Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

May 04, 1956

THE PRESIDENT. Sit down. Good morning.

Just a few minutes ago I received from the American Advisory Committee that went to Geneva to work with the United States delegation there in trade negotiations a report that I have asked Mr. Hagerty to hand out in his usual way; it probably will be over in his office. But it was a very pleasing report from my viewpoint. 1

1 Released by the White House on May 4, the report is entitled "Statement to the President by the Non-Governmental Advisors to the United States Delegation Negotiating Tariff Agreements in Geneva, Switzerland."

The report praises the work of the American negotiators. "By no stretch of imagination could the tariff negotiations, as we observed them, be called a giveaway program .... We found our negotiating teams . . . to be bargaining in what seemed to us to be the best Yankee tradition. They insisted on obtaining concessions of full value for each concession made by the United States."

The report also emphasizes the need for the permanent administrative machinery provided by the proposed Organization for Trade Cooperation. "The adoption of this administrative machinery . . . would clearly be in our enlightened self-interest. It would help make all our trade agreements more truly reciprocal .... Failure on the part of the United States, the world's greatest trading nation, to join in setting up this organization would cause great dismay and disappointment throughout the free world at a time when the Soviet Union is stepping up its foreign economic efforts."

There were on the Committee representatives of labor, farm, business, publishing, a very broadly representative committee. Their convictions about the function of trade in cementing our relationships with other countries, about the need for us joining O. T. C. and so on, are to my mind so firmly rooted in logic I have asked him to put it out. If you want to see it, he will have it. That's all I have.

Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, do you see any cause for concern in the reports that delivery of B-52 bombers to the Air Force is lagging behind schedule in the light of reports out of Russia that Soviet production of the same type of planes is forging ahead of us?

THE PRESIDENT. I think we ought to broaden our vision a little bit more widely than looking at one particular phase or part of an organization when we begin to compare our position with those of others.

Here was testimony in one particular part, the Strategic Air Command and, of course, it is disappointing that 37 of these planes had to be held up in delivery for modification because of some defect.

It is, of course, a usual experience in these "hot" airplanes; you have to go through modifications. We had to do it in the war. Indeed, I had to establish a plant in England to modify planes that were coming over from the United States before you could use them in combat.

I am informed that, first of all, this defect is being corrected, but I want to call your attention to this: there is still a lot of testimony to come forward.

We have the most powerful navy in the world. There is no navy that even approaches it in power, and it features one thing, air power.

No one has talked about that. We have bases around the world, established for the particular purpose of using the medium bomber, and not being forced to make all your bases in the United States and, therefore, depend on intercontinental machines.

Now, remember, no matter how efficient the plane is in terms of long range, the further forward you can carry it, the less time it is in the air and the more efficient it operates in war. So I think by the time the Defense Department gets done presenting its full picture. the United States will see that they have had great bodies of men who have not been idle, who have not been in indifferent to the security of the United States, and who have carried their duties. their responsibilities forward to the point that the United States will feel a lot better than just on this one piece of testimony.

Q. Charles S. von Fremd, CBS News: Mr. President, continuing on that subject, sir, does that mean then that as of this time the administration does not plan to step up intercontinental programs, intercontinental bomber programs?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't think you can say that in those terms.

We have stepped up the originally agreed rate of B-52 production, we have stepped it up twice since this administration has been in, and I don't know what the Defense Department is going to recommend next. But what I do want to say is that the whole question of air power is not confined to one simple type of airplane.

Q. Pat Munroe, Albuquerque Journal: Mr. President, congressional critics of our secrecy policy on thermonuclear activities say that it prevents the United States from taking the propaganda initiative in contrast with statements made by Russian leaders. I wonder if our policy is under review at the present time?

THE PRESIDENT. I must say I am a little bit puzzled by what they mean. Most of the secrecy in the thermonuclear and atomic area are in conformity with the law that is written by the Congress, and I am not exactly certain what they mean.

But I do know this: we have men studying every day on how can we gain advantages in the world, spreading the truth about the United States, its purposes, its assets, its resources, its intentions.

So if there is something here that we have been failing to find, we will certainly take these Congressmen's views and consider them and study them.

Q. Alan S. Emory, Watertown Times: The Republican National Committeeman from New York says if you should ask former Governor Dewey to run for the Senate on the Republican ticket this fall, he would have to accept. Has anyone requested you, sir, to ask Mr. Dewey to run or do you have any intention of asking him?

THE PRESIDENT. The first time I have heard it mentioned is this minute.

Q. John L. Steele, Time Magazine: Sir, can you tell us anything this morning about your plans for an overall review of the foreign assistance program?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, yes, I have conferred with some of the

congressional leaders.

I believe this: since all of us agree that these programs are looking to the long-term good of the United States, while they should be reviewed annually, they should not be subject to radical changes and you should, therefore, do as much reasonable, logical planning as is possible and feasible in order to keep them stable so we know what we are going to do, and others know what we are going to do.

Because of this kind of a general feeling, and the belief that such programs in the interests of the United States should be reviewed, we are studying ways and means of establishing a commission to look into this long-range plan and report to me and to the Congress next year--or before January 20, we will say. This has nothing to do with the present program. The present program has been built up on what we believe to be a minimum basis.

I do not mean to say that some detail in the military or the other part of the program might not be subjected to different judgment, and would be acceptable. But I do say that the program as it is now outlined represents to us a minimum that is necessary for the welfare of the United States in the year to come; and the review that I am talking about is--this long-range thing I am talking about, the years to come--where is the United States going?

Q. Robert W. Richards, The Copley Press: Mr. President, I want to ask you to comment on something that will be more satisfying to you than some of these questions.

You won a landslide vote among high school seniors and juniors, I think about 450,000 of them gave you 58.6 percent and an absolute majority in all but five States. Do you think that is because you have been appealing to the youth of the country repeatedly to take an active interest in their Government and get ready for their responsibilities for citizenship?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, someone brought in that survey, showed it to me, and I would be less than human if I said I didn't get a lift out of it. Of course I did, because I like youngsters--as a matter of fact, I probably trust them more than lots of people do. But I think the main thing to be commented upon in that survey is this: the youngsters are taking such an interest in their Government, the policies that are being applied, and the people that are trying to run them.

Now, maybe their judgments are based on less exact information than you people have. But the fact that they are taking the interest in our Government is the one thing that is necessary if this type of government is to be successful over the years.

The young people must do it, and they must continue through their lives; so I applaud them for taking the interest and going to the trouble of doing all this.

I thank every one of them that thinks I am doing O.K.

Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, yesterday Mr. Nixon's former campaign manager, Mr. Chotiner of Los Angeles, testified before a Senate subcommittee that a couple of aides in the White House had given him some assistance in some business that he had with the Government. I was wondering if you had had time to review any of the testimony of that subcommittee hearing and, whether you have or not, whether you have any suggestion in the way of what might be called a recipe for a code of ethics for people who have friends in Government who deal with the Government?

THE PRESIDENT. I will tell you mine. I have not reviewed that testimony, but I have had many reports on it since yesterday afternoon at 2 o'clock, or something of that order.

Now, first of all, I have given two specific orders, often repeated to the executive branch of the Government: first, any individual coming anywhere in this Government is first assured of courteous treatment. I will not stand for arrogance on the part of Government officials, and if anybody in this room, for example, wants to come to any place, including my staff, say you have got a problem, someone will do his best to put you in touch with the right official.

My second thing has been this: if anyone ever comes to any part of this Government claiming some privilege, even to as low as an introduction to an official he wants to meet, on the basis that he is part of my family or of my friends, that he has any connection with the White House, he is to be thrown out instantly.

Now, there are absolutely no grounds in these particular cases for believing that my two rules were violated. In both cases that this man appealed he was turned down. He was merely put in touch, in one case, with the CAB to find out, I believe, when a decision was coming down, and it was against his client.

One of them was appealed, I believe it was again declined; the other one was appealed and is now in front of the courts.

In no case did any connection he had with the White House benefit him one bit. I can't believe that anybody on my staff would ever be guilty of an indiscretion. But if ever anything came to my attention of that kind, any part of this Government, that individual would be gone.

Q. Lloyd M. Schwartz, Fairchild Publications: Secretaries Weeks, Mitchell, and Humphrey, and apparently Dr. Burns are all questioning the wisdom of this Federal Reserve Board's latest rise in discount rates on member banks. I wonder whether you have any reservations about that increase and the impact of it?

THE PRESIDENT. Well now, everybody has his opinion about a thing like this.

I think I made it very clear last week or the week before that here is an independent body reaching its decisions through the action, in this case, of a unanimous vote of its member boards, 11 member boards, and of this Board itself. I don't know whether the vote was unanimous in this Board, but anyway they reached a conclusion. It is their duty and responsibility to make their conclusions effective.

Now, what we are concerned in is the necessary expansion of this country's industries and economy in order to bring about a constant increasing standard for a constantly increasing population, that the money is there to do it, that those finances are there to provide for these expanded facilities. We watch that all the time, and I am sure the Board is doing exactly the same thing. If it believes that money is getting too tight because of this, they will take measures to meet it.

Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, this is about the school construction bill. Two House Members who strongly favor more schools and who are members of the committee handling the bill, McConnell, a Republican, and Kelley, a Democrat, are going to Geneva as delegates to the ILO; they are going in June. In view of that, Mr. President, do you have any plan to try to get early action on the bill?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have, of course, constantly repeated my recommendation in this regard, and I didn't know about this plan of these two individuals to go.

But my own feeling is this: the earlier we can get that bill, the earlier we can get to work. We need the schools, so I would like to do it.

Now, I am just assuming that Congress and the committees and their individual members know how to handle themselves and devote their time, so I don't suppose that that visit itself of two men would be critical in this issue. But in any event I am for speed.

Q. Edward Milne, Providence Journal-Bulletin: Could you tell us, sir, what considerations led to the change of timing on the announcement of the vice-presidential choice?

THE PRESIDENT. What change in timing?

Q. Mr. Milne: We had understood earlier that you were not going to have any comment on a choice until after the convention, after your own nomination.

THE PRESIDENT. I said that he announced himself as ready to do it, and I was delighted. I haven't said what the convention is going to do. I said as long as he said he would like to do it, why, I would be very happy about it.

Q. Nat S. Finney, Buffalo Evening News: Mr. President, I believe that on June 18 there has to be a renewal of the lease for the air base in Saudi Arabia; and the Ambassador from there has returned. There are some reports that there will be a request for arms to either make or complete a 35,000-man internal security force. I wonder if you could help us with some information on that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would rather not comment on it at the moment because it is a matter that is under active negotiation. As you know, the Mid-East is a very troubled spot. It is not a place with just one difficulty. It is a many-sided difficulty. Everything you do has its repercussions in other areas. So I would think that here is something that we better do our best and not comment on it until later.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, I have been requested to ask you about a published report dealing with your candidacy for re-election.

The report was that on the evening of February 29, the day you announced, you were heard making this remark to a friend: "I had to say 'yes' because they told me they didn't have time to build up another candidate."

I have been requested to ask whether you did make that remark.

THE PRESIDENT. Why, Mr. Arrowsmith, I have heard so many stories about my candidacy I couldn't possibly remember whether I ever said any such thing, and if I did I could have said it very facetiously. I certainly before this body testified time and again I think we have got a world of Republicans that are fully capable of carrying any responsibility in the country.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Recently, your Attorney General, Mr. Brownell, was down in Texas, and had some conferences with Governor Shivers, and with Mrs. Hobby, and I wonder if this was part of a plan that you and the Attorney General had worked out or if you had any report on that conference, and as it relates to trying to influence the Texas voters?

THE PRESIDENT. I didn't know he had met with them.

Q. Carleton Kent, Chicago Sun-Times: Senator Dirksen has proposed a new version of the constitutional amendment to limit income taxes at 25 percent, with a proviso that Congress, by a three-fourths vote, could raise it another 10 percent. Could you tell us what you think, in general, about the constitutional amendment way of tax limitation? Have you ever considered it?

THE PRESIDENT. Let me preface this remark--I am certainly shooting from the hip because I haven't heard this discussed in a year, I didn't know he had put in this amendment. It seems to me if you get anything of this kind too rigidly into lair, what would you do in an emergency when you are doing your best to pay as you go so as to avoid two things: (1) the accumulating of great profits in areas where you can't make rigid contracts to begin with; and (2) to avoid piling up the public debt and just passing it on?

It would seem to me that you would be getting into a very rigid fix.

Now, I would believe this: that the common sense of America ought to find some proper limitation on taxes or at least rearrangement of the tax schedule so we leave to States and municipalities the ability to perform those responsibilities imposed upon them by our Constitution.

I firmly believe that the decentralization, the geographical decentralization, of the functions of Government as well as the functional distribution in the three branches is necessary to our particular civilization.

The interests of New England are a long ways from the interests of southern California; the interests of the South are a long ways from the industrialized sections of Pennsylvania and Ohio and of the other sections of the East.

So we must have a maximum of local government. I think this: I think that this tax question and the Federal authority to scrape off all the tax money that is available can destroy, if we don't use common sense, the ability of those States and municipalities to perform their functions. I think we must be very careful, but I would want to be very sure that I knew what I was doing before I would say yes to a constitutional amendment.

Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: Mr. President, could I ask you whether you ever tried to persuade General Gruenther to stay in the Government or to come back and go into your administration; and, secondly, would you give us the benefit of your experience in trying to get talented people to come to Washington?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, in one way, of course, I could have ordered General Gruenther, but I personally felt he was occupying one of the most important posts that any individual can occupy today, from a standpoint of the United States interests, and I think I would include even civilians.

Now, you say, did I try to persuade him to stay? I think if ever he writes his story he will say that I did persuade him to stay for a long time, but I couldn't do it forever.

He is one of the ablest, finest men, and I think everybody senses that that meets him. He is honest; a man of great integrity. I would be delighted to have him here. But he is a soldier. I think he feels he has gotten a little weary and tired, and he wants to go into retirement. I think he has earned it, and I must accept that.

Q. Douglass Cater, The Reporter Magazine: Mr. President, in your February speech of announcement, you spoke of a reduced schedule of activities which you felt you could properly carry on. I wonder if, since that time, you have been able to work it out in a more specific fashion; and if the present schedule is one in which you feel you can properly carry on, if elected again?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, first of all, you will notice that this year I did eliminate all of the normal official social functions except for those that involve entertainment for heads of state, or people coming to see us.

Now, I expect to take up some of that in the future if I should be continued in this office.

The schedule I am now working on, certainly as far as the doctors say, I can continue indefinitely. There is no trouble about it whatsoever.

I was talking about things like that, but I would like to make one thing clear: no President can delegate his constitutional duties. How can he do it? He has to sign the papers. He has to sign them, and he is responsible for them. I am the responsible head of the executive part of this Government, and there is no chance of me delegating away the responsibilities. I might delegate somebody--"You take action but I will take the gaff," you might say. But that I have to do, and I expect to do it, and I should do it.

Q. Paul Scott Rankine, Reuters: The United Nations Subcommittee on Disarmament ends in stalemate in London today. This is about the last of the subjects which were discussed at the Geneva Summit Conference to end in a stalemate. I wonder if you could tell us what are the prospects and what are the next steps in this new phase of relations between the East and the West?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, I think it is fair to say that all the Western World is disappointed that they found no more greater readiness to concede something to our idea of inspection as a means of promoting confidence, because it is on that that we think initial disarmament, at least, must be soundly based.

If it isn't, instead of being confident, we are just more frightened.

If we don't know anything more about what's inside the Iron Curtain than we do today, then we are not going to reduce anything; that's all there is to it.

But if we each could know, and the purpose of all of the inspectional system device is just to let each other know we are doing what we said we would do, we think that is perfectly reasonable.

Now we are going to continue through every path, avenue, open to us to try to convince the people on the other side that we must promote confidence step by step with what we say we are doing in disarmament, and we don't believe that disarmament can be brought about in any other way.

Q. Rowland Evans, Jr., New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, I ask this question, sir, because of your answer to Mr. Clark earlier. Despite the B-47 medium bomber force that we have in our overseas bases, do you say that it is vital that we try to stay ahead of Russia in production of the long-range bomber, that one category of weapon, taking into account--

THE PRESIDENT. No. I say it is vital that we get what we believe we need. That does not necessarily mean more than somebody else does. We have to get what we need.

Now, certainly, when you come and talk about the quality of the thing, I say we mustn't be behind anybody.

Q. Thomas N. Schroth, Congressional Quarterly: The Senate will soon take up a bill to revise campaign spending laws, and one area of controversy here is primary elections where in some States most of the spending is done. Do you think the Federal Government should control spending in primary elections for the House and Senate?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, for me it is a very difficult one because, as I read the Constitution, the determination of their voting laws and so on is left to the States.

I think that if you were going into it very far, you would have to have a constitutional lawyer give you the probable results of such a law. Therefore, if it had to be done through the Constitution, that's the way it would have to be taken up.

I do think this: I think if we could have comparable laws in these cases in all of the States and properly enforced, it would be a good thing.

Everybody of good will in America wants to take any possibility of corruption, graft, and everything else out of politics. We should try to do it; but it is not easy, and I don't know whether a Federal law here is the applicable thing.

I am giving you a personal opinion; and I have not consulted with anybody on the opinion I just gave you.

Q. Peter Lisagor, Chicago Daily News: Does the administration have any present plans to divert more foreign aid through the United Nations, and could you tell us in a general way what you think of that idea?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, theoretically, doing everything through an international body of good will that would put all aid where it was needed should do the most good in the world, would remove any chance of politics entering the subject--I mean international politics--so you could build up a very great case for the theory. And in order that that theory could have a chance to flower and develop, America has very earnestly done its part in all of the institutions that are set up.

Our '56 expenditures in the voluntary contributions through the United Nations, entirely aside from our budget in the maintenance of the United Nations, is something over $71 million, I believe, far in excess of what anybody else puts in.

So we have shown our adherence to the principle. And in actual practice we are quite certain that as of today--you know the character and the difficulties of the United Nations as well as I do--you couldn't keep out politics.

Therefore, our efforts, as we see it today, must be largely done on a bilateral or, let us say, on some kind of an association basis, not the major effort through the United Nations, as of now.

Q. Charles W. Roberts, Newsweek: Sir, some Government officials have suggested that the foreign aid program you now have before Congress is just a stopgap measure until methods better adapted to Russia's new techniques can be devised. Do you share that view?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, that is not entirely true. I have already told you that we are constantly trying to improve it. As most of you know, I have had the Dodge committee here working for many months on this with every kind of expert advice and counsel that we can get together.

We are certain that in this world of today you cannot walk off and abandon your friends, see them go down the drain of insufficient food, clothing, shelter, all the rest of it, and not have something bad happen.

So we are going ahead in what we believe to be the enlightened self-interest of the United States. Our plan is not greatly different from what it has been over the past several years. In certain elements where we thought the plan was weak, we called the attention of the Congress to these partial weaknesses.

The new study is merely to see are we doing it right, now? How could we improve it? And we expect to continue those studies in the future.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, this is entirely a procedural question, sir: What time are you leaving for Gettysburg?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I tell you, as accurately as I could, Mr. Smith, I would hope along about 1:00, 1:30, maybe something of that kind.

Q. Anthony H. Leviero, New York Times: I would like to ask, sir, one more question about air power. A Senate subcommittee has received testimony to the effect that if we continue on the basis of our present plan our Strategic Air Force will fall below the strength of Russia's by 1958 or 1960. Have you any comment on that question?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I said, first of all, in each type of bomber, in each classification of ship, we need what our requirements demand, and that doesn't necessarily mean that we have the same as anybody else.

We are not trying to match the Russians in ground forces. And in the years gone by, some of you are old enough to remember when we made no attempt to match Britain in sea forces.

Now we have got a tremendous air power, a mobile air power, in the sea forces. It hasn't even been mentioned yet. Let's wait until we get this picture sort of all before us, and then let's have a talk about it.

Q. Charles W. Bailey, Minneapolis Star and Tribune: Mr. President, the House yesterday passed a farm bill, including the soil bank and also including higher price supports on some of the small feed grains. When you vetoed the first farm bill, you attacked such a feed grain support provision. Could you now accept, do you think, this slightly modified provision that was passed yesterday?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the exact language of this particular amendment has not been in front of me. I said something in my veto to the effect that the bill was clumsy and awkward.

Now, it is reported to me that if the Secretary of Agriculture has this added responsibility, he has to put 80 million new acres under control and supervision, he has to measure fields, and he has to establish a bureaucracy much bigger than the very large one he already has.

So this is one of those things that looks to me administratively difficult, and for that reason it is bad.

As to what exact language I could live with, why, I would have to see it after it gets up to me.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's eighty-sixth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:01 to 10:31 o'clock on Friday morning, May 4, 1956. In attendance: 190.

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/233148

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