Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

May 19, 1954

THE PRESIDENT. Ladies and gentlemen, it is awfully nice once in a while to have a piece of news come to your notice that is very pleasing. If you have noted the action of the Senate Banking and Currency Committee in restoring the housing program of the administration, you can understand that I am highly pleased. I sincerely hope the conferees will find a way of supporting that program very definitely and unequivocally.

Now, with that out of the way, we will take the other questions.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, both Republicans and Democrats on the Senate permanent investigating subcommittee have expressed the opinion that as a result of your order to Secretary Wilson on Monday, it may be impossible to get at the whole truth in the controversy. They have expressed the hope that you will rescind or at least relax that order. Do you have any such intentions, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I shall not only answer your question, but I think I shall go a little bit beyond your question and talk about this matter a moment, if you will allow me.

First, I have no intention whatsoever of relaxing or rescinding the order, because it is a very moderate and proper statement of the division of powers between the Executive and the Legislative.

Now, when I saw in the paper allegations to the effect that the issuance of that order could be used as a reason or excuse for calling off hearings, I was astonished. Lest there remain any doubt as to why the meeting of January 21st was called, I will tell you exactly why. There was an investigation going on in which an executive department of Government--Defense Department, and principally the Army--was engaged with a committee of Congress. Finally, there was proposed to them a question which they could not answer by themselves because it involved an Executive order.

It was proposed that they bring up the records--the records of the loyalty boards and the individuals who comprised those loyalty boards. Under an Executive order of long standing, that was impossible, so they had to have advice. Since, of course, an Executive order is an instrument drawn by the President, they asked an adviser or two of mine to be there, and it was done, I believe, in the Attorney General's office. That was the purpose of that meeting, to decide whether this question could be answered affirmatively or should be answered negatively under the terms of that Executive order.

Now the only reason I issued the order was because I saw an investigation going ahead where it appeared that there was going to be a long sidetrack established, and go into a relationship between the President and his advisers that had no possible connection with this investigation, and which in any event would directly and instantly raise the old question of the proper division of powers between the Executive and the Legislature.

Far from trying to get any investigation off the track, I was merely trying, with the timely statement, to keep it on the rails.

I will say with respect to that investigation, as I have told you before, I hope it is concluded as soon and expeditiously as possible, but conclusively so that the principals tell their stories openly and fully, and so the public can know the facts, but so these extraneous matters and these things that roam all up and down the alleys of Government, of every kind of thought and idea, are kept out of them. Now I hope that disposes of my order.

Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: Mr. President, may I just ask you one question? In commenting on your last sentence in your remark, when you say you hope the principals all testify, do you mean all the principals who have not testified up to now? Is that what you were referring to?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't want to be so completely specific in this thing, because certainly I am not trying to tell any committee how to conduct its investigations; but I do believe that two or three main issues were raised. All the principals to those two or three main issues should be questioned. Some of them have been questioned.

Incidentally, I think in this regard, and in order to assure in the public mind what Mr. Stevens so often said before, I have no doubt that he will have something to say about the disassociation between his administration of the Army and this meeting of last January 21st.

Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, in connection with that, the main issue in the hearings at this moment appears to be whether the authority for the Army's actions passed from Stevens to a higher level at the January 21st meeting. Can you tell us whether Stevens--

THE PRESIDENT. I think Mr. Stevens' announcement can take complete care of that, Mr. Clark, but I should say this: that at that meeting there was no attempt made, there was nothing brought up that could intimate such a thing.

Q. Anthony Leviero, New York Times: Mr. President, is there anything in that letter of yours that should be interpreted as meaning that the January 21st conference meant to suppress any of the essential facts that this committee could use in this investigation?

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, no, nothing. As a matter of fact, as you can well know, ladies and gentlemen, I can't stay too close to the details of this argument, and I don't know what is the latest and most intense question that is brought up. So, the letter which I signed, I had directed the beginning of its preparation long before in order to clarify our own minds, get the best legal opinion as to where this thing was. You can see how long it took; did you see all of the--in the attached memorandum how the historical examples were recited merely to show that this is no new doctrine? We are just trying to preserve the essentials of our Government.

Q. Gould Lincoln, Washington Star: Mr. President, would it be correct to say that the White House OK'd the preparation and submission of the Army report on Senator McCarthy and Mr. Cohn?

THE PRESIDENT. It would not.

Q. Harry C. Dent, Columbia (S.C.) State and Record: Mr. President, do you have any advice to give the South as to just how to react to this recent Supreme Court decision banning segregation, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Not in the slightest. I thought that Governor Byrnes made a very fine statement when he said, "Let's be calm and let's be reasonable and let's look this thing in the face."

The Supreme Court has spoken and I am sworn to uphold the constitutional processes in this country; and I will obey.

Q. Mr. Dent: Mr. President, one more question. Do you think this decision has put Mr. Byrnes and Mr. Byrd and other Southern leaders who supported the Republican ticket in 1952 on the political hotspot, so to speak, since it was brought out under the Republican administration?

THE PRESIDENT. The Supreme Court, as I understand it, is not under any administration.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: A question along that same line, sir, do you expect that this ruling will, however, alienate many of your Southern supporters politically?

THE PRESIDENT. This is all I will say: I have stood, so far as I know, for honest, decent government since I was first mentioned as a political figure. I am still standing for it, and they will have to make their own decisions as to whether they decide that I have got any sense or haven't.

Q. David P. Sentner, Hearst Newspapers: Mr. President, did you say whether you were aware in advance of the calling of the so-called conference on January 21st--

THE PRESIDENT. The what?

Q. Mr. Sentner: Were you aware of a conference being called in advance on January 21st in the Attorney General's office?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I wouldn't answer it in any event because, after all, we do come to a place here where you can't go into detail; but my memory wouldn't serve me anyway. I couldn't remember such a thing.

Q. Clark R. Mollenhoff, Des Moines Register and Tribune: Is it proper that the loyalty conversations are the only thing barred by your order, things outside of the scope

THE PRESIDENT. I think the order stands on itself. After all, it has a certain amount of legal terminology which I have had to study and try to comprehend. I think the order should be read and just interpreted for itself.

Q. Mr. Mollenhoff: Mr. President, under the past administration T. Lamar Caudle testified with relation to conversations with Howard McGrath, and several Treasury Department employees were called to testify with relation to conversations with John Snyder. I wonder if there is any distinction between this case and those cases which you would like to make?

THE PRESIDENT. I believe this: I believe situations can arise in this vast executive department where officials, knowing that something is not a matter of a confidential nature and exchange of views, can make their own decisions. You will recall both in that order and anything I have ever said, that the executive department stands ready always in every proper way to cooperate with the Congress.

We at least know this: you can't make our form of government work without cooperation. We are careful in this particular only to keep the proper division between their powers and the Executive powers and authorities and responsibilities, so confusion does not result.

Now I am not going to try to take every case that could possibly arise in this vast executive department and here give an answer as to what should happen.

Q. Mr. Mollenhoff: Mr. President, do you feel that there is a danger of this precedent being used though in the future? In the past there were conversations between Fall and Denby in the Harding administration that would have fallen within the pale of this, as I would interpret it. I wonder if there was some distinction?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you will have to read the order and decide yourself.

Q. Kenneth M. Scheibel, Gannett Newspapers: Mr. President, could you tell us your reaction to the reported shipment of arms to Guatemala from behind the Iron Curtain?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it is disturbing. I think that, above all, it highlights the circumstances, the background, that led to the adoption of the resolution at the Caracas conference regarding communism in this country.

To have the Communist dictatorship establish an outpost on this continent to the detriment of all the American nations, of course would be a terrible thing; that was the reason for the Caracas resolution.

Q. Charles L. Bartlett, Chattanooga Times: Mr. President, Gordon Clapp's term as Chairman of the TVA ended yesterday. I wondered if you had any farewell comment on his service in that post?

THE PRESIDENT. All of the reports that have come to me are that he has operated as a very fine administrator and without any fear, favor, or affection.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, I wonder if you could tell us anything about the current conversations between this Government and France on Indochina, as to your understanding of their scope and progress?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, as far as the conversations just between representatives going on in Paris, of course there is nothing to say about them.

I can say this: I can remind you again of the background that is still stable, so far as this country is concerned. If any of you may recall, on April 16th, 1953, I made a talk on the world situation, promotion of peace, and in it I most clearly pointed out, went to some trouble to point out, that there should be collective arrangements for assuring the security of southeast Asia.

That, remember, is the basic policy of the United States; that it is only through collective security among several nations that you can establish a political background in which it is possible to defeat Communist aggression.

Now, any talks that are going on anywhere, in which the United States is a part, always go ahead with that background.

Q. Mr. Roberts: Is it your understanding, sir, that we are trying to get that collective security before the close of the Geneva conference?

THE PRESIDENT. Such things cannot be forced. They are long weary conversations, and in one form or another have been going on for a long time, as I say, witness my own public statement of well over a year ago, witness the public statements of the Secretary of State.

I don't know and I can't tell you anything about it; or at least I couldn't report, I say, any detail that would indicate progress or lack of progress. They are just going ahead, is all I can say.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Maine Newspapers: Mr. President, may I ask one more question about the investigation? The question before the committee as outlined there was whether the direction of the investigation had been shifted on January 21st from the narrow issue of the Department of Defense and the Army to the White House and the Attorney General. Mr. John Adams testified that just before that on January the 19th, he felt the issues had got beyond him, particularly in relation to the loyalty aspect, and that therefore he had taken it up with the Department of Justice, and then the 21st conference took place.

THE PRESIDENT. Just a moment; I told you that that particular question of course was beyond them because it involved an Executive order, and that is the reason he was justified in saying that.

Q. Mrs. Craig: Yes, but the question of the Capitol, as voiced by all these Senators, was whether from that day on the whole course of this controversy was shifted to the White House.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, as I intimated before, I am sure you will be satisfied by the Secretary of the Army's statement on this. If you are not, you may raise it again at the next press conference. I think I have made it clear.

Q. Alan S. Emory, Watertown Daily Times: Mr. President, late last week Governor Dewey suggested that a solution to two of our problems might be if we drank less coffee and more milk. I wonder if you had any comment on that? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know if you have to drink less coffee, because most of us like it. But I am sure of this. I would like to see Americans drink more milk. That will help solve one of my problems.

Q. Kenneth M. Scheibel, Gannett Newspapers: Mr. President, in that connection Secretary Benson wants to put milk-vending machines in all of the Government buildings. Will you support him in that proposal?

THE PRESIDENT. Someone on my staff came along and said that he was 2 years late or a year late. We have had them in our office for a long time. I think it's a pretty good idea.

Q. Mr. Scheibel: Would you recommend them for the other Government buildings?

THE PRESIDENT. I think I would have to let them decide that themselves. I'm in favor of drinking milk.

Q. Dayton Moore, United Press: Mr. President, when do you think you will appoint a new Chairman or reappoint Mr. Clapp to the TVA?

THE PRESIDENT. As soon as I find a man who is completely nonpolitical in his position and status, who is in my opinion a professionally well-qualified man, whose general philosophical approach to such affairs agrees with mine, and whose integrity and probity is above reproach; and that is a hard job.

Q. Joseph R. Slevin, New York Journal of Commerce: Mr. President, in your foreign economic message to Congress at the end of March, you mentioned modifying the "Buy American Act" regulations through administrative action. I wonder if you could tell us what the status of those plans is at this time?

THE PRESIDENT. Modifying the "Buy American Act"?

Q. Mr. Slevin: Modifying the regulation, Executive regulation.

THE PRESIDENT. No, there has been no recent report made to me on this subject. Now, it does come up every time we talk about the plan and our hope of promoting a freer trade with our friends in the world; but I don't know about the details of which you speak, and I will have to have them looked up and given you.

Q. Douglass Cater, The Reporter Magazine: Mr. President, would you give us any estimate of what you think the effect would be if this Senate investigation were called off at this time?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't think the facts have been brought out. This has aroused a great interest in the United States.

Now, make no mistake; I am anxious to see it cease, with all of the principals once telling their story. Ladies and gentlemen, let me say again I just don't think anything today deserves to absorb the attention of the United States as compared to the study it should be making of our foreign situation, our foreign policy, as it is applied to the various areas of the world, where does lie our enlightened self-interest, where do we best support the whole theory of the hanging together, the cooperation amongst the nations of the free world, the program as it is applied to our own country in the terms of taxes and farm programs and everything that is there to keep us strong so we can pursue intelligently and with confidence a peaceful program in the world.

Nothing, nothing can be so important as that kind of a program and its enactment at this time. Consequently, much as I want to see this thing settled conclusively, and so that we do know the facts, let the chips fall where they may. Let's get the facts out and then let's go on about the important business of this Government; and I personally feel, ladies and gentlemen, there is no time to waste.

We should stand in great issues as a more united people looking at the same set of facts; and I don't mean, as I have told you so often, I don't mean agreeing with me or with anybody else in details of procedure and methods. But let's see what it is we are trying to do in the world, and then let's get ahead with it.

I am sorry to make a speech.

Q. Frank van der Linden, Charlotte ( N.C. ) Observer: Judging from your reception down in Charlotte yesterday on the trip, would you say the Republicans have a good chance of carrying that part of North Carolina this fall?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I wouldn't make such suggestions, for this reason: we know that the South is traditionally Democratic. But I will say this: I got very great support for the speech I just have now made you, and many, many, many men saying to me, "I hope we can get ahead with it," of all parties.

Q. Nat S. Finney, Buffalo Evening News: Mr. President, there have been some reports that the conversations with Russia as to your atomic pool plan have, in effect, broken down. Can you throw some light on that for us today?

THE PRESIDENT. I would merely say this: with certain of my advisers who are close in this, I am studying as hard I can to see how the United States can go ahead in some enlightened form, some enlightened method along this line without waiting on anybody else.

Q. Laurence H. Burd, Chicago Tribune: Mr. President, can you say what you think the prospects are of Great Britain joining in the Southeast Asia Pact?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I can't, because I don't know.

Q. Mr. Burd: Do you think we could build an effective pact back there without Great Britain's support?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, after all, you must remember that Australia and New Zealand are the countries of the British Commonwealth of Nations that are directly involved. I should say that with the proper Asiatic nations, which of course I lay down as a sine qua non, and Australia and New Zealand, we might possibly work out something that would be maybe not as satisfactory or as broad as you would like it, but could be workable.

Q. Roscoe Drummond, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, could you say whether you think that the atomic energy law should be revised so as to give more authority to the Chairman of the Commission?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it is a detail, I must tell you, that I am not quite sure how the law is written. And Mr. Drummond, I will say this-no recommendations have been made to me on the subject, so I could add this--I have the utmost faith in Admiral Strauss, and if you could make certain that there was always going to be a man there of that caliber, why I could stand a lot of authority in his hands.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's thirty-eighth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:32 to 10:54 o'clock on Wednesday morning, May 19, 1954. In attendance: 183.

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/232016

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