Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

December 08, 1954

THE PRESIDENT. Please be seated. Ladies and gentlemen, we have got three short announcements this morning. The first one, I hope, you won't interpret as a mixing into your business, but I would like to submit a petition, and I believe you do uphold the right of petition.

I have designated December 15 as Safe Driving Day, and I have got a tremendous conviction the United States can do anything it wants to. I would like to get you to transmit requests to all your bosses--editors and the publishers and everybody else, the people that run the radio and television and telenews, and everything. Let's get safe driving in the headlines and prominent places on December 14th and 15th, and see what a record we can make for December 15.

This is, I say, a request, and it is not trying to tell anybody his business.

Today is the anniversary of the talk I made to the United Nations in submitting an atoms-for-peace proposal.

At my request, the Secretary of State this afternoon, I believe at 4 o'clock, will have a record of the exact things that have been done under that proposal in this year. Obviously, they are below the level of, not expectation, of hope, but still they constitute a considerable accomplishment. If you are interested, he will have it.

The only other announcement is that next week I have scheduled two meetings to which I have had the necessary acceptances. On Monday I shall meet with Republican leaders of both Houses in a review of the administration program, and with the necessary changes brought about in the experience of a year. We will go over it. And on Tuesday I have a bipartisan meeting at which will be invited chairmen and principal members of Foreign Relations, Foreign Affairs, of National Security, and I believe of the Appropriations Committees.

Mr. Hagerty: Armed Services.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, Armed Services--well, Security--and Appropriations.

At that meeting will be gone over all of our present proposals, our suggestions or thoughts we have in these fields of foreign affairs, foreign aid, national security; and they will be, of course, discussed.

Now we will go to questions.

Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Senator McCarthy has accused you of a shrinking show of weakness against Red China, and a failing to wage a vigorous fight against home front communism. I wonder, in view of the strong personal nature of his attack, you might have a reply for the Senator; and, two, what danger you see in what appears to be a declaration of war by McCarthy, what danger do you see to the Republican Party?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, now, in the first part the answer is, no. I do not indulge in personal vituperation or quarrels of any kind. I stand for positive things.

I have always upheld the right of the Congress to make legitimate investigations into the affairs and conduct of the executive departments, subject only to requirements of national security and very clear public interest.

As far as the civil rights of our people are concerned, I have tried to champion those in dozens of ways. I have even selected particular individuals and named them by name where I thought their services to our country had been unjustly deprecated.

I believe in positive things. I shall continue to believe in those things, and I am not going to engage in any kind of a personal quarrel with anybody on any subject that I can think of.

As for the effect on the Republican Party, I would suggest you go over and ask the Chairman, Mr. Hall, what his conclusions are on this thing, and what effects he sees.

Q. Ray L. Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, there seems to be a conflict of opinion amongst some of the Cabinet members both as to the efficacy and the method of financing of a proposed economic aid program for Asia. Would you comment on that, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. The proposal has not been brought far enough along that it has been argued in front of me.

I know of no subject important to the United States that does not develop conflicting opinions. I would be frightened if it didn't; and, so, when the matter finally comes up to the point of settlement, why, there will be timely announcements made. It hasn't been argued yet in front of me.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post and Times Herald: On that same subject, sir, the Secretary of State told us yesterday that he felt it was very likely there would be a program submitted to the next Congress. Is that a fair estimate of how far the matter has gone?

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, there will be some program, of course, because our interest in Asia, as you know, is intimate and continuous. There are backward areas that need help; you can start with Japan and go all along the Pacific coast. Of course there is going to be some kind of a program sent up.

Q. Mr. Roberts: But, sir, you mean a program different in type and scope from what we currently are doing in that part of the world?

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, I can't say what the changes will be, I don't know. The specialists and the people that are particularly concerned, the Secretaries, have not yet laid out what they believe to be the specific needs of each of these areas.

Q. Martin S. Hayden, Detroit News: Mr. President, I hope this question won't require that you have a personal conflict, but there seems to be a prospect that the extreme right wing of your Republican Party might follow Senator McCarthy into a new party in 1956. I would like to ask you, sir, as the leader of the party, if you feel that would kill Republican chances of remaining in power?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, after all, I have no crystal ball, but I believe this: from the beginning I have tried to stand for something that is positive and progressive. I believe that the Federal Government has a continuous, definite obligation to study the needs of 163 million people, our standing abroad, our security from attack, and the arrangement of the connections between Government and our economy, our industries, and our individuals. These things must be studied intelligently, and they must be so provided for that the great productivity of our economy is shared in to the greatest possible extent by all of us.

That is the kind of a program that I stand for, and if there are enough people wanting to go along with it, then we have no fear. If people want to split off because of some other secondary or lesser consideration, that will have to be their business.

But I do know that so far as I can determine, the great mass of the people of the United States want intelligent and what I would call a group of progressive moderates handling their business. And that is exactly what I am working for.

Q. David P. Sentner, Hearst Newspapers: Mr. President, the Communist Chinese Government is reported to be taking the position regarding the U.N. charges that they never did sign any Korean peace and, therefore, cannot be charged with any violation. Would you comment?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't heard this; consequently, my comments would have to be very general for the simple reason that they may be arguing certain technical facts that have no application whatsoever in the moral field.

Now, we know that Chinese forces were fighting in Northern Korea, and we know that we lost prisoners of war who, by the open admission, published admissions, of the Chinese Government, were in uniform and were properly carrying out legitimate missions at the time of their capture.

We know that the armistice provided for the exchange of prisoners.

Now, someone has violated and, at the very least, these people have the right or have the power to control whoever violated it.

The only reason I don't try to answer more specifically is because I can't be expected to recall every detail and every technical point even of that armistice, but that is my feeling. Morally, the situation is just as clear as it can be.

Q. Roscoe Drummond, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, if you should decide not to be a candidate in 1956, would you be disposed to use your influence to bring about the nomination of a Republican nominee who would be in support of the policies and the program which you have been carrying out?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would put it this way: if I see the Republican nominee whom I believe to support the general philosophy of government in which I believe and which I have so often tried in my rough way to expound, of course I would be for him. I would be for him very, very strongly.

Now, you proposed a question: would I try to help bring about his nomination? Don't ask me to foresee exactly what the conditions of that moment are going to be, but I will support anybody that is the nominee that believes in that general philosophy.

Q. Edward Jamieson Milne, Providence Journal-Bulletin: Mr. President, would you yourself be more or less likely to run again if the party were faced with a split in '56?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't the slightest idea. And that is not being facetious; I just haven't.

There are so many things--I'll tell you: some day we'll take a half hour, and I'll try to give you my thinking maybe on these things, but I have no decision.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, there have been some expressions by individual members of the Republican National Committee and officials of Citizens for Eisenhower individually in Washington, of late, that there is a great trend throughout the country for people to vote for the man and for the program, and not for the party label. Would that be in line with your thinking?

THE PRESIDENT. Of course, you always run into this great problem of smooth operations between the legislative and the executive department.

What I would hope is that we produce a group of fine, energetic, idealistic candidates, men and women of experience, and who believe in this program; then I don't have that problem to settle, and I can just go out and support Republicans.

But I do believe that we must adopt and think in terms of what I would call moderate progressives--I don't know of any better word-moderate in your attitude toward the functions of government, but progressive in carrying out those things that our people need.

Q. Clark R. Mollenhoff, Des Moines Register and Tribune: Mr. President, your statement of congratulation to Senator Watkins last week is what apparently set off this McCarthy controversy; and I wonder if you would want to explain precisely what you meant in your congratulation; if Watkins was taking the kind of positive action you spoke of here before.

THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't mind answering at all.

When Senator Watkins was given this task he, by chance, was in my office, and I told him that I thought he had been given one of the toughest jobs that ever faced a United States Senator, and that I knew that he would handle it with the dignity, with the sense of justice I had come to expect of him. He was a judge at one time, you know, and I was perfectly certain of the manner in which he would perform his duties.

When he came in, all I did, I said, "Well, I congratulate you. You certainly lived up to everything that I expected of you." I made no comment about the justice or injustice of voting. I talked about his conduct of a tough job, and I still think that it was one so tough that no one wanted it.

Q. Jerry W. Poole, Pulliam Papers: Mr. President, did Secretary of Labor Mitchell's speech to the CIO convention yesterday in Los Angeles, in which he came out strongly against the so-called State right-to-work laws, did his speech represent your thinking and the views of your administration on that subject?

THE PRESIDENT. He did not attempt to express any administration view, and I believe made that clear. He has long believed that that was sort of a paradox in the law, but he did not represent necessarily the administration views in any part of his speech.

We do have, of course, the rights of Cabinet officers to express their own views on particular points very emphatically, particularly during the stages that policies are being made up. That is his view.

Q. Douglass Cater, Reporter Magazine: Mr. President, Senator McCarthy said that he was sorry that he had asked the people to vote for you in '52. I wonder if you exchanged the sentiment? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Obviously, you don't expect an answer. [Laughter]

Q. Alan S. Emory, Watertown Times: Sir, in New Orleans at the Democratic National Committee meeting, a group of Democratic errors and Governors-elect, including Harriman of New York, Freeman of Minnesota, and Williams of Michigan, signed a statement that the dairy farmer and the dairy industry, as a whole, were being made the whipping boys of the farm problems now facing the country. Sir, do you believe that the dairy farmer is being unjustly picked on in an attempt to solve the farm problem?

THE PRESIDENT. I had a report just within the last day or so that the average level of the prices received by the dairy farmers of the United States this minute are above those that were applicable at the moment that the 90-percent rigid price support was abandoned.

I don't believe he is a whipping boy at all. There is no group in which I have taken more interest. I hope that all of you have heard about my milk luncheon the other day; if you haven't, I will take time off to speak about it. [Laughter]

But I am told this: the dairy problem disappears the second that we get every person in the United States to drink 1 ½ ounces more milk per day. The further statement is made that this is something that wouldn't be substituting for something else because we need this

ounces. So here is a case that all we have to do is do what is good for us and we have helped the dairy industry so much there will be a shortage.

Q. Charles E. Shutt, Telenews: Aside from the present situation in China of the imprisoned airmen, sir, would you say the chances for a continuing peace are brighter now than any other time since you have been in office?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I dislike to have to take so much time to answer each question, but it is quite difficult to answer some of these things yes or no.

Don't forget what you mean by "peace," and an armistice is not peace.

What we really mean by peace is that situation in the world where we have confidence, justifiable confidence, that a situation is going to prevail where we can devote the vast majority of our resources, of our work, of our sweat, of our brains to doing those things which are for the good of the people and not merely to protect ourselves or to destroy others.

Now, that isn't, frankly, the kind of a situation in which we are now.

I believe this: I believe that the fears the free world had of a global war, say, at the time that I was sent to SHAPE--when I left Columbia to go over there to work on that problem--I believe the fears that the free world had of global war are below, are less, at a lower level than they were at that time.

Q. Kenneth M. Scheibel, Gannett Newspapers: Mr. President, speaking of a legislative program, do you think your relations with the Congress are going to suffer as a result of the split in the party over this censure proceeding?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know. I would just say this: I am going to do my best. I recognize that many people approaching specific problems reach different answers.

What I am trying to ask is that people see the wisdom of the broad kind of program I have so often tried to picture to you people, and to get behind that and put their shoulders to the wheel to put it over for the United States.

Now, whether the job will be tougher or easier, that remains to be seen.

Q. Clark R. Mollenhoff, Des Moines Register and Tribune: Mr. President, there was only one other censure problem on which you expressed an opinion earlier; that was relative to the treatment of General Zwicker, and you stated that you disapproved of the way General Zwicker was treated.

THE PRESIDENT. I said, I expressed before this group my confidence in General Zwicker and my belief that he was a patriotic American who deserved credit rather than condemnation.

Q. Mr. Mollenhoff: I wondered if, in the light of the action taken by the Senate, you felt they had turned their back on you with regard to the Zwicker count?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I have no feeling about that.

But I do want to point out this: I think I said before, this morning, let's don't confuse these issues with the fundamental right of the Congress to make legitimate investigations of the executive departments. I believe in that, and I not only believe in it, I believe it is contemplated and directed in the Constitution. I believe we would certainly begin to go downhill unless we had it.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Maine Papers: Sir, how do you reconcile an expanded foreign aid program with our continued deficit financing in this country?

THE PRESIDENT. As a matter of fact, I don't know and never thought of it in those terms; I don't know that I do completely reconcile it.

But let us remember this, to be repeated every time you say the words "foreign aid," I don't think those are good words. I think the word that we ought to use is "mutual security." Anything that we go into in the world ought to be for the enlightened self-interest of 163 million people.

And we ought to judge--permit me to go on--we ought to judge every single one of these programs in which we are trying to assist Iran or Indochina or Indonesia or Japan or France or anybody else, we ought to weigh them, always starting from this viewpoint: what does the enlightened self-interest of the United States lead us to.

Then we also know that a balanced budget is good for a nation; because if you don't, you tend toward inflation and toward the cheapening of money. That can lead to disastrous consequences.

You have to put these two requirements constantly against each other; and when you meet your minimum costs of Government and of this kind of thing, you have to say, "Now, how much taxes is good for our country?" because now you have another indeterminate factor entering this equation. If you relieve taxes on industry, how fast will it expand and give you more income at a lower tax rate? So you have constantly a changing equation of variables that never at any 2 successive days gives you exactly the same answer.

But I do say I don't think I quite can reconcile completely the two except in the terms I have just given you.

Q. John M. Hightower, Associated Press: Will you tell us, sir, whether you have any plans to appoint Nelson Rockefeller as an Administrative Assistant in foreign affairs?

THE PRESIDENT. The only thing I can say about that is that Nelson Rockefeller, among others, has been constantly--we have been constantly examining our situation. I need somebody in that place, but Mr. Rockefeller already occupies a very important position in Government. It is a question of getting the very best answer we can. No definite decision has been made, and there will be a proper announcement at the proper time.

Q. Harry C. Dent, Columbia (S.C.) State and Record: Mr. President, yesterday the District Commissioners announced that they are going to try to test old antidiscrimination laws in the District by hailing barbers, and so forth, anybody that operates a public place, into court in case of discriminating against anyone because of race; and Eugene Davidson, the president of the local NAACP chapter, said the Commissioners are only following a mandate from President Eisenhower to abolish every vestige of segregation and discrimination. And I just wondered if that is true that they are just following--

THE PRESIDENT. I never heard of this particular point. Whatever it is, I think the courts should decide whether there is any injustice done here or not. I never heard of this point.

Q. Richard L. Wilson, Cowles Publications: Mr. President, do you think it is possible or practical to have a political grouping of these progressive moderates of whom you speak from both political parties, who would be more representative of the wishes of the people than either the Republican or the Democratic Party?

THE PRESIDENT. You raise a question in which there would be many imponderables. For example, just take a simple and material one. I understand that many State laws contemplate only two parties, and allow only two--I say many States--several States. So you would have to start in changing the State laws before you could do any such thing to start with.

But I think that we have got to probably use the mechanisms already devised and so well known to our people, and get one of them, at least, to stand in behind this doctrine; and I believe the Republicans should-behind this doctrine and this kind of a program--very earnestly and so seriously that the words "progressive," "moderation," in Government becomes synonymous with the party label.

That is really what I believe. And I think that can be probably better and more effectively done than you could make the kind of a regrouping which would be, as I understand what you mean, a third party, start a new party; it would be, I think, very difficult.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, the new Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Paul Butler, said over the weekend that you personally have shown a lack of capacity to govern and unite the American people. Do you care to make any comment on that remark?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, again, I am not going to reply to an individual. I have heard these remarks before.

I will say this: I think too often politicians look into a looking glass instead of through a window. [Laughter]

The United States presents a broad vista of thinking, and I have a tremendous and profound faith in the general commonsense approach of the American people to our great problems. I believe, in general, they go along very earnestly with what we would call a progressive program, with moderation, in the terms that I have explained it before to you people.

Now, as to my abilities and inabilities, I hope I am not one of the egoists that can think only in terms of the vertical pronoun.

I suggest this to you, gentlemen, and ladies: for 2 years I have been meeting in front of this body, the personnel of which doesn't seem to reflect any great change from week to week. I really ,believe you are better judges of interests, breadth of interests, and capacities and the kind of things we are trying to do, than is some politician who, looking in the glass, sees only reflections of doubt and fear and the kind of confusion that he often tries to create.

So, ladies and gentlemen, that particular question will have to be answered by you.

Q. A. Robert Smith, Portland Oregonian: Mr. President, we have had numerous reports stemming, apparently, from the outcome of the Oregon election, that Secretary McKay was to be replaced. Could you make any comment on those rumors?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have heard a number of new ideas this morning, but that is the newest. No, I hadn't heard it.

Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: Last week, sir, you told us that you were personally studying the security, the internal security system of the Government.


Q. Mr. Reston: Have you reached any conclusions about that?

THE PRESIDENT. No, it is still undergoing study.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's fifty-fifth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:33 to 11:02 o'clock on Wednesday morning, December 8, 1954. In attendance: 209.

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/233407

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