Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

April 29, 1954

THE PRESIDENT. Ladies and gentlemen, I have no announcements this morning; we will go right to questions.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, I wonder if you could tell us what are the prospects of our getting involved in Indochina, involved in the sense of use of combat strength there?

THE PRESIDENT. I have expressed myself, I think, rather emphatically on this point several times.

I remember in a press conference, say, of a month ago or more, a question was asked; I said we would not get into a war except through the constitutional process which, of course, involves the declaration of war by Congress.

Now, as to what we have been doing in Indochina: as you know, within the terms of the Mutual Assistance Pact, we provided technical assistance, we provided money, we provided equipment. That is as far as that bill authorized the Executive to go, and that is as far as we have gone.

Now, as to speculating on the future, I wouldn't want to do that too much this morning, Mr. Smith, for the simple reason that we now have a conference called for the ostensible purpose of trying to find compositions for all the Asian troubles; and it would be, I think, inappropriate for me to speculate as to what might happen in the distant future.

Q. Joseph Harsch, Christian Science Monitor: Mr. President, in a recent speech you referred to the desirability of a modus vivendi in Indochina. Could you give us anything further on your thoughts, what is in your mind, by a modus vivendi?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, only this: you are steering a course between two extremes, one of which, I would say, would be unattainable, and the other unacceptable.

It wouldn't be acceptable, I should think, to see the whole anti-communistic defense of that area crumble and disappear. On the other hand, you certainly cannot hope at the present state of our relations in the world for a completely satisfactory answer with the Communists. The most you can work out is a practical way of getting along.

Now, whether or not even that is possible, I don't know; but when you come down to it, that is what we have been doing in Europe--the whole situation from Berlin all the way through Germany is really on a practical basis of getting along one with the other, no more.

Now, I think that for the moment, if you could get that, that would be the most you could ask.

Q. Edward Michelson, Boston Herald and Traveler: I have a question about our air defense.

THE PRESIDENT. About what?

Q. Mr. Michelson: Air defense, continental defense. Senator Saltonstall has said on two occasions now that he believes that our defenses are adequate in terms of the present threat. He has said so since talking with Admiral Strauss and Admiral Radford, and I wondered whether his views as to the adequacy of our defenses reflects your point of view on that score.

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't seen Senator Saltonstall's specific statements, but he well knows, as do all of us here, that a defense is not something that is static. Never is a defense completely adequate. There are improvements going on always.

I am only guessing at an interpretation of a statement I did not read, but I would say that he believes that we are on a program that will bring about the kind of results that he believes necessary. To that extent I can say that I can agree that we are on a program that brings about that state that, you know, I think we have referred to as "respectable posture" in this respect.

Q. Anthony Leviero, New York Times: Mr. President, yesterday a rider was introduced into the House, a rider to the appropriations bill, which would restrict the President's authority to send troops to Indochina or anywhere else in the world without the prior approval of the Congress. I wonder how that squared with your view of the President's constitutional powers to act in an emergency?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am not going to talk about constitutional interpretations because it scarcely needs to be said I am not a lawyer. But I do believe this: first, an appropriation bill is not the place to legislate--legislation should be studied in committees, and worked out and adopted thoughtfully; secondly, I believe in this day and time, when you put that kind of artificial restriction upon the Executive, you cannot fail to damage his flexibility in trying to sustain the interests of the United States wherever necessary.

Q. Harry Dent, Columbia (S.C.) State and Record: Mr. President, Mr. Benson has suggested that you would veto any farm bill that would extend even for I year the present 90 percent support levels. Would you, sir, would you veto any bill passed by Congress to extend--

THE PRESIDENT. I have several times said that I never prophesy in advance what I am going to do about vetoing bills. I would have to take a look at the bill that came up and study it. I would study it with him, and of course his advice would be important advice to me.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, New England Papers: Mr. President, can you say whether it is true that the French have asked us for air intervention and that it was refused on British urging?

THE PRESIDENT. No British advice or counsel has entered whatsoever in any conversations between the British and ourselves as to what we should do in any specific instance, of the kind of help we should give to France. The matters have been discussed with them on the basis of the constitutional rights and authority of the Executive, and they have been discussed with the proper people in Congress constantly; but the British conversations have ,been on a much broader basis than any such thing as you bring up.

Q. Charles Lucey, Scripps-Howard: Could you tell us something about your visit with Senator Williams of Delaware, sir; specifically, did he go into anything that might lead to further inquiries into corruption?

THE PRESIDENT. I am not trying to duck, I am just trying to recall exactly what that conversation was.

As I recall, he brought up a certain instance. He and I have been talking about these instances ever since back in 1952 when I was a nominee and not President. I have very great respect for the quiet, effective way he digs into things in Government.

He pointed out certain areas that he thought certainly would bear investigation, and I promptly turned them over to the proper departments of Government. In fact, I asked him to go see those departments, which he did, and he reported to me they have had further conversations.

Q. Mr. Lucey: Would you care to name those departments?

THE PRESIDENT. I think I would wait a little while; I don't think it is necessary to say.

Q. Edward T. Foillard, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, Folliard, Washington Post [pause] and Times Herald. [Laughter] This bears on what Mrs. Craig was asking you: did the French Government ask our Government for air aid, that is to say, airplanes manned by American pilots to help out in Indochina, and did we turn down the request?

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Folliard, I would have no objection to answering that question at an appropriate time, but right now we have got a conference going on in Geneva, and our Secretary of State is there representing the interests of the United States. We are trying to get a solution, and I think it is a good time not to say too much about it. But if you will bring that question up after the Geneva conference is over, I would suspect that I can give you quite a little resume of the chronological events.

Q. Robert J. Donovan, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, May 1st is nearly on us, and the congressional season is getting along. Do you feel, sir, that the preoccupation of the country and, to some extent, of the Congress, with this Senate investigation is putting a serious roadblock in front of your program?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Donovan, while I try to cultivate patience, I don't believe that I am primarily a very patient man; so when I think that there is a course of action that looks like it is for the good of the United States, I am never quite satisfied until it is all done.

Now, I am assured by the congressional leaders that they are going to enact the program that I have placed before them; that at the present time the work of the committees and of the Congress is not being delayed. But I must say this: again, I cannot exaggerate or overstate the importance of getting a program that represents, as I see it, the best interests of this great country--get it on the books, and soon, so as to give confidence to ourselves, and to strengthen the stand that we have to take everywhere in the world. And I mean strengthen our own economic position, to know what we are trying to do in the field of foreign affairs, of trade, of our tax bills, our expenditure program, everything. All this is important, so that we stand as a united people; and when I say "united," I don't mean all of us agree as to details, I mean united behind such a broad program to take care of ourselves abroad.

Q. Sarah McClendon, Galveston News-Tribune: Mr. President, I believe you said you had under study the Texas City tin smelter's closing, and Senator Lyndon Johnson asked the Senate this week to adopt a resolution to keep that open for I more year in view of the situation in Indochina. He said if Indochina falls, the free world would be cut off from 65 percent of its tin from Indonesia. Have you made up your mind what you are going to do about that?

THE PRESIDENT. That particular resolution of which you speak, or amendment, whatever it was, I haven't seen. Now, a Congressman from Texas visited me yesterday, and he said he thought that the program involving that smelter was "on the rails," I believe was the word he used.

Q. Mrs. McClendon: Did he say that a group of Bolivians were going to try to buy the plant?

THE PRESIDENT. He said something to that effect. But so far as we are concerned, you must remember this: American purchasing is based upon American estimates of its needs and stockpiles. Now, those estimates are subject to review. What was correct 5 years ago is not necessarily correct now, and there may be more purchasing and more need. But the fact is that there is law that governs what we may do in these lines, including running, let us say, of a smelter, merely to get tin to. put in the stockpile. So it is not just as easy as saying you will do it; you have to have a basis of need.

Q. Milton Friedman, Jewish ,Telegraphic Agency: Mr. President, three Republican Senators and six Republican Congressmen have put in a bill to revise the McCarran-Walter Immigration Act, and I wonder if you could tell us, in view of your previously expressed interest in such revision, what is your attitude toward a bill of this nature?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't read the bill, but, as you know, I have urged that there be a complete review of the original act in order that we may take out of it what appear to be palpable injustices and inequities-certainly to study all of them to see whether there is not something we may do. Secondly, the asking for the emergency legislation of last year was to provide an avenue by which refugees and others of Europe could come into the United States. As you know, the administration of that bill has been slow and difficult, and what I have been putting my attention on lately is trying to get the administration of that bill so straightened out that that can work effectively.

Q. Ernest Mickel, Dodge Newspapers: Mr. President, there has been some confusion recently over the forced resignation of Federal Housing Commissioner Hollyday. Could you give us the exact reasons why he was asked to resign, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. There is an investigation going on, not only at my direction or certainly approval, but in which I have directed every interested department in Government to cooperate. I have also directed that so far as any proper or appropriate committee of Congress is investigating this matter, they cooperate with such committee.

Now, until that answer is clearer than it is now, until these decisions have been reached, I wouldn't like to comment on any individual's part in it.

Q. Louis Lautier, National Negro Press Association: Mr. President, during the 1952 presidential campaign, at Atlantic City, you said in a speech that you would take up with the Governors of the several States the question of fair employment practices. Since the Governors met here this week, I was wondering whether anything had been done along that line?

THE PRESIDENT. I didn't address them this time except most informally; they came to dinner at the White House, and no specific thing came up.

Whether or not this subject was taken up at this session of the Governors, I do not know; but implicit in everything that I have ever said is the hope and the expectations that States will move on this in an enlightened and forward-looking way.

Q. Robert Clark, International News Service: Some Democrats have complained that they have not been adequately consulted on Indochina, and they don't know enough about the administration's policy on this and other matters that are being taken up at Geneva. Do you think there is any justification for such a complaint?

THE PRESIDENT. The question is whether there has been proper pursuance of the policy of bipartisanship in our foreign relations, especially with respect to Indochina.

I don't want to pass judgment on someone else's opinion as to whether or not they have been treated fairly, because in this question of bipartisanship does arise this one question all the time: I don't, nor does any representative of mine, go before, let's say, a full joint session of both parties in both houses of Congress, and explain the situation.

You do get in leaders who are presumably most intimately connected with the subject. Since the first of the year--I have looked up the record only recently--there have been numerous consultations of this kind. During this month alone with respect to Indochina--there are three meetings this month, in April alone. So I would say that so far as it is feasible and possible, we do everything we can to keep both parties informed of developments.

We go on the theory--and I think it is correct--that, after all, no difficulties abroad affect only one party here at home; they affect all the United States, and we are trying to get the composite view and a composite understanding of the problems.

[Mr. Hagerty conferred with the President]

Mr. Hagerty is afraid I left the inference, these three meetings in April, that I participated in them; they were by the Secretary of State.

Q. Marvin Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, the congressional elections are still some way off, but do you at this time see any one overriding issue in this year's campaign?

THE PRESIDENT. I am a great believer in policy and the execution of policy. I believe the issue is, are we going to have a record of accomplishment during these past 2 years of legislative and other types of programs that are good for the United States, or have we dillydallied by the way? I think if we have a good program, that's that; if we haven't, it will be something else again.

Q. Kenneth Scheibel, Gannett Newspapers: Mr. President, you told us some time ago that you did not feel the Communists-in-Government problem would be an issue this year. Have you had any reason to change your view on that?

THE PRESIDENT. No, for this reason: I explained one evening on the television talk, and then the Attorney General went on the air later, showing exactly what was going on and what we are doing.

I don't mean to minimize, and I haven't in anything I have ever said, the danger that the United States incurs when there are these people in Government or in other sensitive positions like in industrial plants that are of great importance to the United States security. But I do say that the Government and its proper sections are alert to the problem, are doing everything that is humanly possible to find them, unearth them, and get rid of them, if there are any there; I am not saying or intimating that there are individuals of this kind, I am talking straight to the point of the purpose of these investigations and these examinations. We are doing everything that is humanly possible.

Q. Francis Stephenson, New York Daily News: Mr. President, I think you have received a number of invitations this week to speak in some rather important States. I am wondering if you can tell us your plans in that regard?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't really, definitely, formed a detailed plan, as you know, for the rest of the year. I do like to go and visit; sometimes I pick up commitments that I have made as long as 2 or 3 years ago, and go and fulfill the commitments.

I expect to move around, to talk about the program that has been laid before the Legislature, what has been done about it, and what we must look toward in the future. I expect to talk about this Government, how it is getting along, its needs, its problems, and try to point out what I believe to be logical ways to approach the solution.

Now, I have told you time and again I do not intend to go out and, as a barnstormer, participate in a local election contest; that is not my business.

Q. Nat Finney, Buffalo Evening News: Mr. President, the Oppenheimer case has broken since we last had an opportunity to talk to you. I wonder whether you could throw for us any light on this question: was this matter taken up again, I believe it has been stated, at your direction or with your knowledge, as an application of the new security order routinely, or was there fresh information which, in effect, caused it to be brought up de novo?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would say this: here was a case that, because of its character, it seemed to me could be handled only in accordance with the processes that had been approved and laid down by scientists and others involved in this most delicate and most sensitive subject of scientific research in our Government.

For all scientists I have the greatest admiration, and I am certainly keenly aware of the obligations America owes them.

In this case, and because of the great sensitivity of the subject, because of evidence--put it this way: not evidence, allegations; I would like to correct myself very emphatically, allegations--it seemed that the only thing to do was to assemble the kind of investigating board that had been agreed upon in the past, and at its head I secured the services of a man that I consider to be one of the finest Americans I know.

Until, again, they have reached some conclusion, I am not going to comment further on it.

I must say this: I have known Dr. Oppenheimer and, like others, I have certainly admired and respected his very great professional and technical attainments; and this is something that is the kind of thing that must be gone through with what I believe is best not talked about too much until we know whatever answers there may be.

Q. Alice Dunnigan, Associated Negro Press: Mr. President, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing has been charged with defying the recommendations of the Civil Service FEPC Board by refusing to reappoint apprentice plate printers.

The Fair Employment Board was said to have agreed 6 months ago that the apprentice plate printers at the Bureau were victims of racial discrimination. These findings have allegedly been made known to Mr. Philip Young of the Civil Service Commission, but have never been released publicly. Do you plan to take any steps to have the FEPC Board's recommendations and decisions made public and to have the Bureau of Engraving and Printing fulfill its obligations under the Servicemen's Readjustment Act?

THE PRESIDENT. Have you gone to the proper departments of Government to ask that question? I mean, have you gone to the Bureau of Engraving, and have you gone to the Civil Service Commission and asked that question?

Q. Mrs. Dunnigan: I haven't asked that question, but I understood.

THE PRESIDENT. The reason being, I like to come here completely prepared as well as I can to answer the questions that come up; but when you ask me about the details of how some particular thing has been handled, I can't be expected, I think, to know too much about it. Now, I will ask Mr. Hagerty to look up this particular question and give you an answer in time, but I simply am not able to say anything about that.

Q. A. E. Salpeter, Haaretz, Tel Aviv: Mr. President, in view of the decision to grant military assistance to Iraq, has the administration considered similar assistance to Israel?

THE PRESIDENT. I have forgotten for the moment what is the state of our negotiations with Israel. I know that we have rendered them economic assistance.

We are not rendering anyone assistance to start a war or to indulge in conflict with others of our friends. When we give military assistance, that is for the common purpose of opposing communism. So if we do, and when we do, give military assistance to any region or any nation in that region, it is not for the purpose of assisting them in any local war of any kind.

Q. Edward Foillard, Washington Post and Times Herald: I would like to go back, sir, to what you said about modus vivendi. It is a question of interpretation. I may not have caught all you said, but I caught this much: that you want to get along on a practical basis, as we are now getting along in Europe. Since Germany is partitioned, and since you draw that analogy, is there a danger, sir, that people, some people, might think that our Government would be agreeable to a partition in Indochina?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I didn't mean, Mr. Foillard, to endorse, even by indirection, any specific means of getting along. I pointed out that a completely trustworthy peace, one in which we could have confidence as between ourselves and the Communist world today, seems to be something over the horizon. We work toward it; we have not achieved it, and I think we would be foolish to think we could do this quickly.

On the other hand, we also understand what the loss of this region would mean to us. There is fighting going on, and of course everybody would like to see fighting stopped. But I am merely talking about some solution that would be acceptable to us and would stop the bloodletting, and have a result of trying to improve that region in its economy and standards of living, and so on.

I have no particular method that I am thinking about at the moment.

Q. James Reston, New York Times: I wondered, sir, whether, in view of this situation in Indochina, you are considering any upward revision of your defense budget?

THE PRESIDENT. Not at this moment in any overall way. Now, there have been specific items suggested to me in which we might do something, but not in any overall or marked way.

Q. Frank van der Linden, Charlotte (N.C.) Observer: Mr. President, are you planning to go down to Charlotte on May 18th--you accepted an invitation this week. I wondered, in view of your statement regarding the congressional campaigns whether or not you plan to say a few kind words down there for Congressman Charles Jonas, Republican down there?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would say this: I certainly never intend to say anything bad about any friend of mine. [Laughter] But I should like to remark this: the invitation brought to me included Senator Hoey, and the Democratic Governor of North Carolina, so I don't believe you can put it entirely on Mr. Jonas.

Q. John Kenton, New York Journal of Commerce: I wonder if you have any comment, sir, on the statement by Representative Noah Mason of Illinois, quoting Mr. Leonard Hall as saying that he had engaged the services of Senator McCarthy to speak for 3 solid months during the campaign this fall in so-called doubtful Republican districts?

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Mason quoted who? Leonard Hall?

Q. Mr. Kenton: Leonard Hall; yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. I would say this: Leonard Hall hasn't said that to me.

Q. Anthony Leviero, New York Times: Mr. President, I wanted to return to the question of Dr. Oppenheimer again to get a bit of clarification. In the investigation of the allegations you mentioned, is it the aim, was it the aim, to keep the investigation within the security system of the executive branch and thus avoid a public hearing in Congress?

THE PRESIDENT. I am not trying to interfere with any proper execution of its duties by Congress; but, on the other hand, as I have said many, many times, the investigation of these things, allegations, any kind of incident of this sort, falls right squarely upon the shoulders of the Executive. And when it was brought to me I directed the action that has been taken.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, New England Papers: Mr. President, might I ask one technical question: you expressed disapproval of legislation on an appropriation bill. My understanding of the proposal is to restrict the expenditure of the funds in the defense appropriation, to provide that you may not send troops to Indochina without Congressional consent?

THE PRESIDENT. I took it that the questioner gave me the scope of the amendment; I have not read it myself, but I suppose that is what it meant.

Q. Mrs. Craig: There are resolutions relating to that, but the particular thing is a restriction on the expenditure of the money.

THE PRESIDENT. That would be, in my opinion, a poor place to make legislation; secondly, I just want to point this out, that I think the whole process is a wrong way to approach the cooperative work that must be done between the legislative branch and the executive branch in representing us properly abroad.

Q. Arthur Sylvester, Newark News: Mr. President, at the McCarthy hearing yesterday, Secretary Stevens was rather chided for letting the Army go so long under pressure by Mr. McCarthy in behalf of Private Schine, and he subsequently testified that his two bosses were Mr. Wilson and the President of the United States, and said he had taken it up with Mr. Wilson. I wondered if Mr. Wilson had taken this problem up with you during the 7 months?

THE PRESIDENT. You mean talking about this private?

Q. Mr. Sylvester: Yes, and pressure being put on for him.

THE PRESIDENT. I never heard of him. I never heard of him.

Q. Richard Wilson, Cowles Publications: Mr. President, as a former commanding general of the United States Army, what do you think of all the excitement at the Capitol over the privileges granted this private?

THE PRESIDENT. I trust that you ladies and gentlemen will excuse me for declining to talk at all about something that--the whole business-that I don't think is something to talk about very much. I just hope it is all concluded very quickly. That's all.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's thirty-fifth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 9:01 to 9:35 o'clock on Thursday morning, April 29, 1954. In attendance: 142.

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/233831

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