Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

June 06, 1956

THE PRESIDENT. Please be seated.

Ladies and gentlemen, I think I will take a little bit of your time this morning myself. This is the anniversary of D-day. I told someone the other day I seemed to collect anniversaries, and this is a very important one.

We know something of the cost of that war. We were in it from December seventh, '41, till August of '45. Ever since that time, we have been waging peace. It has had its ups and downs just as the war did.

I want to point out one thing: America never got discouraged in the war. Possibly that is because the objective was so clear: defeat and destroy the enemy; make him stop fighting.

In waging a peace, the objectives are not quite so clear. They come before you in a series of pictures, some of them rather confused, with the main issue of freedom against dictatorship in the world. The situation is confused by age-old prejudices and difficulties and mutual antagonisms in different areas of the world that make the unification of the free world by cooperation, which is the only way it can be done, very difficult indeed.

So the case is not so dear, but the importance is even greater, because today we are spending, let us say, on the order of $40 billion a year waging peace. That comes about through the amount we put into our defense establishments, the amounts that we spread abroad to make certain that our allies are in position to carry out their functions in any difficulty, more, I should say, in their functions in preventing war, in carrying on all the activities that are involved in mutual security.

Of that $40 billion a year--and I think it is probably going to last that way for some time, certainly in that level, until there is a better situation in the world--some 10 percent of it, a little more, is put in what we call mutual security.

I personally believe that if you don't support mutual security earnestly, sincerely, and with the clear realization that we are serving America's best interests in so doing, that we are going to spend many more billions in this static, negative defense.

And may I point out, ladies and gentlemen, there is no amount of money that you can pour into bombs and missiles and planes and tanks and guns that will assure you peace. After you get to a certain point, it is a very, very emphatic case of diminishing returns; and it is better, certainly it is more profitable in the long run, to put some of your money, a reasonable amount, in constructive things that tend to make people respectful of the great values that we are supporting, the liberty of the individual, his right to equal opportunity in his own country, to pursuit of happiness.

If you are waging peace, you can't be too particular sometimes about the special attitudes that different countries take. We were a young country once, and our whole policy for the first 150 years was, we were neutral. We constantly asserted we were neutral in the wars of the world and wars of Europe and its antagonisms.

Now, today there are certain nations that say they are neutral. This doesn't necessarily mean what it is so often interpreted to mean, neutral as between right and wrong or decency and indecency.

They are using the term "neutral" with respect to attachment to military alliances. And may I point out that I cannot see that that is always to the disadvantage of such a country as ours.

If a nation is truly a neutral, if it is attacked by anybody--and we are not going to attack them--public opinion of the world is outraged.

If it has announced its military association with another great power, things could happen to it, difficulties along its borders, and people would say, "Good enough for it. They asked for it."

So let us not translate this meaning of the word "neutral" as between contending military forces, even though the conflict is latent, and neutral as between right and wrong.

This whole subject is so complicated--tied up in it today are such things as the Status of Forces agreement and others-that I can't take your time to talk about it except certainly in response to questions this morning. But on Saturday next, the Secretary of State is going to deliver a talk to try to bring all of these details out, etch them clearly in simple form for us so that we can all understand exactly what it is we are trying to do in waging the peace. I believe he is to make this speech out in Iowa, I think before Ames University.

In any event, it will be a definite attempt to bring this thing down to its realities, to its specifics, so we can all understand it. He is doing it not only with my approval but really with my great support and urgent hope.

Now, I am not going to speculate this morning on how far we have come in the waging of peace, again a very intricate subject, what has gone on in the world, the ups and downs, what has gone on within the Soviet Union. But this fact remains: as long as we are not shooting, we are not spending one-tenth as much as we would if we were shooting. And, remember, there is no destruction that we saw in World War II--and some of you, I know, have been through the most destroyed parts of Japan and Germany and other nations--but there is no destruction that you have seen that would even give a hint of what another war would bring.

We must continue to wage the peace. We must not be parsimonious. We must support such programs as the Mutual Security Act and we must continue to study it. I have proposed, as you know, a continuing, bipartisan, outside study of our future program so as to keep us on the best track possible. But I would think it would now be tragic not to support these programs cheerfully and adequately.

That is my speech.1

1 On June 7 the White House released the following statement, authorized by the President, supplementing his news conference remarks with reference to neutrality:

Questions have been presented to the White House concerning the exact meaning of expressions in the President's press conference yesterday defending the rights of certain nations to a neutral position. He particularly referred to neutrality as a refusal to take sides in any military lineup of world powers.

It is obvious that in some countries of the world there are certain ideological, geographical or other reasons making military alliances impractical. Such nations may declare themselves to be neutral, hoping thus to secure the support of world opinion against attack from any quarter. Neutrality does not mean either disarmament or immunity from attack. We have had historical examples of this kind of neutrality for many decades.

The President believes in the principle of collective security whereby the nations associate themselves together for each other's protection. This is the modern and enlightened way of obtaining security. The United Nations was designed to provide collective security for all. In view, however, of the veto power in the Security Council it has proved necessary to organize for collective defense under the provisions of Article 51 of the Charter. The United States has such collective defense arrangements with 42 other nations and it believes that, under present conditions, these treaties represent the best and most effective means of preserving world order within the framework of the United Nations Charter. Our Mutual Security Program is primarily designed to reinforce that world order. The President does believe that there are special conditions which justify political neutrality but that no nation has the right to be indifferent to the fate of another, or, as he put it to be "neutral as between right and wrong or decency or indecency."

The President does not believe that association for mutual security with the United States will involve any country in added danger, but on the contrary, will provide added security on the basis of mutuality and scrupulous respect for the independence of each. As the President pointed out, the United States is not going to attack anybody; but some great powers have shown an aggressive disposition, and military association with such a power could lead to difficulties.

Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, there have been several developments involving the Soviet Union since we last met with you, including the text of the Khrushchev attack on Stalin, the Twining visit to Russia, and the replacement of Molotov as Foreign Minister. Can you give us your appraisal of these events as indicators of what is going on in the Kremlin?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Clark, it is very difficult to give any definite appraisal of these several acts. Now, the speech itself, of course, purported to be an excoriation of a dictator. Actually what it was was an excoriation of dictatorships, because there was not a single mention made of any effort to change the methods of dealing with individuals who offend the state. It was merely that the wrong individuals apparently were picked.

The speech was an extreme one, of course, and it was unquestionably a deliberate part of this business of de-Stalinizing the Communist Party. But aside from that, I think it was more for home consumption than it was anybody else's. But, as I say, it is really an excoriation of dictatorship and a clear indication of how they regard the individual as opposed to the state.

With respect to General Twining's visit, he received this informal invitation that was confirmed through the State Department. I felt that there was no reason why a responsible officer of our Government shouldn't accept such an invitation, well knowing that I might be expected to extend exactly the same courtesies to one of their people that they extend to ours. I will do exactly that, the same courtesies, on the same conditions, and conducted in the same way.

With respect to the Molotov resignation, it is an item that has been a matter of speculation for some years. I have not talked to the Secretary of State specifically about the significance of this point. I doubt that they yet have any real conviction on it.

Q. Peter Lisagor, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, some members of Congress believe that Marshal Tito's apparent reconciliation with Moscow warrants the cutting off of substantial reduction of aid to Yugoslavia. Could you tell us how you feel about that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, again you get into a complicated thing that will take quite a bit of time. But I point out that you are waging peace, and why was Marshal Tito received with such acclaim and so elaborately in Moscow? Well, it was because of the success that he had had in defying the regime, and to get him back at all, they had to make great concessions.

I should think that in the central headquarters of communism they would be thinking very seriously about what their satellite governments think of the experiment and the experience of Marshal Tito, and they might be tempted at other places to emulate him.

I would think that the Tito incident is not wholly and entirely a loss. However, I do agree that where we stand has to be reevaluated. We have to take a look at where we stand with this individual now and what serves our best interests.

That is the way we ought to solve it, because every nation approaches all international problems from that position. And the reason we help and assist others is in the belief that this will help us, also.

Q. George B. Holcomb, Labor's Daily: Mr. President, in the list of important legislation recently which you issued, there is no reference to the extension of Federal minimum wage laws or to extension of Federal protection of individual civil rights. Would you discuss why you dropped these particular items?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I haven't dropped them, because they are very live ones in Congress today. The Attorney General is constantly meeting with respect to the program he took down, and so is the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, do you plan to do anything to help Senator Wiley, who is in quite some difficulty with his own State party organization in Wisconsin?

THE PRESIDENT. My attention was called this morning to a statement of Senator Wiley's which expresses my opinions exactly. He is in a primary contest, and until the people of Wisconsin decide who is to be the nominee of the Republican Party, he said he did not expect and he believed he did not want any so-called support from the administration.

I don't believe it is a place that the President of the United States should be interfering.

Q. Ray L. Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, the other day you told Citizens for Eisenhower that the only way you could tell you were ill was when the doctors reminded you, and that you would campaign as cheerfully and enthusiastically as you could.

THE PRESIDENT. No, I didn't. I didn't say "campaign." You look up my words. I said I would carry my responsibilities as cheerfully and as enthusiastically as I ever have. I didn't say I would campaign. [Laughter]

You had better read it very accurately.

Q. Mr. Scherer: With that appellation, some of your supporters read it as I did, and they are wondering if this is another way of saying that you might do more than the six TV speeches that Len Hall specified.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I didn't know he had specified that number, and I have not discussed the details of the campaign with Mr. Hall or with anybody else in any specific or definitive form.

Q. William McGaffin, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, have you any thought, sir, on whether it would be desirable to change the campaign contribution system, and if so, how it might be changed?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, you have seen all of the different ideas from Federal financing on down that have been advanced. I personally believe about all you can do in this country is to be very vigilant in policing this business. We do want to keep it clean and decent, but I don't believe you can just do that merely by a law. We have got to have people all through all the States that are really dedicated to it.

Q. Garnett D. Horner, Washington Star: Mr. President, a committee of the Washington Board of Trade is seeking ways to revive the project to build a stadium in Washington. Do you believe a stadium is needed here, and if so, do you have any suggestions as to how to approach the problem of finding space for it and financing it?

THE PRESIDENT. To the first part, my answer is an emphatic "yes." Of course I think the Nation's Capital should have a splendid stadium. As you know, just before I became ill, I organized a great committee to find ways and means of attracting more of our young into active participation in athletics, because of the direct relationship, according to statistics, between healthful physical exercise and the absence of delinquency, and even absence of mental retardation.

I am all for an athletic program, and I don't see how it could be better symbolized than by a good, big stadium in this city.

I think it would have to be, and would be, of course, largely a city thing; but the Federal Government is here, and there might be some way, through urban redevelopment, or some way in which the Government itself might help somewhat. That will have to be explored.

Q. Harry W. Frantz, United Press: Mr. President, I wish to ask two questions about your planned attendance at the Panama meeting which have been suggested by various reaction stories. First, do you have any reports or any expectation that all or nearly all of the presidents would attend, or is the attendance likely to be scattered? And secondly, the absence of an agenda has been rather widely commented. I wondered what was your thought about the substantive aspects of the conference?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, first of all, I do anticipate that there will be a majority of the presidents there. The last time I heard, they had received acceptances, I think, from fifteen.

As far as the purpose of the conference is concerned, the Organization of American States is a very important feature in our international life, and one which we support enthusiastically. I would personally like to pay a call at each one of the other states. You don't have to use your imagination to see how difficult, indeed impossible, this would be; but here, by gathering all the presidents, any individual such as myself and each of the others is enabled in one visit to pay at least a token visit to the other countries of the hemisphere, and it becomes, therefore, a social-ceremonial visit which you hope will do something in developing that closeness of understanding and relationship which is important to us all.

Now, it is not the kind of a meeting where there could be a great agenda, because staffs are going to be small. Merely a meeting of the presidents is the main part of the meeting.

Q. Charles E. Shutt, Telenews: Some leading Democrats have suggested, sir, that prior to the campaign and the election, that both candidates be examined by the same panel of maybe three doctors. Would you give us your views on what you think about that suggestion, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. This is the first time that there has been any hint that the doctors who have been examining me and publishing their reports could be mistaken or were coloring them. I don't care--if my doctors want to, they can call in a doctor from every university in the United States. If there is anything wrong with me, I would like to know it.

So I have no objection whatsoever to doing anything that my doctors advise me to do.

Q. Ruth S. Montgomery, International News Service: Mr. President, recently when the Democrats decided to make you the direct target of their campaign, you said you had been shot at before. Well, now, some of the top Democratic strategists tell me that this plan of theirs is backfiring; so they are going to change their tactics and picture you as an amiable figurehead in

the clutches of the heartless men around you. Would you comment on that? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Well, sometimes I'd like to think of myself that way, but I am afraid if you would go back and visit with my staffs, starting back in the crowded days of the 1930's and on up to the present, all of them wouldn't give you that picture.

Q. Kenneth M. Scheibel, Gannett News Service: Mr. President, do you think you are going to have a tough battle to be reelected, or will the Democratic candidate be fairly easy to beat?

THE PRESIDENT. Will you take an honest answer? I haven't thought a single thing about it. I am too busy.

Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, another legislative item. Your administration has backed legislation for emergency help to the country's chronic depressed areas. However, that legislation is now still in the committees of both Houses, and it was not included on the White House list of important legislation last week. Does this mean that you have downgraded the importance of the problem?

THE PRESIDENT. Not at all. I was putting things down that, some of them, weren't moving very well. Now, this one has been under consideration from a number of different ways, not only the bill itself, but in a general mobilization bill that Arthur Flemming administers. Through every number of different bills, there is some help you can give, through small business bills and all the rest of them.

So just to name that one alone is really downgrading my interest in it, because my interest is much more than is contained just in that single bill.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Mr. President, you have recently sent a message up to Congress asking for some exceptions from the McCarran-Walter act, and it seems to be hopelessly bogged down. There is no action taking place up there. But the situation has arisen on the Mexican border down in the El Paso area where we have 200 Mexican families that right away face breaking up, separation, and deportation because of this act. I wonder if there is anything else that you could possibly do to get Congress to act to make exceptions for these friends?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, in this particular case, of course, I think that that should be taken up through the Bureau of Immigration, and if necessary you would have to get a special bill. That is what happens. I don't know how many hundreds of bills I sign each session of Congress because somebody is being unjustly treated, husbands separated from their wives, children from their parents, and so on.

This one, under present law, would have to be handled specially. I have been trying my best for 3 years to get authority for these things to be handled administratively so you don't have to go through this long process. But so far we haven't gotten it.

Q. Robert W. Richards, The Copley Press: Mr. President, two bills on your must list are out of committee, the postal rate increase and school construction bills, but some congressional leaders have been fearful that in an election year they might go down the drain. Are you going to use a stick to help them along?

THE PRESIDENT. I supported both bills in every possible way. There is no meeting I have with any Congressman of either party, I think, when I don't bring these up unless it is just absolutely, completely inappropriate--for example, when you have a meeting on one special thing, like last night, foreign affairs.

But I regard it high time that the postal service was getting somewhere near a self-supporting agency.

And as far as schools are concerned, it is just clear, we need schools. We need schoolrooms and we must produce them. We have developed a plan where we wouldn't have the Federal Government in this business forever; we would get the buildings done on an emergency basis and get out of it which is what I believe; and I think we should do it right away.

Q. David P. Sentner, Hearst Newspapers: Mr. President, in any invitation you might extend to the Soviet Union military leaders, is it possible you might include General Zhukov?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know that there will be any extended at all. There was an invitation to our Chief of Air Staff to come over for a particular day, a particular ceremony, and then to stay a little while.

Now, as I say, anything that would be done would be on a completely reciprocal basis. If our Defense Secretary were asked, I would ask their Defense Secretary, and the same kind of visit would be arranged for them as would be arranged for our people.

Now, if they ask Secretary Wilson, I would ask Marshal Zhukov.

Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: Mr. President, would you be good enough, sir, to clarify the administration's position in regard to the forced labor, the Forced Labor Convention, which is being brought up at the ILO Conference in Geneva this week? There still seems to be some doubt as to whether the administration is absolutely against forced labor and for a Forced Labor Convention or whether it merely wants to confine the Convention on Forced Labor to matters so produced in interstate commerce-international commerce.

THE PRESIDENT. It is obvious that the answer of any government to forced labor is always the same. It is absolutely in opposition to everything in which America believes. So that point is clear.

The only difficulty that has arisen with the other at all is the proper material for an instrument that is an international treaty, because if you allow things that deal strictly with internal affairs to become parts of international treaties, you might some day get in some difficulty.

Now, if you will go to the Secretary of Labor, he will give you the exact language on which we have agreed, and certainly he makes clear our opposition to this whole business.

Q. Mr. Herling: But actually, sir

THE PRESIDENT. That is all I have to say on it.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, since General Snyder said the other day that he would prefer to have you vacation somewhere other than in an altitude like Colorado's, we have been getting some inquiries as to whether you actually do plan to go back to Denver this summer. Are you in a position to discuss your vacation plans, particularly whether you will go out to Colorado?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I saw some remark of General Snyder's to the effect that if he had been asked, he would rather advise against it.. Now, why, I have never even inquired from him, because at least one doctor that I had, classed as a specialist, insisted that the Denver altitude has nothing whatsoever to do with coronary thrombosis.

For myself, I like that area so much that it will be a great trial if I don't go, but I have not made up my mind. There is no fixed plan of any kind.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, in taking the position in the Wisconsin primary that you would not take sides until the party voters have decided, is that not different from the stand you took in Oregon by backing Secretary McKay?

THE PRESIDENT. No, not at all, because I wrote Secretary McKay a letter on the day he went out on the understanding that there would be no other candidates in the Republican primary. I misunderstood the situation and I explained both to him and to his opponent that I didn't intend by any manner of means to take part in any Republican primary.

Q. Laurence H. Burd, Chicago Tribune Press Service: Mr. President, before you nominated Mr. Seaton as Secretary of the Interior, some Republicans had urged you to name Mr. Davis as the logical successor to carry on the McKay policy. And since then there have been some suggestions that the failure to name Mr. Davis was a repudiation of Mr. McKay's policy. Could you tell us what factors led to naming Mr. Seaton? And did it reflect any dissatisfaction in McKay?

THE PRESIDENT. It certainly didn't reflect a dissatisfaction with Secretary McKay. It was just exactly what I do in every case. When there is a vacancy in a high governmental position, I personally spend days and nights looking for the person that I think best qualified on a rounded basis to meet it, and there are many qualifications other than merely supporting a particular policy of the administration. There is the effectiveness of the individual. There are many things, his background, and also the area from which he comes. In this case, these two men you mentioned were from the same State. But it was merely my effort to select what I thought was the most effective man in the position.

Q. John L. Steele, Time Magazine: Mr. President, in connection with your remarks on General Twining's visit to Russia a few moments ago, you talked about reciprocal courtesies, and I wondered whether anything has been done or will be done to invite General Twining's opposite number to come here.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, there is this about it. If we have any indication that he would like to come, he will be welcome to exactly the same kind of things over here that General Twining saw over there.

Q. Benjamin R. Cole, Indianapolis Star: Mr. President, a few weeks ago a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee wrote a report on a trip it made to the Orient last fall. One of the things they brought up in that report was their anxiety that our motives in our technical assistance program were being misunderstood by the people of the Asian countries, and since we have discussed mutual security today, would you mind, sir, discussing the technical assistance program as a thing apart from that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, now, let's make one thing clear. I think we have made mistakes. In all things human there are mistakes. This thing has represented an activity in which we have not been very experienced; it was new. But let us remember this: I insist we are waging peace. We are not trying to buy gratitude. Merely because you put something some place, you shouldn't expect these people to fall down in gratefulness and remain prostrate. What we must remember is that they know that although we are helping them, we are doing it in the certainty that in so doing we are also helping ourselves. That is the reason we changed the name some years back from Foreign Aid to Mutual Security, and that is what it is.

So I think that there can be a better job done, all right, on the explanation of our peaceful purposes. I have been abroad many years. It has been brought to me many times that the United States is impulsive, it is young, and because it is strong it is a warmonger and that sort of thing, or it is apt to toy around with situations that would lead to war, and the job of assuring the world and convincing the world of our peaceful intentions is a serious one.

That is one reason I so strongly support this people-to-people contact rather than government-to-government.

Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: Mr. President, I would like to clarify or ask you to clarify one of your answers earlier in reference to the must list.

THE PRESIDENT. To the what?

Q. Mr. Spivack: To that must list, or the list that you sent two weeks ago.


Q. Mr. Spivack: On the civil rights proposals, there were only two listed on your must list, but in your original list there were five. Could you tell us what determined the omission of the other three, the other three points?

THE PRESIDENT. You mean, I put two on the must list?

Q. Mr. Spivack: Yes.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, there were only two that I ever did send down as recommendations for legislation. The other two I said I thought they should instantly study and see whether they wanted to put them in legislative form. And I think we are just following that same pattern.

Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: Mr. President, you referred to the distinction between people-to-people contacts and government-to-government contacts. As I understand it, the Soviet Union prefers the latter, whereas we prefer the former. Confronted with that dilemma, what is the policy?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know that you can say that you have a policy with respect to such a thing. In our country it is certain to be a combined effort, and in theirs. But in ours, the emphasis, where we put it, is on the individual and on private institutions.

For example, not long ago in Baylor, talking about this same subject, I indicated that I thought here was a great field for the universities and foundations, many of which are already in it, you know, but for them to expand it through private means. But all the way through, the Government is in it because it has to create the climate where these things can occur; it has to make certain our citizens are protected, and so on. The Government is always in it. But in their case, it seems like everybody they trust is a Government official, and so whenever anybody comes over here, he is somebody that carries an official designation. I think it results from the different organization of their country as compared to ours.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's eighty-ninth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:32 to 11:06 o'clock on Wednesday morning, June 6, 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/232912

Filed Under



Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives