Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

January 12, 1955

[This is a complete transcript of the news conference of this date. No portion of the conference was released for broadcasting or direct quotation at that time.]

THE PRESIDENT. Please be seated.

I don't think I have had a chance to say Happy New Year to you, which I say now.

There is only one short announcement. We have been reading in the papers about this trouble in Costa Rica, and I am informed that the commission set up by the Organization of American States, which has been successful in the past in settling disputes, left about 6:18 this morning for the scene of the trouble.

So, of course, we will have nothing to say about it here until that investigation is complete and the report is made. All right, we will go to questions.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, do you see any need for any basic revision of the security program under which the Agriculture Department found Wolf Ladejinsky a security risk after the State Department had cleared him, and under which the Foreign Operations Administration then gave him full security clearance and a new sensitive job?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Arrowsmith, you state certain things in your question that I am not exactly sure are exactly right. For example, did they put him in a particularly sensitive job? I am not sure.

In anything as delicate as is this security program, when the effort is to make certain that the Government is served by the finest people you can get, and where, at the same time, you don't want to take unnecessary risks of damaging the reputations of people who are, many reasons to believe, honest and sincere, it is a delicate operation and judgments will differ.

Now, as you know, responsibility is placed by law upon the heads of the departments. In this case, on the evidence available, one department believed that the best interests of Government would be served by not hiring this man. Others differ.

Obviously, it was a case where the evidence was of a kind that was not conclusive, apparently, to the other people.

I have not been through this evidence in detail. I have seen the summarized reports of it.

Now, this is one reason we have set up in the Department of Justice a separate special group under Mr. Tompkins, I believe his name is, to specialize in these matters and to be available as an adviser. He can't take the responsibility; that belongs to the Department head, but he can be a special adviser and counsel in these delicate cases.

I would be the last to say that the program we have devised is perfect. Of course, it isn't. It has been made by humans, and it is bound to have its imperfections.

These are difficult matters. Now, we constantly seek ways to improve. I know of no subject that takes so much time on the part of the entire Cabinet, both individually and collectively, as trying to get this thing absolutely straightened out.

Now, while perfection will not be obtained, improvement will always be obtained; that is about all I can tell you.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, I am sure you are aware that Vice President Nixon has been attacked and criticized by certain political elements since the election for the manner in which he conducted himself during the 1954 congressional campaign.

We are aware, too, that you wrote Mr. Nixon a congratulatory letter in late October.

I wonder how you feel about these recent criticisms of the Vice President?

THE PRESIDENT. I think here, Mr. Smith, I have a right to ask you one question. [Laughter]

Is your question based upon an actual reading of Mr. Nixon's speeches or what you have learned from what the critics say about his speeches? In other words, have you read his speeches in detail?

Q. Mr. Smith: Yes, sir. My question was based on the Democratic criticism of him, not as to what he said, not as to the content of his speeches.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I know this--I am going to give you just a few facts: I think it was before this body that once I found it necessary to say, and I know I have said it elsewhere, that I don't consider any party other than the Communists in the United States to be a party of treason; that there are just as many patriots and loyal and wonderful Americans in one of the great parties as in the other. So any sweeping condemnation of any party, certainly I have never made, and I have never heard of Mr. Nixon making them.

On the contrary, he has assured me time and again he has never by any implication tried to condemn an entire party. He has talked about certain individual cases and the way they were handled administratively, and he has questioned good judgment but never loyalty.

Now, exactly what these criticisms are trying to do, I am not so certain; but just as I defend and believe in the loyalty, the patriotism of some of the people that are possibly making the criticisms, I certainly believe in the loyalty and patriotism of Dick Nixon. I admire him.

So I would be loath to believe that he was guilty of indiscretions, although I do admit that in the heat of campaign, words, particularly if they are taken out of context, can be made the subject of possibly legitimate criticisms.

Q. Joseph C. Harsch, Christian Science Monitor: Mr. President, in your letter to Secretary Wilson about the new military budget you referred to the need for mobile forces, and you said we should "provide for meeting lesser hostile" acts in situations "not broadened by the intervention of a major aggressor's forces." Could you enlarge for us your concept of what these mobile forces would be like, the means for giving them mobility, their equipment and their weapons?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I wouldn't attempt to describe in detail because there is no military situation that can be visualized entirely in advance, and the cure prescribed.

What we are trying to do around the world is to build up indigenous forces that can assure orderly government within the country and normally take care of any difficulty of rebellion, subversion, where there isn't. major outside interference.

Consequently, the thought would be that if you were called upon by an established and friendly government to help out in some situation, that light forces, probably going in there by air, or fleet marine units in a nearby area could come in, and that would be sufficient to help out.

Now, I can't possibly describe to you in all details, because they would vary in severity from something of a very minor character on up. The fact of it is that you have got to have things ready to move--and ready to move rapidly.

I believe a stitch in time in this case is often one of those things that could save possibly very great disaster later.

Q. Mr. Harsch: Do you contemplate their using tactical atomic weapons, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. I would say, normally no, because I can't conceive of an atomic weapon as being a police weapon, and we were talking really more police action. Police are to protect and stop trouble, not just to cause destruction.

Now, nothing can be precluded in a military thing. Remember this: when you resort to force as the arbiter of human difficulty, you don't know where you are going; but, generally speaking, if you get deeper and deeper, there is just no limit except what is imposed by the limitations of force itself. But I would say, normally no, would be my answer.

Q. Joseph A. Loftus, New York Times: With respect to the security program, Mr. President, can you say, is there anything specific being done or under consideration to revise it?

THE PRESIDENT. To do what?

Q. Mr. Loftus: To revise it or make any changes in the processes.

THE PRESIDENT. No, other than the studies that come constantly from the group, that specialized group, that we have set up for watching, trying to improve, this thing; that is the place from where I would expect it.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post and Times Herald: In connection with Mr. Harsch's question, in your state of the Union message, I believe it .was, you have said that we should not have an undue reliance on one Weapon, and you referred to flexibility of forces.

Yet the general assumption in Washington appears to be that our forces are moving towards making nuclear weapons conventional weapons. I think you have even used that phrase yourself.

When you were referring to not having undue reliance on one type of weapon, were you drawing a line between nuclear and non-nuclear or between strategic and tactical-types of nuclear weapons?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I just said this: you cannot have too great a reliance on one kind of formation, one type of weapon, one kind of vehicle, or any other thing in an army. It has to be rounded, because you can't tell where is going to be the place you have to use your forces or the conditions under which you will have to use them.

At the same time, though, that I urged that, I did urge this: that our forces, their formation, their training, their doctrine, keep pace with what science is constantly giving to us--in fact, forcing upon us.

Now, you have got to be ready to do all of these things. And because this is so expensive, the only thing I say is, let's make certain that everything we do we need.

It is no crime, you know, as far as I can see, to try to be effective and efficient and economical. That is what we are trying to do.

Therefore, we must have what we need, and no more taken out, staying constantly in forces that are, after all, negative in their purpose; they are to protect what you have got, not to produce. So my whole effort is to keep the kind of forces that can meet our situations logically, particularly those that can threaten directly our vital interests.

I repeat again, which I have stated here so often, what is the thing today that, for the first time in our history, gives us legitimate cause for alarm as to our own safety? It is the advent of the atomic weapon, the weapon of great destructive force, and with means for delivering it.

Up until that time, the oceans had seemed to us such wonderful protective areas that we could well afford the, almost, the unpreparedness that has been our history from the Revolutionary War down to the Korean War.

We no longer can afford it. Now, that is all.

Q. Mr. Roberts: Sir, may I ask, as a military man would you say that it is possible to draw a distinction between strategic and tactical nuclear weapons?

THE PRESIDENT. As a matter of fact, I don't think it's possible to draw a sharp line even between strategy and tactics. I don't believe it is possible.

Every expert, everybody that has ever written on this subject, has had his own definition of strategy and his own definition of tactics.

They do merge, there is no sharp line. But I would say this: every military problem finally brings forward its own logical way of solving what you have to apply, when.

Now, war is a political act, so politics--that is, world politics--are just as important in making your decisions as is the character of the weapon you use.

I can't possibly stand here and, unless we take the world, construct for ourselves a logical military problem, could I give you my solution to that problem. I can't do it in the abstract. It is just impossible. But I do say you can draw no sharp line between tactical use of atomic weapons and strategic use.

Q. Clark R. Mollenhoff, Des Moines Register and Tribune: Mr. President, the Secretary of Agriculture, in commenting on the Ladejinsky case, branded Ladejinsky flatly as a member of two Communist front organizations, and as an economist, analyst, and investigator for Amtorg, the Russian trading agency.


Q. Mr. Mollenhoff: If those facts are true, how can the FOA and the State Department clear this man, and Mr. Benson has not taken a backward step on his position? The other two departments have gone ahead, and these are facts that still stand on the record against the man.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am really not going to try to say what animated either side. I do say here are honest men approaching this problem. They have reached different answers, that is obvious.

One attached unquestionably more importance to a past association, particularly in Amtorg, than do the others, who say that is a long time in the past and the man has had a lot of chances to reform.

This man, by the way, I believe, wrote a book in which he was very severely critical of communism--in fact, condemned it; so you have got a nice balance in the case, and one believes one thing and the other believes another.

Q. Mr. Mollenhoff: Mr. President, in connection with that, the Agriculture Department stated that he had a high position in Amtorg, and set it out specifically. In the State Department loyalty investigation, security investigation, he denied this under oath. This would seem to me to raise a pretty serious question, if the Agriculture Department is correct.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will tell you: I know of nothing you can do with this except to go to the people responsible for the decisions directly and ask them the questions.

Q. Mr. Mollenhoff: Mr. President, will the White House make sure that we can get some of those answers?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't assure it. These people are responsible people, but you ought go and try it, I should think.

Q. Ray L. Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, it has been reported to us that you favor shifting the presidential convention to September, thus making for a shorter campaign, which is the subject of considerable interest to a lot of people in this room. I wonder if you care to give us your views on that.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, now, this is what I said: they came to me--I mean the group, the chairman, I think it was--some weeks ago, and asked me what I would think about a later convention and shorter campaign. I said this at least: that if they would consult whoever was to be the candidate, I am sure he would favor it because he would have a shorter period in which he goes through an experience that only some of you who have traveled on one of those trains from beginning to end can have a faint idea--and it is only faint at that, I assure you. So I said that I really thought it was foolish to drag the thing out.

But they brought up to me other considerations. You still have your primaries by law early in the year; and now what's going to happen through this long year of uncertainty and conflicting ambitions?

I am sure it is one of those things I wouldn't be too positive about. My impression is that it would be well to have later conventions.

Q. Daniel L. Schorr, CBS News: Mr. President, were you aware, sir, in approving the idea of a late convention that you would be giving the impression that you will be the candidate?

THE PRESIDENT. Bosh! [Laughter]

Q. Cabell Phillips, New York Times: Mr. President, it wasn't clear from your answer to the earlier question as to whether Mr. Tompkins' unit in the Department of Justice has created a special group to study this security problem or whether it is just a part of their continuing study and responsibility.

THE PRESIDENT. It was set up as a special unit in the Attorney General's Office to have this one problem; to study how to avoid, all fight, anomalies like just have occurred; to see whether, through giving expert advice, and all the way through, they can be helpful to each of the departments which must themselves carry the responsibility.

Q. Mr. Phillips: May I also ask, sir, are you contemplating the appointment of a special commission of private citizens possibly to work with Senators and others in the Government to study this?

THE PRESIDENT. That has been proposed from the beginning; of course, we had something like that, you know, under Senator Bingham when I came in here, to this office.

It has been back and forth. I see no way right now in which such a commission could be helpful. Here is something that I know that honest men are studying every day, both collectively and individually, and if I do become convinced that such a commission is advisable, well then, of course, I will call on them. At this moment I don't see it.

Q. Richard L. Wilson, Cowles Publications: I would like to ask you for an elaboration of the remark you made earlier in which you said you had seen the summary of the Ladejinsky case, and I would like to ask you if you had formed any conclusion of your own as a result of reading this summary, and if so, what that conclusion was?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it might be a little unfair to tell the details because it was so informal, but the summary of this was read to me by the Secretary of Agriculture, and as he read it to me, I said, "Well, that would scare me." I think those are the words that I said because he was talking about hiring a new man.

I didn't inquire into all of the circumstances, and it was my impression that both State and Agriculture felt the same way at that time, so I just said that. I never actually read it. I listened to it and just made that remark. I have never myself formed a judgment on this case because I just haven't time to take up the details of every one of these cases.

Q. Mr. Wilson: But you did feel, sir, that on the preliminary showing there was a reasonable doubt about Ladejinsky's security?

THE PRESIDENT. I thought there was some doubt about it. Now, as I say, remember I hadn't studied the other side of the question. It was brought up here that certain things were so. For instance, I think at that moment I doubt I knew the man had written a book on the other side of the question.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Mr. President, before you appoint the new Chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board, would you be inquiring into his philosophy to see if he favors new entries in the field of commercial aviation and competition?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would certainly inquire into his general philosophy as to the relationship of government and free enterprise, but I would never really insult any individual by trying to ask him about his answers in advance to specific questions of every kind, whether he favors a route here or a route there.

If a man would give me an answer to a question like that, I should never appoint him, I assure you.

I would want to know what was his attitude toward efficient competition in this field, not just putting up competition in order to get another firm that the Government can pay money to because the law says they must be profitable.

Q. Alan S. Emory, Watertown Times: Mr. President, a Senate rules subcommittee, headed by Senator Jenner, in his recommendations a few days ago, recommended that newspapermen as witnesses before congressional committees be compelled to disclose their sources of information. I wonder if you had any comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have never heard of such a thing before. I guess I am mistaken. I understood that the courts have time and again upheld the right of newspaper people to withhold that, but I may be wrong. But I haven't any comment because I don't know enough about it to talk intelligently about it.

Q. Kenneth M. Scheibel, Gannett Newspapers: Mr. President, could you tell us your views now about the question of developing the Niagara power, whether you would favor private enterprise to develop that or a public body?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think it is a decision of New York State, as I understand it. That job has been turned over to New York.

Q. Mr. Scheibel: Well, inasmuch as the Federal Government must issue a license to any group which does it, might you have a preference?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't think it makes any difference whether I do or not. I am not decisive in such a case. I haven't had a chance to study this particular one.

Generally speaking, I believe that the closer to the scene of action decision can be taken by that level of government, the better it is.

I would rather the State would make the. decision than the Federal Government, because I believe they are right there.

Now, if we do have to approve the license, I believe that the CAB [FPC]--no, in that case the Congress reserved to itself the right to approve the license. Isn't that the one that they reserved? [Confers with Mr. Hagerty]. Well, it's Federal Power. I think the Congress reserved it to itself in that case, unless my memory is wrong.

But I do believe that when we have an established body like the CAB [FPC] that the CAB [FPC] working in cooperation with the State is better than to inject another Federal influence in the matter.

Q. Nat S. Finney, Buffalo Evening News: Mr. President, the Atomic Energy Commission sent the new schedule of its prices on uranium, and so forth, over to the Joint Committee on the Hill, as a classified document.

Senator Anderson, the new chairman of the committee, told me yesterday that he refused to receive it as a classified document, and sent it back, and is raising the question as to whether those prices should or should not be secret. Can you throw any light on that problem?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will say this: as of now, the Chairman believes that the promiscuous publication of their price structure would almost necessarily be revealing of things that shouldn't be broadcast.

Now, obviously, both the committee, any bidding firms, any people that are properly cleared, must know about it; and I don't suppose that you could rate it, therefore, in the long run as the most delicate secret that the Government has.

I haven't discussed this thing in detail with the head of the Commission, and this is the first time I had heard that they didn't accept it. But if it has become a matter of argument, I think that Chairman Strauss will be in to see me, and we will reach a real conclusion on it.

Q. Mr. Finney: Mr. President, the debate has already started on the question of whether these prices are too high or too low, and we face the prospect of a public discussion, public debate over this question without any public knowledge of what the prices are.

THE PRESIDENT [laughing]. Well, I will have to take a look. You are bringing up one that I only knew that he did favor some restriction on it.

Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, it seems to me that there is still an unanswered question in connection with the Ladejinsky case. You have told how Secretary Benson read you a summary. You say, sir, that that scared you.

THE PRESIDENT. I didn't say "scared." I said, "Well, that would scare me," meaning that I would take a very jaundiced look at it.

Q. Mr. Foillard: I see. And that it did create a reasonable doubt in your mind?


Q. Mr. Foillard: Now the question is: Did Mr. Stassen, in hiring Ladejinsky, did he know about your state of mind, that is, that you had a reasonable doubt?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know, Mr. Folliard. I assume that he did because in the conversations that these men must have had, certainly they would have said that the matter had been suggested to me. But that is the only time, I will say, that the matter has ever been brought to me directly.

I simply assure you, I am not going to go into those matters in detail, because it would break the back of any man if he tried to do that; these come up not only in such a highly publicized case as you are now talking about, but they come up every day.

This one happened to affect two departments, and for that reason was suggested to me.

Q. William H. Lawrence, New York Times: We have been under the impression that because State took one view and Agriculture took another, that Mr. Stassen had clearance from the White House, and by that, sir, I do not necessarily mean you--


Q. Mr, Lawrence: Before he undertook to hire Mr, Ladejinsky.

THE PRESIDENT. He may have. I will tell you this, gentlemen: here is a difficult question to answer, and there are all stages of security and, let's say, sensitive positions.

If Mr. Stassen thought that this man could acceptably fill the position, that it was not so sensitive that he could damage the United States, and that this was a good thing for the Government, then I would uphold his right to do it.

But, remember this: he has to stand responsible, and, if something would turn up to show that his judgment was wrong, then he is the one that is held responsible. And remember this: each one of these heads of department is running an enormous organization. He himself has to work to find time to deal with these delicate cases; so, therefore, you have got to stand and back him up, which I do. In this case, I must say, it has created a situation that is certainly not easy to explain, but I do uphold the right of each to make his own decision in the matter.

Q. Paul Martin, Gannett Newspapers: Mr. President, in your discussions with Governor Dewey this week, did you talk about the possibility of him taking an appointment in the administration?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will tell you one thing, most of the time taken up between Mr. Dewey and me was his describing to me the joys of private life. [Laughter]

Q. Norman Carignan, Associated Press: Mr. President, there are reports that your brother, Dr. Milton Eisenhower, might make

a speech some time soon in Texas on Latin American relations.


Q. Mr. Carignan: I wonder if you could tell us about that.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, that is correct. It is early February some time, and, of course, we have--[confers with Mr. Hagerty]-yes, Dallas Council of World Affairs. It is on the Latin American scene and situation in which, of course, my brother has taken a tremendous interest and remains, I think, very close to the State Department in discussing it.

Q. Charles S. von Fremd, CBS News: Mr. President, I would like to ask a question, sir, which I am not, in turn, asking for a yes or no answer. It has to do with whether or not you may be a candidate in '56, and I ask it for this reason: there have been a number of people, politicians, who have said that they believe you will run for one big reason, and that is the word "duty," that they feel that as a man who spent more than 40 years of his life serving his country, that it is unthinkable that you could again refuse another call to duty.

I wonder if you could comment on that and, possibly, give us your interpretation of the responsibility of duty.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you put up the big question. I hope that I would never be sufficiently self-centered that I would fail to respond to a call to duty, but who is to define for any individual his duty in such a case as this?

I just can't say anything more at the moment. In one form or another, this question has kept popping at me about duty ever since 1943, June. I will never forget the day. [Laughter]

Now, I finally think that in such cases the individual has to determine what he believes to be best for the country, because he is the only one to make the decision. As I say, I hope I would never fail to do my duty, but I would certainly want to know in critical circumstances what is my duty.

Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: Mr. President, in view of what has been said here this morning and in view of Secretary Benson's persistence in regarding Mr. Ladejinsky as a security risk, won't it be difficult for him to command the respect of the people of Viet-Nam in his new job?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I doubt whether our newspapers are circulated there as widely as they are here. [Laughter] I doubt that that would be a serious matter.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Maine Papers: Mr. President, I am a little confused by your remark about Governor Dewey. We understood he urged you to run again. Do I understand you that he was urging on you the joys of private life? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I read in the paper that he did a lot of urging. I must say that he may have, I don't recall in detail.

Now, he may have said something that was taken for granted. But he did describe, as I say, at great length the joys of private life, and certainly he didn't do it in any terms where he seemed to be failing to commend it to me. [Laughter]

Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, so I won't be fretting over this for a week-[laughter]--would you tell us what happened in June 1943? Was that the beginning of the boom?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will tell you what happened. There was a man from the United States, a political figure, and I am not going to name him because he is still alive. We had just cleaned up northern Africa, and this man came in to me and said, "I hope you know that no American general can have a success of this scope and kind and fail to be considered for the Presidency," and I kicked him out of the office. [Laughter]

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

Note: President Eisenhower's fifty-seventh news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:33 to 11:06 o'clock on Wednesday morning, January 12, 1955. In attendance: 177.

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/233895

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