The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. Ladies and gentlemen, there is one item each in the foreign and domestic fields that I would like to call attention to. One is the invitation of the Soviet Government to Chancellor Adenauer to talk over some of their mutual problems. I think it is only a natural consequence of the developments that are taking place in Western Europe that the Soviets should issue such an invitation.
As you know, the consequence of those developments has been the establishment of the Western Republic of Germany as an independent nation, and therefore it seems to be a logical gesture on the part of the Soviets to invite them in for a talk.
Now, of course, the decision of what's to be done about the invitation is exclusively that of the Federal Government of Western Germany, Chancellor Adenauer himself. The only point I want to make is that we know Chancellor Adenauer. We have the utmost faith and confidence in him, and we know one thing, that he will stand by his allies and friends.
The item in the local scene I wanted to mention was just a report that I saw yesterday on employment. The May employment apparently hit an all-time record, although it is not the highest peak that we have ever had, the '53 peak, I believe, of 63 million. This figure was 62,700,000. But employment for May was up a million over April and unemployment was down a half a million, figures which certainly are cause for gratification. Those two items are the ones I wanted to mention
We will go to the questions.
Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, have you received any reply from the Russian Government on our invitation to meet in Geneva on the 18th?
THE PRESIDENT. NO, we have not.
Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, if I understand correctly, one of the premises of your trimming the manpower in the Army has been the idea of a ready, trained reserve. The reserve bill was sidetracked in the House recently because of a segregation rider affecting the National Guard in the States, and also an amendment which would appear to rule out the sending of such reserves to countries where we have these Status of Forces agreements.
I wonder if you could tell us what plans the administration has to get this bill out, if my assumption is correct that you feel that it is vital.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, I feel the reserve bill is vital, and if the House situation has gotten so difficult that they can do nothing there now, why, then, I will most urgently hope that the Senate can do something about it.
I want to bring out again, I suppose it is only natural that I should speak very feelingly on anything that affects the Armed Forces of the United States. I certainly lived among them many years.
This reserve bill is more essential than ever before to the security of the United States. We need trained men in every single section of this country. We acknowledge, as we look at the probable face of future warfare, if ever we must face that tragedy, we acknowledge that every hamlet and important city of the United States is likely to be on the front lines.
If that is true, why do we not want someone in those front lines that is trained and ready to do something sensible and logical instead of giving way, as most of us would, undoubtedly, to the hysteria of the moment and just light running? We have to have discipline. We have to have people that are trained as to what to expect, and respond logically.
So, from the standpoint of the United States and the character of warfare, I am merely showing that over and above the old need of reinforcing active units to carry on conventional types of warfare, you need somebody every place, where each State--over and above its National Guard contingents--can have somebody there who is disciplined and ready to act and support all the police and fire prevention action that must take place locally.
Then our own National Guard units need people who have been thoroughly grounded in military training.
Next, we must carry on our conflicts if we have to wage them, or our mobilizations if we have to order one, with people who haven't been off to war already one or two or three times and now are raising families. It certainly is unjust to depend for training only on the people who have already done their stint in defending our country.
Finally, entirely aside from the whole question of fairness, the whole question of national security, comes the individual himself. It is these individuals who must defend the United States, and why should they not have the advantage of some prior training? Now these are the reasons for a reserve bill.
Now, I am just as anxious to get this thing done as I can possibly be. In some details, the bill as was finally brought out on the floor before it was amended had changed some of the items in which I believed. But the bill, on the whole, as it came out of the committee represented a tremendous advance over anything we had ever had. I believe that we just must have it, that is what I believe. I believe it is terrifically important.
You mention the question of relationship between that and the size of active forces. Of course, there is a relationship, but I say, and I assure you that in my opinion no increase in the Armed Forces, active forces, of a logical size could possibly compensate for not having a reserve. We must have it. That is the way I feel about it.
Q. Mr. Roberts: Could I ask on the specific point of the segregation amendment how you stand on that?
THE PRESIDENT. I think the record of this administration on carrying out its pledges in this whole field of segregation is a good one. We have worked hard to take the Federal responsibility in this regard, and to carry it forward so as to get real advancement.
I believe, on the other hand, that it is entirely erroneous to try to get legislation of this character through tacking it on to something that is so vital to the security of the United States as the security program. The mere fact that we can't all have our ways about particular things in social progress--does that mean we don't want to defend our country?
Why do we make the defense of our country dependent upon all of us getting our own ways here?
Now, as I say, I think the administration's record here stands up very, very well indeed, compared with any other administration I know of. But I just don't believe that it is the place to have any kind of extraneous legislation, I care not what it is.
Q. Lloyd M. Schwartz, Fairchild Publications: Mr. President, the Senate Labor Committee yesterday voted a $1 minimum wage bill, which is 10 cents more than you recommended. Now, as I understand it, Governor Adams reportedly has told the legislative leaders on the Hill that the dollar is acceptable to the administration. I wonder if you could tell us whether you would--
THE PRESIDENT. He said what? I didn't--
Q. Mr. Schwartz: He reportedly has told legislative leaders that the 1-dollar wage bill is acceptable, and that you would sign it.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know who gave you that information, because I am sure the Governor didn't tell me that. [Laughter] I think I would be interested. [Laughter]
Now, actually, my recommendations and the reasons for them were given in my annual message, and I have seen nothing to change them. I did advocate a 90-cent minimum wage with extensions in the fields where Congress could find it applicable and logical.
I should like to point out again that one of the reasons given for the 90-cent was recognizing certain increases in the cost of living since the last minimum wage, the 75-cent one, was enacted.
I want to point out again that since January of '53, the cost of living index has varied within 1 percent. It has been a record of stability in these last months.
That stability, let me say, is not any particular favor to rich and wealthy people and to great corporations. What it is important to is the person who has to meet a monthly budget and who has to look forward to his old age, living on pensions and insurance policies. Stability of the dollar is one of the things that makes this economy continue to expand and grow and give to all of our people the confidence to which they are entitled.
I do believe that the reasons given there in that state of the Union speech are still sound.
Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: Mr. President, since Chancellor Adenauer is going to be in this country, I believe, next week, are you planning to see him at that time before you go to the Big Four meeting?
THE PRESIDENT. Oh, yes. He is coming to lunch with me. I thought I had--haven't we announced that?
Mr. Hagerty: Yes, June 14th.
THE PRESIDENT. He is coming to lunch on June 14th.
Q. Charles S. von Fremd, CBS News: Mr. President, I would like to go back to the Big Four again, sir.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
Q. Mr. von Fremd: At West Point yesterday you said that we must have prudent caution to keep any hopes of great expectations for accomplishments from growing too large, and your Secretary of State and other leading officials in and out of the administration have voiced the same warning.
The Russians for some time have indicated they didn't think that very much could be accomplished at a meeting, and I wonder, sir, if you do think there is a real chance for having accomplishments of note at the meeting at the summit.
THE PRESIDENT. I also said in that talk that we would never cease searching out any new method or avenue that might lead toward peace, and I told you people, a couple of weeks ago, that there is a great faith in the world that a talk at the summit might open up one of these new paths that we could follow logically and properly.
All I have tried to say is this: let's not expect too much from the first one, but let us do hope that we have opened up a new way, a new thought, a new feeling or atmosphere in the whole business, and maybe then our work will be fruitful instead of constantly frustrating.
Now, I also tried to point out, let's not expect it all at once. If we do get an encouraging feeling about this thing, then let us pursue it courageously, sincerely, and thoroughly, no matter how many years it takes. That is all I am trying to say.
Q. William H. Lawrence, New York Times: Mr. President, in connection with that last answer you gave, in seeking and searching
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
Q. Mr. Lawrence: I wonder, sir, why is it necessary to limit in advance the deliberations of the heads of state to only 3 days instead of, say, a week? Or would you extend it if you found that the opportunities were good?
THE PRESIDENT. I think some of you people know, you might say, the constitutional limitations that are on the President in this country from going away and staying as long as he pleases. Sometimes with Congress in session, you can get the necessary bill before you that required pretty instant action, because it has taken a long time to staff it.
There are numbers of reasons why the President is not as free as is a Prime Minister to go some place and stay a long time. The only thing that we tried to do when we issued the invitation was to give intimation that there was some limitation on the time the President could be absent.
Now, if it takes 4 or 5 days or any other period that is reasonable and will allow me to do my work, that is still acceptable. But we don't want just to make this another propaganda mill, where, if I should leave by compulsion of my duties, then it would look like I was trying to wreck the conference.
That mustn't be, don't you see?
Q. Mr. Lawrence: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT. And you must guard against it.
So therefore, for the heads of state, the Big Four, so called, conference, there must be understood to be a definite time limit.
Q. Douglass Cater, Reporter Magazine: Mr. President, I wonder if you could expand your thinking on this use of the anti-segregation amendments on legislation. As I understand it, the aid-to-the-schools bill is bottled up in a Senate committee because of that same conflict, that there is an attempt to add an amendment that would prevent aid to States which permitted a continuation of segregation.
Would that apply the same way you think as on national defense legislation?
THE PRESIDENT. My own feeling about legislation is a simple one. If you get an idea of real importance, a substantive subject, and you want to get it enacted into law, then I believe the Congress and I believe our people should have a right to decide upon that issue by itself, and not be clouding it with amendments that are extraneous.
I am not talking about the school bill now or the reserve bill or any other. I am saying as a general proposition, why not put these things up on their own and decide them? That is my feeling and my conviction about it.
Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: Before Labor Secretary Mitchell left for Geneva, I believe he consulted you in regard to the Conference of the International Labor Organization which he is now attending.
Yesterday the U.S. delegation split at Geneva, split on their attitude toward the subject of seating delegates from Soviet and other Communist countries in the various bodies, various sections of the International Labor Organization. And Mr. W. L. McGrath, who is the U.S. employer delegate, has sharply criticized the U.S. Government and the U.S. labor delegates for being soft on communism. Would you care to comment on the administration policy in regard to our participation in the ILO?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I can't answer your question in detail this morning. I can say that ILO is one of those organizations which we believe have been beneficial, and in which we intend, of course, to continue our membership and presence.
The particular argument of which you speak has not been brought to my attention. I couldn't possibly attempt to answer it. I don't know what the criticism was. I don't know what the decisions were on, but I will try to be ready to answer it at a later date.
Q. Milton B. Freudenheim, Detroit Free Press: Mr. President, will you comment on the Ford settlement, the guaranteed wage in Detroit, as to whether it is in line with your recommendations to Governors on State unemployment compensation.
THE PRESIDENT. Of course, my recommendations to States stand for themselves. They have been made and have been made public. I would not comment on the terms of contracts as between employers and employees. I have not allowed those things to come into the White House, and refuse to do so, except when there is definitely the national good or a national emergency in question. And on top of that, similar contracts are still under negotiation. So I have nothing to say.
Q. Robert Roth, Philadelphia Bulletin: Mr. President, it was said today in a piece by the Alsop brothers that their purely social relationships with old personal friends--
THE PRESIDENT. I didn't understand. That what?
Q. Mr. Roth: that their purely social relationships with old personal friends who are employees of the National Security Council are being interfered with by orders from above. They see in this an indirect imposition of censorship.
Would you comment, sir, on whether you regard this as a Government intrusion into the private affairs and the proper functioning of reporters?
THE PRESIDENT. I have a press secretary, some of you may know--[laughter]--and if there are any complaints, I think they should be lodged there first, so I can find out something about it.
Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Mr. President, Mr. Seaborn Collins, the National Commander of the American Legion, was criticized by Mountbatten, the British Lord of the Admiralty, for speaking against communism to the British Empire Service League, and he said he was setting forth what the American Legion believed should be done to defeat communism and not what the U.S. Government thought, and he said he was not presuming to tell any other government what to do, but it seems that Mountbatten said that this was talking about politics at a veterans meeting.
I wonder if you would say what you think about the fitness of veterans everywhere considering communism as an issue of aggression.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think we could talk a very long time on that, Mrs. McClendon. But I did notice in that same account that after that little difference of opinion publicly, that both Mr. Collins and Dickie Mountbatten sat down together and had a good time, and apparently there wasn't anything rancorous about the argument.
Q. William Graves, Salt Lake City Deseret News: Mr. President, at this session a bill has been introduced by Senator Bennett of Utah which would provide an 18-man commission to study dispersal of U.S. industry against possible atomic attack, and Dr. Flemming of the Office of Defense Mobilization and, I believe, Secretary Talbott of the Air Force and several others have indicated support for this type of proposal.
I wonder if you would tell us your feeling on that type of plan.
THE PRESIDENT. I haven't talked to any of my advisers on this particular point, but I would say this: we have been trying to get the interests of the United States--national industries, and so on--into the real study and concern for this matter of dispersion. So therefore, if the organization of a committee would create a greater interest, determination to do something about it, I believe we would be very glad to see it done.
Let me make just one observation as we go past--the thinking on this subject. By "dispersion," you don't mean picking up a great enormous Willow Run factory or some great shoe factory and moving it out in the desert. What you do mean is this: American industry is constantly expanding; so, as it expands, do you want to continue this process of concentration at particular and critical areas which increases your vulnerability, or isn't it the part of wisdom to attempt dispersion?
That is really what you mean by a dispersal of industry. Moreover, if a new plant of any kind is built making some new product, why do you crowd it in where they are possibly making engines or gears or any other thing of that kind? I think it is just a matter of the future and to get decent, proper policies to govern them.
Q. Walter Kerr, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, did I understand you correctly to say that it is all right with you if a summit meeting should last 3, 4, or 5 days, provided that you knew in advance when it would end?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, look. Do you suppose for one minute that if I am ready to pick up and go from any place to Timbuktu to the North Pole to do something about this question of peace, that I am going to stand on a matter of 24 hours? I am trying merely to say it must be a meeting of limited length, an agreed upon, limited length, not that rigidly done. They can say from 3 days to 5 days or 3 days to 6 days, I don't care. But I just must have, if I am to attend, must have a limited time understood.
Q. Edward J. Milne, Providence Journal: Mr. President, are you concerned about, or have you made any inquiries about the long delay in the Senate committee's action on Allen Whitfield as your appointee to the Atomic Energy Commission? That has been hanging fire now for several months.
THE PRESIDENT. As a matter of fact, I haven't looked it up lately, and I couldn't give you any answer on it this morning.
Q. Richard L. Wilson, Cowles Publications: Mr. President, what are the precise areas which might be discussed, or which might be the subject of agreement at the Big Four conference?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't think you can state them precisely. I think there are problems in the world today that have created differences on which there are different convictions expressed which are obvious to us all.
We have made no great progress on most of these in late years. I think the great hope would be, what is a method, what kind of an approach can we make to these problems that might give promise of real progress?
Disarmament? After all, we know this: there is something that is different in the world. After all, the Russians are inviting in Mr. Nehru to try to win over the neutralist countries. They have made an unprecedented type of visit to Yugoslavia. They have invited in Chancellor Adenauer. There is a change going on.
Now, in such a changing sort of atmosphere, we may discover some way that an accommodation can be made in which we can have full confidence, which would possibly give all of us some lightening of the burdens we are carrying.
Q. Mr. Wilson: Leaving Germany out of the question for moment, is there anything in the neutrality idea which might offer the basis for agreement?
THE PRESIDENT. You mean the neutrality for others not including West Germany?
Q. Mr. Wilson: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, that one I hadn't thought of, but I see that Tito rejected it. At least, that is what I read. I don't believe I have seen an official account of it; I believe I saw in the paper that he had rejected any idea of neutrality for his country. But I would say this: I personally don't believe America is ever going to be happy as long as any people with a historical record of independence are kept enslaved by someone else, by foreign domination, specifically meaning the Eastern satellites.
Now, if those people of themselves chose a neutral position instead of the position they now occupy and it were an honest neutrality, it would be a tremendous advance for them.
Q. Mr. Wilson: Sir, under those conditions, could there be any modification of our position in Germany which would match a modification of the Russian position and the satellite states?
THE PRESIDENT. Now, Mr. Wilson, make no mistake. The position of Western Germany is going to be determined by Western Germany. We have recognized them as a sovereign nation, and just as we wouldn't expect some other country to determine our policy toward neutrality, we must give to Western Germany the complete right to solve their own problems.
As I have already stated, I have the utmost confidence in the belief that these people are going to act in full concord with their friends and allies.
Q. Mr. Wilson: What I was pursuing, sir, was the fact that we have forces in Germany just as the Russians have forces in the Balkan countries.
I wanted to ask if there was any adjustment or modification of the disposition of those forces which might provide the basis for an agreement.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, you are bringing up now one of the substantive problems that are certain to arise: what are going to be the forces and the stations of forces all through central and western Europe? I couldn't possibly hazard a question on that in advance.
Q. William Theis, International News Service: Mr. President, we have heard on the Hill that during the preliminary discussions of the Big Four meeting, you have taken a rather strong position that you would go to any neutral country, but you did not want to go to Geneva. I wonder, for the record, if you could clear up the background on that for us, and perhaps highlight it.
THE PRESIDENT. The only thing I have heard against Geneva was, you know, it is a tremendous tourist center; and if you are going to have a meeting in the summertime, I think it gets quite difficult for the Swiss people themselves.
Now, I think we should go to a country known as a neutral, like Sweden, Switzerland; and Switzerland being central and convenient, is the one that seems to be indicated.
I think we did prefer Lausanne. As a matter of fact, I did, at least. But I never made this a question of "either this or else," never.
Q. Mr. Theis: I think the implication in this report was that you did not particularly want to be associated with what happened at Geneva about a year ago in the Indochina situation.
THE PRESIDENT. Actually, we were no party to that particular one, but I wouldn't--maybe you've got a--say it's a good thought there. [Laughter]
Q. William M. Blair, New York Times: Dr. Scheele, the Surgeon General, reported yesterday that the original concept of testing the Salk polio vaccine, when transferred to the commercial laboratories, failed to stand up.
Now, they didn't find this out until a team of scientists made their plant-by-plant inspection.
My question, sir: does the Public Health Service have an obligation to make sure that the requirements that they lay down are carried out?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, now, I guess I had better be careful, because I am not so certain about the law in the matter. But I do know that they have all agreed to meet the specifications, and therefore I think they could withdraw their license for manufacture; I don't want to be too severely criticized if I misunderstand the law in this case.
What has happened here is this: the scientists met and gave their very best conclusions with respect to a certain matter. The events have proved that there was a little bit of something lacking in this, and they had to be corrected.
I think that the Secretary of HEW was very wise in saying safety, caution are the words that we should think of here rather than mere haste, because mere haste could have had a lot of disastrous effects.
I think the scientists themselves are all agreed as to what now must be done and they are pushing it to do it.
Q. Roscoe Drummond, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, in connection with Mr. Adenauer's visit to Moscow, could I ask whether from our standpoint we either object in principle or feel any special anxiety about the normalization of diplomatic relations between the West German Republic and the Soviet Union.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, yesterday in my conference with the Secretary of State this matter didn't come up. As far as I am concerned, not a bit. I think that Chancellor Adenauer is one of the great statesmen of the world, and I believe he is a perfectly sound, solid citizen, and I trust him to take care of the interests of Western Germany.
Q. Ray L. Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, you mentioned the Yugoslav visit of the Russians.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
Q. Mr. Scherer: Do you share the belief of some that this country should reappraise its military aid to Yugoslavia in view of that country's new relation to the Soviet Union?
THE PRESIDENT. As I pointed up before, this is a world of change. Everything changes, and you reappraise policies monthly, weekly, daily. Just exactly what details of these programs might now need looking at, I am not sure; but I do believe this: merely because a country is striving to be somewhat neutral from their viewpoint as they look at this struggle in the world does not lessen particularly our interest in them.
Our opponents seem to show more interest, almost, in the neutrals than anybody else. Of course, they don't have to worry about the peoples allied with them. They have different methods. But they are very, very greatly concerned in these neutrals; and, of course, we should be.
We do want to win them to a great conviction that the freedom of action, the national independence, the right of people to determine their own fates, that we believe in, is the one for them to adopt.
Merriman Smith, United Press: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Eisenhower's seventy-first news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 11:02 to 11:34 o'clock on Wednesday morning, June 8, 1955. In attendance: 208.
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/232915