Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

September 27, 1956


Ladies and gentlemen, I should like to take one minute to pay a tribute to Mrs. Zaharias, Babe Didrikson. She was a woman who, in her athletic career, certainly won the admiration of every person in the United States, all sports people over the world, and in her gallant fight against cancer she put up one of the kind of fights that inspired us all.

I think that every one of us feels sad that finally she had to lose this last one of all her battles.

Any questions?

Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, your campaign schedule seems to have undergone considerable expansion since we last talked to you. Can you tell us how much more speechmaking you now plan to do than you originally intended, and whether you feel that your health places any limitation on the extent of your campaign activities?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, to answer your second question first, as far as I know, there is no health question involved whatsoever at the moment.

As I told you long ago, I lead a somewhat more ordered life than I did at one time. I try to get to bed regularly, and all that sort of thing.

However, as far as I can determine any effect of any of the efforts I have made, either swinging a golf club or on a campaign tour, there has been no effect whatsoever.

Now, let's see, I have been out of town, went out to Des Moines, went out to Peoria, I am going to Kentucky, and I am going to Pittsburgh. From there on I don't know the exact schedule. I have got one more that I know.

I would say, yes, I am probably doing a little bit more than I originally planned in my own mind; but I will tell you one thing: I am not doing one-tenth of what a lot of people want me to do. [Laughter]

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, we are well aware, sir, of your disinclination to discuss personalities or to deal in them. But Governor Stevenson doesn't feel quite the same way. Governor Stevenson said last night that you show a consistent rejection of the positive responsibilities of leadership. Would you like to talk to that point, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think I should be the last person in the world to talk about my own qualifications as a leader. But the United States is filled with people who have been my associates, on my staffs, and my superiors over the past 15 years, and I think I would rather call on them.

I do hold as one of the most magnificent compliments I ever got a few paragraphs on this subject by Winston Churchill; and I personally think he knows me a little better than some of my critics.

Q. Ray L. Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, again on Mr. Stevenson, how do you feel about the propriety of the opposition bringing your brother Milton into the campaign?

THE PRESIDENT. When I saw the nature of this charge made, I immediately directed the State Department to prepare a full report to me on every connection that my brother has had with the State Department in our efforts to promote better feeling and better cooperation, and a more effective organization with all the American States.

When that has been submitted to me, I am going to give it to you people without comment. Now, the comments I will make, therefore, are just to one or two of the charges made.

I understand that they are very disturbed that the United States Government gave Mr. Peron's government more than $100 million. The charge was made that that was mostly put in the Swiss banks for Mr. Peron's benefit.

It is true the Government loaned Mr. Peron's government $ 130 million, but it wasn't a Republican government. It was the Democratic government in 1950 and '51; and from the time I came in until Peron went out, the Government did not sign one single loan agreement with Mr. Peron. So this $100 million, if this story is true, I regret also, but don't come to me with it.

In the second place, we have studied numbers of ways in which we felt that some effective cooperation might be brought about. There had been under study for a long time a steel mill, but never signed that agreement until after the new government in, and since the new government came in, this Government has extended $ 160 million, I believe is the sum, in credits, but that is the new government.

Now, one other thing I would like to say: when my brother went down, gave up his vacation at the request of the Secretary of State and myself, to try to revitalize the spirit of partnership among the 21 American Governments, one of the things that was brought to me was by the head of one of the press associations. He pointed out that the facilities for these three press associations in Argentina had just been either confiscated or repressed, I have forgotten the exact details, but they weren't usable any more. There was really a censorship on them.

So one of the things we charged my brother with was to get that lifted.

He got the promise and 24 hours after he left the Argentine those three press associations were again operating. I just looked at my correspondence this morning, and I think it was November of that year, one of these press association heads wrote to me and said, "We have regained at least most of our clients that we lost through this illegal and terrible operation."

One other point: my brother has never acted except on the request of the State Department, through the State Department, and he has not attempted to fix any policy for South America. His report, by the way, was published.

Q. Pat Munroe, Albuquerque Journal: Mr. President, we have been able to determine, after some effort, that spending by Members of Congress on foreign travel probably hit an all-time high last year. It averages out at several thousand dollars per capita. Yet we are unable to find out who spent what, where, and when of the public's money.

In New Mexico all candidates for Congress from both parties have pledged themselves to a full accounting in the future, and I would like to ask you if, as leader of your party, you would favor a pledge by Republican candidates in other States to vote for a joint resolution at the next session calling for an exact accounting of such spending by individual Members?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, now, I don't know exactly how it ought to be done, and whether we ought to just take a pledge and let it go at that.

I believe every cent of money spent in that way ought to be accounted for by voucher and exactly.

As I told you the last time, either you or someone else raised the question, it is my understanding that there was an agreement that only the chairmen of the committees could give it out. But I think that now that the question is raised, we have looked into it this far, I think we ought to have some method by which these figures are published. I see no reason why they should be secret.

Q. Alan S. Emory, Watertown Times: Mr. President, in your Peoria speech you mentioned plans for a program to relieve periodic market congestion of perishable farm commodities. Are you able at this time to spell out that plan any more, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, no, except that the Department has funds which they can use for the purchase of different types of supplies that can be used advantageously in any of the programs that we sustained. So with that money, once you get a temporary market glut, why, they move in and operate. They have in the past, and they have money to do it in the future.

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, in Iowa we heard that the payments on the soil bank allotments had been delayed. Could you tell us what money has been disbursed on the soil bank, and the schedule for the later payments?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Brandt, I can't tell you the exact schedule, of course not.

The last report I had was about $260 million had gone out. Let's remember this: we first asked for the soil bank in January. It was not enacted in time to get in before planting time. So when it did go, there was necessarily a push that may have resulted in some administrative differences, in different places.

But I would say this: the whole effort is to be fair and to make this a voluntary program.

If the man comes in, there is a local administration, you see, that gives the biggest possible local influence in the matter as to how much to be paid; and they should be paid promptly. Now, I don't know of any reason why Iowa should be held up.

Q. Mr. Brandt: Secretary Benson said last night of the $260 million that has been earned, or whatever phrase you want to use, $10 million had been disbursed already, and about $100 million would be disbursed in the next 2 or 3 months. Is that near the schedule?

THE PRESIDENT. No. As a matter of fact, I understood that $260 million would all be paid out this year.

Q. Mr. Brandt: This year?

THE PRESIDENT. I could be wrong, and I will look it up; but that is what I understood.

Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, Egypt has been blockading shipping to Israel for the better part of some 7 years. Both your administration and the previous Democratic administration have repeatedly protested to Cairo the treatment of American ships involved in that blockade. Against that background, sir, and if force is not used, can you tell us any reason to hope that Egypt would react favorably to the West's request on the administration of the Suez Canal now?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, that is a black mark that has stood there for a long time. I personally think it is most unjust, and I believe it is not in accord with the 1888 treaty.

The great hope is now this: that the users of the canal, showing such a unanimity in what they believe should be a proper, let's say, set of rules, the procedures to be observed, that Egypt will see that her own best interests lie in the same way--because these 18 nations, I believe they account for more than 90 percent of the traffic that goes through that canal.

Now, if they are successful in getting an ad hoc method, a provisional method of operation, and finally can get something that is at least similar to or, let's say, represents the principles made in the first proposal, I would think this particular thing should be cured at the same time.

Q. Robert L. Riggs, Louisville Courier-Journal: Mr. President, the three Republican committees put out what they call a comic book for the campaign calling it "Eisenhower-Nixon." It's got pictures and texts in it. And one part of the text says, "More people are employed today than ever before. There are four million more jobs now in peacetime than the Democrats had with their wars."

My question is: would you agree with Mr. Hall and Senator Schoeppel and Congressman Simpson that these were Democratic wars?

THE PRESIDENT. Look, just as I believe that every President is president of all the people, there is no such thing as a president of the Republicans, there is no such thing as a president of the Democrats. They may be thinking of something that I don't know anything about, but I don't believe when America gets into war we can afford to call it anything but our war.

Q. Douglas B. Cornell, Associated Press: Mr. President, the Vice President at Houston, Texas, was asked yesterday whether he had ever been a member of the NAACP. He said that he is an honorary member. One of the Associated Press members has asked us to inquire of the candidates, including yourself, whether they are members of the NAACP. Are you, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I am not. I will say this: once Walter White, who was then, I believe, secretary or maybe it was president, visited me in Europe. He had very high praise for some of the things I was doing, but he never suggested I be a member, honorary or otherwise.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland ( Maine ) Press Herald: Mr. President, have you or will you suggest to Nehru of India that he make his postponed visit soon, which would give you an opportunity to talk to him about the Suez Canal?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, Mrs. Craig, he doesn't have to be here exactly for me to talk to him about the Suez Canal

Q. Mrs. Craig: Yes, I know.

THE PRESIDENT. but I have renewed my invitation, I think I said before. It is my belief he will be here this year-some time. But I don't think that we could expect it very, very quickly.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, the farmers seem very confused about some of the statements which you have made, Mr. Benson has made recently, and I have here before me the agricultural prices of August 31 from the Agriculture Department and the farm income situation, and they both show that prices which farmers are receiving are going down, and that farm income is going down, and that their costs are going up. And yet I find your speeches are contradictions to that. Would you have those figures re-examined?

THE PRESIDENT. No. You see, they went down for the month. I said that prices were 7 percent higher than they were a year ago. I said they were higher than they were last December, and they are.

Now, in the upward trend of prices, this month--and I think it is seasonal--there has been a slight drop on the end of that curve. But that doesn't mean that that drop is going to continue. We are higher than when rigid price supports were in effect one year ago, and we are higher than we were last December when I vetoed that hodgepodge bill. So everything I have said on this is statistically correct.

Q. Martin S. Hayden, Detroit News: Mr. President, would you give us your comments on a statement that Vice President Nixon made in Colorado Springs Saturday night that a 4-day workweek is the logical result that workers can expect from a continuation of the Eisenhower administration policy?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, this is what I say: Length of workweeks, prices, wages, come about as result of the working of great economic forces and economic developments. An administration can, and certainly this one tries, to establish that kind of climate where everybody's efforts can be rewarded to the full.

We do not, by any manner of means, believe that Government should go and establish these things by fiat and say, "This is it." We establish the climate in which people can profit, people can work.

The exchange of telegrams, I believe, was made public. Mr. Reuther sent Mr. Nixon a long telegram, and I read Mr. Nixon's answer, and I see nothing wrong with it, whatsoever. I think that would represent my views.

If the day can come that we have a 4-day week, and people can have a greater time for leisure, recreation, and education and so on, why, wonderful. But no man can say it is going to come about because I say so.

Q. Charles L. Bartlett, Chattanooga Times: Mr. President, are you getting any reports from Vice President Nixon or any of your political colleagues indicating that this may be a closer race than you anticipated?

THE PRESIDENT. I think I have told you a number of times that I have not anticipated anything. I believe when you are in any contest you should work like there is always to the very last minute a chance to lose it. This is battle, this is politics, this is anything. So I just see no excuse if you believe anything enough for not putting your whole heart into it. It is what I do. I put everything I have got into the jobs that I have to solve, and I would expect them to do it.

Now, with respect to reports, I talked to Mr. Nixon last night on the telephone. He seemed to be recovering from his indisposition. He was very happy, said he would be back in here, I believe, a week from today, and seemed to be highly pleased with what he encountered.

Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: Mr. President, the Textile Workers Union has just issued a report which declares the textile industry, ranging from north to south, is "a crisis for America," with a million textile workers and their families "condemned to an ever declining standard of living." Does the administration, sir, plan any action to cope with this situation so described?

THE PRESIDENT. One of the things that have been bothering all the textile manufacturers has been Japanese imports. Only this morning, I believe, there was announced and made public an exchange of notes voluntarily started by Japan, in which they laid out their program of voluntarily restricting imports into this country, the kind of step that I believe is constructive and helpful in this sort of thing.

Now, over and beyond that: as you know, I put in a program for helping depressed areas, depressed sections of the industry and geographical areas. It didn't get enacted, but I am going to recommend it again.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, why, sir, are you expanding or doing more campaigning than you originally planned?

THE PRESIDENT. Simply because there are so many representations made by such good friends that I think I am a little weak; I don't find it possible to decline all of them. As a matter of fact, let's remember this, all of us: when I said four or five or six or something of that character, I hadn't sat down myself and calculated what I would talk about, where it would be done, or anything else.

Now, I am not going to go barnstorming, and I am not going to do whistle-stopping, but I am making two or three more talks than I had first contemplated.

Q. Hazel Markel, National Broadcasting Company: Mr. president, does this expanded program of yours for campaign include your secret weapon, the First Lady? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. I think she will go with me every time that the plane trip is not so long and arduous, say, within a period of 48 hours. It would be too tiring for her.

Q. Kenneth M. Scheibel, Gannett News Service: In the Peoria speech you praised Governor Stratton and Senator Dirksen and some of the others, but you didn't mention the Secretary of Agriculture. Do you regard him as a political millstone or an asset in the campaign?

THE PRESIDENT. I have never thought of him as a political millstone or as a political asset. I thought of him as this: one of the finest, most dedicated public servants I have ever known, a man who is thoroughly acquainted with every phase of agriculture and puts his whole heart into doing something that he believes will be good for the long-term benefit of the farmers of America.

It never occurred to me I hadn't mentioned him, but it seems to be politically a habit to mention the local figures in your party when you are present. Governor Stratton was there and I mentioned him, and one or two others.

Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: In New York State many voters are concerned over the possibility that Republican control of the Senate would restore Senator McCarthy to chairmanship of a key Senate committee. Would you comment on that possibility?


Q. Clark R. Mollenhoff, Des Moines Register: Mr. President, at least four congressional committees in a period of the last few weeks have issued reports that were critical of what they termed excessive secrecy that they felt covered up mismanagement in the operation of the Government.

Now, these committees contend that there is no court decision backing the broad proposition of executive secrecy, and I wondered if you could tell us if you feel that all employees of the Federal Government, at their own discretion, can determine whether they will testify or will not testify before congressional committees when there is no security problem involved?

THE PRESIDENT. I believe that the instructions are clear, that when there is no question of security, national security, involved, that everybody is supposed to testify freely before congressional committees.

I will have to look up the letters of instruction that have gone out.

Primarily, I think this is a function of the department heads and the separate office heads, and I don't believe that any individual who happens to be, let's say, from a filing clerk on up can by themselves decide what is right for them to tell and what is not right.

Q. Mr. Mollenhoff: Mr. President, they used the May 17, 1954, letter that you wrote to Secretary Wilson in the Army-McCarthy hearings as the precedent in this particular case. I wonder if you felt they were misusing it if they use it, say, a clerk or an assistant secretary?

THE PRESIDENT. Now, you give me a very long and involved and detailed question here at a place where I don't even remember what I wrote to Secretary Wilson at that time. I will have to look it up.

If you will put your question in to Mr. Hagerty so we can look it up, why, it will be answered.

Q. Russell Baker, New York Times: Mr. President, you say you are not going to do any more barnstorming. I wonder whether we might also look forward to your expanding this motorcading type of campaigning which you did in Iowa? Will there be more of that, in addition to more television?

THE PRESIDENT. If you Can tell me how to get from one place to the other on the ground--[Laughter]--where I want to go without going through a motorcade, why, I would be much obliged, and I have done nothing except that.

Q. Francis M. Stephenson, New York Daily News: Mr. President, I wonder if you could give us your impressions of your two trips into the Middle West?

THE PRESIDENT. I would say this: both Mrs. Eisenhower and I have been not only proud, we have been practically overwhelmed by the warmth of the personal welcome we have encountered.

I have nothing else to say because I have had no reaction except, of course, what my friends have told me with whom I have been. But as far as we are concerned, we are very, very happy that people seem to feel toward us like they show.

Q. Lloyd M. Schwartz, Fairchild Publications: There are reports you have just decided to sign, invoke the Geneva reservation to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade which would raise duties on imports of woolen fabrics. I wonder if you could tell us whether you have done that yet?

THE PRESIDENT. I have forgotten the last paper I signed. It is up, and I don't know that anything has been published, but the thing is up for action, and it should be out in a day or so, whatever the action was; if it isn't out, I don't think it is proper for me to say it now. There must be some reason for its not being out.

Q. Paul Scott Rankine, Reuters: Mr. President, Winston Churchill has referred to you on a number of occasions in his speeches and writings. I wonder if you could help us identify the three particular paragraphs which you referred to as a testimonial?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I think you will have to look it up.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post and Times Herald: In discussing Suez a moment ago you said, I believe, that your hope was of getting something similar to or representative of the first London Conference proposals. Does that mean, sir, that those proposals are negotiable as to the type of international control or as to international control itself?

THE PRESIDENT. What I meant was this: we have laid down certain things that represent principles as well as specific proposals and operation.

Now, I think details of operation can always be rearranged if we can stick to the principle that the user countries do have a very great stake in this internationalized waterway.

Q. Charles E. Shutt, Telenews: Mr. President, last evening former Secretary of State Dean Acheson indicated that your administration had handled our foreign affairs rather badly. He also used the phrase "This administration had been playing Russian roulette with an atomic pistol." Would you care to comment on that, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well--[laughter]--I would say this: regardless of who said it, if this campaign were going to be settled on the basis of misleading wisecracks, why, I would think the betting would be very considerably different than it would be if it is settled just on facts and on the record.

Q. Lawrence Fernsworth, Concord (New Hampshire) Monitor: Mr. President, in previous press conferences there have been questions raised about the advisability of appointing men to the Supreme Court who have had judicial experience, and you replied in the affirmative.

It was not clear from your answer to such a question at your last conference whether you felt appointments ought to be limited to judges of the Federal Bench. At that conference the question of the South's claim to an appointment was raised.

May I ask whether the New England claims are not likewise being taken into account? Previous to the last appointment, Senator Bridges sponsored the chief justice of the New Hampshire State Supreme Court, Frank B. Kenison. Is there a probability of Justice Kenison or some other New Englander being considered?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, when you come to the Supreme Court, my people look up the record of every sitting judge that they can find, district courts and circuit courts in the Federal and all of the Supreme Court Justices in the States.

We like to keep a good geographical distribution. But I would never think of making an appointment to the Supreme Court merely on the basis of geographical distribution. One part has just as much right as another, and if you get the man that meets the qualifications that you are looking for, stands out in the opinion of the American Bar Association and all the rest, well then, of course, he would get it; and I would hope that all of the areas could, in their own turns, have the proper representation in the Court.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's ninety-sixth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:33 to 11:02 o'clock on Thursday morning, September 27, 1956. In attendance: 210.

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/233233

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