Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

August 21, 1957

THE PRESIDENT. Good morning.

Please sit down. I have no announcements.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, Syria seems to be drifting or being drawn into the Soviet orbit. We assume that you are concerned about this, and the question is: what can the United States do about it, or more properly, what is the United States doing about the situation in Syria?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, there are very definite limitations on what you can do in the internal affairs of any other country.

Now, first of all, the situation there is that we were accused of a lot of things which are obviously a smoke screen behind which people that have the leftish leanings are trying to build up their power.

The pattern that is seemingly emerging is an old one for the Soviets, to insert or offer economic and military aid, and through doing so, to penetrate the receiving country with their agents, for these to get into power, to find stooges that will do their will, and finally, to take over this country.

Now, in Syria, how far this pattern has gone, we don't know. Actually, there is a very strict censorship and our Embassy is not free to give us all the information that it can get. We don't know exactly what is happening. So, frankly, what we are doing is getting every piece of information we can daily. We consult with others that are interested and have knowledge and trying to keep abreast of the situation.

It is not one of those instances, at present, that justify any kind of action at all under the Mid-East doctrine.

Q. Charles von Fremd, CBS News: Mr. President, a Democratic Senator, sir, has charged that Secretary of State Dulles blundered when he withdrew the United States offer for the Aswan High Dam and other Democratic Senators are thinking about asking the Administration for a white paper on the Middle East. Would you care to comment on either of these matters?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am trusting my memory now, to go back to the Aswan Dam is quite a ways in the past. But briefly the offer made to Egypt was a tripartite one--I believe it was the World Bank, United States, and Britain. It was a very carefully worked out program, and its basic feature was that Egypt would devote its full, you might say, excess economic resources into building that dam.

Specifically, it was understood that there would be no military arming of Egypt in any scale that would interfere with Egypt devoting this economic power of its own in order to complete the dam.

Now, when this offer was made, Egypt inserted or replied with a number of conditions that were completely unacceptable, and all three of these agencies--the United States, Britain, and the World Bank--just dropped it, forgot it.

When suddenly it was revived by Egypt some months later, the conditions that had prevailed at the time the offer was made no longer prevailed. Egypt had received a lot of arms and was devoting a great deal of its economic strength to supporting it. So the United States said, in effect, that the conditions no longer prevailed, and they couldn't go along.

In the meantime, I might add--and again I am trusting to memory, and some of you can correct me if I am wrong--but I think there had been a resolution in the Senate, or a provision in one of our bills that no part of the money in that year's appropriations could be used for the proceeding with the Aswan Dam. So it wasn't merely a question of the Executive, it was also a question of congressional opinion on this matter.

Now, that is as far as I can go, because I can't remember all the details, but that is the way I remember the case. And it was that the situation just was changed.

Q. Mr. von Fremd: Do you think a white paper might clear the matter?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know. I haven't even heard of that.

Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, this is the time of year where you normally give us an appraisal of what Congress has done and left undone in relation to your program. What sort of a job do you think it has done this year, all in all?

THE PRESIDENT. Only yesterday I was looking over a long list of recommendations that I made to Congress through the medium of my presentation last January in the state of the Union talk, and of special messages, and to say that I am not disappointed in the performance to date would, of course, be an untruth.

Of course I am disappointed, because these things that I talk about are not pet projects of my own. I have no particular personal reason other than that of a concern for all of the United States of America for wanting them passed, but that reason is governing and controlling with me. As a matter of fact, it is the only reason I think anyone has a right to occupy the job I do if he does feel that way, and therefore for the sake of the United States, I am tremendously disappointed that so many of these bills have not been acted on, and in some cases not even had hearings.

Now, the details of them, there is no use going into now. They are long things. They apply to everything from the country's finances, the welfare of our people, mutual aid, and right down the line.

Q. John L. Steele, Time Magazine: Mr. President, in connection with Mr. Clark's question, sir, some of your Republican supporters on Capitol Hill believe that the record of Congress will make it necessary for you to campaign in a more partisan manner for a Republican Congress next year than perhaps you have done before. In fact, some of them have used the words "a modified give-them-Hell campaign."

I wonder if you would care to comment on your thinking.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think I will just have to pursue what is natural for me. I believe that anyone who does something that is unnatural and artificial for himself is not effective.

Now, what I plead for are the programs that I believe to be good for America. And now it happens that I believe the Republicans have a better program than the Democrats and, to that extent, of course, I am going to be partisan, but primarily I am for the program.

Q. William H. Lawrence, New York Times: Mr. President, I am puzzled, sir, by your answer about Syria that even our Embassy cannot tell us all they know. Is there any restriction by that Government on the use of the diplomatic code?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't think probably there is any restriction on the diplomatic code and I am not so sure of the details. I do know that there has been a security detachment around the Embassy for some days, and we have had difficulty in really unearthing what is going on.

Q. Mr. Lawrence: In getting our personnel out?

THE PRESIDENT. No; we have not been trying to get the personnel out.

Q. Mr. Lawrence: I mean going out of the Embassy into the street.

THE PRESIDENT. No; learning what is going on. It is a confused situation with censorship very rigidly applied, that is what is going on.

Q. Mr. Lawrence: May I ask one further question? You used, it seemed to me, a rather mild word that these people that were coming into power were of leftist leanings.

THE PRESIDENT. Well.--

Q. Mr. Lawrence: There could be a much harsher term used; they are, in fact, Communists.

THE PRESIDENT. I think everybody could use his own terms, but there is one thing about fighting a battle as well probably as taking a public position--always give your enemy a line of retreat if you can.

Q. Laurence H. Burd, Chicago Tribune: Mr. President, sir, at your last conference you spoke of some people who made gifts to your Gettysburg farm as thinking of them in terms of eventually belonging to the public. Do you have some plan for eventually turning the farm over to the Government or some other agency that it might be permanently preserved?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, actually, I don't know, first of all, whether any public agency would ever be concerned in such a thing. Some people seem to think it would, but I would say this: Mrs. Eisenhower and I have not yet reached any complete agreement, and I must say her word about that farm, I believe, is probably decisive. [Laughter]

Q. Andrew F. Tully, Scripps-Howard: Sir, some of us have been up to Newport, counting those sand traps. We have been wondering rather wistfully whether you are committed to stay here until Congress adjourns.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, as long as both houses of Congress are here, I can have no other place of abode, even as close as Newport may be. Now, if everything turns out so that we can get away in ten days--and Mrs. Eisenhower is completely checked out by her doctors--why, we would still go.

But I can't tell you my plans on that. It seems to become more indefinite every day rather than crystallizing.

Q. William S. White, New York Times: Mr. President, on the matter of civil rights, Mr. President, if it should appear that the only way to get a bill out of this House deadlock would be to accept the Senate jury trial provision, limited to civil rights cases, would you personally recommend that course?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have said time and again that I felt the Senate version of the bill as it applied to the voting rights, in which I am so specifically and particularly concerned, was not strong enough, and I would like to see it stronger.

Now, I think that the Republican leaders in the Congress, in the House of Representatives, have reached some conclusion of a proposal they expect to make probably today or tomorrow in an effort to end this deadlock, and one that would represent a position between the one that I took originally, and the one that is now in the Senate version.

Q. Lloyd M. Schwartz, Fairchild Publications: Mr. President, Walter Reuther of the United Auto Workers has asked the automobile manufacturers to cut prices on 1958-model cars by $100 as a means of restraining price inflation, and he has offered to take this into account at future collective bargaining demands by the union.

I would like to know your reaction to this, and whether you think it would have a salutary effect upon this problem of combating wage and price inflation.

THE PRESIDENT. I received a letter the other day, and I read it, and quite obviously it presents very complicated problems that are not readily discernible, and certainly not readily understandable. And so, of course, I referred it to my economic groups and to the Department of Labor for a thorough study, so as to see what answer should be made, whether there was anything in it that the Government should comment on and what we should do.

Q. Henry Raymont, United Press: Mr. President, the Administration's proposal to hike the lead and zinc tariff has been protested by Mexico and Peru. I wonder, sir, if you would care to comment how this might affect our position of liberal trade at the Buenos Aires Economic Conference.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, actually in the normal case, the regular routine of tariff examination and recommendations to me would have been followed. The situation some few months ago was represented to me as being so critical as not to allow the time for such an investigation, which usually involves many months.

So the Department of the Interior got together and suggested to the Congress the study--as a special case only, and not as critical of the existing situation, but as a special situation--a sliding scale tariff, a different size of tariffs, to take effect at different levels of prices in this country. Now, in the Senate, that was rejected, and a flat tariff, I believe of three cents on one metal and two cents on the other [was suggested].

I actually believe the best way, in the long run, to handle these things is through the established method, which is to put it into the Tariff Commission and allow the study to be made, and then for the President to act on it in accordance with existing law.

I understand that the industry itself seems now to prefer that method.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, do I understand that this proposal on civil rights, which the Republican leaders will make, represents a compromise from your original position which you approved?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, a compromise--I say this: to my mind, it will still leave a sufficient effectiveness in the bill so that it would be acceptable to everybody, and yet does quiet any justifiable alarm that others might have as to excessive punishment of any kind.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Mr. President, sir, it seems we have a new policy in the Agricultural Department of reviewing REA loans for electricity and telephones at a higher level than just the administrative REA. I wonder if that was a White House-inspired move, or if you are aware of this, and if you have set up any standards for how these loans shall be approved.

THE PRESIDENT. I have set up no standards at all. I know about it, of course; it was reported to me by the Secretary of Agriculture, and why he suggested it to Congress. After all, let's not forget there is two percent money being involved here, and the two percent is money that on the long term, the Government today has to pay four percent or over. So there is a very definite reason for being careful about it.

Q. Rod MacLeish, Westinghouse Broadcasting: Mr. President, going back to your program for a moment, sir, I have a two-part question. On foreign aid, the Senate is attempting to restore some of the House cuts. The first part of my question would be: do you have hopes that a majority of the money you have asked for can be restored; and, secondly, if you do not get the $3,336,000,000 which you have put as the bare minimum, what do you visualize the effects would be on our overseas aid program?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, first of all, it goes without saying that I hope the Senate will put back every cent included in the authorization, and then get the very best deal out of conference that it is possible to get. In other words, I would like to be very firm, because I honestly believe that we are here sacrificing the tool that means more to our leadership in holding together the voluntary federation that must combat communism in the world than any other thing.

So now, with respect to what I would do, there is only one thing the Executive can do in that case, and that is watch day by day as to what is happening in the world, and it will be modified somewhat by where are the cuts largely made.

If cuts are made where you do have a carryover, and can use the carryover, like in the purchase of hardware, that is one thing; but when the cuts are in things that are yearly appropriations, and you have to spend it for that year, then, if you do not have the amount of money that you need, like defense support, then the next thing you know, Korea or Formosa or Viet-Nam or Pakistan or Turkey are reducing their forces below the level we believe safe. And that is the problem, then, that faces this Government.

Q. Mr. MacLeish: On the first part of the question, sir, has Senator Knowland given you any assurance of the percentage, given you any indication of the percentage of restoration the Senate might hope for?

THE PRESIDENT. He just said he would work as hard as he could.

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, you said that you were tremendously disappointed in the Congress. Is there a possibility or a probability that you will call an extra session, if you do not get the civil rights you want, and the foreign aid you want?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I wouldn't--as a matter of fact, on one of them, on foreign aid, as I say, what I have to do is watch the situation. The State Department, the Defense Department and I and the National Security Council would have to be very anxiously watching the developing world situation, and certainly wouldn't call a special session unless it were absolutely necessary.

With respect to the other part of it, I would see no usefulness in the thing, because Congress has given a lot of time. In a sense, they have a special session going right now. I believe their own laws say they should go out--what is it--July 31st, isn't it?

Q. Mr. Brandt: Yes.

THE PRESIDENT. All right, they are in a special session and they are wrestling with it. And I wouldn't know any reason for calling them back before January and trying to do this from there.

Q. Garnett D. Horner, Washington Star: Mr. President, with supplies of vaccine for the Asiatic flu becoming available now, there is some interest as to if and when you are going to be inoculated. Can you tell us about it?

THE PRESIDENT. I am going to take it just as soon as ordinary people like I am can get it. Now that is when I will take it.

Q. Spencer Davis, Associated Press: Mr. President, do you have any comments to make on the American students who have defied the State Department ban and gone to Communist China?

THE PRESIDENT. Only I think that they are very badly advised, and they are doing their country a disservice.

Q. John M. Hightower, Associated Press: Mr. President, in the case of Syria, in your earlier answer you referred to this following a Soviet pattern. Could you be more specific, sir? Are you suggesting that this is a result of a deliberate Soviet effort to take over the country, sort of a conspiracy?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think this: I think that is the ultimate aim, but, of course, an ultimate aim of that kind is kept very definitely under cover, because one of the things, when you go in, you appeal to the spirit of nationalism--I am talking now about the Soviet. They appeal to the spirit of nationalism in the country, telling them that through this method, you are independent, you run your own affairs, but when they get a hold of the thing, they find out too late that they are being run from somewhere else.

Q. Ruth S. Montgomery, International News Service: Mr. President, you said you had been bitterly disappointed with some of the congressional program not going through. Do you blame this in large measure on the two-term limitation, and do you regret at any time having run again for the Presidency?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, to say the word "regret" is to say that you believe you should be sorry for yourself for doing what at least at the time you thought to be your duty, so I do not regret.

Now, with respect to the rest of it, I don't believe that the two-term thing is the decisive factor here. It is a case of this: will people look at every proposition put up and try to decide what is good for us and what is not?

Frequently, I hear a question, is such-and-such a man voting with you? Now, he is not voting with me. If he is doing what he should, he is voting for what he believes to be right.

And I repeat, as I repeated here again and again, if these programs that I suggest are not right for the United States, then they should oppose them. But I certainly believe there should be a better one put in its place.

And as far as I am concerned, I have seen nothing in the developing scene since this session met that makes me believe that the general program we have put in is not the best that could have been devised.

Q. Gene Wortsman, Rocky Mountain News: Mr. President, has anyone or any group indicated in any way to you that they would like REA Administrator Hamil replaced?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't heard of it, no. As a matter of fact, on the contrary, I have heard everywhere, my reports have been that he has been doing a splendid job.

Q. Charles W. Roberts, Newsweek: Mr. President, do you blame the failures of this Congress largely on the Democrats, or do you think your own party shares in the blame?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will tell you, as far as I am concerned, everybody who voted against what I thought was the right thing to do, why, they have to share the blame.

Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post: Mr. President, when you say you were terribly disappointed, could you be more specific in naming the things that you have in mind where Congress has failed? You said financial, welfare, and mutual security.

THE PRESIDENT. There is a whole list of things, Mr. Folliard, and the reason that I decided not to try to name them by enumeration, you limit, and therefore I would leave out something that will stir up somebody. There is a whole series of them, and I refer you to my special messages, and my state of the Union speech, and those that have not been acted on favorably, they are in the list.

Q. Benjamin R. Cole, Indianapolis Star: Mr. President, out in the Middle West, I think the people generally--I am speaking as a personal reaction, having just been there--don't feel the same way you do about the foreign aid program, and that therein lies part of the difficulty with Congress. They seem to be responding more to the people than to the President.

I was wondering, sir, if you had any plans for carrying your message and your ideas directly to the people of the United States.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, let me remind you of one or two things. I think there has been no meeting of this body since this Congress started that the question of mutual security did not come up, and I spoke out as strongly as I know how.

On top of that, about the first of April, about the time of the calming down of some of the then current crises in the Mid-East, I went on the television with two talks. One was on the budget in general, and then I made one complete special one on the mutual security program. And now I will say this: on that, for all of the talks I have made on the studio basis, I got more favorable reaction from the country on that one than any other.

Personally, I believe the people down in their hearts understand more about this than would be evident from the reaction we get here in Washington.

Q. Frank van der Linden, Richmond Times Dispatch: Mr. President, in your so-called compromise proposal on civil rights, are you insisting that they restore any part of this part III which has to do with injunctions?

THE PRESIDENT. No.

Q. Philip Potter, Baltimore Sun: Mr. President, going back to Syria, would it be tolerable to have in the heart of the Middle East a regime subject to Communist control which at any time, as it did last November, could deny the Free World a vital part of its oil supply?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I wouldn't want to speculate, because there are all sorts of degrees. For example, we feel--and I think everybody else feels--that Tito is in a far different position with respect to the free world than are Communist countries that are directly controlled by communism.

In other words, it is international communism that spells the greatest danger to the United States, not that we approve of communism anywhere, but international communism and subordination to the views of Moscow are one thing. Independent communism is something else. And also there are all degrees of its application.

I would say that the situation as it develops will be one that will have to be closely watched by all the free world, not merely the United States, all the free world, and we must not get into a position that would be intolerable for us. That is all.

Q. Tom Wicker, Winston-Salem, N. C., Journal: Mr. President, in view of your comments on the probable ineffectiveness of a special session on civil rights, and in view of the fact that both sides in the dispute have said that their interest in it is not political, would you think it would be incumbent upon both parties to go ahead and get together on the matter this year rather than let it go over until a campaign year?

THE PRESIDENT. Certainly, I hope so. I can't conceive of anything worse than making the basic right of so many millions of our citizens just a part of a political snarling as to who is to blame for this and who is to get the credit for that.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and twentieth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building on Wednesday morning, August 21, 1957, from 10:33 to 10:59 o'clock. In attendance: 193.

In connection with the situation in Syria, the White House on September 7 released a statement by the Secretary of State regarding a meeting of the President with the Secretary, Loy W. Henderson (Deputy Under Secretary of State for Administration), and William M. Rountree (Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs). At this meeting the President referred to his message to Congress of January 5, 1957 (Item 6 above), and affirmed his intention to carry out the national policy expressed in the Congressional Middle East Resolution (Pub. Law 85-7, 71 Stat. 5; also see Item 46 above).

The Secretary's statement further noted that the President had authorized the accelerated delivery to the countries of the area of economic and other defensive items which had been programmed for their use. The President expressed the hope that the International Communists would not push Syria into any acts of aggression against her neighbors, and that the people of Syria would act to allay the anxiety caused by recent events.

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/233468

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