Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

March 24, 1954

THE PRESIDENT. I have nothing of my own this morning, and we will go right to questions.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, the Republican leadership has said that Senator McCarthy should not participate in an investigation in which he is involved; yet the Senator insists on the right of cross-examination in an investigation of the dispute between his committee and the Army. What are your feelings, sir, in this matter?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have no feelings at all about a particular situation or technicality of which I know nothing.

I am perfectly ready to put myself on record flatly, as I have before, that in America, if a man is a party to a dispute, directly or indirectly, he does not sit in judgment on his own case, and I don't believe that any leadership can escape responsibility for carrying on that tradition and that practice.

Q. Richard Harkness, NBC Radio: May we quote you on that?

THE PRESIDENT. No. You have the regular--I don't mind. You can go and see Mr. Hagerty as usual on that particular point; but if every time I say something I am to be quoted, why, I will come over here with written answers.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, can we have Mr. Romagna [official reporter] read back the last part of your reply--some of us missed it--without asking for a direct quotation?

THE PRESIDENT. OK.

Q. S. Douglas Cater, Jr., The Reporter Magazine: Mr. President, last year you urged passage of the Refugee Relief Act, but to date only a handful of people have been admitted under that. Do you have any knowledge as to whether the difficulty lies in the legislation, or the administration, or where it does lie?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I haven't any late and detailed report on it. What I do have is a statement that they have had great difficulty in trying to streamline procedures in accordance with the prescriptions of the act itself, as passed, and to get the thing rolling.

It has been reported to me they are striving to do so. I would hope that this logjam loosens up very shortly. I will look it up again.

Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: I believe in your press conference of February 17th, in reply to a question on the economic situation, you referred to March as being sort of the key month as to action by the Government in regard to rising unemployment, and if unemployment continued to rise at that time then action other than has been pursued would be called for. Now, unemployment has risen, sir, and I wonder whether there is an administration policy that has been projected at this time?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't recall the exact words. I implied and indicated that March would normally be a rather significant month, that is, a month when normally, seasonally, there is an upturn. I don't believe I said that instantly there would ,be programs set, I said there would be a new examination of the problem and it would cause real concern.

It is difficult to talk about this question without taking a little bit more time than just a "yes" or "no," ladies and gentlemen.

Coming out of a war economy, going back into a peacetime economy, has traditionally caused, in every country, very, very marked fluctuations, sometimes marked by great inflation, lowered productivity, all that sort of thing.

What has been the task that has really been going on for quite a while, but especially since last July, has been trying to make this transition, with a cutback on all kinds of war production, ammunition and everything else being used in Korea, in such a way as to cause the least damage.

There has been, of course, a continuous rise in unemployment since that time. The figures for March are, of course, not all in, and they won't be in until sometime in early April.

A contributing cause here, they tell me, although I am not so sure of the effect of this one, is that Easter being late, the ladies have not been buying as rapidly as they normally do this time of year and all kinds of qualifying conditions enter into this thing.

The only thing that I am sure of, up to this moment--we study this every single day of our lives, there is a conference in my office on this subject every single day--there is nothing that has developed that would call for a slam-bang emergency program being applied at this moment. That doesn't mean that we are not watching everything.

Many things have been done. There is easier credit, there is cheaper money, there are things of that kind; there are housing and building programs before the Congress which should be helpful.

There is every kind of thing constantly under consideration that we can think of that would be helpful. But we just don't believe this is the time to move on an emergency basis; because if we do, we could easily distort the picture very badly.

Q. Daniel S. Schorr, Columbia Broadcasting System: Mr. President, are you satisfied with the progress of your legislative program through Congress?

THE PRESIDENT. I think there have been several times when we have discussed exactly what this word "satisfied" means.

I truly believe that the rounded program sent to Congress represents a crying need in the United States. I believe it will insure its progress; I believe it will insure an upturn in the economy; I believe it will insure greater prosperity and happiness for all of us; distribution of inescapable burdens and a stronger America, which is, after all, the ultimate goal.

Now, the longer we put that off, to my mind, the more we are failing to take advantage of our opportunities to do what we should.

Q. William P. Flythe, Jr., Hearst Newspapers: Would you care to say anything, sir, about the conference at Geneva with reference to Indochina and Communist China? That is a large order.

THE PRESIDENT. Of course, you are asking a question that we can take the rest of the time on. I would say only a very few things.

One, I don't believe that it is necessary to argue the importance of all this great southeast Asian area and the southwest Pacific, its importance to the United States and to the free world. Indonesia, our friends in Burma and Siam and Malaya, the Philippines, all in that region, it is of the most transcendent importance.

This fighting going on in Indochina, no matter how it started, has very manifestly become again one of the battlegrounds of people that want to live their own lives against this encroachment of Communist aggression; that is what it is.

With respect to Communist China, at this moment, in the forthcoming conference, I haven't much to say. I have expressed certain of the reasons why we took the attitude that we do toward Red China, and until those conditions have changed, there is no change in our attitude or our situation.

Q. Pat Monroe, Salt Lake City Deseret News: Mr. President, on December 8, before the U.N., in your Operation Candid Speech, you said that the free people of the world must be armed with the significant facts, that is, atomic facts, of today's existence, and yet a lot of us have found what has been called the uranium curtain of secrecy at the Atomic Energy Commission closing ever tighter.

My specific question concerns the possible resumption of press conferences there at the Atomic Energy Commission, if and when.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will tell you, I wouldn't give you a positive answer that that is a good thing to do.

I do believe this, that entering the atomic age, you people have legitimate questions--and all America and possibly the world--affecting this whole development. You have a right to ask them at places, specifically to me or the White House or other places, when information can be given without definitely jeopardizing the security of the United States.

I shall try, after Admiral Strauss comes back from the Pacific, to review this whole question with him again and determine, if we can, what is the scope or the limits of the things of which I can talk. I promised this last week, not realizing, I guess, at that moment that he was a long ways from my side. I want to put off any further discussion until he comes back.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Maine Newspapers: Mr. President, in relation to that, my question to you last week was aimed at clarifying your position on the emphasis to be put on bombers based in the United States rather than depend on overseas bases which might or might not be available to us in war.

THE PRESIDENT. Now, Mrs. Craig, you are talking about something that I won't talk about. I am not going to say what I consider, except I do consider myself a military man in that respect, and my lifetime was spent in it. I am not going to try to give an evaluation of the one kind of a base as against another at this moment. I don't think it would be wise at all.

Q. Ethel Payne, Defender Publications: Mr. President, since you have said that you are in favor of using Federal authority, where it is proper to do so, in the program of ending racial discrimination, will you urge the Congress to act favorably on S. 262, the bill to prohibit segregation in interstate travel?

THE PRESIDENT. I will take a look. I haven't heard of the bill; I will take a look, because I am not sure. I would have to consult the Attorney General and see what he says about our authority there.

Q. Joseph C. Harsch, Christian Science Monitor: Mr. President, would you give us a soldier's appreciation of the battle at Dien Bien Phu?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it is extremely difficult unless you are on the spot.

I have talked to a number of people. Frankly, the odds that are just given in numbers, the comparative odds, the attacker against the defender--if you had a well-chosen defensive position, I would say the odds were all in favor of the defender.

Now, I suppose most of you have looked at the map, and you know this position is in the valley astride a river; that it is not too long. With some 21 battalions, I believe it is, they are trying to defend a position that is completely dominated by the observation that the attackers have on the two ridges, the ridges on the side of the river. So that makes it anything but pleasant.

Some of you here were unquestionably at Anzio--that was after I left Italy, but I have gone back to that battleground--and there all the Allied Forces were in an almost impossible position.

They were lying on the plain, and the enemy had all of the observation positions to place all the artillery where they wanted to, and it is a terrible thing on morale.

So, I think one of the things, one of the intangibles, that you would have to be present to evaluate is what is the effect of this continuing situation where they are getting shot at all the time and don't believe they are shooting back effectually; what is that effect on morale?

Now, there is no need to tell you people that followed battles in the war, morale is everything. So long as a unit thinks it can win, it can win; but, of course, many things go into making it up.

I would say right now, as I see it, there is no reason for good troops to despair of coming out of the thing all right. Now, it is not an easy one.

By the way, I asked one specific question you might be interested in. I find there is a colonel commanding the unit, and he was put there because apparently he is a very brilliant commander. I said, "Well, if I were the commander in the field, and I had a colonel commanding that thing, he would have been a general the day before yesterday." [Laughter] In any event, there is apparently a very brilliant, fine, young soldier commanding the place, and doing a gallant job, and they did promise to put my remark on his record after it came out.

Q. Nat S. Finney, Buffalo Evening News: Mr. President, there has been a good deal of complaint about the statistics of unemployment, complaint about confusion in the two series. Do you have any plans to do anything about that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, they are doing something about it. They have a group that is checking every single new installment of statistics to try to figure out what these things mean, and are going to adopt the one that is the most accurate--I think that is the broader one. But to get adjustment between the two, it is going on right along.

I think it is unfortunate that the thing happened to be put into effect when we did have a rise, and when we are also rightfully concerned with rising unemployment and, therefore, it puts an element of confusion in the thing that wouldn't normally be there. But they are working as hard as they can to get it straightened out and to produce the honest facts, that I assure you. No one is trying to be clever about this, but to get the straightforward facts.

Q. Frank van der Linden, Nashville Banner: Mr. President, a week ago you had a conference here with Mr. Harry Carbaugh of Chattanooga, and he came out later and said you discussed the possibility of making him the Chairman of TVA. A statement came through Mr. Hagerty's office, said he could not serve the full time; and some of the Democrats in the Senate have said that that indicates maybe he won't get the job, that it is a face-saver, they say. I wonder if you have a comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT. Face-saver?

Q. Mr. van der Linden: Yes. They say that he was just being given a nice welcome treatment here, and that he will be brushed off--that is the Democrat view on it.

THE PRESIDENT. I think that they flatly said that I had no decision to announce because I had reached none, and that is the absolute truth.

Now, the other two items that you heard, so far as I know, are also the absolute truth.

Q. Donald R. Larrabee, New Bedford Standard-Times: Mr. President, there has been criticism in some quarters of the fact that this administration has retained a 1948 Presidential directive which denies loyalty and security data to congressional committees. I would like to ask you if you would care to comment on the charge that this has hampered the work of congressional committees, and should be revoked or revised?

THE PRESIDENT. You start off with a statement of which I am not presently informed.

There are certain types of files that will never be released by the executive departments. The FBI files are inviolate, and are going to remain so as long as I am here.

Now, if there are other kinds of files--they tell me they do forward certain summaries and factual information, as long as it is fact; I don't know exactly how it is done--it is a question you might look up and provide the answer for, Mr. Hagerty. I don't know enough about it to talk about it further.

Q. Paul Scott Rankine, Reuters-Australian Associated Press: Mr. President, there have been some expressions of concern overseas that your policy of instant retaliation against aggression, that it might not involve consultation between the United States and its allies, either in advance of or during the kind of emergency which you discussed with us last week. I wondered if you could clarify the situation?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I explained to you last week one type of emergency in which a commander in chief would have no recourse, and that was when you were directly under the kind of thing, in a glorified way, that happened at Pearl Harbor. But I believe that the Prime Minister answered one part of your question very accurately, yesterday, when he said we had all the arrangements for instant consultation that could possibly be made and, particularly, with respect to any use of the bases there. With other of our friends in the North Atlantic Alliance, particularly those we work very close with--Canada, for example--we are always in consultation.

Q. Charles J. Greene, Jr., New York Daily News: Returning, sir, to your first question about a man sitting in judgment upon himself, McCarthy is insisting as late as yesterday afternoon, that he no longer wishes to sit in judgment, that he has withdrawn from any voting on the committee, that all he wants and must have is the right to cross-examine the witnesses. Will you comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT. No. Many times, I told you, I don't know enough about the specific case to comment, even if I should. There are certain things that the leadership and the people down there cannot escape responsibility for, and I am not going to try to prejudice the case by commenting on details of which I know nothing. I state my principle on which I stand.

Q. Marvin Arrowsmith, Associated Press: We have been asked whether you care to comment on the Senate rejection yesterday of the resolution to unseat Senator Chavez. It was turned down, as you probably saw.

THE PRESIDENT. I have no comment whatsoever. I would say again you are talking about something that certainly is strictly the Senate's business.

Q. Sarah McClendon, Galveston News-Tribune: Sir, you have been asked, I believe, to keep the Texas City tin smelter open. That request was made by Senator Johnson and Congressman Thompson; and in view of the situation in Indochina, I wonder if you have made up your mind to reverse the budget and keep it open?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I haven't made up my mind about it. As a matter of fact, the question has been reopened for study, but I have not made up my mind to keep it open.

Q. George E. Herman, CBS Radio: Mr. Hagerty told us yesterday that you would not be commenting on the atomic energy test, but I wanted to ask you a question on the fringe, if you have no objection. Some anti-American newspapers in Japan and other countries in the Far East, have been seizing upon these cases of radioactive poisoning to make some very strong anti-American propaganda. I wonder if you would care to give us some statement of policy of the Government of its responsibility towards the rest of the world in these tests?

THE PRESIDENT. It is quite clear that this time something must have happened that we have never experienced before, and must have surprised and astonished the scientists. Very properly, the United States has to take precautions that never occurred to them before.

Now, in the meantime, I know nothing about the details of this case. It is one of the things that Admiral Strauss is looking up, but it has been reported to me that the reports were far more serious than the actual results justified.

Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: Mr. President, there have been stories in papers around the country by various Republican leaders expressing the hope that you will actively take part in the 1954 congressional campaign, and that you will be visiting their communities or making a speaking tour. Have you any thoughts on that?

THE PRESIDENT. I have expressed my thoughts before this body time and again, and I am sure that there is no one here that is really mistaken about what I mean and what I have said. If there is, you can bring the question up next week.

Q. Alan S. Emory, Watertown Daily Times: Mr. President, this week the House Rules Committee, after beginning action on the St. Lawrence Seaway project, decided to postpone until April first additional hearings and, possibly, a vote. This action was taken with the presence before the committee of both the leading proponents and opponents of the project from the House Public Works Committee, and the postponement has resulted in some charges of stalling even by your own backers who consider this a major part of the administration program. I wonder, sir, if you intend to ask the House leadership to expedite action on the Seaway?

THE PRESIDENT. So far as I know, they have got it scheduled for its place in their program, and I am not going to ask them to upset a whole program of work.

Frankly, I think the House has been doing an awfully good job. No one has asked me about it, but if you would like to ask my opinion about the tax fight the other day, why, I would say I think they did a magnificent job. They did it for the good of the country and, I would say, with a minimum of concern for their own particular welfare or ambitions.

They did it because they thought it was a fine program. Of course, we had some few, thank goodness, Democrats who felt the same way about it; but I think the House has been doing a fine job. I can certainly ask when they expect this to come out, but I have the minimum of criticism for the group.

Q. David Sentner, Hearst Newspapers: Mr. President, in your promise to review the atomic weapons public relations problem, will that include the possibility of having members of the press invited to any future hydrogen bomb test?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will ask. I hadn't thought of it. I think rather than comment on it right now, I will take it up, I will say that. So the discussions will include that.

Q. Carroll H. Kenworthy, United Press: Mr. President, when you were talking about the French Colonel at Dien Bien Phu a few minutes ago, did you say you recommended that to the French General who saw you the other day?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I said I recommended it; I don't know whether I recommended it to--

Q. Mr. Kenworthy: You spoke to the French General?

THE PRESIDENT. I said I thought it would be a good thing to do.

Q. Mr. Kenworthy: And you told it to the Frenchman?

THE PRESIDENT. I told it to a Frenchman who promised it would be put on his record.

Q. Ray L. Scherer, NBC Radio: General MacArthur said the other day you called him down here to get his views on certain subjects. Could you tell us any more about that visit with the General?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I didn't see General MacArthur's statement afterward, but he and I have been very closely associated since 1930, and I have never found any talk with him profitless. We talked about the general conditions in the Far East, where he spent so many years of his life.

We talked over general situations, implications of various things that we saw in our reports, and it was not intended to reach definitive conclusions or plans or anything else. It was merely an exchange of views from an old friend; that is what it was.

Q. Lloyd Schwartz, Fairchild Publications: Mr. President, a Supreme Court decision recently appears to have knocked out about sixteen of these State right-to-work laws which provide for use of injunction against picketing and boycotts and the like. I wanted to ask, have you definitely abandoned any plan to send up a message on this to Congress to correct this?

THE PRESIDENT. There has been no definite decision on it. As a matter of fact, I didn't know about the Supreme Court decision you are speaking of this morning.

Q. Robert J. Donovan, New York Herald Tribune: Sir, your compliment to the House naturally begs the question on a certain other branch on Capitol Hill. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Then I am glad you brought it up; I would like to make it clear. After all, all of us know that the rules of the Senate differ from those of the House; possibly because the House is such a large body, they have to have firmer disciplinary control.

But in any event, let us remember this also, that all revenue bills have to start in the House. There the extensive hearings are held, which often helps to shortcut the work in the other House.

I was asked a question about the House Rules Committee, I wasn't asked about the Senate. Now, they have to have a little more time, as we all know.

Q. Joseph Chiang, Chinese News Service: Mr. President, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek once again was elected by the people, the free people, of China as President of the Republic of China. Do you have any comment to that, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't think I have any comments. As you know, I know the Generalissimo, and I like him.

When I go there, or when I have been out in that region, I like to see him; but I don't know anything at all about what I should say or what comment you would expect from me now. I really don't.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's thirty-second news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:31 to 10:58 o'clock on Wednesday morning, March 24, 1954. In attendance: 212.

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/233628

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