Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

February 17, 1954

THE PRESIDENT. My apologies for being a little early; I am trying to compress my schedule today. I hope, the Lord willing, in about an hour to be on my way to southern California--an area, by the way, which I have never seen, and none of my family. We are anxious to do. it.

As usual, of course, there is a small staff going along, I understand a lot of the newspaper people have already departed, and a lot of bills, reports, to read and sign.

There is one little item that I don't know whether it has been published, so I jotted it down: the Queen Mother is going to make a visit to America in November. She is going to participate, I believe, in an English Speaking Union ceremony in New York. She is going to participate in the Columbia Bicentennial because, you know--a little commercial for Columbia--their charter was originally granted by King George II. Then, she will come down to Washington, will spend from about November 4th to November 6th at the White House, and then, I believe, will be here in the city at the Embassy for a while longer.

The coffee investigation is proceeding. One reason I bring up the subject, I was asked by someone in my office whether I thought this investigation would have any effect on the relationships between the United States and our people, with South American countries and peoples. I see no possibility, myself, that it can affect them. The Brazilians, as you know, are as much upset by this coffee rise as the rest of us. What the investigation is about is to see whether there are any road blocks thrown between the source of supply in Brazil and South America and other countries, and the consumers, by speculation and other processes of that kind that account for part of this great price rise. That is what the investigation is about, not looking into the internal affairs of any other country.

There is a report due this afternoon, and I believe it will be available to all of you, from the Presidential emergency board with respect to the dispute between the Railway Express Agency and the Brotherhood of Railway Clerks. That report I haven't seen, but it is to be made available, isn't it?

Mr. Hagerty: Four o'clock.

THE PRESIDENT. Four o'clock.

I think that is about all I have in the way of little announcements of my own, so we will start the questions.

Q. Kenneth Scheibel, Gannett Newspapers: Mr. President, a number of the farm State Congressmen in both parties are complaining that the reduction in dairy prices was too severe and should have been done on a more gradual basis. They feel that the cutback will cause hardships in some areas and might stir up some resentment against the flexible program that you advocate. Is there any--would you tell us if there is any plan to reconsider that decision or are you going to. stick with it?

THE PRESIDENT. As you know, I never use the word "never," but, as of now, I have no thought that it should be reconsidered.

Each of these problems has to be considered on its own merits; you see, each year under this support program that has been under butter, each year there has been a new decision to be taken: "Will you again support at 90 percent or will you reduce?"

Now, last year all the conditions were there that called for reduction in accordance with the law as it exists. I, myself, with the Secretary of Agriculture, decided that in view of the fact this came right along after the election, somewhere about the first of March, as I recall, and that it was a problem that had only started a little while before in November, it was only fair to continue the 90 percent for another year and see what happened. We did warn them if this kind of thing continued, the 90 percent rigid price supports could not be maintained. All year long we have been working with dairy associations, leaders of dairy associations, who believe that they have devised for themselves a program which will eventually make them really independent of governmental support. It will require some governmental, I believe, insurance.

So the whole thing is not as sudden as it looked. This had been talked about for a year, looking ahead to the time when we must get butter back to some kind of price where it will be used.

Today we have butter moving directly from creameries to governmental storage. Well, we are trying to get butter back on the dinner table in some way or other, and we believe that is in the best interests, long-term interests, of the dairy people themselves, as well as other farmers, as well as the public. Now, that is the belief.

Q. Daniel Schorr, CBS Radio: Are you satisfied with the results of and the reaction to your remarks on extreme partisanship?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have no particular profound comment to make on that question.

I expressed to you people my views about extremism of any kind in this political world, and I didn't particularly offer advice to anyone. I said what I would do and what I thought was only the right and, let us say, the wisest thing to do in our daily political life in this country.

Q. Alan S. Emory, Watertown Times: Sir, I wonder if I could get back to butter for a second. I would like to ask two questions on the subject: first, did Mr. Benson inform you in advance specifically that he was going to lower the supports all the way to 75 percent of parity; and, second, do you see any conflict between the 15 percent drop on dairy products and your farm program proposal that there should be a gradual, probably 5 percent a year drop when the basic crops were changed to flexibility?

THE PRESIDENT. In the first question you are asking me for a test of perfect memory, and I am not sure. We talked over this problem many, many times during the year, and whether or not we agreed it was going to be from 90 to 15 [75] in one particular day, I am not certain. But I did know what the prospects were; therefore, it had certainly my tacit approval before it was ever even thought of.

With respect to the second, I explained that this particular matter in the agricultural field is not like the storable crops. After all, you freeze butter at zero temperatures, and in 18 months, I understand, it is going rancid and deteriorates.

I have also announced as one of my principles--and I think all of you will recall it--that I do not believe it is justified in this day and time to produce American products by the toil of our hands and the sweat of our brows, and then have them spoil. We have got to do something about it.

Now, if you can't do something with it right now, when you have got 270 million pounds of butter in your hands, you have got to make some move to get it moving into commercial lines and, possibly, to turn some of the dairy products themselves into other types of dairy products. So, since this has been going on for a year--it has been under discussion, and actually it was first proposed that we do this in March 1953--there has been, as I say, at least long notice, even though the actual move itself did go from 90 to the lower extreme.

Q. Nat S. Finney, Buffalo Evening News: You sent over your message on the amendments to the Atomic Energy Act today. I wonder if you had any comment as to how urgent you consider that the Congress act on those at this session?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, when you go to talking about degrees and such things, I think it is difficult to give an exact answer.

I will recall to your minds, I think, something that I have talked about before. I was, after all, Commander in Chief; and I suffered, very seriously suffered, under an inability to talk to allies about weapons and kinds of tactics that would be applicable if ever another war broke out, because of the secrecy imposed by this act. So I have always believed, not just this minute but for years backward, that there should be certain reasonable modifications made. So I would say I would like to see them get at it, put it that way.

Q. L. G. Laycook, Nashville Tennessean: Mr. President, several members of Congress contend that the TVA will be crippled because the administration included no requests for funds for new power generating facilities in the budget. Would you care to comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I haven't a great deal to say about it that I haven't said before. You will remember this question was up last year and we went through it. There was a struggle between $90 million and $9 million.

I know of no reason why the city of Memphis, if it wanted to, couldn't do something about this matter itself.

But what does disturb me is this: a whole great region of our country saying that it is completely dependent upon the Federal Government and can't move in improving its lot, except with Federal Government intervention.

Now, much as I believe in the partnership between Federal Government, local government, and State government in developing the resources of our country, making them, available to all the people at the lowest possible price, I still think that when we relieve local communities, local populations, of all responsibility, all of the participation in the costs of these things, we are running a very dangerous course.

Now, what we are doing with this one is taking a good long survey and a good long look at it. I don't know what the final answer will be, but we are not going, as I say, we are not going to destroy the TVA; that, you can be sure of.

Q. Mr. Laycook: One more question, sir. Have you appointed a commission to make this study that you just spoke of?

THE PRESIDENT. I have not appointed a Presidential commission, no. There have been surveys going on through the Bureau of the Budget.

Q. Richard Harkness, National Broadcasting Company: There were two economic developments yesterday, Mr. President. The Department of Commerce issued its new style census count of unemployment, which showed the figure was rising sharply from the previous estimate; and then an economist of the Federal Reserve Board, Mr. Winfield Riefler, said that already the economic dip was sharper than you had anticipated in your economic message to Congress. Would you comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, in the first place, the new figures for the Department of Commerce--and I suppose you studied them to see what the difference is--don't necessarily show a sudden rise. They would show a sudden rise possibly if you had this same figure based on this same basis of sample-taking for the last several months. But this is the first one, and we don't know whether the difference comes about through difference in sampling or whether there is actually a sharper rise in January than we had anticipated. I personally think there is a little of both.

I didn't see this other remark that you speak of with the Federal Reserve Board.

Q. Mr. Harkness: That was the testimony before the Joint Economic Committee.

THE PRESIDENT. I would say this: for the last several weeks all of us have been alert to this day by day, trying to make certain that there is no move neglected on the part of the Government that could be helpful, to make sure that we don't have any real recession. And I will tell you this: so far as using the powers of the Government are concerned, why, we are using them gradually. Now, if this thing would develop so that it looks like we are going into anything major, I wouldn't hesitate one second to use every single thing that this Government can bring to bear to stop any such catastrophe in this country.

I have said that often, and I say it again; but you also don't want to throw the Government wildly out into all sorts of actions, lashing around everywhere, until you know what you are doing. It is a very dangerous move, I should say.

Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: Mr. President, there are current reports that you favor a larger grant of power to States in the handling of labor relations, and I wonder whether they are correct reports.

THE PRESIDENT. I have made no commitment, no talk of any kind, except what you have already seen in the amendments I sent, to the TaftHartley bill, to Congress.

Q. Mr. Herling: Well, some pro-Eisenhower union men are asking the question whether or not you would favor such an extension of power to States in labor relations, even if it meant the States would enact legislation that would lead to what has been described as union-busting legislation.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have never believed in union-busting. You are propounding here a hypothetical question which I have never talked about, and I would be foolish to try any shooting-from-the-hip answer to that one, I will tell you.

Q. Robert L. Riggs, Louisville Courier-Journal: Sir, on your TVA answer, did I get the correct impression that you were advocating the city of Memphis building a steam-generating plant?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I didn't advocate anything; but, I said, what would stop them if they wanted to?

What I did say is this: I am fearful when I see any great section of the United States saying that they cannot do a single thing in industrial expansion or any other kind of expansion unless the Federal Government moves in and does it for them; that is just what frightens me.

Q. Mr. Riggs: Your point was the city could build it if they wished?

THE PRESIDENT. I think so; I don't know any reason why they shouldn't. Someone tells me that there is an element in the contract down there that sort of estops the kind of action which would take place wherever you had free enterprise or greater freedom. I am not quite sure what that item is, but I was told that just in the last few days.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Mr. President, this unilateral Mexican labor program is being blocked in the House Rules Committee. Is that being done at your request, pending the outcome of the resumption of these negotiations in Mexico City on the bilateral labor program?

THE PRESIDENT. I assure you I didn't know it was blocked in the Rules Committee; I didn't know anything about it.

Q. David P. Senther, Hearst Newspapers: Mr. President, would you care to comment upon any expected results from the Big Four Conference or any lessons from it?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I suppose lessons are of all kinds, positive and negative, and so on.

I don't think there is any comment to make. The Secretary of State is coming back soon. He is going to report immediately to bipartisan groups in both Senate and House, and to the appropriate committees in each case. He will report to me early next week, as soon as I come back; and I will possibly then, at whatever press conference follows that, have something to say about his evaluation.

I have had nightly reports from the Secretary, and I think I am fairly well acquainted with his thinking; but it is only fair, I think, both to him and to me, before I comment publicly to wait and have a chat with him.

Q. Joseph R. Slevin, New York Journal of Commerce: Mr. President, do you think the economic downturn has reached a point where consumers should get larger tax concessions than your program called for?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I can't give you an affirmative answer to that one at this moment.

As you know, the Economic Report states that that is a measure to bring in very quickly when you see this thing spread very definitely.

I should think that March ought to be sort of the key month. March is a month when, I am told, employment begins normally to pick up and you have a definite upturn in the curve. Now, if that isn't true, I should say then we would have a very definite warning that would call for the institution of a number of measures; possibly this tax reduction would be one of the first considered, although I can't say for certain.

Q. Jack L. Bell, Associated Press: Mr. President, Senator Carlson said earlier today that there would be a statement issued on the 2200. He didn't make it clear exactly where the statement would be issued. If there is such a statement, would you care to comment on it now in advance of issuance, and tell us something about it?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, no. [To Mr. Hagerty] Didn't you tell me that the Civil Service Commission, I think, is going to have a preliminary statement on this thing sometime--today, is it?

Mr. Hagerty: Yes, 4:00 o'clock.

THE PRESIDENT. Four o'clock. But I think that their final answer that they will put out will take a little bit of time to compile, but they are going to have a statement to make on it sometime this afternoon.

Q. Andrew F. Tully, Scripps-Howard: Mr. President, what has become of your plan for an international atomic energy pool?

THE PRESIDENT. As a matter of fact, it is not dead, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see some further negotiation in a group jointly set up to do some private talking on it. I don't know yet what is going to happen, but it is still alive.

Q. Mr. Tully: Did Mr. Dulles and Zaroubin get anywhere in their discussions?

THE PRESIDENT. I think I have said enough on that; thank you very much.

Q. Louis Lautier, National Negro Press Association: Is there any way to distinguish between aid to the anti-Communist forces in Indochina and support of colonialism?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course. You have asked the very question that is the crux of this whole thing at this moment. There is no colonialism in this battle at all.

France has announced several times, and most emphatically last July, that they are fighting to give the three associated states their freedom, their liberty; and I believe it has been agreed they would live inside the French Union, but as free and independent states.

Now, as I see it, the Vietnamese are fighting for their own independence, and I have no trouble at all making the distinction that you speak of.

We are not trying to help anybody support and maintain colonialism.

Q. Henry Pierre, Le Monde (Paris): Mr. President, there have been some reports that General O'Daniel will be sent back to Indochina with increased responsibilities. Does it imply, in your opinion, some criticism about the way the Vietnamese troops have been trained up to now?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I think, first of all, to get a real answer to your question why there should be a change in the head of that mission out there--Trapnell, I believe, is there now--I believe you better go. to the Defense Department; but it merely means there would be a man to relieve Trapnell in Indochina.

Q. Helene C. Monberg, Colorado Newspapers: Mr. President, there is a report on the Hill that you would like your good friend Governor Thornton to run for the Senate; is that true?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have refused on several occasions to comment on the specific internal and local affairs of any State, particularly their political affairs.

Now, as to a State where I hope to go and spend a pleasant summer, I know I am not going to say anything about it. [Laughter]

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Maine Newspapers: Mr. President, Senator Bridges and Senator Symington are going to Italy to investigate the report that Communists are infiltrating into aircraft plants there, and they will also investigate similar reports. Do you think that it is appropriate to impart atomic information and weapons to allies who may be temporarily in a political turmoil?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mrs. Craig, there are as many kinds of atomic energy information as there are different types of people in this room. We are not talking about giving anybody information that will help an enemy.

Now, that is the only thing I can say to that.

(Speaker unidentified): Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Eisenhower's twenty-eighth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 1:58 to 2:20 o'clock on Wednesday afternoon, February 17, 1954. In attendance: 178.

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/233521

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