Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

August 11, 1954

THE PRESIDENT. Recently, ladies and gentlemen, there has been presented to me at the White House a very comprehensive series of statistics portraying the conditions of the American economy at midyear. They are quite detailed; most of them are very hopeful.

I have directed Mr. Hagerty to get them ready so that within a day or so they can be published for your information over there, and you may have them. 1

1 See Item 194.

I think it would be very strange if I didn't mention some satisfaction about the enactment of the farm bill in the Senate. I think Senator Aiken and the leadership did a remarkable job.

I want to make very clear one thing: so far as I am concerned, this is not a political victory. This is merely another step in the program that is designed for the welfare of American farmers, for a stable agricultural economy and, therefore, for the benefit of all of us. I don't regard it in any way as a partisan victory.

As you know, there are several things I still hope to have ironed out in conference, notably the dual price plan for wheat. I want to get the wool program without any time limitation; and, of course, I want the dairy program left alone. There are one or two other items, but those items I am very hopeful will be ironed out.

Now, with that little statement, ladies and gentlemen, we will go to questions.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, I wonder if you could tell us how you feel about recurrent suggestions that this country sever diplomatic relations with Russia? The most recent of these comes from General Mark Clark, who also didn't think very highly of the present form of the U .N.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, now, let me make clear, General Mark Clark is an intimate personal friend of mine of some more than 40 years, and he was an extremely capable soldier. The views he expresses, as just outlined here, as you know, are by no means the views of the administration.

I think, of course, instead of really criticizing the United Nations as such, he was criticizing the Communist misuse of the organization.

I am quite certain that the world must retain a forum of this kind, established by the agreement among all the major nations in which to discuss our differences.

I recognize clearly what so many of you do, that it becomes merely a forum for propaganda, a field in which we don't seem to be as skillful as the other fellow. But, by and large, I believe our only hope is to improve this organization, bring it closer in its effect and its operations to the great thoughts that inspired it and were written into its charter. We cannot possibly, as I see it, serve our interests now by just cutting off so-called diplomatic relations.

I really believe that if anyone would sit down and study all of the conflicting considerations, objectively, and not merely shoot from the hip on such questions, they would arrive at a somewhat similar conclusion.

Q. Ray L. Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, there seem to be increasing suggestions that we should embark on a preventive war with the Communist world, some of these suggestions by people in high places. I wonder, sir, if you would care to address yourself to that proposition.

THE PRESIDENT. All of us have heard this term "preventive war" since the earliest days of Hitler. I recall that is about the first time I heard it. In this day and time, if we believe for one second that nuclear fission and fusion, that type of weapon, would be used in such a war--what is a preventive war?

I would say a preventive war, if the words mean anything, is to wage some sort of quick police action in order that you might avoid a terrific cataclysm of destruction later.

A preventive war, to my mind, is an impossibility today. How could you have one if one of its features would be several cities lying in ruins, several cities where many, many thousands of people would be dead and injured and mangled, the transportation systems destroyed, sanitation implements and systems all gone? That isn't preventive war; that is war.

I don't believe there is such a thing; and, frankly, I wouldn't even listen to anyone seriously that came in and talked about such a thing.

Q. Harry C. Dent, Columbia (S.C.) State and Record: Mr. President, yesterday you received Ambassador John Peurifoy, and he conferred with you on the situation in Guatemala. I just wondered if you have any comments on his report to you, and do you think he did a good job down there for the United States and the free world?

THE PRESIDENT. I think he did an excellent job, but I have no special comments.

Almost every ambassador who comes back pays a call at the White House. He did fill me in on a number of details. As I say, I think he did an excellent job. As you know, he was ambassador in Greece, and then was moved over to Guatemala because of the confidence in his abilities.

Q. Robert W. Richards, The Copley Press: Mr. President, a couple of world hot spots or potential world hot spots, Suez and Iran, have been cooled by agreements within the last week or two. Could you tell us whether, in your opinion, the international situation elsewhere moves toward war or toward peace?

THE PRESIDENT. Ladies and gentlemen, when you embark upon discussion of such a broad subject, one is very apt to go far afield. I have no objection, if you see me digressing too far from the main theme here, I have no objection if someone suggests that our time is limited-- [laughter]--because it is a very comprehensive and it is a very serious question.

I think the best thing we could do would be to go back and review for a second. A year ago last January we were fighting in Korea and in Indochina. We were faced in Iran with a situation that was highly dangerous to the world. Mossadegh was using his power, and the party-I don't know exactly how you pronounce it, but the Communist Party, Tudeh I guess--that party was using their power to lead Iran further and further away from the Western World. It looked almost as if a break was imminent from day to day.

The situation in Egypt was no better, at least in its potential capacity for damage to the United States.

The growing threat in Central America was another place where things looked very bad indeed.

Now, in not all of these instances has the problem been solved with complete satisfaction to us. But remember, the two. wars of which we speak were being waged under a political situation and in a political setting that really made a decisive winning of those conflicts impossible; and so any settlement was necessarily going to be less than satisfactory to us.

However, in both places we have a chance now to do something constructive, to build up economic alliances in those areas that will make it possible for those people to make a living, to raise their standards, and to be true partners in a free world economy.

In Iran the situation has been greatly ameliorated; it looks much better, and we are very hopeful that the new agreement will soon bring back income to Iran on the basis that they can continue to advance, raising the standards in that country.

The situation in Egypt is also immeasurably better, since through patience and refusal to get stampeded, refusal to be calling names all over the world, there is finally an agreement that looks like the requirements of the free world are substantially met and the sovereignty of Egypt clearly recognized.

In South America, the situation is of such recent resolution that I think no comment is necessary.

All of this adds up-as I see it, the free world has a better chance than before to use its brains, its intelligence, its understanding and, indeed, its wealth, to build up a structure that will really be impervious to the Communist assault, whether that assault takes its usual form of subversion and bribery and infiltration or whether, in the long run, it might include force.

I believe if we do this intelligently, work effectively toward the end, there will be no war.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, have you given any thought to asking Congress for legislation that would enable them to enforce integration in public school education, backing up the Supreme Court decrees?

THE PRESIDENT. The subject has not even been mentioned to me.

Q. Charles L. Bartlett, Chattanooga Times: Mr. President, the conference report on the atomic energy revision bill, which is now pending before the Senate, contains a patent licensing provision that is somewhat different than the one which you recommended to the Congress. I wondered if this conference version is agreeable to you?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the Department of Justice and the Atomic Energy Commission have not been in to see me about it; I am not familiar enough with the details of that bill, I am sorry, as it stands now, to speak about it.

Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, this question may sound a little premature in view of the fact you still have the tax bill on your desk, but I wonder if you could look ahead a little for us on the tax and budget fronts. Can you give us something of the budget outlook, as wall as the prospect of reducing income taxes, in the next year?

THE PRESIDENT. The general outlook is for reduced income, but it is also for reduced expenditures.

As a matter of fact, I was amazed to pick up a paper not long ago, or have one brought to me, where it made quite a point of an economy directive when, as a matter of fact, we have preached nothing else for 18 months around here. I was a little bit astonished to see that such a document could make the news, because it is no change.

As to what deficits, either administrative or cash budget, would be at the end of '56, I wouldn't want to make any guesses now at all.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, in answering that question about preventive war, you confined yourself to military reasons against it. Did you wish to leave the impression that that was the only basis of your opposition to the idea?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, let me make it this way: if you remember, I believe it was Conan Doyle's White Company, there was a monk that left the church; he said there were seven reasons, and the first one was he was thrown out; they decided there was no use to recite the other six.

It seems to me that when, by definition, a term is just ridiculous in itself, there is no use in going any further.

There are all sorts of reasons, moral and political and everything else, against this theory, but it is so completely unthinkable in today's conditions that I thought it is no use to go any further.

Q. Jay G. Hayden, Detroit News: Mr. President, you have been criticized at times in the past for your attitude that, as the head of the party, it was your obligation to support whoever a given State nominated. In view of that statement on your part, what is your answer to the New Jersey Republicans who have wired you indicating they would not support Clifford Case and would like your help in getting him out of the race?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't seen the wire.

Frankly, like everybody else, I think I have made some generalizations that don't stand up. In fact, didn't a Frenchman say all generalizations are false, including this one.

I like to meet my problems as they come up. I told you before that they have nominated a man in New Jersey whose record in Congress I had thought was very fine and satisfactory. I hear that some people criticized it on account of one or two votes; I have found him always an honest, honorable man and, therefore, I think he is the kind of candidate we ought to have.

Q. Joseph A. Loftus, New York Times: Mr. President, 26 Chinese students in this country say they have written you a letter asking that you allow them to go back to their families. They say they have been told that thousands of Chinese students here are not being allowed to go back and won't be, although they say, at the same time, they have read in the paper that 15 have been released. Can you tell us anything about this policy, if not about this particular case?

THE PRESIDENT. I am not too certain, as to the thinking on this project, the point to which it has reached. It has been a troublesome question, we have been thinking about it a long time. I do know that within recent weeks they have started to issue visas for certain of them to go back.

I believe it has been discussed not only among ourselves but, I believe, discussed partially at Geneva. They are starting to go back.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, the production workers at the Paducah atomic plant voted last night to go out on strike tomorrow, and the situation at Oak Ridge is pretty serious too. Do you plan to ask the Attorney General to seek an injunction under the Taft-Hartley law?

THE PRESIDENT. I hadn't heard about the Oak Ridge situation to this moment.

This is my opinion: here is one field where we cannot tolerate any cessation of work or strike. I am prepared to use any device, any legal device, provided by the Congress and available to the Government to prevent a cessation of work in those places.

Q. William S. White, New York Times: Would you care to discuss the general record of Congress with us a little more than merely this comment on the farm bill, since it is about to end?

THE PRESIDENT. I would; but you know, I think it would be sort of plagiarizing on myself. Right now I am working on a little bit of a talk that I hope to give soon that is going to be on the record of Congress since January 20, 1953. So I don't really want to cheat on myself.

Q. Joseph A. Loftus, New York Times: Mr. President, is this talk you are referring to earlier than the August 19th appointment you have in Illinois?


Q. Mr. Loftus: Can you tell us when, the occasion?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't know when; I don't know when because, after all, I can't talk about the accomplishments of Congress until it quits. I don't know when it is going to quit.

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, you are going to the State Fair?

THE PRESIDENT. I am going to the State Fair, but I am not slated there for any major talk. I am going to visit the State Fair as a guest of Governor Stratton. It is a date of long standing. I am going to visit, that same afternoon, World Council of Churches; and I believe I am going to visit Northwestern University at the same time.

Q. Mr. Brandt: How long will you be at the State Fair?

THE PRESIDENT. We will be probably in Springfield 2 hours or 2 hours and a half.

Q. Mr. Brandt: There will be pictures?

THE PRESIDENT. As far as I am concerned. [Laughter]

By the way, now that my movements are news, maybe I should have announced something: I have been wanting to have a little bit of an outing with the Cabinet one day, and so on Friday I have transferred the regular Cabinet meeting to Camp David; I am going to have it there.

Q. George Herman, CBS Radio: Mr. President, sometime ago, Sir Winston Churchill told the House of Commons that tremendous changes have taken place in the whole strategic position in the world, which makes the thoughts which were well founded and well knit together a year ago utterly obsolete; and some columnists in the newspapers this morning implied that was entirely because of H-bomb and atomic weapons development. Is that your feeling, sir, or do you think more along the lines you outlined about changes in other countries?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, anyone that ignored the influence of the Hbomb, its influence upon our thinking and very much more on the thinking of those people who feel even more exposed than do we, he would be wrong. Of course, it is influential. But we are living in a time of incessant change. Our law has changed. What we must do is not to be so proud of what we said a year ago or just to insist we were right 6 months ago necessarily, but to find out what is an approach, a program, that is good for today and for the proximate future, let us say, and not be too determined, like some people are, to prove that from the time they were born they were geniuses and right.

I am quite sure I have been wrong my full share of the time, but I am certainly trying to work to the best of my ability to make sure that the solution for tomorrow is a little better.

Q. Nat S. Finney, Buffalo Evening News: Mr. President, you used the expression that you liked to meet your problems as they came up. Would that be a fair maxim for us to use as we go into the campaign as to about what to expect?

THE PRESIDENT. I quoted the old Frenchman, that all generalizations are false, including this one. So I would hesitate to give you a maxim to use; but I do like it.

I do not know whether I can explain it in a few words. After all, I am not supposed to ,be here, I think, a professor in methodology and so on. I do believe we can fall into grievous errors if you say such and such is the aisle down which I walk, and refuse to admit there are important things going on in the next aisle. I believe you have got to be ready to do the work, to do your homework, try to grasp the essentials of a situation and see what do we do now, what is the nearest to justice and right and the welfare of our people that we can reach.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, could you tell us a little bit more about Friday? Is the Cabinet going to spend the weekend with you up there?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I have invited them up there for the day. I hope to have a Cabinet meeting somewhere along about I i, have them for a light lunch, and along about 5:30 or 6:00 have a buffet supper for them.

As you may know, there is a little swimming pool up there. There isn't much to do, but they can at least sit around at an altitude of 1800 feet, which is a little higher than Washington--at least physically, I say.

Q. Alan S. Emory, Watertown Times: In following this "meeting problems as they come up," sir, late last week Governor Adams said on a television program that you were still turning over in your mind your decision as to whether or not you would run again in 1956. Have you come to that decision yet, sir? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. There are two things here which I could comment on, I think, with your indulgence: first, the great interest that people take in digging into what are someone else's motives, and the conclusions they reach often on scanty evidence.

Now, I don't know why any member of the staff is saying these things. To the best of my memory, Governor Adams has never spoken to me about it, and no one else in my staff has ever spoken about it. If they want to speculate, I uphold their right to express their opinions, just as I uphold General Clark's right to express an opinion that is directly, almost, opposed to mine.

So I have no objection to their saying what they please; but I wish he would give me whatever facts he has to go on, because I have none.

Q. William M. Blair, New York Times: Mr. President, during consideration of the farm bill, Senator Williams proposed an unsuccessful amendment that would have required States to pay between 25 and 50 percent of the cost of any disaster relief such as drought or flood. Do you favor this approach to a better relationship with the States?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know how much they should pay, but last year, when I went out to Texas and went into Kansas City and one or two other places, we kept exploring what was the best way here to form a partnership.

One of the factors, one of the problems, you run into always is past history. The grant-in-aid program has often been on a 50-50 basis, and it has frequently been without any financial participation by the States. So you run into what people think is due them, not in this particular situation but in view of past history.

I haven't any specific formula for the situation you describe. But I do believe that in everything we do in this country, certainly with manifest exceptions like in the field of national security and so on, I believe there should be a partnership between the local government and the Federal, if the Federal must participate. If there is not, then what influence, what incentive, is there for the local government to be economical and efficient in the running of this affair? On the contrary, their incentive is to be extravagant because that brings in more money from the general purse to spend there.

The reason that I want a partnership so much is so that there is somebody there who says, "All right, you need help, but I am helping to pay for it and, therefore, we will run it economically." I don't believe that we should be sympathetic merely by distance. I believe, first of all, we should be sympathetic and considerate because it is our neighbor, and then bring in the people who are further away.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's forty-eighth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:31 to 10:57 o'clock on Wednesday morning, August 11, 1954. In attendance: 138.

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/232475

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