Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

January 19, 1956

THE PRESIDENT. Please be seated.

Well, it's good to see so many faces here again after such a long absence from you.

Since I have last seen you, as you can imagine, I have been presented with a number of personal political questions. One of them arises in connection with the notice I have from the State of New Hampshire that my name has been qualified for the inclusion on the list of candidates in their preferential primary.

So, I have written an answer, an answer that, in the present circumstances, seems to me to be applicable in all such cases, and I will read it to you.

There will be copies, so you don't have to take this down in case you should want it verbatim.

This is to Mr. Jackson, Deputy Secretary of State of New Hampshire:

[Reads reply to Mr. Jackson. For text, see Item 15.]

That is all of the answer that is being made to any political questions. I have no objections to personal questions affecting health or anything of that kind, but as far as personal political questions are concerned, all questions have been answered.

Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, I am not sure whether this infringes on the ground you are outlining here, but can you tell us whether from your experience since returning to .the full burden of the White House, your health is up to carrying the burden of the Presidency?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would think it would be premature, Mr. Clark, for me to say that in those specific terms. I have had some quite intensive days--yesterday was--and I think that by following closely, as closely as I can, the regime the doctors laid down, that so far I have gotten by very well.

Q. David P. Sentner, Hearst Newspapers: Mr. President, what is your personal reaction to Mr. Hoover's suggestion for the appointment of an Administrative Vice President?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course I and, I think, everybody connected with the White House are very grateful to Mr. Hoover for undertaking this study which should long ago have been made. Without any reference to any individual or to my recent illness, the staff of the White House has grown a little bit like Topsy from time to time, with the growing intricacies of Government. What he is trying to do is to provide some of the practices of business in the Office of the President, so that the President and his chief advisers can give more time, I think, to policymaking.

Now, he told me he had no particular torch to bear for a particular name or title to the office, but he does want to put by law, if necessary, and by administrative action, greater authority in some individual to do more of the supervisory work.

But I repeat, it is necessary that the whole staff arrangement be restudied with respect to space. It would be idle just to increase staffs and have no place to put them. So with respect to space, their fitting in with all of the agencies of Government, that is the kind of broad study that should be made.

I think Mr. Hoover's principal purpose is, in the meantime, to provide some kind of relief to future Presidents, and I think he is a man of experience and knows exactly what he is doing.

Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, I don't know whether this comes in the category of questions that are open, but Senator Knowland said the other day that he thought that you would surely make an announcement one way or the other about your plans by mid-February. Is that

THE PRESIDENT. Well, this is what I have promised, Mr. Folliard: to make the announcement as quickly as a decision is firmly reached in my own mind.

I have no desire whatsoever to confuse the American people or to evade anything you are putting in front of me. But you can well imagine the pressures that are brought upon me every day, and I have to isolate myself from them at times as much as I can in order that I may reach a logical decision. I will do it as soon as I can.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, there were some, after your conference with us at Key West, who got the idea from what you said down there that you had reached a tentative decision. Is that a correct conclusion from what you said?


Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Mr. President, will you take steps soon to carry out the recommendations of your Water Resources Policy Committee? Will you appoint a coordinator of water resources for the White House?

THE PRESIDENT. I think I put that report before Congress. I have a man now in this work, I believe as deeply as administrative action can place him, General Bragdon. But I think that anything more than he is now doing will have to be authorized by Congress.

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: On this Dulles article in Life magazine, by Jim Shepley, was any decision reached to use the atomic bomb in those three instances?

THE PRESIDENT. First of all, I have not read that article, and I have read some of the allegations that he is supposed to have made.

I am not going to take a privately written article and discuss it in detail, and thereby make of it a paper which, if it is going to discuss those subjects, should be most carefully and properly written.

Now, another thing I am not going to do is to discuss anywhere in the world present, past, or possible future decisions and material that come before the National Security Council. It is not proper to do it, and those papers are privileged and must remain so.

Now, I don't know all of the things that are alleged to have been said. I have complete faith in Mr. Dulles. I do not know whether they were unfortunate expressions used in that article by him or by someone reporting them. But I know he is devoted to peace. He has spent his lifetime in this kind of work. He is a man of great professional skill in the field, and to my mind, the best Secretary of State I have ever known.

Now, that is the answer to that article.

Q. Mr. Brandt: Yes. If this is within the purview of that, can you tell us what arrangements are made to inform our allies or Congress on such a decision?

THE PRESIDENT. What decision?

Q. Mr. Brandt: To go to the verge of war and then, if necessary, go over?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't admit that you--you seem to me to be putting words in my mouth, Mr. Brandt.

This is what I say: that I am supporting before the world a program of peace. It is really waging peace, based upon moral principles of decency and justice and right. If you are going to do that and are not going to be guilty, every time the thing looks dangerous, of a Munich, you have got to stand firmly.

You may interpret that as being at the brink of something, because the other fellow can react according to his own desires and what he believes to be his best interests.

But when it comes to the matter of war, there is only one place that I would go, and that-is to the Congress of the United States, and tell them what I believe.

Q. Milburn Petty, Oil Daily: Mr. President, last February the Cabinet Fuels Policy Committee recommended against Federal control of natural gas production. Do you favor the bill now before the Senate to accomplish that?

THE PRESIDENT. You know I have been over that subject-about last June or July, early in the summer, someone here asked this question. I went into it in the greatest detail, including, I believe, some comments on the bill before the Congress where this matter is still being studied. If you will look up that answer, and I am sure Mr. Hagerty will give it to you, that is all I have to say.

Q. William H. Lawrence, New York Times: Mr. President, have you considered what, if anything, should be done about the failure of the Constitution to specify when and by whom the disability of the President might be declared, and when and by whom it might be removed ?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, when you are as closely confined to your bed as I was for some time, you think about lots of things, and this was one of the foremost in my mind.

I do believe that there should be some agreement on the exact meaning of the Constitution, who has the authority to act.

The Constitution seems to be clear that Congress cannot only make the laws of succession, but it can determine what is to be done, and it says, "In the case of so-and-so and so-and-so," but it does not say who is to determine the disability of the President. And we could well imagine a case where the President would be unable to determine his own disability.

I think it is a subject that, in its broadest aspects, every phase of it should be carefully studied by the Congress, advised by the Attorney General and any kind of advice they want from the executive department, and some kind of a resolution of doubt reached. I think it would be good for the country.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post and Times Herald: On the foreign issue, sir, within the limitation which, I think, you have placed, I would like to ask this: I believe you told us, at the time last year that the Congress passed a resolution giving you authority to use the armed forces if Quemoy or Matsu were attacked, on the basis of your judgment at that time as to whether this was an attack on Formosa. The implication of the Dulles' article to which reference has been made at one point, was that you had made a decision at one time.

May I ask, sir, have you ever made a decision or is it still your position that you will make that when and if the occasion arises?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't believe I will say anything further on the subject, Mr. Roberts, because, as I say, if I begin to pick pieces of that article and talk about it, then I begin to make it a part of our official thoughts and records, and I am just not going to do it.

Q. Mr. Roberts: Well, sir, what I was--I was sorry I mentioned the article then. [Laughter]

What I was trying to determine, sir, was whether what you had told us previously, before this article was conceived, still stood, that you would make the decision if and when the occasion arose.

THE PRESIDENT. Then, I will tell you this: I went to the Congress perfectly honest and told them that in these circumstances we couldn't tell what was going to happen, and there was no way for me to tell and for anyone else in the world, unless he is a far greater genius than I, what that attack was going to mean when it came about.

I think the character of the attack which was carried forward had to determine in the mind of a qualified person whether it was an attack all out against Formosa or whether it was strictly and completely local. So I think you are talking about a hypothetical case that did not eventuate. There is no way of making an answer to it.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, to go back for a moment to your opening statement, I think you said it could be considered to have a general application. Would that mean you have no objection to entry of your name in any of the presidential primaries in any State?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it means that I am not going to make any official objection, certainly, and the statement stands on itself, and I did mean it just that way. It would be my answer to all of these.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, New England Papers: Mr. President, do you think it is right and proper that a White House physician should conceal from appropriate officials for many hours the serious illness of a President; and, two, to refrain for many hours from calling in other physicians to consult on his diagnosis and early treatment?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you are asking what I assume to be a hypothetical question--[laughter]--because in my own case my doctor was in close contact, I think, with others very rapidly, certainly as soon as daylight came, and it was determined what to do about it.

Q. Mrs. Craig: Sir, I understood it was as much as 10 hours.

THE PRESIDENT. It may have been. But it probably may take some 10 hours to determine whether a person is suffering from having eaten some bad food or some other cause, I am not sure. I am not a doctor, you are sure of that.

Q. William S. White, New York Times: Without reference to anything, sir, that has been said lately by anybody else-[laughter]--I mean that seriously--would you comment in general on the state of the world, on the state of prospects of peace?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, we have to get things in perspective.

As you know, for some year or year and a half prior to Geneva, there was a growing pressure, probably more abroad than at home, that some so-called "conference at the Summit" be held.

There was great doubt in this country as to the wisdom of the thing. But one point that was very important in reaching a decision, we would not have the United States placed in the position of being sort of dog in the manger, going to have our way about everything or do nothing.

We felt perfectly capable of defending the principles and policies of the United States. And so that meeting was arranged with the earnest intent on our side to make every conciliatory advance that did not impinge upon the principles and values in which we believed.

Now, one thing happened that you could have expected, and which we, of course, had prophesied or anticipated. That was that a great wave of relief spread around, and there was great hope. Of course there was hope, but hope must always be tempered by the existence of facts. Those high hopes have not been realized.

So, if we compare our feelings today as to what they were, let us say, in early August, we have a feeling of great letdown. But if we go back over the period of 3 years and review the events that have come to pass, the situation is not as dark in many areas, indeed much brighter, than it was at that time.

To counterbalance that, we have had this growing tension and uneasiness in the Mid-East where American policy is to be friends to all, in the certainty and in the earnest belief that only through friendship among themselves is there ever going to be any peace, prosperity, and advancement in that region.

We, of course, in that area do not look on with any great equanimity. It is bound to cause earnest thought and study all the time.

But in the whole general picture we were in a Korean War that, due to the way we were waging it, there was no chance of winning, because the crossing of the Yalu River would have, you might say, shocked international opinion.

The Indo-China war was probably settled on the best basis that could be achieved.

Iran, you will remember, just 3 years ago now, every week we were expecting almost to lose Iran. That has been settled.

The British bases in Egypt were another great sore point that has been settled.

The Trieste situation--that caused all of us daily uneasiness.

The first direct attempt to establish communism in our continent has been eliminated.

So, there are features that would say, as compared to 3 years ago, the situation is better and brighter. But I would not be guilty of standing before you to say that here is any cause for complacency or any lack of fervor and study and work in trying to do better.

Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Sir, General Ridgway has charged in an article that during the time that he was Army Chief of Staff decisions were made regarding the size of the armed forces which he did not agree to, but which it was indicated that he did by a statement you made in the state of the Union message, saying that the Joint Chiefs were unanimous on it, and he also said that decisions were made in deference to domestic politics on these matters.

Could you comment on that, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, first, if ever I have made a military decision out of deference to internal politics, then I have been guilty of my own best determinations. I am determined never in that field to be influenced by such a thing.

Now, I just make two points: first, every sector of the state of the Union message in which this statement about the unanimous decision was made--every sector of that report is sent to the department having primary responsibility in that field to check it for every fact, every item that is there, to make certain it is correct.

If there is any incorrectness in any of the matters that appear with respect to the Defense Department section, please see Admiral Radford and Mr. Wilson.

Finally, one other thing: as all of you here know, since back in 1940, I have been receiving advice from every kind of military assistant. Their advice is often expressing their own deeply felt, but, let us say, narrow fears.

If I had listened to all of the advice I got during those years, there never would have been a plan for crossing the Channel. Indeed, I think we wouldn't have crossed the Atlantic Ocean. We certainly would never have invaded Africa and the Mediterranean, and I know we never would have crossed the Channel until yet.

So finally there come places where people in authority must make decisions based on the best advice they get.

Q. Charles E. Shutt, Telenews: About 3 weeks ago, sir, Premier Bulganin expressed the thought that another Summit meeting might be fruitful. Would you care to express your views on that, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. That is one I missed. I haven't heard that one yet. I haven't anything to say about that.

Q. Charles L. Bartlett, Chattanooga Times: Mr. President, you spoke of the pressures that are being put on you in regard to this big decision, and I wondered if you could tell us whether you are being subjected to a series of pressures from the people who come to visit you, friends and officials, or whether you are being left to make this big decision in relative solitude?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you are pressing very closely to the limits of the field that I debarred, but I will say this: I myself said I would seek the advice of my trusted friends and associates, and I have been busy doing it. But as that goes on, there is a flood of mail, and the mail is generally of one tenor only. After all, a person, no matter how many political enemies he has, "does also have lots of friends. They believe in him, and they are very anxious to express their views. So that is what I referred to when I said that.

Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: Recently you suggested a commission to study acts of violence against Negroes in certain States. I wonder if you have discussed this with Attorney General Brownell or the FBI, and if that isn't really one of their functions?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, what I want to find out is, of course, someone to try to define the lines in which Federal responsibility in the great fields of civil rights lays.

Now, I don't remember that I said "Negroes." I have forgotten some of the details of that message. But I do recall that what I was interested in is to find out where we are violating and where the Federal Government has any responsibility whatsoever.

Q. Laurence H. Burd, Chicago Tribune: Mr. President, has any date been set for this medical examination that you will have next month?

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you for asking the question. I came over from my office this morning and knew there was something I had forgotten to do. [Turning to Mr. Hagerty] You remember that.

No, there hasn't. [Laughter]

Q. Clark R. Mollenhoff, Des Moines Register and Tribune: Many of the middle western Republicans have been suggesting price supports on hogs and prices ranging from something like $16 to $18. I wonder if you could give us your viewpoint on the use of price supports on hogs during the present farm emergency?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would be really answering, I think, a very serious question a little bit too rapidly.

Actually, the broad program that we proposed does have a number of features that would begin to bring in income to farmers very quickly. One of them was a renewed purchase price for-governmental purchase program for hogs.

I would believe that to go in this whole perishable field and begin the business of price supports would be dangerous. I would want to study it more before expressing myself definitely on it.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's seventy-seventh news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:32 to 10:58 o'clock on Thursday morning, January 19, 1956. In attendance: 290.

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/232998

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