The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. Please sit down.
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I have no announcements.
Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, in the last few days some top geneticists and other scientists have testified that fallout radiation from nuclear weapons tests will damage hundreds of thousands and, perhaps, millions of the yet unborn in terms of physical deformities and shortened life spans. Could you, as the man who must make the final decision on these tests for our country, tell us what your scientist advisors tell you on this matter?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, first of all, last October we published a very long report from the National Academy of Sciences which gave a very full discussion of this whole matter, bringing up the amount of radiation you get from natural sources, the sun and X-ray pictures and all the rest of it--I believe down even to include phosphorous on the dial of your watch, and things of that kind. That is the authoritative document by which I act up to this moment, because there has been no change that I know of.
Now, on the other hand, here is a field where scientists disagree. Incidentally, I noticed that many instances--scientists that seem to be out of their own field of competence are getting into this argument, and it looks like almost an organized affair.
I am concerned, just as much as I am of this fallout, I am concerned with the defense of the United States. I have tried, and this Government has tried, to make the abolition of tests a part of a general system of disarmament, controlled and inspected disarmament. If we can do that, we will be glad enough, and very quickly, to stop tests. But we do have the job of protecting the country.
Our tests in recent years, the last couple of years, have been largely in the defensive type of armament to defend against attack from the air and, particularly, to make bombs cleaner so there isn't so much fallout. We have reduced the fallout from bombs by nine-tenths. So that our tests of the smaller weapons have been in that direction, to see how clean we can make them.
Q. Peter J. Kumpa, Baltimore Sun: Mr. President, Mr. Alcorn, the Chairman of the Republican National Committee, told you yesterday that some of the State finance chairmen are having trouble and difficulty in getting contributions from some of the old heavy contributors. He said that they were not very happy about the high budget. I wonder, sir, if you have any advice to these State chairmen in their soliciting.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know whether advisement at this time--I think Meade Alcorn and whoever gets to be chairman of the Finance Committee would do that.
I would point out one or two things, however: that it might be better for some of these people that are complaining so bitterly to look up the actual facts instead of merely listening to partisan speeches. And some of the facts that would be interesting are: what would be the budget today if it followed the projection that was here in 1953, or what would be the budget if we had followed and adopted some of the programs presented by the opposition in the last two or three years affecting roads and schools and a number of other things that involved a lot of money.
I have no particular appeal of my own to make to these people except to read the facts, understand what is going on, why we need a lot of money for this Government, and what are they going to do about it.
Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, could you elaborate a little for us, sir, on your saying that among the disagreeing scientists on the question of fallout that some of them are out of their field of competence, and it looks like an organized affair? Why do you say that, sir? Who is organizing it, in your opinion?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't know. I haven't any idea, but I just say it seems to come up in so many places and so many different speeches, and you find scientists of various kinds other than geneticists and physicists in this particular field that have something to say about it.
Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, can you tell us what you think about Khrushchev's television interview Sunday, including his offer to withdraw Russian troops from Europe if the United States would do likewise?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, this is what I say, of course, about such an appearance. Now, let's make no mistake, that appearance was not the same as taking a kinescope of one of these press conferences and broadcasting it completely in Russia. We know that there are no prepared questions here and no prepared answers. It is a matter of trying to deal honestly with each other, and then putting it in the papers and on the radio and on the television screen; and this other performance of last Sunday afternoon was far from that.
Now, with respect to his proposal, he took one part of a proposal that affects not especially our country, but countries of our allies; and it is an old method when you are dealing with a number of allies to try to propose something which seems to be to the obvious interests of one in order to drive a wedge between them. What is done in Europe, what we do there, is always going to be the subject of consultation between us and our allies before we do anything about it. So this matter--I noticed he didn't say that Germany would be reunified or anything of that kind, just merely withdraw the troops.
Q. Edward V. Koterba, Hammond (Indiana) Times: Mr. President, the new Federal highway program has caused apprehension among some communities and States and toll road commissions. These agencies have been waiting for the interstate projects to get going and this, in effect, has caused them to hold up their own road-building plans.
Could you, sir, give some assurances of a speedup in Federal road-building that may clear up any doubts regarding the Federal highway program?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, the last report on it, I thought, was rather favorable. It had not been authorized too long; and it takes time to get these things going; and I believe they told me $700 million in contracts are already let. And I would think that would be a pretty good showing up to this moment. Not even a suggestion has been made to me that we should evade, let up, or do anything else but to carry out the law just as it is written.
Q. Milburn Petty, Oil Daily: Mr. President, do you still feel that legislation to remove utility-type controls from gas producers is still absolutely essential, as you said several weeks ago?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I believe that a reasonable bill to encourage exploration for gas and oil in this country is just as much in the interests of the consumer as it is of the producer.
I don't, by any manner or means, say that someone with a monopoly on this kind of fuel should be able to exploit the country to the full. You do have these public utilities which are interstate pipelines; but I do seriously object to any kind of public utility control over the well or the producer himself.
Q. John Scali, Associated Press: Mr. President, Mr. Khrushchev, in answering questions on disarmament, said that Russia, in his words, was quite prepared to seek a first step of partial disarmament agreement rather than to hold out for the comprehensive disarmament agreement, which has been their policy in the past. Since this objective also is what we are seeking, do you think that his words, at this particular time, add encouragement to the possibility that an agreement along these lines is really possible at this time?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think that we can only say we can only hope so.
As I told you before, all the reports are that this time at London the conference reflects, apparently on all sides, a more serious, a more definite, purpose to get ahead with substantive matters than ever before, and to use it, the occasion, less as a mere platform for propaganda. So, every word that indicates a desire to meet sensibly on a step-by-step basis--which is the only way, by the way, I think it can ever be done--I welcome it and certainly don't reject it until it's been explored to the full.
Q. Louis R. Lautier, National Negro Press Association: I wonder if you would care to add any comment to that of the Attorney General on efforts of opponents to add crippling amendments, such as the jury trial amendment, to your civil rights proposals?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't think I have anything to add.
One thing that I have been struck by was Chief Justice Taft's comments on a similar effort; and he stated that if we tried to put a jury trial between a court order and the enforcement of that order, that we are really welcoming anarchy.
Now, I think most of us here are not great constitutional lawyers. Mr. Taft, by the way, made that statement when he was President in 1908, but there is no evidence that he ever changed his mind; and I would take his opinion far more than I would an opinion that was given in, let's say, in the heat of partisan argument.
Q. Ronald W. May, The Capital Times, Madison, Wis.: Joseph E. Davies has offered to give his million dollar estate as the official residence for the Vice President. No one has accepted this offer, and some have suggested that the Vice President needs such a residence for official entertaining, as you did in your budget message earlier this year.
Senator Wiley has now proposed a study commission of members from Congress and from the executive branch of Government to look into the whole question of official entertaining.
I wonder if you still favor such a residence and how you feel about such a commission?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, certainly, I think if the Vice President is being used to the limits of his capacity for aid in the interests of the United States, he ought to have something of that sort.
Now, you must remember that the history of America does not always show any close connection between the President and Vice President. In fact, sometimes they have been rather opposed to each other; and, under such circumstances, I assume the Vice President can do very little except to attend to his own constitutional duties.
But in the way that Mr. Nixon has worked and in the way he has acted for the interests of the United States, I certainly think that kind of a Vice President should have it; and since I assume that we are probably establishing a little precedent for others to follow, I am in favor of it very much.
Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: Mr. President, the comments here this morning, sir, about the fallout are, I think, open to the inference that this is just an organized campaign, and that the scientists who are--
THE PRESIDENT. Oh, no.
Q. Mr. Reston:--disturbed about it
THE PRESIDENT. Oh, no; I didn't say that at all. I said there does seem to be some organization behind it. I didn't say a wicked organization.
Q. Mr. Reston: I think the way it is left right now, this is merely an opinion, is open to that inference.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't mean that at all.
There are as many of these people just as honest as they can be, there is no question about that. But as I say when they begin to talk a little bit out of their fields, well then I would rather go myself to the Academy of Sciences, which has no axe to grind of any kind, is not looking for publicity, and say, "Now, what do you people think?"
I made mention that I was living by the document that they have given at this moment.
Q. Mr. Reston: May I ask two questions about this: whether you have any plans to deal with the anxiety of the country about the fallout; and, second, whether in any way you are modifying your plan about testing?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I wouldn't say I have got a plan, because the plans that we have for testing are all bound up in the plans we have for disarmament, which we think is necessary. We think if you are going to include these weapons as almost certain weapons of war in any future global thing, we would be foolish indeed to be behind anybody else. Now, that means testing because the scientists in your laboratories each year believe they have found something that makes them cleaner, better, more efficient or particularly what we are working on so hard, as you know, is defense against hostile aircraft. So those people cannot continue to work unless they can test them.
On the other hand, I would like to allay all anxiety in the world by a total and complete ban of all testing, based upon total disarmament in this field--that's what I'd like.
Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: You have told us several times what you would do and would not do as President. Can you give us your conception of the role of a President as the leader of his party?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, that is quite a lecture, I should think, you are asking for. He is the leader not of the, you might say, hierarchy of control in any political party. What he is is the leader who translates the platform into a legislative program in collaboration with his own executive department and with the legislative leaders.
And after that, once that program is established, I think it is his duty to use whatever means he deems most effective in order to get that program as large as he can translated into law.
Q. Mr. Brandt: On that point, we have had in American history, three strong Presidents: Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Harry Truman. They were leaders of their party. Do you consider yourself in that class?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't believe I would go in for comparisons, thank you. [Laughter]
Q. Spencer Davis, Associated Press: In view of the attention that has been focused on the Status of Forces agreements by the Girard decision yesterday, would you say if you felt that
THE PRESIDENT. I didn't understand the first part of your question; you will have to repeat it.
Q. Mr. Davis: The attention that has been focused on Status of Forces agreement--
THE PRESIDENT. Oh.
Q. Mr. Davis:--by the decision in the Girard case announced yesterday, do you see any need for a new approach to Status of Forces agreements in our relations with foreign countries? And also would you have any comment on your decision in the Girard case?
THE PRESIDENT. I think that the Status of Forces Treaty lays out as nearly an equitable arrangement between sovereign states as can be devised. You might change it a little bit in some detail. I started working on this in 1951 when I was sent to Europe, after leaving Columbia; and all the time I was there I conferred with governments in the effort to get this Status of Forces agreement written.
One of the most irritating things that one nation can do is to have its own troops stationed in the territory of a friend. It gives rise to all sorts of difficulties, and it creates dissension at home when people believe that their sons should always be tried solely by the courts of their own nation.
Now, the Status of Forces Treaty in this particular case was not brought into question. The United States never gave up primary jurisdiction in this case, I mean, never admitted that it does not have a primary jurisdiction. But in the actual operation, there are certain processes that go through that sometimes make it better for all concerned to cede or to turn over to another primary jurisdiction.
For example, there have been over 14,000 cases of this kind arise in Japan. Thirteen thousand six hundred forty-two of those were turned over by Japan with primary jurisdiction to the American Forces, voluntarily. They weren't compelled, and there was nothing in the treaties that could have kept them from trying these thirteen thousand if they had wanted to. They turned them over voluntarily.
In this case, due to a number of things that are explained fully and carefully in the statement just issued yesterday morning, jurisdiction was turned over.
Now, I do want to make this one comment: merely because you let another nation try your man does not relieve the defense forces or, indeed, the Commander in Chief for the need for following that case and seeing that justice, fair justice, is done.
Actually, in the cases the Japanese courts have tried, they have been eminently fair; and our legal people have reported to me that their respect for the Japanese legal procedures and the sentences that they pass out is very high, indeed, and based upon very great concern for the rights of the individual and justice to him.
We pay for the lawyer to defend him; we watch it through our lawyers all the way through; and if any possible injustice happened to that man, it would be a case that would be taken up diplomatically, of course.
Q. Harold R. Levy, Newsday: It has been suggested that the time might be appropriate for realignment of parties, such as has occurred before in American history--that today's modern Republicans and liberal Democrats might form one new party, and the non-modern Republicans and Southern Democrats another. What do you think, sir, of the possibility or desirability of such a realignment?
THE PRESIDENT. I am busy; I am working hard. I haven't any time for such stuff as that.
Q. William McGaffin, Chicago Daily News: Sir, the newspaper reports say that you will not ask for equal time on the Soviet radio and television to reply to Mr. Khrushchev. Well, sir, aren't you missing a good opportunity to get to the Russian people? You would have a perfect reason to ask for a quid pro quo in this case.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, now, let's take a look at this: a commercial firm in this country, trying to improve its own commercial standing, went to unusual effort to get someone that, really, made a unique performance in front of our people; and he could do that because this is a free country. Everybody could listen, and the newspapers carried it, in general, in the full text.
Now, if the President of the United States should go to Russia and ask for full time, now let's see what he would get: first of all, there are twelve television stations--[confers with Mr. Hagerty]-Pardon me. Don't let me cheat--fourteen--and there is radio coverage.
I would say this: if the Soviet Union in return for that courtesy of themselves wanted to ask an American, no matter who it might be, because, after all, you know Khrushchev is not the head of the Russian State--except in power--[laughter]--but if they should invite an American to come, and guarantee that there would be no jamming, that there would be no interference, that they wouldn't put up counter attractions to take people away from their radios and all that sort of thing for that time, if you can believe that that will happen, I can tell you this, that somebody in this Government would be glad to accept.
Q. Robert J. Donovan, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, on this same subject: the President, former President Truman had a grandson born this morning. Do you believe that this lad will grow up to live under socialism?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, you can see, of course, and in any free country, developments and signs that seem to point toward a readiness on some part to accept governmental control over great portions of their economic life in return for something that might appear to be a quick advantage. Such things can, of course, in the long run lead to communism, but we have had this same kind of thing inherent in our form of government for many years.
If you will read your Macaulay again, you will find that Macaulay, I think about 1828, showed why the American experiment was bound to fail under the influence of pressure groups on the Congress, and that eventually you would have an entirely different form of government; while he didn't say socialism, it was something of that kind.
Now, frankly, if they are going to have socialism by the time that child grows up to live under it, at least they are going to say this: if I live these next three and a half years, the first three and a half years are going to be a terrible battle. They can say that.
Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post: In speaking, sir, of your desire for what I believe you call the total and complete ban on tests under disarmament agreement, do you mean, sir, that you would be willing to agree to such a ban under this first step agreement, as part of this first step agreement, with the Soviet Union?
THE PRESIDENT. Only you could do that, I think, in toto the way I expressed it there, in a complete thing. You could do that only if the same agreement were so couched, so made, that you could see there would be no more atomic bombs used in war.
Q. Mr. Roberts: But it could be as part of the so-called first step if it were firm enough?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, only if it brought in that other part, though, that we were going to eliminate these things as weapons of war, and there were an inspection system that could make sure that that was coming about; otherwise, you couldn't do it.
Q. Mr. Roberts: I am not clear, sir. Are you speaking of the so-called fourth country problem?
THE PRESIDENT. No, not at all. Other fourth countries have got a right to do as they please.
I am saying that we couldn't enter into any program which forever banned tests unless we also had a system which we knew would and could be convinced would forever ban the use of these weapons in war.
Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) Press Herald: Mr. President, the simultaneous translation of the Khrushchev TV appearance was very sketchy. Did our Embassy in Moscow or any other official American take a tape or a stenographic, for our use, or on what are you depending for the text?
THE PRESIDENT. Nothing except what the rest of you have seen on the--in the--have we got--[confers with Mr. Hagerty.] Mr. Hagerty says we have it. I haven't seen it. All I have seen is what you saw on the television.
Q. Charles von Fremd, CBS News: A moment ago you referred to a commercial firm trying--
THE PRESIDENT. I meant it was not governmental.
Q. Mr. von Fremd:--trying to improve its commercial standing, sir.
The CBS News and Public Affairs program was Face the Nation, which is a sustaining program. I just did want to get this clear, sir.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, isn't the CBS a commercial firm?
Q. Mr. von Fremd: Yes, but the program on which he appeared is a sustaining program. I just did want to get this straight, Mr. President, and that is you don't believe, do you, that CBS was remiss in its news judgment in seeking to get Mr. Khrushchev to appear on the program?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am not willing to give an opinion on that one. [Laughter]
Q. Sarah McClendon, San Antonio Light: Sir, a House Public Works subcommittee surveyed the flood situation in the Southwest last week, and found that the dams that had been constructed were saving millions of dollars worth of property, but that there were not as many dams there as were needed.
I wonder if you would go along with the views of Senator Lyndon Johnson that expenditures for flood control are a good investment?
THE PRESIDENT. I go along with the engineering advice of the Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation when they have surveyed each carefully as a part of a whole river system and say that such and such a dam is necessary and is consonant with the needs of the whole river basin, and not merely that immediate part; that is what I go along with.
Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, particularly since the Formosa riots, there has been an increasing amount of speculation on the possible need to reassess our position toward the two Chinas.
Can you clarify this, particularly on two points: the possibility of some increased commercial relations with Peiping, and what this Administration thinks of the durability of our relations with the Nationalist Government in the possibility of the disappearance of Chiang Kai-shek, either by death or other means?
THE PRESIDENT. Nobody--it has occurred to no one to ask an easy question this morning, has it? [Laughter]
In the first instance, there is nothing in this particular case that would in itself require a reassessment of our relationships with the so-called two Chinas.
The Generalissimo has been very prompt in his expressions of regret and has, as a matter of fact, taken a great deal of blame for it himself for not moving more rapidly. While the violence of the outburst was unexpected, there were also very many signs that there was some kind of organization behind it, no one knows what. But in any event, our relationships with Formosa are unchanged as a result of that incident as of this moment, and so far as I know, no one has suggested any change.
With respect to the trade, there is a law on the books, I believe, preventing all shipments of American property to Red China. So long as that law is on the books, of course, that is that.
Now, there is a very great division of opinion in America, as there is in the world, about the value of trade with Communists. There is--we have had this subject up here before--there is one school of thought that thinks any trade with the Communist countries is bound to be to their benefit; whereas there is another school of thought that thinks that the Yankee, for example, is a very fine trader, and that we got to be a great country by trade; and they assert that trade in itself is the greatest weapon in the hands of a diplomat, and if skillfully used, it can be used as a very great instrument of governmental policy.
In this case the argument or the point at issue has been over the last many months, should we maintain the differential between the shipments allowable to the western part of the Communist area in Eurasia, and the eastern part.
Those that argue for the elimination quote several things. First, that it is foolish to say China can't have something, and then you ship it to Russia and it can go on through. The opposing argument is that they have to do that and use up their transportation space; that costs them some money.
Another argument on the side of the liberalizing of this trade is that Japan, our friend, must make a living. She can't trade all around the world because too many people have some kind of bars.
Here in this country, as you know, there is constant agitation to set up bars against textiles and light machinery, and all that sort of thing.
Where is she going to trade? All right. They say we want Japan for our friend, 95 million of people; she must be allowed to trade somewhere; and, therefore, we ought to liberalize the trade with China.
The other side says if you let that happen, the next thing you know you are going to have Japan communized.
So it is that kind of an argument, going into numbers of factors, that goes on all the time.
Now, frankly, I am personally of the school that believes that trade, in the long run, cannot be stopped. You are going to have either just authorized trade or you are going to have clandestine trade. You can stop the shipments from here. That is on the law, and that will be continued as long as it is on the law.
But whether or not it should be, whether we should eliminate this differential, frankly, I don't see as much advantage in maintaining the differential as some people do, although I have never advocated its complete elimination.
Q. Robert L. Riggs, Louisville Courier-Journal: Can you give us any information on the progress of the selection of a board member for the Tennessee Valley Authority?
THE PRESIDENT. The what?
Q. Mr. Riggs: The selection of a board member for the Tennessee Valley Authority, TVA?
THE PRESIDENT. No, that is still under argument.
Q. Richard L. Wilson, Cowles Publications: Mr. President, it seems to me that the discussion on testing of H-bombs has left a lot of vacant spaces that we don't completely understand, at least I don't understand. You have said that our tests are going toward the point of testing clean weapons at the present time.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
Q. Mr. Wilson: Does this mean that we will not test any more H-bombs which create a great fallout?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, as a matter of fact, I don't think your statement is correct. I think we have found that the H-bomb in proportion to its size is probably one of the cleanest. I don't think that your statement is correct.
Q. Mr. Wilson: Let me ask it again.
THE PRESIDENT. You could check up against the AEC and Admiral Strauss, but I think that is correct.
Q. Mr. Wilson: Let me ask it again. Will there be any more tests of H-bombs similar to the large one in the Pacific which caused such a wide fallout?
THE PRESIDENT. The early one, you mean?
Q. Mr. Wilson: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT. I would doubt that anything like that would ever be repeated. But I want to say this again: our plans, and even our thinking on this, we are trying to weave into programs which we must concert with our allies before they are of great value. And if I have not been as frank in this one subject as you people think I should, remember this: if I say something that Britain or France or some other great ally, or Canada, cannot accept, and they get irritated or embarrassed by it, then our whole program of trying to achieve real disarmament and real cessation in all these terrible fields is hurt. So I have told you what I think is public property and what I think is proper to say.
Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post: Mr. President, this is an easy question.
THE PRESIDENT. Sure.
Q. Mr. Folliard: It is about the plan to tear down this old State, War, and Navy Building, and put up a White House Office building. As you know, there has been some controversy about it.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
Q. Mr. Folliard: Just how do you feel about that plan?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, put it this way: I worked nine years in this building, and so from sentiment's sake I would say probably I wouldn't want to see it torn down.
But I appointed a disinterested commission, and I have this feeling, that only in a term of office such as I am now holding can you really expect progress to be made on this line and disinterested action to be taken. Everybody knows you couldn't change things in time to do anything for me. Therefore, it is for future Presidents that we should be concerned.
Now, this commission was made up of able men, thoughtful men, who turned in a good report, and as long as they say that is what should be done, I believe it should, and I will add one thought: we must never minimize what the White House, just as a building, means to America. I have seen strong men come into that building, and merely because they were invited to walk through its social parts, with tears on their cheeks.
Therefore, I think the White House should never be overshadowed by anything or ill-treated so that we weren't maintaining a White House of this type of architecture for every generation that is coming along, not only these grandchildren we talked about awhile ago, but on into the distant future.
Merriman Smith, United Press: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and twelfth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:31 to 11:06 o'clock on Wednesday morning, June 5, 1957. In attendance: 239.
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/233177