Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

August 01, 1956

THE PRESIDENT. Please sit down.

It's been quite a while since I visited with you. And one of the latest incidents in my own activities was my visit to Panama, which I would like to mention briefly.

It was a unique sort of visit, as you know, one from which I personally felt I derived a tremendous profit of knowledge and understanding, and I am certain that the other heads of state there did the same.

It is the kind of meeting which I am convinced could with. benefit to all be held, not often, but at reasonable periods.

Of course, it's always awkward to arrange a meeting like that to which heads of states can go.

I understand that now, guests of the State Department, here this morning are a number of reporters from the Latin American countries. I want to assure them of my personal and official welcome to them, and I hope they have a fine time in our country, and learn something of us, as I know I did of Panama.

I think we shall go to questions.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, would you tell us how you feel about Harold Stassen's campaign to block the nomination of Vice President Nixon, and to put Governor Herter on the ticket in his place? And can you tell us what you said to Stassen when he first informed you of his plan?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, to answer your last part first, I said very little, because Mr. Stassen didn't come to me for advice. He came to me to tell me what he expected to do.

As you know, I firmly believe in the right of any American citizen to express his own political beliefs and political preferences as he chooses. This applies to me as well as to the Vice President, and the Vice President has assured me of the same kind of thinking himself.

Now, Mr. Stassen having said that, I assured him that that was his right as far as I was concerned, but he had to do it as an individual, not as any member of my official family, that he had to make that distinction very clear.

A little later I think he found--I am speculating a little--but apparently he found that he had stirred up more of a storm than he had anticipated. And he came to me and said in order to carry out his purpose of separating his efforts from the administration and from the White House, he wanted to ask for a leave, which I personally thought was a wise act on his part, and I promptly approved. He is on leave and will remain on leave as long as he is working for this.

Now, as to my feelings about it, I say my feeling is he has got a right to express himself, as any other American has.

Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, do you feel that you have committed yourself to Vice President Nixon as your running mate this year?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Folliard, I am not exactly sure what you mean by "committed yourself."

I have expressed my opinion, in front of this body, of Dick Nixon so often that I think there should be no doubt about my satisfaction with him as a running mate. But I have also said I am not even nominated yet; you must not forget that. And I do uphold the right of the delegates to the convention to nominate whom they choose.

I believe I once said here if any man were nominated as Vice President that the President felt he could not, in good conscience, run with, he would have just one recourse: to submit his own resignation.

Q. Mr. Folliard: Mr. Stassen is going on the assumption that your position is now what it was on February 29th, that is, that the No. 2 place on the ticket would remain open until the convention, until the No. 1 nominee had been selected.

THE PRESIDENT. I think it is open.

Mr. Nixon himself said to me that the last thing that he hoped anyone would consider was that this was a cut and dried affair and that we were trying to foreclose the delegates their right to choose whom they please. He said that in my office within the last few days.

I think I made myself so clear on this subject time and again, that there is really nothing more to be said about it, that I can add to it.

Q. Andrew F. Tully, Jr., Scripps-Howard: Mr. President, in 1952 you had a list of names of men who would be acceptable to you as a vice Presidential candidate. Do you have such a list today?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't made any up yet. But I might say a little further to that question, if I did I would not by any manner of means ever give it to anyone except on the most confidential basis, because I certainly would not be drawn into the great error of saying I would run with this man, with this man, with this man, and finally get to someone and I said, "No, I would not do it."

Q. Mr. Tully: Sir, can I ask if you are planning to make up such a list before the convention?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't any idea.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, some weeks ago you said that if anyone ever proposed a "dump-Nixon movement," that you would create quite a commotion in your office. Have you created such a commotion in the wake of Mr. Stassen's recommendation?

THE PRESIDENT. No, no one ever proposed to me that I dump Mr. Nixon. No one, I think, would have that effrontery.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) Press Herald: Mr. Stassen said, in announcing his preference for Herter on the ticket, that large portions of our populace overseas and uncommitted nations would prefer an Eisenhower-Nixon ticket. Aside from commenting on Stassen, do you believe an Eisenhower-Nixon ticket would not have the support of people overseas, and would be detrimental to you in relation to uncommitted nations?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I haven't any source of information, Mrs. Craig, that would allow me to make a positive answer to such a thing. But this is what I do have: as you know, I have sent the Vice President on innumerable trips; and from every country, both from the people, the citizens of that country, and from Americans in the country, I have received only the most glowing reports of his acceptability while there. Now, that's all I have on it.

Q. Charles S. von Fremd, CBS News: Mr. President, would you be equally pleased, sir, to have some other well-qualified Republican, other than the Vice President, as your running mate this year?

THE PRESIDENT. I am not going into comparisons at all.

Q. Thomas N. Schroth, Congressional Quarterly: Mr. President, in its annual analysis of your legislative program, Congressional Quarterly found this session of Congress acted favorably on 103 of your 224 specific requests.

The Republican-controlled 83d Congress did considerably better than that.

Considering the substance of the legislation passed as well as the amount, were you satisfied with the performance of Congress this year on your legislative program?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, with respect to this Congress I have more than one emotion. In certain respects I was highly pleased. In some I was most regretful; and in some I was frankly disappointed.

There were essential parts of the program that I had laid out in my state of the Union speech that were enacted into law. For that I was highly pleased, I was grateful.

There were other parts that seemed to me were handled in such a way as to delay their enactment for a long time: the farm program, the road program, which I wanted to get busy on; and I regretted that delay.

There were other parts that we didn't get at all, particularly some of them that applied to human welfare. For example, we didn't get the school program. We didn't get reinsurance for sickness, that sort of thing. There is a whole list of the things we didn't get, which I could have the press section give you in detail. But it is one of those human things--you are never completely satisfied, I am sure.

Q. Roscoe Drummond, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, would you give us your own report on how you feel, and on your decision to remain in the race after the operation?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't mind telling you this much and, of course, I mean as far as I know, I can tell you everything on it, but I don't know everything.

Like anybody else, my condition has to be determined for me somewhat by the doctors. As far as my feelings are concerned, from the day I was operated on--and you must remember I was having a pretty rough ride there for 2 or 3 day--from that day on I have improved every day.

Now, the doctors warned me at that time it would be certainly 4 months before I would feel myself, would really want to go play golf, would really want to do the things I have been accustomed to doing. But as far as I know, I have improved every day, and I have nothing that keeps me from going ahead and doing my work.

When I get home one of them, my personal physician, comes in, looks me over, and says I am in good shape.

Now I feel good, but I don't feel as well as I did a year ago at this time.

Q. Sarah McClendon, Austin American: Mr. President, you are being pressed by some nations and by some forces in this country to come out in favor of internationalizing the Suez Canal. Now, I wonder if we did that, if you think that might induce other nations to come forward and say, "Well, why don't we have international control of the Panama Canal?"

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, the conditions aren't the same. You see from the convention of 1888, while it recognizes that the concession itself will run out in 1968, that the Suez Canal will always be an international waterway, free for use to all nations of the world in peace and in war.

So the conditions aren't quite the same. Right now the great problem is to make certain of the continued efficient use of this great waterway whose importance is not confined to the neighboring countries or Europe; but, indeed, it is vital to our economy and to our future welfare.

Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, there must be times, sir, when you recoil against the constant probing into your personal affairs, and I ask this question in that light. There have been repeated reports, sir, that you have been suffering since the operation from some kind of dysentery-like disturbance. Is that true?

THE PRESIDENT. No. As a matter of fact, they warned me that I should have a little of that and I never did. They remarked on it several times and I never did.

Q. Richard L. Wilson, Cowles Publications: Mr. President, do you think that Mr. Nixon would detract from the strength of the Republican ticket this fall?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know, Mr. Wilson, because people go by many different guides with which I am not familiar.

But I can say this: he certainly didn't seem to in 1952, and I can't believe that the United States does not consider that Mr. Nixon has made a splendid record as Vice President in these past 4 years. Now that's--

Q. Mr. Wilson: Would you oppose a poll to determine whether or not he has strength and will not subtract

THE PRESIDENT. I don't oppose any poll. I see they are made all the time. I don't think it makes any difference whether I oppose them or not.

Q. Mr. Wilson: Do you think it makes any sense to have one?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, again, I don't believe it makes much difference. I think they will probably have one anyway, don't you? [Laughter]

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, Mr. Stassen was compelled to speak as an individual. Other members of the Cabinet or of Cabinet rank came out for Mr. Nixon. Was that because you regard Mr. Nixon as a member of the team?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, at that time, you remember, I mentioned Mr. Nixon myself because he was then occupying the position, and I thought it was only proper and appropriate that in front of such a body as this that I should express my complete satisfaction with him, as I would about Mr. Humphrey or Mr. Folsom or anybody else in my official family.

Now, when you go beyond that, we begin to get into a field which I don't care to venture because eventually I would be doing somebody an injustice.

Q. Mr. Brandt: Well, the point is, you and the Cabinet seem to have given the candidacy of Mr. Nixon your tacit consent.

THE PRESIDENT. I have, certainly, given it consent.

Remember this though, none of us is conducting a campaign for anybody.

Now, Mr. Stassen, as I understand it, says he is going out to conduct a campaign; that is a different story.

Q. Fletcher Knebel, Cowles Publications: Mr. President, do you have a preference for your running mate ?

THE PRESIDENT. I think that is a question--as Mr. Morgan says, there are certain of my personal likes and dislikes I can keep to myself.

Q. Peter Lisagor, Chicago Daily News: In the light of what you said about your health, would you have any personal objections to your doctors having a press conference?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know that I have any personal objection, but I understand they had one this morning. I didn't know anything about it, but they had it. So--

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) Press Herald: We didn't, either.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it was some place; isn't that true? Some of you must have been there.

Q. John L. Steele, Time Magazine: Mr. President, you told us in the past that you would be happy to have Vice President Nixon as your running mate, if that is the will of the convention. Does that pertain too, to Governor Herter if that should be the will of the convention?

THE PRESIDENT. I told you I would not go beyond Mr. Nixon in this regard because he now occupies the position, and did occupy it when I made my statement.

If I go beyond that, inevitably I am called upon to comment on someone whose name has not been mentioned, but where I might have reservations. So I am not going to comment beyond that.

Q. Russell Baker, New York Times: Could you tell us whether you underwent a long period of indecision after your operation as to whether you would stay in the race, and when you made that decision firmly?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you must remember this: when you're hurting like I was at that moment you don't read the papers, so I didn't know how much renewed interest had been stirred up in this thing.

As far as I was concerned--this is what the doctors told me-I was suffering from a chronic ailment that had probably begun some 30 years ago--this was after the operation.

You see, the difficulty I had was a disease of young people. I believe I am the fifth case that is of record where anybody 65 years old ever had this. All they said was they had corrected a condition that existed with me for a long time, and I was going to be a lot better. So it never occurred to me there was ever any renewed question.

I didn't begin to have any of this period of indecision you talk about, or doubt, until I got out and read the papers. I have told some of you people at times about the so-called Battle of the Bulge. I didn't get frightened until 3 weeks after it had begun, when I began to read the American papers and found-[laughter]--how near we were to being whipped.

Well now, this had a little bit of that same thing, because I had at that moment no question on my mind. I was merely being improved, not hurt, except that I did hurt physically.

Q. David P. Sentner, Hearst Newspapers: Mr. President, have you had any discussions with Vice President Nixon or sent him any word regarding the Stassen anti-Nixon campaign or your attitude towards it?

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Nixon was in my office about 3 days ago. We had a long talk and, of course, we mentioned it casually. There was no point in making it a great matter of debate. Mr. Nixon, like myself, considers this anyone's privilege. I believe it was the day--well, I don't know, I am not going to guess on what day it was--but it was a very casual and not an important conversation on the matter.

Q. Alan S. Emory, Watertown Times: Mr. President, your personal request to Ambassador Cooper has been credited largely with getting him to reverse his decision not to run for the Senate from Kentucky. I wonder, sir, do you plan to make a similar request to Thomas E. Dewey of New York?

THE PRESIDENT. I didn't make a request of the kind you suggest on Ambassador Cooper. I told him that my reports were that he would make a strong candidate down there, that I would like to see Republican Senators from the State of Kentucky, but that he was doing a good job in India, that he could keep it as long as I was in this position. I just wanted him to know how I felt about both these points, and he could make his own decision.

Q. William McGaffin, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, this again is one of those personal questions about your health, sir, but I think, perhaps, you don't realize the impact it's had on the people of the country, your having the attack of ileitis and the operation, and a major operation after your heart attack; when we were all in Gettysburg, for instance, I went around and talked to a number of your friends and neighbors to ask them how they felt about your running again.

Well, they all love you, as you know, and they said they are going to vote for you; but really they wished that you wouldn't run because they feel you have done enough for the Nation, you have made so many sacrifices and, sir, they are afraid that you won't last out, they are afraid you won't live for another 4 years.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, sir, I would tell you, frankly, I don't think it is too important to the individual how his end comes, and certainly he can't dictate the time.

What we are talking about here is the importance to the country, and it happens that at this moment the Republican Party apparently thinks I am still important to them and to the country. Since I believe so much in the Republican Party, and I believe that it needed rebuilding so badly--an effort which I have been making, as you well know--I said I would continue to try.

This is a decision that the American people are going to have to face. I am flattered by what you tell me about my friends and neighbors at Gettysburg, but I have made up my mind this is the thing I should try, and we will see what the American people have to say about it.

Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: Mr. President, in your economic report early this year you favored legislation for the relief of depressed economic areas which exist in about 15 States. The Senate passed such a bill, and then the action was up to the House. In the House the Commerce Department representatives and the minority leader were charged with failure to agree to bring such legislation on to the floor of the House by unanimous consent.

Has the Republican leadership explained to you their refusal to back such legislation?

THE PRESIDENT. No. You are telling me something now that I didn't know. As a matter of fact, it is one piece of legislation I was disappointed was not passed, and I don't know the reason lying behind it.

Q. Elizabeth S. Carpenter, Houston Post: Mr. President, the current primaries in the South are bringing a rather alarming outburst of violent talk on the race issue and I wonder if you feel that candidates who cater to this kind of talk do a disservice to their country?

THE PRESIDENT. Mrs. Carpenter, I believe that anyone that stirs up racial hatreds, other antagonisms that are based upon race or religion or differences in basic philosophy--it is always a mistake. It is a very grave error and a disservice to the United States. Extreme statements of this kind can do no one any good.

The path of human progress is not along the path of hatreds; it is not along the path of the extremes. It is along the path that represents the road where people of good will and real sensibilities can get together and say, "Here is a way we can go together."

I deplore, just as earnestly as I know how, every kind of thing that you describe. I didn't know actually it was going on at such a degree to create comment, and I am sorry.

Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: Mr. President, in the light of what you have said about Mr. Nixon this morning and your failure to comment about other candidates for the Vice presidency, is it not inevitable that we should conclude that Mr. Nixon is your preference?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you have a right to conclude what you please. But I have said that I would not express a preference. I have said he is perfectly acceptable to me, as he was in 1952. But I am not going beyond that because in 1952 I also put down a few others that were equally acceptable to me. So I see no reason why you draw the conclusion, but you may if you so choose.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, during your illness there was considerable excitement, both here and abroad, over views credited to Admiral Radford that the Pentagon was thinking of cutting our Armed Forces further by as much as 900,000 men in the next, over the next few fiscal years. Have you discussed this with the Admiral, and could you give us your own views on this problem?

THE PRESIDENT. I have never heard of such proposal made on any serious basis.

On the other hand, I recall 'the 1953 effort to produce a changed attitude toward our defense services, to stress new weapons, to stress the modern means of delivery of fire power, and to minimize, so far as we could, the use of individuals who could better be employed in building roads and schools and other things necessary.

Now, that same thought has been pursued around the world. Only in the last few months, we have seen the Soviets announce their determination of cutting strength; but it certainly is not with any idea that they are cutting their total striking and defensive power.

So I will say only this: I would hope that we can progress in this direction of substituting power, speed, mobility, flexibility for just men, men taken away from their homes and serving in the armed services.

Q. Mr. Roberts: Sir, in that

THE PRESIDENT. I think that is all I have to say.

Q. Herman A. Lowe, Philadelphia News: Mr. President, assuming your renomination, could you give us some idea of your campaigning plans away from Washington?

THE PRESIDENT. As Of this moment I have none.

Q. Edward W. O'Brien, St. Louis Globe Democrat: Do you anticipate, sir, that Mr. Stassen will return to your family as a full-fledged and permanent member after this go-day leave is up?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, so far as I know now, and from the knowledge I have, yes, for the simple reason that Mr. Stassen undertook one of the most difficult, sometimes frustrating, but certainly tedious tasks, and has pursued it earnestly, rigorously, and is trying to do things that very few people would have the patience, the intelligence, and really the courage to do.

I have been very delighted, and one of the reasons that this whole episode sort of disturbed the even tenor of my ways was that I thought "Well now, here is a month that he won't be around." But, as he pointed out, Ambassador Peaslee did carry on his job while he was over in London for 6 or 7 weeks, and there was no reason why he could not do it for 4 weeks. But I think Mr. Stassen has done a very splendid job in the task that I have given him.

Q. A. Robert Smith, Portland Oregonian: Mr. President, I wonder if you would tell us, sir, why you decided not to reappoint Harry Cain to the Subversive Activities Control Board?

THE PRESIDENT. I think the exchange of letters tells the whole story.

Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: Mr. President, I understand the talk with Dr. Snyder this morning was a rather casual and informal thing. Would you have any objections if reporters were to sit down with Doctors Heaton and Ravdin and discussed the operation and diagnosis?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am not going to commit them to anything until I talk to them about it. I have never discussed with them the possibility of having a press conference; and it is indeed possible that since it was an operation from which a period of convalescence is essential, they may say there is no reason for having one; but I would certainly want to talk to them before I committed them to anything.

Q. Mr. Spivack: They say they are restricted from doing it.

Q. Henri Pierre, Le Monde (Paris): Could you tell us something at this time about your view on the Suez crisis, and could you tell us also something about the message which was sent to you by Sir Anthony Eden and Mr. Mollet?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, I never publicly mention the substance of messages received from heads of other states and governments or the substance of my replies.

Now, the only thing I can say is we are manifestly faced with a very grave issue, important to every country in the world that has a seacoast, and maybe even all the rest. So it is something to be handled with care, to make sure we are just and fair; but we must make certain that the rights of the world are not abused.

Q. Charles Lucey, Scripps-Howard: Mr. President, could I ask just one more question on the health matter, sir? As nearly as you can tell now, have you any doubts or any reservations about your ability to carry on the Presidency for another 4 years? That relates to the health matter, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, so far as I know, my answer is I have no doubts.

Now, I have only 20 more days before the convention--and I wouldn't expect any great change in that time.

As I said before, what I have is this: the prognosis of the doctors and the constant improvement I have experienced.

Q. George B. Holcomb, Labor's Daily: Mr. President, do you regret the passage by the Congress of the social security bill which contained two provisions which, I understand, the administration opposed, that is, lowering the age limit for women and reducing the age limit for disabled individuals to 50?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think that certain parts of them were unwise and, therefore, I regret them to that extent--one of the things being that we are loading on the security system something I don't think should be there, and if it is going to be handled, should be handled another way.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, could you tell us what information your doctors have given you as to the possibility of a recurrence of your ileitis trouble?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, there are only four cases, as I told you before, in which they have a record, and they say in none of those four, I believe, was there ever a recurrence. I mean four cases in a man of my age. That is about all they have told me.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's ninetieth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:32 to 11:04 o'clock on Wednesday morning, August 1, 1956. In attendance: 311.

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/232992

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