Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

May 12, 1954

THE PRESIDENT. Ladies and gentlemen, my only announcement this, morning is a very short one, but there is a 30-year struggle and study that has terminated. Tomorrow morning I sign the Seaway bill at 9:00 o'clock.

That is my single announcement; we will go to questions.

Q. John Cutter, United Press: Mr. President, last week Senator McCarthy testified that an Army security officer gave him classified FBI information which the Attorney General later said was done without authorization. Would you care to comment on the propriety of such actions?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the question is of two parts. One involved the Senator: I said last week that I was going to take a little vacation in commenting on that particular incident, and so I won't talk about that part of it.

What I assume you are talking about is the propriety of an individual officer or civilian giving away classified information involving the security of our country, giving it away to anybody. That is so reprehensible that when we talk about security in the Federal services, what we are talking about is ways and means of keeping such things secret.

Now, in the Army or in any of the services, an enlisted man, when he takes an oath, includes in that oath to obey the orders of the superior officers set above him and the Army regulations itself.

Are we to assume that an enlisted man has one kind of loyalty to the Government and to the commanders set over him, and an officer a lesser one? It is perfectly ridiculous.

The soul of an Army, the soul of a defensive force, is the certainty that everybody responds to the laws of the land and to the orders of the superiors all the way up to the Commander in Chief. Assume otherwise, and how would you fight a battle?

I give an order to you people as division commanders or something of that nature to carry out your part of the battle, and you decide that isn't the thing to do--well, if ever we get to adopting that theory in the military or in our civilian organization, we had better disband.

On the contrary, fortunately, their sense of loyalty all the way through-and I don't refer merely to the fighting services--their sense of loyalty and dedication to their country and the obligations of their service is high indeed; and I am proud of them. But let us not for one second ever think of condoning insubordination, and particularly wherein, as in this case, there are special laws that apply to the release of confidential information.

Q. Edward Folliard, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, former President Truman made a speech at' the National Press Club the other day, and the essence of it was this: that in these critical days foreign policy should be taken out of the political arena; that this is impossible so long as Republican political assassins are calling Democrats traitors, and that the only one who can put an end to these charges of treason is the President of the United States. Do you have any comments, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. I wouldn't answer anyone who finds it proper to criticize me and my actions, but I will call your attention to what I have said before: that question came up here in a press conference--whether I considered Democrats to be disloyal persons, and that sort of thing. ridiculed the idea and said not only did I have a great many personal friends among them, but they were just exactly as loyal as all other Americans. I cannot discern in my own mind any difference between the loyalty, dedication, patriotism of people depending upon a particular party to which they belong in this country. I have said that always.

Q. Paul Leach, Chicago Daily News: Mr. President, getting back to the previous question, has any effort been made to discover who gave classified information to Senator McCarthy?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know; I have had no report on that.

Q. Anthony Leviero, New York Times: Mr. President, again on the first question, if an enlisted man or an officer feels his superiors are derelict in throwing disloyal people out of the services, don't they have some recourse outside of the regular command channels by filing a complaint with the Inspector General?

THE PRESIDENT. That's right; that's right.

As a matter of fact, in every unit I have ever commanded, everybody along the line, if he had something that weighed on his heart heavily, had a right to get to me. I have had enlisted men, when I was commanding an entire theater of operations, come to me to give me ideas; and some of them were awfully good.

Q. Alan Emory, Watertown Times: I have two closely allied questions, sir, and neither has to do with the St. Lawrence Seaway! [Laughter]

Sir, I wonder if you were concerned over the increasing Democratic attacks on administration foreign policy, and if so, what proportion of those attacks you ascribe to election year politics, and what proportion to genuine concern over world affairs?

THE PRESIDENT. I never attack another's motives. I don't know what the motivation is; but so far, I think, as is possible and practicable, the foreign affairs of the United States are handled on a bipartisan basis.

I note that yesterday the majority leader in the Senate in a talk gave an exact record, put in the Congressional Record, of how many times the State Department alone had called in or dealt with bipartisan groups in an effort to keep them informed in advance of what is going on.

As a matter of fact, I am astonished in the way that you now have this interest in this question for the simple reason that I believe no one was interested in that statement yesterday.

As I recall, the figure he gave for the State Department alone in 16 months is 91 such meetings. There are, of course, all sorts of meetings through the FOA, through the Defense Department and others. For my own part, I even took all of that part of my State of the Union speech and, before giving it last January, had in a bipartisan group, went over the whole thing with them, and asked for their comments.

Now, this goes along all the time. Manifestly, you cannot go down to the last individual; it is a selected group, but always are the leadership and those principally concerned brought into those things. I don't know any other way in which the bipartisan policy, in which I firmly believe, can be carried out.

Q. Raymond Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, the minority groups say that they were not consulted in advance about the massive retaliation idea.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am not going to take each single idea here and say that these people were consulted in advance. That idea, that phrase, has become used as very descriptive of a particular policy. Actually something of the kind is implicit in everything we have been doing for many, many months, even long before we came in here; so I think that-phrase has been overworked myself.

Q. Anthony Leviero, New York Times: Mr. President, the main point of criticism on bipartisanship has been that this administration has not used as many Democrats as the Democrats used Republicans, such as Lovett, and Mr. Dulles and McCloy. I wonder what your comments are on that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know; possibly we haven't used as many. I have never added it up, but I do know this: one man that, I think even before I came down to the inauguration, I asked--I am not going to say my memory is exact, but I think it is--I asked to stay on because of my respect for his approach to the entire problem of foreign affairs, that was David Bruce. I worked with him in Europe; I believe implicitly in his wisdom and in his tact, his breadth of approach. He is one man at least that has been kept. And, of course, we have many foreign service officers--it never occurred to me to ask what their politics is--and ambassadors, and so on. But it is possible that we haven't used quite as many; I wouldn't answer that one now.

Q. Roger Stuart, New York World-Telegram and Sun: Mr. President, following your recommendation last January that the voting age be lowered to 18, there has been some action along that line in Congress. Moreover, opinion polls carried on throughout the country seem to reflect a considerable degree of support for the proposal. Would you comment, sir, on your view as to how the public has reacted to your recommendation, and whether you are pleased with the response?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I could not claim that I am in as dose a touch to the public reaction to that suggestion as you people are, possibly.

Also, when I said 18, I picked an age out of the air. As I recall, I based it on this: if a man is old enough to risk his life, it is entirely logical that he have some voice in the decision which sent him there. I have had people say 19 would be a better age on the basis that a man, under our Selective Service System, never really goes to a battlefield until he is 19. I haven't looked up the exact laws, I don't think I would quarrel too much as to the exact months a man has to be; but I think some age like that is correct. The only comments I have had, of course, are favorable, but that could easily be because the others haven't written to me.

Q. Garnett Homer, Washington Star: Mr. President, Secretary of Defense Wilson said yesterday that the Army and the Defense Department, as a whole, was entirely capable of handling any security risk problems, and that he felt that no more congressional investigations of the military in that regard were necessary. Would you tell us your feelings? Do you agree with him?

THE PRESIDENT. Of course, when you ask me such a question you are asking only for a feeling, because I left active connection with the Army quite a while ago.

My own experience in the Army was most heart-warming from the standpoint of its dedication and loyalty. I know that its great mass of people are dedicated, patriotic people.

Now, I don't see why there isn't ample authority in the Defense Department, certainly there is ample will there, to take care of this problem.

As to the occasional and proper investigation into particular things from the outside, I think they are good, just as I believe that an Inspector General's service is necessary to a Secretary of the Army and to the Chief of Staff. I believe that an occasional good look-see into various things is good.

There is an old saw in the services: that which is not inspected deteriorates.

I believe in inspections, but I believe also that the Federal services, the armed services, are perfectly capable in the long run of taking care of this with satisfaction to the United States.

Q. Charles von Fremd, CBS Television: Mr. President, should the proposed Southeast Asian Defense Alliance be created, as Secretary Dulles and others have suggested, do you think that the Associated States of Indochina, Laos, Cambodia, and Viet-Nam should be members of such organization?

THE PRESIDENT. Most certainly I would hope that they would voluntarily express such a conviction and such an intention.

In this connection, some have assumed that there has been a difference of opinion between the Secretary of State and myself as to exactly what we meant. I think I have assured this group several times that I know of no important announcement made by either one of us in this regard that isn't the result of long and serious conferences. If there are any differences ever detectable in our utterances, it must be because of language and not because of any intent.

Now, I understand that Mr. Dulles said we will not give up; no matter what happens down there, we will never give up even if these three should fall. I think--I know he was talking about another step that could be detrimental to the interests of the free world, and what would you do then. Naturally, all of us want to save them because of their importance, but it has to be done on their invitation.

Q. Mr. von Fremd: Mr. President, I asked the question with no reference to a difference between you and Secretary Dulles.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes; I know, yes.

Q. Mr. von Fremd: The reason for it is there have been some reports that the British or the French Government might very well be against the Associated States being a member of such an alliance.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I must make this point which I have tried to make, again, several times: no nation can be saved to the free world unless it itself wants to be saved. Freedom, by its-very definition, cannot be possessed by someone who doesn't want freedom; so unless those states are enthusiastic parties to such an arrangement, then it could have no immediate right interfering with their business, as I see it.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Maine Papers: Mr. President, General Mark Clark has said that we are so short of manpower we cannot fight another war without drafting women for noncombat service. Have you considered that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, when you say "war" you are talking about such a variety of situations and conditions that you can't possibly, as I see it, fasten to the word or to its possibility any particular set of conditions here.

I think this is correct: you could not expand the military activities on active service greatly beyond what we were carrying on at the end of the Korean war, without going to some general form of mobilization; though I would doubt, until the thing became far more serious, whether there would be earnestly studied a proposition for drafting women.

Now, of course, General Clark was with me in Britain, as were many of you people, and you saw what women did in the armed services in relieving men to go off to more difficult physical tasks. So I assume he, with that lesson, was trying to point out that we could get into a serious thing, and then women could help immeasurably.

Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: Mr. President, last week the Department of Labor and Department of Commerce issued a joint report on the employment situation, and in spite of a slight seasonal rise in employment, it showed a decrease in employment in manufacturing. Now this week the CIO is having a full employment conference here, and next week the A.F. of L. Executive Council is going to take up the matter of what they call rising unemployment now in, especially, manufacturing. Does the administration have any plans to deal with that problem, the problem of unemployment in manufacturing?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it seems this morning I am going back and reminding you of things I have said so often in the past.

In this problem there is continuous study, there is never any relaxation of the effort to keep abreast of the times and where we will probably be tomorrow. This is done by statistical branches, by the bureaus and the departments concerned, and by the economic advisers who get together, consolidate their thinking. As a matter of fact, you may know, Mr. Bums appears before the Cabinet at every meeting to give a short resume of what he believes is going to happen.

So far as human beings can be prepared for the things that judgment shows may happen, of course we try to be prepared.

Q. George Herman, CBS Radio: Mr. President, since we seem to be going into the past, a few weeks ago you told us of your theory of dominoes about Indochina, the neck of the bottle--


Q. Mr. Herman: Since the fall of Dien Bien Phu, there has been a certain amount of talk of doing without Indochina. Would you tell us your administration's position; is it still indispensable to the defense of southeast Asia?

THE PRESIDENT. Again I forget whether it was before this body I talked about the cork and the bottle. Well, it is very important, and the great idea of setting up an organism is so as to defeat the domino result. When, each standing alone, one falls, it has the effect on the next, and finally the whole row is down. You are trying, through a unifying influence, to build that row of dominoes so they can stand the fall of one, if necessary.

Now, so far as I am concerned, I don't think the free world ought to write off Indochina. I think we ought to all look at this thing with some optimism and some determination. I repeat that long faces and defeatism don't win battles.

Q. Robert Riggs, Louisville Courier-Journal: Next Tuesday Mr. Clapp's term expires, as Chairman of TVA. Are you now ready to appoint a new one, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. I believe that in such cases I make an announcement as soon as decisions have been made, but I have none to make this morning.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, I know that Mr. Philip Young, the Civil Service Commissioner, is opposed to honorable discharges for Federal employees because he said if you gave some dishonorable discharges that would brand people separated from the services, perhaps, subversives or otherwise unsatisfactory persons. But I see you have given him authority to write the merit regulations for the civil service merit system; and I wonder if, before doing that, you discussed with him in any way the possibility of honorable discharges?

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, as a matter of fact, it was discussed not only with him, but in a very broad way with department heads, and so on.

Now, here is one of those things where you have to leave matters with the people that are working them out. If I could see here a clear advantage or disadvantage one way or the other, of course, that would be my responsibility to decide it. But I really believe that such things as this are best handled by department heads and by the Civil Service Commission; that is what they are there for, to study them.

Q. Douglass Cater, The Reporter Magazine: Mr. President, Senator McCarthy has attacked your Executive order maintaining the secrecy of the security files or the files dealing with security matters, as well as the members of the Board. Would you give us your thinking behind that order as to why that information should be kept from members of the Congress?

THE PRESIDENT. There are certain secrets in the United States that should be given only to those who absolutely need to have them in making their decisions. Even within the Government people are very cautious and careful, and I am one of them. I have had leaks in war that caused sleepless nights wondering what was happening.

The point comes in, of course, that it is human judgment that determines when an item of information is this delicate, and because we are a republic, a free country, and because the public is entitled to every bit of information that you can give out, inevitably a conflict occurs.

I have found myself more often than not in specific arguments on the side of giving out more. But because I am on that side, there are certain things that I wouldn't give out to anyone; in fact, there would be nothing that would ever get me to agree to it.

Now, our Government being so big, employing 3 1/2 million in our armed services today and some 9 1/2 million in civil service, quite definitely no one human being can make the decisions--what is to be given out and what is not.

We have, through an order that we worked on many, many weeks and was issued some time last year, tried to define as well as we can a policy for these people to follow; but as long as those individuals decide these matters in their own departments as well as they know how and in accordance with the oath of office that they have taken, we must support them. That means I must, and I think the public must.

Q. Robert Spivack, New York Post: Mr. President, continuing that point, do you feel that members of what we might call this McCarthy spy network are to be regarded as security risks?

THE PRESIDENT. That is a question I don't believe I will answer.

Q. Frank O'Brien, Associated Press: Mr. President, a report was published this week that Commissioner of Internal Revenue T. Coleman Andrews would leave his job before the end of this administration, and that he could not go too quickly to please some persons in the administration. This report added that some people in the administration felt that in his handling of FHA "windfall profits" he had been not entirely loyal to the Republican administration. Would you tell us if there is any dissatisfaction with Mr. Andrews?

THE PRESIDENT. The only thing that has ever been asked of a man in that kind of position is: is he loyal to the Government of the United States, that is, to the Constitution and to his job. I can't conceive that such a man would be asked to be loyal to some kind of party label.

Now, certainly George Humphrey has never expressed to me the slightest word of dissatisfaction with Mr. Andrews. On the other hand, he has expressed often very great satisfaction with his work. My own contacts with Mr. Andrews, which have not been frequent, have certainly been cordial when I met him. So far as I know, he has been doing a grand job, and no one has come up to me to recommend his dismissal, I assure you, or hinted that he was thinking of resigning. This is news to me.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's thirty-seventh news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:32 to 10:59 o'clock on Wednesday morning, May 12, 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/231969

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