Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

October 05, 1956

THE PRESIDENT. Please sit down.

Good morning. I have no announcements. We will go right to questions.

Q. Douglass B. Cornell, Associated Press: Mr. President, Adlai Stevenson said in a civil rights speech in Harlem that you were trying to run on the Democratic record, that the Democrats started desegregation of the Armed Forces, and that the Republicans have made a brazen attempt to take credit for civil rights progress. Would you care to comment, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, there have been since January 1953 a whole series of efforts directed toward assuring, in every area to which clear Federal authority extends, equality of opportunity for all people. This is applied to the Armed Forces, to Government contracts, to the District of Columbia, to all sorts of things.

For example, long before the Supreme Court decision was handed down, the Defense Department and HEW had moved to eliminate segregation in schools on Army posts. Sometimes we had obstacles, but it was done--all kinds of things.

Now, it is perfectly true the problem of segregation in the service has been discussed, to my certain knowledge, for 45 years, because I was in the Army that long.

When I joined the Army there were two infantry regiments that were Negro, and two cavalry regiments. Through the years we gradually got down into smaller units; that is, they were not segregated so completely, these larger units.

So far as I know, I was the first combat commander that ever used Negroes incorporated actually into white units on the battlefield. I did this in the winter of '44-45. Twenty-four hundred Negroes out of my command volunteered for front line service. They had been in service units.

I organized them into squads, and some of them had Negro squad leaders, some white squad leaders. But they all got along together. They lived together in the same camping grounds, ate at the same messes. And General Patton, who, at first, was very much against this, became the most rabid supporter of the idea, he said, this way. Some of these white units, by the way, were southern units; this was the thing that convinced me that the thing could be done.

But, of course, the Army and all the other services, in general, were somewhat against it because they thought they would get into trouble; and, of course, you do have some trouble in your social events on a Post. You have dances for a company. Well, when you begin to mix in that social order, and you have both Negroes and whites, at first there was some trouble. Gradually, it was ironed out, and the progress went ahead.

When we came in, in '53, it looked to us like it was time to take the bull by the horns, and eliminate it all; and that is what we have done.

Q. Charles S. von Fremd, CBS News: Mr. President, two questions related to the Suez situation: First, does this country still feel as it did along with Britain and France 2 ½ months ago that nothing less than complete internationalization of the canal will satisfy Western demands? And, second, sir, why did we not refer the Suez crisis to the United Nations right after Nasser seized the canal?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, with respect to these questions, I must say that the Secretary of State is in New York today discussing this matter with the British and French foreign ministers, and it is to be debated in front of the United Nations. I think that I would prefer not to talk about the matter, particularly today, because I don't want by any word to embarrass anyone there, or throw anyone off balance as we proceed with the negotiations.

Actually, from the beginning we have insisted that a peaceful negotiation of this thing was possible; we are still of that belief, and we are still working for that end.

Q. William McGaffin, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, television poses some technical problems for the people who appear on it. For instance, I believe Mr. Nixon has to wear makeup to cover up his very heavy beard.

Some of our readers have written in to us since you appeared, sir, to say that they felt that you didn't come off too well in the gray tones of the black and white television. We, who have seen you in person here, have commented that you look far younger and healthier in person here than on television.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you. [Laughter]

Q. Mr. McGaffin: Sir, I was wondering if you have considered that the answer might be to, perhaps, use a little makeup or--[laughter]--sir, to show yourself to a greater extent to the people around the country in person so that they can see, as we do, that you really are healthy and young looking.

THE PRESIDENT. Well--persuasive type of argument. [Laughter]

It has been talked to me about using makeup, but actually what happens, you come in off a motorcade, which is, as far as I am concerned--I don't see how to escape it--and I don't know that I would because anyone who wants to stand alongside the street, any American, for half an hour waiting for me to come by, I am perfectly ready to stand up even to the extent of losing my voice to say, "How are you."

Now, you come in off the street, you are hot, and you are going to leave immediately afterward; you get into this makeup question, and you have gotten into something that, to my mind, is awkward. Besides, you can imagine an old soldier doesn't feel very good under that sort of thing.

Q. John L. Steele, Time Magazine: Mr. President, before Vice President Nixon left on his long campaign trip, he said he was going to look for the strong points and the weak points in the Republican campaign. He reported to you yesterday. I wonder if you could tell us about the relative strong and weak points?

THE PRESIDENT. He didn't specify them by exact geographical location.

On the whole, he said that his trip was most encouraging. He said he had the largest and most enthusiastic crowds of his entire political career and a very cordial welcome wherever he spoke.

He said that there were certain places where he stopped in where people would have specific ideas either on the farm problem and one or two on this depressed area problem. But he said, aside from that, he found people quite happy, I believe was the way he expressed it.

He talked for an hour, and we covered a great deal of ground. But I couldn't give you the details now to save my soul.

Q. Edward J. Milne, Providence Journal: Mr. President, would you give us a little of the thinking that went into your decision to begin attacking the Democrats, talking back to them instead of sticking solely to laying out your own record?

THE PRESIDENT. This is what I have always said: I want to lay the truth as I know it, the facts as I know them, before the American public. Sometimes people distort these things until you have to clear away the brush before you can show what the actual fact is.

I don't personally enjoy going back and talking about things in the past. I would rather look ahead.

I don't particularly like just saying someone else is wrong. I would rather everybody stuck to what they knew in their hearts to be the progress as they understood it, and stick to that thing.

But, as I say, I feel it's become necessary to clear away this underbrush of misunderstanding in order to get your point clear.

Q. Oscar W. Reschke, German Press Agency: Mr. President, last week the West German Cabinet approved legislation providing a 1-year term of service for military conscripts. A statement issued by the West German press officer at the same time said that disclosure of a proposal to reduce the United States Army manpower made the institution of an 18-month term impossible. Do you have any comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT. There has never been any announcement of plans to reduce the United States Army forces. We have, time and again, pointed out, since 1953, new weapons, new machines, new capabilities of a mechanical sort, make it possible to do occasionally with fewer men. But we have insisted that every single day see an increase in our tactical and striking power. If we can do it with fewer men, of course we will do it. And we have reduced the actual number of men since the Korean war, I think somewhat in the order of 700,000, besides about 150,000 in the defense civilian force.

But never have we said we are going to reduce the strength of the American Army.

Q. Charles E. Shutt, Telenews: Mr. President, I wonder if you could tell us, sir, how you have been standing up, and how you like this increased campaign activity; and do you plan an invasion, political invasion, of the South before election day?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have no plans, to answer your last part first, beyond what had been announced, that is, no fixed plans. I believe it's been announced I am going up to the Northwest, stopping at Minneapolis-St. Paul for a noonday visit, and then I am going to go to New York City.

In between, there will be places I go. I am trying, at least, to make one short trip a week. Frankly, I like it in this way. I like to go out and see people. I get awfully tired just listening to reports. I like to go out and see people.

And when you do it like I do and you yell, "Hello" or "Hi" or "Good Afternoon," to everybody you see in the street, it is hard on the voice, I will say that, but aside from that I think it is all right.

Q. Roland Evans, Jr., New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, there has been a good deal of discussion lately in the press of the highroad, lowroad, and middleroad of political campaigning. Could you tell us, sir, which road you feel your campaign is taking, and why, to help clear up some of these issues?

THE PRESIDENT. I am always distrustful of this kind of expression that is supposed to be very meaningful, but I think it's just a way of getting off a generality that isn't really meaningful.

This is what I am trying to do: stick to the truth. And while I have heard it said that I don't know the truth, that everybody in my organization is fooling me, I think I have had quite a bit of experience in finding out what's going on in the organizations I have run, and I think I know pretty well what's going on in this administration. I do keep myself informed, and I try to say those things. They can call it highroad or lowroad--I am on the road of facts and truth.

Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: Mr. President, all indications now are that the average hourly manufacturing wage will come to $2 an hour. Now this is largely, as you know, sir, a result of collective bargaining between unions and management. In the light of these developments, do you believe now that the minimum wage of $1, which was enacted by Congress, should now be revised upward, as well as the extension of coverage for the workers that aren't covered by collective bargaining contracts?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, first, I want to see the coverage going out to people that haven't got it, and I will tell you why. It is very simple. If they haven't any coverage at all, every time this rate goes up--the average rate of the factory worker and so on-it becomes more difficult than ever to get out to that fellow who isn't getting any protection at all now, because the differential is so great you would put businesses all over the country just out of work overnight almost.

So I think the first thing to do is to take your minimum wage and to spread it to more people, as I have recommended, I think, two or three times.

Not only is the hourly wage higher this month than it's been in our history, but the weekly pay--I believe it's gone up to 81-something--is higher than it's ever been. So the differential grows greater and greater and the thing to do is get these other people up a little bit first.

Q. Mr. Herling: Sir, do you have figures on the businesses.--

THE PRESIDENT. You can get them from the economic people.

Q. Mr. Herling: --businesses that were put out of commission by the dollar minimum wage?

[The President confers with Mr. Hagerty.]

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Hagerty says they will be released within the next day.

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Has Vice President Nixon made any suggestions to you as to areas to go to or subjects to be covered?

THE PRESIDENT. No. AS a matter of fact, the only thing that Dick Nixon said to me, he said, "Don't let them work you to death." He just told me to go on and do as I have been doing. He thought they were fine; and that's all.

Q. Mr. Brandt: Did he say what subjects had got the best response?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't think so; at least I don't recall.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Mr. President, we know that many communities want more school buildings, and we know you said you wanted to help them, I believe, on the partnership basis; but how can these communities build more school buildings when the cost of doing so would be a million or two higher as a result of the interest they would have to pay, as a result of your policies on high interest?

THE PRESIDENT. What are my policies on high interest? You have not explained that.

Q. Mrs. McClendon: Well, the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve Board, under your administration, have contributed to raising the interest rates all over the country.

THE PRESIDENT. To what extent is the Federal Reserve Board under my control?

Q. Mrs. McClendon: Well, I would imagine--I don't know, sir, but I would imagine you would have some influence.

THE PRESIDENT. The only thing I am getting at is don't start out with a premise that isn't quite correct.

The Federal Reserve Board is not under my control, and I think it is proper that the Congress did set it up as an independent agency.

However, the job of getting the money for schools must be executed within the United States. If the Federal Government takes over half of this, and the States do half of it, it looks to me like it's about the best way to solve the thing.

What we have proposed is this: first of all, we will distribute this money on the basis of need; next, the schoolrooms built must be over and above those already planned; and, finally, the States must contribute on a matching basis. We believe that way you will get the most schools.

Now, any place they borrow this money they are going to pay interest, and the Federal Government will probably get it cheaper and give it to them cheaper than anybody else, I should think, but they are going to pay interest wherever they get it.

Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, in your Lexington speech the other night you held out the prospect of lower taxes under continuing Republican economies in Washington. Can you tell us what you think the chances are for a tax reduction within the next year or so?

THE PRESIDENT. I wouldn't class them as bright or something right around the corner. I say that logical tax reduction comes from the proof that you can live more economically doing the things that need to be done and must be done; in other words, to get rid of all useless things, all so far as you can--duplication, achieve as much perfection as you can in human organizations, and then see where you stand and make reasonable tax reductions.

I say that just opens up the avenue by which tax reductions will properly be some day accomplished. I don't say right away, not at all.

Q. Edwin L. Dale, Jr., New York Times: As you know, the H-bomb testing issue has come up in the campaign, and I wonder if you could clarify our position on this point. Is it the position of the Government that an agreement on test-banning alone is of no value, that it must be encompassed in other phases of disarmament?

THE PRESIDENT. IS that report I got going to be published? [Confers with Mr. Hagerty]

There is quite a long report on this whole subject going to be published this afternoon at 4 o'clock.

I would just point to one factor that I hope you will understand. To prepare for a test, a test that lately, with us at least, is made to prove that you don't have to have fallout, that you can manufacture "clean" bombs--it takes months and months to prepare for that.

We announce it in advance, and go ahead then, and when the time comes have the test.

The Soviets and the Iron Curtain countries do not announce it. So we don't know anything about their test until after it has accomplished, and we could detect it from debris and sound, and So on.

Now, if we agreed not to do it, then we would make no preparations, while they can go right ahead; and by waiting a year or so, they could make tremendous advances where we would be standing still.

So, until we have got an agreement in which we can all have confidence that we are doing the same thing or abstaining from the same thing, I think it would be foolish for us to make any such unilateral announcement.

Q. Kay Ray, Houston Chronicle: Mr. President, Chairman Mollohan of the House Subcommittee on Legal and Monetary Affairs last week wrote you regarding General Swing. Have you seen his letter? And if so, I was wondering what your reaction was.

THE PRESIDENT. No, I haven't seen it.

Q. Mrs. Ray: You haven't seen the letter?


Q. George B. Holcomb, Labor's Daily: The United States steelworkers union has issued statistics indicating that during the 8 years from 1947 to '55, members' wages and steel prices both increased by about 65 percent, with the prices actually going up faster than wages. During this same period the industry's profits increased by more than 133 percent. In other words, the profits increase was at double the rate, percentagewise, of price and wage increases.

Some AFL-CIO union people have called for a congressional probe to find out whether this profit increase is justifiable. Would you recommend such an inquiry?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am not going to answer such a long and involved question here by shooting from the hip. You give me percentages of which I haven't heard, and I can only say that a matter like that will have to be thoroughly studied before I reach a decision.

Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, you have told us that one of the reasons impelling you to run for re-election was your desire to strengthen and revitalize the Republican Party. However, many people think and argue that your leadership would be blunted and, perhaps, passed to Mr. Nixon because of the fact that you could not run for a third term.

My question is in two parts: of the Senators that you have heartily endorsed, such as Mr. Dirksen and Mr. Bender, do you consider them completely revitalized as Eisenhower Republicans?, And what is your thought, sir, on any inhibitions, if any, to a President that the forbidding of a third term involves?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would just say that while I believe that from the standpoint of the concepts of our Government that amendment was not wholly wise, I don't believe that a President's influence on his party is lowered too much, for this reason: certainly, whoever is the aspirant at the end of two terms for President will want that President's support, and will want his blessing as he seeks any nomination and election.

As to whether or not his influence is greatly lessened in some directions, it may be. Of course, you understand here I am talking without any experience. But I do believe that the office, the power that goes with it, is such that his influence with his own party will still be great.

Now, with respect to these Senators: in the case of Senator Bender, I know of no instance when he has not supported the programs for which I have sent recommendations to Congress. In the case of Senator Dirksen, once known as an isolationist, for the past 3 years he has at my request taken charge of leading the fight to get the necessary appropriations, because he is a member of that committee, appropriations for foreign aid. Up until this year he was remarkably successful in the efforts he was making. This year, as you know, he got trimmed back a little bit.

I have never denied that Senator Dirksen and I have had some strong differences, but he has turned into a very valuable lieutenant when I called on him for help in, which I said, just that way.

I don't suppose that any individual in the whole world agrees on every detail of politics with any other individual.

But I do say a party cannot be successful unless in the long run it does have basic principles on which it sticks together, the relationship of government to the individual, of government to the economy of our country, of the position we have in the world, and what we must do to sustain it.

Every party, in my opinion, in this country, is always going to have some splinter groups, but you have got to get the mass of your party going along with you, or the party, in the long run, cannot serve the country well.

Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, to follow that up, there was a published report in a book that was published a few weeks ago that you at one time in 1953, as I recall, considered forming a third party. Is that correct?

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, as a matter of fact, "considered forming" is an odd thing. I mean that is a misstatement of fact.

I did talk this way: I sat down and studied the votes of the country by county, and what they seemed to mean in the election of '52, and I said what a pity it was that the people who all seemed to think the same way could not vote the same way except by hurdling very great obstacles in some of the States, some of them north and some south.

So I said possibly this country will never be cured of this until they get a third party, but I don't believe we will ever have a third party in the sense of forming a brand new one. I believe it will be the rejuvenation and extension of one of these two.

Q. Ray L. Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: I hope I am not being repetitive, but some observers have expressed misgivings over the argumentative and name-calling stage that the campaign seems to have gotten into. Can you tell us if this campaign is being fought on the level that you anticipated or, perhaps, at one time hoped for?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, no, at least I don't feel able to stay exactly to the line that I had hoped. I had hoped to be completely expository in my approach rather than, you might say, approaching it in a debating side.

Q. Russell Baker, New York Times: Mr. President, if you think the third term amendment was not wholly wise, would you be sympathetic or would you think that it might be wise to consider dropping that some time after your second term?

THE PRESIDENT. My views on this are not as strong as some of the people who were so terribly anxious to get it in our Constitution.

But I believe this: by and large, the United States ought to be able to choose for its President anybody that it wants, regardless of the number of terms he has served.

That is what I believe. Now, some people have said "You let him get enough power and this will lead toward a one-party government." That, I don't believe. I have got the utmost faith in the long-term common sense of the American people.

Therefore, I don't think there should be any inhibitions other than those that were in the 35-year age limit and so on. I think that was enough, myself.

Q. Andrew F. Tully, Jr., Scripps Howard: Mr. President, have your doctors placed any limitation on your campaigning?

THE PRESIDENT. Far from it; the doctors always tell me I can do more than I want to.

Q. Francis M. Stephenson, New York Daily News: Mr. President, the owners of the Washington baseball team are talking about moving the team out to the Pacific coast. Of course, that would leave us without a baseball team. I was wondering if you would care to comment on it.

THE PRESIDENT. This is the first I have heard of it. But I will tell you one thing, I am "agin" it. I think I got to see two games this year at Washington, and while I could hope that Washington would have a better team than it does--[laughter]--and stand higher in the league, I still like to go down when I get a chance.

Douglass B. Cornell, Associated Press: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Eisenhower's ninety-seventh news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:31 to 10:58 o'clock on Friday morning, October 5, 1956. In attendance: 212.

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/233323

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