The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I have no announcements; we will go right to questions.
Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, some of your friends in the Senate don't quite share your feelings about a moratorium on discussing your plans for 1956.
Senator Flanders, in a Fourth of July speech in Illinois, said that you cannot refuse to run in 1956.
My question is, can you? [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. Well, for myself I don't believe that I can recall that I ever said what anyone else could or could not do; and I think that is a decision I have to reach for myself some time.
Q. Edward H. Sims, Columbia State: I have two questions, sir. Forty-nine Senators in the Senate have introduced a resolution which would direct the Tariff Commission to investigate recent textile cuts made at Geneva; and I believe you have been asked by one of those Senators, Senator Thurmond, if you would join in that agreement. I wonder if you would comment on that.
The textile industry claims these cuts allow foreign producers to sell some goods below costs that they could be made in this country.
THE PRESIDENT. NO, that has not been brought to me yet. [Chorus of "Mr. President"]
Q. Mr. Sims: The other question is--thank you, sir--in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals there is a vacancy, a judgeship vacancy, and I believe Judge Soper retired as of June 30.
By custom and tradition, these judgeships have been given to the States in that circuit, I believe, for some decades. This time it is South Carolina's turn if that custom is followed.
I wonder if you would say whether you intend to follow that custom.
THE PRESIDENT. That particular one hasn't been brought to me, but I will say this: in the past, we have tried in all the circuit court appointments to give the widespread representation that has been the custom in the past.
Now, whether or not the facts are as stated, whether they are governing in this case, I should say I am not sure, because it has not been discussed with me.
Q. Laurence H. Burd, Chicago Tribune: Mr. President, at the summit conference does this country plan to have a stenographic record kept of the talks of the chiefs of state? And, if so, would you expect that record to be made public at some time?
THE PRESIDENT. I can't answer it. I hadn't thought of it.
I would say that, for the most of these conferences, there would be stenographic reports on any official presentation by any individual. Now, if it did become just general roundtable discussion, there may not; but any formal presentation by any of the governments, I should think there would be a record kept. Now, I am guessing, and I would prefer you ask that of the Secretary of State.
Q. Charles E. Egan, New York Times: Mr. President, there is concern in some quarters that amendments and riders being added to bills up on Capitol Hill are undermining your foreign trade program as represented by the reciprocal trade. I wondered if you have any comments on that?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, any attempt, I think, to fix specific tariffs on specific items by legislation is bound to create a lot of confusion and create great difficulties both for the legislative and executive departments.
Now, as far as the general practice of putting riders or extraneous matter on substantive legislation, I think my views are well known.
I think every item that comes up for legislation should be handled on its own merits and not tied in with something that is irrelevant.
Q. Charles S. von Fremd, CBS News: Mr. President, many Democrats on Capitol Hill are now claiming that your decision to reopen or to restudy the Dixon-Yates matter is a political victory for their side, and claim that it represents a backing down on your part on this whole matter. Could you discuss that with us, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. I hadn't heard this particular point.
The first group that ever came to my office to urge upon me the building with Federal funds of a new steam plant in the TVA were very insistent that this be done. It was the only way they could get a plant; and they said, "The city of Memphis is going to be without power in that whole region."
I recommended to them that the city of Memphis build its plant just like New York City or Abilene, Kansas, would, if they had to have a plant. And they showed to me, or attempted to show to me, that this was impossible in their area because of the type of contract that TVA had made with all its customers. It is an exclusive sort of contract. If you take any power from TVA then you may not, under your contract, get any power anywhere else. That was the situation at that moment.
Actually, I am delighted that the city of Memphis or any other local community, when it comes to the simple building of a power station through steamplant methods, and with no flood control or navigation or other factors in it, do it themselves. I believe we should do it ourselves. So I am not really concerned as to who is claiming political victories. This is in accordance with the philosophy in which I believe.
Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: Mr. President, according to yesterday's report, the administration does not now include the minimum wage in its top measures for passage this year. Would you explain, sir, why this change in signals on the part of the administration?
THE PRESIDENT. No one has changed anything that I know of.
Q. Mr. Herling: Sir, they weren't listed in the first five top measures that were indicated as required or "must" bills by the administration.
THE PRESIDENT. There were two gentlemen that I had a conference with yesterday morning, and I understand they met with the press. They named a few bills and said "and others." Now, this bill was in the "and others," I assure you
Q. Mr. Herling: Sir, a related question. [The President confers with Mr. Hagerty.]
THE PRESIDENT. I am also told that they announced it specifically when they met the press at 9:30 this morning after the meeting of the legislative leaders.
Q. Mr. Herling: Sir, this is a related question. I was not at the 9:30 meeting.
THE PRESIDENT. Oh.
Q. Mr. Herling: May I ask, sir, in view of the fact that the dollar minimum wage seems to be riding the crest now in the Senate, with both Republican and Democratic support, and in view of the changed wage pattern situation, would you be willing, would you be amenable, to the idea of signing a dollar minimum wage if it came to you?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know. I never predicted, I think, that I would or would not sign a bill.
I believe, as of today, that the 90-cent program is the correct one gauged by the practices and the record of the past.
Now, if we make the assumption that the 75-cent minimum wage bill was passed, that that was approximately correct, then the 90 cent by all odds is now generous.
I have not yet had any economic advice that I should change my position. So, as of now, I would like to see that get a fair trial in the Congress, will they approve the 90-cent wage, and I won't predict what I will do with the other bills.
Q. William H. Lawrence, New York Times: Mr. President, returning to the Dixon-Yates question, which was raised a moment ago, have you had a report from Mr. Hughes as yet so that you could tell us whether you will or will not cancel that private agreement?
THE PRESIDENT. I had a report just a few minutes ago from Mr. Hughes. But the investigation by the Attorney General and by the Budget Bureau is still going on because there must be determined the complete feasibility of the city building its own power plant; otherwise, we might proceed quite a ways on that proposition, and find that it was an impossible thing due to some kind of legal or other limitations.
The TVA has reported to me that there will be no need for this power in TVA and, of course, in that event, if that is substantiated, then there would be no need for building this plant.
Q. Mr. Lawrence: Then you would cancel under such circumstances?
THE PRESIDENT. If all of these circumstances meet the standards that we have set up, yes.
Q. Mr. Lawrence: You spoke, sir, of the continuing investigation of the feasibility of the city of Memphis--
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, and that will be--
Q. Mr. Lawrence: Is that likely to take some time, a week or 10 days ?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I didn't ask them. But my impression of this was that it might be finished up in a couple of weeks.1
1A White House release of July 12 stated that the President invited Edgar Dixon, President of the Middle South Utilities Company and the Mississippi Valley Generating Company, to meet with him that morning. The release further stated that the President expressed his appreciation to Mr. Dixon and his associates for the fine spirit and cooperation demonstrated throughout the proceedings, and praised the good will with which the company officials accepted the Government decision to terminate the so-called Dixon-Yates contract--a decision predicated on Memphis' announced plan to build its own steam generating plant and meet its own power needs.
Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, I have some questions to ask here about the strike here, the streetcar and bus strike here. Has the strike here been brought to your attention officially? Is there any suggestion that it is interfering with the operation of the Government, and have you any plans to try and bring about a settlement?
THE PRESIDENT. AS you know, all of you, it is my belief that the Federal Government, as such--the Executive portion of the Federal Government--should stay out of industrial disputes as long as it is possible, and to violate that rule only when a national emergency of some kind is obviously occurring.
Now, I have got two or three remarks I would like to make. Of course, I have been kept in touch with this from the beginning. Any important strike is always discussed with me, certainly, daily.
One group that hasn't received any credit, and I think we all owe them a vote of thanks, is the police force of Washington. I have never seen any group move into an emergency, handle a strange situation, with such efficiency and unfailing good humor as they have. And I think that we owe them a vote of thanks.
Now, in respect to the quarrel itself, I believe this thoroughly, particularly in public utilities: both unions and operators have a very great responsibility to the public that they serve. That public is the source of their income, and they should think about 'them and their convenience..When the governmental workers cannot get to work except by starting an hour early to walk, or because of traffic jams can't get down here, of course it is interfering to that extent with public business.
I believe both sides really ought to stay in practically continuous negotiations seeking an honest answer that will be just to the public and to both sides.
Q. Charles E. Shutt, Telenews: Mr. President, Soviet Party boss Khrushchev made a couple of interesting remarks at our Embassy in Moscow on July 4th.
One was that he made a point of saying the Soviets were approaching the summit conference with considerable strength, and that if we dealt honestly with them, they thought something would come out of it.
The other remark he made was that if there ever was another war, he hoped that the Soviets and the Americans would be on the same side.
Would you comment on that, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, with the first one, so far as I know, there is no individual in this Government that has ever said that the Russians, the Soviets, are coming to any conference weak. Of course we recognize their great military strength in the world. So that would seemingly be just thrown in for some reason of his own.
So far as approaching it in good faith, we would go there with very hopeful attitudes, but that hope has got to have greater food on which to nourish itself before it can become anything like expectation.
But we are going there honestly to present our case in a conciliatory, in a friendly, attitude, and we don't intend to reject anything from mere prejudice or truculence or any other lesser motive of that kind.
Q. David P. Sentner, Hearst Newspapers: Mr. President, have you received any information as to the makeup of the Russian delegation to the Big Four conference?
THE PRESIDENT. I have received none whatsoever.
Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, in the Vimon Reserve bill, he increases the amount of people who can be in the Reserve, but the bill is based on the extension, of course, of the draft, and the present Reserve bills.
Several times it was mentioned there that you could increase the pool of trained people in the Reserve by merely cutting down on the time the draftees have to serve, and by increasing the take of draftees. I wonder if you have any plans to do that?
THE PRESIDENT. Not as of now, no. I am hoping for a bill somewhat on the lines of the one proposed.
Q. Anthony H. Leviero, New York Times: Mr. President, in "Operation Alert" you issued a test proclamation of martial law on a national scale.
I wonder if you would discuss the application of it and where the Governors and other civil authorities would fit into the picture.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Leviero, remember, this was an answer to a specific instance.
The problem I was confronted with when I left my office and which I hadn't known before--I refused to let them tell me the conditions under which this problem was to be operated, because I conceive the played (hypothetical) decisions should be made in the proper atmosphere of emergency--I was suddenly told that 53 of the major cities of the United States had either been destroyed or so badly damaged that the populations were fleeing; there were uncounted dead; there was great fallout over the country. Here there was, as I saw it, no recourse except to take charge instantly; because even Congress, dispersed from Washington because of a bomb, would take some hours to meet, to get together, to organize themselves.
It was a terrible situation, one which you would hope would be terminated very quickly as soon as you get Congress together.
Now, because of this unexpected development they handed me, I have asked the Attorney General to look through our entire record of precedents from the beginning of our Government to see what would be the thing that would do the least violence to our form of Government, which would protect the population, protect the national decision. Let's say that particular incident did at least have this benefit: to cause us to study more deeply and in a more analytical fashion our whole history to see what would be the best thing to do under such circumstances. 1
1 A 4-page statement was released by the White House on July 7 concerning a report made to the President on that date by the Director of the Office of Defense Mobilization on the Federal agency relocation activities, which were part of a nationwide civil defense test held June 15, 16, and 17.
The release included a statement concerning Director Flemming's report on the draft proclamation providing for limited martial law, which was prepared during the exercises for future study.
Q. Clark R. Mollenhoff, Des Moines Register and Tribune: Mr. President, there has been some little controversy that has arisen between Budget Director Hughes and Senator Kefauver relative to the questioning of five witnesses from the Budget Bureau in the Dixon-Yates controversy, and I wondered if you would care to discuss for us--
THE PRESIDENT. Five witnesses, you say?
Q. Mr. Mollenhoff: Five witnesses in the Dixon-Yates controversy relative to the part that Mr. Wenzell played in the Dixon-Yates case.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Wenzell was the only one I heard about.
Q. Mr. Mollenhoff: The thing I wanted to find out was where you thought--how much discretion Mr. Hughes had?
THE PRESIDENT. I think Mr. Wenzell is entitled to tell the investigating committee exactly what he did.
You will remember he was called in to investigate certain accounting and financing systems of power establishments and their tax situation. That was early in this administration, and he, I believe, submitted on that a fairly formal written report. I have no doubt he will show that written report to the committee if they want to see it, although it has no bearing on the thing they are now talking about.
Later he was--for a period, I believe, of 60 days in early '54 was it?
Mr. Hagerty: A little longer.
THE PRESIDENT. Sometime, early spring of '54, he was here as a technical adviser as they were trying to devise some form of contract that would befit the situation.
He, I have no doubt in all matters of fact, will testify freely before this investigating committee.
Q. Mr. Mollenhoff: Mr. President, I had in mind more the discretion that you felt your agency had had, not necessarily Mr. Wenzell, but with regard to other witnesses. There were five other witnesses in the Budget Bureau that the committee had asked to come down; and Mr. Hughes had informed the committee that they should not--
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Hughes has not talked to me, as I recall it. Now, maybe Mr. Hughes talked to me about it, and it slipped my mind. I have explained my attitude here time and again.
If anybody in an official position of this Government does anything which is an official act, and submits it either in the form of recommendation or anything else, that is properly a matter for investigation if Congress so chooses, provided the national security is not involved.
But when it comes to the conversations that take place between any responsible official and his advisers or exchange of little, mere little slips of this or that, expressing personal opinions on the most confidential basis, those are not subject to investigation by anybody; and if they are, will wreck the Government.
There is no business that could be run if there would be exposed every single thought that an adviser might have, because in the process of reaching an agreed position, there are many, many conflicting opinions to be brought together. And if any commander is going to get the free, unprejudiced opinions of his subordinates, he had better protect what they have to say to him on a confidential basis.
It is exactly, as I see it, like a lawyer and his client or any other confidential thing of that character.
Q. Joseph A. Dear, Capital Times: Mr. President, what is your opinion of the civil defense recommendations contained in the Report of the Commission on Intergovernmental Relations?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't recall what the item was.
Q. Mr. Dear: I mention specifically the recommendation that civil defense should be the primary responsibility of the National Government rather than the States.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will tell you this: the problem, of course, divides itself into many phases, those of (a) detecting the intentions of some foreign government; (b) detecting as quickly as possible any evidence of an impending attack against you.
Now, those two things are obviously more the business of the Federal Government than anybody else or, let's say, the exclusive business.
But, let's go to the other end now for a moment. How are you going to evacuate a city? It has got to be not only municipal responsibility, it has got to be personal responsibility. You can't in this country, by edict from the Federal Government, evacuate any city, because we don't move in that way.
This has got to be an informed and relatively trained citizenry doing this for themselves. So it has got to be a local responsibility and a very active participation by every individual and by every responsible official in the locality, before there can be any usefulness.
Now, this is true, whether it is a mere matter of evacuation or taking shelter or rescuing the wounded or protecting yourself against fallout or anything else that could happen, and it must be a very positive local participation and responsibility.
Q. Nat S. Finney, Buffalo News: Mr. President, there are two conferences at Geneva, and I don't believe you have expressed your feeling for some time about the Atoms for Peace meeting. And I wonder if you could give us your reflections as to the degree of importance you attach to that session.
THE PRESIDENT. I think it is very important. And I do think I told you how gratified I was that so many American scientists and American firms are participating in helping to make this demonstration of the United States very comprehensive, covering the whole field as far as we know it and as far as we are exploring it.
I think that it should be a very beneficial thing. As you know, we are actually erecting there one of these little swimming pool reactors.
Q. Mr. Finney: Sir, do you expect to see that during your visit? I understand that it will be ready to take a look at it.
THE PRESIDENT. I don't know whether I will get--you mean the reactor?
Q. Mr. Finney: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT. I don't know. But at Penn State I went to see an identical one because I was afraid I wouldn't get to see it any other time.
Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: I realize, sir, that this is a delicate matter coming just at this juncture before Geneva, but could you give us the benefit of your thoughts, your own personal thoughts, now on the subject of disarmament? For instance, do you feel that we, the American people, are going to have to move away somewhat from the concept of total drastic disarmament toward a sort of a standoff?
THE PRESIDENT. I wouldn't want to have anything I now say taken as authoritative, for the simple reason that the more one studies intensively this problem of disarmament, the more he finds himself in sort of a squirrel's cage. He is running around pretty rapidly, and at times he has a feeling that he is merely chasing himself.
Now, when we come down to it, every kind of scheme of, let us say, leveling off, as I understand your meaning--standby, where you are now--or actually reducing, everything comes back, as I see it, to acceptable methods of enforcement.
How do you enforce such things? This brings us instantly to the question of examinations, of inspections.
Now, one way to approach this problem is what would. we, in the United States, suppose we took a vote of this body today or we started as a committee of the whole to study it, what kind of inspection are we ready to accept? Are we ready to open up every one of our factories, every place where something might be going on that could be inimical to the interests of somebody else?
When you tackle that problem you really get into the heart of the difficulties involved, entirely aside from the political contention that there can be no easing of arguments until you ease the political tension.
But the other side will say, "But that political tension is never going to ease until you take away some of the threat of these armaments."
All of that is something, I believe, that could finally be resolved--
This question of inspection, what we will accept and what, therefore, we would expect others to accept, is a very serious one; consequently, there is just nothing today that I could say that is positive beyond this point.
We earnestly want to find some answer to this complicated question because, to my mind, it is perfectly stupid for the world to continue to put so much in these agencies and instrumentalities that cost us so much and, if we don't have this war, do us so little good.
Q. Edward J. Milne, Providence Journal-Bulletin: Mr. President, getting back to martial law for a moment, do you suppose that when it is available, when you receive it, that you could let us have the Attorney General's report on this historical analysis?
THE PRESIDENT. I think so, because it would be something, I think, all America could understand.
Now, in what form he is going to prepare his initial recommendations, I don't know; but I certainly think something could be done. This is one that should trouble us all, every one of us should think about it. It is not something merely that the Federal Government does and says: "We are right."
This is a national problem.
Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, is the question of control that you just mentioned in relation to disarmament the type of problem that you expect to discuss at the Big Four meeting?
THE PRESIDENT. No, not any more than this: we don't intend to discuss, you know, substantive problems. But this question might come up: where would we find the best group, the best channel, or the best method in which to place this problem?
That might come up, but we would not attempt to state there what kind of inspection we would be ready to accept or what kind the other side would be ready to accept. But we might say which is the best group that has a chance to come up with an answer that at least we can start studying.
Q. Mrs. May Craig, Maine Papers: Mr. President, the Republican leaders included school construction in your top priority list of measures you wanted. Would you oppose and consider as extraneous an anti-segregation amendment to that bill?
THE PRESIDENT. I would think it was extraneous, yes, for the simple reason that we need the schools. I think that the other ought to be handled on its own merits..
Besides, we do have this: there apparently is plenty of law, because the Supreme Court found it to be illegal, and they have issued, as I understand it, procedural orders that will have to be carried out in due course through the district courts.
Now, why do we go muddying the water? At the moment I do not quarrel with the right of Congress to pass laws on this thing; but I think they ought to do it on their own.
Q. Charles L. Bartlett, Chattanooga Times: Mr. President, on the basis of what you have been told about the role of Adolphe Wenzell in this Dixon-Yates contract, do you regard that role as proper?
THE PRESIDENT. Indeed, yes.
Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: On this disarmament question, sir, are you satisfied that it is possible, through unlimited inspection, to detect the manufacture of these weapons under modern circumstances?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, no. I think, Mr. Reston, that no one can say that through any type of inspection you could find items that have been already manufactured and concealed. Indeed, if there was peacetime work going ahead, as reactors working with even a lower grade, I think there would be no assurance that you could not convert them rapidly into war use; nor, possibly, could you be sure that they weren't actually producing a little bit of, you might say, extra, auxiliary, that was going into weapons.
But I do believe this: there are lots of ways in which this thing can be approached other than just that. For example, let us take the delivery schemes. We know that when you get to long-range bombing you need very large machines and very large fields from which they take off. Now, those can be detected, and there are other ways of approaching it.
We mustn't admit defeat merely because of that one fact to which you call attention.
Q. Mr. Reston: Mr. President, are the weapons themselves not getting considerably smaller so that the second point is not decisive either?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, you mean that they could be introduced into a country, other than by transport after the war starts?
I think there would be some danger of that. But, on the other hand, there is also danger to both sides because the instant one would be found, it would be practically a declaration of war against you, wouldn't it? And so there is a great risk there also.
Q. Martin Agronsky, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, on the second point you made of detection of long-range bombers and things like that, you responded that you thought, you were thinking about the introduction of atom weapons into another country
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
Q. Mr. Agronsky:--and, possibly, detecting that.
I think what we have in mind is the guided missile where you just need a launching platform.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, a guided missile, though, is not made in a very small factory, and when it is made I think its character can be determined instantly.
You see, the trouble in this other field is you don't know what this material is being made for and it could be hidden away in very small spaces.
But, I don't believe that you could take an extensive guided missile program and conceal it from any decent or effective system of inspection.
Q. Mr. Agronsky: Mr. President, would I be correct in understanding then from what you have said so far on this whole disarmament thing, and on inspection, what you come down to is the question of good faith, that you have to believe that you have arrived at a point where you can trust those because it is impossible to get adequate inspection and control?
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Agronsky, this is just as true as you are standing there. In the long run, the kind of peace for which we are seeking, the kind of peace that will allow people to be really tranquil and confident in their daily pursuits, that will be achieved only when nations have achieved that mutual trust of which you speak.
What we are up against now is an interim phase. We are trying to take a step toward that and to reduce burdens at the same time.
So I should say that, knowing that none of us has that trust in the opposite side, we must search diligently for some means to lessen this danger and proceed a little ways toward the creation of that trust which must, in the long run, be the foundation of any real peace.
Q. Kenneth M. Scheibel, Gannett Newspapers: Mr. President, in view of your desire for more legislation by the Congress, do you think Congress should give up its plans to adjourn within a few weeks?
THE PRESIDENT. NO. [Laughter] I just think that Congress, when it wants to, can do an awful lot in a very short time, and I am hopeful that they will do so.
Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: Mr. President, what ever happened to that air-conditioned press room that you were thinking about? [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. Well, you know, I must confess when I came in this morning I was shocked. I thought we had some kind of chilling arrangements in here, and I agree we are not handling this fairly.
I would be glad to ask you in my office if there were not so many of you; but I can't crowd you in there, and I have no place where I can do it.
Merriman Smith, United Press: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Eisenhower's seventy-third news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:30 a.m. to 12:02 p.m. on Wednesday, July 6, 1955. In attendance: 180.
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/233214