Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

August 31, 1956

THE PRESIDENT. Please sit down.

I have two short announcements this morning. Last week I released a memorandum from California submitted to me by Admiral Strauss on Russian atomic tests,1 and this morning I have a memorandum that there was another large test at the accustomed place in Siberia on Thursday morning. This was a larger explosion than the one preceding.

1 Item 191 above.

It is notable that although Soviet diplomats throughout the world talk about the possibility or plans for abolishing the atom weapon from the arsenals of the world, they go right ahead without prior announcement and with wartime secrecy, their scientists and soldiers do, in testing these weapons.

The other announcement I have has to do with an apparent misunderstanding that's arisen about my use of the word "internationalize" with respect to the Suez Canal.

I want to make this statement: we are, I think, talking at cross-purposes. I referred to the Suez Canal as a waterway internationalized by the treaty of 1888. That treaty gives many nations rights in and to the canal in perpetuity.

Now, of course, that does not mean that these nations own the canal. It does mean that under the treaty, Egypt cannot now or in the future jeopardize those fights of other nations. Therefore, in the sense of the usage of the canal, it is internationalized.

In the formal statement of 2 days ago, I expressed the hope that the 18-nation proposal would prove acceptable to all concerned, and in that statement I noted specifically that the proposal fully respected the sovereignty of Egypt.

That is the only announcement I have. We will go to questions.

Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, some of your advisers at San Francisco told us that you definitely planned to campaign in the Pacific Northwest, and that you hoped to go into as many as three Midwest States in the Ohio area in one day. Can you tell us any more about how much personalized campaigning you plan to do in addition to your major television addresses?

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Clark, right now, that whole business of planning that kind of thing is the subject of a great deal of conversation and talk, but nothing has been finalized, and I think there must be some misunderstanding.

I was invited to all those places, and I just expressed interest in them. I expressed no plans to go.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, in your Russian nuclear weapon announcement in California, you said that that weapon was of less than a megaton.


Q. Mr. Smith: Now, you say this one yesterday was more powerful. Was it more than a megaton?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I can't tell you exactly. I just merely say it was somewhat larger than the other one, because complete and thorough tests have to be made, and I think that the Atomic Energy Commission is not ready to give their analysis of its exact size.

Q. John L. Steele, Time Magazine: In connection with your original announcement, sir, of this morning, I realize it is a sensitive subject. Are you able to tell us whether this means any changes in our own defense planning or readjustment of our own defense spending?

THE PRESIDENT, None. As I have said before, we have to go on the assumption that the ultimate intentions of the Russians have not changed; and as the first element of securing and maintaining the peace in the world, we maintain our own security.

Q. Andrew F. Tully, Jr., Scripps-Howard: Mr. President, the Republican National Committee has removed the "ic" from the name of a certain political party. I wonder, sir, if you approve of this larceny. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the only thing I know--when I asked about that, they said that Republican orators have, for many years, been doing exactly that, and that this is nothing new in their practice.

Q. Mr. Tully: Are you going to call it the Democrat Party, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. I beg your pardon?

Q. Mr. Tully: Are you going to leave the "ic" off?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I couldn't promise; I don't know how I'll do it. I will probably do it on the spur of the moment; but as far as I am concerned, if they want to be known as the Democratic Party, it's all right with me.

Q. Lloyd M. Schwartz, Fairchild Publications: The Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index has risen about 2 percent in the last 2 months since May 15th. I wonder if you find this a cause for concern.

THE PRESIDENT. Of course, whenever the cost of living goes up, it is a cause for concern. I don't think it is quite 2 percent, but I will call your attention to this: that over the past 3½ years it has been, I believe, slightly below 3 percent; that, compared with the prior 3 years, is a terrific accomplishment. It's been done by hard work and very great care in reducing expenditures, in the balancing of budgets, and trying to keep our dollar sound.

Q. Charles W. Roberts, Newsweek: Mr. President, you have expressed the hope that the Suez settlement could be made in an atmosphere of calm deliberation. Do you regard the French movement of ships and troops into Cyprus as consistent with that aim?

THE PRESIDENT. I am not going to comment on the actions of any other government.

For ourselves, we are determined to exhaust every possible, every feasible method of peaceful settlement. We believe it can be done, and I am not going to comment on what other people are doing. I am very hopeful that this particular proposal will be accepted but, in any event, not to give up, even if we do run into other obstacles.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, in that connection, sir, can you tell us whether, since the Egyptian nationalization of the canal, you have given any orders to our own military forces in the area in connection with this act?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I can tell you this: I have done nothing that isn't absolutely consistent with what I have just said. We are committed to a peaceful settlement of this dispute, nothing else.

Q. Peter Lisagor, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, you have said in the past that you didn't think a President seeking a second term should go barnstorming. Can you tell us whether you have changed your mind about that now?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I have not, not so far as barnstorming is concerned. That doesn't mean that, if I so chose, I couldn't go to an area other than in Washington to make a significant political speech.

In 1952, as I recall, I traveled some 52,000 miles. Wasn't that about right? [Confers with Mr. Hagerty]

Fifty-two thousand by plane and 32--he says 32,000 by something else.

Maybe some of you people know better than I. Anyway, it was a long distance. That is what I call barnstorming, and that I am not going to do.

Q. Charles E. Shutt, Telenews: It was reported in San Francisco, sir, that you had finally said that you like politics, and I was wondering if, during the campaign, sir, that it might be possible that you might take one train ride through some areas where you thought it might help, during the coming campaign.

THE PRESIDENT. I think it would be foolish of me to say now I will or I won't do just this, because circumstances might arise that make it look very advisable to do something. I just don't intend to use my time going on what I call a whistle-stopping talk.

Q. J. Anthony Lewis, New York Times: Mr. President, the State Department has announced your approval of its prohibition on American correspondents going to Communist China. Most newspapers seem to be taking the view that their sending reporters to Communist China would not signify approval, but would simply be a way to get the facts on that country to the United States. I wonder if you could tell us what led you to your views?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I can tell you. No one in the world would rather send American newspapers, everybody here that wanted to go, to China than I would. I believe in the exchange of information, exchange of visitors of all kinds, and particularly, representatives of publicity media.

But for over a year we have the spectacle of the Communist Chinese holding a group of our prisoners as sort of hostages; and then they want, by holding them, to get us to make some other move that apparently is to be interpreted as meaning we have accepted that, and we are not going to be protesting it.

As long as those men are kept as sort of hostages for an advance in our relationships with the Chinese, I simply can't go along with it.

Q. Charles S. von Fremd, CBS News: Mr. President, your doctors tell us now, sir, that you are no longer in a convalescent state. Do you feel as well now as you did before your most recent illness?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I do. As you know, you have to get used to playing golf again or taking any strenuous exercise. Both in swimming and golfing, I haven't yet gotten back onto my former schedule, but I am trying to.

Q. McLellan Smith, Delaware State News: Sunday evening, in a "Meet the Press" television program, Under Secretary of Labor Arthur Larson was asked if the New Republicanism which he wrote so enthusiastically about in his book was just his own idea of your political philosophy or was it the President's idea, was it the President's political philosophy; and Mr. Larson answered "definitely it is his," meaning your policy. Is that your political philosophy as outlined in his book?

THE PRESIDENT. Let me say this: I read the book, but I can't recall every detail that's in it, and so my answer cannot be taken as holding up my right hand to say "I stand by every statement." But in general, I thought he expressed my philosophy of government as well as I have seen it in a book that size.

Q. Mr. Smith: One other question, Mr. President. The discussion came up of the legislation of New Deal days, such as social security, Securities and Exchange Act, and about 10 or 12 others. Mr. Larson was asked if these are not socialism now under the New Republicanism, why were they socialism back in the days of Old Republicanism, when the Republicans in Congress so bitterly fought them and labeled them as socialism. Mr. Larson expressed ignorance of Republican opposition in other days, but the records show that there was intense Republican opposition.

Now, if we have a reversal here, if New Republicanism is reversing the Old Republicanism, doesn't the New Republicanism become an extension of New Dealism?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am probably lost in your question. [Laughter]

I will say this: the world moves, and ideas that were good once are not always good. I believe it was Tennyson that said: "The old order changeth and giveth place to new, . . . lest one good custom should corrupt the earth."

Now, what we have got to remember is that civilization moves in little bits of steps, makes little advances. We have gotten into the type of civilization now where the Government must interest itself more in the old age security, in unemployment insurance, and all that sort of thing, than it was once.

I believe in it, I stand for it, and I don't care who brought it up. Indeed, I will tell you, ladies and gentlemen, something: often we hear the expression when we talk about a man we believe that is well to the right, we talk about, "Why, he was to the right of McKinley." The other day I read the last speech that McKinley ever made, the day before he was shot, and it was a plea for reciprocal trade treaties, and ended up--not ended up, but had this sentence in it: "Isolation is no longer possible or desirable."

This was, of course, back in 1901.

Q. John L. Steele, Time Magazine: Mr. President, I wonder if you would comment on the action taken this week by the Executive Council of the AFL-CIO, which endorsed your rival for the Presidency?

THE PRESIDENT. I have no comment at all. In 1952 they did it separately. This time, they got together. I was very proud of the people that didn't want to do any such thing.

Q. Sarah McClendon, Austin American-Statesman: Sir, the REA's rural electric cooperatives say that they are going to make quite a campaign issue over some of the power policies of some of your administrators. Now, one of the things they object to is this business of reallocating and reassessing the power costs of Federal projects. They say that is like raising the mortgage on a house after the house is bought. I wonder if you would comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't heard this particular complaint before. But if it comes up in any serious way, it will be brought to me by the Administrator, of course, of REA, and I will have my chance at it when I see all of the sides. I haven't heard of it before.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, Marvin Arrowsmith of the AF of--AP [Laughter]--perhaps I should say of the Associated Press to clear up any misunderstanding. Are you satisfied with the civil rights plank in the platform as it deals with school segregation? It has been generally regarded as somewhat of a compromise.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Arrowsmith, I am not going again into the full discussion of what I believe about this subject. I think that no plank could satisfy everybody exactly. It couldn't possibly be done.

Here is a problem, as I have said a thousand times, that is charged with emotionalism, where everybody has got to work hard with all of the strength he has; and I think that the more that that work is done privately and behind the scenes rather than charging up on the platform and hammering desks, the better and more effective it will be.

I believe we have got to have good will and understanding for all. We are not going to settle this thing finally by a great show of force and arbitrary action.

Q. Fletcher Knebel, Cowles Publications: Mr. President, some of your supporters are expressing alarm at intimations from Washington that this is to be a high level campaign, meaning not assaulting the Democrats, I assume, and that it might lead to a 1948 catastrophe like Governor Dewey! How do you feel about this?

THE PRESIDENT. As I have said before, this administration has a record. I am going to stand on that record, but I am going to make certain that as accurately as I know how to do it that record is made forcefully clear to the American people. I am going to show what we are trying to do in the future, and to let the record and the way we have attempted to carry out every promise we have ever made be the earnest of what we intend to do and how we intend to do it in the future.

Now, there is going to be no lack of candor in bringing out, as I say, every item of truth about this matter that I possibly can. That does not mean that I am going to indulge in petty name-calling and making phrases to belittle someone. I don't believe in it.

Q. Don Whitehead, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, this past week the leadership of the AFL-CIO endorsed the Democratic ticket. Would you give us your thinking on what you think the influence this will have on the outcome of the election, and if this will sway a majority of the labor vote?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, for me to guess on that is a guess that is better than no one else's, but they did the same thing separately in 1952.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) Press Herald: Mr. President, in California some farm economists are meeting. One professor said that neither party is attacking the basic farm problem, which they say is that with modern production methods we have too many farmers, and that the Government should be helping to move excess farmers back into business and into industry, and he hopes that after the election, whichever party is elected will do that.

THE PRESIDENT. And what is your question? [Laughter]

Q. Mrs. Craig: You have me there.

THE PRESIDENT. Mrs. Craig, I think that an economist can make a case for exactly what you say in the same way an economist could make a case for big business against small business. But we believe that things can become too centralized in our economic life in this country, and we go to great extent and sometimes at our economic cost, that is, considering the whole Nation, to keep these things competitive, to keep them in smaller units and not to let them get so big that they have control over us.

I suppose if you just let agriculture go, you would drift in the direction of the big commercialized farm.

I don't intend ever to cease my support of the small farmer, for the simple reason that I think it is just representative of what the American nation has tried to do from its beginning, and that is to look after this little fellow that is having some trouble in competing with the big one.

Q. John Scali, Associated Press: Mr. President, last Thursday the Chinese Communists apparently shot down one of our planes off the China Coast. Could you tell us what you have learned as a result of the investigation into that incident?

THE PRESIDENT. The investigations and evaluations of such information as they have been able to get are still going ahead, and I think that some time within the next 24 hours an exhaustive statement is to be made.

Q. Carleton Kent, Chicago Sun Times: Mr. President, a number of your supporters in San Francisco and here have said that they anticipate a tougher fight from the Democratic ticket this fall than in 1952. Would you give us your evaluation of the campaign?

THE PRESIDENT. I doubt whether I have an evaluation that would be worthwhile taking up a great deal of time to explain.

I stand on this: I have worked along a particular line that I think is absolutely discernible to the average American citizen. I am doing my best with that; so is this administration. The mass of the Republican Party is doing the same.

If they want it, and as it is explained to them and they are reminded of its accomplishments as well as some of the things it didn't get done, they will decide what they want, and I just think there is very little use guessing.

I do say that I am not going to be guilty of failure to lay the whole thing out in exact detail so far as I can, and I certainly hope the whole Republican Party will do the same.

Q. James Deakin, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, the Democratic National Committee has said point blank that it will make an issue of your health in the campaign. In light of that, you have said you are going to go before the American people with a full-scale explanation of your current health.


Q. Mr. Deakin: A full-scale discussion of your current health. You said you were going to go--

THE PRESIDENT. No, I didn't say that.

Q. Mr. Deakin: Some time between now and the November election?

THE PRESIDENT. I said I would go for a full-scale examination and the doctors could put out what they chose.

Q. Mr. Deakin: You will not discuss it?

THE PRESIDENT. All I am discussing is when I am here. If you people think I am healthy, you can say so. If you think I am not healthy, O. K.

Q. Ray L. Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, was televising your news conference last week a one-shot proposition, or may we look for more of such?


Q. Mr. Scherer: At San Francisco.

THE PRESIDENT. I think, as far as I know, that was sort of one-shot in this way. There came up an item that I wanted to announce quickly. I went before the press conference, and because it was a convention and I was not totally an unimportant figure in that convention city at that time, they chose to come in there and do it live. I have heard nothing further of the thing at all.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's ninety-third news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:31 to 10:54 o'clock on Friday morning, August 31, 1956. In attendance: 186.

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/233099

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