Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

March 16, 1955

[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. I have no announcements, ladies and gentlemen, and we will go right to questions.

Q. Marvin Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, are you worried any about the decline in stock market prices and, secondly, do you think the Senate Banking Committee study has contributed in any way to the decline?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, for the second part of your question, which I will answer first, I have no opinion whatsoever as to the effect of that particular investigation.

What I do believe very thoroughly is this: we are trying to promote an expanding economy in this country, and one of the factors that is necessary in producing an expanded economy is confidence.

So any group or any individual that undertakes to touch upon one of the points of our economy where this confidence is affected, necessarily must proceed with great caution if he doesn't want to do unnecessary damage. I don't know of any particular phase of this investigation that hasn't been conducted in that way; certainly, some of the things that have come out of it have been reassuring. The conduct of our stock markets on the whole looks to be very satisfactory.

I am not only concerned with a drop on the stock market, but any drop in an agricultural price or any other unexplained drop in the prices of parts of our products is of concern to the Government.

Q. Pat Munroe, Albuquerque Journal and Salt Lake City Deseret News: Mr. President, there is a war over water, that is, the Colorado River water, now in progress in the West between southern California and the Rocky Mountain States; and in your state of the Union message you urged Congress to approve a plan to conserve water in the Rocky Mountain States. Is this still your feeling, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. [Yes. But before I answer the question, let me say this: I don't like the use of that word "war." Let's try to avoid that word.

[Now, of course, it is part of my policy. I believe that water is rapidly becoming, if it is not already, our most precious natural resource. I believe we have got to take measures to save this water at the proper places.

[It is not all done in the same way. I believe the Agriculture Department, in its upstream conservation practices, has just as much responsibility in the matter as does the Interior Department with these great dams in the mountains.

[I might refer you to a book that has recently been printed, one called "Big Dam Foolishness." It is by a man named Peterson, who has apparently put in a life study on this. I have read his book. He undertakes to show that many of our big dams have been constructed under a very false conception.

[However, this whole question of water is important, not only to California and to Arizona and the western slope, but to the whole region, east as well as west.]

Q. Mr. Munroe: Well, sir, southern California has blocked our plan in the Rocky Mountain area with a legal suit before the Supreme Court, and as recently as yesterday, Budget Director Hughes indicated a very firm support for the Upper Colorado plan.

THE PRESIDENT. [Well, I don't know about the Supreme Court; if it is before the Supreme Court, I know I am not going to comment on it.

[But as far as my concept of what is necessary, it has not changed; I still believe the same as I said in my state of the Union message.]

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, with no effort to violate your desire for a moratorium on the subject, do you agree with Vice President Nixon that the Republican Party is not strong enough to win re-election in 1956 without you? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. I thought you were really observing that agreement on a moratorium until you got to your last two words.

I would say this, first of all: as you know, I have been responsible for various kinds of fights in my lifetime. I have never yet gone into any fight with as much strength as I should like to have. The more strength you have, the more certain that you are of victory, then the more certainly you can plan your moves.

Now, I agree that the Republican Party needs strength, needs recruits. I come back to the same old thing I have repeated to you people time and time again: in spite of all the publicity gimmicks, all of the shrewd recruiting systems, there is one thing that will bring Republican Party recruits--fine programs for the benefit of all America and real work in putting them over.

That is the kind of thing that will certainly bring Republican Party strength, and it will be strength enough to win with anybody that is worthy of a place.

Q. Charles S. von Fremd, CBS News: Mr. President, yesterday at his news conference, Secretary of State Dulles indicated that in the event of general war in the Far East, we would probably make use of some tactical small atomic weapons. Would you care to comment on this and, possibly, explain it further?

THE PRESIDENT. I wouldn't comment in the sense that I would pretend to foresee the conditions of any particular conflict in which you might engage; but we have been, as you know, active in producing various types of weapons that feature nuclear fission ever since World War II.

Now, in any combat where these things can be used on strictly military targets and for strictly military purposes, I see no reason why they shouldn't be used just exactly as you would use a bullet or anything else.

I believe the great question about these things comes when you begin to get into those areas where you cannot make sure that you are operating merely against military targets. But with that one qualification, I would say, yes, of course they would be used.

Q. Matthew Warren, Du Mont Television: Mr. President, in view of the devastating effects of our modern thermonuclear weapons and the secrecy surrounding their development, how do you think we can maintain an adequate civilian defense?

THE PRESIDENT. Of course, you are touching one of the most serious problems facing us today, and it is all the more serious because it is one of those facts that human beings just rather recoil from looking squarely in the face, do not like to do it.

Not long ago, the Atomic Energy Commission published a rather long paper giving a considerable amount of information on the effects of thermonuclear weapons and, particularly, the fallout.

The purpose of it was to show that while it is known that downwind from these things you can get a long area in which there could be very serious consequences, it is also possible for the individual to take care of himself. It was intended, given the proper amount of work the man will do, to be reassuring and not to be terrifying.

The great chore you have here is to give people the facts, show them what they can do, get the Federal leadership, get the participation of the States and the municipalities, without terrifying people.

I have one great belief: nobody in war or anywhere else ever made a good decision if he was frightened to death. You have to look facts in the face, but you have to have the stamina to do it without just going hysterical. That is what you are really trying to do in this business.

Q. Alan S. Emory, Watertown Times: Mr. President, two questions, sir: could you tell us the purpose of Governor Dewey's visit with you after our conference this morning; and, second, the Chief Justice of the United States recently, in a speech in St. Louis, said that he did not think the Bill of Rights, if proposed today, would pass.

I wondered if you cared to comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I fail to see much relationship between your two questions. [Laughter]

As to the first one, I haven't the slightest idea. Governor Dewey asked to see me, and the date was set up; he is coming in.

Now, the second one, I never heard such a statement made. You say the Chief Justice of the United States said this?

Q. Mr. Emory: Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have got a tremendous admiration for him and for his mind, and I am certain that he has thought over wall what he had said.

But I would say this: if it were up for passage today, I would be one of those out campaigning for its adoption. That is about all I can say.

Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: Mr. President, this has to do with the expanding economy you referred to earlier.

THE PRESIDENT. With the what?

Q. Mr. Herling: The expanding economy--that you are concerned with.

As you know, there is much concern in labor and management circles about the impact of automation on our human and economic relations; and since automation does affect every part of our national life, the question has been raised as to whether a Presidential commission might undertake a study of its impact and ramifications; and would you give us some idea of what your thinking is on the subject of automation.

Second, would you consider the possibility of supporting such a commission to aid the country in facing the problems growing out of automation?

THE PRESIDENT. [Well, let's be quite clear. I would not attempt to give a specific answer to a specific question that you asked; on a spur-of-the-moment attitude or circumstances, it would be foolish for me to do so.

[This matter of automation--another word that has now arisen to plague us some--has been discussed habitually by my economic advisers, by others in the administration, and naturally I have listened and read on the subject.

[The one striking thing you should remember is this: exactly the same thing has been going on for a hundred and fifty years; exactly the same fears have been expressed right along; and one of the great things that seems to happen is that as we find ways of doing work with fewer man-hours devoted to it, then there is more work to do.

[I believe that it would be false to assume that the amount of work we are going to have to do is going to remain static, when we are looking for an expanding economy. It is going to expand.

[The work to do is going to expand not only in, you might say, arithmetic progression, along with the amount your economy expands, but there are other things to do because man will have other needs and other desires and want things to use. So I really believe that my own feeling is that the danger is often exaggerated.

[On the other hand, I certainly will hope and will expect that the proper agencies of Government continue earnestly their investigations on this subject, their watch on the development; and if any danger seems to be appearing upon the horizon that is unforeseen, then it is possible that even a commission would be the right answer. But I couldn't say now.]

Q. Marshall McNeil, Scripps-Howard: Mr. President, I have two questions about an old one. The Dixon-Yates contract is apparently tied up in the courts, and a majority of the TVA Board has lately asked you again for appropriations for the Fulton steam plant.

I wondered whether that would prompt you, sir, to reconsider the problem of power in west Tennessee; and, the second question, would the construction of a plant, generating plant, by Memphis itself not fit into your philosophy, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I know of no reason--to take your second question first--I know of no reason whatsoever that Memphis hasn't a complete right to manufacture or set up any producing plant it wants to. Certainly I would favor it.

I have nothing at all against local ownership of power. I think in many cases it is not only a good thing; in some cases it has been proved to be very effective.

But there is one thing I always want to point out to you people when I talk about governmental authority, responsibility and operation. Don't forget this: when the Federal Government does this, they can print money to do the job. Nobody else can, and there is a very great difference; because the second that the Federal Government starts to print money to do these things, they are taking one cent, or at least their proportion, out of every dollar that any of you might happen to have in your pockets. That is the effect of cheapening money, and I don't think we ought to go in for that.

Now, as to the review of this case, it has not come up to me in any way in that form, and I don't know whether there is any reason for review or not. But I do say: for anything that falls within the State or city authorities, I have no objection to their doing it, whatsoever.

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, there seems to be some confusion about your position about allowing a person to be confronted with his accuser in a governmental case.

The Department of Justice says that when you said a man shall be entitled to be confronted with his accuser, he should know who it was, and so forth.

They said that was only for criminal cases. I got the idea it was for the security cases, also.

THE PRESIDENT. NO, I believe there are certain cases, Mr. Brandt, where you couldn't possibly bring out all of your accusers, for the simple reason that you may work for a number of years to get people in places where they can look for these things that, by their very nature, are destructive of the United States system and of the welfare of the United States of America. Now, those people you cannot destroy.

If in the course of their operations they bring up information, remember this: you are not determining anything about the legal rights or the application of the Bill of Rights to this man's case. What you are trying to determine is, is he fit to work for the United States Government? Should you take the responsibility of saying, in spite of the fact that we cannot put the man, the accuser, up in front of this man and let him cross-examine, should we continue him in a sensitive position?

I do believe this: I do believe that we are going to be able to do more in finding nonsensitive areas in which to place such people.

Q. Mr. Brandt: On that point, sir, some of these accusers have been proved to be doing it for money and for other reasons.


Q. Mr. Brandt: Now, the accused has no way of knowing whether the charges have been made in good faith.

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Brandt, I know that any honest person charged with the responsibility for protecting the interests of the United States and the Federal Government, would be the last to say that any system you can devise here is going to be perfect.

Indeed, I don't believe that probably any lawyer would say that the judicial and the criminal procedures that we have in our country are perfect. We try to get them as nearly just as we can, and we do apply the Bill of Rights.

Now, in the Federal Government, in putting a man to work for the Federal Government and paid by the Federal Government, there is a slightly different problem, though, than whether you are accused of cheating your neighbor or doing something else. It is, simply, you have got to do the best you can in these conflicting considerations; but, as far as you can, as far as is humanly possible without violating the security of the United States, to obey and to follow the Bill of Rights, that is what must be done.

Q. Mr. Brandt: May I ask one point on that? You said there are some plans now for the nonsensitive positions.

THE PRESIDENT. I say we think we can do better.

Q. Mr. Brandt: On the nonsensitive positions?

THE PRESIDENT. We always have had this; it is simply a question of operating just as well as we can.

Q. Garnett D. Horner, Washington Star: Mr. President, some weeks ago a report was published that the thermonuclear device that was exploded in the Pacific a year ago was a super-H-bomb with a jacket of natural state uranium that gave it greater power at less cost. Could you tell us if that was correct, and anything else about the development of the so-called bargain basement U-bomb?

THE PRESIDENT. [Well, I will tell you, you are asking technical questions about this bomb, and while I possibly could give you a fairly accurate answer, I think it would be unfair to ask me to give you one that you could write about.

[I say this: you go ask Admiral Strauss about it, because he will give you every piece of information that is in the public domain. I don't think I should attempt to answer it.]

Q. Charles E. Shutt, Telenews: Mr. President, two people in your administration have mentioned the possibility of war, impending war, in Asia.

THE PRESIDENT. What is that? Mentioned what?

Q. Mr. Shutt: Admiral Radford said last night in a speech that there was a distinct possibility that war could break out at any time.

Secretary Dulles also said that he came back from his visit with a sense of foreboding.

Could you give us your views about the possibility of a conflict in the Far East, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, you have to answer that one in generalizations.

Why do we keep any kind of security forces? Because there is always a possibility of war.

We are living in a time when it would be foolish to say that it is characterized by normal serenity, the kind of peaceful relations which we hope for among nations of the world. Therefore, the possibility is greater than, we would say, that we were raised with--that is, any of you if, unfortunately, you are as old as I am. We were raised in an atmosphere of complete confidence; there was no thought of war, and our military forces fell away to very, very small numbers.

And if you read a little bit of the history of the Spanish-American War and the opening of World War I, you will see that is true.

So the possibility is greater now than it was in those days; consequently, there is greater vigilance required of us, greater concern, greater diversion of our man-hours and our resources to the making and keeping and sustaining of armed forces than there would be otherwise. That is one of the reasons, of course, that the great policies of any enlightened nation must be the producing of conditions that will be more peaceful.

Q. Mr. Shutt: Would you say, sir, that we would be prepared for any eventuality in that area?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, again, you want specific answers for something that, it seems to me, you yourself should know.

You prepare in the generality, and you can't tell what kind of a surprise might be prepared for you in any part of the world. But you are striving, and again I quote it to you, for what Washington called "that respectable posture of defense that is consonant with the times in which we live," the kind of weapons, the kind of possibilities that we face. That is the best answer I can give you.

Q. Dickson J. Preston, Cleveland Press: Mr. President, the Olympic Committee of the Western Hemisphere Nations have just voted to hold the pan-American games in 1959 in Cleveland. This will be the first time they have been in the United States; and they will bring athletes from all the Americas to this country. I wondered if you would comment on that, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, that is the kind I like to comment on. [Laughter]

I am not only highly gratified, but I will tell you, if I am alive and healthy, I would hope to attend.

Q. Mr. Preston: Thank you.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Mr. President, there seems to be some confusion in the minds of people in the gas industry about a letter written by Mr. Morgan of your staff to Congressman Glenn Davis in which Mr. Morgan implies that the Flemming report on gas is not necessarily your views, but it is the views of your Cabinet advisers.

Would you clear up, would you comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT. Certainly. The Advisory Committee has prepared their views and submitted them to me; there has been no action on my part at all, giving it final approval.

Q. William S. White, New York Times: I wonder if you would care to comment, sir, on the action of the Senate on the tax bill of yesterday?

THE PRESIDENT. Would it be allowable to just say "Hurrah!" [Laughter]

Q. Alice F. Johnson, Seattle Times: Mr. President, on September 17, 1950, the Denver Post quoted you as telling a Denver audience that quick admission of Alaska and Hawaii to statehood would show the world that America practices what it preaches, and that you hoped Congress would pass the statehood legislation then before it.

Can you please tell us, one, what has happened in the meantime to change your mind about Alaska and, two, are there any circumstances Under which you Would favor giving Alaska statehood now?

THE PRESIDENT. When did you say I was quoted that way?

Q. Mrs. Johnson: September 17, 1950, when you were--


Q. Mrs. Johnson: Yes.

THE PRESIDENT. I think I have explained my position with respect to Alaska in front of this group time and again.

I think there are national security considerations which must be amply catered for before I can remove my objections to the statehood of this area.

Now, I have never said anything against statehood for Alaska if those things are taken care of, and I have tried to explain in general what they were. Nothing has occurred to change that.

At the time in 1950 when I said that, I was not responsible at that moment for the national security of the United States. I didn't bear the responsibility I do now.

Now, I don't mean to say that I have changed my mind. I still think that any territory of the United States has got a right to strive to achieve the standards normally accepted for statehood, but we have got a very, very difficult, tough problem up there. As I say, my position has been stated in front of this body several times.

Q. Joseph Chiang, Chinese News Service: Mr. President, under your great and distinguished leadership, does the United States Government have any plan to help 13 million overseas Chinese who are willing to make every sacrifice to go back home in the mainland of China to liberate their loved ones from the Chinese Communist enslavement?

THE PRESIDENT. [Well, I will simply say this: the problem is often spoken of; I have heard of no particular suggestion for solution of it. But I do know that you have all these overseas Chinese. I at this moment wouldn't know the answer, I admit.]

Q. Richard L. Wilson, Cowles Publications: Mr. President, there seems to be some special circumstances coming up in the automobile industry which would justify asking you if you have any position on the guaranteed annual wage.

THE PRESIDENT. As you know, this administration has several times urged the extension of unemployment insurance and tried to lead the States into making this system such that we don't have local distress in these great areas, so often affected by unemployment.

But when you come to talking in the exact terms of the guaranteed annual wage, I don't know in what form it will appear. I don't know what will be demanded; and, therefore, I would prefer not to talk about any specific proposal until it has been presented and gone over by the Secretary of Labor and my advisers. Then I would have something to say about it. But I do believe in the extension of unemployment insurance.

Q. Milton Friedman, Jewish Telegraphic Agency: Sir, will you ask the Attorney General to draft recommendations to activate and implement your request in the state of the Union message to revise the McCarran-Walter Immigration Act?

THE PRESIDENT. [Well, I made the recommendation to Congress. Whether there is any other step that is necessary I will have to look up and see whether I should--

Q. Mr. Friedman: Sir

THE PRESIDENT. [I said I made the recommendation in the state of the Union message.]

Q. Robert Roth, Philadelphia Bulletin: Mr. President, if I may refer for a moment to the civilian defense question that was asked before, at a hearing before the Senate Armed Services subcommittee last week, Mayor Joseph Clark of Philadelphia made this statement, I am quoting:

"Until the President himself takes a far more active part in formulating and carrying into effect a sound national civil defense policy, our major American cities will continue vulnerable to enemy attack."

I wonder if you would comment on that assertion?

THE PRESIDENT. [Well, any city, of course, is always going to be vulnerable; it is the degree of. vulnerability that is necessary.

[Now, this is somebody's opinion, apparently, of what I should do; I have got many opinions of what everybody else should do. But I am trying to do my duty. If he sees it differently, why, I would be glad to have his advice.]

Q. Lloyd M. Schwartz, Fairchild Publications: Mr. President, the Attorney General's Special Anti-Trust Study Group has just recommended the repeal of the Federal laws which give these State fair trade laws their antitrust immunity.

I wonder whether you could tell us whether you agree with his finding, and whether you intend to send appropriate repeal legislation up to the Hill?

THE PRESIDENT. [Well, no, I haven't heard of it; but you know, in the Justice Department you have these special sections for all these various functions of the Justice Department. That particular section is headed up by Justice Barnes, who is supposed to have one of the finest legal minds in this whole business.

[Eventually this recommendation will come to me, but I hadn't heard of it before.]

Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, this question goes back to a news conference on February 23d. A reporter, Clark Mollenhoff of the Cowles Publications, asked you a question, and the sense of it was this: What would you do if a Government official called an employee a Red, and had no evidence to back it up?

You invited Mollenhoff to submit proof, in fact, you urged him to do it. Mollenhoff then wrote you a letter in which he cited the case of Wolf Ladejinsky.

Have you any comment to make on that case now?

THE PRESIDENT. [Only, So far, this: all the individuals now, I believe, that were involved in the case have come back; and aside from the recommendations of the Attorney General to prevent such cases from arising in the future, which have been published as instructions to the executive department, what's to be done in the particular case is still under investigation. A final report has not been made.]

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

Note: President Eisenhower's sixty-third news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:31 to 11:01 o'clock on Wednesday morning, March 16, 1955. 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/234055

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