Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

May 05, 1954

THE PRESIDENT. First, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to record my intense satisfaction that the Governor General of Canada found it possible to return the courtesy visit that I made to that country some months ago.

I was delighted he had a chance to address the assembled Houses of our Congress. It goes without saying that the destinies of our two countries are very closely linked. Because, indeed, of our geographical similarity in certain respects, sometimes our economic interests are competitive and they lead to long discussion, sometimes possibly argument; but I must say that our relationship with Canada stands as almost a modal, as I see it, for international relationships everywhere.

I am highly pleased that the Governor General could come down here and voice the same sentiments.

Now, I am going to talk for a few minutes about the Indochina affair. The statement that I read will, before the end of this conference, be outside in mimeographed form, so I assure you you don't have to take notes of what I have to say here, but I do want to make a few things crystal dear.

[Reading] With the return of the Secretary of State from Geneva, there will of course be a series of conferences on foreign affairs, both within the executive department and between the Secretary of State and bipartisan groups of the Congress. Because of these forthcoming conferences and the probability that the Secretary of State will himself have something to say, and because also of the delicate nature of the issues now pending before the Geneva conference, I shall limit my comments on the Indochina situation to this written statement.

United States foreign policy has consistently supported the principles on which was founded the United Nations. The basic expression of this policy was the Vandenberg resolution in 1948. The United States believes in assuring the peace and integrity of nations through collective action and, in pursuance of the United Nations principle, has entered into regional security agreements with other nations. Examples are the Inter-American Agreement, the NATO Agreement, and numerous pacts in the Pacific. These arrangements are invariably to assure the peaceful security of the contracting nations and to prevent likelihood of attack; they are not arrangements designed primarily for waging war.

The Geneva conference, now 9 days old, has produced no surprises. The expressed fears of some have proved unfounded.

It has not been a "Five-Power" conference as the Soviet Union tried to make it.

It has not involved establishing express or implied diplomatic recognition by the United States of the Chinese Communist aggressors.

The Korean phase of the conference has been organized. Here the Communists came up with a scheme for Korean unification which was a Chinese copy of the Soviet scheme for the unification of Germany. Under their proposal no election measures could be taken without Communist consent, and there could be no impartial supervision of the election conditions or of the voting.

This scheme was rejected for Germany. Secretary Dulles tells me that it is equally unacceptable to the Republic of Korea and to the United Nations members which took part in the Korean war under the United Nations Command now represented at Geneva.

The Indochina phase of the conference is in process of being organized and the issues have not yet been clarified. In this matter a large measure of initiative rests with the governments of France, Viet-Nam, Laos, and Cambodia, which are the countries most directly concerned.

Meanwhile, plans are proceeding for the realization of a Southeast Asia security arrangement. This was publicly suggested by Secretary Dulles in his address of March 29. Of course, our principal allies were advised in advance. This proposal of the Secretary of State was not a new one; it was merely reaffirmation of the principles that have consistently guided our post-war foreign policy and a reminder to interested Asian friends that the United States was prepared to join with others in the application of these principles to the threatened area. Most of the free nations of the area and others directly concerned have shown affirmative interest, and the conversations are actively proceeding.

Obviously, it was never expected that this collective security arrangement would spring into existence overnight. There are too many important problems to be resolved. But there is a general sense of urgency. The fact that such an organization is in the process of formation could have an important bearing upon what happens at Geneva during the Indochina phase of the conference.

The countries of the area are now thinking in constructive terms, which include the indispensable concept of collective security. Progress in this matter has been considerable, and I am convinced that further progress will continue to be made. [Ends reading]

Now, until certain of these things have occurred, the conferences and so on, I shall have nothing further to say about the Indochina situation. With that one comment, why, we will proceed to questions.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, last week you expressed the hope that there would be an early end to the Army-McCarthy hearings. Yesterday the Army counsel objected to a Republican proposal to cut them short. Do you see any administration conflict there? Do you still favor a quick end to those hearings?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, last week, of course, when we failed to get through a conference without this subject coming up again, I noted in reading most of the accounts that my appearance upon answering seemed to be more important than what I had to say, so I will try to be very careful. [Laughter]

I did say that I hoped that these hearings would be quickly concluded; but by the word "concluded," I meant, of course, with effective answers to whatever were considered by the committee to be the main issues involved, and from the principals concerned.

I am going to say just one more thing about it, and then I wouldn't be surprised that I would bar questions of this nature--[laughter]--for a few weeks at least.

Our only hope now is that America may derive from this incident advantages that are at least comparable to what we have suffered in loss of international prestige, and I venture to say, judging from my correspondence, national respect, self-respect.

Now, that is just about the way I look at it, and I have nothing further to say.

Q. Edward J. Milne, Providence Evening Bulletin: Mr. President, point of order! [Laughter] This may be out of order, but I would like to pursue this and go just one step further, if I may. I would like to ask whether or not Secretary Stevens, who is now in his tenth day on the stand, has your full backing in his course of conduct?

THE PRESIDENT. Secretary Stevens was selected for his present job with great care, upon the recommendation of people that have known him for a long time. His record was carefully examined. I know of nothing that would cause me to lose confidence in Secretary Stevens' administration of the Army, and on that basis I'd back him up to the limit.

Q. Diosdado M. Yap, The Manila Chronicle and Bataan Magazine: Mr. President, it is reported that General Romulo discussed with you the question of the Philippine defense, and the interest of the President of the Philippines in the Anti-Communist Pacific Alliance Pact. Would you care to make any comments on this matter?

THE PRESIDENT. I am not trying to be evasive here, but I must admit I don't recall the exact subjects of General Romulo's call upon me. We are old friends from Philippine days, and we discussed many things, personal and otherwise.

I do not recall that the specific things that you mentioned came up, except that he did point out that President Magsaysay instantly announced his readiness to go along with the United States in an effort of the kind suggested, publicly.

Q. Ethel Payne, Defender Publications: Mr. President, I would like to refer to the question asked you on April 7th, as to whether the several housing agencies had issued any regulations to implement the statement in your housing message to Congress, that everything should be done to assure good and well-located homes for all citizens. You said then that you would have an answer later for this.

So far as we have been able to learn, no such specific regulations have been forthcoming. May I cite to you the situation at Levittown in Pennsylvania as an example where members of minority groups are being barred. I would like to know if you have any information at this point on this matter.

THE PRESIDENT. Just a minute. [Confers with Mr. Snyder]

Mr. Snyder tells me that there have been some reports come to the White House, but they are of a general character; and the only hope of getting a detailed report, such as you describe, is to go to the FHA people themselves, that department.

Q. Pat Munroe, Salt Lake City Deseret News: I wonder if you have any comments, sir, on the slow progress in Congress of your bill to develop the Colorado River in the Rocky Mountain area near your summer headquarters.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, my summer headquarters is on the eastern slope. [Laughter] As a matter of fact, it was for I year; I never know whether it will ever be again, of course.

This is an involved matter, as you know. One of the beliefs, one of the convictions, I hold is that water is rapidly coming to be our most valuable national resource--that is, material resource--and that we have to have surveys covering the entire Nation in order to act intelligently in any specific area, whether it is reclamation or flood control, navigation or whatever.

One thing that appealed to me about the Colorado River project was that it seemed to be at least a completely integrated plan going from the headwaters down on and integrating with the Lower Colorado River project which was developed some years ago, and taking care of our commitments to Mexico which, I believe, are on the order of 75 million acre-feet over a period of 10 years.

A vast thing like this takes a lot of study. They are naturally going to study it in the committees of Congress, just as we continue to study it. I would never expect any particular plan to go through in every detail as it has been originally recommended; but I do say that whatever is approved out of this will be in accordance with a general plan of an integrated use of our water resources of the Nation.

Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: Mr. President, can you tell us what your attitude is toward the so-called States rights amendment introduced by Senator Goldwater of Arizona to the Taft-Hartley legislation which would, in effect, surrender to the States certain rights which now belong to the Federal Government under the Taft-Hartley law?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the exact language of the Goldwater amendment I haven't in front of me; but this question of the rights of the State to act in labor disputes has been, of course, one of great discussion, not only for many months but throughout the history of labor legislation.

My own general feeling is that as long as the rights, privileges, of labor and employer set up by the Taft-Hartley Act are not violated, the traditional responsibilities of the State for health, for keeping the peace, and so on, should not be interfered with. Now, the exact language here is going to have to be worked on and hammered out.

This is what I have to say about it: as a matter of urgency there are certain things in the interests of the great laboring group of the United States and, therefore, the United States as a whole that we believe should be done to the Taft-Hartley Act, and we passed those recommendations to Congress. I would dislike to see them halted by extraneous matters that could be handled, I think, on their own; but I am not prepared to discuss in detail the language of Mr. Goldwater's amendment.

Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, Secretary Dulles has drawn his sharpest criticism since taking office because of what some people are contending is a major diplomatic defeat for American foreign policy at Geneva. Do you have any comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would say this: you can't count a battle lost that is still going on. I would say further, United States foreign policy, like the foreign policy of all other nations, is designed in this belief: that it serves the enlightened self-interest of the country that it is drawn up in favor of.

Now we continue to work along that line. If any ally disagrees or if someone with hostile intent is able to put over some idea of his, you ,continue to work; you never give up working persistently and as intelligently as you know how for the best interests of the United States. So there is no such thing as acknowledging a defeat in the execution of foreign policy, as I can see it.

Q. Roscoe Drummond, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, the Democratic National Committee is meeting here in Washington today and tomorrow, and I wondered if by chance, you would have any message you would like to deliver to the assembled Democrats?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't been invited, Mr. Drummond. [Laughter]

Q. Kenneth M. Scheibel, Gannett News Service: Mr. President, there are reports that you have advised your leaders in Congress you will accept a I-year extension of the 90 percent farm program; is that true?

THE PRESIDENT. I never have heard of such reports. I believe to say what I would accept and what I would veto falls again under my general approach, you might say principle, of not promising in advance what you will do with any particular bill because you don't know what will be its other features. The exact statement that you make I have never made.

Q. Frank van der Linden, Nashville (Tenn.) Banner: Mr. President, yesterday a group of TVA Congressmen came to see you and asked you again to reappoint Gordon Clapp as Chairman of TVA. They quoted you afterward as saying that there wouldn't be any partisanship in the selection of a TVA Chairman; and I wondered if we should interpret that as meaning that you would reappoint Mr. Clapp?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, that is a curious interpretation.

I say there will be no politics, so far as I can eliminate them--I mean, as far as I know and can feel and sense in the appointment to a post where I believe the highest kind of professional competence is needed.

Q. Laurence H. Burd, Chicago Tribune: Mr. President, are you fully satisfied with Secretary Dulles' handling of the Geneva negotiations, and do you expect him to return there?

THE PRESIDENT. To answer the last part of your question first, the need for his return or not returning will be determined by himself. After all, he is a mature man and an experienced man.

Now, I would say this: I would never answer a question with respect to anyone, did he over a period of weeks act exactly, let's say, according to standards of perfection.

I will repeat this: Foster Dulles, in my opinion, is the greatest Secretary of State in my memory, and he has my unqualified support in what he is doing; so far as I know, I have agreed in advance to every policy he has ever brought forward.

Q. (Questioner unidentified): I would like to ask, do you see anything in the current business and employment situation that justifies the conclusion that an upturn already is under way with no further Government intervention necessary?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Government is never entirely free in these modern days from exercising some influence on the economy, with Government and quasi-governmental organizations, the Federal Reserve Board, Treasury, interest rates, everything. So, you say seeing no need, it is inescapable, there is some effect of governmental action upon the economy.

Now, just as I cautioned against too pessimistic an outlook some weeks ago, I would caution against looking at this thing through too rosy glasses now. The economy of our country is a delicate affair, and it takes watching every day. But I would say this: in my late reports there has been a preponderance, I would say, of favorable factors over unfavorable; that is about all I can say.

Q. Sarah McClendon, San Antonio Light: Mr. President, the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City yesterday announced, according to the Associated Press, they would invite trade with Mexico in meat, cotton, and other items. The State Department says this is not outside the realm of your policy so far as East-West trade is concerned if it is not in vital war materials. But some of these products, like meat, we exclude from this country. I wonder if you see any potential danger?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I haven't discussed this. As a matter of fact, you are reporting something I hadn't heard of, it hadn't come to my desk. I haven't discussed it with anybody, and I would have to have a chance to take a look at it before I make an answer.

Q. Fletcher Knebel, Cowles Publications: Mr. President, could you say whether since the McCarthy-Army hearings have started, that you have called Secretary Stevens?


Q. Mr. Knebel: Whether you have called him and talked to him?

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, I have talked to him several times. I don't know whether I have called him; I know that I have talked with him several times. As a matter of fact, the last time was only, I think, Friday noon.

Q. James M. Daniel, Rocky Mountain News: Did I understand you to say, sir, that you might not be coming to the Summer White House in Denver?

THE PRESIDENT. I said I could never be sure of what one can do, and so no matter where my heart lies, I have to follow the dictates sometimes of very hard and obvious facts in life.

Q. Mr. Daniel: Not even a vision of coming out this summer? [Laughter]

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, do you plan any further measure for the Randall report to get congressional support for it?

THE. PRESIDENT. Well, we are constantly studying the ways and means of proceeding with that report which, as you know, I consider a very fine middle-of-the-road approach to our foreign trade, and I sent a long statement.

There are many ramifications. Some of the parts of that study, I think, will take long examination and analysis, and they will unquestionably be matters probably of some long debate. Others are not argumentative, and so it will be a question, I should think, of how rapidly can you get these various things implemented. On that, I am not going to quit by any manner of means.

Q. Mr. Brandt: The Reciprocal Trade Agreement law expires in June--

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, June 12th.

Q. Mr. Brandt: Do you think there is a possibility it will merely be extended, and then these other matters will be taken up?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, really I don't want to guess, Mr. Brandt, for the simple reason that I don't know exactly what Congress is going to do, and I don't want to appear that I am going to be horribly disappointed if they don't do it my way. As long as they see the essentials of the situation and meet them, why, of course, that is what I want. Some of these things have to be done quickly and some slowly.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, New England Papers: Mr. President, the Air Force has decided not to court-martial prisoners who may have broken in captivity. The Army has court-martialed one corporal. The Marine Corps has made an in-between decision. Do they come up to you for a general policy consideration in view of the "brain-washing" technique of the enemy?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, they don't have to. As a matter of fact, the things that have to come to my desk, as I recall, are all of those offenses for which court-martial finds a punishment of death or, I believe, dismissal of an officer.

They don't have to come to me, but you must remember I spent a long time in the Army and so, frequently, they come up to me for conversations that are unofficial.

This is the only thing I feel that I can guarantee: that there will be justice tempered with mercy in all of these cases, because there is a very deep understanding of the tremendous pressures that can be placed upon people. But do not make the error of thinking that all of these cases are identical; they are far from identical. There are wide and vast differences; therefore, you can't merely say, because in one case such-and-such a conclusion was reached, that that is applicable to all. So. I don't know what will finally come up to me. It has been impossible to make a statement that would be applicable to all of them.

Q. Mrs. Craig: Sir, I asked you that because there has been a proposal that a commission be set up to study these new techniques of the enemy and how our men can be prepared against them. My thought was that, perhaps, that would come to you.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, that I think would.

Q. Joseph Chiang, Chinese News Service: Mr. President, some news stories that appeared in various newspapers in Far Eastern countries advocate a strong movement to organize among the free people of Asia united action to check the Communist invasion against Asia. It was also pointed out that they welcome interest by Americans in support of their cause. Do you have any comment on that, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. I think, if you will read carefully the statement I made this morning, the written statement, of which you will get a copy outside, you will find as much of an answer as I can make at this moment.

(Speaker unidentified): Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Eisenhower's thirty-sixth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:30 to 10:55 o'clock on Wednesday morning, May 5, 1954. In attendance: 157.

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/231944

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