The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
With Congress over, I suppose it is time for a brief roundup of successes and failures.
We talked about a great deal during this session and now we will apparently have a recess for a while.
In the field of foreign affairs I think this Congress, like the one before it, has shown a complete appreciation of the need for bipartisan approach, and I think that any advances that the Government has been able to make in the whole field of foreign affairs must be credited likewise to the action of Congress as well as to the skill of our Secretary of State and many other negotiators.
I think that the whole record of both the 83d and 84th Congresses in this respect--and I am talking about the mass votes and support--has been commendable, and certainly I for one am deeply grateful.
Now, in the field of domestic legislation, we have first of all to look at the background of the actual situation. America is today enjoying almost unprecedented prosperity. I think last month our employment was an all-time high, with unemployment well below 4 percent.
The incomes are up, purchasing is up; and above all, America has had over this period of the last 2 1/2 years a sound stabilized dollar which has, of course, preserved the values of pensions and insurance policies and the like.
Now, if we are going to keep that kind of thing moving, it means that there must forever be action, not only in the economic and industrial field on the part of the individuals in our system of free enterprise, but Government as well; where its actions in the whole field of credit and taxation and other kinds of economic legislation touch upon our economy, it must look forward to the future. It cannot rest on any record, no matter how good.
I think, about the end of June, I was asked here about the record of Congress and the legislation I thought I needed; and besides referring back to my opening state of the Union speech last January, I reached in my pocket and pulled out a little list, which I still have. [Laughter]
Now, you will remember there were 13 items on it: highway construction, military reserves, military survivors' benefits, housing legislation, health program, school construction, mutual security appropriation, Refugee Act amendments, water resources, customs simplification, minimum wage, the atomic ship, and Hawaiian statehood.
Of those 13, only 4 have been enacted into law, although it is true that before June there were others that did affect this whole economic situation and our domestic circumstances.
But of these 13, only military reserves, housing legislation, mutual security appropriation, and minimum wage were enacted into law, and some of those, in my opinion, with provisions that were not wise.
There are four of the remaining nine that I think are absolutely vital to our future, and some that must be handled as soon as Congress comes back. They are: school construction for our children, the health program, the highway program, and the water resources.
You will remember in the water resources program, when I mentioned that before, I brought up especially such projects as the Upper Colorado River, the Frying Pan, and the Cougar, and others. I still believe that we must attack these things intelligently on a broad base or we cannot expect to continue the kind of prosperity, the kind of full employment, that we are now enjoying. And so it would be completely futile on my part to say that in this field, in this domestic field, that I believe we have been as successful in this past Congress as we should have been.
We must make progress, and it will be my earnest effort as quickly as the next Congress opens, to bring these things very emphatically to the attention of both the House and the Senate. I think that is all I have to say. We will go to questions.
Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, Premier Bulganin appears to have rejected your aerial inspection and military blueprint plans on the grounds that they are unrealistic. Can you tell us how you feel about this, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. I believe his exact language was that he thought his proposal of May 10th with its provisions for inspection were more realistic than were the suggestions I made. Speaking informally at Geneva, I said if they trusted that kind of an inspection system, it was all right with us; we would adopt both. And I proposed--I said, let's take them both.
Now, we are engaged here in the beginning of developing methods by which we can tell, we can have great confidence that the other fellow is doing exactly what he said he would do; and secondly, we would hope that this would be an approach toward real disarmament.
Now, these are matters that take long examination by experts. I don't understand that the Premier closed the door, and I merely say we are ready to accept and examine any kind of system that looks fair to us and to both sides.
Q. Charles S. von Fremd, CBS News: The Atomic Energy Commission announced today, sir, that from what they, from their own explorations, that the Russians had exploded some type of thermonuclear bomb. I wonder if you could tell us what significance this means to you, and if it represents possibly something that might not be as optimistic as you felt at the summit.
THE PRESIDENT. I believe you made one error in your premise. I do not believe they said "thermonuclear." I believe they merely said an explosion of atomic character.
I am not going to attempt at this moment to interpret this incident in terms of Soviet intent. I would say that if in their scientific development, if they found that they had come to the place where they could go no further without tests, they just made tests as a matter of course
You know, there have been several series since 1949 when the first one, I believe, was detected. This could mean anything, but not necessarily, as I see it, not necessarily a change in their, let us say, more conciliatory attitude that they have shown in the past weeks and months.
Q. Edward T. Foillard, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, it seems as if something is always happening to puncture that moratorium you talked about in the spring. Yesterday some Ohio Republicans called on you to urge you to run again, and they represented you as saying this: that if you could foresee what the situation will be a year from now, presumably the world situation, if you could foresee that, then you could say what your plans for 1956 would be.
They also quoted you as remarking on the strong sense of duty one gets in a long service, long career in the armed services.
Could you say, Mr. President, whether Geneva has made it more or less likely that you will run in 1956? [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. Eddie, I can say this: this now pushes my year that I don't have to answer this far forward. I said a year from the last question would be the moratorium.
Q. Mr. Folliard: I might withdraw that question. [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. I was talking to a group of very staunch Republicans, I assure you, and naturally questions such as you bring up now normally arise when there is such a gathering of that kind.
What I intended to imply, that if I now were such an infallible prophet that I could understand all about the world situation, the domestic situation, and my own situation, including the way I felt, and possibly with the health and everything else, as of that moment, then there would be no great excuse for deferring the decision.
I have not that gift of prophecy.
Q. Frank van der Linden, Nashville Banner: Mr. President, Senator George led a delegation of Congressmen and Senators from the cotton and textile States into your office Monday for discussion of a proposal to move some of this surplus cotton overseas, and also to levy import quotas on textiles. I wonder what your policy is going to be on that, sir.
THE PRESIDENT. I think that very soon the Secretary of Agriculture will be able to come up with something that, if it does not wholly meet the views of everybody in the administration, that we shall have to say, what we intend to do in the immediate future.
Now, just one word about that delegation. Senator George suggested a meeting. I invited him up, and I think it was the first idea that two or three were to come with him. It ended up, I believe, with 60 or about that.
But I want to make this clear. I found that for a moment, at least, my office was a place for a debating society. There were views expressed that were as bitterly antagonistic to this 2-price system and quota system as you can well imagine. So it is one of those questions for which there is no easy answer, and I am not going to try to forestall the completion of studies within the Cabinet so that it can be announced at the proper time.
Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, to return to the disarmament matter a minute, I take it from what you said about Bulganin's statement, you are not discouraged about the prospects of some progress in this field as a whole. Is that correct, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Roberts, here is the situation: our foreign ministers are going to meet in October, there was opened up at Geneva a more or less broad road of approach to these several problems which were agreed that the foreign ministers should study, and among them was disarmament. So I think that the statements that Mr. Bulganin has made should not be taken as at all foreclosing his readiness or the readiness of the Soviet representatives to discuss the matter.
Q. Mr. Roberts: Could I ask this also, sir? Is it your intention that when the U.N. Disarmament Subcommittee meets later this month, that the United States will have a new and complete program to offer, or will it be pretty much what you made public at Geneva?
THE PRESIDENT. I can't answer in complete detail. As you know, Governor Stassen is working on this constantly and is trying to coordinate the views of the several departments of Government, and there will unquestionably be new ideas of more specific type than I expressed at Geneva.
At Geneva I expressed a readiness on the part of the United States to pursue a course of mutual reciprocal disarmament in any, almost any type where we could be sure that everybody was acting in good faith. My inspection proposal was just a mere beginning that I wanted to propose of a type of inspection system that would ensure that confidence.
I think, therefore, that you can expect some new proposals, but naturally none of them will be in a final, fixed and rigid position. Otherwise there would be no room for negotiations.
Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, Senator Matthew Neely said it would be a conflict of principle as well as a conflict of interests for the Defense Department to continue to have as its petroleum logistics director General W. W. White, who is also on the payroll of Esso Export Corporation.
You said last time you would inquire into this situation. I wonder if you have had time to do so.
THE PRESIDENT. I understand that my press secretary had given you the answer.
Q. Mrs. McClendon: No, sir.
THE PRESIDENT. The answer is that there was no special legislation passed for General White. It was legislation that dates from 1941, and I believe renewed in 1948, which does not apply to reserve officers, which General White is. He is not a regular officer at all; he has the title of General, though in the reserves. It authorizes the Government to employ such people without requiring them to go through the same divesting of interests that you do regulars.
That is the situation under which General White was employed and, of course, it would be idle to employ as a consultant anyone who didn't know something about the petroleum business. He is bound to come from the petroleum industry.
Now, I believe beyond that, the Defense Department has issued a very complete statement; and beyond what I have said, I should say, "Go to see Secretary Wilson."
Q. Milton B. Freudenheim, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, I have been asked to ask you whether you will be able to go to Chicago for the Governors' Conference.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't think there are any plans. I don't even think I have had any negotiations with them on that subject at all for this particular meeting.
Q. Mr. Freudenheim: Another question that they asked me to ask you
THE PRESIDENT. That they asked? Who is "they"?
Q. Mr. Freudenheim: The Chicago Daily News.
THE PRESIDENT. Oh, I see. All right. [Laughter]
Q. Mr. Freudenheim: I think you may have indicated as to your plans for calling a special session on highway legislation. Were you telling us a moment ago that you would wait until Congress came back?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I didn't say I would wait. As of this moment, after all, a special session is a rather critical and serious thing, an expensive thing. I have not by any manner of means dismissed the possibility that that might be needful, but as of now, I have made no such decision whatever.
Q. Mr. Freudenheim: Thank you, sir.
Q. William Theis, International News Service: Mr. President, could you tell us now as to what your intentions are as to signing the housing bill?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have just gotten the preliminary studies on it, and actually I was talking about it within the half hour. I couldn't say exactly, because it does have some features that I am not certain yet whether they are permissive or directive, and I must take a look at that part of it.
Q. Richard L. Wilson, Cowles Publications: Mr. President, recently in Congress and in the newspapers, the suggestions have been made that some sort of a new negotiation is under way with the Red Chinese which might involve the status of Quemoy, Matsu, and Formosa. Is any such negotiation under way, and if not, what is the nature of the present negotiations?
THE PRESIDENT. The present negotiations were called to discuss the question of nationals of one country retained within the territory of the other.
Now, it was admitted that the discussions might find other subjects which could be discussed, but both the Secretary and I have frequently stated we are not going to discuss the affairs of our friends when our friends are absent. We count the Nationalists on Formosa as our friends. We are not going to discuss their future or their destiny or anything about them until they are there.
Q. Charles E. Shutt, Telenews: Along that same line, sir, it has been suggested in some quarters that further negotiations be planned with the Red Chinese as a result of the Geneva talks that are going on now. If after suitable preliminary conferences were held, would you at all favor a summit meeting with all parties concerned to settle Asian tensions?
THE PRESIDENT. I think not at this time. I think it would be far too much in advance to talk about the possibility of a summit meeting. They have implications that do not follow upon meetings at a somewhat lower level.
Now, I believe the Secretary has said that it is within the realm of possibility that these meetings will lead to negotiations possibly on ministerial level, but I think nothing further has been hinted at.
Q. David P. Sentner, Hearst Newspapers: Is there any possibility that you might call a special session of Congress to deal with the highway legislation?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I tried to answer that question a minute ago. There is always the possibility, but as of this moment, I have no decision. I have made no decision of that kind.
Q. Mr. Sentner: And if the next Congress takes it up without a special session, do you plan to make a new proposal for financing the method of construction?
THE PRESIDENT. I did say in my original recommendations that I recognized there could be more than one method of financing, but at a time when we wanted definitely to allocate certain user type of money to the paying of those roads, we needed the roads now, and when Congress very definitely and I think maybe a lot more people do not want to raise the public debt, there remained one method: the corporation or the authority method. And that is the one I proposed.
I might accept some modification, of course I would. But what I want first of all is roads, and then a way to pay for it that will be acceptable and fair to the taxpayers.
Q. Clark R. Mollenhoff, Des Moines Register: Mr. President, I wonder if you could tell us how you feel Air Secretary Talbott's activities measured up to the standards that you wish to maintain in your administration?
THE PRESIDENT. I think the record speaks for itself. I have nothing more to add to that.
Q. Martin Agronsky, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, it has been remarked that in the negotiations at Geneva, that we have been referring to the representatives of the Chinese Communist Government as the People's Republic of China. In return, the Chinese Communists are referring to us as the United States instead of apparently the usual title, which is a capitalistic aggressor. And generally the atmosphere seems to be one in which people now think there has been a change in the attitude of our Government toward the possible recognition of the legitimacy of the Chinese Government, that is, the Chinese Communist Government.
Has there been any development along those lines, sir, and does this difference in nomenclature that we are now officially using have any significance?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would say this: the change of nomenclature is without significance, because possibly--I wasn't even personally aware of any change. When you are sitting in conference and your conferees may refer to a particular group under a certain name, you naturally are in the habit of referring to it the same way. So this question of nomenclature is without significance whatsoever.
Now, several times I have stated that as long as Red China is branded as a dictator by the United Nations, which it still is, due to the fact that its armies are in North Korea, we have no choice of our own, and I don't know how the United Nations has a choice of its own. There are other outstanding complaints which I have outlined time and again, and I have no idea that under existing circumstances there would be a change of the kind you indicated in our policy.
Q. Robert J. Donovan, New York Herald Tribune: Did you say "branded a dictator" or "branded an aggressor?"
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I mean "branded an aggressor." If I said "dictator," I was wrong. Branded an aggressor by the United Nations for going into Northern Korea, you will recall.
Q. Joseph R. Slevin, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, do you believe there is a serious threat of inflation?
THE PRESIDENT, What is that?
Q. Mr. Slevin: Do you believe that there is a serious threat of inflation at this time?
THE PRESIDENT. I wouldn't say "serious threat," but let us remember that any free economy is always in a situation of balance, even though it is going forward in its expansion and in its productivity. There are always present the two, twin dangers of deflation and inflation, and the function of Government so far as it affects this matter at all is to be watchful, to be vigilant and alert, and to take measures from time to time that tend to move in one direction if the signs are we are moving in the other. But as of this moment we have, I repeat, an activity, a productivity, that is almost beyond calculation, measured by former standards. So the time is here to be watchful; but I wouldn't say there was serious danger, no.
Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Eisenhower's seventy-fifth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 2:32 to 2:55 o'clock on Thursday afternoon, August 4, 1955. In attendance: 201.
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/233431