The President's News Conference
[This is a complete transcript of the news conference of this date. Those portions of the President's replies which were not released for broadcasting or direct quotation at that time are enclosed in brackets.]
THE PRESIDENT. Good morning.
There are two individuals I would like to mention this morning. The first, as to His Holiness, the Pope--his 79th birthday--a man that I have had the honor of visiting personally, admiring him greatly, and particularly because of his unbroken record of opposition to all forms of fascism and communism, I am quite certain that all America would wish this great spiritual leader a very happy day today, and many more of them.
The other man is Ambassador Caffery, just now retiring from the diplomatic service, who holds the American record for length of time as head of a mission. For 29 years he has been head of an American mission in some foreign country, has been responsible for solutions to many serious problems, or at least helpful, and leaves with a brilliant record and the best wishes of the entire Department.
The interesting life he has led, as described by him to me this morning in a short interview, would seem to me to provide some inspiration for able, young Americans to go into that same service, a service that is constantly devoting itself, dedicating itself, to the welfare of the United States all over the world.
Those are the only announcements I have; we will go to questions.
Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, Mr. Churchill said yesterday that Western superiority in the hydrogen bomb will prevent Russia from starting a big war within the next 3 or 4 years. Now, from this, or from your own sources of information, do you get the idea that Russia will pull even with the West in 3 or 4 years?
THE PRESIDENT. Anything dealing with such a subject, any conclusion, is really nothing more than a speculative estimate.
However, we do know that the Western World has had and enjoyed a great lead in this whole field, both in atomic fission and atomic fusion.
Now, exactly how long that lead can be sustained is problematical. And again another factor enters this question: there comes a time, possibly, when a lead is not significant in the defensive arrangements of a country. If you get enough of a particular type of weapon, I doubt that it is particularly important to have a lot more of it. So I think that it would be unwise to attempt any fixed conclusions based on the information available to any of us.
Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: Sir, I wonder if you could straighten us out on your economic foreign policy for Asia.
About 3 months ago, Mr. Stassen and Mr. Dulles sought out the press to develop the thesis that our policy was out of balance, that we had to have a large new economic policy for Asia; then Mr. Humphrey seemed to knock that down; and now yesterday Mr. Stassen seems to have announced in New Delhi that you are sending a new program to the Hill next month.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Reston, I think the things that you talk about as being indicative of a struggle within the administration are merely evidences of the long-term intensive study that has been taking place here. This is not an easy subject.
We had a tremendous change in the Far Eastern situation over the past year--the cease-fire in Indochina, where we had been devoting a very great deal of money, as you know.
Now, to take a new look at the situation of what is needed has involved a very long and earnest study, and in the meantime, SEATO has come into existence, so that, as far as I know, there has been no great differences in final conclusions.
There have been different viewpoints presented, and there is evolving a plan soon to be crystallized that will be brought out to the Congress for its approval and for implementation; but that is as far as you can say anything definitely on the thing at this time. It will be one we hope will be helpful to all our friends in that area.
Q. Roland H. Shackford, Scripps-Howard: During the last week there has been published a suggestion, now supported by a resolution in the Senate, that the United States try to get all nations, including Russia, to agree to devote more of their resources to raising living standards, more butter and fewer guns.
Could you give us your thoughts on the general idea by devoting, by giving higher priorities, to living standards, to have a form of economic disarmament?
THE PRESIDENT. I find here recently more and more occasions to refer to my favorite author. I think you might find the same idea in a speech I delivered, I believe, on April 16, 1953: that the United States could not be more devoted to the idea of the products of humans being devoted to human welfare and less to human destruction, than we now are. We believe in it thoroughly.
Now, every one of these plans that is brought forward always has to make this one assumption: that there are ways and means available to us for making certain that everybody is acting in good faith. Good faith is the ingredient that must be implicit in any plan that is finally adopted, and which could gain the confidence of people who don't want to fight.
We know we will never start an aggressive war. We just want to devote ourselves to the prosperity and the security, happiness and safety, greater liberty and development of our own people and of our friends in the world.
I believe there can be a dozen different variations of a plan for disarmament if it is approached in good faith; and now that is the thing that we must seek, we must try to build. When you come down to it, possibly the best way to define American policy abroad in this whole field is how do we develop good faith among the nations so that all peoples can be confident in the words of others.
Q. Joseph C. Harsch, Christian Science Monitor: Mr. President, 2 weeks ago you discussed your early postwar invitation to Marshal Zhukov to visit you, and you said at that time that you would be willing to consider renewing the invitation.
Has there been any consideration of that, and if so, any result?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have thought it over personally and, as of this moment, I am not going to issue one. I think there are a lot of things going on in the world. I am going to certainly wait until I discuss again with the Secretary of State conditions that have been developing over the past couple of weeks.
But I repeat that in those days I liked him, I thought he was a very able man. From the personal standpoint, of course, it would be very interesting to see him again. It is something I have not forgotten, Mr. Harsch; I am just not ready to give the final answer on it.
Q. Fletcher Knebel, Cowles Publications: Mr. President, what do you think of the suggestion advanced out in Iowa, and now seconded very heartily by an official Soviet publication called "Soviet Agriculture" that a group of Russians come out to Iowa and see how we grow the tall corn and the hogs? [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. I think--and I believe I have told this before in front of this body--I think the Russian people, as such, don't want war any more than we do. They want opportunities to advance themselves economically, culturally, and, of course, traditionally Russians are very devoted to all the arts--their aesthetic sense seems to have been highly developed.
Now, I couldn't imagine, if we could relieve this question of all of the inhibitions and the limitations that occur to you because of the situation today in the world, I couldn't imagine anything better than to have some of their agricultural people visit our agricultural people.
I visited once both state farms and collective farms in Russia, and there was no place where I was queried so insistently and in such detail as I was on those farms.
You know, they have a technical expert they call an agronomist for each one of these installations. The agronomist in one case was a woman; came up to me with a shining face, and just as eager to take the opportunity to ask questions, "How do you raise this?" Fortunately, I was raised in a farming area so I could answer some of the questions. [Laughter]
"But how much does a person get in the United States for doing this kind of work?" "How do you do these things?" "I am so anxious to go see."
I really believe this would be an area in which some good could come if we didn't have a dozen different difficulties of which we all know, one of which, I believe, is legal.
We would have some difficulty in clearing things under our present laws. There are a number of things to be studied and looked at; but just as a personal opinion as to what good might come out of it, these two peoples, these two representatives of agriculture getting together, I would say it would be good and good only.
Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, I would like to ask a question about Formosa, since it has been about a month since the resolution that you requested was passed by Congress.
Since that time, the Chinese Nationalists have evacuated some islands. Diplomatic negotiations appear publicly, at least, not to have brought any cease-fire.
I wonder if it is a fair conclusion to draw from that, as the situation now is, the question of peace or war in Asia lies entirely with the Chinese Communists, or is anything or can anything more be done from our side?
THE PRESIDENT. I think the first answer to that is you never give up in the pursuit of a legitimate and desirable objective merely because you are defeated the first time and discouraged, and the conditions don't look particularly bright; you don't give up.
Now, as to Formosa and the immediate estimate of the situation there, our Secretary of State is there today. He is visiting with the Generalissimo and, by the time he comes back, certainly will have at least some new ideas or variations of ideas to put into our calculations.
I should say, though, in general, that at least the Western World wants peace in that area; therefore, the only way that we can be embroiled is through some action on the part of the opposing side.
Q. Alan S. Emory, Watertown Times: Mr. President, this spring ground will be broken on a project that was the first new legislative accomplishment of your administration, the Saint Lawrence Seaway. Are there any chances that you will be up there for that ceremony, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. [I have been invited, and I have put it high on what I call my priority list of desirable things to do. But whether I will make it or not, I couldn't say at this time.]
Q. William H. Lawrence, New York Times: There have been reports, especially in South American countries, sir, that the real mission of the Atka in the Antarctic is to seek out some new proving grounds, either for atomic or hydrogen weapons. Can you comment on whether there is any truth in that or not?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Lawrence, the report is absolutely without foundation. There is absolutely no intent on the part of the United States to go down into that area to explore for any such reason.
The ship that went down there, this icebreaker, went down to do the preliminary logistic work for a scientific expedition, which will go down to do our part of what is called the world commitment in the development of the geophysical year of 1957-58.
They are going down merely as a preparatory logistic exploration of how we will do our work. It will be done under scientists and for the development and benefit of the world, nothing else. 1
1 On March 28, a White House release stated that an expedition would be sent to the Antarctic in November to begin work on three observation sites in connection with U.S. participation in the program for the International Geophysical Year, July 1957 December 1958. The release further stated that plans for the IGY would lead to the establishment of more than 20 scientific stations on or near the antarctic continent. It also noted that the USS Atka, a Navy icebreaker, had just completed preliminary observations required for the later expedition.
On July 29 the White House announced on behalf of the President that he had approved plans for launching a small unmanned earth-circling satellite as part of the United States participation in the International Geophysical Year.
Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, the head of the Senate GOP Campaign Committee said the other day he doesn't think the Republican Party can win in 1956 without you as their candidate. I wonder how you feel about this view that you are indispensable to a party victory, and how it may affect your own plans in 1956?
THE PRESIDENT. Did you ever think of what a fate civilization would suffer if there were such a thing as an indispensable man? When he went the way of all flesh, what would happen? It would be a calamity, wouldn't it?
I don't think we need to fear that.
Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, in the Northern District of Texas Court, where many tax cases arise, the Eisenhower Republicans and the Eisenhower Democrats are having quite a squabble over who is going to be the Federal judge.
I wonder if you would support the man, who is Ralph Curry, who is supported by Jack Porter and the Eisenhower Republicans, or Bob Hall, who is supported by Senator Daniel and the Eisenhower Democrats?
THE PRESIDENT. [I am quite certain the Attorney General will bring to me the man he considers best qualified, the man who is, above all, supported by the American Bar Association and given a very high rating; and it wouldn't be anyone who is not qualified. Aside from that, I can't tell you.]
Q. Charles S. von Fremd, CBS News: There has been a bill introduced on Capitol Hill, sir, on the House side, suggesting or asking that the electoral college be abolished in determining presidential elections, and in its place the popular vote be substituted. Such bills have been introduced in the past, but they always have been defeated.
However, the people who are for the popular vote point out that the electoral college in their mind is now outdated, and think in some cases a man with the minority of the popular vote could actually be elected President under the electoral college. Could you give us your views on this matter, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. [I am not so certain that a man couldn't argue both sides of this question; but this has been brought forward in various forms over a great many years, this same proposition.
[I do want to point out one thing about our system: it tends to preserve a two-party system. If you took and made representations in Congress and, I suppose, it would be Congress as well as the President, based upon popular vote, you might begin to get proportionate or splinter parties as you do in other countries--if you made it just a single national thing. That I would deplore.
[But I would say this: while I think our system seems a little awkward and we can smile a little bit at it, it has worked. And while I believe it was at one time claimed that a presidential election was stolen due to the Louisiana vote being thrown out by party manipulation, on the whole it has operated very well. see no great reason, no great urgency, in changing it.]
Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, will you comment on the action of the Senate committee yesterday in voting down the $20 tax reduction?
THE PRESIDENT. I was highly gratified. I explained my position on this whole tax proposition last week. I explained what I thought emphatically, even if rather sketchily--and I haven't changed my mind.
Naturally, I am delighted that the Senate has brought out on the floor a bill that does keep on the books the excise and the extra 5 percent corporation taxes and, at the same time, doesn't go in for this reduction.
Q. Mr. Brandt: Did you read Mr. Keyserling's reply to your charges that the bill would bring on inflation?
THE PRESIDENT. [I read only three things someone brought in to my desk that said Mr. Keyserling has a plan for spending a good many more billion dollars, for reducing taxes, and balancing the budget at the same time. That I would doubt was a good economic plan.]
Q. Garnett D. Horner, Washington Star: Mr. President, I understood you to say, in discussing the question about Sir Winston Churchill's speech yesterday on the hydrogen bomb, that the Western World has had the lead in this whole field. Did you mean to put that in the past tense?
THE PRESIDENT. I didn't mean that it doesn't have it now. I mean that it has had, all this time, the lead.
I did merely intimate that in such a thing as this, you couldn't say, looking on into the decades of the future, that this is always to prevail; that is all I meant.
Q. Elie Abel, New York Times: Mr. President, in an interview with Senator Margaret Chase Smith, Generalissimo Chiang Kaishek has said rather recently that he expects United States moral and logistical support for a reinvasion of the Chinese mainland.
Can you tell us, sir, whether this Government has given the Nationalists any reason to expect such support?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I thought that this whole thing had been discussed so thoroughly there could be no question of America's attitude in this matter.
The United States is not going to be a party to an aggressive war; that is the best answer I can make.
Q. Benjamin R. Cole, Indianapolis Star: Information has come from the Commission on Intergovernmental Relations that the States are all able to finance their own educational needs; and I was wondering, sir, if that had been brought to your attention, and if it is true, if it would change your views on the needs of the--the requirements of the States for Federal aid?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I doubt that that is true in detail. I hadn't heard that before, but I doubt it is true in detail, at least in view of information that comes to me from so many different sources. In any event, I believe the problem to be so serious that the United States Government must take a very positive and definite leadership in this direction.
As you know, I am trying to make that leadership effective in a way that retains to the States and to the localities their traditional responsibility; but I do want to get going.
Q. Edward T. Foillard, Washington Post and Times Herald: This is another political question, Mr. President. We have some information on this, but it came to us secondhand from Chairman Leonard Hall.
Would you, sir, as leader of the Republican Party, tell us how you feel about San Francisco as a convention city, about a late convention, and about a short and merry presidential campaign?
THE PRESIDENT. When they asked me about this selection of cities, I didn't know all of the technical details of television, switching it from one convention to another, or all of the other things that so engaged the attention of the committees.
I said I knew the climate of the areas, and I liked that of San Francisco better than I did Chicago; that was my remark.
Now, I don't know that the timing and the place has any great effect on the succeeding campaign. I doubt that it has.
I rather think it is a good thing to shift around from one city to another. Really that is what I thought: instead of always going back to the same place, switch around in this country. It is a big country, and if the place can accommodate the members of the convention, why, let's go there once in a while.
Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, would you like to send any message to Vice President Nixon regarding his statement yesterday that he hopes you will seek reelection? [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. Did he say that? [Laughter]
Q. Mr. Arrowsmith: He did.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I'll tell you: as you people know, I have always expressed great admiration for Mr. Nixon. I think he is a splendid type of younger man that we want in government.
On the comment he made, I will send him no special message. I probably will have something to say to him when I see him. [Laughter]
Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: Mr. President, as you know, sir, the A.F. of L. and CIO have signed an agreement to merge their organizations, more than 15 million members.
Would you care, sir, to comment on its possible significance to the country, and its various ramifications; and, too, do you see in such a merger the danger of a labor monopoly?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, quite naturally, I have done a little speculating and thinking of my own on such an important question.
I have asked people in the Government who can devote their whole time to this problem to give me their conclusions, and they will do so.
My own mind will stay open on a lot of the facets of this particular movement and development. But, by and large, I think this: I think the American people, in their individualistic selves are very independent; and I would doubt that any organization can just set itself up and be, in all phases of their political and economic and cultural life, the bosses of any great number of Americans.
I believe that there will be many counterbalancing factors in any attempt to make this just one great, say, political organism, or something of that kind, and these people be the bosses of that many Americans.
Q. Mr. Herling: Mr. President, do you feel there is such a tendency for them to be bosses over American workers who are members of unions?
THE PRESIDENT. Do I what?
Q. Mr. Herling: Do you feel there is any tendency in that direction?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I didn't comment on that. I merely said that you were proposing the question in terms of politics. Well, I believe these people are going to be fairly independent politically, as always.
Q. Daniel Schorr, CBS News: Mr. President, referring to your preference to the climate of San Francisco, can it be taken for granted that you will attend the convention?
THE PRESIDENT. NO. [Laughter]
Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: That is what I was going to ask.
Q. George R. Zielke, Toledo Blade: Mr. President, are you happy that Congress has decided to raise its pay and that of the judges?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I am.
In the past, ladies and gentlemen, I have talked to a number of what I thought promising young people, people who are establishing themselves, about the possibility of them getting into government; and I find that, particularly with respect to jobs that bring them to Washington, the economic factor has a very important bearing on their decisions. Frequently they must simply decline; because, they said, "I am a young fellow starting out, and I can't do it."
They must keep a home in their own districts; they must go back often to those districts if they hope to be re-elected, and they have to be re-elected each two years--incidentally which, I think, is a mistake; I would like to see a 4-year term for them. Then they have to set up a new home here; and, as you know, they do have unusual expenses.
Now, they voted themselves this raise, but they also included judges and other parts of the judiciary who have been badly underpaid. This administration has required, for example, that United States attorneys give up their private practices. They were allowed to do that in the past. We require them to give them up.
They should be paid well. And of course, finally, you say they have given themselves a $7,500 raise; we will get half of it back, don't forget that. [Laughter]
Q. Lawrence Fernsworth, Concord (New Hampshire) Monitor: Mr. President, last night I heard a very distinguished ex-Senator speak on this subject of pay raises.
He suggested, he thought it would be a good idea to double the pay of a Senator, and he further put forth the suggestion that it would be a good idea for the Government itself to underwrite the campaign expenses of members of Congress.
He thought that would be a great step forward toward eliminating corruption in these expenditures, and he set forth that notwithstanding the Corrupt Practice Act there still is a great deal of that sort of thing going on.
Would the President care to give us his view on that?
THE PRESIDENT. [Well, that is a very broad and very wide question. I don't think I could comment on it usefully. I do applaud what must underlie his reasoning, and that is the effort to get good men to come to Washington, men that are dedicated to this country and will do their best in these places.]
Q. Kenneth M. Scheibel, Gannett Newspapers: Mr. President, getting back to the Russian food situation, has there been any final decision on the proposal that we give them some of our wheat?
THE PRESIDENT. I keep hearing about this proposal we give them some of our wheat, although I don't know where it came from.
I believe there is an Attorney General opinion we may not barter, we may not sell, but we could give.
Now, I want to point out that there has been no report made to us that Russia is really short of grain. On the contrary, within the last, I think, month, or very recently, they shipped three hundred and some thousand tons of grain out of the country.
The United States is never indifferent to human suffering, and in certain areas, as in the Danube area, just recently we put in $ 10 million worth of wheat, flour, and agricultural products. There is no purpose and no plan being studied at this time for sending any grain of any kind to Russia.
Q. Jay G. Hayden, Detroit News: Mr. President, in connection with this question of will you or won't you run again, at a press conference some weeks ago you commented that it was a rather large question, and that some time when you had plenty of time at a press conference you would discuss, I believe you said, the pros and cons.
Could we make a date with you, sir, to start in on that at the next press conference? [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. I would doubt at the next press conference-[Iaughterl--but I'll tell you: if we can have a complete moratorium on it, I might make a date, let's say, a year from today. [Laughter]
Merriman Smith, United Press: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Eisenhower's sixty-second news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:32 to 11:04 o'clock on Wednesday morning, March 2, 1955. In attendance: 188.
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/234013