Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

September 11, 1956

THE PRESIDENT. Please sit down. I have no special announcements, ladies and gentlemen.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, yesterday you conferred with some congressional candidates. They quoted you as being worried that the Democrats might do a better job than the Republicans in getting out the vote.

Then yesterday there was the Maine election. How, sir, do you evaluate the Maine election? Do you regard that as an example or the result of Republican complacency?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know enough about the exact situation in Maine, but I understand there were about 300,000 voting out of 500,000 qualified voters.

Now, I doubt that I said I was worried because it is a word that I don't allow myself to use and, as a matter of fact, I try to avoid falling in that state.

But I did say this: that there had been a poll which I had seen in your Sunday papers which said there was a greater percentage of Republicans apparently not registering than there were Democrats. I deplored that situation--I believe I used the expression "I think everybody ought to vote," and, frankly, I think it enough that if a fellow felt he had to vote against me I still would rather he voted than not vote at all. I still believe that the neglect of the freedom of voting is the first step toward losing your freedom. I think in the long run we must do it.

Q. William McGaffin, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, I would like to ask you, sir, if you think it is going to be a close election, and if you think the Democrats have a chance to win it?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I say this: again, you people have been following the political contests throughout your careers. Your opinions ought to be worth more than mine on this matter.

I would say that I regard any contest as close until after it is won. I will put it that way.

Q. Robert J. Donovan, New York Herald Tribune: Sir, how do you characterize the campaign as thus far conducted by Governor Stevenson and Senator Kefauver?

THE PRESIDENT. I believe I would rather not comment on that.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) Press Herald: Mr. President, do you regard the Maine election yesterday as demonstrating a Democratic trend beginning with the Democratic Congress in '54 and the election of Democratic governors since?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't. I regard it as this: Maine had a very popular governor, they decided they wanted him again, and his majority was such that he helped every other person on the ticket. That is the way I regard it.

Q. Pat Munroe, Albuquerque Journal: Mr. President, with an election in the offing, voters are being asked to approve the records of individual members of Congress. Part of this record concerns the amount of public funds each has used on travel in foreign countries. Members of Congress do not seem inclined to reveal these figures, and reporters have been refused access to records in both the State and Defense Departments dealing with the subject. Would you help us get this information, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know whether I can help you at the moment.

This is the situation: I personally believe you ought to have it. This money is made available on the request of the chairmen of the several committees, and this is the plan adopted, as I understand it, and approved by the Appropriations Committee.

The money is made available on the request of that chairman and the reports are made to him; and I believe there is an agreement among them that whatever publicity is given will be given by the chairmen of those committees. So I would want you, first, to appeal to the chairmen of the committees because, as I understand it, that is the arrangement that now stands.

As far as I am concerned, any information of that kind belongs to the public.

Q. Mr. Munroe: But, of course, sir, I believe the funds are given to you under the MSA appropriation.

THE PRESIDENT. Not necessarily under MSA. There are counterpart funds, and there are funds that are appropriated, I think, both to the Defense Department and the State Department. But anyway, they are appropriated to take care of this.

Q. Mr. Munroe: And, of course, the State and Defense Departments do have to spend money on this travel?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, sir; that is the way I understand it.

Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, there have been stories written lately--in fact, I have written one or two myself--to the effect that you are going to do more in this campaign than you had originally planned to do, make more speeches, do more traveling. As the old-time newspaperman said, "Is there a word of truth in those stories?" [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. I think that I am going to make no more speeches than I had planned.

I said I thought I would probably make five or six speeches that could be classed as addresses. Now, it is possible, I think I have already said to you, that one, two, or three of those may be made outside of Washington. Just where they will be made, I don't know. But I have already announced to you that I would make one in Newton--that is a visit, that is really not an address. I am going out there for a visit, and I am not making a major address that day.

I will make a major address in the Farm Belt a little later, but I don't know exactly what date, maybe 4 or 5 days. There are no plans as of now for my going beyond that, although you can imagine there are many, many suggestions and invitations that are under consideration.

Q. John L. Steele, Time Magazine: Mr. President, negotiations over Suez seem to have reached a deadlock. I wonder if you could tell us whether this country is prepared to suggest a new approach, and if so, what that may be?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, as you know, from the beginning our country has been dedicated to a peaceful solution of the Suez controversy.

Largely through the efforts of Secretary Dulles the 18-nation proposal was compiled and taken to President Nasser, who rejected it flatly, not only to Secretary Dulles' great disappointment, but certainly to mine and, I believe, to all of the whole world that is interested in this thing, because that plan did represent the ideas of the 18 nations the way the sovereignty of Egypt could be protected and observed, and still the rights guaranteed under the Constantinople convention of 1888 be exercised by the individuals.

Incidentally, in that presentation the Committee of Five did an extraordinary job. We owe them a debt, and particularly, Prime Minister Menzies. He was a model of tact and patience, diplomacy. So now we have come to the point where apparently Mr. Nasser is making a proposal. But, so far as I know to this moment, his proposal said nothing but "Let's have a conference."

There is no substantive point on which to base a conference. There are no details of time or place or anything else that I know of.

Nevertheless, any suggestions he makes will be earnestly studied in this government, and in the meantime we remain in the closest kind of diplomatic consultation with a number of governments on what should be the next move to make.

Q. Ruth S. Montgomery, International News Service: Mr. President, if Britain and France should eventually resort to force, would this country back them in that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Miss Montgomery, I don't know exactly what you mean by "backing them."

As you know, this country will not go to war ever while I am occupying my present post unless the Congress is called into session, and Congress declares such a war; the only exception to that would be in the case of unexpected and unwarranted attack on this Nation, where self-defense itself would dictate some quick response while you call Congress into action.

So, as far as going into any kind of military action under present conditions, of course, we are not.

Now, if, after all peaceful means are exhausted, there is some kind of aggression on the part of Egypt against a peaceful use of the canal, you might say that we would recognize that Britain and France had no other recourse than to continue to use it even if they had to be more forceful than merely sailing through it.

There are so many things that can occur that I believe it is best to say we are consulting with other nations on every possible line of action that could occur.

Q. John Scali, Associated Press: Mr. President, on August 8, in discussing the Suez dispute you told us that you did not think at that time that it was desirable to bring the matter before the United Nations. Among the disadvantages, you mentioned the slowness. Now, in view of the fact that the Cairo discussions have ended without agreement, what would you think of the possibility of referring this matter to the U. N. at the present time?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would put it this way: I am certain that it will be referred to the U. N. before anything which you could call more positive--physical, positive steps are taken. I don't know whether this is the exact time.

The only thing I can do is repeat my statement: we are consulting with all our associates throughout the world on this to see what is the very best next thing.

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, Vice President Nixon told us yesterday that you and he had agreed that in his campaign he would point to the constructive record of your administration, and point out what he called distortions by the Democrats of that record. Could you give us some idea of the distortions of the record by the Democrats?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I believe I am going to leave that to others, although I think you can read in the newspapers of some of the things that have been said about me and this administration.

For myself, I repeat: I don't care what they say about me. I still believe America believes I am honest; that I am not a rascal, that I am not a racketeer or anything like it.

Now, I think, though, others can better say what they think about the constructive things that have been accomplished under this administration.

Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, I believe you said last week you had not been completely briefed on some of the aspects of State-Federal responsibility in the segregation disputes.

One of the most recent incidents occurred yesterday and, according to the dispatches, Rangers in the town of Texarkana did not allow two Negro students into the school in which they had registered. Would you consider that an incident in which the Federal Government had a responsibility, and, if not, can you give us an idea of what the formula is that would have to be followed for the Government to intervene?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, briefly--and this may be an oversimplification--a Federal district court issues an order, let's say, about the entry of Negro students into a certain school. Due to violence of the kind you describe, they cannot enter. Now, that court must decide whether it believes someone is in contempt of that court. And at that point I think it is customary for the court to call in the Justice Department to assist in bringing the evidence and thrashing the case out. And then, that having been done, if anyone is in contempt, I assume that it is the job of the U. S. marshal to serve the warrants and to take the men, the offenders, to jail or to pay their fines or whatever happens.

No one can deplore violence in this thing more than I do. I think that violence sets us back, well--years. I think the youngsters that are indulging in violence are not being counseled properly at home.

The States, I would hope, would exercise, first of all, their responsibility and authority in carrying out police functions to preserve law and order and to make certain that no one is injured; and, secondly, they ought, as a concurrent responsibility, to see and to help to see that the orders of a district court are carried out. I think when that does not happen there is a failure somewhere, and it contrasts very badly with what happened in Louisville.

I read about this man Carmichael, the Superintendent of Schools there, who, I understand, campaigned for 2 years in an educational program before they integrated the schools this fall. He had, so far at least, not the slightest trouble.

I think Mr. Carmichael must be a very wise man. I hope to meet him; and I hope to get some advice from him as to exactly how he did it, because he pursued the policy that I believe will finally bring success in this.

Q. Peter Lisagor, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, one of the speakers at the Republican Convention in San Francisco, speaking of your trip to Korea in 1952, had this to say: "Even before his inauguration he took personal action in Korea. He put in motion the steps that were necessary, some of which will be revealed only by history."

You were President-elect at that time, sir, and I wonder if you can tell us whether you took any personal action at the time, and whether enough time has elapsed for you to tell us what the steps were?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, there is some misunderstanding, and I didn't hear the speech. I don't know who the individual was; I don't care. I will comment in this fashion: I went out to inform myself, and before I went I said that was the reason I was going. I did not consider for one moment I was going out there with an open sesame formula that was going to settle all the troubles of Korea in 5 seconds.

Now, everybody that I met who was in a position of authority at that moment, was an old friend of mine. We had lived together for years. It was only natural that I should talk to these people about the possibilities of winning a war under the conditions then laid down, you might say the rules of the game as played there.

You remember, for example, it was more or less accepted that if there was any attack across the Yalu that that would mean international war on a large scale. That having become accepted by the United Nations and everybody else, you practically had foreclosed the opportunity to win a war, you see.

So we talked over all these things; and it is only natural that I expressed to them what I would expect to do when I had to take over the reins of responsibility.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Mr. President, do you anticipate that we can bring an end to the draft in the foreseeable future?

THE PRESIDENT. You know, before I answer your question, will you answer me one?

Q. Mrs. McClendon: Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. Do you get fired every week and join another paper the next week? [Laughter]

Q. Mrs. McClendon: No, sir; I try to give representation to all the papers I work for. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. I think that is very fair. [Laughter]

No, I don't see any chance of ending the draft. When you use the word "foreseeable," of course, that is subject to a number of interpretations. But in the immediate future, no, I see no chance of ending the draft and carrying out the responsibilities for the security of this country that must be carried out.

Q. Richard L. Wilson, Cowles Publications: Mr. President, is this Government considering cooperating with any other governments in the application of economic sanctions to Egypt?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, every time that any difficulty like this occurs, there are things in motion that are stopped or hurried up. I suppose you could call them economic sanctions.

A program of economic sanctions has never been placed before me as of this moment, never.

Q. Earl H. Voss, Washington Star: Mr. President, if the non-Egyptian Suez pilots and engineers quit Saturday, as they have said they would, and canal traffic is slowed down or stopped, do you think Britain and France would be justified in using force to restore a management acceptable to the non-Egyptian employees?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know about management. All that the 1888 treaty says is: These nations are guaranteed the free use of the canal. Now, if they are guaranteed the free use--and it then provides methods by which cooperation with Egypt may be achieved--I think that they are justified probably in taking steps and conferring with President Nasser looking toward the free use of the canal. But that doesn't mean that they are justified at that moment in using force. I think this: We established the United Nations to abolish aggression, and I am not going to be a party to aggression if it is humanly possible to avoid it or I can detect it before it occurs.

Q. Charles W. Bailey, Minneapolis Star and Tribune: Recent surveys in some midwestern farm areas have indicated that your margin over Mr. Stevenson may be considerably smaller in that section of the country than it was in 1952. Do you see any particular reason for such a situation arising, and do you expect any special problems in the Farm Belt in campaigning?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know about special problems. Everybody knows that the farm problem has been a very confused one, and not everybody agrees with everybody else.

I have said time and again there are two things here we must do: we must preserve our most precious asset, our soil and water resources, for future generations; and, at the same time, we must work out a program under which the agricultural community can share properly in our unprecedented prosperity--although I understand this prosperity is not unprecedented, some people have told me.

Now, if we are going to do that, it is going to take some patience and some working out, and people who get impatient and believe in get-rich-quick cures may disagree. But that is as far as I am going.

My program along this line has been restated time and again. I follow principle, and if that is what they want, that is what I will give. Otherwise, of course, the American electorate has its own way of settling the issue.

Q. Louis R. Lautier, National Negro Press: Mr. President, I have been requested to ask this question: If, as you say, changing of traditions and the hearts of men will unfortunately take a long time, is not the solution of the present disorders in many parts of the South over segregation this, namely, that citizens must be restrained from expressing their prejudices in public actions when such public acts are in violation of the law?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, as I say again, the local court must determine whether there is someone in contempt of that court. And I know of no way from this distance that those things can be determined. But when the courts do call properly upon the Attorney General, I am sure he will assist in every possible way.

Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, you told us 2 years ago when you filled the last vacancy on the Supreme Court that, generally, you thought it was a good idea to pick Associate Justices from the ranks of lower court judges. Do you plan to follow that policy in picking a successor to Justice Minton?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, as of this moment, Mr. Clark, I have no name in mind. But if there is a man on the lower court who, by reason of age, experience, his standing in the community and his standing among lawyers, he will certainly be appointed.

I believe that is best to do it in that way. I believe also that we must never appoint a man who doesn't have the recognition of the American Bar Association, of all of his fellows. He must be a man of unimpeachable character and accomplishment. [Confers with Mr. Hagerty]

Well, yes, anybody on the Federal bench that applies to; it is the same formula.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, on the Suez issue, Prime Minister Eden and Premier Mollet, in a statement today, said their governments were in full agreement, to use their phrase, on further measures to be taken in this case. Do your words about our cooperation with other governments imply that we are a party to any British-French agreements at this point?

THE PRESIDENT. No. They imply nothing that I haven't said; that we are in consultation to see what we believe would be a good step to take.

Q. Frank Hewlett, Honolulu Star-Bulletin: Mr. President, the Republican platform calls for statehood for Hawaii and Alaska in the strongest terms ever used. Would you care to elaborate on the Alaska plank which pledges immediate statehood for Alaska, and then adds the words, "recognizing the fact that adequate provision for defense requirements must be made"?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think I have talked about that subject before this body time and again.

As far as Hawaii is concerned, there is no question. I not only approved of it in the '52 platform, but time and again I brought it before the Congress in terms of recommendations.

Now, Alaska is a very great area, there are very few people in it, and they are confined almost exclusively to the southeastern corner.

Could there be a way worked out where the areas necessary to defense requirements could be retained under Federal control in the great outlying regions and a State made out of that portion in which the population is concentrated, it would seem to me to be a good solution to the problem. But the great and vast area is completely dependent upon the United States for protection, and it is necessary to us in our defense arrangements.

Q. Charles E. Shutt, Telenews: Mr. President, you have told us, sir, in the upcoming election you plan to present the administration's record and let the people decide for themselves. Are you confident, sir, that the people will re-elect you on that presentation?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't think that is particularly important.

I say this record is good, and I believe in it with all my heart. I believe more in the program than I do in the record, because I have had some defeats, as all of you know.

I am continuing on the same way. If that is what the American people want, they will return this administration to power. If they don't they will do something else.

Q. Charles S. von Fremd, CBS News: Mr. President, I would like to return to Mr. Folliard's question about your campaign plans. You indicate, as you have said before, that you plan just a limited campaign this year, and just to stand on the record of the administration. However, I also believe you have told us before, sir, that you don't enter any fight thinking about being a possible loser.


Q. Mr. von Fremd: And if you felt that a strong, energetic campaign would help the ticket to win, might you change your mind and step up your campaigning?

THE PRESIDENT. My dear sir, I believe the strongest, most energetic campaign I can put on is to lay the absolute truth before the American people.

Now, I expect to talk enough to do that, and I think there is nothing better I can do, because I am not trying to kid anybody.

There are the facts. There is what we tried to do. We continue in that path. If that is what they want, I think that is the strongest thing we could say.

Q. Thomas N. Schroth, Congressional Quarterly: Mr. President, if the situation in Suez worsens, at what point would you consider calling a special session of the Congress?

THE PRESIDENT. I wouldn't even attempt to answer that question.

Q. Kay Ray, Houston Chronicle: Mr. President, have you seen the school desegregation order issued by the Federal judge in Texas that you mentioned last week, and if so, do you have any comment?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I saw it. The Attorney General got it, showed it to me, and then made the comment on the end of it that I made a little while ago in response to what was the Federal Government's responsibility, which was, if the court decided that someone was in contempt, then they would call in the Federal Government to assist in the presentation of the case.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, I don't know whether this goes against your embargo about not replying to criticism or not, but I thought you might like to have an opportunity on this one: your Democratic opponent said the other day that your administration has been marked from the start by what he called a contagion of Republican misconduct and corruption. Would you care to comment on that one?

THE PRESIDENT. I think I've got enough friends in the United States, even among this group right here, to refute any such allegation.

Q. Frank van der Linden, Richmond Times Dispatch: Mr. President, Chief Judge John Parker of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals who, as you know, was once appointed to the Supreme Court but rejected, is being mentioned once again for the new vacancy on the Supreme Court. I wondered if there was any possibility of Judge Parker or any other southerner being named to the Supreme Court this time?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, there are two southerners on it now, and I don't know who will be named. But I have laid down the criteria that I use. One of them is a reasonable age, so far as I can follow it. And so as much as I admire Judge Parker, I believe he is very close to retirement age this minute.

Q. Jack Norman, Fairchild Publications: Mr. President, Governor Stevenson said up in New England the other day that he suggested our prosperity is getting too dependent on overexpansion of consumer credit, and you said a few things about consumer credit in the past. I wonder how you feel about it now and, if possibly, you have some plans to suggest something to Congress?

THE PRESIDENT. Consumer credit has gone up some, it is true. But consumer credit in relation to the total gross national product and to the cash money that is being spent is not out of line.

I will tell you, without commenting on anybody's statement, it is rather amusing to see how many people are finding reasons to account for a prosperity which, as I mentioned a while ago, they say is not a prosperity at all. You just think you are well off, you don't know. [Laughter]

Q. Martin S. Hayden, Detroit News: Mr. President, in your simplified explanation of the way in which the Federal Government would get into this school matter, you ended with the U. S. marshal getting an order to enforce the Court's order. Do I understand, sir, that at that point it becomes the responsibility of the Federal Government to see that he has the power to do that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the Federal judge, of course, is a Federal officer in the judiciary branch.

I assume that if that marshal is not able to carry it out by himself, he has got the right to deputize any number of deputy marshals to help him carry it out. I really don't know what the next step is.

I do know this: in a place of general disorder, the Federal Government is not allowed to go into any State unless called upon by the governor, who must show that the governor is unable with the means at his disposal to preserve order. I believe it is called a posse comitatus act--I am now going back to my staff school of 1925--of 1882; and that is the thing that keeps the Federal Government from just going around where it pleases to carry out police duties.

However, when the Federal court gets into the thing, you have got a legal thing that I have gone into as far as I know the answer.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's ninety-fifth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 2:59 to 3:31 o'clock on Tuesday afternoon, September 11, 1956. In attendance: 249.

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/233163

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