Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

January 19, 1955

THE PRESIDENT. Please be seated.

Well, I see we are trying a new experiment this morning. hope it doesn't prove to be a disturbing influence. I have no announcements. We will go directly to questions.

Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, could you discuss the seriousness of the latest Communist attacks on Nationalist islands in the China Sea, in the light of our commitments to defend Formosa?

THE PRESIDENT. No military authority that I know of has tried to rate these small islands that are now under attack, or indeed the Tachens themselves, as an essential part of the defenses of Formosa and of the Pescadores, to the defense of which we are committed by the treaty that is now before the Senate for approval.

The two islands, I believe, that have been under attack are not occupied by Chinese National regulars. They have been occupied by irregulars or guerrillas.

Now, the Tachens themselves are a different proposition. They are occupied by a division of troops. They are of value, there is no denying that, they are of value as an outpost, an additional point for observation. They are not a vital element, as we see it, in the defense of the islands.

Exactly what is going to be the development there, I cannot foresee, so I won't try to speculate on exactly what we should do in that area. We don't even know, I think, at this moment--at least I wasn't informed this morning--what the Generalissimo's personal intentions are with respect to that particular region.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, in the light of this latest fight, would you consider that it would be useful to have a cease-fire between Communist China and Nationalist China if that could be arranged through the U.N. or by some other means?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I should like to see the U.N. attempt to exercise its good offices, I believe, because wherever there is any kind of fighting and open violence in the world, it is always sort of a powder keg.

Whether the United Nations could do anything in this particular place, I don't know, because probably each side would insist that it was an internal affair; although from our viewpoint it might be a good thing to have them take a look at the problem.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, would it be possible for you, sir, to define or give us your impressions of Secretary Dulles' use of the word "forever" yesterday when he said that we would not wait forever for the release of our airmen by the Chinese Communists?

THE PRESIDENT. Well now, Mr. Smith, I didn't read the exact terms of his statement. I did not and, therefore, I don't know the context in which he was speaking.

I do know this: Mr. Dulles and I meet together more often, I think, than any other two individuals of this Government, at least in the Cabinet level, and we are in perfect accord as to our solution to these problems as they arise; so whatever he said, I am sure it was in keeping with the general policies and convictions he and I hold about this problem.

Q. Nat S. Finney, Buffalo News: Mr. President, in your state of the Union message, I believe you used the phrase "never to be forgotten men."

THE PRESIDENT. That is right.

Q. Mr. Finney: I wonder if you could give us a little better, a more complete insight as to what you had in mind in using that phrase?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, as long as there is an American unjustly imprisoned, I am going to continue to do my best to exert the influence that I think is available to us to secure his release, and to see that he gets justice.

Now, let us never forget, ladies and gentlemen, that the lives of these individuals are at stake as well as some academic concept of the exact right in this thing. And let us not forget this either: our own knowledge of our purity of motive in the world is not always shared sometimes even by those we know to be our friends; and it is idle to say that there cannot be misunderstandings on the other side as to our motives and intentions and ideas.

You will recall there were 25,000 prisoners escaped--North Koreans. They escaped into South Korea, and this created a very great difficulty at the time of the armistice negotiations.

Now, we thought we were right, but what did the other side think?

So you have these problems where we are certain that justice, decency, and right is on our side, but we also have the problem of convincing others that we are right and just and decent, and sometimes these things can create a lot of misapprehension and misunderstanding.

Q. Roscoe Drummond, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, do you think it is fair to conclude or do you conclude that the negotiations by Mr. Hammarskjold are a failure?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would never admit failure to anything as long as it is going on. I have understood from his report that this was one step in negotiations that he expects to carry forward. He is meeting with the Secretary of State at 11:00 this morning, and I assume that we will have a little bit clearer understanding of exactly what he means.

Now, the negotiations can never be a success until the Americans and allies unjustly held in China are returned to their homelands.

On the other hand, they are certainly not a failure as long as they are going on. That would be just as incomprehensible as to admit defeat in a battle as long as you have got one man on the firing line. I never would admit that, so I don't think we are defeated there.

Q. Laurence H. Burd, Chicago Tribune: Mr. President, can you give us any idea what you would consider a reasonable time for the U.N. to negotiate for the return of these prisoners?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't think I could guess. I think that the time factor would always have to be related to any progress that you can see or feel or believe in. So, as long as a man of the character and standing of Hammarskjold believes that he is making progress, I think that you would have to wait; because, I repeat, there is here involved a question of lives of people as well as our rights, the common understanding of the facts in the case--there are numerous things that are involved, and I think he ought to have a full chance to do what he can.

Q. May Craig, Maine Papers: Mr. President, in view of the Communist violation of the Korean truce, what compliance could we expect from a U.N. truce in the Formosa Straits?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, maybe the best answer to that might be my saying that is a good question. [Laughter]

But I think that is a problem forever in dealing with someone who shows a proclivity for acting like solemn agreements were scraps of paper, and it is what I think that we--Mr. Dulles and I--always mean when we say we want some confirmation in deeds, not just words. You will recall that in dealing with these questions in the past, when we have talked about the deeds that were necessary in the Far East, we have talked about withdrawal of troops in Korea that would remove the stigma placed upon Communist China by the United Nations in calling them an aggressor nation; in returning our prisoners; in abstaining from aggressive acts in Southeast Asia; in conducting itself as a civilized nation in the councils of the world.

Now, you begin to understand what we mean by deeds that give some belief that we may have confidence in the agreements we draw up with them. What you are doing is voicing a doubt, and I must say that all of us share it.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Mr. President, the Congressmen on Capitol Hill say that if they can find a copy of the budget to read that they can't understand it. [Laughter] Particularly, they say, the military budget is couched in such general terms that they can't find where the money is to be spent.

Now, the justifications for these individual projects will go to two committees, appropriations committees, and not to the Members of Congress in general.

Is there anything you can do to tell these people who have to vote on this where the money is to be spent?

THE PRESIDENT. [It is my understanding that is what the committees of Congress are for, and that is what the people that appear before those committees are for.

[The national defense officials, from the Secretary on down to any level that the military committees and the appropriation committees want to call, will appear before them; and they will explain every single item in it. I can't be expected to take the details of a volume like that--I forget the number of pages--and explain that in detail to individuals anywhere.]

Q. Joseph A. Loftus, New York Times: Mr. President, will you comment on the proposal that Formosa and Red China be considered separate independent nations, and that there be an exchange of mutual security, and settle the problem that way?

THE PRESIDENT. [NO, I don't think I will comment on it for the simple reason that that commenting would make it appear that my convictions were finally formed in this area.

[It is, of course, one of the possibilities that is constantly studied, but you can see that both sides to it might be very reluctant to have that proposal seriously considered.]

Q. John C. O'Brien, Philadelphia Inquirer: In your budget message you said you would not recommend an appropriation for the dredging of the upper channel of the Delaware River unless a cost-sharing plan was worked out. Now, some of the Congressmen from that area are pointing out that private industry has never before been assessed for a navigation project.

Now, my question is: is this a new Government policy or are there special reasons for cost-sharing in the Delaware River project?

THE PRESIDENT. [Well, there are two things, I think: one is that I do believe that when the Federal Government spends money that is mainly to the interests of the locality, we should find some way to make that locality participate.

[I did not, by any manner of means, specify the method by which this partnership could be worked out. I suppose that the range of things that could be studied would be all the way from tolls, that is, from vessels actually using such a channel, to some direct participation in the original case. I do believe that we should, in these great projects, try to find a way that you get the local concern for economy or local benefits reflected in the appropriations the Federal Government makes.

[Admittedly, let us say, this is to the general welfare of the whole Nation; and if it is a new policy, I think it should have been considered long ago myself.]

Q. Mr. O'Brien: Mr. President, the only new feature, I think, is the assessment on industry, local contributions, which are somewhat different.

THE PRESIDENT. [That is what I say: I do believe there ought to be some way of participation, and I wouldn't say that it couldn't be by tolls. I do say that I feel that there should be some local participation by those who are going to profit directly and in a major way in these things.]

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, as tomorrow is the second anniversary of your inauguration, I wonder if you would care to give us an appraisal of your first 2 years, and tell us something of your hopes for the next 2 or maybe even the next 6. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. It looks like a loaded question. [Laughter] Well, of course, I know of no way of evaluating the 2 years of this except to remind ourselves of certain things that have happened. I think I can say this without attempting to take either too much partisan credit or personal credit, because all of us realize that if these things have gone on, some of them have been participated in almost unanimously by both parties.

But, let us without any further explanation just take a look: We were then fighting in Korea, and that war has been ended. Iran was in such situation that we weekly thought we had possibly lost it or we would see it going under Communist influence unreservedly and finally.

There was a struggle going on between two of our friends, Britain and Egypt.

The Trieste situation was upsetting all our relations in the Mediterranean, and bade fair to create really serious trouble in those countries, particularly in Italy.

There was a growing difficulty in Central America, which finally flared up into the Guatemalan incident.

And at that moment it looked like we were probably approaching close to defeat in our efforts to get any kind of agreement in Western Europe.

Now, those things have been largely eliminated.

In addition, I believe that we have been successful in convincing all of the countries of the Mid-East that we are desperately trying to be friends with everybody, trying to make friends between ourselves and each of the nations concerned.

So I think that on the whole, in spite of a weakened situation in Indonesia [Indochina] and of the partial loss of Viet-Nam, that the foreign situation is more stable, generally speaking, looks better, and that is not by any means to say that it looks rosy.

At home, we started out, you will recall, with a definite economic program.

I am going to read one thing someone called to my attention this morning, because they said that I had been here 2 years. They pointed out that I said I was going to balance the budget quickly, and I want to read from the speech I made in Peoria, Illinois, October 2, 1952:

"A first and vital step is to eliminate the deficit from our national budget.

"Second, restore the incentive to expand production. A major step toward this end is to reduce Government spending and thereby permit lower taxation. Federal spending can be cut from the present rate of $81 billion a year.

"My goal, assuming that the cold war gets no worse, is to cut Federal spending to something like $60 billion within 4 years. Such a cut would eliminate the deficit in the budget."

Now, of course, you have seen the recent budget, and its estimate that there will still be a $2,400,000,000 deficit; but the budget itself, by coincidence, is $62,400,000,000, so I almost can claim credit for being a prophet.

If there could be found some way of eliminating that $2,400,000,000, why, it would look like it would be in balance.

Now, in addition to that, controls have been removed from our economy.

There has been a new farm program set up which we have every reason to believe will bring about a better balance between production and markets.

We have brought about the transition from a war economy to a peace economy with, I think, almost an unprecedented easing of the situation and its impact upon our people and their several occupations and businesses.

There has been a reduction in taxes that is unprecedented for any single year in our history.

Now, along with that, we come to the moment, and we look ahead. We have an expanding economy. We have an economy and an industry, financial situation, that reflects the confidence and hope of our people, the belief of our people.

Now, I am not saying that the stock market itself, its rises and falls, is necessarily an index of what is going to happen in this country; but it does reflect that kind of confidence that we have tried in the past so hard to instill.

There is a greater production of houses in our country today than ever before in our history. We are even higher today than we were in 1953.

All the way along, consumer spending is going up, consumer savings are going up.

There is, of course, not a wholly satisfactory picture. There are industries in particular areas where there are still difficulties. We are working on them.

But the outlook, certainly from the standpoint of our internal economy, is good. I know of no better measure, if I may conclude here, Mr. Arrowsmith, than to say: how do people feel today as to the way they felt then?

Q. Clark R. Mollenhoff, Des Moines Register and Tribune: Mr. President, last week you told us that Secretary Benson had given you a one-sided version of this Ladejinsky case, and at that time you indicated that you personally could not look into all of these cases.

I wondered if, in light of that, you could tell us if you have any mechanism set up in the White House to protect yourself against misinformation or half information from Cabinet officers or other individuals, the types of thing that led Mr. Truman and Mr. Harding in so much trouble.

THE PRESIDENT. I think you are a little bit unfair in your interpretation of exactly what I said. I didn't say he deliberately gave me a one-sided picture. I said he gave me a memorandum of the facts, as he saw them; and the facts as he saw them, I said, would have disturbed me very badly.

Now, I also said that I trust the judgment of the people that I put in these important administrative positions. In spite of the fact that in this case two of these people have reached different conclusions, I believe that each has exercised his own judgment honestly; and I am not going to take unto myself making an investigation in this area, I assure you.

Q. Mr. Mollenhoff: Mr. President, I understood that you--

backed them in their right to make different judgments--

THE PRESIDENT. That is right.

Q. Mr. Mollenhoff: on these things.

I wondered, though, if you would feel there was something you should step in on where there was a difference on fact, as in a serious situation where one department would say a man was a member of two Communist front organizations, and the other department would make a flat statement that he was not?

THE PRESIDENT. [Well, what we had here, of course, was a simple thing. This was a case where the heads of two principal departments were involved, and they reached different conclusions.

[Normally, and under the orders that have been issued, it is expected that each individual, each head of department, will in his own field exercise his judgment; and that created rather a paradox.

[Now, arrangements have been made that when two departments reach different conclusions on these things, there will be coordination.]

Q. Robert J. Donovan, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, is that something new that you are telling us here now?

THE PRESIDENT. [NO, I think it is not really new. I think it is a precautionary admonition, you might say, a piece of advice because it should be normal procedure in a well-run organization, and possibly it was overlooked here.]

Q. Mr. Donovan: May I rephrase this question just once more?


Q. Mr. Donovan: Are there any specific new changes or studies in prospect in this matter?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Donovan, I told you people several times I know of nothing that is engaging more attention all the time.

I have told you of the special department set up in the Attorney General's Office to which all the troublesome, particularly troublesome, matters can be referred for advice and counsel and, particularly, to which can be referred any case where there are differing views.

There has also been initiated by other groups--I believe by a university group in one case, I believe by the New York Bar Association-certain inquiries into these things. I assure you they will be assisted in the making of their inquiries into policy or into programs; they are not attempting to be judges in particular cases.

Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, to go back to the fighting in the Far East for a moment, the dispatches from Formosa say that the Chinese Reds may now storm the other islands off the coast, including the Tachens.

A United Press story from Formosa says there is an American detachment on one of the Tachen Islands.

If we may assume that that story is correct, would we leave that American detachment on any of those islands, in view of the fact that they may be attacked by the Chinese Reds?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would have to ask the commander on the spot what orders these individuals are under; whether they are still there or not, I don't know. Most of these units--[confers with Mr. Hagerty]--well, I think that is a technicality.

The fact is that I assume the commander has given his instructions under different circumstances as to what will occur, and it hasn't been brought to my attention; but Mr. Hagerty does say there are four or five men on one of the islands, I think.

Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: Mr. President, Secretary of Labor Mitchell has recommended to you that a career servant, Ewan Clague, be renominated as Commissioner of Labor Statistics, and that recommendation has been in the White House for several months. I wonder whether you have any knowledge of the situation?

THE PRESIDENT. [I will have to look it up. I don't recall the name.]

Q. Mr. Herling: Ewan Clague is the incumbent Commissioner.

THE PRESIDENT. [I don't recall the name; I will have to look it up.]

Q. Mr. Herling: Thank you, sir.

Q. William Theis, International News Service: Yesterday Secretary Wilson said he would favor nonstrategic trade with the Communist bloc countries. Does that bear your considered approval, or can you comment further on it?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it certainly could not be said to carry my considered approval, although the subject, of course, has been discussed in this Government, in Congress, since--well, for 2 years.

There are two points, I think, that it is well to remember about trade: one, that trade is a process that takes place between two nations or two groups and, presumably, for the economic benefit of both.

If you trade something to me, you think that you are getting the benefit of the trade, and I think I am getting it.

But there is also this: trade is one of the greatest influences in the hands of the diplomat; and how he uses it, negatively or positively or in roundabout methods even, it is an influence to bring about and carry out the policies under which that country is operating.

Now, our policy is simple--to promote peaceful relationships in the world; and I would say we would never with anyone carry on trade unless we thought that that cause were gaining. Certainly under present conditions we do have complete embargoes with respect to certain countries, and so just some casual statement of that kind would not change our policy.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, when you referred, you said arrangements had been made that when two departments reached different conclusions on security cases, that there will be coordination. Could you tell us who does the coordinating? Are you referring to the unit in the Justice Department--

THE PRESIDENT. That is correct.

Q. Mr. Smith: -- or does the White House--

THE PRESIDENT. That is correct. I have asked them in each case, before that case would have to be referred to me, that they first meet with this individual and try to accomplish that coordination.

Of course, I think if a similar case to the one to which you referred occurred in the future, and it couldn't be settled, well, they would bring it to me; but then there would be a complete report of investigation on both sides.

Q. Alice A. Dunnigan, Associated Negro Press: Mr. President, will the Government continue to permit naval vessels to visit ports where the crews must submit to segregation, racial segregation, as happened when the carrier Midway visited Capetown, South Africa, recently?

THE PRESIDENT. [You will have to go and ask the Secretary of Defense or the Secretary of the Navy, one of the two.

[What I know about that case has been brought to me by showing me a clipping out of the newspaper, and I don't know anything about it.]

Q. Martin S. Hayden, Detroit News: Mr. President, in your state of the Union message you promised or indicated there would be a positive Federal program to aid the construction of schools, but in the budget message we couldn't find any money for it. Will there be some actual expenditures?

THE PRESIDENT. Remember this, there has to be a new authorization in that regard. Now, there is a plan from Mrs. Hobby's office going to the Congress on 15 February. Remember this: there is a White House Conference called for November. It is a very broad educational conference, and nobody in this administration is going to get in the way of the findings of that to the extent of, let's say, vitiating the recommendations or trying to anticipate them. But what we are trying to do now, recognizing the acute shortage of schoolrooms, is to find a method of helping and assisting States and localities and districts to get this thing on the rails, knowing that we can't possibly in this way damage anything that will be done by this conference.

Q. John D. Morris, New York Times: A moment ago you read from a speech in which you outlined a 4-year program for balancing the budget.


Q. Mr. Morris: I believe about 3 of those are up now. Could you say that is a promise to balance that next year?

THE PRESIDENT. [I thought someone had reminded me I had been here 2 years.]

Q. Mr. Morris: Well, this is the third budget, I believe, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. [Oh, no. The first budget had been prepared.

[We have been here 2 years, let's don't try to push me too hard.] [Laughter]

Q. Edward Milne, Providence Evening Bulletin: Mr. President, I would like to know, sir, your reaction to former Senator Harry Cain's strong criticism over the weekend of these employee security programs.

THE PRESIDENT. [Well, Mr. Cain, like everybody else, has his right to criticize.

[Again I say the system that he criticizes, I believe, is fairly well conceived. Certainly it is the best that we have been able to devise in view of the conflicting considerations that apply. And they are also sensitive considerations, sensitive on the side of the Government and sensitive on the side of the individual. In their application always there is human failure; I admit that, and I don't claim any kind of perfection.

[Now, so far as I know, Mr. Cain has not submitted to any responsible official in the executive department a summary of his objections or on what he bases his criticism. I did read part of his speech, and that is all I know about it.]

Q. Andrew F. Tully, Jr., Scripps-Howard: Mr. President, after 2 years in office, how do you like your job? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think I will try to answer that one. Like everything else, there are not wholly unmixed blessings in such duties and responsibilities.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's fifty-eighth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:33 to 11:05 o'clock on Wednesday morning, January 19, 1955. In attendance: 218.

[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.

[Television, newsreel, and newspaper camera equipment were present for the first time throughout a Presidential news conference. Candid photographs of the President were released. Portions of the film and sound track were released for broadcast that night over television and radio and were available for newsreels. The release of portions of news conferences for radio, television, and newsreel use continued until May 18, when the practice of releasing the entire conference began.

[The broadcasting and newsreel release of excerpts of the news conferences led to a major change in their treatment in the press. Heretofore it had been customary to state the President's replies in indirect discourse only. Beginning with the January 19 conference, direct quotation was authorized for those portions of the transcript corresponding to the released tape and film. With the conference of May 18 direct quotation of the entire transcript began.]

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/233400

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