighty-one or two billion, but always with the compulsion to be back to two seventy-five by June 30th, which we are doing again this year.

As long as we have that situation, if we can get a billion or a billion and a half or something of that order in advance, I think it is only prudence--I think it is what any housewife in the United States and any manager of a business would do--to put that much aside to keep himself solvent.

Q. William Theis, International News Service: Mr. President, would you like to give us your reaction to yesterday's presidential primary results?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, they have only showed me one, and that was in--no, they showed me two, one in Pennsylvania, one in Massachusetts.

I can only say, I am still astonished any time anyone votes for me, and very grateful.

Q. Robert L. Riggs, Louisville Courier-Journal: Mr. President, you were put on television Monday night by Senator Johnson in his own speech. Do you think the excerpts he used from your 1952 speech accurately reflected your views at that time on the farm question?

THE PRESIDENT. I won't talk about what anybody else said, but I will tell you what I said in 1952, time and time again.

I said that there was a law on the books that provided 90-percent rigid price supports for those basic crops through the end of '54. I said that law would not be disturbed for the simple reason that it would take that long to get all of the farm organizations and the farm authorities and the administration and everybody else together to work out a new plan. So that would not be disturbed, and I was for it, going to stay that way without any equivocation whatsoever.

I said, from there on, the goal we must have is to work for 100 percent of parity for the farmer in the market place. I said that over and over again, meaning that we must get the supply and demand so adjusted that the farmer was getting a good price without depending upon these 90-percent or 80-percent or any other kind of supports from the Government.

I went through this time and time again, and I think if you will follow through all these speeches, it never varied, because it was what I believed then. It is what I believe now.

Q. Lawrence Fernsworth, Concord (New Hampshire) Monitor: Mr. President, for several weeks past, the newspapers have printed charges that a Columbia University professor, Jesus Galindez, was assassinated by agents of the Trujillo dictatorship.


Q. Mr. Fernsworth: The Trujillo dictatorship of the Dominican Republic. Yesterday a group of Columbia University professors requested the Justice Department to investigate these charges.

The question is, in your view, is it incumbent on the Department of Justice to determine the truth or falsity of charges that agents of a dictatorship which enjoys diplomatic immunity here are assassinating persons under the protection of the United States flag?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you have laid down a problem of which I haven't heard. But I will say this: the Justice Department would have no authority in a foreign country. Anything that you did in a foreign country would have to be taken up with the State Department. That is your communication.

Now, I have no doubt if there are any grounds at all for the State Department believing that an American citizen has been unjustly treated, particularly in the way you are talking about, that there will be [laughter]

What I meant to do was cover the entire field of injustice done [laughter] and not merely this one of extreme character.

But then it is the State Department's duty to investigate and demand an explanation of the whole thing, and what would happen I don't know, because I don't know anything about this case.

Q. Mr. Fernsworth: Sir, the assassination was supposed to have occurred in the city of New York.


Q. Mr. Fernsworth: Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, then, I suppose it would be--I thought you meant down in Santo Domingo.

No. I will have to find out about that. I don't know a thing about it.

Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: Mr. President, can you tell us whether there is any connection between the disturbing situation in the Middle East and your dispatch of four destroyers to that part of the world?

THE PRESIDENT. No, there isn't except in this sense, that we are always keeping forces in the Mediterranean, as you well know. It is our hope that they have a stabilizing influence, because it is also our hope that all the world knows that we are not trying to pick up the gage of anybody's quarrel against somebody else.

We are not trying to expand our own authority or our own influence anywhere. We are simply trying to keep the peace.

So if you can say that they have any relationship at all, it is merely wherever our forces are, whether they are in Formosa, whether they are in the Japanese area, whether they are in the Mediterranean, it is always in the hope of keeping stability.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's eighty-fifth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:31 to 11:02 o'clock on Wednesday morning, April 25, 1956. In attendance: 229.

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/233138

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