Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

November 23, 1954

THE PRESIDENT. I have no announcements, ladies and gentlemen, so we will go right to questions.

Q. John L. Cutter, United Press: Mr. President, Senator Knowland has expressed fears that Russia promotes a policy of peaceful coexistence as a sort of a Trojan horse to lull the free world into a false sense of security which would lead to disaster. Do you feel there are any grounds for such fears?

THE PRESIDENT. I have always urged that we must be alert and vigilant and strong.

This word, the adjective, you put in front of "coexistence," of course, gives it a special meaning. Coexistence, after all, of which we hear so much, has relatively a simple meaning. You either live with someone in this world or you are fighting him and trying to kill him; and as long as you are not trying to destroy, you are coexisting.

Now, when you say "peaceful," "peaceful" is an adjective that has many connotations. If we two individuals are standing here calling each other names, it may be called peaceful, but in the general sense, we think of peaceful as rather friendly. So, if we are talking these terms of "peaceful" and "friendly" in the sense of attempting to lull us into complacency, well, then, of course it is something to watch very closely.

Under our Constitution, I and, as my chief assistant, the Secretary of State are charged with this whole field of which you are talking-foreign relations. I assure you there is no tendency on our part to. take anything for granted in this whole field.

Q. David P. Sentner, Hearst Newspapers: As a postscript, Mr. President, would you care to comment on the proposed four-power meeting in Paris?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, there have been proposed, you know, from time to time these four-power meetings. We have stated--well, first of all, there will be quite an explanation made of this whole thing on Monday night. The Secretary of State is making a foreign policy speech in Chicago, and there will be quite an explanation, but I will just advert to it briefly.

First of all, until these accords are signed [ratified] to the Paris agreements, why, we are not going to agree to such a conference; secondly, there should be some evidence or, let us say, a promise of real fruitfulness in going through such a conference; and, thirdly, of course, there must be time for its preparation.

To go to these conferences merely for, you might say, a new or almost ad hoc opportunity to promote additional propaganda is without any virtue. So there would have to be some time for the preparation of the conference before we could go into it.

But I repeat, as I have repeated every time I have had a chance since I came on this job, whenever we have any reason to believe that anyone wants to talk earnestly or sincerely about peace, we will talk to them.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, you used the phrase "a promise of fruitfulness," I believe. Does that represent a change from what I understood was the previous position of deeds, not words?

THE PRESIDENT. Not at all, not at all. We want some kind of evidence. While I can't in advance say exactly what it will be, you will remember in the April 16 speech in 1953 I suggested that a very definite agreement as to the Austrian treaty would be taken as a deed that would indicate real sincerity on the part of the Communist world to go into further negotiations. Now, that doesn't mean that all the provisions of the treaty have to be executed instantly, but the mere fact they say, "All right, on such-and-such a date we will agree to it."

Q. Mr. Roberts: Could I ask a second question, sir?


Q. Mr. Roberts: In relation to this Big Four meeting suggestion the French Premier made at the U.N., do you have any personal feeling that such a meeting should be on the foreign ministers level or on the heads of state level?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know exactly what the proposal would be at that particular time, but I can't conceive of an initial meeting of the heads of state being a fruitful thing. I would think that the foreign ministers would have to meet and work out a lot of details and programs, and then if there was any worthwhile agreement it would be possible that the heads of state should meet for signing. I don't know, I can't guess really as to what would be the circumstances. I merely say there is going to be no standing on protocol or anything else if we can make a real step toward advancing the peace of the world.

Q. Chester M. Potter, Pittsburgh Press: Mr. President, last week Senator Duff and Representative Bonin reported to you their reasons for the defeat of the Republicans in Pennsylvania, and gave you their ideas for rejuvenating the party. Would you comment upon that, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. No, but I will tell you what I would do: I would have no objection to their telling you exactly what they told me. As long as there is firsthand evidence available, I would be really out of line to try to remember the details of what they said to me, because they mentioned personalities as well as ideas. So I would rather they tell you their story.

Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, the decision by the Democratic leadership to put over until the new Congress any nominations on which there is any controversy is holding up several of your appointments, including that of Judge Harlan to the Supreme Court; this, in turn, is holding up the Supreme Court's action on school segregation. Do you have any objections to this?

THE PRESIDENT. This is the way I feel, Mr. Clark: the business of Government must go on. Now, where there is legitimate reason for controversy, I can understand they can't use up the short time in committee work, of this session, to handle these controversial ones; but where the controversy is not deep or real, I believe it would serve the best interests of the Government to get that type of appointment confirmed just as fast as possible. It is a serious matter to keep these offices from being filled by able and capable men, and I do assure you that we spend a lot of time looking for them.

Q. Nat S. Finney, Buffalo Evening News: Mr. President, in another connection, apparently two of your appointments to the Atomic Energy Commission have been held up. Can you give us any comment on those nominations?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I think they will have to just work that out in the Senate. I don't know exactly what the reasons are lying behind it, but they will just have to work it out down there.

Q. Francis M. Stephenson, New York Daily News: I was wondering, Mr. President, if you plan to confer with Republican leaders in Congress again this year before the session?

THE PRESIDENT. When are they coming back, on the 29th? Well, I have no doubt that I would see them again, although the House leaders will probably not be here. But it has been such a periodic thing in the past, I think it would be almost routine to see them sometime along the line.

Q. William H. Lawrence, New York Times: Mr. President, I think that Mr. Stephenson may have meant--and I know what I had in mind was--that last December when you were preparing your State of the Union Message you had in the committee chairmen, you had in a whole raft of people, quite apart from the technical leaders.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I remember.

Q. Mr. Lawrence: And I think--I know I was wondering whether you had any such meeting in mind for this year.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, there will be some of it all right, although possibly not on quite as formidable a basis as last year, Mr. Lawrence. You must remember, then the program was a new thing, and the program now is really a means of rounding out what we didn't get done before. We will have to have certain people in, unquestionably, but I don't think it will be done on quite as formal and exhaustive a basis.

Remember we met from December 17th to 19th, inclusive, wasn't it--

Mr. Hagerty: Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. --3 days of meetings just on ironing out details. I think there will be nothing that formidable this time.

Q. Mr. Lawrence: If I may follow up that question, sir, even if you do have a less formidable session, would you, perhaps, bring in the prospective Democratic chairman?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think in the conferences with them, as I explained to you before, on all foreign affairs and security things, we will seek opportunities to make certain we are in agreement in advance, we are advancing on the same line. When it comes to other things, I think that each case will probably have to be decided on its merits, what you do at a particular moment.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Mr. President, following a visit to you recently of about 20 Senators who asked for more spending on public works and irrigation, some of them were a little--well, they differed as to what was said about your policy on permitting new projects to get started in the next fiscal year. Will you tell us what you told them?

THE PRESIDENT. Really what I did, I went back to a statement that I had already given to the Congress, I mean in its intent and meaning, as to the need for a great water survey of this country.

I repeat, water is rapidly becoming the most valuable natural resource of the United States, and it must be dealt with in a very comprehensive and broad way. I believe thoroughly we must have these projects integrated into a big broad program.

Now, as to new starts, as long as we have got projects that fit into a survey like that partially completed, we are sure they are not just off, individual, by themselves in a river basin, why then, of course, we want to start them.

Remember this: in the early years of starting those things, there is not very much money involved. You go through exploration, surveys, planning, borings, and all that sort of thing. That really takes 5 or 6 years before you really start to spend money, so we must get started if we are going to do anything about it at all. Surely I am for some starts.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, to go back to Mr. Cutter's opening question on Senator Knowland's views, what do you think of the propriety of the Senate majority leader questioning publicly the administration's foreign policy?

THE PRESIDENT. [laughing]. You seem to have thought most of the morning to work that one out. [Laughter]

I would only say this: I think I would repeat what I said before, that I am charged by the Constitution with the conduct of foreign affairs. I have the Secretary of State as my chief assistant, and when anything is in the nature of a binding agreement of the United States, partakes of a treaty, it must have the concurrence of two-thirds of the Senate.

Now, in doing all this, I strive my best to get legislative consultation and approval in advance. So I would explain to you my side, and let anybody else explain their own particular position.

Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: Mr. President, in the aftermath of the John Paton Davies case, there were some suggestions in some quarters that, perhaps, the Government security program needed an overhauling. I wonder if, after watching it now for 2 years, you feel the security program has worked satisfactorily or does need some revisions?

THE PRESIDENT. I, Of course, can't answer that in complete detail.

I would say this: I think scarcely a week goes by that some phase of that security program isn't brought up to me and made the subject of a very earnest and prayerful conference of some kind.

I have only recently been engaged in the business of studying its whole aspect and the details of the thing. I am not certain in my own mind exactly what kind of a move I will make to help me get a new examination of the program, but I will say this: it never stops; the revision, at least so far as my own mind is concerned, goes on constantly. The second that I find something that I believe to be really wrong with it, I won't hesitate to change it.

I assure you there is no authorial pride that stands in the way of revision the second I believe it necessary.

Now, as far as the Davies case is concerned, I only know one thing: that is that John Foster Dulles spent many prayerful days reviewing a record that was formidable in its size, going through it and reaching a decision as a very earnest public servant, and not merely as someone who has had a preconception of it.

Q. Harry C. Dent, Columbia (S.C.) State and Record: Mr. President, all interested States and groups have now filed their briefs with the Supreme Court as to when and how they would like segregation ended in the public schools, and some have said they want no delay, and others have said they want much delay. And I just wondered if you have your own personal views on that you could give us.

THE PRESIDENT. Not particularly. I will tell you: as you know, the Attorney General is required to file his brief; and I guess because he went to South America, I think he has 2 or 3 days' delay. But the Supreme Court has ruled what is the law in this case, what the Constitution means.

I am sure America wants to obey the Constitution, but there is a very great practical problem involved, and there are certainly deep-seated emotions. What I understand the Supreme Court has and has undertaken as its task, is to write its orders of procedure in such fashion as to take into consideration these great emotional strains and the practical problems, and try to devise a way where under some form of decentralized process we can bring this about. I don't believe they intend to be arbitrary, at least that is my understanding.

Q. Martin S. Hayden, Detroit News: Mr. President, in connection with the Senate debate on peaceful coexistence, the very start of it raises the suspicion in a lot of people's minds that something has happened that may change our attitude toward Russia. Do you know of anything that indicates the Russians want any different kind of coexistence than we have had?

THE PRESIDENT. I didn't get your name.

Q. Mr. Hayden: Hayden, Detroit News.

THE PRESIDENT. No, I know of nothing. Of course, as you know, the Russians have lately been talking a different tone than they have for some time past, but every study that I have ever seen about communism, going back to the very earliest analyses, says there is one underlying, unchanging motive--world revolution and the dominance of a Communist centrally controlled state. That remains the same.

Methods and tactics--if you read some of their books, their processes and tactics of retreat and advance and every kind of thing that is useful in bringing this about, they assert to be good for the world. So I think that any thought of losing sight of the basic objective would be the greatest error we could make.

Q. Lawrence Fernsworth, Christian Century: Mr. President, by request for the Christian Century:

The World Council of Churches at Evanston, recently set forth certain objectives in the international order. The Christian Century asked me to call your attention to several of them briefly:

I. "That Christians can never accept as the only kind of existence open to them a state of perpetual tension leading to inevitable war.

"It is resolved: We appeal to the statesmen and the leaders of public opinion to refrain from words and actions that are designed to inflame enmity and hatred."

2. --And I will go very briefly--"Reconciliation in a Christian spirit with potential enemy countries and a conviction that it is possible for nations and people to live together in a divided world." The Council avoided the use of the moot term "coexistence."

3. "An end to a suicidal competition in arms and to a situation which is unfit to be described as peace."

It asks--I am quoting all along, Mr. President--"Universal enforceable disarmament through the United Nations."

4. "Elimination and prohibition of atom and hydrogen bombs and other weapons of mass destruction, and the insistence that nations carry, on tests only within their respective territories or, if elsewhere, only by international clearance and agreement."

The Christian Century feels that the Christian world is anxious to know the President's views on these questions.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I wouldn't undertake to answer in detail all of the matters that are brought up either directly or by implication in those questions.

I think most of you have listened to college commencement addresses, and nearly always there is a sentence that, either directly or by implication, states: "Keep your head in the clouds and your feet on the ground." I know of no better advice in this day and time.

Of course, we understand that in one of its deepest aspects this is a struggle between a civilization that is firmly based in a religious faith, and atheism or materialism; that is inescapable. You will recall--I think I have said to you so often before--I am always struck with the fact that our own ancestors, attempting to explain the new form of government they were setting up, wrote in the Declaration of Independence in its opening paragraph, "... men are endowed by their Creator"-meaning the only way they could explain free government is that men are endowed by some supernatural force with certain rights; they didn't try to claim those rights as the result of any other circumstance of life.

So, it is a civilization based upon some kind of religious belief and conviction and faith. If that is so, then, of course, all of these ideals for which this Christian paper, Christian Century, is struggling, are something that must animate us. We must think about them, we must live with them; but we must not forget also that man isn't made up entirely of noble qualities and the ennobling virtues that send him doing his duty for his fellow man. He is also made up of a lot of selfish and greedy and ignoble qualifications and qualities; and that we have got to prepare for, because we are of a dual nature. And if anybody thinks that the United States can be in better position in the pursuit of peace by being weak, I must say I disagree with him 100 percent.

We must be strong, and we are going to be strong. When we are secure and safe, they will find nobody more anxious than everybody I know in the United States--not only its Government, I am not trying to speak for any particular clique--to meet anybody half way in good will and with the hope and purpose of devoting the sweat and toil of peaceful folk to their own advancement and not to their own destruction.

I just can't say this thing too emphatically. But let us not try again to find peace in the world by ourselves disarming and being weak and unready; I just can't go with that.

Q. James T. Rogers, Gannett Newspapers: Mr. President, the debating teams at West Point and Annapolis are being kept out of debate on the question of recognizing Red China. I wonder whether you feel that that coincides with your views of intellectual freedom that you expressed at your last meeting with us?

THE PRESIDENT. I must say that there are Superintendents at these two academies that I admire and respect, and I have no doubt that their reasons for whatever instructions they gave were very sincere, and that they thought it was the right thing to do.

Of course, no member of the armed services questions and attacks in public a policy that has been adopted officially by his Commander-in-Chief. But I look upon these cadets, although they are technically of the armed services, they are students. They have very splendid instructional courses, both in the scientific side and in the liberal arts; and I really believe that I would trust the judgment of the cadets. If they wanted to argue this point, I would allow them to do it just as strongly as they wanted to.

I personally think you might find a difficult time to get some of them to argue certain points--since I was a cadet myself once, I think I know something of their feelings--but I would never stand in the way of taking any question that troubles the world, no matter what our Government's position on it, and let cadets debate it to their hearts' content. I think it would be all right.

But, as I say, I don't know the details, how this thing came up in the first place. Actually, it hasn't been reported to me officially. I know only about what I have heard, and that is my attitude.

Q. Donald Irwin, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, have you received any reports from General Collins on Indochina as yet, and have you any comment on the situation there?

THE PRESIDENT. I have seen only preliminary reports, and I am sure they were on a very secret basis as they were submitted up to this point; so I couldn't comment on it.

Q. Kenneth M. Scheibel, Gannett Newspapers: Mr. Rayburn said the other day that one of the first things he wanted the House to do was to set aside your farm law and put it back on the old standard. Do you expect next year to have to fight this thing all over again?

THE PRESIDENT. I Simply would say that if my sampling of farmer opinion during the summer was accurate at all, it was that the farmers don't agree with him. That is all I would say.

Q. John L. Cutter, United Press: Mr. President, there has been some recent interest in the subject of dependents of our military men joining them overseas, sometimes in potential trouble spots around the world; and I wondered if you, as an old soldier, shall we say, believe--[laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Make no mistake, I am proud of the title. [Laughter]

Q. Mr. Cutter: It is the "old" I was questioning--[laughter]--believe that there is a military asset in having the wives and children of the servicemen with them overseas; and in the event of a sudden enemy attack, what would their presence mean?

THE PRESIDENT. Of course, to take your last part first, if there is a sudden enemy attack, their presence would cause very acute problems.

But let us not forget this: we are in a cold war; we want to present our best foot, let us say; we want people of high morale; we want to look confident.

If every place we sent our soldiers today in the world we broke our old custom of letting dependents go along, it would look like we were frightened to death and expecting an attack momentarily.

Some of you here probably may have been in Europe in January 1951, when I went over there; and you will recall, possibly, also that my wife went with me. The tension was so great at that moment--and you may have forgotten--the tension was so great that a few, 2 or 3, months later the head of one of the principal travel agencies of the United States came to me and said that the mere fact that my wife went over there with me, took a season where there was going to be practically no travel at all and made it one of the finest travel seasons of their whole career.

In other words, the showing of confidence on the part of leaders and people of a nation--as long as it is not truculent, if you are not being, you might say, bombastic and truculent and ill-mannered--I think that such things as that really encourage confidence.

Now, by the same token, there are areas where there are no fit quarters, and you can't send dependents. I think it is unfortunate; committed now to an indefinite period where we have to have some 3 million Americans in the services, I think it is too bad if we have to keep them separated from their families too long.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Maine Papers: Mr. President, if I might go back to the questions about the Senate majority leader, is it not true that he was elected to that position by his Republican colleagues, that he is their agent and not the agent of the Executive or of the Republican Party, and that only they can rebuke and replace him?

THE PRESIDENT. I think that is true.

John L. Cutter, United Press: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Eisenhower's fifty-third news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:31 to 10:59 o'clock on Tuesday morning, November 23, 1954. In attendance: 154.

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/233378

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