The President's News Conference
[This is a complete transcript of the news conference of this date. All of the President's replies were released for broadcasting or direct quotation at that time.]
THE PRESIDENT. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I have no announcements, so we will go right to questions.
Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, between last Saturday and yesterday this Government seems to have changed its mind some about insisting that Nationalist China participate in any discussions between the United States and Red China concerning the Formosa area, at least with respect to a cease-fire. Can you tell us why the change, if you regard it as a change?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think the change is far more apparent than real.
Last Saturday it was stated we were not going to talk about the affairs of Nationalist China except with them present. I believe that Mr. Dulles made this point clear also at his own press conference, saying we would not discuss the affairs of the Chinese Nationalists behind their back; but that as a test of good intent, if the Chi-Com wanted to talk merely about cease-fire, we would be glad to meet with them and talk with them, but there would be no conferring about the affairs of the Chinese Nationalists.
So I think that the one statement may have erred in not being as complete as it should have been, but I don't believe it was a reversal of attitude.
Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, there have been reports that you have been in private communication with Marshal Zhukov and have asked him, among other things, to use his good offices to help obtain the release of American flyers imprisoned by Red China; is that correct?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, it is correct that I had some personal correspondence, but it was because of the nature of our two positions and based upon old friendship. It was absolutely personal. I am not at liberty to say what was in it until he releases it. I assure you there is nothing in it that was of such a great significance that it ought to disturb anybody, but it was personal.
Q. David P. Sentner, Hearst Newspapers: Mr. President, do your remarks in the previous question on Red China mean that any discussion with Communist China will be limited to cease-fire discussions, or possibly the release of the American prisoners?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, you are correct in making the observation. Anything that doesn't affect the Chinese Nationalists, and there seems to be an opportunity for us to further the easing of tensions, the advancement of world peace, and certainly getting back our prisoners, of course we would talk about it.
I merely meant to say that when it comes to talking about the affairs that involve our ally bound to us by treaty we are not going to talk behind their backs. That was the one caveat I put on the answer.
Q. Laurence H. Burd, Chicago Tribune: Mr. President, do we have any assurance or any indication that Nationalist China would agree to a cease-fire if Red China did; and was that one of the topics of the Admiral Radford-Robertson mission in Formosa?
THE PRESIDENT. You open up a subject that every time a man tries to make an answer he runs the risk of one word giving a false impression.
But so far as I know, the Chinese Nationalists are not firing now except in defense of the territories they are now occupying. They are not attacking the mainland, so far as I know, except in retaliation. Consequently, I believe that a cease-fire on their side would be purely academic.
They are firing only in defense, as I understand. But that was not any special item that had come up, so I can't give you any more accurate answer than that one.
Q. Kenneth M. Scheibel, Gannett Newspapers: Mr. President, would you care to comment on the work of the Congress so far?
THE PRESIDENT. I talked about the matter with some of my friends on the Hill within the last two days, and they said it was too early.
They said you never know how a Congress is going to--what is going to be its schedule and its rate of performance, and they said you just can't really talk about it yet.
Q. Mrs. May Craig, Maine Papers: Mr. President, are you saying that a cease-fire is not of interest to the Nationalist Chinese or that you will talk with them separately about a cease-fire?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mrs. Craig, I didn't say that it was of no interest to them. I did say they are not fighting at this moment. Therefore, a cease-fire is purely on the Chi-Com's part.
Therefore we can talk to the Chi-Coms about their own firing without damaging the interests of the Chinese Nationalists; that is all.
Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, does the postponement of the administration's testimony on the Bricker amendment mean that you are thinking in terms of a substitute or a compromise?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, when you say "compromise," Mr. Brandt, of course, you can mean anything, and it could mean anything to anybody else.
I think I have made my position perfectly clear on this subject before this group. I have not changed my mind one iota.
The Constitution had as one of its principal reasons for coming into being the conduct of the foreign affairs of the United States as a single unit, not as 48 States.
I believe I quoted something of one of the treaties, 1783 treaty, I believe it was, by which the British were going to evacuate certain of our forts on the Northwest Frontier.
Then some of the Colonies decided, because we were then under the Confederation you will remember, that they just would not obey those treaties. So the British didn't evacuate the forts, and we were almost at war again.
In foreign affairs the United States is a single nation meeting with others. It is not 48 meeting with others, and we must not forget it.
So we must never agree to any kind of arrangement that would weaken this position vis-a-vis the other nations of the world, which means weakening the provisions now in the Constitution for conducting foreign affairs.
Now, on the other hand, I have equally said the United States has gotten a great fear that treaties can be written that are in violation of the Constitution. And if it would reassure the people of the United States to have an amendment saying that any treaty or executive agreement in conflict with this Constitution shall have no force or effect, I am perfectly willing to say it. But I will go no further.
Now, that is my opinion about the amendment.
Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: In the statement that was issued, sir, on Saturday, the State Department said: "In the Formosa region we have an ally in the free Republic of China, and of course the United States would insist on Free China participating as an equal in any discussions concerning the area."
THE PRESIDENT. That might be a touch of an overstatement because I have agreed with what Mr. Dulles said. I agreed with it before he said it.
I believe it is perfectly legitimate for us to talk to the ChiComs about stopping firing.
Now, if we overstated the case Saturday, well, that was to that extent an error in terminology.
Q. Clark R. Mollenhoff, Des Moines Register: Your information policies in the Defense Department have been under some rather severe criticism by editors in the last few weeks.
I wondered if you would like to comment on that and what part you had, if any, in formulating those policies.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I haven't formulated policies that are administrative within any department. But I have insisted on this--I believe we have mentioned this before: anything that is a technical military secret of the United States shouldn't be put out before us, before any of us, that do not need to know, merely because of a desire of one section of the department or another to be first to make such an announcement.
A trained intelligence system can get a terrific source of information out of the combined documents that can be procured on the newsstands and the libraries of the United States.
Now, that is as it should be because to inform ourselves, we have to be ready to inform others. But we do not need to turn out such things as an airplane able to fly straight up or to do some other thing that seems to be a strange new principle. It is that to which I object, and that only.
Q. Mr. Mollenhoff: Mr. President, there seems to be some order that states that what information comes out must be to the benefit of the armed services, and this creates some confusion as to what information is to the benefit.
THE PRESIDENT. Of that I never heard. You will have to go back to Mr. Wilson and question him.
Q. Joseph R. Slevin, New York Journal of Commerce: In view of fears that declines in automobile production and home building may cause a dip in business activity after midyear, could you give us the administration's views of economic prospects for the balance of 1955?
THE PRESIDENT. Of course, I meet with economists and others of the administration on these subjects all the time.
The economist--his expert advice would be that you should seek the highest rate of production and prosperity that can be sustained, but don't get into a false rush and then fall back; that unjustified rises are to be followed by immediate drops is not true prosperity and doesn't bring about the feeling of confidence we want.
So they watch them. All I can say is no one has uttered to me the fears you express in terms of earnest warnings. They have said: "These are facts and it looks like we have got to be very watchful and careful."
As you know, the Federal Reserve Board the other day, so far as the stock market is concerned, raised the margin requirements another 10 percent, I think more as a red flag to the business community and others than as any thought that it would have a direct effect.
Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, are we correct in assuming that you did approve this Millikin-Byrd substitute to the Neely amendment which the Senate Finance Committee approved last night?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes. The one about the general authority of the President in case--yes. As a matter of fact, I think it was a very fine one.
Q. Mrs. McClendon: Yes, sir.
Well, now, Senator Lyndon Johnson interprets that to mean for the first time in history we will have full authority in the President to decide if imports of foreign crude are interfering with national defense and hurting the domestic oil industry. Is that the way you would interpret it, not only to apply it to oil but to all commodities?
THE PRESIDENT. I doubt whether I would answer it as a hypothetical case.
I would say this: in everything that the President does in this field he must take into consideration the standing of all America, 164 million people. One of the greatest functions of all that 164 millions is their own protection.
There is never any one of these cases that comes up in any way where the question of national security doesn't enter.
Now, here they have merely mentioned specifically the question of national security, but it is a matter that is almost inherent in the function itself.
Q. Ray L. Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, the broad picture. Do you see any signs, any tangible signs, of a general abatement of tension between East and West, and if so, could you enumerate them?
THE PRESIDENT. George Patton used to say that no man is a soldier unless he has a sixth sense, and then he would describe that sixth sense. It was, I must say--for him it seemed to work--it was suddenly to make your decisions on your own guess, and throw all of the G-2 people out the window.
Now, I will confess I have the feeling that things are on the upswing. But I can take every single favorable point and balance it by something that doesn't look too favorable. But I do believe this: more of the world is beginning finally to have confidence that the United States is not trying to establish a new form of colonialism, doing it just through purchases, money, and economic penetration.
I believe that they are beginning to understand the United States is genuinely devoted to peace, that we are a peaceful people who want full opportunity to develop ourselves, and that in going along they are beginning to see that our efforts to help others have had not only our own enlightened self-interest as an inspiration, but also the knowledge that others must advance if we are to continue to do so.
This you see coming out in a number of ways. Suddenly Russia says: "We are ready to conclude this Austrian Treaty now."
Or, the tension seems to die down in some other area. But, at the same time, you will see a build-up of airplanes around the Formosa area, on the Chinese mainland. You will see your trouble in South Viet-Nam. So, as you sit and live with these things you have a very difficult time proving anything either way. But I do say, I still have my feelings.
Q. Charles S. von Fremd, CBS News: Mr. President, you just mentioned, sir, the Russian move in Austria.
A few weeks ago you mentioned that as one of a series of possibilities that might be a sign of Russian good faith of deeds not words, which might, in turn, be a factor in a decisive meeting at the summit, or an eventual Big Four meeting. Do you feel that way now, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't know whether it will lead to the Big Four meeting in terms of the heads of states, or heads, at least, of governments.
I do mean this: it is a step. Already there has been agreed that the ambassadors will meet in Vienna. Assuming that meeting will be successful, we will know then the Big Four will meet then in terms of their foreign ministers. And if that leads to something that might demand higher concurrence, it is possible. But I say at this moment I see no reason for that summit meeting. But, as I say, anything might grow out of it.
Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, the 10th anniversary of V-E Day is coming up. Do you have any reflections on that event?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, yes.
Of course, I think we knew 6 weeks before that that victory was certain and was coming very quickly. It merely became a question of the day. But I think May 8th [9th] represented for a great many people in Europe at that time practically the realization of all their dreams and, you might say, their ambitions. Certainly I thought it marked for me, you might say, the end of an active career. I saw a nice farm over the other side of the ocean--and it still is a long ways away, isn't it? [Laughter]
After all, when you are my age, 21 months is still a long time. [Laughter]
I do believe this: I believe that there was in the hearts of all the fighting men, all of the people that were in uniform in Europe on that day, I believe there was a genuine desire for peace and the hope that there would be no more war.
That hope has not been realized. It has encountered its defeats, but I still believe it is a mighty force in the world, and I favor it. I don't hesitate to write or communicate with old friends that I knew in those days in an effort to get them to try to help us advance one step along the road. To refer again to my old friend Marshal Zhukov, I believe he was intently devoted to the idea of promoting good relations between the United States and the Soviet Union at that time. As I say, I haven't seen him since November of 1945. But in other instances, the Frenchmen and the Britishers and the others that I knew, I still am in close contact with them.
But I must say this: I wish that in this cold war we could now get some victory that would make us feel as good as we did that day of May 1945.
Q. Andrew F. Tully, Jr., Scripps-Howard: Mr. President, are you going to attend the U.N. meeting in San Francisco?
THE PRESIDENT. The answer has not been finally and completely developed, but I would say the chances for me going are very, very poor.
Q. Mr. Tully: Poor, did you say?
THE PRESIDENT. Very poor; because I have got other engagements that are very pressing at that time.
Q. Roscoe Drummond, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, in a broadcast for use behind the Iron Curtain for radio liberation, the Vice President expressed a view this week that the greatest barrier to peace was the fact that the Soviet people are still held in tyranny by their own government.
I wondered if you would say whether you share that view, or would like to elaborate on it?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think it is a little speculative.
After men's minds have become persuaded of the truth of something, though it be wrong, they can support that idea if they believe it to be true.
Now, we don't know how far the Soviet leaders have succeeded in persuading their people that communism is, in fact, an ideal existence. And I should say that if you had tried to establish in this country communism as of 1917, there would still be such a seething unrest in this country, such a determination, that it would long ago have disappeared.
So just how violent may be any mass resentment to this domination we really don't know, and I think that it would be idle to speculate.
Q. Robert J. Donovan, New York Herald Tribune: Sir, without going into the substance of your letter to Marshal Zhukov, could you tell us when it was sent and how and about, whether it was very long or not?
THE PRESIDENT. You sound to me like you ought to turn into being a Sherlock Holmes. [Laughter]
Well, it was, I would say, recently. As a matter of fact, I don't remember the exact date, but within the last three weeks.
Q. John Kenton, New York Journal of Commerce: Mr. President, while we are waiting for the details of your atomic ship proposal to be worked out in detail, I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about the background of how the plan came to be worked out and, specifically, whether the idea originated with a Government official or in a suggestion from private industry.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, now, I have warned you people plenty of times that when you go to begin a search for the initiation of an idea, the memory can play you very, very sad tricks.
I think that as far as bringing this thing forward as a proposal to do something about it, I think it was mine. And any of you people check me differently.
Mr. Hagerty: That is right.
THE PRESIDENT. But I really can't say that. I think it makes little difference.
The administration learned, through its technical experts, not only that it was possible--we knew it was possible the second that the test model for the Nautilus was successfully tested--but there came the idea: now, suppose we had a merchant ship? And then we made some studies what it would cost, and admitted it was going to cost more than another kind.
But what value would this have, particularly in the effort to get the whole world to understanding that the peaceful uses of atomic energy could, under favorable circumstances, far overshadow its destructive force? Then it began to loom up as possibly one of the finest ways, because when you think of the great cities and the millions that live on the seacoast, this ship could start out and visit almost every port in the world before it came back.
Well, that sounded like a very good idea. And so we adopted the idea one day at a meeting--I forget what meeting it was-and they are going after the specifications. The plan will go before the Congress as soon as it can be worked out in sufficient detail.
Q. John L. Cutter, United Press: Mr. President, in connection with this matter of Government information there have been some complaints about the press not being permitted to cover a conference at the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.
THE PRESIDENT. I asked about it, and they are covering one this morning.
Q. Milton B. Freudenheim, Akron Beacon Journal: Mr. President, last week the Defense Department abolished the requirement that key workers in defense industries be required to name friends and relatives who are members of Communist fronts; and recently also Attorney General Brownell announced that the witnesses, former Communist witnesses, would no longer stay on the payroll as consultants.
This looks like it might be a change in emphasis in the internal security field. Would you comment?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will have to defer the question. You will have to hunt up the facts. I haven't heard of that, and it is brand new to me.
Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: This has to do, Mr. President, with the minimum wages.
Since the administration bill for 90-cent minimum was introduced several months ago, all bills introduced since by Republicans and Democrats--there have been about nearly 50 on the same subject--call for at least a dollar minimum.
In view of this development, do you see any possibility of the administration changing its position, or do you think it will remain inflexible on the subject?
THE PRESIDENT. The subject was studied a long time, brought up before the Cabinet, of course, by the Secretary of Labor, and with all of the charts showing the reasons for changes.
Since the minimum wage was fixed at 75 cents, the cost of living has gone up sufficiently to justify a rise in the minimum wage to, I believe it was, 86.4. Now, I am not going to take my oath on that, but it was close to that.
So we decided that 90 cents was a good round figure, would be over and above that.
We said it should go higher, but we wanted to put our emphasis, if this were possible, on the spreading of this minimum wage rather than raising it, because the minimum wage today in any covered industry affects very, very few people. But there are many, many thousands working who are not covered by the minimum wage field at all.
We would like to see a spread rather than just the rise, because we don't think the rise is so meaningful.
Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, what can you tell us, sir, of this Government's views now towards the sticky situation in Viet-Nam and, particularly, whether the Government thinks there may be the necessity to change the policy of recognition of Premier Diem?
THE PRESIDENT. I can't give you any final answer because, as you know, it is still under discussion.
We have called General Collins back here, a man in whom we have the greatest of confidence and who has been right in the thick of things out there, and who has been supporting, of course, Premier Diem.
Now, there have occurred lots of difficulties. People have left the Cabinet, and so on. You know what most of those difficulties are. It is a strange and it is almost an inexplicable situation, at least from our viewpoint. But he has come back because we have up not only the need to clarify ideas as to future policy, but there is the question of aid for Asia. His testimony, of course, would be valuable not only to us, but he will testify before committees on the Hill. What the exact terms of our future policy will be, I can't say.
Q. Elie Abel, New York Times: Could you give us your reaction, sir, to the recent statement of former President Truman that the press is treating you with special tenderness and granting to you an immunity which some of your predecessors--
THE PRESIDENT. I can only say if you are, thank you. [Laughter]
Listen, I am not above saying that I often need friendly treatment.
Q. Benjamin R. Cole, Indianapolis Star: Mr. President, could you tell us what role you believe the Federal Government should play in the polio vaccine program?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think that they have tackled it correctly. I believe very greatly in the power that can be developed by the humanitarian agencies of this country when they work together in cooperation. And if they have the direction which is to be given them through the Advisory Committee set up in Mrs. Hobby's Department, I believe that we will get the most rapid possible distribution of this vaccine.
Now, the reason I opposed originally at least--any compulsory role for the Federal Government, I believe it would slow it up. By the time you established more bureaus and all of the rest of the stuff, I believe you would be in trouble.
I believe it is going just as fast as it can. I get the reports--I think by August first, as I recall, they believe a hundred percent of the children from 1 to 9 will be vaccinated. And by November first, I think, a hundred percent of those up to 19. There will be six companies producing this. They will put it into a pool, and this Advisory Committee will lay out the priorities in which it is to go out, and I suppose with a careful eye--I know with a careful eye for any threatened emergency or anything of that sort. We will certainly do the best we can.
I would not hesitate to use any power of government, if necessary. I just believe that others can do it better.
Q. Cabell Phillips, New York Times: Mr. President, I have two questions on the refugee program.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
Q. Mr. Phillips: First, sir, would you express whether or not you are satisfied with the way the refugee program is now operating? And, second, whether or not you will support proposed revisions of the Refugee Act which have now been introduced in the Senate--I am not sure of the House.
THE PRESIDENT. The answer to the first question is no. The next one is yes.
Q. Joseph Chiang, Chinese News Service: Do you think Chinese Communists now realize America sincerely believes in peace so that she humbly came to America for help to seek peace?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, you are asking me to interpret people who are a very long ways away and with whom I am not too well acquainted.
I would say this: I take their words with reservations, but with hope. Does that answer your question?
Q. John M. Hightower, Associated Press: Mr. President, can you tell us whether you initiated your correspondence with Marshal Zhukov and whether you had an answer from him?
THE PRESIDENT. I believe I shall say no more about that at the moment, and for a very definite reason.
Ladies and gentlemen, if someone abroad writes to me on a personal basis he expects to have that confidence observed. Now, I think every person in this room would want that correspondence, if it were humanly possible, to lead to some betterment of the world situation.
I don't know whether it ever can, but it is a slim hope. It is one of those points we must preserve. I am not going to violate his confidence in saying who initiated this correspondence.
Q. Lloyd M. Schwartz, Fairchild Publications: Mr. President, in regard to the trade bill, as approved by the Finance Committee, I wondered whether you found anything objectionable in the revision of the escape clause provision.
THE PRESIDENT. I haven't read it. But I did have time this morning for one brief conversation with one of my staff who said there were a couple of amendments put on that will take a little bit of study to see whether we can accept them entirely.
Now, I didn't even have time to find out what they were, I am sorry.
Q. Roscoe Drummond, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, may I ask a brief question about this matter of making military information easy or too easy for an enemy to get?
May I ask whether you feel entirely relaxed about the pamphlet issued by the Republican Policy Committee of the Senate detailing information about new weapons and related military information?
THE PRESIDENT. I heard about this pamphlet just before I came over. They gave me some idea that made me think that there had been a blunder that occurred. Now, for the past 2 years--I say "a blunder"; somebody, I think, gave out information that I wouldn't have given out, at least.
For some 2 years and 3 months I have been plagued by inexplicable, undiscovered leaks in this Government. But we mustn't be too astonished when we recognize the great numbers of people in this town who necessarily know details of one kind or another.
I just don't believe that it is justifiable for any governmental official to release anything that applies to the secret war plans, war policies, war purposes and war equipment of this Government. That is the kind of thing that foreign intelligence systems spend thousands and thousands of dollars to get, unless we give it to them for nothing. And since we don't get it for nothing, I just don't believe in that kind of a trade.
Now, this is what I believe in giving away: I think today to hold secret any document of the World War, including my own mistakes, except only when they are held there by some past agreement with a foreign nation that has not yet been abrogated, it is foolish.
Everything ought to be given out that helps the public of the United States to profit from past mistakes, to make decisions of the moment; that is current information. But this is one thing. I say it doesn't help any of us to make a decision merely to know that a plane can fly 802 miles instead of 208. That is a secret we should not be giving out. That is the kind of thing I am talking about, and that only, I assure you.
John L. Cutter, United Press: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Eisenhower's sixty-sixth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:31 to 11:06 o'clock on Wednesday morning, April 27, 1955. In attendance: 189.
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/234166