Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

February 08, 1956

THE PRESIDENT. Good morning; please sit down.

I have no announcements of my own. We will go right to questions.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, will you announce your decision about running again before the end of this month?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have always avoided a fixed date for saying exactly what I would do. But it would seem to me that I ought to have as much information by the end of this month as I am going to get, so I will put it that way.

Q. Nat S. Finney, Buffalo Evening News: Mr. President, at Key West you mentioned the impact of your attack upon the stock market. I am curious as to whether, in making your plans for an announcement, you have given thought to the possible impact of that announcement on the stock market, and whether any care might be taken in that connection?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, I don't know why the stock market fell when I got sick. As a matter of fact, I think I brought it up because of the fact I didn't know it until several weeks later.

I have, ever since this occurrence, tried to say that I have honestly got to be convinced that I think I can carry this job efficiently.

Now, I have never said anything that was more hopeful than any doctor said. I have, on the contrary, tried to be a little bit on the, let's say, cautionary side rather than on the optimistic in the hope that if the time came when I had to say, in all justice, that I don't believe I should try to do this, that there would not be the kind of shock--as I say, I don't know why--but there would not be that kind of a shock if it were possible to avoid it.

Q. Charles S. von Fremd, CBS News: Mr. President, also going back to that Key West conference again, sir, you mentioned at that time, I believe, that, of course, you would consult with what you referred to as your trusted advisers before reaching such a decision. I just wonder, have you talked to your brother and to Mr. Hagerty--I think you mentioned--and some others, since then?

THE PRESIDENT. I've talked literally to dozens of people.

Q. Mr. von Fremd: About the decision of making up your mind?

THE PRESIDENT. That is correct.

Q. Ray L. Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, there has been some mention of your brother; there has also been some political speculation involving your brother Milton. I am wondering if you have ever had any intimation from him that he would be receptive to political nomination?

THE PRESIDENT. Well--[laughter]--on the contrary, all he has ever said to me, it's been exactly the opposite. And because of that, during these years that I have been here, any help I have had from him has been voluntary and, let's say, in nonofficial positions, except that quasi-official position when he was visiting as my personal representative in other countries.

No; I know nothing at all. If he has any political ambition, it is unknown to me.

Q. Martin S. Hayden, Detroit News: Mr. President, in your last answer as to the doctor's report, your use of the words "optimistic" or "pessimistic," and so forth, if you read that over, we might get the impression, sir, that you hope you will be able to

THE PRESIDENT. I am afraid you are getting me a bit tangled up here.

I have tried--as I said from the beginning--I have told you I have tried to be very honest about this. Now, a doctor's sole care is with his patient. He doesn't have to think about the things I do in trying to solve this problem. But I now should have some inkling of what the job demands, and its strains, its emotional strains, its periods of intense concentration, and I should know, therefore, from my own feeling as much as anything else, and I think I will probably trust my own feelings more than I will the doctor's reports. I am just trying to be honest in saying I will give an answer as quickly as I possibly can, and I think I will have that information soon.

Q. William McGaffin, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, I believe it has been about a month since you have been back, subjected to the full strains of the Presidency again.

Have you anything you could tell us this morning about how you feel, yourself, after having put yourself under that strain?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you know, there may be some other coronary people in this room, for all I know. [Laughter]

But it does seem to be a little bit of a strange sort of thing, and as far as your own personal feelings are concerned, let us say, they are not steady or stable.

Rarely have I known any time in my life when I had to be concerned about my own physical feeling, outside of flu or a cold or something like that. I have been one of those fortunate creatures in good health.

Now, there are times, unquestionably, when I would feel more tired than I think I would have in the past, but that may be also just advancing years.

The doctors certainly say that my physical reaction, the clinical record, is splendid today.

Q. Laurence H. Burd, Chicago Tribune: Mr. President, in response to the first question, I think you indicated we might expect an announcement by about the first of March. Am I correct in that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am not going to be tied down to a promise, because when I make a promise I keep it, if it is humanly possible.

I just say that I think that the information that is going to be available to me should all be in pretty well by that time.

The only thing that, of course, I could use more time for at all is to test myself; how am I going to feel. But I think I can't go much longer than that, and be honest with myself.

Q. Mr. Burd: Excuse me, going over farther, might we expect the announcement possibly before you take the southern vacation?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have been pinned down as far as I am going to be pinned down this morning, Mr. Burd.

Q. David P. Sentner, Hearst Newspapers: Mr. President, will you make your announcement at your news conference?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, as a matter of fact, I will say this: here is where I would like to make it. For my part, I have had relations with this group that I have treasured, and this would be a logical place to make it.

Now, when I do make such an announcement, it will probably need some explanation, and the longer explanation will not be here; but probably an announcement would be here. That would be my guess if it can work out that way.

Q. Alan S. Emory, Watertown Times: Mr. President, entirely aside from your own plans, sir, would you care to comment on the part you would like to see former Governor Dewey of New York play in the forthcoming campaign for the Republican Party?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I couldn't comment on it because I haven't mentioned a word to him about it.

Actually, the way a campaign is organized, except for the principal candidates, is through the national committees, and they get their speakers, and do all that sort of thing. So I imagine that would be the place to go talk about it.

This is the first time I have thought of it.

Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: I hate to bring up this matter again. Because of the widely varying interpretations placed on your answer to a question about Chief Justice Warren, some people got the idea that you would be opposed to Warren as the Republican candidate, if you don't run again yourself. Did you really mean all that?

THE PRESIDENT. Opposed? For goodness sake, I appointed him as Chief Justice of the United States; and there is no office in all the world that I respect more.

Of course I admire and respect and have a very deep affection for Mr. Warren. What I was trying to say, he had made a statement in which he argued for the complete separation of the judiciary and politics, and I was supporting him in his views.

Now, there are many ways in which he could be a candidate. And if he were, he would have no opposition from me; of that, I assure you.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Mr. President, would you say what you think of large campaign contributions and their relationships to influence on public actions of officials?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the trouble with commenting on such a subject again is the indefiniteness of "large." For a wealthy man, who is just genuinely interested in his country, and is not seeking any return therefor--what would be a very small contribution for him could be a very large one for me or for you.

When you begin to talk about a corporation or organization, organizations and pressure group contributions, I think we have got a field that we should do some very earnest study on, and I do believe that we must continuously watch the whole proposition of putting money into political campaigns from the standpoint of this: is it absolutely disinterested money or is someone trying to get something for it? I think it is a field that we can never let up on.

It isn't merely campaign contributions. It is a thing we must be just as watchful and vigilant as we can be because our country depends upon honest, joint convictions honestly arrived at.

Q. Lloyd M. Schwartz, Fairchild Publications: Mr. President, in your economic report you asked Congress to study whether a standby authority to control installment credit was necessary. Since then Mr. Humphrey has told the Joint Economic Committee that he thought such controls were not necessary, and were unwise. I wonder whether you still feel that such standby authority should be enacted, and the study should be given to it?

THE PRESIDENT. If you read my report carefully, I said that under present conditions they are not necessary--that is exactly what I said.

Now, I asked that they study it; the question of legislative controls or authorities in several fields to be used in what you call a standby classification has always been a bit argumentative.

I just assure you of this: if Congress, in its wisdom, should decide that there should be standby controls not to be used under current conditions at all, but only when conditions obviously dictated them, so far as I am concerned they would never be abused in this administration. In other words, I wouldn't quarrel with Congress on this subject, but I do say they are not necessary at this moment.

Q. Charles E. Shutt, Telenews: Mr. President, is there anything you can tell us, sir, about your continuing correspondence with Premier Bulganin, and any hopes you might have for what might come out of that correspondence?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, several times, I think, I have discussed this question of hopes and expectations and, let us say, gains with which we are satisfied.

I have now a reply to make to Premier Bulganin's latest note. We are studying it every day, and an answer will be forthcoming, for the reason that no matter what our convictions as to past performance, of breaking of treaties and the denunciation of treaties, and so on, we must never be in the position of blocking any avenue, no matter how tiny or how tortuous, that may lead toward peace.

But I couldn't express any hope in more explicit terms than that. As long as we keep up a correspondence that is not bitter in tone, and is not just mere denunciation of the other, there is always some faint hope that something may grow out of it.

Q. Frank van der Linden, Richmond Times Dispatch: The Agriculture Department yesterday turned down a request from the American textile industry for import quotas on foreign textiles. I was wondering whether that has your approval or whether there is any chance that you might overrule that decision against the quota?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the decision hasn't been brought up to me, that particular one. But I have always been against quotas. I think quotas are a very bad way to handle our foreign trade, if we can get out of it. Now, I realize that in a few products we haven't. But I don't believe in them.

Q. Alice A. Dunnigan, Associated Negro Press: Mr. President, do you feel, sir, that the recent outbreak at the University of Alabama is a violation of Federal law and order? If so, do .you plan to recommend that the Justice Department investigate the situation?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the Justice Department is already looking into it. I don't have to plan to order them. Automatically, when anything comes up that might affect Federal law, they look into it.

But, you must remember, the Supreme Court decision turned this whole process of integration back to the district courts, and the district courts were specifically instructed to handle it under the conditions that apply locally, so far as they can.

While there has been an outbreak that all of us deplore, when there is a defiance of law, still the chancellor and the trustees, the local authorities, the student body and all the rest of them have not yet had an opportunity, I should think, to settle this thing as it ought to be settled. I would certainly hope that we could avoid any interference with anybody else as long as that State, from its governor on down, will do its best to straighten it out.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, could we come down to a very local matter in the District of Columbia? The hardy perennial District home rule has passed the Senate again, and is pigeonholed in the House committee.

I wonder if you would express your views at this point on the right of the people in the District to vote.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you use an expression that I don't know that is correct. You say "pigeonholed," and they may be just engaged in study, I don't know.

But I have expressed myself a number of times on the right of the people here to vote.

At the same time, it is idle to compare this city to any other city in the United States. It was established by the Federal Government for a Federal headquarters, and the city has grown up around that complex. Now, that doesn't deny the citizens, as I see it, of their right to rule themselves. But since it was established as a Federal headquarters by the Federal Government, in a swamp, really, they have rights, too, that must be carefully safeguarded, outside of the normal authorities and responsibilities of an average city.

Therefore, any home rule system, in my opinion, must make some provision for the Federal Government taking care of its own interests in this field, in the ordinary sense.

Q. Roland Evans, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, two Democratic Senators have charged in the last week, sir, that the United States lags seriously behind the Soviet Union in the production and development of guided missiles. Do you agree with that opinion, sir, and if not, could you give us your view?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am always astonished at the amount of information that others get that I don't. [Laughter]

But I want to say this: this whole field of guided missiles is a very broad one. There are different methods of propulsion; there are different theories by which they would work. Some, indeed two, were used by the Germans against us in Europe.

There is the ballistic missile, one that is hurled into the air, and falls with such guidance as you can give it in the early stages of its flight at a predetermined point, or sometimes does; and then there is another kind that depends upon corrections in flight, in ordinary flight, with different types of engines in them.

Now, in this whole field, broad as it is in the production of engines, of instruments for guiding them, methods of propulsion, kinds of warheads and everything else, it would be idle to say that always you could be sure that in every single one of these fields we are ahead of anybody else.

I would like to make one or two observations: there are limits to what you can do in research and development. And in the budget now before Congress, as I recall, I asked for some one billion two hundred million or more money.

Now, there are only so many scientists. There are only so many channels you can pursue. Indeed, one of the things you have to watch is this: don't try to develop too many at once or you get in each other's way, and you block them all through the confusion and the demands you make on the scientific pools and every other kind of thing that you have in this whole field.

Now, I just want to ask you one thing, and if there is anyone here that has got the answer to this one, you will relieve me mightily by communicating it to me here or in private: Can you picture a war that would be waged with atomic missiles, well knowing that atomic missiles can be of little value unless they have a tremendously powerful explosive head on them?

In other words, they cannot be as accurate as shooting a gun or dropping a bomb from a plane; consequently, you must visualize these things in such numbers and using a kind of ammunition that means just complete devastation.

Moreover, if one side can do it, the other side can do the same thing by one means or another, because we know that today we have means, and so do other nations, of delivering these bombs in such a way that they cannot be 100 percent effectively intercepted. So you are bound to have this ruin, no matter what happens.

Now, to suddenly stop everything else and just to do this, you are working toward a theory that, to my mind, leaves no longer war, because war is a contest, and you finally get to a point where you are talking merely about race suicide, and nothing else.

That does not mean you should be complacent. I think we have proved we are not complacent in the amount of money we have put into it, and the positive orders that have been issued several times that the guided missile program has priority over any other in the Defense Department. If we find that this is a cheaper, better way of doing anything than we have now, more accurate, well then that is fine. But as of now this thing is being researched and developed as rapidly as it can be done in this country, so far as my experts and my people in the Defense Department tell me.

Q. Clark R. Mollenhoff, Des Moines Register: Mr. President, I wonder if you have received a report yet on Mr. Mansure's activities in connection with those insurance contracts in GSA?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I received reports of various kinds, and while they were coming in, Mr. Mansure resigned, and that was accepted. He resigned because of personal reasons and, he said, personal business that arose.

Now, automatically, anything that is considered a violation of law on the part of any official--it goes through and goes to the Attorney General, where it will be investigated. As far as I know, there has been nothing actionable turned up about Mr. Mansure. But he resigned for personal reasons, and his resignation itself had nothing to do with this situation.

Q. Robert W. Richards, The Copley Press: Mr. President, in view of what the last session of Congress did to your postal rate increase, have you any reason to hope that the new session will be kinder to it?

THE PRESIDENT. I always hope that good sense will prevail.

We are the one country in the world that doesn't balance its budget in its postal service or come close to doing it.

We have these terrific deficits. There is one field where I have taken a great deal of pains to talk to the so-called little fellow, the people working around farms, the people that I meet in small towns where I go and, indeed, in the hospitals. Now, I find none of them that are opposed to this rate increase. Indeed, they say the post office ought to pay its way.

I don't know where are all the interests that are in opposition. But I do believe this: if we are trying to pay for such services as we get, as we go along, it seems to me almost that self-respect demands a raise in postal rates. 1

1 The Postmaster General's report, dated January 30, 1956, sets forth details on deficiencies in postal revenue and physical plant, and pleads for increased rates. On February 1, 1956, the President transmitted the report to the Congress and urged that earnest attention be given the proposals.

The letter and the complete report are published in a committee print entitled "Communication from the President of the United States Relating to Postal Rates" (House of Representatives Committee on Post Office and Civil Service, February 2, 1956; 84th Cong., 2d sess.).

Q. J. Anthony Lewis, New York Times: Mr. President, at your last press conference you gave us your views on the proposed anti-segregation amendment put forward by Congressman Powell to the school construction bill. He has now written a letter saying that he would withdraw his amendment if he were assured that the administration would undertake, on its own, to withhold Federal aid from segregated schools without any such amendment. I wonder what you thought of that proposal, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. That proposal has not been made to me.

Q. Walter Kerr, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, just one more political question, sir: I wonder if you could tell us how your mail has been running?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, recently I haven't looked at it. But in the tabulations I saw a couple of weeks ago there are very few that are not on the side that if I would just organize my job properly it wouldn't be such hard work.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, to go back to that missile situation for a moment, Senator Symington said that he knows for sure that Russia has tested an intercontinental missile which will travel hundreds of miles further than anything we have tested. Do you know that to be a fact?

THE PRESIDENT. You are asking a question that I have habitually refrained from remarking on.

Now, I did say this: that there are various kinds of missiles, and in certain fields I am sure we are well ahead of the other side. In certain fields I think they are probably ahead of us. But those are limited fields in a great big field. I think overall, we have no reason to believe that we are not doing everything that human science and brains and resources can do to keep our position in a proper posture.

Q. Gould Lincoln, Washington Star: Mr. President, to return to the Chief Justice Warren matter for a moment, it has been suggested that if you would ask the Chief Justice to run, if you don't run, that he might agree to do it. Do you have anything in mind of asking the Chief Justice to run, if you don't run?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, no, I hadn't thought of that point. But I am not so certain that it would be within my province.

I have, as everybody else has, probably, my own ideas of what is a proper sphere of activity for the President of the United States. One of them, by the way, is that he doesn't go out barnstorming for himself under any conditions, and even had I stood for the Presidency again and never experienced this heart attack, I would never have gone out barnstorming for myself, as I felt it was my duty to do in 1952, having accepted that nomination.

But I don't believe that it is really appropriate for me to go around asking someone to do such-and-such a thing because that implies, I suppose, that I think I can put him there.

Q. Elie Abel, New York Times: Mr. President, in light of your talks last week with Prime Minister Eden, could you give us, sir, your assessment of the possibility of stopping or averting further conflict in the Middle East by joint Western allied action or through the United Nations?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, as you know, we agreed at that meeting to invite the French to a conversation to see what measures we could apply, either acting severally ourselves or through the United Nations.

Now, those meetings, I believe, started yesterday afternoon, and I have had no reply from them at all.

But I will tell you this: everything that I can constitutionally do will be done to prevent the outbreak of hostilities in that section.

Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: Mr. President, could you tell us how you feel about the natural gas bill which is now before you?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am not going to discuss it in great detail. I do refer you again to my belief that the Federal Government should not interfere in States business, if they didn't have to. I believe in free enterprise, and I believe in the exercise by the States of the rights that are specifically reserved to them, and that includes the production of their own natural resources.

However, when you get into the gas field, you, by the establishment of long lines and so on, get into the public utility business in a very distinct way. Therefore, I don't think this is something like buying wheat or buying corn or buying coal. Many of its proponents have likened it to that kind of thing--I don't believe that.

So I have said from the beginning that I want to find some way of preserving the rights of States that are preserved to them in the Constitution and, at the same time, protect the consumer who, having tied himself onto a gas line and bought his stove and so on, is pretty well a captive of that system, because it would cost him a lot to try to transfer, and many of us can't afford that kind of thing.

So the only way I am studying that bill is: does it, within reason, meet the requirements I laid down?

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

Note: President Eisenhower's seventy-ninth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:31 to 11:01 o'clock on Wednesday morning, February 8, 1956. In attendance: 241.

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/234003

Filed Under



Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives