Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

May 31, 1955

THE PRESIDENT. Good morning, please sit down.

I have several little announcements. First, as to personal activities, the month of June looms up as a very busy one for me. I am going to West Point on the 5th, I believe; Penn State on the 11th; I am going then to participate in this relocation exercise in the middle of the month.

Then on the 20th I am going out to extend the greetings of the American people on the opening of the United Nations. That will be on the 20th.

And then, from the 22d to the 27th, I am in New England. It is possible that some of those absences will catch a Wednesday, I am not sure. This is an odd day, too; this is Tuesday, isn't it? [Laughter] About the four fliers: we have been in, of course, some communication about these things now for some days.

The four fliers arrived in Hong Kong, I believe, at 2:30 our time this morning, left there at 4:30, are on their way now to Honolulu.

The families of these four people have been contacted by the Secretary of the Air. He is picking up close members of the families, and is going to take them to Honolulu to meet them. That should take place, I guess, some time tomorrow evening, something of that kind.

Now, I want to talk a little bit about polio; the polio program seems to be losing some of its difficulties and inescapable snarls.

Of course, there has been delay. The delay has been brought about by two things: the care that was necessary in giving the tests, repeating the tests, to make certain that children and youngsters were not unduly exposed due to preventable cause; and, second, the new problems discovered by the producers in the mass production of this kind of a product.

I should like myself to give two words of caution to everybody. No vaccine is perfect protection against disease. You will remember that Dr. Francis found this one effective in, I believe it was a range of 60 to 90 percent, depending upon the range.

But I believe also it was found that any child having taken this vaccine had acquired an immunity that was three times as great as one who had not taken it. And then we must remember that it does take time for these great factories, when they are working on a mass production basis, to retool, get their machinery and everything in order, so that they both meet the tests and produce the volumes that are needed.

Now, as to distribution, remember I told you that the first priorities went to children, the first and the second grade. They were the ones that had been specified by the polio foundation-supported, of course, by all our doctors and scientists.

Within the next 30 days all the vaccine will be produced to carry out that program. Certainly within the next 60 days it will be complete.

After that, the Federal Government will be responsible for the allocation of the vaccine as it comes out in volume to the States to meet the needs of the 5 to 9 group first; and the States will be responsible after they have their properly allocated amounts to make certain that the methods and distribution have taken place in accordance with the regulations.

The Government, of course, to make certain that no child is denied this vaccine because of money, has asked for $28 million; I most earnestly hope that legislation will soon be enacted.

A very favorable development, one point that has been questioned by some, has been the assurance that doctors will observe the priorities established by the Government in cooperation with the scientists who have been working on the problem. We have the pledge of the American Medical Association that doctors will observe these priorities and will themselves keep complete records of every child who is vaccinated, so that we can get the exact results of this whole great process as the year rolls on.

I think that covers all the--I said I was going to the United Nations--yes.

I have no further statements. We will go to questions.

Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, do you have any word about prospects for obtaining release of the other 52 Americans still held by Red China, including the other American flyers?

THE PRESIDENT. No, not at this moment.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, could you clarify that 30- to 60-day reference you made? You said--

THE PRESIDENT. Well, General Scheele assures me that within 30 days we will have, tested and on the shelves, the vaccine to carry out this entire program of the polio association, and that certainly within 30 days after that it will have been completed, actually administered.

Q. Mr. Smith: You mean administered?

THE PRESIDENT. Actually administered.

Q. Ray L. Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: Do you think the release of the flyers by the Chinese Communists represents a sincere effort on the part of the Chinese Communists to relieve tensions?

THE PRESIDENT. Our messages from various sources imply that that is their stated thought; that it was a token on their part to do something in helping release tensions. But I must say that everything that happens in the world these days has to be studied, examined, and, I would say, more carefully watched than would be implied in just a hit-or-miss guess as to what it means at this moment.

Q. Charles S. von Fremd, CBS News: Mr. President, at this very moment on Capitol Hill the Senate Labor Committee is holding a closed door meeting, and the indications are that they will recommend that you be given sweeping standby powers to handle the many problems of the Salk anti-polio vaccine.

Do you desire such powers, and could you discuss this?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, this is what I believe: I believe the American people are doing this in pretty good fashion.

I believe the polio program is coming along better than we could have expected, unless we would have counted on a degree of luck that was almost a phenomenon.

I think the voluntary program is working. I don't know that we need anything extra. I have not seen the bill in its details. But if they vote standby powers of some kind, why, of course, I shall carry out whatever is expected of me.

Q. Kenneth M. Scheibel, Gannett Newspapers: Mr. President, there are reports that you have selected Mr. Folsom of the Treasury Department to replace Mrs. Hobby in your Cabinet. Would you comment on that, please?

THE PRESIDENT. Why, that is a very simple one: Mrs. Hobby has not resigned.

Q. Mr. Scheibel: Do you expect her to resign, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. I am not expecting anything. We all know that she has a very difficult domestic problem. Now she is carrying on as well as she can under those conditions, and I don't know what is going to happen.

Q. Charles E. Egan, New York Times: Mr. President, there have been frequent reports that your advisers, including Secretary of the Treasury Humphrey, have told you that you can balance the budget next year and cut taxes. Would you care to comment on that, please?

THE PRESIDENT. Could balance the budget and cut taxes?

Q. Mr. Egan: Both.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, that would be a wonderful thing.

I think no one has said it to me in those emphatic terms. It would be a wonderful thing to have both. But I am sure that the first thing we must do is balance the budget.

Q. Robert J. Donovan, New York Herald Tribune: Four weeks ago we reached an agreement with Turkey, sir, on the bill authorizing Turkey to build atomic research reactors in Turkey. At the time there were indications that there might be further agreements along this line.

Could you tell us whether any of those have come about?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think within the week there will be four to five or something of that kind, maybe even as many as six, new agreements signed and announced. 1

1 Later in the day the White House announced the signing of proposed agreements with Brazil and Colombia. Similar agreements with the United Kingdom, Canada, and Belgium were signed on June 15; see Item 123, below.

Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: Mr. President, in connection with the vaccine, there is one question that seems to be bothering some parents. You will recall that when the vaccine was first given out, when children were first immunized or first inoculated, they were told that the second shot had to be given 4 or 5 weeks later. Now, in some cases that 4- or 5-week period has passed, and some people wonder if the shot wears off, or the effect wears off.

I wonder if Dr. Scheele or anyone else has discussed that with you?

THE PRESIDENT. They have told me about a succession of two shots to be followed, I believe, 7 months or more later by a booster. But now the point that it may not be available for the second shot and they are worrying as to whether they are going to get it soon, I have not heard it discussed at all.

Q. Mr. Spivack: You don't know if they would have to get another shot, you mean?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I don't know, but I do know we are publishing about noon a rather lengthy statement on the thing. And I will have that question looked up and included, if it is possible. [Addresses Mr. Hagerty] Will you do that?

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Maine Papers: Mr. President, in relation to budget and tax cuts, does the revelation of progress in Soviet aircraft mean that you might have to increase your budget for our air defense?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't had any such recommendations yet from the Air. There has been, of course, a greater number of these planes exposed to view, as I remarked at another press conference, than we had anticipated they would have at that moment.

But there are many, many factors, as I tried to explain that morning. One of them is that we have an interim plane, the B-36, which is still a very good plane. We have had the others coming off, and we did authorize the factories that are producing 52's to step up their actual production. But whether or not that will require any change in the budget, I am not yet sure.

Q. Lloyd M. Schwartz, Fairchild Publications: Mr. President, the Defense Production Act is due to expire on June 30, and the administration reportedly has been considering whether to ask Congress to amend it to include emergency price and wage control authority for use in case of an emergency.

I wonder if you could clarify just what the administration's position is on this proposal?

THE PRESIDENT. I have discussed that question so often in this group it seems to me, at least, to be almost a waste of time to repeat my views. They have not changed.

I have always believed that on balance it would be a good thing to have certain controls if they could be strictly limited and quiet people's fears in times of peace.

But the fears do exist on the part of a great portion of our people that these controls, if there, would be improperly exercised.

The psychological situation, therefore, has always seemed to me to make it unwise to ask for them, and on the theory that the Congress would probably be in session or could be quickly called into session if an emergency arose.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, you nominated a Mr. John Brown of Houston for a place on the Fifth Circuit Court, and Mr. Brown allegedly at one time was an attorney for a shipping company that was involved in the Texas City disaster. The Government was on one side represented by the Justice Department.

Now there has come forward a report that some paper was allegedly changed by this gentleman, and the Justice Department though, although they were on the opposite side with him, apparently later gave a recommendation for him to be a judge of the Fifth Circuit Court, which is the same court that had jurisdiction over this Texas City case.

I wonder if you knew of these facts and took this under consideration when you nominated him?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, assuming that they are facts, I knew nothing about them.

Now, I go over the record of every single man that is appointed a judge. I go over it carefully, and wherever possible I bring him in, to meet him. I have attempted to appoint to the Federal judiciary only the finest people in the locality, people that are recommended by the American Bar Association, who have the recommendations of the people of standing in the community as to character and ability, quality, and so on.

I never heard such a word about Mr. Brown.

Q. Martin S. Hayden, Detroit News: Sir, I would like to ask two related questions, if I could.

In Detroit there is apparently increasing danger of an automobile strike in one or two of the big companies. Does the administration feel that the economic results of such a strike would be such as to require immediate Government intervention, if it comes?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, this Government has gone on this theory: that the executive department, as such, will not project itself into the details of private negotiations between employer and employee.

We do have a mediation service. When troubles arise they are called upon to assist in settling those things. But for the Government to step in and take a side, we feel is unjustifiable, and only in the case of a national emergency, I mean such a strike creating a real emergency, would the Government be justified in intervening.

Q. Mr. Hayden: The second question, sir: have your economic advisers given you any information which would give you any opinion on this issue of a guaranteed annual wage; is it a good thing, bad thing?

THE PRESIDENT. One thing that I believe I have put in one or two state of the Union messages is that I believe that the States should be encouraged and even urged to extend unemployment insurance in terms of time. I believe the maximum was weeks up until a few weeks ago when, I believe, one or two States have broken through to 30 weeks. But many, many States don't have even the 26 weeks.

So I have always maintained that any process that helped to support this would be good, although I would prefer to see it through the States.

But aside from that, I would express no opinion at this moment when this particular point is one of such bitter argument between two opposing groups.

Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: Mr. President, several weeks ago you referred to the administration's proposal on the minimum wage law, and you explained that the first part, the 90-cent minimum recommended by the administration, was not as meaningful to you as the expansion of coverage for more workers who were not at all affected by a minimum wage law.

Now, may I ask, sir, does this mean that the administration specifically recommends legislation to broaden such coverage?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, didn't I say that in my state of the Union speech? I think, if I recall, in January of this year I asked the Congress to consider all of those classes that are not covered and to determine those that could profitably and properly be covered. That is the kind of extension I was talking about.

I have not specifically recommended any class or group, that is, agriculture groups, retail groups, or anything else. I have not said a word about that.

Q. Mr. Herling: The confusion, I think, sir, in some minds is that the administration is specific on the 90 cents but not specific on the inclusion of those to be brought under coverage; and, therefore, there was some doubt expressed, sir, as to the interest of the administration in having such coverage made this year.

Now, may I ask, sir, whether the administration specifically wants coverage this year?

THE PRESIDENT. Why, indeed, yes, so long as I--I already recommended it.

Now, the 90 cents is specific because we gave the facts and figures on which we developed that level.

As I recall, since the last raise in minimum wage to 75 cents, there had been a total rise in that time in the cost of living to justify a minimum wage of something on the order of 85.6 or 86.5, and we took the 90 cents as a good leveling-off figure. That was the way we arrived at it.

Now, as to the others, we said this is something which must be studied by Congress, because every single one of these groups, there are pros and cons about it, and it's going to be a very difficult business. I want the coverage extended to every area where it is feasible and a practicable thing to do.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, it was just 3 years ago tomorrow, I think, that you returned from Europe and got into politics. [Laughter]

This is a rather broad question, but I wondered if you cared to say how you like the game of politics after 3 years?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Arrowsmith, the term "politics" as such seems to be one of those words that means many things to many people.

We so often use it in a derogatory sense; and I think in the general derogatory sense you can say, of course, that I do not like politics.

Now, on the other hand, any man who finds himself in a position of authority where he has a very great influence in the efforts of people to work toward a peaceful world, toward international relationships that will eliminate or minimize the chances of war, all that sort of thing, of course it is a fascinating business. It is a kind of thing that would engage the interest, intense interest, of any man alive.

There are in this office thousands of unique opportunities to meet especially interesting people, because the Government up here in Washington has become the center of so many things that, again, you have a very fascinating experience in meeting scientists, leaders in culture, in health, in governmental action, from all over the world.

There are many things about the office and the work, the work with your associates, that are, well, let's say, at least intriguing, even if at times they are very fatiguing. But it is a wonderful experience.

But the word "politics" as you use it, I think the answer to that one, would be, no, I have no great liking for that.

Q. David P. Sentner, Hearst Newspapers: Mr. President, now that the official request for an appropriation for the so-called atomic peace ship has been made to Congress, could you tell us some further details about the plan, such as how long you might expect it to be built, whether there would be any American exhibit of culture and industrial know-how outside of the atomic field, and whether you might be expected to participate in some part of its voyage.

THE PRESIDENT. I get some new ideas over here once in a while, anyway. [Laughter] I hadn't thought of that one.

Now, as to its details of construction and what it will do, there are still discussions going on because, manifestly, as a thing like this develops, new ideas such as yours come along.

I think we can find probably someone more entertaining to put on that ship than a man my age and background. [Laughter]

It is true, as I visualize it, it will be a peaceful ship with many an exhibition really of American culture, of the arts and industry. On top of that, I would hope that it would actually carry cargo as it went around the world on unscheduled runs, be ready to pick up such cargoes it could, so that everybody could see it performing a useful service in the world, but nevertheless have all the things that you just have mentioned.

Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, Representative Joe Evins of Tennessee says he has written you a letter to this effect, that if you go to a Big Four conference that you take Senator George of Georgia along as a special assistant.

He says this would be an example of unity in the American people.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, no one could have greater admiration for Senator George than I. He and I have had talks about this very subject, and I think we are in complete agreement on what should be done.

I think I have explained a number of times that our conception of a Big Four conference will be, let us say, a testing of temperaments or atmosphere, a discussion of problems in general, and an attempt to determine methods and procedures that might work in the attempt to solve specific problems in the world. It will not in itself be a conference to attempt the solution of these specific problems.

Therefore, it would seem to me that the time for Senators and members of the Legislature to be with you is when you come to the actual working out of the detailed problems that might result conceivably in some kind of an agreement.

Therefore, you want people there that are ready to explain this to their committee members, every phase of it, all of the background and what you might call the legislative history of the agreement.

When we are in this general talk, I assume that the meeting is to be very small, as small as is possible under the circumstances of the number of interpreters and just experts you have to have with you.

Q. Nat S. Finney, Buffalo Evening News: Mr. President, has the fact that these aircraft appeared over Moscow earlier than was anticipated caused any speedup in civil defense and related programs?

THE PRESIDENT. Whether or not there will be any increase in terms of budget this year, I don't know. It hasn't been brought up to me in those terms.

But I do believe this: I would be hopeful that it would bring about and inspire a speedup in the enthusiasm of the average citizen to do his part in this, because I must reiterate that civil defense is largely a job that falls on each of us ourselves. We cannot be assured civil defense by any bureau or any amount of money doing the work for us because we have to do it ourselves.

It's a matter of discipline, it's training, it is local work largely; and the Federal Government, at best, can get into the thing with leadership, with models, with examples, and of course in certain instances with storages of supplies and all the rest of it.

Q. Herman A Lowe, Manchester (New Hampshire) Union Leader: Mr. President, the paper took a poll among a number of top military leaders such as General Van Fleet, Admiral Denfeld, General Stratemeyer, on the question of Quemoy and Matsu, and they were almost unanimously agreed that this would not solve any problems or ease any tensions in the Far East. wondered if you would comment on it?

THE PRESIDENT. What would not ease it, those two islands?

Q. Mr. Lowe: The surrender of those two islands to the Communists.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't want to join in any guessing game here; and of course, these people, I think, are indulging in a little bit of a guessing game. But I personally don't see how the abandonment of those islands would help our situation any in the Far East.

Now, there are people in the world, of course, that believe it would make a great difference. I don't believe it would make a great difference there.

Q. Laurence H. Burd, Chicago Tribune: Mr. President, can you tell us anything more definite about the decision of the Western Powers on the time and place of a Big Four conference? Lausanne, Switzerland, has been mentioned as one possible--

THE PRESIDENT. Well, there has been no decision reached, and I don't suppose that there can be for some time.

It is a laborious business of transferring these things back and forth between the several governments concerned. So I think place and time of meeting is yet to be determined. We have no fixed convictions, although I think we would like to have it at a reasonably early date.

Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: Going back to Mr. Arrowsmith's question about your 3 years in politics, could you recall for us, sir, what your role was in the selection of Mr. Nixon for Vice President--


Q. Mr. Reston:--in Chicago?


Q. Mr. Reston: Was he selected as your personal selection, or was he one of a number of different persons whom you approved of, or what?

THE PRESIDENT. I would be glad to give it to you.

As I have reminded you people before, my experience in politics has been a little intensive, even if short. And the first thing I knew about the President or any presidential nominee having any great influence in the vice-presidential selection was, I think, about the moment that I was nominated. I said I would not do it, I didn't know enough about the things that had been going on in the United States. I had been gone 2 years. And so I wrote down the names of five, or maybe it was six, men, younger men, that I admired, that seemed to me to have made a name for themselves. And I said, "Any one of these will be acceptable to me."

And he was on the list.

Q. Mr. Reston: Mr. President, could I pursue that? Could you recall who were the five men--[laughter]--and, secondly, what I was trying to get at was what is your philosophy about the role of the nominee in the selection of the Vice President? Is it your view that the convention is sovereign, it can pick anybody it likes, or should it, in your judgment, follow the recommendation of the presidential nominee?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would say this, Mr. Reston: it seems obvious to me that unless the man as chosen were acceptable to the presidential nominee, the presidential nominee should immediately step aside, because we have a Government in this day and time when teamwork is so important, where abrupt changes could make so much difference. If a President later is suddenly disabled or killed or dies, it would be fatal, in my opinion, if you had a tense period on, not only to introduce now a man of an entirely different philosophy of government, but he, in turn, would necessarily then get an entirely new Cabinet. I think you would have chaos for a while.

So I believe if there isn't some kind of general closeness of feeling between these two, it is an impossible situation, at least the way I believe it should be run.

I personally believe the Vice President of the United States should never be a nonentity. I believe he should be used. I believe he should have a very useful job. And I think that ours has. Ours has worked as hard as any man I know in this whole executive department.

Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: I may be mistaken about this, sir, but I had the impression earlier that you might not be able to go to San Francisco, and I wondered if that were a fact, what might have changed your decision, and whether it had anything to do with preparations, your preparations, for the so-called summit meeting?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, as a matter of fact, when the invitation was first issued, I didn't know when this summit meeting might take place, and so I just returned a rather noncommittal answer, told them I would answer later.

Also, the date specified first that they wanted me conflicted with another engagement I had. And then they asked me for the 18th, and it cleared up everything, and so I am going. I mean the 20th--pardon me.

I should like very much to extend to this group a welcome on behalf of the people of the United States, [on] the 10th anniversary. I think that it is well that the whole country review the record of accomplishment and failure, and we kind of fix in our own minds again what are our hopes and our expectations for such a body. So I would hope to do my little part by going out there to bring us all to thinking about it a little more seriously.

Q. Walter Kerr, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, may we take it from your answer to a previous question that at a summit meeting you would not consider it advisable to raise specific questions such as the unification of Germany or Eastern Europe?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't mean to say, Mr. Kerr, they won't be raised. Of course they will. But what I mean is that I don't believe that at such a meeting you can thrash out every detail that would finally have to be worked out if you are going to have an agreed-upon plan or scheme for doing this, a plan to which our great ally, Western Germany, could agree, and all others concerned. As you know, we expect Western Germany to be one of our finest allies, and we are not going to ignore their wishes in any thing.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's seventieth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:32 to 11:05 o'clock on Tuesday morning, May 31, 1955. In attendance: 165.

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/232889

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