Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

March 26, 1953

THE PRESIDENT. For a long time, many people--including myself--have been concerned about this subject of the proper division of functions between Federal government, State governments, municipal governments, and even private enterprise.

Some time ago we began to take this subject up seriously, and I had an informal conference here, at which there were Governors and Members of the Cabinet, Members of the Senate and House, attending. We decided that an official commission ought to be appointed to study this thing. It reaches into the whole subject of grants-in-aid, of security and welfare programs, all sorts of things, including even sources of taxation that are properly available to the several echelons of government.

So we are just about ready, and will in the course of a day or so--or certainly very quickly--send to the Senate and the House recommendations on the establishment of such a commission to study this whole question, and to bring into some kind of correlation and coordination this whole vastly complex subject.

That is one point that I have been studying on lately, where action has just about come up for accomplishment.

I mention that at the beginning of this press conference. The rest of it will be yours.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, how does this plan fit in or is there any conflict with the work of your reorganization commission?

THE PRESIDENT. No conflict whatsoever. This is to deal with this whole special subject. The reorganization committee that is working with the several departments of Government, and working with the Congress in any way that they find most fitting, has a function completely outside of this business of determining the relationship between the various echelons of government--vertically, you might say. What the reorganization committee is concerned in is how best to organize the Federal Government itself for the performance of the functions that properly fall to it.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, would that recommendation call for the creation of a Presidential commission?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. My idea would be that the resolution itself specify the membership of the commission in general terms, but the--I assume it would be called a Presidential commission and the President would have the responsibility of appointing certain of the members. I should think probably some of the members would be appointed properly by the leaders in the House and the Senate.

Q. George H. Hall, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, this question has to do particularly with the nomination of Albert Cole to be Housing Administrator, and Edward Howrey to the Federal Trade Commission, but I have a general question in mind. Could you identify the group, or persons, in the White House or the administration who give final clearance to nominations such as that, before you send them to the Senate?


Q. Mr. Hall: Who recommends them to you?

THE PRESIDENT. The recommendations come from numerous sources. All recommendations are gathered together; they go over them. But before I appoint anybody to any important position, I call him in and ask him about his philosophy, whether he is biased so distinctly in favor of some doctrinal idea that he can't operate according to the facts, whether he cannot possibly execute laws that are written by Congress and approved by the President. I try to get a man who is logical, who is devoted to the service, and who in general conforms to what I call--as you so often have heard me say--the middle-of-the-road philosophy.

I don't like extremists of any kind, particularly when they make up their minds before they know their facts; so I always take these people and bring them in and talk to them myself.

Q. Mr. Hall: Before they get to you, who screens them? You can't see everybody--

THE PRESIDENT. Many people. If they belong in a department, then they are screened thoroughly by the department head before they are brought to me. If they don't belong in that, if they come for some other purpose--commissions--they are always screened by Governor Adams, and then he brings them in personally to me.

Q. Vance Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle: Mr. President, Senators McCarran and McCarthy in the Senate this week have questioned whether Mr. Bohlen is your personal choice for Ambassador to Moscow; and one of them yesterday--I have forgotten which one--suggested that some of Mr. Acheson's leftover lieutenants slipped in by you, in someway. I wonder if --

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, I suppose that if they are talking about a shell game, why they can have their own conclusions, and I couldn't say they are wrong, because I have guessed wrong myself as to which shell the pea was under.

I would say this: in this particular case it was one of the appointments in which I was very deeply and personally concerned, not because the Ambassador in the Soviet Union has the same leeway, the same opportunity for, you might say, broad service that an Ambassador would have in this country; but I am particularly concerned to find a man that understands something of those people and, so far as I could find out, whose record of service showed a dedication to the United States.

Now, I have known Mr. Bohlen for some years. I was once, at least, a guest in his home, and with his very charming family. I have played golf with him, I have listened to his philosophy. So far as I can see, he is the best qualified man for that post that I could find. That is the reason his name was sent to the Senate and the reason it stays there, because I believe, still, that he is the best qualified man we could find today.

If anyone put him over on me, well, they must have found a blind side that I don't know about myself.

Q. Alan S. Emory, Watertown (N.Y.) Times: Mr. President, at the conclusion of yesterday's debate, Senator Lehman of New York said all his life he had urged young people to go into the service of their government; but he said, "I am beginning to doubt whether I any longer have the right to encourage men to go into public service, when all that they can expect to receive is calumny and accusation of treason if their honest opinions sometime later prove to have been incorrect." I wonder if you would care to comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT. I can only say this: in my brief but rather intensive career in the civil service of government, I have encouraged young men to go into it. I believe in them. I think they should go into it, and I believe if we are going to have fine, splendid operation of our form of government here, we have to get young men into it.

Now, we are going to have, in a government such as ours, often the kind of thing that Senator Lehman seemed to be criticizing. People have to "take it" and go on and do the best they can for the United States of America. That is the way I see it.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Maine papers: Mr. President, Senator Bridges yesterday enunciated the doctrine which would certainly apply not only to Mr. Bohlen but to others, that the American people in the election rejected the Truman-Acheson foreign policy in the Far East, that Mr. Bohlen was identified with it and therefore could not serve you well in your foreign policy, which seemed to apply to all others who had worked with the Truman Acheson policy in the Far East. And I wonder if that were your theory?

THE PRESIDENT. As usual, I will not comment on anyone else's theories, but I would like to point this out: I served a long time in the uniformed services of the United States. I was compelled, during all that time, to give loyalty to the properly constituted civil authorities set over me. I gave my oath to do so. Had I failed to do so, I should have resigned; and I would have been, in my own opinion, treasonous if I did not resign and still tried to defy those civil authorities.

Consequently, if we are going to have worth-while career services in our government, whether they be civil or in the uniformed services, and we find a man who cannot give loyal service to his superiors, then he has one recourse only: to resign. Otherwise, he is not doing his duty.

Consequently, I should say, in the State Department, they must loyally carry out the policy that they are given by their superiors. If they cannot loyally carry them out--and that doesn't mean, necessarily, that they will agree with them--then they must resign. That is the only recourse they have.

Q. Neal A. Stanford, Christian Science Monitor: Mr. President, I would like to follow up last week on the Bricker amendment. As that proposal deals specifically with treaty-making power, in which you have a constitutional obligation, do you feel this Bricker amendment would restrict your conduct of foreign affairs?

THE PRESIDENT. The Bricker amendment, as analyzed for me by the Secretary of State, would, as I understand it, in certain ways restrict the authority that the President must have, if he is to conduct the foreign affairs of this Nation effectively.

Now, I do not mean to say that that is the intent of the amendment. I am perfectly certain that the men that have written the amendment, that are supporting it, are convinced that it would work only to the good of the United States and protect the individual rights of citizens of the United States inside our own country.

I do believe that there are certain features that would work to the disadvantage of our country, particularly in making it impossible for the President to work with the flexibility that he needs in this highly complicated and difficult situation.

Q. David P. Sentner, Hearst Newspapers: Mr. President, can you comment on the present status of the ammunition problem in Korea as well as the general situation there?

THE PRESIDENT. I know of only this: I did have time to check up the military service and ask the question about this late struggle on Baldy Ridge, where the papers said that two companies of the 7th Division had given it up. I asked whether that had any relationship to the ammunition shortage. I was told it most emphatically did not, that in fact a recent ship out-loaded with ammunition for Korea found that the reserves in Japan were sufficiently high, at least in the particular brand of ammunition that was on this ship, that they did not want--did not accept it.

So I was told emphatically that the present situation in ammunition was perfectly sound compared to the kind of operations now going ahead.

Q. Mr. Sentner: Does that apply to all types of ammunition, or just artillery?

THE PRESIDENT. I didn't ask for all of them, but the items we know--we have been short in three items, which have been brought out, but they told me the situation in those was improving constantly. I do know this: Secretary Wilson gives attention to it every day; that I know. And I am sure that everything possible is being done on that phase.

Q. Nat S. Finney, Buffalo Evening News: Mr. President, Mr. Wilson, in his press conference late last week, said that the budget for the Korean war, which previously has been unbudgeted, would be a separate budget. I am curious to know as to whether that budget would go over to the Hill separate from the general defense budget, or whether it would be a segment of the budget, or can you throw any light on how it might be handled?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I know only about the first part of the statement you make--in other words, your premise, which is that up to this moment the cost of the Korean war has never been really budgeted. There has merely been an expression of hope that it would be over soon. Now, just exactly how the Defense Department and the Bureau of the Budget expect to come up with a plan for correcting that, I am not sure, so I couldn't comment.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: When you said that you found the ammunition situation perfectly sound in Korea, are you referring just to the Old Baldy situation, or to the overall picture?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I said perfectly sound only in comparison with present operations. I didn't say that in every respect the commander in the field wouldn't have some possibility of criticism. I have never known one that didn't. I did myself, and I must tell you this: some of you know that in the beachhead we rationed our principal guns down to 17 rounds a day, in order to accumulate the reserves needed for the breakout; and at times certain of our guns, as I remember, down to 2 or 3 rounds a day. So no commander ever has all he wants.

But what I am merely trying to say: the situation in ammunition now, including the reserves in Japan and elsewhere, seems to be satisfactory for meeting the present scale of operations. I would assume that if anything else were contemplated, it would have to be a different level.

I have not, by any manner of means, investigated every last caliber of these myself. Of course, I can't.

Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post: Mr. President, at your last news conference, you told us that there would be no reduction in the total combat strength of our armed forces. I read this morning that Mr. Wilson is proposing a 10 percent reduction now in our armed forces, skeletonizing our divisions at home. Is there any conflict between what you told us and what Mr. Wilson appears to have in mind?

THE PRESIDENT. Not so far as I know. He and I meet--well, we meet several times a week. We talk over these things. Quite naturally, we are trying to get the expenditures of the United States within manageable proportions. It is quite clear that a continuation of deficit spending has a very bad effect on our whole economy. We are working desperately on that side. Now, if he has found some place where he thinks there might be some element of military force disappear, without hurting our immediate combat position in the world--I mean, in Korea particularly--he would be justified in making a recommendation. But he hasn't spoken to me definitely on that one point.

Q. Arthur T. Hadley, Newsweek: Could you give us any indication, sir, of what you intend to talk to Mr. Rene Mayer about while he is here?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I haven't had my first meeting--it starts this morning--but I know certain things will be discussed, of course. We are going to discuss the relative position of NATO, as to what we expect it to be at this time. We are going to talk about the French problem in Indochina and its relationship to its capabilities in Europe. We are going to talk about many things that affect the French ability to do everything that the size of its population would indicate at first glance that it should be able to do.

France, let us not forget, was bled white in World War I, had a long and difficult political and economic re-adjustment, and then was plunged into World War II and was overrun, its pride was trampled in the dust. It was a long time coming back. France has had a very hard time. I still think, though, that America has not forgotten the very great sentimental ties that bind us to a nation which even as far back as 1776 and 1777 was coming and helping us out.

Q. Merriman Smith, Associated Press: Mr. President, we haven't had an opportunity to ask what you think of the payment of more than $700,000 in accumulated leave to outgoing members of the past administration?

THE PRESIDENT. I am sorry that I have not talked on that subject specifically with my Cabinet, but I will tell you this: I don't see how a high-ranking officer of Government can possibly accumulate leave, or accumulate a claim against the United States for leave.

The way I see such responsible jobs--and I am expressing now a personal philosophy--I do not see how a man can go on leave. If I go away from the city for a few days recreation, I cannot conceive that I am laying down my responsibilities. I don't think any Cabinet officer can lay down his responsibilities either. Certainly, every instant of that time he is responsible to me for the operations of his department. Therefore, since I don't see how he can go on leave, I don't see how he can accumulate leave. And therefore, I for my part would never acquiesce in accumulation of obligations, so-called obligations, against the Government based upon leave in these high-ranking offices.

I do believe that we must provide for proper leave for all of our great body of civil servants; they not only earn it and deserve it, but they have to have it, if they are going to remain efficient. And if one should be discharged without ever having gotten that leave, I should think that for whatever the law allows him to accumulate, he should be paid. But that doesn't mean that I could hire him back the next day.

Q. [Speaker unidentified]: Mr. President, I don't believe a political question has come up this morning. Is there any change in your mind on the status of Wes Roberts, Chairman of the National Committee?

THE PRESIDENT. No one could be more earnestly hopeful than I that every important post in government, and even in such quasi-governmental bodies as political parties, that every important post will be occupied by a man whose integrity and straightforwardness are almost a byword in our Nation.

Now, Mr. Roberts, a man whom I have known for a short time, but for whom I have conceived a great admiration, has been accused of something. There are not available to me--as a matter of fact, I have no authority with respect to that, but I do have a great influence, of course, because of my position--there are not available the Federal agencies that you would normally use if you were thinking of putting someone in the Federal Government.

But I do have great faith in the Kansas legislature and the Kansas courts. I think we ought to find out what the answers are, and then I will make up my mind what to do.

I have tried all my life to resist finding, in my own mind, a man guilty of something merely because there is an unsubstantiated charge. But if he does become guilty of something that renders him unfit for office, then I certainly don't intend to be defending anybody in his holding of office.

Q. Sarah McClendon, Beaumont Enterprise: Mr. President, do you expect to send to Congress this year a plan for reorganizing the water control agencies--I mean, the Army Engineers, and Bureau of Reclamation?

THE PRESIDENT. I know this: the reorganization committee is working, and they will come up one of these days with a plan. I think it is going to take longer than some of the just internal organization things--I mean internal with respect to a simple department-because it is complicated. The Engineers have a long record of efficient service, but on the other hand, of course, it does look rather odd that we have got two great organizations competing in this field. And so I should say it will probably be some time before they finally reach conclusions in long and exhaustive hearings.

Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: Mr. President, following up the question about Mr. Roberts, have you ever formed any judgment on the Senate subcommittee discussion of findings on Senator McCarthy's finances?


Q. Mrs. May Craig, Maine papers: Sir, is there any difficulty in budgeting separately for a Korean war which has never been declared by Congress? Is there any difficulty about that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well now, you say something that I don't know. I know that there was no war declared in the first instance, but certainly Congress has recognized the war with many commissions and committees that have gone out there. And I would see no difficulty about the budgeting because we have a de facto recognition, whether or not it has been legally done.

Q. Edward J. Milne, Providence Journal: During the campaign, sir, you drew sharp distinction between Senator McCarthy's methods and objectives. I wonder if you would tell us what you think his objectives have been in the Bohlen case, as affecting your appointment?

THE PRESIDENT. I am not going to talk about Senator McCarthy. I will talk about this: I believe that--I told you before--the Senate and the House have a right to make any investigation that they see fit, to make certain that there is no influence creeping into this Government that is subversive, that is inimical to its interests.

I believe that you can carry investigations in method to the point that you are damaging from within what you are trying to protect from without. And I believe that it takes statesmanship and real wisdom to distinguish between these points and not let enthusiasm for any one thing carry us too far at any one time.

Q. Mr. Milne: I wonder if you think that point has been reached in this case?

THE PRESIDENT. I think that that is one point I will allow you people to speculate on, instead of giving you my idea. And I don't mean to be facetious, but these are things that, if you are going to give a public opinion, you have to have time to sit and ponder and look at all sides of the case. I have to take my own judgments on things as they come up to me, and I pass them along. I try to avoid criticism of somebody else, as long as there is any possible chance of believing that he is acting in the public service--if he thinks he is acting in the public service, I should have said. Now go ahead.

Q. Robert W. Richards, Copley Press: The Democrats are reported to be enjoying this little scrap within your party in the Senate very much. Would you say it might be reminiscent of some that they have had with such people as Huey Long and "the man Bilbo," and so forth?

THE PRESIDENT. I would put it this way: I am trying to be President of all the United States. Arguments are going to come up--these partisan arguments; when they come within the membership of your own party, they are of course saddening, because it looks like someone is doubting your efforts to be President of all the United States. But I am still trying, so I am not going to comment on that particular point.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's fifth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 26, 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/231574

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