Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

May 04, 1955

[This is a complete transcript of the news conference of this date. All of the President's replies were released for broadcasting or direct quotation at that time.]

THE PRESIDENT. Please be seated.

Good morning. Ladies and gentlemen, before we start the questioning this morning, I want to talk a little bit about a subject close to all our hearts; that is Dr. Salk's vaccine.

It is a very emotional subject because we are dealing with human lives, the lives of children of tender age; therefore, I think it is very incumbent upon all of us to proceed very carefully.

We should neither make the problem look too easy, and we shouldn't try to do anything here except to get out the facts and give people the very finest understanding that it is possible to give.

First of all, it has been assumed, I think, too often, that the entire problem is one of distribution; this is not true.

I have talked in one or two instances directly to scientists themselves--the question of safety--we must be absolutely sure that we are doing something that is safe and good.

One of the questions that comes up is the methods of actual testing of this vaccine. If you may test it in one way it can be done in a relatively short time. As quickly as you go to a system that may be more accurate, you run into a group of new technical problems that might delay the production of this vaccine for a good many weeks.

There has been suspected on the part of the scientists a reaction or a development that you might call the provocative effect of this vaccine.

You or I or a little child, which would be important, might have latent polio virus in his system, and in normal cases might pass through this period with no serious effects. He would have a few slight symptoms, but it would amount to nothing more.

Now, the actual puncture of the skin to give this shot might-they have not proved this, but it is just possible that it might cause some trouble.

All of these things are being studied by our scientists daily, almost on a 24-hour basis, and with all of the scientists we can mobilize to it to make certain as we proceed that the one thing that we must be careful of is that saving lives on a wholesale basis is achieved.

Now, the first great quantities of this material to come out of our laboratories have been purchased in advance by the national poliomyelitis society, and that is being distributed free to our children of the first and second grades.

They contracted for this material before it was known that it could really be produced. But in order to encourage the laboratories, the scientists, to go ahead with this system so that we would have it available this summer, the Foundation did so, and is making it available free. It is being distributed according to the plan that they laid out, a plan approved by the national advisory commission that Mrs. Hobby has collected.

Now, one thing has been the determination of the Government from the start, as far as its part of it is concerned, there will never be a child in the United States denied this emergency protection for want of ability to pay. Of that we are absolutely certain, and no difficulty along that line is anticipated.

In the distribution of this material, you have to deal with the amounts that are to become available as quick as the amounts taken off by the national society have been supplied.

There have been constant meetings, and the plan or the organization procedure is something of this sort: first, the national advisory committee decides upon the allocation, and the allocation, in general, is to each State according to its number of youngsters from 5 to 9. That is the basis for distributing these amounts until that day comes when it is plentiful and anybody can have it anywhere, as long as there is a priority to be observed.

Then, they also get the agreement and have gotten the agreement of each of our producing companies that this will be shipped to the States in exact accordance with the ratio thus decided upon.

The State then informs the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare as to the places they want this shipped in order to get this vaccine used. And they name the hospitals or the schools or whatever are the public facilities they have for getting the injections accomplished.

These are sent to the producing companies who make the shipments. The reports then again come back to the Secretary, so that we know that the actual amounts allocated by this whole system have been shipped out, and are available in the State. And there is where the State picks up the authority for the actual giving of the vaccine to the children of the State.

Now, that is a rough approximation. Let me see if I have looked over any--the matter has already been discussed with the Governors of the States by the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. And the Secretary is giving me a report which I may get this week covering every single detail, factual and planning detail, of the whole matter. As quickly as I get it, I will make it available to the public. You people will have it as soon as I can get hold of it.

Now, I think that covers the situation. I want to emphasize again that the matter of inability to pay is never going to have the slightest thing to do with this, and that it is going to be distributed equitably to every State in the Union, according to the standards set up by this advisory committee.

Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, are you giving any active consideration at this time to compulsory Federal controls on distribution?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, yes. I have given all sorts of consideration to it. As a matter of fact, I can't tell you the number of conferences.

We believe that the system we have just laid out is the very best plan for getting this to the children in the quickest possible time and on the most equitable basis, because, in the long run, the States must enter this problem in some way or other. There is no other way to devise the machinery.

Q. Kenneth M. Scheibel, Gannett Newspapers: Mr. President, do you have any evidence that there is racketeering going on in the distribution of this vaccine?

THE PRESIDENT. No. There was a--it is a rather laborious explanation.

At one time apparently our producing companies thought that methods for producing and testing were all in hand; it was all ready. Over and above what they were preparing for their original contract with the society, they were preparing a small amount for commercial distribution.

Some of that, and a very small amount apparently, got out. There was no black marketing about it at all. It was a legitimate transaction, and here and there a few people, not of the groups I have described, the youngsters I have described, got it; but that was apparently something of a very transitory character.

Q. Walter Kerr, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, granted that it is a legitimate operation, do you care to comment on the propriety of that distribution while the vaccine is in short supply?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't want to comment without knowing somewhat more of the facts than I do. But I do say this: apparently they thought they had the problem all solved. This was going along swimmingly, everybody was going to have all they wanted, and they were getting into the commercial field.

I am not going to comment on it at the moment because that is all I know. The report of Mrs. Hobby may bring up that particular point.

Q. Martin S. Hayden, Detroit News: Mr. President, in describing this process you mentioned it goes to the States for hospitals, schools, and so forth.

Is there anywhere in this process a point at which a private doctor can get it for distribution to children in this level?

THE PRESIDENT. I am certain the States will have to do it through private doctors. If we don't use all of the 100,000-and-some private doctors in this country, I don't see how this could be done. But I mean the States themselves will have to establish the systems under which the private doctors do this service for the children.

Q. Mr. Hayden: In other words, sir, you would assume that in addition to the children who get it free under planned programs, that other children in that age group whose parents are willing and able to pay will be able to?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, now, let's don't go too fast. This is one of these cases where you had better be safe than sorry.

All of the vaccine now coming out has already been contracted for. We are talking about the vaccine that is going to come out as long as there is a shortage. People within these critical age groups need, I believe it is, the first two shots, because I believe the booster shot doesn't come along until 7 months later.

Now we are talking about that time. If the States want to handle it entirely, let us say, through a medical association, it would sound to me all right. But the State will have the responsibility that the amount allocated to it under this formula is used properly to serve the interests of that State.

Q. Martin Agronsky, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, I don't want to get you into an area, sir, in which you may not be expert. But I would like to go into some of the medical points that you made.

You said that if this injection were given, and the person who got it had latent poliomyelitis germs, that there was a possibility, according to the doctors, that they might develop a case of poliomyelitis.

Now, under those circumstances, sir, considering the experiences out in California, out West, is it still considered wise by the doctors to go ahead on a national scale?

THE PRESIDENT. You mean now?

Q. Mr. Agronsky: Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. In a general case, yes.

Now, they are checking up on a number of things. For example, in the time of highest incidence, when apparently these germs are everywhere, each of us may have some of them. It may be that they will decide there is a certain period of this year when they shouldn't give this at all. Remember this: never has there been such a rush job as this done, and scientists are watching it day and night.

I think I can comment no further on the strictly medical possibilities. But they are going ahead with the distribution under the present system.

Q. Mr. Agronsky: They consider it safe and wise still to do it

THE PRESIDENT. That is right. Under those amounts and, I think there is one company that has not yet been cleared.

Q. Frank van der Linden, Nashville Banner: Mr. President, just to change the subject a little bit, the Governors of Tennessee and Kentucky spoke for about an hour yesterday with your general counsel and with Labor Secretary Mitchell, asking for some help to settle these telephone and railroad strikes. I wonder what the administration is doing to settle those two strikes?

THE PRESIDENT. Of course, we have set up a Mediation and Conciliation Service for settling of strikes. The law does not intend that the executive department, as such, intervene except only in the case where national emergencies occur.

Now, from the beginning of this strike I have been kept in almost daily touch with the Secretary of Agriculture [Labor]. He has kept in touch with the Mediation Service, and in some cases with the principals.

I understand that these parties in this strike have come very, very close together, and the prospects for settlement are bright indeed. And I know these two Governors talked yesterday with the Secretary; I had a report on it this morning.

I am told I said "Secretary of Agriculture." I meant Secretary of Labor, I am sorry.

Q. Robert W. Richards, The Copley Press: The Governors of Illinois and Wisconsin said that an overwhelming majority of the Governors attending the conference in the last 2 days favor your highway program over the Gore bill. Can you comment on that, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. As you will recall, last year I couldn't attend the Governors' Conference up in New York. Vice President Nixon delivered my message, in which I asked the Governors' Conference to establish a transportation road committee and to work with the committee I would set up, and we would devise a program.

Now, the program that that committee of Governors set up for building the highways of this country is almost identical with the plan brought up by the Clay committee. And so it is what I stand behind. So far as I know, there never has been any rescission of the Governors' action, of their approval at that time.

Q. Nat S. Finney, Buffalo News: Mr. President, some new agricultural legislation is pending on the Hill, and I wonder if you could refresh us as to your views on that farm problem generally, and the legislation.

THE PRESIDENT. I am delighted to do so. [Laughter]

Last year we finally had passed a farm bill. It is good legislation. But it has not yet had an opportunity to be in effect. It will not go into effect until the crops of the 1955 year begin to come to market. So all of the farm squeeze which has taken place, and it has taken place, has been under the old law, the 90-percent rigid parity price supports.

Now, the law that we have is designed to bring production and consumption as nearly into line as we possibly can.

It was passed with bipartisan support. And right now Senator Eastland, I noticed--I think it was yesterday or the day before-made a talk in which he said one of the contributory causes, the difficulties, in the cotton industry is the old price law, 90 percent rigid. Senator Ellender so much feels this way that he says he is not even going to hold hearings in the Senate on this new proposal.

This plan that was devised last year should have its full opportunity to work and see whether we can't bring about a better prosperity in the farm area that will really be permanent and sound economically.

Q. Irene Albert, Clearwater Sun: Mr. President, I wanted to ask one more thing about the Salk vaccine.

In Florida we have a high polio incidence, and the parents there are much disturbed for fear there will not be sufficient polio vaccine to inoculate the children in the 5-to-9 age group.

THE PRESIDENT. I have been assured that even with this one company out, there is still enough to reach all the 5-to-9 group before August first.

Q. Miss Albert: Before the heavy polio season sets in for the summer?

THE PRESIDENT. That is right. Q. Miss Albert: Thank you, sir.

Q. Donald H. Shannon, Los Angeles Times: Secretary of the Air Force Talbott last week told reporters that you knew about his opposition to further expansion of the aircraft industry in southern California, and that you were all for it, were the words he used.

Mr. Talbott's policy has caused alarm in California and in Congress here, and it is on the ground that the aircraft industry is being singled out for dispersal, although no such policy is being applied to other industries. Would you comment on it, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, this is the first time I have heard this charge, because for the past 2 ½ years, I think, almost every time the subject of dispersal has come up, it has been dealt with on a generalized basis. Everybody that I know of in the administration, and particularly the head of the office of ODM who is principally concerned, is in favor of dispersal of industry of all kinds.

This is the first time I have heard that the Air Forces would be particularly singled out.

Q. Lloyd M. Schwartz, Fairchild Publications: Mr. President, there seems to be some confusion in the Senate Labor Committee as to whether you agree with Secretary of Labor Mitchell that the Fair Labor Standards Act ought to be extended to cover employees of interstate retail chains. I wonder whether you could say whether you share this opinion?

THE PRESIDENT. Of what law?

Q. Mr. Schwartz: It is the wage-hour law. He suggested that it cover interstate retail chain employees.

THE PRESIDENT. I am not going to try to answer that in the detail in which you have asked it, because I don't know that much about it.

I do believe, and I have been through study and through conferences with Secretary Mitchell, that there are areas to which a minimum wage should be extended, where the people are not covered now and they should be.

Now, I am not going to try to pin it down as you did.

Q. Garnett D. Homer, Washington Star: Mr. President, Senate and House conferees have agreed on a compromise postal pay raise bill which calls for an average raise of 8.8 percent. There have been predictions that you would veto such a bill. Can you tell us what your reaction is?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, there may have been predictions, but you remember I have never predicted it. In just a few days I will have to study that very carefully, and my answer will be apparent at that time.

Q. Charles S. von Fremd, CBS News: I hesitate to ask this question, sir, because it is a very personal one, and I hope it will not offend you, and that you realize I ask it only because of the nature of the position you hold in the world today.

It was brought up some weeks ago by the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who said he did not think you would seek reelection, and gave as one of the primary reasons the health of your wife. And over the weekend Dr. Snyder indicated that, unfortunately, Mrs. Eisenhower has not completely recovered from her recent illness. And I wonder, sir, at the risk of intruding into your private personal life, if you could comment on this to enlighten us a bit in this matter.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think it is a legitimate question. With respect to anybody else's comment about such things, I haven't a word to say.

With respect to Mrs. Eisenhower's health, I would say that her general health for the past 2 years has probably been better than normal, if we go back for a period of the last 10 years.

She did have a very serious virus infection a good many weeks ago, and it seemed impossible for her to throw it off.

She also has an allergy to some of these drugs that some of the rest of us can take without any great difficulty, and it has been a real problem for the doctors to bring her back to her accustomed state of health.

Now, that is the situation. She is, of course, not as robust and strong as some people, but she is a good healthy person, I think, in the general meaning of that word.

She has had--this spring--difficulty which, unfortunately, a number of my other friends have had, too.

Q. Alan S. Emory, Watertown Times: Sir, the Republican National Committee late last week put out a publication and a covering press release which said that corollary evidence showed that Governor Harriman of New York, who, at the time, was our Ambassador to Moscow, was the real architect of the Yalta agreement.

Does the information that has reached you through military, public, and private channels tend to substantiate that remark?

THE PRESIDENT. I never heard of that remark. Of course, I knew nothing about the Yalta agreements; it would be futile for me to attempt to comment.

I was never asked during the war to give my opinion on a single postwar prospect of a political character, never; so I know nothing at all about this matter.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, of course you know that many farmers, small farmers, are having a very hard time now because of their limiting cotton acreage allotments--

THE PRESIDENT. Yes.

Q. Mrs. McClendon:--and there is some concern been expressed by civic leaders and even ministers in some parts of Texas that these small farmers are being urged now by some subordinate officials of the Department of Agriculture to sell out to large landowners.

What do you think about Government officials urging hard-pressed small farmers to sell out to big dealers?

THE PRESIDENT. Well again, of course, I have never heard of such a thing. Frankly, I don't believe it. I don't believe that governmental officials--unless someone who thought they were on a friendly basis might say, "Well, you are not doing too well here, why don't you sell out?" And you might say that to me or I might say that to you--[laughter]--but I wouldn't--

Q. Mrs. McClendon: Sir, I wouldn't dare.

THE. PRESIDENT. I wouldn't necessarily assume that is the official position of your newspaper because you said it. [Laughter]

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, has there been any progress toward arranging any kind of negotiations with the Chinese Communists on a cease-fire since we talked to you last week?

THE PRESIDENT. No. As a matter of fact, as far as this country is concerned, we are sort of in a wait-and-see attitude.

There are, as you know, a number of countries that are interesting themselves in this, and conducting explorations. But there is really nothing new to report.

Q. Joseph R. Slevin, New York Journal of Commerce: Mr. President, with respect to the farm legislation, do you anticipate that the decline in farm prices and farm income will stop as the administration's flexible support program is allowed to become effective?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think it will eventually.

As I have insisted from the beginning, the farm program is like so many other things. You get into a great trend in this country-we piled up these billions of dollars' worth of surpluses--you can't cure that in a minute.

There are all sorts of laws and pieces of laws that will help to reduce these surpluses and get things back on a better balance between supply and demand. But as of now, you couldn't pass any law that just suddenly would turn this around.

Q. John M. Hightower, Associated Press: Have you considered, sir, setting up a United States military base on Formosa?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you know we have a MAAG and things of that kind there now. There are small elements of American forces there. But there has been no suggestion made that we would put in a big major base on Formosa.

Q. Robert J. Donovan, New York Herald Tribune: Sir, coming back to the Salk polio for a moment, under this system that you have outlined for distribution allocation to the States, how can you be sure, sir, that the polio in that system--that the vaccine will reach the schoolchildren as it is intended? And what will be done if it did not?

THE PRESIDENT. Of course, I am going to assume that States are responsive to the needs of their people. I am going to assume that they will follow the technical advice just exactly as this administration would.

If they are going to give it to others, I would think that the people of that State would make short shrift of that kind of a decision.

Now, as quickly as you say the Federal Government will pass a law, and that down in a certain State such and such a person will do so-and-so, or do such-and-such to another person, you get into constitutional questions of the gravest kind.

What we are assuming that this country does want is to eliminate polio as rapidly as possible among its children. And I think we have got a right to assume that.

Q. Laurence H. Burd, Chicago Tribune: Mr. President, have you had any additional communication with Marshal Zhukov since our last meeting?

THE PRESIDENT. No.

Q. Mr. Burd: Is there anything more you can tell us since our last meeting?

THE PRESIDENT. No, none.

Q. William H. Lawrence, New York Times: Mr. President, the military manpower reserve program is coming up in the House either today or tomorrow, and I was wondering, sir, whether events in the last few months have caused you to increase or lessen your own desire for such a program?

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Lawrence, I have been working for a proper reserve program for the United States certainly since 1929, and I am not going to stop now.

Now we are making progress at last. There seems to be a widening understanding of the need for this kind of thing. And it looks to me like the bill that is now coming out shows that we are really making progress. I applaud it.

Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, you have issued an order rather strictly restricting conditions under which congressional committees can get income tax returns. Can you tell us why this was done and whether it was to cover some specific situation?

THE PRESIDENT. No. It is a matter of the most delicate character. But the orders that I issued were completely coordinated with the chairmen of the committees that were affected by the order.1 And so far as I know, they are completely satisfied with them.

1 The White House indicated after the news conference was completed that the coordination had been effected specifically with Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, Senate Majority Leader, Senator Harry F. Byrd, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Representative Sam Rayburn, Speaker of the House, and Representative Jere Cooper, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Q. Donald J. Gonzales, United Press: Mr. President, has consideration been given to the placing of some additional ground forces, as such, on Formosa, even though we aren't going to put in a big base?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have thought of everything out there that might be needed. But to make it a permanent station for American ground forces, I have not had such a recommendation from anybody yet.

Q. Charles E. Shutt, Telenews: Mr. President, Western Germany is about to become a member of the free nations, sovereign nations, once again. Would you comment on that, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, it is something for which this Government has been working for a long, long time. We are delighted, and we hope that it goes forward smoothly and without a hitch.

Above all, we do hope that this development will bring about an elimination at long last of some of the principal causes of one of the most tragic things that has afflicted Europe for a long time; that is, that apparently implacable mutual hostility between the French and the Germans.

I believe that with removal of some of the causes for that friction, Europe will be on a new era of prosperity and security.

Q. Elie Abel, New York Times: We have been told time and again, sir, that in the event of an attack on the coastal islands of Quemoy and the Matsus, that you would make the decision about whether we resisted--the United States, that is.

Now, could you tell us, sir, could you discuss, rather, the criteria that could be applied to distinguish a local attack on those islands from one that appeared to be a preliminary to an attack on Formosa?

THE PRESIDENT. Really you are asking for a staff study. But if there were accumulated in that area, and the attack were started with, material that would seem to be far in excess in its types and kind of what was needed to take the islands, why, you would be justified, I think, in assuming it had a broader purpose.

Moreover, I should like to point out that in all of the statements made by the Red Chinese never have they talked about their purpose of capturing the offshore islands. They have said, "We are going to capture Formosa."

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, last week you startled some of us with your precision reference to 21 more months. Are we to infer, sir, that you have a calendar on the White House wall that you are checking off? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am aware of what month it is, at least; I am still aware of that. [Laughter]

Q. Samuel S. Wilson, Cincinnati Times-Star: Mr. President, my question concerns your nomination of John Hollister as your new foreign aid chief.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes.

Q. Mr. Wilson: Could you tell us whether you have had any assurances from Mr. Hollister that he favors the administration's foreign aid program?

THE PRESIDENT. Did I have what?

Q. Mr. Wilson: Did you have any assurances from Mr. Hollister that he favors the administration's foreign aid program?

THE PRESIDENT. No--that is personally, no.

Q. William M. Blair, New York Times: Mr. President, aside from the economics involved in the farm debate on the Hill at the present time, the supporters of the administration program are charging that this. is a political maneuver.

Do you agree that it is a political rather than an economic maneuver?

THE PRESIDENT. I think that you people probably know those individuals and some of that maneuvering as well as I do. I will let you make your own deductions.

Q. A. E. Salpeter, Haaretz (Tel Aviv): There have been reports that the administration this year intends to ask Congress for a global sum of military aid instead of undertaking in advance the specific sums to be allocated to each country.

Is this report correct? And if, yes, could you explain the reason for it?

THE PRESIDENT. The program itself will be before the Congress in--I thought it was before there now--soon, anyway, and that will explain it.

Never do you ask merely for a global sum. Of course you have to explain to Congress what you are doing it for.

Now, there has always been retained also in these programs a certain flexibility, left to the discretion of the President in order to meet emergencies. But, in general, the sums for each country are laid out in the bill.

Q. Francis M. Stephenson, New York Daily News: Mr. President, I would like to ask two questions. One is on your plans on dealing with the Hoover Commission reports and recommendations, and I also would like to ask the status of the transportation report.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes.

On the Hoover Commission report, it comes to our attention, you see, in segments. And as each segment comes up, why, it is studied and either something is done about it at the moment or it may be referred to Congress, because it has to go to Congress, as you know.

There is no set procedure where a special committee is set up to handle that. It affects the several departments, and they make their recommendations to me.

The transportation report is a brilliant piece of work in its analysis of our difficulties and in the purposes it announces that it wants to achieve.

It was seven, I believe, seven Cabinet officers before whom appeared the transportation experts of the United States.

The purpose, of course, is to make competitive influences more governing in our whole transportation system. It looks forward to that kind of a result.

The person to remember, of course, here, is the general consuming public. They are the people who use the transportation, both the personnel transportation and the freight.

There are details of that report1 that will be most argumentative, and will give rise to, I think, a very lot of discussion, probably heated discussion. And it should be so. But I think the basic principles are commendable; certainly I approve of them and the purposes they announce.

John L. Cutter, United Press: Thank you, Mr. President.

1 On April 18, the report prepared by the Presidential Advisory Committee on Transport Policy and Organization (15 pages, mimeographed) was released by the White House. The report includes recommendations on (1) a national transportation policy; (2) increased reliance on competitive forces in rate making; (3) the maintenance of a modernized and financially strong system of common carrier transportation. In addition the Committee made recommendations concerning the special problem of Government rates.

Members of the Advisory Committee included the Secretary of Commerce, Chairman; the Secretary of Defense, and the Director of the Office of Defense Mobilization. Ad hoc participating members were: the Secretary of the Treasury, the Postmaster General, the Secretary of Agriculture, and the Director of the Bureau of the Budget.

Note: President Eisenhower's sixty-seventh news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:58 to 11:32 o'clock on Wednesday morning, May 4, 1955. In attendance: 188.

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/234226

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