Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

June 02, 1954

THE PRESIDENT. Ladies and gentlemen, one word that we seem to find in our daily print more than any other is "Communists"--struggle against communism and Communists in our country and in our Government.

This job of finding them is a day-by-day job 52 weeks a year, has to be conducted without cessation. So, this morning, I called upon the Attorney General to give me a record of statistics to date, what they have done, what has been accomplished in the past months.

They gave me the report under nine items--I should have said this is printed, you will get all of this document; it will be outside, and you will get it--and I think it is an impressive list of accomplishments, and all of it done in absolute accordance with the due processes of law.

A few days ago the Attorney General also, at my direction, prepared a statement with respect to Executive responsibility in maintaining the proper and constitutional division between the authority and responsibilities of the Executive and the Legislature. At my direction, Mr. Hagerty published that.

Now, that constitutes the last word I have got to say on this subject, unless something happens that makes me think I have to say something more--I don't know what it would be--but it is my last word, and I repeat to you my reason: I can't conceive of anything more important to the United States today than the enactment of a legislative program that comprehends the great needs and requirements of all our people today so far as the Federal Government has a hand in them.

As you know, that program is very broad; it touches on such things as workable farm programs, reformation of the tax system, foreign trade; up and down the line there is health, there is housing, and there is social security.

It is a very broadly based program, and positive action in that direction is the thing to which I am going to give my exclusive attention. I am going to talk to everybody I see, to you people every time I see you; I am going to talk to the public, I am going to talk to everybody in Congress that I get a hold of, because I so thoroughly believe that this is a must requirement for the United States. When I say that, I don't mean to say every detail or procedure and method and timing; I hope I have sense enough to know that the democratic process requires the meeting of minds and composition of different ideas in order to get things done. I am talking about the spirit and the broad purpose of that program, and that is what I am going to give my attention to. And I will say, ladies and gentlemen, it's very little use asking me questions that don't apply rather directly to that and, of course, to the position of the United States in the world today, that is, in the foreign affairs field.

Now, with that statement of my purpose, why, the meeting is yours.

Q. Richard Wilson, Cowles Publications: Mr. President, last week two Senators have stated publicly their belief that you would submit to Congress a resolution authorizing action in southeast Asia some time before the adjournment. Could you discuss that general possibility?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Wilson, I haven't seen those statements, but every possible line of action that could serve the interests of the United States and of the free world is explored daily, all the time, constantly by our staffs--our military staffs, our State Department, and other staffs that have responsibilities in this line; and, of course, such things as that occasionally come up, but I have not, by any manner of means, reached any decision of that kind.

Q. Chalmers Roberts, Washington Post and Times Herald: Mr. President, tomorrow Admiral Carney, on behalf of the Joint Chiefs, is meeting with the British, French, Australian, and New Zealand military officials. Could you tell us what might come out of that, and how it is related to what you just said?

THE President. I can tell you this much: military discussions of this kind are again a continuing process between us and the nations with which we are cooperating in the world.

We have, for example, on the very same subjects that will come up before this meeting, talked with the Philippines and with the military officials of Thailand, and so on.

Now, these particular five--here is getting a group together that, as you know, constitutes the ANZUS organization plus the British and the French. There will be discussed military matters, and military matters only, not matters of political policy. They will discuss what could be done, what should be done, to support the policies that are, of course, originated or at least promulgated through the State Department.

Q. Kenneth Scheibel, Gannett Newspapers: Mr. President, in connection with the legislative program, Congressman Hope the other day, on leaving your office, said that a compromise was inevitable on the farm program. Has there been a new decision by you to accept a compromise?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't any idea of what he was speaking of in the word "compromise."

I have always insisted that the basic purpose of any reasonable program is to prevent violent fluctuations in the situation of the farmer. I would be the last to claim that there is anything sacrosanct about the program we put forth, but I am prepared to stand up and fight for the principles of that program right down the line, for the simple reason that it was made up by the broadest and most exhaustive kind of examinations and consultations we could make throughout this country, not only in the Capital, but everywhere--representative farmers, farm organizations, legislators, everybody that seemed to have something to do with it. I don't know what he is referring to, but I do say I am not prepared to compromise the principles of that program.

Q. Frederick Kuh, Chicago Sun-Times: Mr. President, you have twice recently referred to our discussions with Russia on atomic energy and on your proposals of last December 8th. Is it your understanding that those discussions have now come to an end or will they go on?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, in the specific item, I don't mean to say they cannot be brought up again and, naturally, will be by our side in any discussion. But the tenor of the Soviet reply to that suggestion and proposal has been such as to, you might say, close the door to immediate accomplishment under the concept that I described in my December 8th speech.

Q. James Reston, New York Times: I wondered, sir, whether you would give us a report as to how those conversations have gone with the Russians on atomic energy--what were the issues?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will tell you: while I think I could give you a fairly accurate description of that, here we have a man with my complete confidence, Mr. Dulles, who has conducted most of these hearings directly, and I think it is a question you should put to him because then there will be no error and no mistake.

My reports are, after all, second hand from him; so I think it would be better that he discuss that question with you.

Q. Ruth Montgomery, New York Daily News: Mr. President, you have now completed one-third of your first term. Would you like to say whether it has gone the way you thought it would or make any other observations?

THE PRESIDENT. I think I have told this body before, this group of people, that I didn't enter this kind of a task with any ideas it was going to be a picnic or it was fun.

I have also told you this: there are many frustrations, disappointments and even, you might say, inhibitions that are almost unexpected, even to one who is partially accustomed to living in a goldfish bowl because of my war experiences. But I say this to you also, that you get inspiration from many quarters that you hadn't expected. The number of people who are ready to drop what they are doing to do their very best for the United States of America, for the things in which we all believe, is not only remarkable but it is done sometimes with such a quiet, you might say, ignoring of the sacrifices they are making, that it is highly pleasing and inspiring.

I could tell you a little story--something that happened in my office the other day. A little girl came to see me and took, apparently, very great pleasure in coming to my office. The sense of compliment and flattery I felt, came about in this way: she was stricken 2 years ago when she had a date to come down to see me, stricken with polio, and in her determination to walk again and to fulfill that date, she had broken both legs and had, in that long 2-year struggle, to be laid up with all those injuries to mend. She has had operations on her hands and on her feet and legs, but she finally got there.

When you see courage like that, you don't feel very sorry for yourself any more, is what I say. So that is one of the kind of incidents that comes to your attention that lifts you, possibly--you hope, at least--above yourself.

Q. John Herling, Editors Syndicate: Mr. President, this has to do with an economic question to which you referred earlier. I would like to quote Professor Sumner Slichter of Harvard who spoke to a group here in Washington the other day, and said: "The executive branch of the Government has shown a surprising lack of initiative and enterprise in fighting the recession. I do not know the reason, but I suspect that it is attributable to the influence of the Treasury, which seems to be more interested in keeping the cash budget in balance than in limiting the drop in production and employment." Then he says: "Spokesmen for the administration have said several times that the administration would act if and when action is needed, but the level of unemployment which the administration regards as justifying action seems to be considerably higher than the people of the country will find tolerable."

Would you care to comment on that, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. I think that before this group I have frequently announced my very firm adhering to the democratic process, which means that everybody is not only entitled to his own opinion, but entitled to express it.

I am not going to comment on that gentleman's statement or opinions, but I will ask you this: please go to see the chief of my economic advisers and see what has been done, what have been the measures that have been adopted from time to time, how they have worked, what they are prepared to do, and what we believe about this whole situation; in other words, get his side of the story.

And I might say this, ladies and gentlemen, when I got a man of the caliber of the head of my economic advisers, I gave him just one order: "You are never, by any chance, to develop an opinion and bring it in here to me or to anyone in the Cabinet or in the Legislature that supports someone's political view, including mine. You are to dig out the facts of this economy, and present them as honestly as you and your associates can possibly do it, not only to me but to the public."

I think you will get very honest answers from him.

Q. Charles von Fremd, CBS Television: I wonder, sir, if you have any comments you might be able to give us regarding the decision reached last night in the Oppenheimer case?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, no. I would point this out: this case is going through what is a quasi-judicial process set up by the Atomic Energy Commission. Until they have completely finished that, I think I wouldn't have anything to say. I think at a former time I expressed here my great admiration for what Dr. Oppenheimer has done in the past, and so there is no point in expressing that part of it, which I understand the report brings out again. I think that I will wait until that whole thing is done before I have anything to say.

Q. Roscoe Drummond, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, Republicans and Democrats have made different proposals for a code of fair procedure to govern congressional investigations. I would like to ask whether you would think that such an enforceable code, without going into details, would be a logical and desirable part of your legislative program?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you are asking me one, Mr. Drummond, that I hadn't thought about in those terms before and, therefore, I wouldn't want to answer it too quickly. I wouldn't want to foreclose my right to make recommendations to at least the leaders, maybe of both parties, but I do fed that here we have got something that is a very deep and grave responsibility of the legislators themselves. Before I went any further in it myself, I would want to take a look; I hadn't thought of it in those terms.

Q. Louis R. Lautier, National Negro Press Association: Mr. President, would you care to comment upon the visit of the Emperor of Ethiopia?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will say this: not only did I have a very interesting visit with him, but a very enlightening one. Among other things, he brought along what you might call an industrial map of Ethiopia showing the industries of the various sections, and bringing me a few of the products of their country. I was ashamed to say that he could give me some very elementary education that I should have had before.

He was a charming individual, the people with him were interesting and knew their business; and in every way I think it was beneficial.

I am certain of this: in Ethiopia, as in happily many other countries, there is a deep underlying appreciation of America's efforts and an affection for America.

Q. Marvin Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, Mr. Shanley said the other day that the Democrats in Congress are trying to ride your coattails to a victory in November. [Laughter] And he said at the same time they are trying to block your legislative program. Do you see it that way?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will tell you, ladies and gentlemen, this expression "riding your coattails" of course could be a very dangerous one. You don't know, if you are just trying to ride someone else's coattails, where you are going. [Laughter]

I would say this: if anyone wants to support a program which I believe has been designed for the welfare of America, if he wants to ride my coattails, he can climb right on; if they'll just support this program, that's all right with me.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, there seems to have been a lack of organization and purposeful planning on the part of the Republican leadership when they brought up the 18-year-old question, and this has led to charges among many, several, Senators on both sides of the aisle, that the Republican leadership didn't intend for that to pass. I wonder if you discussed this with Mr. Knowland afterwards?

THE PRESIDENT. This is the first time I have heard such an idea.

I felt, as you know, that the young fellows that had to fight wars ought to have some part in the decision as to whether or not we should go to war. I still believe that. To my mind the issue of States rights there was mistakenly brought up because, as I recall, the right of women to vote was brought about by a constitutional amendment; and I merely proposed a constitutional amendment, because I thought the voting age should be lowered. I didn't care if they made it exactly 18, but I thought it should be lowered to take in the vast bulk of these boys who are drafted in time of war.

Q. Laurence Burd, Chicago Tribune: Mr. President, in your opening statement in regard to seeking support for your program, you mentioned that you were going to talk here and there, and you mentioned that you were going to talk to the public. Do you have any particular speaking or traveling plans in mind in that connection?

THE PRESIDENT. No. As a matter of fact, I have made a number of tentative engagements for visits for different reasons at fairs, opening of dams, universities, and so on, where I have no doubt that something of this kind will always be up; but every time I appear, as I say, anywhere from now on, I have just got one idea: get this program enacted.

Q. Robert Spivack, New York Post: Mr. President, counterbalancing what Mr. Shanley said the other day, Senator Symington said during the hearings on the Hill that it was only the Democrats who were backing the administration on the constitutional issues that were raised. Do you think that the Republicans up there are letting you down?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't think the Republicans are letting me down. Like every other organization in the world, the Republicans have possibly individuals or splinters that don't go along with the majority beliefs and convictions. I take the platform of the Republican Party very seriously, and I think the rest of them do.

Now, those that stray from there, I don't know what their philosophy, what their attitude is. I believe in it, and am trying to get it done. But I think, on the contrary, that certain of our leaders in most difficult and unusual circumstances have performed very well indeed.

Q. Edward Milne, Providence Journal: Mr. President, do you think Senator McCarthy is hurting your program on the Hill?

THE PRESIDENT. Next question.

Q. George R. Wolff, French News Service (France Presse): Would you tell us something about your talk with the Turkish Prime Minister, Mr. Menderes?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I just had it just a minute ago. He is a friend of mine that I visited with before. He came to assure the parallel objectives and thinking in Turkey along with that of America and our efforts, to show their appreciation, their good will. We had a very fine conversation.

Q. James T. Rogers, Gannett News Service: A good many people are anxious to know, sir, whether Congressman Sterling Cole will be nominated for Comptroller General. Could you discuss that possibility?

THE PRESIDENT. I believe I have never yet suggested a man's name that was going to be named to a post until he was actually presented to the Senate. I don't think that would be cricket to do that.

John L. Cutter, United Press: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Eisenhower's thirty-ninth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:31 to 10:54 o'clock on Wednesday morning, June 2, 1954. In attendance: 192.

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/232088

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