Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

August 08, 1956

THE PRESIDENT. Sit down, please.

Good morning. We will go right to questions.

Q. Louis Cassels, United Press: Mr. President, would you tell us, sir, how you feel about the use or threat of military force in the Suez dispute?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I can't answer that question quite as abruptly and directly as you have asked it.

The United States has every hope that this very serious difficulty will be settled by peaceful means. We have stood for the conference method not only as a solution to this problem but in all similar ones.

It is well to remember that we are dealing with a waterway here that is not only important to all the economies of the world, but by treaty was made an international waterway in 1888, and is exactly that.

It is completely unlike the Panama Canal, for example, which was a national undertaking carried out under bilateral treaty.

I can't conceive of military force being a good solution certainly under conditions as we know them now and in view of our hopes that things are going to be settled peacefully.

Q. Clark R. Mollenhoff, Des Moines Register: Mr. President, have the British indicated informally that they will seek an agreement with the United States before taking any military action in the Suez?

THE PRESIDENT. With a subject such as these delicate negotiations going on, I wouldn't undertake to reveal anything that goes on in the diplomatic communications between ourselves and any other country. That would be a breach of faith.

Q. Charles von Fremd, CBS News: Mr. President, do you think, sir, on the basis of what you know and the reports you have received from Secretary Dulles, that there is a danger that the two sides have committed themselves so deeply that a peaceful solution would be very difficult or virtually impossible?

THE PRESIDENT. Not yet. I think there is good reason to hope that good sense will prevail. Here is something that is so important to the whole world that I think a little sober second thinking is going to prevail in a good many quarters. It is one of those things that just has to be settled, and I would like to point out that damage and destruction are no settlement when you are trying to build and to construct.

Q. Charles W. Roberts, Newsweek: Mr. President, your Chief of Staff, Governor Adams, paid a courtesy call on Governor Herter yesterday. I wonder if he carried any message from you.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am getting my first news that he did make such a call. Thank you very much for telling me. I didn't know it.

Q. Ben Meyer, Associated Press: Mr. President, Panama, your recent host, seems irritated they were not invited to the London conference of this month despite that they are one of the biggest shipping countries in the world. Would you comment on that, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. I didn't know they were irritated, and I can't comment on it because this is the first time I have thought about it.

Q. William McGaffin, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, in the event that a war does develop over the Suez Canal, do you think the United States will be in it?

THE PRESIDENT. I am not going to speculate that far ahead. That is piling an if on top of an if, and I think I will not try to comment.

Q. Peter Korteweg, Grote Provinciale Dagbladen, The Netherlands: Mr. President, a few days ago the Government of Indonesia suddenly canceled their debts to the Netherlands, debts which she formerly had recognized. How do you evaluate, sir, this move in regard to the general stability in the world and the trust in international agreements?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you are asking me to comment on something which I know very little about. Now the only thing I can say, I believe in the sanctity of treaties; but about this particular item, where justice lies, how it was incurred originally, what it all means between these two countries--I don't know enough about it to comment.

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, it has been said that the steel price settlement is the start of creeping inflation. Does the steel price rise jeopardize your administration's effort to stabilize the dollar?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think, Mr. Brandt, that "jeopardize" is probably a little strong word. But every time you see a price rise of this kind in such a basic commodity, as is steel, it has a certain amount of influence. How much of that can be absorbed in the processing of steel and by the various companies that have made profits and by a greater degree of efficiency or automation, I don't know. But it is certainly one of the things that holds up a danger sign, and we watch it very closely every day.

Q. Mr. Brandt: Can you do anything about it, sir, in the Government by discount rates or anything?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, not at this moment on that basis, I should think.

Q. J- Anthony Lewis, New York Times: Mr. President, Congress did not approve your request that it authorize a bipartisan civil rights commission. I wonder whether you now have any plans to act on your own and appoint such a commission, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. Not at this moment.

Q. Robert W. Richards, Copley Newspapers: Mr. President, there has been some confusion since your remarks about John Sherman Cooper on just exactly what you meant. You are happy he is running for the Senate from Kentucky, are you not?

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, indeed I am. I said so. I said that he had made a very fine ambassador and I hated to lose him, but that I was informed that his running in Kentucky would strengthen the ticket, and I was highly pleased. I am very, very much pleased at his running.

Q. Mr. Richards: Another question, Mr. President. There have also been some charges and countercharges between the parties about your school construction bill. I understand the Democrats accuse the administration of having sabotaged its own bill. Would you like to comment on that, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, we will have to get one thing straight. I recommended a particular bill, of which two of the primary features were these: (a) that money, school money, be allocated on the basis of need; and (b) that all of the Federal school construction be in addition to the current State programs and would not merely supplant, because our object was to get more schools and not merely to substitute Federal money for State money already appropriated or authorized.

Now, when that bill was placed before the House in the form of a recommital motion, the Republicans voted for it, three-quarters of them--I forget the exact thing, something like 147 to 49, something of that order.

When these features were active, then they had with that particular bill I think just a sprinkling, maybe 2, a small percentage of Democrats, 3 or 4 percent. When those features were taken out, then is when the Republicans did vote against the bill. But so did a lot of the Democrats. They not only killed my bill but they helped to kill their own.

Q. Robert L. Riggs, Louisville Courier-Journal: I think the confusion which Richards referred to on Ambassador Cooper was the extent, how much you urged him to run or whether you merely gave your approval. The question was, did you urge him to run?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have never urged anyone to run for political office. I don't conceive that to be my task.

What I do is to try to lay out in front of certain of these people how important I believe it to be for the advancement of certain principles in which I believe, and I try to lay out both sides of the question, and of course I am hopeful, as I was in this case, that his decision would be on the side of running. It was, and, as I say, I was highly pleased. But I never urge anyone to run for political office. Possibly this is because I had enough of that in reverse a long time ago. [Laughter]

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, you spoke last week of your interest in rebuilding the Republican Party. You have discussed that subject before, but I wonder whether you could tell us at this point shortly before the conventions, something of the changes you would like to see in the party.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Arrowsmith, you have opened up such a vast subject that I think it would take the rest of the period to talk about it in detail. I really believe it is something that we have to wait and let it come out in the Republican platform. I am certain the Republican platform will reflect what I believe to be those principles, policies, and programs which will represent some reorientation, and what I would call looking toward a rebuilding of its strength and vigor.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, do you believe, sir, that the Republican Party plank on civil rights should contain a specific endorsement of the Supreme Court decision voiding segregation in the public schools?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know, Mr. Roberts, how the Republican plank on this particular point is going to be stated, and I haven't given any thought of my own as to whether it should just state it in that way.

The only thing I can say is, I am sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States; but what we are talking about, probably, is procedures rather than principles. Everybody knows I am sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States. That is my job.

Q. Fred W. Perkins, Scripps-Howard: Could you give the subject of recent frequent calls on you by the Under Secretary of Labor, Mr. Arthur Larson?

THE PRESIDENT. Can I give what?

Q. Mr. Perkins: -- the subject of calls on you recently, several calls by the Under Secretary of Labor, Mr. Larson?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I could, but I don't think I will. [Laughter]

After all, he is one of my assistants, and if I want to talk with him, why, he comes in. I think that it would be rather odd for me to begin discussing publicly the subjects that I take up with my various staff when they come to see me.

Q. Edwin L. Dale, Jr., New York Times: Mr. President, last week you spoke of the long-term trend in the world towards modern weapons with a concomitant possible reduction in manpower, and that is still a very live subject within the Government. I wish you would comment, sir, on the possible impact of such a trend on our forces abroad, and particularly in Europe.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you wouldn't expect me to comment in detail. It has been a good many months since I left Europe. I have scheduled now a tentative conference with General Gruenther to see exactly what his thinking is on the matter.

This is what I believe: there is a streamlining coming about. I don't believe in talking of reduction because when you are talking about defense forces you are talking about their power, their effectiveness, their capability.

The mere fact that now one man can shoot a machine gun at the rate of 700 rounds a minute--it used to take in the flintlock days about 1400 men to get off that many shots--it doesn't mean you have had any reduction of power because you have one man shooting them instead of 1400, does it?

Well, now, that is the kind of thing that we ought to apply intelligently as we go along. Otherwise, we are being stupid, as I see it. I like to keep in touch with those matters all the time, and that is the way I approach them.

Q. Sarah McClendon, Waco News Tribune: Mr. President, you said yesterday in your message on the Poage watershed bill that you were more in favor of a partnership philosophy on paying for flood control, and you thought this bill was taking somewhat of a backward step, and that you would recommend to the Congress when it is next in session that there be a change. Does this mean that you are quite confident that you will be the one to lead the country in the next Congress?

THE PRESIDENT. The Congress comes into session on January 3d so I will still be here until January 20th. [Laughter]

Q. Don Shannon, Los Angeles Times: Mr. President, yesterday Secretary Wilson said that he had been presented with a budget for fiscal '58 of $48 billion, and he said he turned that one back immediately--these were advance estimates. But he did say that he thought it was going to cost more in fiscal '58 than it does in fiscal '57, even though--as you--he says that there is going to be a reduction in manpower. Do you agree with that?

THE PRESIDENT. Forty-eight billion dollars is no budget. This is just a collection of unilateral estimates of what people would like to have. You go through this every year. Everybody gets all enthused that this is a fine year to put in for a lot of money, and they do, and you have to trim and work to get down to a reasonable sum.

But I wouldn't be surprised that the actual yearly expenditures--I think I said this before, before this body--the actual yearly expenditures for the maintenance of what we have already authorized and programmed are going to go up, there is no doubt about it in the world.

Q. Ruth S. Montgomery, International News Service: Mr. President, it is well known that at one time you could also have had the nomination on the Democratic ticket. Was this a question of sort of marrying a man to reform him, or why did you choose the Republican Party then? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I thought I had gone into that in the past in great detail.

Frankly, I very definitely thought that after one party had been in Washington 20 years, that there invariably would grow up some abuses that that party was really incapable of straightening out, because there were too many things going on that were the particular pets of the people in power. I thought that change was needed if we were going to get the clean-cut type of cleaning out that seemed necessary to me. That is one of the reasons, and I think a very powerful one.

Q. S. Douglass Cater, Jr., Reporter Magazine: In a recent book which we all read, I believe there was a report that you at one time considered the formation of a third party. I wonder if you could mention whether you did consider that, and what was the reason for your decision?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know the book you are referring to. [Laughter]

But I will tell you this--what is his name, who used to be the Governor of Connecticut?--Chester Bowles. Chester Bowles has just written a new book in which there is much with which I disagreed, probably, but he brings out one thought: that finally there comes about in American history what he calls a consensus of opinion. Problems evolve, and he brings out the ones of the past.

He relates them, started by Jefferson, by Lincoln, and by the second Roosevelt. He believes that the great mass of public opinion begins to support this ideal, and when that happens, there is not necessarily a third party of changes, but there is a shift in allegiance, so that the party that best upholds that viewpoint, that agrees with that consensus, remains in a dominating position for some years until another change comes along where the party in power is probably too complacent to seize the opportunity. I think there is a lot of meat in what he wrote about that.

Q. John Scali, Associated Press: Mr. President, if I may return to Suez for a moment, sir, there have been reports that Egypt may refer the Suez problem to the United Nations. Would you regard United Nations consideration of the Suez matter as an acceptable substitute or supplementary action to the scheduled London meeting?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course you always have the veto in the United Nations. Here was a matter that seemed to demand not a hurried solution but a prompt one; and I think to get the nations who, by their maritime activities and by the character of their economies, were most interested, to get them together was a better method at the moment.

The trouble with the other one would be, I think, its slowness.

Q. Garnett D. Hornet, Washington Star: Mr. President, can you tell us anything now about your vacation plans after the convention this summer?

THE PRESIDENT. As of now I hope to go out to the convention--of course I am assuming that I am going to be important to them--for the last day. If I do that, I would hope to stay out there in that region maybe 3 or 4 days. I have no other vacation plans for the summer.

Q. Thomas N. Schroth, Congressional Quarterly: Mr. President, as the school year approaches, it becomes apparent that some States are not proceeding with deliberate speed to carry out the Supreme Court decision to desegregate schools. Does your administration have any plans to enforce that decision this fall?

THE PRESIDENT. I believe the Supreme Court decision stated that the cases must come before the local Federal district judges, isn't that correct? That is where there must be first jurisdiction; their whole plan was that local conditions would be taken into consideration, because some States can unquestionably begin to make this change earlier, more efficiently, than others. Let's never forget this--I have said this before, I know: from 1896 to 1954 the school pattern of the South was built up in what they thought was absolute accordance with the law, with the Constitution of the United States, because that's what the decision was, that equal but separate ruling.

As I have always believed, we have got to make certain reforms by education. No matter how much law we have, we have a job in education, in getting people to understand what are the issues here involved. I think that is the reason for the Supreme Court's reluctance just to issue an order for compliance, but instead created this term of "deliberate speed" and put the jurisdiction before the district courts.

Now, I think that these district courts will have to take some cognizance, if there is no action taken at all in their areas.

Q. J. William Theis, International News Service: Mr. President, some Republicans, I believe, have read different meanings into what they said last week about the Stassen-Nixon-Herter affair. I wondered if for the record you would care to add or detract anything from what you said a week ago on the situation.

THE PRESIDENT. If I didn't make myself clear on the subject you mentioned, and on my health, I am never going to be able to do it, and those subjects I don't intend to discuss again. With respect to the second one, a question here I have raised myself, I believe I did promise this: that at an appropriate time later this year, but certainly before the election, I will have another complete examination to determine that there has been no change in my situation, I believe I said it this way: if at any time I have any reason to believe that I am not fit as I believe myself to be now, I will come before the American public and tell them.

Q. Peter Lisagor, Chicago Daily News: Chester Bowles is regarded as a theoretician of the Democratic Party. I wonder if you realize that.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I have never said that any group in the world cannot produce some good ideas. [Laughter]

Q. Kenneth M. Scheibel, Gannett Newspapers: Mr. President, when you vetoed the farm bill, the first farm bill in April, you increased some of the supports for wheat and corn and the other commodities. Would you tell us whether you have abandoned your flexible program permanently, or was that a I-year suspension?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I didn't abandon it then. I was applying the theory of the flexible price support. I didn't put them back up to 90, but by no means have I abandoned the flexible price support theory, and I believe as the soil bank comes into operation more effectively, it will operate more distinctly.

Q. Mr. Scheibel: Well, will those prices come down?

THE PRESIDENT. What's that?

Q. Mr. Scheibel: Will those prices next year, that you raised, will they come down?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know what they will be next year.

Q. Paul Scott Rankine, Reuters: Mr. President, your earlier remarks on the Suez Canal might be interpreted as meaning that you were opposed to the use of military force under any circumstances--

THE PRESIDENT. I didn't say that. I was very careful not to say that. I said every important question in the world in which more than one nation is interested should be settled by negotiation. We have tried to substitute the conference table for the battlefield.

I don't mean to say that anyone has to surrender rights without using everything they can to preserve their rights.

Q. Mr. Rankine: The question I was going to ask, sir, was, did you think that the military precautions now being taken by Britain and France in the Mediterranean and presumably by the United States 6th Fleet are justified in a defensive sense?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am not going to comment on that.

Q. Clark R. Mollenhoff, Des Moines Register: Mr. President, the Democrats seem to be firing at your farm program more than anything else just in the last few days, and Claude Wickard has charged that the soil bank program was a brazen attempt to buy the farm votes. I wonder if you would comment on the general attack--

THE PRESIDENT. You mean I got that kind of a charge from them?

Q. Mr. Mollenhoff: Yes.

I wondered if you would comment on the farm situation generally, and the farm political situation, and whether you think it is going to be necessary for you to make personal appearances in the Midwest.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will talk a little bit about the farm situation and the farm law. The payments made under the soil bank program are as directed by the law. The pity of it as I see it is that the bill wasn't passed much earlier, because by this time we could have 30 or 40 million acres withdrawn from production instead of the I o million we will probably have for this year.

Now, as for the political situation in the farm areas, no, I haven't anything to say.

Louis Cassels, United Press: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Eisenhower's ninety-first news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:32 to 10:57 o'clock on Wednesday morning, August 8, 1956. In attendance: 207.

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/233022

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