The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. I understand, ladies and gentlemen, that we are privileged this morning to have quite a group of editors from southeast Asia and Japan with us. For my part, I extend to them a warm welcome, and am delighted they are here.
I have no announcements this morning; I have one request to make on you people. Last year, in the Fourth of July weekend there were 400 Americans killed as a result of holiday activity. Now, I would like to see what this group, through newspapers, television, and radio, can do to cut that in half this year. I would like to get your help now on something and work at it every day from now until the Fourth of July weekend, and through it.
I don't know how much you can do; I don't know how much leeway there is. But I do know that it would be a very worthy cause to devote your energies to.
Thank you very much. We will now have questions.
Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, in connection with the current debate in Congress over your farm program, one of our clients has asked me to ask you this: whether you consider the Republican loss of the House in 1948 to have been due to the farm vote on the issue of flexible supports?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, Merriman, first of all, at that time I certainly was not a political analyst, even if I could so qualify now. I don't know why they lost the House that year and, as you people also know, I am not particularly interested in turning back and trying to unearth every mistake of the past; I never have been.
We have a problem now, and through the past many months I have devoted a real maximum of time to doing my part in developing a program I thought was good for all the United States, including all the farmers in the United States. I believe in that program.
Now, I don't know about '48, but I know in '54 we have to have a program that gets away from the terrible defects of the program that has been on the books.
Q. Kenneth M. Scheibel, Gannett News Service: Mr. President, the House tomorrow is supposed to begin debate or probably vote on the farm bill as it now stands. Do you plan any last-minute appeal to the members to remove the 90 percent provision which is now in the legislation?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, if I can think of any more persuasion to apply, I would certainly put it out in every way I know. I believe that the rigid price supports of these so-called basics is damaging the farmers of the United States, and all the United States. I have put my case as strongly as I know how, so I have no plans at this minute for doing anything additional.
But I must say this: if I thought I could be more persuasive than I have been, I would be right on the job.
Q. Mr. Scheibel: Do you feel that these high price supports are having an effect on the cost of food?
THE PRESIDENT. I think it would be certain they have some, but I do know this: they are encouraging the production of food that is now in such excess, so much in surplus, that we have no place to put it; and we have to ask for more and more money to make these loans. It is getting to be really a back-breaking job.
Now, just exactly how far this is reflected in the cost of food, I can't say because I don't know the statistics.
Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post and Times Herald: I would like to ask you, sir, the same question which I put to Prime Minister Churchill at his press luncheon; it is this: what are the possibilities for peaceful coexistence between Soviet Russia and Communist China, on the one hand, and the non-Communist nations on the other?
THE PRESIDENT. Of course, that almost calls for a very long explanation; I will try to limit my comments to a very few.
For a long, long time everybody in the United States has urged that we attempt to reach a proper basis for peaceful coexistence. We have found, though, an aggressive attitude on the part of the other side that has made such an accomplishment or consummation not easy to reach. In other words, there must be good faith on both sides. Moreover, let us make certain that peaceful coexistence does not mean appeasement in the sense that we are willing to see any nation in the world, against its will, subordinated to an outside nation. For an answer on that one, I would refer you to the document we issued yesterday as a statement of purpose.
So, I would say that within the limits I have just so briefly alluded to, why, I say the hope of the world would be that kind of an existence, because, certainly, we don't expect to be eliminated; and certainly, I think, it would be silly to say you can eliminate the other instantly. We have got to find ways of living together.
Q. Mrs. May Craig, New England Papers: Mr. President, does not the British proposal of a nonaggression pact mean that they would ask us to agree not to help unwillingly unsubordinated peoples?
THE PRESIDENT. Not to help.--
Q. Mrs. Craig: Yes. If they were unwillingly subordinated and they asked us to help them, would we agree not to help them with force to get them free?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, are you asking this question: are we ready now to go to war to free somebody in the world that we find is not completely free? Is that it?
Q. Mrs. Craig: Not exactly, sir. I am speaking of the Vietnamese, the possible agreement between the Red Chinese and the French to subordinate Vietnamese to the Communists, and our possible agreement that we would support that situation.
THE PRESIDENT. How would we support it? We are not a party to any agreement in the Vietnamese area.
Q. Mrs. Craig: I am asking you if we would support them.
THE PRESIDENT. Did you read that declaration?
Q. Mrs. Craig: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT. I ask you, Mrs. Craig, to read it again, and I mean exactly what I say in it. I will not be a party to any treaty that makes anybody a slave. That is all there is to it.
Q. Norman Carignan, Associated Press: Mr. President, the fighting in Guatemala has apparently ended with the defeat of the Communists. I wonder if you would give us your views on the significance of what we have witnessed there, the struggle that we have witnessed there?
THE PRESIDENT. You have asked me a different kind of a question; the significance could be very deep, it could be very local. I think it has not yet been analyzed carefully enough so that we know all of its significance. But I understand Secretary Dulles is going on the air this evening to give a rather full explanation of the whole occurrence, as we understand it.
I did hear this morning--my report was--that the Communists and their great supporters were leaving Guatemala. If I would try to conceal the fact that that gives me great satisfaction, I would be just deceitful. Of course it has given me great satisfaction.
Q. Nat Finney, Buffalo Evening News: Mr. President, may we put your statement to the effect that you will not be a party to any treaty that makes anybody a slave, in direct quotations?
THE PRESIDENT. You can.
Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: Does your statement on Indochina, sir, mean that you will not cooperate in any way with an armistice in Indochina that partitions Viet-Nam?
THE PRESIDENT. Oh, no, I don't say that I am going to stand here, and in the absence of studies and analyses of any proposal made, I don't say that I won't go along with some of it.
I say I won't be a party to a treaty that makes anybody a slave; but to make such a statement doesn't mean you are not going to study every single region, every single incident that comes up, and decide what to do at the moment.
Q. Mr. Reston: But if Viet-Nam is partitioned, will not the northern part of the country then be left under Communist control?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't know what kind of a thing it's going to be yet. As a matter of fact, let us assume this: let's assume that there is going to be ample opportunity given for the migration within these areas of any people, not merely the Armed Forces, but any peoples, and ample time to do it if they want to transfer. I don't know what kind of a deal there will be there; I am just as much puzzled as anybody else on that one.
Q. John W. Vandercook, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, yesterday afternoon the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved an amendment to the foreign aid bill which, in effect, would deprive any Asian nation which joined in a treaty of the Locarno type from any further American military or economic aid. Do you regard that as harmful or hurtful in the formation of foreign policy?
THE PRESIDENT. I did not read the exact terminology of the amendment itself, but I did have a telephone message sent to find out from our people working on this whether it would limit us in what we are trying to do. The answer was, no, it would be all right.
Q. Mr. Vandercook: It would fit in--
THE PRESIDENT [continuing]. I don't know of any difficulty about it.
Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, there seems to be some disagreement between you and your Republican congressional campaign committee chairman, Congressman Simpson of Pennsylvania, about the Randall Commission. He told the House that it would be infinitely worse than the present reciprocal trade law, and said, "You would throw up your hands in horror if you would see how those hearings were held; no opportunity for businessmen to come in and tell their tales, no opportunity for cross-examination, and an entirely unfair way to conduct a hearing if you want to find out the effects on the American businessman." He says they will have to throw out the Randall Commission and have extensive hearings to write an entirely new trade bill next year. I wonder if you will be receptive to different views on trade?
THE PRESIDENT. That statement hasn't been made to me, and I think I will wait on that one until it is made to me.
I would remark on this: I think Mr. Randall is a fairly successful businessman.
Q. Douglas B. Cornell, Associated Press: Mr. President, would you care to say anything about the decision of the AEC in the Oppenheimer case?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't want to comment on it. The decision was made in the normal procedures. There are men there that I trust. I have not myself studied the findings and the final decision. I just read in the paper, actually, that the vote was 4 to I.
Q. Robert J. Donovan, New York Herald Tribune: Sir, from what you now hear and know, what do you think the Republican chances are in November?
THE PRESIDENT. There seems to be a very great interest in casting every public figure in the terms of a prophet. Certainly it is something I know very little about.
I will tell you: I have believed from the beginning that the American people want to see a well thought out, comprehensive program, dealing with our principal affairs abroad and our principal affairs at home, put before the Legislature and enacted into law. That program we have labored very earnestly to produce, and we have laid it before the Congress.
Now, no one has ever thought that in every detail it would be enacted. But I do believe that if the results are achieved in Congress that I still believe are going to be achieved, which is that the great bulk of that program is enacted into law, the supporters of that kind of action are going to be favorably considered by the voters.
I am just not going to predict any more accurately than that, but I believe thoroughly that the American people want a constructive program that is concerned with the future of America.
Q. Roscoe Drummond, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, after the close of the Mundt hearings, Senator Potter came over to call on you. I wondered if you could tell us anything of your conversations and whether you found yourself in agreement with Senator Potter?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, now, I will tell you perfectly truthfully, Senator Potter has been to see me periodically. I admire and like him, and I don't remember in the slightest degree what was the subject of the last conversation we have had; I simply don't. If it were something that were in the public domain, I would be glad to talk about it; but I just don't recall what it was we talked about at this moment.
Q. Milton Freudenheim, Akron Beacon Journal: Do you feel, sir, that the country is safer and more secure now that Dr. Oppenheimer no longer is working for us?
THE PRESIDENT. I think you had better go and ask the Atomic Energy Commission. They are responsible for this. They have a very delicate and tough job to do; I think they are the ones to ask.
Q. Charles von Fremd, CBS Television: Mr. President, the day before yesterday after the regular morning legislative conference with your legislative leaders, the Speaker of the House and Senator Knowland told us that they had had a briefing from Secretary Dulles in which he said, among other things, that the outlook in the Far East is more encouraging, but they declined to give us the reasons for that outlook on the part of the Secretary of State. I wonder if you can give us any inkling as to why we should now regard the Far East as possibly more encouraging?
THE PRESIDENT. Such an opinion as was expressed is a combination of so many factors, none of which, I think, is decisive in itself, that it would be almost futile, short of an hour's conversation, to try to give you the picture of what's in anyone's mind, including mine.
Let us take one single thing: when Mr. Churchill and Mr. Eden came over here, there was very vast concern in this country about the difficulties seeming to stand in the way of us reaching reasonable agreements about our several problems in the world. I think that visit did much to get this thing back on the rails, recognizing the truth, you might say, to the fore, recognizing that there is no possibility that any two nations will always see eye to eye on every detail. Yet our broad purposes and our actual convictions and beliefs, as to the best application of those purposes in particular areas, were clearly established as common to both of us.
Consequently, I would say that that is one item that gives us greater encouragement and greater belief. You can go into numerous things, certain of the statements of the new Premier of France, and so on, that give some encouragement, but you have to wait to see.
Q. Ray Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, Mr. Churchill had some rather generous things to say about you, and I wonder if you would like a chance, perhaps, to reciprocate? [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. I would say, with respect to that, I have been saying them ever since I knew him, and I doubt that any further word of mine is necessary to add to the luster of his reputation.
As you people know, I regard him not only as one of my warmest foreign friends, but I have served with him intimately in many kinds of operations now for, well, let's see, 12 years and my admiration for him is as high as ever.
Q. L. Edgar Prina, Washington Star: Mr. President, do you consider the Oppenheimer case closed, or would you, in the event it were made, consider a plea from Dr. Oppenheimer?
THE PRESIDENT. I am one of those persons that believe that any citizen in the world that believes himself abused has a right to appeal. If he wanted to make an appeal, of course he would be listened to. And I would think the next place it would be referred by me would be, let's say, the Attorney General to make a complete analysis and to tell me what my own prerogatives, authorities, and responsibilities in the matter are. I haven't looked up those things in detail.
Q. James Reston, New York Times: Mr. President, could I ask you just one more question about Oppenheimer in order to keep the record straight? You said the case was the responsibility of the Atomic Energy Commission. As I understand it, the Atomic Energy Commission never discussed the case until it received a letter from you on the 3d of December ordering the investigation. Could you tell us about that December 3d meeting, what the background of that was?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't recall any meeting. I recall that I received a report that was very disturbing to me, and I forwarded it to the Atomic Energy Commission with the certainty in my own mind that it would be thoroughly investigated.
Exactly what we said at that time, Mr. Reston, I haven't the slightest idea. I took the action that seemed almost compulsory under the circumstances.
Q. Eliyahu Salpeter, Haaretz (Tel Aviv): Mr. President, it has been reported that in the talks with Sir Winston Churchill, the Middle East has also been discussed. Could you tell us whether an understanding has been reached on a joint policy on the Middle East, particularly on the Suez, on the northern tier, and on Arab-Israel relations?
THE PRESIDENT. No. I think I understand your question, which was: has any specific agreement been reached as to the character of the arrangements we would like to see established in the Middle East?
Q. Mr. Salpeter: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT. I would say that with respect to the Suez Canal, the question is one of the Egyptian Government with the British Government.
Of course, the situation was explained to us when our friends were here; but as far as I know, there is no fixed final position. They gave this merely to us as a matter of information on a confidential basis; I would want to say no more about it.
Q. Richard Wilson, Cowles Publication: Mr. President, to what extent have you and Mr. Churchill discussed the H-bomb, the use of the H-bomb, and the control of it?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, as I think I told you ladies and gentlemen before Mr. Churchill came, I was quite certain there would be no problem of common interest to us extending over the world that we would not discuss; and, of course, we did so.
Now, there were no specifics reached. I told you there was no agenda for this conference, and that was correct; so there were no specific agreements to be signed and sealed or handed to our separate governments. Our conversations were merely searching out our understandings as to how we would approach different problems. There is nothing specific to report on the question that you raised, nothing.
Q. Henri Pierre, Le Monde (Paris): Mr. President, there has been an exchange of letters between you and President Coty of France. Does it imply that a visit of Mr. Mendes-France is considered, and would you welcome that visit?
THE PRESIDENT. You will recall that I expressed in a letter--they were made public, weren't they? [Chorus of "Yes"] I expressed in my letter a desire to reopen negotiations; and he replied in the hope that something of that kind could be done.
However, let us remember that Mr. Mendes-France is very preoccupied with a very difficult job. For our part, we will be glad to talk to anybody about these great problems of the world when they are in position to do so.
Q. George Herman, CBS Radio: Mr. President, some weeks ago you told us that the next step for Korean peace would be the return of General Smith and discussions with him. Can you tell us now, sir, what the prospects are for Korean peace and the withdrawing of our troops?
THE PRESIDENT. I would say at the moment there is little change in the situation. As you people know, there was no solid agreement reached there.
Q. Joseph Chiang, Chinese News Service: Mr. President, recently six Far Eastern countries, Hong Kong, the Philippine Islands, Formosa, and others held a collective defense against communism conference at Chinhae, Korea, namely seeking American aid and your great leadership. Would you care to comment, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. I think there has been no specific request placed upon this Government in this respect. Certainly there has been no analysis and study presented to me.
However, it is a question I will be glad to look up and see where we stand. It hasn't been put on my desk yet.
Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, Vice President Nixon made a speech the other day. His thesis, as I understood it, was that the Acheson foreign policy was to blame for the loss of China, and from that flowed the war in Korea and the difficulty in Indochina. The Democrats didn't like it very much. I wondered if you had any observations to make about it?
THE PRESIDENT. First of all, let's recognize this: each individual in this country is entitled to his own opinions and convictions.
The next thing is, I admire and respect and like the Vice President. I think he is a very splendid American.
Thirdly, I think my own job is to look at America today and to look ahead. I carry administrative and executive responsibilities and planning responsibilities that don't fall on some of the other individuals; so I just simply haven't time to go back.
My belief is this: we must seek agreements among ourselves, with respect to foreign policy, that are not confined to any party. We must get every American to studying these things and reaching conclusions regardless of party, because they are too important. Regardless of what party takes over, there must be a stability or there is no foreign policy.
Now, as to exactly what he said or what this was, taken in context, I don't know; I have never seen his speech. But as I say, everybody is entitled, I think, to his own opinion.
Q. Carleton Kent, Chicago Sun-Times: Do your remarks about the Vice President mean that from now on members of the Cabinet do not have to clear with you any speeches they may make in the public forum?
THE PRESIDENT. I think you have been here long enough to know that the Vice President is not a member of the Cabinet; I invite him to all meetings.
Q. Mr. Kent: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT. No member of the Cabinet, I believe, would make a foreign policy speech without consulting with the State Department, and if there is any question in the mind of the Secretary of State, certainly they would clear with me.
In this case, I don't know; but I assume whatever the talk was, it was made on an individual responsibility. As I say, if he made the speech, I know this: he believes what he said. But I didn't see the speech.
Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post and Times Herald: Rightly or wrongly, sir, we are in the habit of saying that a Vice President speaks for the administration. If he makes a speech of that kind we say that is the administration viewpoint. Now, perhaps we have been wrong in saying that. Should we make a distinction?
The President: Well, are you trying to make one swallow a summer? [Laughter]
I am saying that normally I think that the Vice President is kept in such close contact with everything that is going on that he would know and would reflect what is administration thinking. Certainly neither I nor anyone else is ready to say that any other individual is always going to state exactly the things the way I would state them, and exactly as I believe.
Now, you are not going to get me in a position of condemning my Vice President, because I repeat, I like and admire and respect him.
The mere fact that I might not have said it doesn't make it something that I am going to be disturbed about too much. But I would say this: you can normally take it, when he talks, he is talking pretty much the language of this administration. I thoroughly have this belief: no President has the right to go through his career here without keeping the next in line thoroughly informed of what are the big problems, so he would know how to take over if misfortune would overtake the Chief Executive. So he stays so close in, and normally we find our minds running so closely the same that I wouldn't try to excommunicate him from this party if I were you. [Laughter]
Q. Paul R. Leach, Chicago Daily News: Can you say anything about the conversations with Mr. Churchill on his idea of conferences with Malenkov in Moscow?
THE PRESIDENT. Of course, all of us have announced time and again we are ready to do anything in the world to confer with anyone if we can become convinced, through deeds or any other way, that they are sincere, that the other side is sincere.
We believe--we know we are sincere in the search for peace. If there is any proof of the other side that they will keep their agreements, I think we would be, all of us, quite content to do almost anything to advance that cause.
We talked about it, insofar as I know, only in that regard. He didn't propose to me anything specific or "Let's agree to this deal or that deal or the other," not at all.
Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, could you tell us your reasons for ordering the AEC to make a private power agreement for getting some additional power put in through the TVA?
THE PRESIDENT. It's a rather long and complicated story. I told you people long ago that the TVA was a historical fact, that it was going to be supported, and particularly supported in the purposes written into the law for which it was established.
Now, as time goes on, we find that TVA has gone far beyond the establishment of steam plants to firm up maximum water power developed in the waters of that region. We find projects for installing, building, TVA power plants way out on the periphery of this area, which would mean finally that they could best deliver their power on beyond that; and I know of no way in which this thing would be limited.
The only thing that I want with respect to that is a very good look from every angle--tell us what is the best future for that region, how far we can continue to build up this area at the expense of others. Maybe we should be building the Missouri River or the Susquehanna or the Penobscot or some other.
One of the contentions made was that they were under an immediate shortage, something had to be done because of this great portion of the power taken by the AEC. The AEC says that they have the authority to buy their power for a given number of years under private purchase. The comparisons of cost, as based on original layout and the annual cost of this power, are long and involved, but it looked like a good thing to buy this power privately so that we can get a really good look as to where we are going into the future in terms of expansion. You see, I have States, representatives of Massachusetts, New York, Indiana, coming to me and saying, "You are taking our taxes and building up cheap power some place and taking our industries out."
I don't know exactly where all of the truth lies in this thing, and I am trying to find out. This is just a way to give us a chance to study the thing thoroughly.
Q. Sarah McClendon, Sherman (Texas) Democrat: Mr. President, back to the Nixon speech, Mr. Sam Rayburn, who comes from Sherman Democrat territory, told the House yesterday, he said in so many words, the bipartisan foreign policy you want was threatened by the Nixon speech, and he sort of warned that if any more speeches came out like that, that hurt the Democrats' feelings very deeply, that there might not be any bipartisan foreign policy. Under those circumstances, would you consider asking Mr. Nixon to apologize? [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. I told you that I liked and respected him, and I think if Dick Nixon ever finds any reason for apologizing for his own actions, he will do it without any advice from me.
Now, I am working for a proper, long-range, commonly supported foreign policy, and I am not going to give up just because someone may hurt my feelings or threaten me or anything else. I am going to continue working.
Merriman Smith, United Press: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Eisenhower's forty-second news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:33 to 11:06 o'clock on Wednesday morning, June 30, 1954. In attendance: 184.
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/232258