Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

February 02, 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. Good morning; please sit down.

I have no announcements. We will go right to questions.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, have you had any indication from Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek that he wants a public statement or some form of assurance from you or this Government that we consider Quemoy and Matsu part of the defense of Formosa?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, there are constantly, of course, conversations going on between our representatives and the Chinese Nationalists, and not always do our views exactly coincide; but I think that in view of the delicacy of this whole situation, one that in its main parts is before the United Nations, it is better to stand for the moment just on what we have said, at least publicly, let it go at that, and say no more for the moment.

Q. David P. Sentner, Hearst Newspapers: Mr. President, if I might presume to ask a question on the fringe of the situation, in Moscow a few days ago, Foreign Minister Molotov gave an interview to W. R. Hearst, Jr., and Kingsbury Smith of International News Service, and he indicated that the Soviet Government would be willing to take up with the Chinese Communist Government the question of a temporary cease-fire for the evacuation of the Tachens, if the United States made a request of the Kremlin for such a step.

Now, is there any communication on that subject or relating to it, under consideration?

THE PRESIDENT. First of all, I know nothing about that, but I do call attention to this: that it's the Chinese Nationalists that are occupying the Tachens and not the United States, and if there were any such request, I don't see how the United States could make it unilaterally.

Q. Alan S. Emory, Watertown Times: Mr. President, Senator Humphrey of Minnesota has introduced a resolution that would put Congress on record as backing U.N. efforts to reach a cease-fire in the Formosa controversy.

Senator George, the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, says he thinks the administration favors such a plan, and he knows he does, and he thinks it would meet the approval of the American people.

Senator Knowland says that such resolution might constitute a blanket endorsement of appeasement.

I wondered how you felt about that, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. [I haven't thought about it; and I suppose that here you have personalities reflecting their own convictions about such things.

[Any answer I give you now would be so much of a shotgun opinion I would rather think that one over. I had not noticed that before.]

Q. Mr. Emory: Well, sir--

THE PRESIDENT. [I really have nothing more to say about it.] Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, could you enlighten us, sir, as to whether the 7th Fleet is under orders which include the doctrine of "hot pursuit" in case our planes or ships are attacked by Communist planes?

THE PRESIDENT. Frankly, I considered whether I would talk about such things this morning. And I repeat what I have said, I don't believe it is best to put out any specific blueprint on orders or instructions. I believe it is just best to leave it as it stands at the moment.

The United Nations is working on this, and I don't see how any statement of mine could do anything more than muddy the water.

Now, this is not any attempt to keep either you people or the American people in the dark, but this is an international situation. There is every kind of influence and crosscurrent involved, and I just think it is wise to say nothing.

Q. Richard L. Wilson, Cowles Publications: Mr. President, in spite of assurances which you have given, and in spite of statements which have been made in Congress, I think there is still a great deal of uneasiness in the country with respect to whether your policy will lead to fighting in the Far East. Could you discuss that subject again?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, certainly this: the purpose is to make certain that no conflict occurs through mistaken calculations on the other side as to our concern about Formosa and our determination to defend it.

We have been as exact as it seems possible to be, and we have certainly tried to avoid being truculent. The purpose is honestly and hopefully to prevent war.

Q. Jack Norman, Fairchild Publications: Mr. President, there is talk now on Capitol Hill that there might have to be some compromises to get the reciprocal trade legislation through Congress; and I wanted to ask you, if it comes to a choice, would you give up your minimum wage recommendations or something else to get H.R. I through in its present form?

THE PRESIDENT. [Well, I don't see the relationship.]

Q. Mr. Norman: Well, some of the witnesses yesterday before the Ways and Means Committee were making the point, there is no point in hiking the minimum wage if we are going to lower the tariffs.

THE PRESIDENT. [So far as I am concerned, on both these points, I have expressed my recommendations.

[Now, as usual, I have to wait to see what Congress does; I couldn't predict in any degree whatsoever what would be my action thereafter.]

Q. Marvin Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, General Ridgway told the House Armed Services Committee 2 days ago that he is against the projected cut in Army strength, and he said he believes that the proposed cut jeopardized national security to a degree. How do you feel about that, and is there any possibility of the reduction order being rescinded ?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I assume that you are asking me the question so far as it affects the executive department. My decision in this matter was not reached lightly; it was reached after long study of every opinion I could get, in consultation with every single individual in this Government that I know of that bears any responsibility whatsoever about it.

General Ridgway was questioned in the Congress as to his personal convictions; naturally, he had to express them.

His responsibility for national defense is, you might say, a special one, or, in a sense, parochial. He does not have the overall responsibility that is borne by the Commander in Chief, and by him alone, when it comes down to making the recommendations to the Congress.

My recommendations, I repeat, were made from my best judgment of what is the adequate defense structure for these United States, particularly on the long-term basis. That decision has not been altered, and at this moment I don't see any chance of its being altered.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Mr. President, in that same connection, your letter of January 5th to Mr. Wilson, I believe, mentioned that recent scientific and technological developments made it necessary for us not to use as many men as we might otherwise use.

Well, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in their testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, don't agree with this. They say, no.

Will you have any further conferences with them on this?

THE PRESIDENT. I confer with the Joint Chiefs of Staff through their chairman several times a week, every week. I am never out of touch with them. I know their opinions, and I know exactly who agrees with me and who doesn't.

Now, they are entitled to their opinions, but I have to make the decisions.

Q. Lloyd M. Schwartz, Fairchild Publications: I would like to ask a question about procurement policy.

THE PRESIDENT. Procurement?

Q. Mr. Schwartz: Some manufacturers of silk cartridge cloths, which are vital to the defense program, say they have protested to you the award of contracts by the Army to manufacturers using yarns spun abroad, and they claim this endangers the mobilization base. I wondered whether you were considering that and, perhaps, some change in the regulations?

THE PRESIDENT. [I have no doubt, if they say that, that they have submitted the recommendation. If so, it has unquestionably been routed, as it would normally be, to the proper people. I have not personally seen it, so I couldn't comment on it.]

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Several weeks ago you said you were going to consult with the Democratic leaders in Congress, and you had not decided on the mechanism.

Have the Cabinet officers consulted the Democratic leaders on legislation going up? And the reason I ask, there are two points: one is on your road program; two is on the cut in the Army.

THE PRESIDENT. I have personally talked to them about the structure of the Defense Establishment that I would recommend for this year, and as a long-term program. I personally did that.

Now, unquestionably, the Secretary of Defense and his people are in touch with them constantly.

As to the road program, I can't answer specifically except that I know the Secretary of the Treasury has at least talked with Senator Byrd to some extent about financing it.

Q. Mr. Brandt: The reason I asked is, when these messages go up or when the announcements were made, we get adverse comments from the Hill from the Democrats.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't mean to say that everything we send up is agreed to in advance by the leaders of the other side.

As far as I know, we are certainly trying to avoid springing something on them that we know about. Again, I suppose, errors certainly can occur; but the purpose is to keep them informed of what is coming up.

Q. A. E. Salpeter, Haaretz (Tel Aviv): Going back to Formosa, it seems since the cease-fire, by nature, is a temporary arrangement, do you foresee the possibility of a permanent peaceful relationship between Formosa and the Red China regime?

THE PRESIDENT. [I just don't know. I think that only time will tell. It is something that we must take a step at a time and try to make advancement toward conditions that will promote peace.]

Q. Harry W. Frantz, United Press, South American Service: The Foreign Minister of Venezuela, in connection with the Formosan situation, has made a statement of friendship, moral and economic support toward the United States, which later was generally republished by the American Chamber of Commerce in Venezuela. If that has come to your attention, would you care to comment?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it hadn't come to my attention. Of course, our hope is that through the Organization of Pan American States our general attitude toward this whole business of promoting peace and friendly relations in the world will have a solid foundation and agreement among our own American States. That is, I should say, one of the cornerstones of American policy.

Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: Mr. President, the charge has been made that the censorship of the record of these press conferences before they are released to TV and radio means that only exchanges favorable to the administration and the Republican Party would be issued. Would you care to comment on that censorship?

THE PRESIDENT. I think that that is an item you can talk over with my technician, who is Mr. Hagerty. [Laughter]

I believe someone told me that for one of the press conferences we had, 28 minutes of it was released; I couldn't think there could be much room for censorship there.

Q. Clark R. Mollenhoff, Des Moines Register: Mr. President, both your Justice Department and Civil Service Commission have stated that they have advisory functions in coordinating your security program. However, they both state that their functions are purely advisory, and that they can't go beyond that in the event that some department head would want to disregard their advice.

In the light of that, I wondered what recourse there is in the administration for an employee who might have a security risk tag put on him by one department, and other departments might hold that he was not a security risk?

THE PRESIDENT. [Of course, it is understood that if two department heads differ on any subject--whether it is security, whether it is anything else that involves this Government--if that cannot be settled between them eventually, it must come to me; that is inherent in organization, and it is inherent in this problem.]

Q. Mr. Mollenhoff: Mr. President, I wondered if the individual cases, as such--though I was thinking in terms of the employee in this case who might have this security risk tag tied on him, and that would be rather serious in his eyes--and would he have any recourse though, could he come to you personally, was that what you meant?

THE PRESIDENT. [No, I don't think that he would come to me personally. I think the problem would. As quickly as two departments differ on anything, it must come to me if not settled otherwise.]

Q. Mr. Mollenhoff: All of those cases that are pending, then, will eventually be brought in?

THE PRESIDENT. [As a matter of fact, I have heard only of one case where two different departments were involved; I could be wrong. There may be more.]

Q. Mr. Mollenhoff: I wondered if in that case that would eventually be decided by that--

THE PRESIDENT. [That one would have, except that someone had taken it over. We agreed that each of them followed their own best judgment, the man was rehired, and it was a fait accompli. Of course, I didn't come into it, because it was done. And I approved it.]

Q. Nat S. Finney, Buffalo Evening News: Mr. President, do you have any plans to withdraw the Dixon-Yates contract?


Q. Ethel Payne, Defender Publications: Sir, I wonder if you would care to comment on the coming Asian-African conference, and if you could--

THE PRESIDENT. Would I comment on what? I couldn't hear you.

Q. Miss Payne: The coming Asian-African conference; and could you tell us if we are going to send observers to that conference?

THE PRESIDENT. [As a matter of fact, I am not certain as to detail. Of course, any conference of that kind we follow with the greatest of interest,1 but I don't even know whether we have been invited to send observers. It is a question you would have to ask the State Department; I am really not up on it.]

1 On April 17, the White House released a statement by the Secretary of State following a meeting with the President in Augusta, Ca., at which time they discussed the Asian-African conference then opening in Bandung. Secretary Dulles noted that the President "expressed the hope that it will heed the universal longing of the peoples of the world for peace and that it will seek a renunciation of force to achieve national ambitions. The President hailed the Bandung Conference as providing an opportunity, at a critical hour, to voice the peaceful aspirations of the peoples of the world and thus exert a practical influence for peace where peace is now in grave jeopardy."

Q. Donald Irwin, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, it is nearly 3 months since you sent Judge Harlan's nomination to the Senate, and the Judiciary Committee has put off hearings until the 23d of February; and I wondered if you had any comment.

THE PRESIDENT. None, except that I continue to believe that Judge Harlan's qualifications for that post are of the highest; certainly they were the highest of any that I could find.

Q. Benjamin R. Cole, Indianapolis Star: Mr. President, could you tell us, sir, your feelings about the FHA cleanup? Is that nearly completed, sir, or do you feel that there is still more to be done there?

THE PRESIDENT. [I haven't had a report on it in the last couple of weeks. There was a report then that they hoped they were getting down to the final action in the case. I would hope so, because I personally think that FHA, and confidence in FHA, is of the utmost importance to the United States. So I would hope we get this cleaned up and really back to where it belongs in the respect of our people.]

Q. Frank van der Linden, Nashville Banner: Mr. President, in your budget message regarding TVA, you raised the possibility of some new method of financing the TVA steam plants. Would that include the issuance of bonds by TVA itself?

THE PRESIDENT. [I think there are a number of methods, but I would have to wait on the TVA recommendations. That is one reason for the appointment as the head of TVA of a man in whom I have the utmost confidence, his disinterest in this, studying what is the public, the national good, in the premises; so I would have to wait on their recommendations.]

Q. Mr. van der Linden: Sir, do you plan to submit a recommendation to Congress later, then?

THE PRESIDENT. [I don't, unless I can get something from him.]

Q. Roscoe Drummond, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, may I ask a further question about Judge Harlan? Do you think there is an inordinate delay in holding the hearings on Judge Harlan, and do you think that this delay could conceivably harm the functioning of the Court itself?

THE PRESIDENT. Report was made to me that the members of the Court naturally wanted to have a full Court as early as they could. So I moved as rapidly as I could to find a proper individual and recommended him to the Congress after the vacancy occurred as fast as I could.

Now, I think it is too bad that the delay seems to be necessary in the eyes of the committee; but on the other hand, I, as usual, don't intend to stand up and publicly criticize Congress for what it does. I personally think it is unfortunate that this delay has to occur.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Maine Papers: Mr. President, have you reached any conclusion on revision of the United Nations Charter, which can be done soon, and would that include admitting any nation which applies?

THE PRESIDENT. [The only thing I know about it at this moment is that for some months it has been a matter of casual discussion between the Secretary of State and me. I know they are studying it and have a group set up to study, but I am sure there is no readiness to report whatsoever--no conclusion reached.]

Q. L. G. Laycook, Nashville Tennessean: Mr. President, would you comment on the resolution adopted by the Joint Atomic Energy Committee last week urging cancellation of the DixonYates contract?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I won't comment on it except it seemed to be drawn upon strictly party lines; that is the only thing I noted about it particularly.

Q. Lloyd M. Schwartz, Fairchild Publications: Mr. President, I wonder if you could give us your views on standby authority to freeze prices and wages. There have been reports of a decision that you would ask Congress for such authority.

THE PRESIDENT. I could give you a long speech now. One of the first subjects given to me in the War Department somewhere back along 1928 or '29 to study was this one.

I think I have conferred with literally hundreds of people in the United States, pro and con, on this subject. I really can't say that I think solution is vital, and I don't know whether there is any use of starting to talk on the subject unless you are going to talk for a half hour; I don't think you want me to do that.

I would say this: if Congress sees fit to do it, I not only can live with it, but I think in certain respects it would be advantageous.

On the other hand, the mere existence of that kind of authority has a certain psychological reaction on certain sections of our population who believe that it implies an intent to extend that kind of control to our economy in time of peace, and it also implies an intent to go your own way in time of war without consultation with the Congress.

Now, there are psychological values here against immediate--let's say--economic values in a crisis. I think that Congress can act probably fast enough so that no great damage will be done if the two branches of Government work together well.

It is not one of the factors in the legislation that we need to which I attach terrific importance.

Q. William V. Shannon, New York Post: Mr. President, in line with this earlier question about filming the news conferences, the principal point of the criticism is not how much is cut out, but that the television networks, unlike newspaper editors, don't have the power to decide what to use, and that is decided at the White House first, and they get the censored transcript. And some people feel it is more than a technical question, more a question of freedom of the press.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, let me say this: that no head of any broadcasting company has yet protested to me, and I can't very well make any answer until I get their protests and their reasons for it.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, in answering Mr. Wilson's question a while back, you said the purpose of your program in Formosa, in regard to the Formosa. situation, was honestly and hopefully to prevent war.

Could you tell us whether, as of now, you feel as hopeful or more hopeful or otherwise than when you launched this program?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think at least we have made this stride, that we certainly have removed any doubt from anybody's mind, friend or potential foe, as to the determination of America to see that this great island barrier is maintained intact in the Pacific, that we are not going to let international communism get that spearhead extending into the Pacific and, therefore, extend its influence in that region.

Now, that has been made crystal clear in the resolution and to that extent ought to be helpful; because so many things happen in the international world through probing, through false conclusions that might be drawn from a successful probe, the thought that the victim will never react.

Here it is an attempt that has been made, at least in the field of intention, to make our purposes clear.

Q. Richard L. Wilson, Cowles Publications: Permit me to follow that up a bit. I think in one of your messages to Congress--I think it was the state of the Union message--you referred to a world stalemate, the possibility of it continuing. Do you think the element of stalemate is implied in the Far Eastern situation as it stands today?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of that I can't be too sure. I used the word "stalemate" deliberately, Mr. Wilson, because it seems to me, we get so much in the habit of using terms or phrases, and then each of us attaches to the term or phrase his own meaning; for instance, this thing of coexistence: someone defines it with an adjective, and suddenly it is appeasement. To my mind, coexistence is, in fact, a state of our being as long as we are not attempting to destroy the other side.

I make it a very simple thing in my mind, but I find that others give additional interpretations that I don't mean at all.

Now, when I said "stalemate," I was trying to describe where neither side is getting what it desires in this whole world struggle, but they at least have sense enough to agree that they must not pursue it deliberately and through force of arms; that is all.

Q. Mr. Wilson: Do you think, sir, that that would be a good result from this present situation?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you mean, in that one point?

Q. Mr. Wilson: Yes, yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, again I say I don't believe I will comment on the one point at all.

Q. Paul Scott Rankine, Reuters: Mr. President, you referred to this great iron barrier being kept intact in the Far East. Could you be more specific about what the great iron barrier is?

THE PRESIDENT. [I didn't say "iron barrier," I said "island barrier." Well, of course, it's largely islands. There are, of course, a few bits of the mainland involved along the eastern coast, but you know where they are.

[What I mean is that we are making that the principal feature of our whole protective system in the region; that is all I mean.]

Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, you have used the term "miscalculation." You do not want Red China to miscalculate in this situation. Do you feel that wars have started as a result of a miscalculation or, to put it another way, do you feel that recent wars might have been avoided had something been said in advance to head off a miscalculation?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, we don't want to get into a discussion of military history here, I think. But I do believe this: I believe World War I did start largely through miscalculation. A prince was murdered; there began to be an exchange of notes back and forth; and I believe that there was a miscalculation of what Russia, France, and Britain would do, and that created that war. The Second World War, I would rather doubt that. I think that you had a personality there that was so bent upon achieving certainly pan-European power, at least, that probably nothing would stop it. I feel that the Korean conflict started because of our failing to make clear that we would defend this small nation, which had just started, in a pinch.

Now, I don't mean to say--I am not trying to attach any blame to anybody here; but we were weak in forces, we were hopeful for peace--and I think it's logical to hope for peace--we took our forces out of there; and it became possibly the conviction of the Reds that they could take the country over without resistance.

Q. Douglass Cater, The Reporter Magazine: Mr. President, some of the Senators have criticized the recent resolution in that it leaves the islands that are in greatest peril in the greatest obscurity, namely, Matsu and Quemoy.

Do you feel there is a danger of miscalculation because there is not exact knowledge as to what our position towards them is to be?

THE PRESIDENT. [Well, I repeat, to be as exact as you can; but when it comes down to the tactical details of these things, you just simply cannot afford to be too specific. So again I say on that particular point, I shall comment no more.]

Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, one of General Ridgway's reasons for opposing a reduction in the strength of the Army is reportedly his belief that it would require ground troops, the use of our ground troops, to help defend Quemoy and the Matsus.

Is it your opinion that we could defend Formosa only with air and naval units without committing any ground forces?

THE PRESIDENT. Ground forces other than on Formosa, is that what you are talking about? We have small detachments on Formosa, training troops; we have had small detachments in some of the other places, training troops, and that sort of thing. But when it comes to committing land forces of the United States in this particular situation, there has been no recommendation of that kind made to me at all.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's fifty-ninth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:33 to 11:01 o'clock on Wednesday morning, February 2, 1955. In attendance: 194.

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/233844

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