Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

July 21, 1954

THE PRESIDENT. Ladies and gentlemen, you know that the meeting at Geneva is still in session; as a matter of fact, I believe there is a plenary session now going on. There are also many details of the agreements that have been reached there, or at least auxiliary parts of the agreement, that we have not been able to study in detail.

In this situation, I have prepared a statement which I shall read. You need not take it down because there are copies that will be provided before this meeting is over.

[Reading] I am glad, of course, that agreement has been reached at Geneva to stop the bloodshed in Indochina. The United States has not been a belligerent in the war in which thousands of brave men, while defending freedom, have died during the past 7 years.

The primary responsibility for the settlement in Indochina rested with those nations which participated in the fighting.

Our role at Geneva has been at all times to try to be helpful where desired, and to aid France and Cambodia, Laos and Viet-Nam, to obtain a just and honorable settlement which will take into account the needs of the interested people.

Accordingly, the United States has not itself been a party to or bound by the decisions taken by the conference, but it is our hope that it will lead to the establishment of peace consistent with the rights and needs of the countries concerned. The agreement contains features which we do not like, but a great deal depends on how they work in practice.

The United States is issuing at Geneva a statement to the effect that it is not prepared to join in the conference declaration but, as loyal members of the United Nations, we also say that in compliance with the obligations and principles contained in article II of the United Nations Charter, the United States will not use force to disturb the settlement. We also say that any renewal of Communist aggression would be viewed by us as a matter of grave concern.

As evidence of our resolve to assist Cambodia and Laos to play their parts in full independence and sovereignty, in the peaceful community of free nations, we are requesting the agreement of the governments of Cambodia and Laos to our appointment of an ambassador or minister to be resident at their respective capitals. We already have a Chief of Mission at Saigon, the capital of Viet-Nam, and this embassy will, of course, be maintained.

The United States is actively pursuing discussions with other free nations with a view to the rapid organization of a collective defense in southeast Asia in order to prevent further direct or indirect Communist aggression in that general area. [Ends reading]

Now, ladies and gentlemen, because of the delicacy of the negotiations going on, because this matter is at a very critical stage, I think I shall have nothing further to say about the situation this morning.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, I wonder if you can bring us up to date on your attitude or your feelings toward the condition in which you find your legislative program?

THE PRESIDENT. Of course, the accomplishments of the Legislature are frequently lost sight of because of the great publicity value of fights and failures.

By and large, there has been such accomplishment of the past 2 to 3 weeks that the prospect that seemed to be generally accepted as sound a few weeks ago has proved to be in error.

I think that it is coming along in good shape; although, of course, there will be, admittedly, features in which I am very deeply interested that are not going to be enacted.

Q. Nicholas P. Gregory, Philadelphia Inquirer: Mr. President, on May 11th, you appointed an interdepartmental economic commission to study the possible rehabilitation of the northeastern Pennsylvania hard coal region. Can you tell us when that report will be released by the White House?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I can't tell you. They just brought me an interim report that they are working very hard, and there have been a number of specific proposals that have been studied; some they feel have certain validity and virtue, can be supported, and one or two have been impractical. Now, they haven't brought me any further than that.

Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, the Democrats have used some pretty strong language on the Hill this week in attacking the administration proposal to grant a private power contract in the Tennessee Valley area. Republican Senator Cooper of Kentucky has also joined critics of the proposal. Is there any chance, any possibility, of the administration changing its position on this issue?

THE PRESIDENT. I constantly state in front of you people that there are always details of anything I propose where, if I am shown there is a better way of doing it, why, I am perfectly ready to do it.

Now, I think I explained this situation here a couple of weeks ago. This area says it needs power because industries want to come into that region.

Long ago, the project of harnessing the streams in the area was completed, and the Federal Government also built the steam plants to firm up the waterpower potential.

In these recent years it has been merely a question of producing steamplants. Well, now, the problem in my mind, and I should think in everybody's, is if the Federal Government goes into the constant production of steamplants, why don't we go now to the Missouri Valley or to the Ohio or to the Connecticut or the Sacramento or the Pecos or anywhere else, and produce steamplants in that region before we go putting more here? I am trying to find out the facts of this whole situation, what it means. As I told you before, I am prepared to support the TVA as it now stands with all the strength I have, and anyone who says there is any attempt to destroy the TVA is, to say it in the mildest way I know, in error. There is no such thought at all.

There is the thought of providing the power while we take a new and further look at this whole business because the whole United States is concerned, not simply one little area, and I am working for the United States.

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, is Senator Knowland speaking for the administration in his opposition to the Flanders resolution?

THE PRESIDENT. They haven't even asked me about it, they haven't even asked me a thing about it. I have taken no stand whatsoever on it.

Q. Mr. Brandt: You are taking none now?

THE PRESIDENT. None now.

Q. Alan S. Emory, Watertown Times: Sir, a couple of days ago, the Young Democrats of the country, meeting in their convention, endorsed your proposal to lower the voting age to 18 years. Would you consider that this bipartisan backing among the politically conscious youth of the Nation might well be transferred to their seniors in Congress?

THE PRESIDENT. I think you people have often heard me say that I thought all of us older citizens could well learn many things from the younger ones, and now it seems that even political parties should be able to do so. Of course I am for them, and I welcome their support.

Q. Edward Jamieson, Houston Chronicle: Mr. President, last week Senator Daniel, after seeing you, quoted you as saying that you felt and recognized the 10 1/2-mile limit in the offshores of Texas. Since then there have been some statements by other people adding some confusion, or creating some confusion. Has your administration any intention of changing the historic 3-league boundary of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico?

THE PRESIDENT. Let me say, again, back in 1946 or 1947, as I recall, I saw a group of papers that seemed to me to be furnishing conclusive evidence that the proper title to the so-called tidelands to historic boundaries belonged to the States. I took that view then; I have never had any reason to change it. I have supported that view, and by no word or action that I know of have I ever implied modification of that idea. No one has ever brought forward an argument that I thought was valid against it.

I still support it, and if there is any confusion, it certainly is in somebody else's mind, not mine, on that point.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Maine Papers: Mr. President, President Rhee of Korea will be here soon. Do you regard the partition of Korea as permanent, short of war, and are you including, planning to include, Korea and Free China in any kind of a southeast Asia pact?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, Korea is not in southeast Asia.

Already we have, you know, a treaty of mutual defense with Korea. It has been enacted, it has been approved, by the Senate.

Now, as I understand it, when the Korean war started, the purpose of the United Nations was to prevent any advance by force into South Korea; they did do that.

I know of no one that has ever proposed that we go to war to free North Korea.

As it is, it is an unsatisfactory situation, exactly as exists in Germany, and now apparently is going to exist in part of Indochina.

These are very unsatisfactory situations and, to my mind, will always give reason for aggravating situations that are difficult, at best. But there is no thought on the part of any of us to start an aggressive move for the freeing of that country.

Q. Richard L. Wilson, Cowles Publications: Mr. President, if I understood you correctly, you said earlier that the prospect for a favorable legislative program a few weeks ago is in error. Does that mean that the program is a disappointment to you?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I possibly did not make myself too clear, Mr. Wilson, but I remember a few weeks ago I saw many predictions that the whole program had collapsed, and there would be no major part of it, outside of appropriation bills, enacted.

As the session has gone on, it seems to me that the record is building up constantly in better fashion, and I think now we can easily see that some of the gloomy predictions were in error.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, several weeks ago Congressmen from the drought-ridden States began asking the Department of Agriculture to set up a new drought program. We have none now. It ended July 15th, and cattle are being dumped on the markets, and many States are affected. I was told today that you might decide if Texas and Wyoming would be declared emergency areas.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it just happens that those two declarations were signed this morning. I signed declarations for at least, I think, three areas, and this is in addition to the flood relief granted Texas in actual money. I think that Mr. Hagerty will probably have an announcement this afternoon of the exact areas, so you can get it. 1

1On July 28 the White House announced that 83 counties in Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming had already been designated drought disaster areas, and that feed grain from Commodity Credit Corporation stocks would be made available in these areas. The release added that further aid was available through the cooperative Federal-State hay supply program and through Farmers Home Administration loans. On August 2 the White House announced that 76 counties in Missouri and 26 in Oklahoma had been designated as drought disaster areas, and that the situation in Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, Georgia, and Tennessee was under continuous study.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, when you mentioned Korea and Nationalist China a moment ago, you referred to the fact that we have a Mutual Defense Pact with Korea. There was a story only this morning quoting our Ambassador to Formosa as saying some negotiations were under way for a similar arrangement with Formosa. Is it our intention to go through with that kind of arrangement, thus limiting or voiding the question of whether Formosa should belong to the proposed southeast Asia pact?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think the two subjects have been considered together or, as you might say, mutually exclusive.

All I know is that with respect to the first one, that is a matter that has been under study for some time and there has been no final decision reached yet.

Q. Nat S. Finney, Buffalo Evening News: Mr. President, do you attach any particular significance or special significance to the apparent fact that for the first time in about 20 years, almost two decades, there isn't a war going on somewhere in the world?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, you could talk about the terrors of war, and you could be a bit emotional on that side, but I don't think it is in that direction we find the true answer.

I have never felt that, except through these satellite excursions, that the Communist world wants any war at this time; in other words, I don't believe they would deliberately challenge us, challenge the free world, to a war of exhaustion.

So the problem, no matter whether you happen to be fighting in one of these areas, remains the same. The loss of great areas through propaganda and deceit and subversion and coup d'etat, and every means available to a secret, well-financed conspiracy, they are all there. I personally think that if there is one good that can come out of this whole southeast Asian experience, it is this: to get the free world to looking facts in the face, and to seeing what we must do, what we should do, what sacrifices we are ready to make, in order to preserve the essentials of our system.

I think that when the freedom of a man in Viet-Nam or in China is taken away from him, I think our freedom has lost a little. I just don't believe that we can continue to exist in the world, geographically isolated as we are, if we just don't find a concerted, positive plan of keeping these free nations so tightly bound together that none of them will give up; and if they are not weakened internally by these other methods, I just don't believe they will give up. I believe we can hold them.

Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, along that line, a number of Congressmen today are branding the Geneva settlement as appeasement. Do you think there are any elements of appeasement in the cease-fire agreement?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I hesitate, Mr. Clark, to use such words, as I have told you so often. I find that so many words mean so many different things to different people. I would say this, as I said in my statement: this agreement, in certain of its features, is not satisfactory to us. It is not what we would have liked to have had.

But I don't know, when I am put up against it at this moment, to find an alternative, to say what we would or could do. Then if I have no better plan, I am not going to criticize what they have done.

Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, I hope this is outside of the area of the Geneva conference wherein you didn't want to say any more. But about the time the Geneva conference was starting there was a report from Paris that the French had asked us for war planes manned by Americans to make a strike at that Dien Bien Phu. I asked you about that report at the time, and you said you couldn't comment then. But as I remember it, you suggested that you might be able to talk about it at some later time. I wondered if that time had arrived?

THE PRESIDENT. I'll tell you, Mr. Folliard, we have, at least discussed briefly, and--I am not making this as a promise, I am just saying this as a possibility--we will prepare sort of a paper of the history of this thing, get it all in focus, and try to give you all the information we have. Certain of these things--one reason that you can't talk about them independently is, they mean nothing. If a request comes to you and you say no, that would appear to indicate a harsh and unsympathetic attitude. But if you know the whole long weary route of negotiations that preceded it, and you find that the "no" is merely consistent with what you have been doing and trying to do for months, then it is a different thing.

So, therefore, I think it would be far better if we can possibly give a short history of our relationship to the whole thing.

Q. William M. Blair, New York Times: On your legislative program, sir, there are now some 10 days left before the target adjournment date of July 31st. At the present time the Senate seems more or less bogged down in extended debate over atomic energy and TVA. Does this tend to dismiss chances that you will get all of your program before the Congress leaves?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, as I admitted, I knew there were features that was not going to get; but I am certain of this: the legislative leaders are working hard and effectively to get the bulk of it through before the adjournment.

Now, it is true, they have had July 31st as a target. I don't know whether they have yet made that a decision that they want to go. haven't talked to the leaders in the last 2 or 3 days about their ability to stick to the target date.

Q. Milton B. Freudenheim, Akron Beacon Journal: Mr. President, the House voted on a housing bill yesterday, and in the debate some said that it represented a setback for your program as it bore on the low-rent public housing feature. The Senate is supposed to vote on this bill, as it came out of conference, possibly tomorrow. Do you have any comment on this housing bill, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, ladies and gentlemen, very naturally we thought that the program we laid in front of the Legislature was well designed to meet our present and our needs of the immediate future.

Now, practically all of that housing program has been enacted, let's not forget that; but when it came up to this public housing feature, we do know that it has always been a very controversial point.

I believe, as I have so often said, given the right kind of help through localities and municipalities, States, and so on, that private enterprise could finally get into this business and probably do it better than any Government bureaucracy.

But I also believe that, as we are trying to do that and to get this understanding and all these arrangements accepted in the world, there is still a problem of people living in bad houses. So I want the authority to build public housing where that is absolutely necessary.

Most people don't like it; it gives no chance for house ownership. But I wanted 35,000 a year for 4 years; they gave that actual authority only for '56. Wc now, I believe, have a total authority under that bill of 68,000 through '56.

Now, next year at the very beginning of the session or whenever facts begin to clarify a little bit, I will send messages to the Senate and the House to meet the new situation, whatever it is.

Q. Joseph A. Loftus, New York Times: Mr. President, in connection with your program, can you tell us anything more today about your proposals for handling the debt limit problem?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I can't. It is one that hasn't been up for 2 or 3 days; and anything that is 2 or 3 days old, these days, is forgotten almost.

Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: Mr. President, the wetback legislation prepared by Attorney General Brownell is sort of bogged down in the Congress, and at the time it was introduced there was great urgency about it, and it seems to continue to be that. Do you plan to give the idea an additional push?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, wherever I see an opportunity, yes, I will.

This is part of a general program that the Attorney General has to make it possible for him to enforce the laws as written. We want to make sure there is no disposition here in any of these laws to interfere with the transient workers who come in by legal means. They want them, they want to come; it is all on the up and up. The only difficulty is these that come across illegally; it is difficult to control unless he gets these additional measures. I believe there are two of them on that particular subject that should be enacted.

Q. Alan S. Emory, Watertown Times: Sir, during the debate on the atomic energy revisions, Senator Lehman of New York characterized the international exchange section of the bill as a counterpart of the Bricker amendment in that it would restrict the exchange of information to one nation at a time, and would subject your agreements to a check by Congress. Have you any comment on that, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know exactly what he is talking about, for this reason: there have always been in the atomic energy bill certain provisions where items are taken down and laid in front of the Joint Committee before anything is done about them.

I don't know exactly what Senator Lehman is talking about, but I do know this: the bill, as I last read it, would give us the necessary authority to exchange required information with our allies so that we could work effectively together in the event of emergency.

Q. Kenneth M. Scheibel, Gannett Newspapers: Mr. President, is there anything that you see on the horizon now in either the foreign or domestic front which might require a special session of Congress this fall?

THE PRESIDENT. Of course I can't foresee it, because if I could foresee it exactly, I would tell the leaders about it now and have a big conference.

The very word "special" means that it is really designed to meet an emergency, isn't it? So there are numbers of problems that have to be talked out thoroughly with the leaders before they go so they know what the situation is, and we have got to be in agreement--I am not speaking of leaders now, some of these will be on a bipartisan basis I assume--that will give us an understanding among ourselves how we would handle given situations should they arise.

Q. Doris Fleeson, United Features: Mr. President, one of the major points in the debate on the Atomic Energy Commission-TVA contract today arose out of testimony before the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy that three Commissioners of the Atomic Energy Commission opposed signing the contract. Therefore, the Senators are arguing the question of whether the President has the power to order independent agencies to take action that their administrators or a Commission majority oppose. Would you discuss your attitude toward that problem?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am not going to discuss it very greatly, very obviously. I have an Attorney General, and when there is a matter of legality arises, why, I have to be governed by what the legal staff of that office decides is correct. Remember this: it isn't always a matter of taking authority in these cases, it is a matter of somebody exercising responsibility; someone has to do it. Frequently, I suppose lots of people would like to get out of exercising responsibility, but you have to do it when the chips are down.

In this one you are telling me things and you are giving me a premise that I didn't know existed. I will say this: the Atomic Energy Commission I do not believe is an independent commission in the sense that the ICC or FCC is; it is something that I am compelled to take action on and over which to exercise supervision.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's forty-fifth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 11:32 to 12 o'clock on Wednesday morning, July 21, 1954. In attendance: 190.

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/232332

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