Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

January 13, 1954

THE PRESIDENT. Ladies and gentlemen, all this picture-taking session reminds me that this is our first meeting of the year, and so it gives me a chance to say to those that I have not seen before, "Happy New Year." I hope that each of you gets that salary raise that has been so long overdue.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: May we quote that, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. If anyone thinks that will have any influence with your publisher, you are at liberty to quote it.

I think, ladies and gentlemen, I have no particular statement of my own. It seems to me I have been making a lot of them lately, and so with your permission we will make this easier by going to questions.

Q. Mr. Smith: Mr. President, after your labor message to Congress, there was some confusion as to precisely what you meant in your recommendation about Government auspices controlling strike votes. Did you mean, sir, that a secret strike ballot should be taken prior to a strike or during a strike?

THE PRESIDENT. Actually, of course, what I was trying to establish was a principle. Nearly all of the suggestions I made for the amendment of the Taft-Hartley were in that tenor, that here is something that should be done. I carefully have avoided the exact details of how these things should be done, because we well know that is a province of the Congress and of its committees in their investigations.

My function, as I see it, is to lay down for their consideration the things that I believe to be principle, and that is exactly what I tried to do there.

So I would accept anything that looks the most practicable and feasible in the circumstances.

Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: Mr. President, in view of the sharp disagreement as to the meaning and intention of your recommendation among Republican leadership, not to mention labor leadership as well, would you insist, sir, on having this proposal a part of "must" labor legislation?

THE PRESIDENT. Ladies and gentlemen, within reason, I think we know and can identify those features of bills or of a legislative program that could be classed as "must." They are the things that have to be done. Now, there are certain things which I believe are for the good of the country. I have arrived at those conclusions after long study with all my associates, with people over the country, and I am going to fight for them where I think they are important.

I naturally cannot tell you in advance which I am going to consider the most important and the least important. I don't know how they will come up in Congress and how they will be handled. So I am not going to identify particular details as "must" and "not must" except as they apply to supply bills, legislative bills, security bills in their main outline, such things as that, or where laws expire and something has to be done. Those things must be handled, and they must be handled in a way that will allow the country to go ahead and function properly.

I am not going, though, to try to take each feature of the things I have said and am going to say--I am going to send down lots more messages to Congress--and in each feature of them say that is "must" or that is "not must." I don't think that is my function at least at this moment.

Q. David P. Sentner, Hearst Newspapers: Mr. President, could you say what percentage of your recommended proposals to Congress you would expect to be passed at this session?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't guess. Look: I want to make this very clear. I am not making recommendations to Congress just to pass the time away or to look good or for anything else. Everything I send to Congress I believe to be, and the mass of my associates believe to be, for the good of this country; therefore, I am going to work for their enactment. Make no mistake about that. That is exactly what I am here for and what I intend to do.

But for me to try to say what percentage of these things is absolutely necessary to the existence of this country for another year or until the next session, that is going too far for me.

Q. Nat S. Finney, Buffalo Evening News: Mr. President, I would like to ask a question about your current position on the Bricker amendment, and try to ask it so that it will not be confusing. Will you accept or agree to an amendment which would make it impossible to use the treaty-making power to impose conditions on the individual States which cannot be imposed by regular legislation?

THE PRESIDENT. I must say, you opened up a subject that really requires the space of a lecture to get at exactly what we mean. But I must call this to your attention. When you are talking about the rights of the individual States--and I suppose if you were going to class me as anything else, you would class me as a States' Righter--I would like each of you to ask yourself this question: why was the Constitution formed, and to replace the old Articles of Confederation?

If you will look up the history of the time, you will find that each one of the States under the Articles of Confederation had a right to repudiate a treaty. Because of this fact, the founding Fathers, who I still think were probably the wisest group of men that were ever brought together in this country, indeed possibly in the world, or such in this governmental field--that is what I am talking about--provided that a treaty properly ratified should take precedence over any State law, including that State's constitution.

That is so that the people, the individual, the representative of the United States--and that means your President and your Secretary of State, or both acting together--meeting a like representative from other nations, can represent one government, and can speak with that much authority. They are not trying the impossible task of representing 48 governments.

Now, there has been a very great deal of concern developing for fear that the treaty-making power may be used to contravene our Constitution. I think some of you, at least, may recall that last July, when Senator Knowland introduced a substitute amendment for the Bricker amendment, I issued a statement. In that statement I said there were certain things to which I would gladly agree, a statement which said that any treaty or any other executive or any kind of international agreement that contravened any article of our Constitution should be null and void, and I would agree to that.

Secondly, I would agree that the votes on these treaties, where they are passed by two-thirds vote in the Senate, should be by yeas and nays to record the purpose of that on the part of its advocates, and to record who was there and how many Senators actually approved.

Also, I stated that the Senate could, whenever it chose, include in its approval that anything in that treaty affecting the internal affairs of the United States could become effective only by an act of Congress.

And, ladies and gentlemen, let me point out one thing else. The power of Congress, by subsequent action, to nullify any article of a treaty has never been questioned. This fear, though, that our Constitution might be damaged has led me to agree to all those amendments. But when you come down to this, that we have to go right back to the general system that prevailed before our Constitution was adopted, then I certainly shall never agree.

Now, as all of you know, it takes a long time to get an amendment passed. This thing, with me, is completely objective. It is completely my concern and my belief of what is good for the future of the United States, not the present. It cannot affect these next 3 years, I am quite


Q. Milton Friedman, Jewish Telegraphic Agency: Mr. President, can you tell us whether you still favor revision of the McCarran-Walter Immigration Act, and whether there was anything significant in your omission of this item from your State of the Union Message?

THE PRESIDENT. No, there was no significance in its omission. As a matter of fact, there were many, many things omitted, and I think I stated that some of these things that were omitted would be the subject of later comment. It happens that this year, up until this time, the details of any studies made on the McCarran Act by the responsible departments have not been submitted to me. And therefore whether we are going to recommend immediate revision, I can't say for certain.

Q. Daniel Schorr, CBS--Radio: Mr. President, is there anything new on the question of channeling defense contracts to chronic unemployment areas?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, there is nothing new on it. There has been, I think, a certain misapprehension about it. You know, the proportion of holdback is normally small in any contract; and then the Secretary of Defense, or the Office of Defense Mobilization, I believe, can channel these contracts to other places only in the event that the lowest bid achieved under normal processes is equaled in that area. It is an attempt to help out in cases of unemployment with useful work rather than with work that wouldn't be so useful to the United States. But I believe that there has been an exaggerated idea that an entire contract would be shoved somewhere just because they had unemployment. There is no such intent.

Q. Mr. Schorr: Will there be any change in that policy as a result of some recent criticism?

THE PRESIDENT. I am not one of those that uses the word "never" very often. I thought when I approved the policy, it was a sound one. I have been proved wrong before in my life, so I am not going to say I can't be proved wrong. But I certainly think that the objective of that policy was good; it was reasonable and certainly was applied only in a limited way. But I am certainly always going to look at it if I see a legitimate case.

Q. John H. Kelso, Boston Post: In line with that same question, a group of New England Congressmen said yesterday that New England is now in a depression, not a recession, and they said that they still had hope, particularly a person from Lawrence, because you told them you would help them during the campaign. Have you any specific plans to help that area?

THE PRESIDENT. You mean, to help Lawrence?

Q. Mr. Kelso: And New England, yes.

THE PRESIDENT. I must say this: I would repeat what I have said often before. There are special problems; there can be no special privileges, as I see it, applying to areas or to class or to anything else. Now, whatever is feasible and possible in the way of credit or work for them or helping small business, which is the big thing that we have talked about there, anything that is feasible within the power of this Government will be done to help all the United States, not merely to help any special section. But if one special section needs these things more than another, then it naturally gets more help, like in the drought problem.

We go into the drought problem not merely because some farmers are suffering and cattle are dying, but because it is good for all the United States to get that thing straightened out and do the best we can with it. And that same approach will be made to any other section of the country.

Q. John L. Cutter, United Press: Mr. President, in discussing the Bricker amendment application, and so forth, you talked about looking to the future, and specified that it cannot affect anything within the next 3 years, I am sure. Does that indicate that you do not intend to remain in office after 3 years?

THE PRESIDENT. There is one thing that I am always advised by my political friends: that is one thing that I never should talk about; if I inadvertently mentioned it here because I was thinking in a specific term, I apologize. Maybe you had better delete the "3 years."

Q. Anthony H. Leviero, New York Times: Mr. President, your proposal to deprive conspirators against the Government of citizenship has aroused considerable interest. Is it your aim to redefine the line between disloyalty and good citizenship? Could you tell us that?

THE PRESIDENT. No, it wasn't that. Here is the point. As of now, there is a law that deprives a man of citizenship if he is convicted of an actual attempt to destroy this Government by force. I believe that if a man is convicted in the courts of deliberately conspiring to do that, he is just as guilty as the attempt. And therefore I am putting him in the same class as the man that attempts.

The Department of Justice has worked up a little list of things, what it means to a man when he loses his citizenship; and I am merely putting a conspirator in the same class as a man who actually attempts it.

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, will not that require additional legislation?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I think it will.

Q. Mr. Brandt: It will?

THE PRESIDENT. Now, don't let me--I think it will.

Q. Mr. Brandt: Can we get the list from the Department of Justice?

THE PRESIDENT. I think so.

Q. Paul R. Leach, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, adding conspiracy to the law of 1907, amended in 1940, I believe, is that all that is required ?

THE PRESIDENT. I would think so. Now, you are asking me a question you had better ask General Brownell. I think I am correct--we talked this over at length; but after all, you know, that kind of point wouldn't make the exact impression on me that it probably should if I were a lawyer. So I think you had better ask him, but that is my belief.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, on the Air Academy, the whole question of locating the Air Academy has been reopened, and all applicants have been asked to resubmit bids, after a Commission worked for years with the help of paid Government professional experts to find seven sites. Will you say what you think about reopening this?

THE PRESIDENT. I will say this: this is the first time I have heard of this. But I will say this also: here is a question in which, I think, I have exhibited admirable restraint. [Laughter]

You will recall when I came back from Europe in 1945, I believed in one thing: the Air Force ought to be organized separately. I believe, after we proved that West Point and Annapolis could not be sufficiently large enough, I believe the Air Forces ought to have an academy. I believed that. I was on a board to help decide that, after I had made up my own mind long before. I personally think I know exactly where it ought to be; I have kept my mouth shut, and I would never admit to anyone where I think it should be. So I say I will look into this; I had not heard of this reopening.

Q. Richard L. Strout, Christian Science Monitor: Mr. President, could you assist us in getting a press conference with Mr. Brownell? You just suggested that we should have one. Some of us have been trying to get one for some months now. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will tell you, everybody has his own method of operating. I don't know over in the Department of Justice whether it is proper and to the best interests of everybody to have periodic press conferences.

I would say that when there is a legitimate request made for information, the information would be forthcoming. How he should put it out is something else. That is for his decision, and if I can't trust Cabinet officers for that, I would have a pretty hard time.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, on the basis of Secretary Dulles' preliminary talks with Ambassador Zaroubin, are there any indications that Russia is acting in good faith interest in your atomic pool proposal?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't believe, Mr. Arrowsmith, that you could make a conclusion that would be that far-reaching. I would say this: it is encouraging that Mr. Dulles and the Ambassador have had talks in a friendly atmosphere, and that there is some attempt being made in that kind of atmosphere to find out exactly what each other means so as to pursue the subject. I don't believe you could say that there is any kind of proof of anything.

Q. Lloyd M. Schwartz, Fairchild Publications: Mr. President, I wonder if you could give us some of the reasoning behind your recommendation in your agriculture message for a direct payment system for the wool growers?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it is a long and involved story.

We produce quite a small proportion of our wool, and there is a provision in the law now that sets up a target of 360 million pounds a year as what we would like to produce domestically. You see, wool has always in the past, at least, been a very critical material in time of war, and you would like to have a reserve produced here.

Now, when we are making that small proportion though of our own requirements, meaning that small proportion from domestic sources of our own requirements, it seemed bad to put up a tariff which would be another bar, another obstruction, in international trade, and where we would have the whole United States paying this much money in order to reach this 360 million pounds target or anything under it.

So the idea was to take from the general revenues, because there is produced by this tariff some six times as much as would be involved in the payments made to the domestic producers. It seemed a good idea to do it that way in this one article.

Now, it was a long and inner struggle with me to come to this decision, but I did because I thought it was the best under the circumstances.

Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: Mr. President, in the State of the Union Message, I believe the figure of 2200 security risks was used, and I wondered if there is any breakdown available now on that since the 1456 figure?

THE PRESIDENT. No detailed report has yet been made to me, and it is perfectly understandable. The Civil Service Commission has a very hard job, and there have been more than one hundred and eighty some thousand people dropped, whose positions have not been filled; so this 2200 is not a great number.

The only thing that I can tell you about them is--and some of them, by the way, probably resigned without knowing of these derogatory remarks, or at least had not been notified by us of these derogatory remarks on their record. There were 2200 people against whom the Government intended to move because they believed them to be security risks, remarks already on their records showing that there was some doubt. Those 2200 have gone in one form or another.

Q. Hazel Markel, Mutual Broadcasting System: Mr. President, your predecessor has said within the last few days that it, in his opinion, was highly probable or possible, at least, that a woman might be President. I wonder, after a year in your office, which is conceded to be the hardest job in the world, if you think it is possible that a woman might handle those arduous duties?

THE PRESIDENT. You know, it makes a subject that we could have, I think, a very interesting conversation on; but it is possible that out of my deep respect for women's intelligence as well as my admiration for their many other qualities--[laughter]--that I might reach the conclusion that they had too much sense--[laughter]--to want the job.

I would know of no reason why a woman's brain and heart couldn't be used there as well as a man's; but I don't think she would like it.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post: Mr. President, Secretary Dulles said in his speech last night that the National Security Council and yourself had made a decision, a basic decision he called it, that in the future we would confront any possible aggression by what he called, and I quote, "a great capacity to retaliate instantly by means and at places of our own choosing." Could you elucidate on that somewhat for us, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I think no amplification of the statement is either necessary or wise. Let us put it this way: the more destructive that becomes, a bomb or any other article or missile that you can carry, the more value you place on the element of surprise in war. In other words, Pearl Harbor threw a defeat on us because of surprise. But if you could imagine multiplying the effect of Pearl Harbor, then you will see something of what the element of surprise has come to be. About your only defense is the knowledge that there is a strong retaliatory power.

He was merely stating what, to my mind, is a fundamental truth and really doesn't take much decision; it is just a fundamental truth.

Q. Anthony H. Leviero, New York Times: Have these new weapons caused any change in our concept of balanced forces?

THE PRESIDENT. You know, it is an odd thing: every time I read about balanced forces in the papers, there seems to be a connotation that this means 33 percent for one, 33 percent for the next, and so on, and this applies both to men and to money. Now, to the professional, balanced forces means something entirely different. It means forces that are adjusted to the needs of the time or the needs of the battle.

When we went into Normandy, and there are some of you here that went in with me, you will remember on the first few days we had a terrific preponderance of naval and air strength because it was difficult to get ground strength. But as time went on, the ground strength grew as compared to these other two; but at all times we felt we were balanced with respect to the job we had.

Now, when I say, therefore, "balanced," I think we are achieving every day a better balance. But it is not balance in the sense of one-third, one-third, one-third.

Q. Oscar E. Naumann, New York Journal of Commerce: Mr. President, yesterday the Assistant Secretary of Agriculture said the Department is considering a proposal to sell a large quantity of surplus butter and cottonseed oil to Russia. Are you in favor of selling our farm surpluses to Russia, if she wants to buy them?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you made a long jump from the statement that I had heard. I called up, just before I came over here, and they said there was no such statement ever made in the Department of Agriculture. So you are posing a question on something that I am sure there is some misunderstanding somewhere about.

This whole question of trading--East and West--in nonstrategic supplies is constantly under study, and it will be continued to be studied. I will give you my conclusions on it when I see the results of everybody's opinions and analysis.

Q. Clark R. Mollenhoff, Des Moines Register and Tribune: Mr. President, could you tell us what you had in mind in the way of control and protection of welfare funds for the unions, and what caused you to put that in the Message?

THE PRESIDENT. Here we have organisms, as I see it, that function under the auspices of the Federal Government.

Now, any kind of funds that achieve a public basis, to my mind they ought to be out on the table, spread for all to see, that is all. As a matter of fact, I was thinking of the welfare of the people who are supposed to be protected by those funds, that is all.

Q. Mr. Mollenhoff: Were you thinking in terms of State or Federal control on that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I always prefer State if it can be done that way.

Q. Alice F. Johnson, Seattle Times: Mr. President, a year ago in your State of the Union Message you recommended statehood eventually for Alaska, under certain circumstances. This year you didn't even mention Alaska. Does that mean that you are less favorably disposed toward granting statehood to Alaska?

THE PRESIDENT. It merely means that the circumstances that I would lay down as the complete justification for Alaskan statehood have not yet arrived.

Q. A. Robert Smith, Portland Oregonian: Mr. President, in your State of the Union address, you spoke of the need for the Federal Government continuing to build resource development projects, and you said in the next fiscal year work will be started on 23 projects. Could you be any more specific about location or type of projects, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. No, not at this moment.

We went over this whole map of the United States, but I can't tell you exactly what they are. There are some--there are one or two--in which everybody is very keen on; and I remember one that affects the Northwest. But there are international as well as other kinds of problems that have to be solved before you can go any further with them.

Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, do you have any reports of a Communist buildup of men or material in Korea, in violation of the truce terms?


Now, the first thing that comes to my mind is--some of the details of that truce agreement now, of course, slip my mind; but, of course, in general the evidence is they have reduced their ground forces, taking out some of them. They have done a very great deal of digging and producing strong defensive lines. They have done a very large amount, a surprisingly large amount, in economic rebuilding in North Korea, apparently treating the North Korean area almost like it was an economic adjunct or part of the land across the Yalu. But as far as actual buildup, I would say, aside from building of certain things that might have a military usefulness, there is no evidence of that kind.

Q. Kenneth M. Scheibel, Gannett Newspapers: Mr. President, if the Congress turns down the flexible farm price plan and extends the 90 percent of parity for another year or 2 years beginning in 1955, would you go along with that or would you veto a measure like that?

THE PRESIDENT. I never can veto anything in advance. I have to wait and take a look, because, let me point this out, there is no item veto possible in the Federal Government. Most States have what they call the item veto. The Federal Government, the President, does not have that right. Consequently, sometimes things are so designed that it is impossible to veto a bill merely because there is some provision of it that you believe to be in error.

Q. Lucian C. Warren, Buffalo Courier-Express: Mr. President, did you have a chance before you sent your labor message to consult with the legislative leaders in Congress, particularly the committee chairmen and subcommittee chairmen about your specific recommendations on labor?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't recall what was the latest conference we had with all these people since last January 20th. These people, every time this subject has come up, have recurrently been brought back in; both Mr. McConnell and Senator Smith, and so on, come back in.

We have talked about these things with numerous people on the Hill. But I can't say and I do not recall that the exact recommendations I sent down were finally put in front of them and read to them.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, some members of your own party in Congress are saying that your farm program is not politically feasible in this election year. Would you comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't think I am too smart politically, but I don't believe that anyone can study that problem as long as this administration has studied it, I don't believe you can call in people from every section of this country, go out to them and meet them, talk to them, what are their problems, and believe that this particular system we now have is workable, practicable, and will help farmers. I tell you, I am trying to help agriculture in the utter conviction that a prosperous stable agriculture is essential to this Nation.

Now, if it is not politically feasible, why, we will find out. I believe it is right.

Q. Clark R. Mollenhoff, Des Moines Register and Tribune: Mr. President, was the House Agricultural Committee talked to with respect to the specific agricultural program that you proposed ?

THE PRESIDENT. During the course of the year?

Q. Mr. Mollenhoff: No, the specific program as forwarded this week.

THE PRESIDENT [to Mr. Hagerty]. We had it last week when Mr. Hope was up?

Mr. Hagerty: Yes.

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know the exact details, but at the meetings of leaders, the general provisions of these bills were placed in front of them. That does not mean to commit them to any complete prior and detailed agreement, but they were all certainly shown to them.

Merriman Smith, United Press: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Eisenhower's twenty-fourth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:33 to 11:07 o'clock on Wednesday morning, January 13, 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/233801

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