The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. This morning, ladies and gentlemen, I should say that one subject occupying the attention of the world is still speculation as to the meaning and possible significance of the changeover in the Kremlin, what it means to us, and whether there is any significance to the attacks we have had on our planes in different sections of the world--whether that has any connection with this changeover.
I can only say to you that as far as we are concerned, and as seriously as we view these attacks on the planes of the West, that we see no pattern, no different intention written into these incidents. Watchful and as analytical as we may be, we don't see anything different than has been the attitude in the past.
As for the changeover in the Kremlin itself, as you know, there has been an expression of an intent to seek peace, from the Kremlin. I can only say that that is just as welcome as it is sincere.
There is a very direct relationship between the satisfaction of such a thing and the sincerity in which it is meant. They will never be met less than halfway, that I assure you; because the purpose of this administration will forever be to seek peace by every honorable and decent means, and we will do anything that will be promising towards that direction.
One of the things that I continually talked about during the campaign was a desire, a purpose, and a hope of reducing expenditures, so that we would approach a balanced budget.
Well, as all of us know, it is never easy. Everybody wants to cut revenues in Government before they cut expenditures; and of course, I want to do it in the opposite order.
There has been a very encouraging sign. I notice in the Secretary of Commerce's report yesterday to the Congress, he is recommending a cut in his 1954 budget that amounts to about 15 percent.
But I don't expect any such general overall success in our budget. I must say that that is very hopeful, so far as I am concerned, and it is certainly indication of the earnestness with which the Secretary of Commerce and his staff are going about the thing.
All the rest of them are studying it the same way, but I don't anticipate that all of them will have that same degree of success.
I think those are the two points I had on my mind as I walked over here this morning, ladies and gentlemen, and I think we might as well go to the questions.
Q. Harry W. Frantz, United Press: All of your predecessors since President Coolidge, I believe, have made good will visits to one or more of the Latin American countries during their terms. Have you given any thought to such a journey in the near or remote future?
THE PRESIDENT. I have thought a great deal about good will tours, and certainly as far as South America is concerned, I have stated many, many times, how terrifically interested I am in that region. I believe we can much improve our relationships with them; but whether or not the President of the United States can find time these days to make one of these trips, with their physical drain and the other features that go with them, I am not so sure. You might make a short one, but I think possibly it would be better to find real emissaries that could go down and spend more time than would be possible for the President.
Q. Robert W. Richards, Copley Press: Mr. President, I have been told that the administration has reached some conclusions about the St. Lawrence Seaway. Would you care to comment at this time about it?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, we have reached some tentative conclusions for the moment, but I must admit you caught me to this one extent--I have forgotten whether we have agreed to keep those confidential until we could examine them a little bit more among ourselves. I am not certain. I will say this: I personally have held for a long time several things about this.
First, I should personally be distressed to see Canada go ahead completely independent of the United States so that in the future we might have reason to regret our lack of participation and cooperation in such a project.
Secondly, I believe that the power project there near the Niagara region is properly an object for negotiation between New York State and Ontario.
And thirdly, I believe this: if the St. Lawrence Seaway is really an economic necessity for the United States, eventually it is going to be built, and there is just nothing that my attitude for the moment could do to prevent it. You might delay it, you might make it a little more difficult; but in the long run, if it's an economic necessity, it is going to come about.
We have gone, I don't mind admitting, a little bit further than that in our own thinking; but I am giving you my personal thoughts that I have been expressing for a long time.
Q. [Speaker unidentified]: Could you comment on Senator Knowland's speech in the Senate the other day, in which he urged this Government to attempt to have the United Nations brand Russia as an aggressor in Korea, and adopt a little more aggressive policy in Korea ?
THE PRESIDENT. I am not going to comment in terms either of agreement or criticism. My own feeling is this: every time that any opponent, in a situation such as we now find ourselves, is ready to say "Let's try to wipe the slate clean and take a look at the present and the future," you will find me ready to do it. I wouldn't want to do anything unnecessarily provocative at the moment. On the other hand, I will not, by any manner of means, countenance anything that I think is an infringement on our rights, our position, or our opportunity for a future peaceful agreement. So I don't want to comment more specifically than that on this statement.
Q. David P. Senther, Hearst Newspapers: On the previous question of good will, do you anticipate any visit from Marshal Tito to Washington?
THE PRESIDENT. I haven't at the moment. As a matter of fact, someone mentioned on the way over here that I might have that question. I haven't heard it even discussed up to this point, and so I couldn't comment.
Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, there have been several reports in recent days that you have before you under consideration some large study of heavily expanded expenditures for civil defense and our air defense, stemming from the MIT survey for the Air Force? Would you discuss that for us, please?
THE PRESIDENT. There was a committee appointed by the past administration that submitted a report, and it has been under consideration by different sections of the staff. It has some very serious implications in it. I have not, in person, yet studied that in detail, and there have certainly been no general conclusions reached in the National Security Council, the Cabinet, or elsewhere, as to the extent to which it should be taken as a guide.
Now, I have forgotten the exact name of that commission, but Mr. Hagerty can give it to you after this meeting.
Q. Felix Belair, New York Times: Mr. President, would you tell us something of the new job you have reportedly turned over to Lew Douglas in the field of foreign economic policy?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, there is really no assignment except in this way. I believe thoroughly in the practice of the various sections of Government departments keeping in touch with the normal economic and business activities of this country through every possible means. There is just not the time on the part of a busy governmental official to make policy decisions, often, without such aid, because he is given so little time, really, to think, to reflect, to study it, and to do his research.
Now, what these committees do--the one that Lew Douglas is heading up does exactly the same thing, takes a look at our foreign trade position, what it means both in strictly money and what it means in our commodities, the raw materials we have to get, the markets we need in order to make certain that our surpluses are absorbed, and all that sort of thing. It is a broad study, in which he is simply the head individual, that is all.
Q. Mr. Belair: Mr. President, would that be a continuing body, or merely to report and then drop it?
THE PRESIDENT. If I can make it so, it shall be a continuing one, because these factors change every month of our lives. Our trade relationship of 20 years ago has no relationship to what it is now. It continues to change.
I don't mean to say the identity of the individuals has to remain the same, the function is still important.
Q. Alice A. Dunnigan, Associated Negro Press: Mr. President, the Department of the Army is now operating several schools on military posts in Virginia, Oklahoma, and Texas, which eliminate colored children. And in line with your announced policy to eliminate segregation in the Army, I wonder if anything has been done to correct that situation?
THE PRESIDENT. All I can say is, I will look it up. I haven't heard it; I will look it up--[to Mr. Hagerty]: will you make a point of it?
I will say this--I repeat it, I have said it again and again: wherever Federal funds are expended for anything, I do not see how any American can justify--legally, or logically, or morally-a discrimination in the expenditure of those funds as among our citizens. All are taxed to provide those funds. If there is any benefit to be derived from them, I think they must all share, regardless of such inconsequential factors as race and religion.
Q. Mrs. May Craig, Maine papers: Mr. President, yesterday in your speech to the Business Advisory Council, you referred twice to the "Korean war." Was that a manner of speaking, or do you differ from Mr. Truman, who always called it "police action"?
THE PRESIDENT. Of course, Mrs. Craig, it could be my upbringing, but when you see American soldiers called out under a draft, serving on that kind of a front, and suffering casualties in the numbers they have, so far as I am concerned it must be called a war.
Now I admit that this is not a war in the sense that you have a particular, clean objective and you go out for the destruction of all of the armed forces wherever they may be, and use every kind of political, economic, and military device to gain a major and positive victory. But I would refer you to Clausewitz. He knew even 150 years ago that there were various kinds of wars, and some partake of little more than police action, others get to be great conflagrations. So far as I am concerned, it is a war. It is a particular kind--but it is a war.
Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, before the Foreign Relations Committee vote yesterday, Senator McCarthy had said that he thought it was a serious mistake for you not to withdraw the Bohlen nomination. Do you care to comment on that?
THE PRESIDENT. I had a full report, so far as we have it, from the Secretary of State. I have considered Mr. Bohlen a man to be thoroughly trained in State Department functions and practices, familiar with Russia--at least, so far as we have anyone familiar with Russia; and he seemed to me to be a very fine appointment.
Certainly, even if we were wrong, there is one thing about it: it was based strictly upon merit, as we saw the merits of the case. Now, that's all I can say.
Q. Sarah McClendon, San Antonio Light: Mr. President, the question of an Air Academy has long been kicked around. Do you think we ought to have it, or not?
THE PRESIDENT. I think we ought to have an Air Academy. I was on a board some years ago, and I thought it was all settled that we were to have an Air Academy. I think we should.
Q. Laurence H. Burd, Chicago Tribune: Do you favor Senator Bricker's proposed constitutional amendment that he discussed with you yesterday--on treaties?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, it is one of the most argumentative matters that I have heard discussed so far, even in front of my own people, I must assure you. I have to remember the old adage that a man has two ears and one tongue, and I therefore have tried to keep twice as still as I would in other places. It is a highly argumentative point.
I think that people that are arguing for a constitutional amendment are not trying really to amend the Constitution. What they are trying to say is, "we are going to make it impossible in the Constitution to break it." Now that seems to me to have a little bit of an anomaly, right in that kind of reasoning: you amend it in order to show that it is going to remain the same. However, it is one of those things where the President does not have to take a decision. If a constitutional amendment is enacted, as you know, it's two-thirds of each House and three-fourths of the States--and ignore the President in that.
Q. Lucian C. Warren, Buffalo Courier-Express: I wonder if we could clarify the St. Lawrence matter, the second point where you talk about discussion between Ontario and New York. You mention, in that connection, a project near the Niagara. Were you referring to the Niagara project, or the St. Lawrence?
THE PRESIDENT. There are two of them right there together.
Q. Mr. Warren: There is one on the St. Lawrence and one on the Niagara. They are separate, and the discussions with Ontario are the ones on the St. Lawrence. I would be interested very much in your comment on the Niagara, as to whether you favor one of the three plans envisaged there, the private or the State or the Federal construction of it? Have you made up your mind on that?
THE PRESIDENT. I will say this: if it is possible to keep the Federal Government out of it, and insure fairness, I would give you a negative decision to that extent. I just don't believe the Federal Government should be in these things except where it is clearly necessary for it to come in, and then it ought to come in as a partner and not as a dictator.
Now, for the other two, I haven't seen the details of the plan. We discussed it really in philosophy.
Q. Joseph A. Fox, Washington Evening Star: Could you tell us anything about that Commissioner situation here yet, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. I can say this: it is a subject of discussion every single morning; beyond that I can't, really, further.
Q. Mr. Fox: If I might press that, just to get one thing straightened out, sir. There has been some suggestion that the administration really would like to appoint two Commissioners. Is that correct, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. I understand they are appointed according to terms, and that they serve until their terms expire, as laid down by the law; so that being the law, I shall not comment on it.
Q. Martin Agronsky, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, are you in favor of the Federal Government, through the Congress of the United States, investigating communism in churches?
THE PRESIDENT. I really don't know how to comment on that in the larger sense. Now, I believe that if our churches--which certainly should be the greatest possible opponents to communism--need investigation, then we had better take a new look and go far beyond investigation in our country, in our combating of this what we consider a disease. Because the church, with its testimony of the existence of an Almighty God is the last thing that it seems to me would be preaching, teaching, or tolerating communism. So therefore I can see no possible good to be accomplished by questioning the loyalty of our churches in that regard.
Q. [Speaker unidentified]: Mr. President, Federal employees generally have been pretty jittery about their jobs. I wonder if you would comment on how far the administration plans to go in removing jobs from civil service?
THE PRESIDENT. I have said time and again, several things. First, I am a very strong supporter of civil service. And one of the reasons for certain of the moves I am trying to make is to protect the civil service so that that great body of our governmental servants that attain their positions through proper examination, that advance through the grades through service and competency, shall be protected. I know of no reason why any great number of these people should have the slightest concern about their jobs, because the only thing we have talked about, so far, is policy-making jobs, which must necessarily be subject to appointment by the people that the United States holds responsible for policy.
You can't possibly put policy in the hands of a body that cannot be removed, if necessary, by the electorate. That is the way I see it. So there is no excuse whatsoever for the great body of people to believe that their jobs are in jeopardy.1
1On March 3 the White House released the following statement in answer to questions concerning the administration's attitude toward the career Civil Service:
"During the campaign the President assured the people that he would do everything possible to strengthen the Civil Service System. That is and will continue to be the policy of this administration.
"From the beginning of the Civil Service System in 1883 it has been recognized that there are certain types of positions that do not belong in the Civil Service System. Such exempt positions have traditionally been placed in what is referred to as "Schedule A" of the Civil Service Rules. It is clear from the history of the Civil Service System that the following types of positions were intended to be put in Schedule A:
"1. Those positions where the incumbents should receive, in the interest of sound administration, a delegation of authority from the head of the agency which enables them to shape the policies of the Government in specific areas of activity.
"2. Those positions where the duties are such that there must be a close personal and confidential relationship between the incumbent of the position and the head of the agency.
"Some positions that do not belong in the Civil Service System have been placed in that system by taking them out of Schedule A. Executive orders were issued in 1947 and in 1948, (Order 9830(f) see. 6.1 of February 24, 1947 and Order 9973 of June 28, 1948) providing the incumbents of many Schedule A positions with the same procedural safeguards in connection with removals that govern those that are legitimately in career Civil Service positions. Such actions undermine the foundations on which a genuine career service should be built. A Civil Service System is not an end in itself. It is a method for obtaining more efficient administration. Whenever it is permitted to drift to the point where it may hamper rather than assist our top administrators, immediate action should be taken if the Nation is to retain confidence in the entire system.
"The President has directed, therefore, that an Executive order be drafted immediately which will repeal parts of the 1947 and 1948 orders so as to provide the heads of agencies with greater freedom in determining who is to occupy Schedule A positions, subject, of course, to the provisions of the Veterans Preference Act of 1944.
"In addition, the President is directing the Civil Service Commission to immediately undertake a review of all positions that are in Schedule A to see whether or not they should properly remain in that classification. He is also asking the heads of all departments and agencies to review their existing positions to determine whether there are some which are not in Schedule A which should be placed in that classification. The President is asking them to submit the results of their review to the Civil Service Commission and asking that body to report to him on the actions taken as a result of these submissions.
"These actions will not involve more than several hundred positions."
Executive Order 10440 of March 31, 1953, amending Civil Service Rule VI, is published in the Code of Federal Regulations (3 CFR, 1949-1953 Comp., p. 932).
Q. Anthony H. Leviero, New York Times: Mr. President, have you any comment on the atomic bomb test out in Nevada, especially in view of your calling back Val Peterson?
THE PRESIDENT. Of course, all these tests had been approved before I came to Washington. This one, as you know, had a very large body of spectators. The only comment on this one that I would have is that there ought to be a wider understanding in our country of the power of this weapon, its limitations, everything about it, than there was before. I have no other comment to make on it.
Q. Robert J. Donovan, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, coming back to that question about the MIT studies, so far as you can see do you anticipate in the near future a radical increase in the amount of money we will have to spend for air defense? It was a gigantic increase.
THE PRESIDENT. The one they were talking about was not merely air defense, it was also civil defense. Now, as I have tried to point out several times, it is my conviction that civil defense by its very nature must necessarily be primarily a local matter. The training, the understanding, the knowledge, and indeed the self-imposed discipline of our local populations is far more important than a mere digging of shelters. I would put shelters possibly in the last, final, category of work that you would undertake. The training of the civilian, the location and placing of new facilities both residential-wise and production-wise that you have, all of those things are important; passive and active measures for air defense, both locally, and then of course on a wider scale--your radar, your warnings, your interceptors-- which become exclusively Federal; and finally the leadership, the coordination through the State and through the Government, become important.
But this is what I would say: if you would carry forward the static defense of any country to what it could be, you have a most expensive thing--terribly expensive thing; but that expense would not certainly be all Federal. I would say a greater portion would be local in the aggregate than it would be Federal.
Q. [Speaker unidentified], Washington Post: In speaking of reaching a budget balance before approval of a tax cut, are you thinking, sir, of the conventional budget or cash budget, which is somewhat easier to reach?
THE PRESIDENT. As a matter of fact, the cash budget is one that is a little bit out of your control, because frequently one of the big factors in it is obligations that were made 2 or 3 years ago. Contracts were let; and now, as time comes for payment, you have no control over certain of those things. I think that before we can talk year by year of a balanced cash budget, we must reach a budgetary balance.
I do not even mean to say that I am not in favor of certain tax reforms. There may be certain tax revisions. What I do say is, we should not think primarily of just reducing the amount of revenue until we have reduced expenditures, and that means a budgetary expenditure.
Q. Sir, if I may press that point, the reason I asked you that was you have stressed the inflationary aspects of the unbalanced budget--
THE PRESIDENT. That's right.
Q.--and the paper budget, so-called conventional budget, includes a lot of intergovernmental exchanges which don't have that effect; whereas the cash budget, as I understand it, refers to the money that is actually paid out of the Treasury, and into it.
THE PRESIDENT. That's right. And that money being paid out of the Treasury; you have to have the money and not just the power to, say, induce banks to take up more of your bonds. That is where more money comes from--more inflation, more cheapening of the money that you have in your pocket.
Now, both these budgets--both these balances--are as important, one as the other. I merely pointed out on the one, you haven't the same control as you have on the other, because the obligation is already there and yet you must run the Government this year. You have got 80 billion dollars of these obligations now floating around, and must be paid sometime. Suppose 90 billions of it comes due in one year; well, you have got--I mean a particular, big portion--cash payments you must make that year out of the Treasury, regardless of the present cost of Government. You see? That is what I am talking about.
Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Has the administration reached the point where it is going to take affirmative action so that there will be no reduction of revenue?
THE PRESIDENT. You mean, absolutely no reduction? No, I wouldn't hold out for any such.
Q. Mr. Brandt: You have a plan--apparently have to take some sort of action?
THE PRESIDENT. That's right, and I would be perfectly glad to see substitutes for certain of the taxes.
Q. Mr. Brandt: You have the excess profits tax which expires June 30th. You would like to have a substitute for that?
THE PRESIDENT. If they don't continue it, then I want a substitute.
Q. Mr. Brandt: Now, what about the personal income tax reduction in the Reed bill, which is Mr. Daniel Reed's?
THE PRESIDENT. I want the revenue. [Laughter] As a matter of fact, ladies and gentlemen, I think we must have it. Certainly, ladies and gentlemen, I am not trying to take an arbitrary position on this. I merely say that as long as you have got almost an incentive to cheapen and cheapen your money, then next year taxes will be higher and higher. Finally, you cannot catch yourself as you chase your tail around the tree. And that is just exactly what I am trying to prevent, that thing just going in a spiral until it is hopeless.
Now, I recognize that this means pretty tough going for a little while. But once we are on that sound basis, when we can believe that prices are stable so far as the value of our money is concerned, we will be far better off, the taxes could come down with a certainty and a confidence that I think will be very necessary.
Q. Frank Bourgholtzer, National Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, in your speech yesterday, you said that it might take 4 years to get through this 80-billion-dollar obligation hanging over. Would you think it would be 4 years before you get to a balance that would permit tax reduction?
THE PRESIDENT. Oh, no. Look, I should make this clear. Some of this 80 billion dollars is inescapable. If you buy an airplane or a battleship, or build a dam, or anything else, you appropriate certain money for it. It takes time to expend it. At the end of 4 years, there will be a certain amount that will bear some relationship to this 80 billion dollars that will be passed on. We hope it won't be too great. But, you see, it must be passed on at the end of this quarter, so it doesn't take necessarily 4 years to reach the balancing of the budget. You have to allow, though, for the amount of money that you have to pay out each year from past obligations.
Q. Richard L. Wilson, Cowles Publications: Mr. President, Senator Symington who, as you know, was formerly Air Secretary, said in a speech last week, that he did not think either the form or the size of the defense program was adequate to protect us from a prospective attack from Russia. Let me ask you a whole series of really military questions. Are you familiar with that speech?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, they brought to me a summation of it.
Q. Mr. Wilson: Would you have any comment on it?
THE PRESIDENT. No, except this one thing: ladies and gentlemen, there is no amount of military force that can possibly give you real security, because you wouldn't have that amount unless you felt that there was almost a similar amount that could threaten you somewhere in the world.
Now, you finally have to make certain very tough decisions. I know of no better way to express it than George Washington did, many years ago. He said this country must always be careful to have a reasonable posture of defense. And I just don't believe that it is possible to depend too far on that.
Q. Mr. Wilson: I wondered, sir, if that might not have a bearing on the whole question of cutting the budget? You said earlier that the Commerce Department had cut out 15 percent, but even if some of the civilian departments do that, that is pretty small.
THE PRESIDENT. I will put it this way: in the total amount of combat strength that is being provided, I do not think that we could afford, at this time, to cut. I wouldn't want to recommend any major cut.
Q. Mr. Wilson: May I pursue that with one more question? There has been some talk at the Capitol that contrary to a cut, that there might be an increase in both military strength and in the dollars spent. Can you comment on that?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will comment on it, to this extent: I am dedicated to one idea, which is to get less money spent for overhead and what I believe still to be certain duplications and unnecessary expenses, and to get out of that same money more combat strength. Now, when you have the level of combat strength, then it is time to begin to reduce.
Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: Mr. President, in each press conference, I think, since the beginning, the subject of relations with Russia has come up and you have made a friendly gesture in each case. Have you had any direct or indirect response from Soviet officials or Iron Curtain officials or are there any negotiations going on now that give you hope?
THE PRESIDENT. I have had only what you have seen in the papers. And I said, in reply to a statement of the Generalissimo's, or reported statement, of last December, that there are open the proper channels for any presentations that they wanted to make, and that when this administration went into office, we would view them very sympathetically and seriously. That is all I have had.
Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, then there have been no presentations through the proper channels?
THE PRESIDENT. No. No definite presentations to me--at least none that have reached me, I assure you.
Q. Edward J. Milne, Providence Journal-Bulletin: Mr. President, in connection with Mr. Wilson's question, are you in a position yet to know whether your budget for 1953-1954 will be about the same as, or substantially lower than the Truman budget, so far?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't have any budget. There is a budget put in, and all my people can possibly do is to go down and, through re-examination of it, state: "We believe we can do with a little less of it there," or "you ought to take part of that and put it here." But we hope, in our complete re-examination, to find ways and means to reduce it. The amount remains to be seen, but we are certainly working at that.
But we are not putting in a budget of our own, as you know.
[Speaker unidentified]: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Eisenhower's fourth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 19, 1953.
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/231547