The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. There is one piece of spot news which, of course, I assume all of you people know about.
This morning there was picked up in the monitoring processes a message from Moscow which is apparently an order to the Russian commissioner--the Soviet commissioner--in Germany to disband and dissolve the Soviet control section, and to relieve the commander and the troops of all responsibility in control of what was called, I believe, the Free German Republic.
I bring it up merely to say that there is no use asking any questions on it, because I was informed about it only a little while ago. What the meaning, or the import, or the purpose of the order is, we don't know. So there is just really no use asking questions about it, because what the meaning can be we haven't yet tried to decide.
Now, there has just been too much happening for me to attempt to give you a summary of my own, and I think we might as well start on the questions.
Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, do you share Senator Taft's view that we should forget the United Nations as far as the Korean war is concerned?
THE PRESIDENT. No. I think that you will understand that if you attempt to talk about this whole business of foreign relations, one is apt to get into a lecture that runs a little long. But at the risk of being just a bit verbose, let me explain one or two things.
I have had a very great deal of experience in dealing with coalitions, in filling positions of responsibility under them. It 's always difficult. And I am quite certain that there arise occasions when if any one nation or any one authority were acting singly, possibly the decision in that point would be better than to subject it to all of the trimmings and the compromises that come out of the effort to achieve some kind of unanimity of opinion.
But you can't have cooperative action in these great developments and processes in just the spots of the globe, or in just the particular problems, that you would like to select.
If you are going to go it alone one place, you of course in the long run have to go it alone everywhere. If you are going to try to develop a coalition of understanding based upon decency, upon your ideas of justice, common concepts of governments established by the will of free men, then you have got to make compromises. You have got to find that way in between certain conflicting local considerations that will serve the best good of all.
Now, that is what we are up against today. Our whole policy is based on this theory: no single free nation can live alone in the world. We have got to have friends. Those friends have got to be tied to you, in some form or another. But we have to have that unity in basic purposes that comes from a recognition of common interests. That is what we are up against.
Now, not being a particularly patient man, I share the irritations and the sense of frustration that comes to everybody who, working along in what he believes to be a decent purpose, finds himself balked by what he thinks is sometimes the ignorance, or the errors of someone who is otherwise his friend.
I understand those things, but I'll tell you: only patience, only determination, only optimism, and only a very deep faith can carry America forward.
Here at home we have our differences on these opinions because we are 160 million people. But I earnestly believe we cannot desert the great purpose for which we are working.
I apologize for the length of my answer, but I think that the subject deserves that much explanation.
Q. David P. Sentner, Hearst Newspapers: Mr. President, would you care to comment on whether the United States should take every possible step to prevent the entry of Communist China into the United Nations?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, as of this moment, I say this: there has never been proposed to me, seriously, by anybody in Government, that we should allow them in the United Nations. I assume that you mean under the conditions and the circumstances of the world as they now exist, in what we call Red Communist China, believing as we do it is subservient to Moscow, whether it should be in it. I believe it should not.
Q. Roscoe Drummond, Christian Science Monitor: Mr. President, on the same question, do you think that the United States should serve advance notice that if the United Nations should include Red China, that we would withdraw financial support from the United Nations?
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Drummond, I really don't like answering questions, particularly hypothetical questions, before they arise. No one ever knows exactly the circumstances of proposals. You people used to ask me whether I would ever accept a nomination under such and such and such conditions, and I did not believe those conditions were going to arise. Now, right this moment, I don't believe the condition is going to arise on the question which you talk about.
Q. Mr. Drummond: I would like to say that I didn't think it was a theoretical question, because a Senate appropriations committee yesterday approved such an action.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I haven't read the papers this morning, I guess, as thoroughly as I should have. Then it is not theoretical, no, because it is at least obvious that someone in a responsible position is thinking in that direction.
I would say this: they propose a very, very drastic sort of cure for something which I would consider a very grave error--now make no mistake there. But I don't know whether I could go along with that answer. I hope you would give me time to think that one over. That is getting pretty drastic, I think.
Q. Robert J. Donovan, New York Herald Tribune: Some commentators--very sympathetic commentators--have taken the opinion that you are confronted with a strong tide of isolationism in this country. Do you feel that, sir? Do you believe that to be the case?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't know how much weight a man in my position should give to the sentiments expressed in the vast amount of mail that we get. Our mail, incidentally, I think has been averaging from three to five times above world's records! It is quite heavy. There is nothing in that mail that would indicate there is any growth of isolationism. I should say, to the contrary; the mass of opinion that I obtain is that our people have come to a very clear realization that there is no safety for any free country alone, that we must have friends.
As I say, I never like to challenge the motives of anybody, because I myself can well understand almost the resentment, the anger that comes at times, when we are trying to do right and we get literally slapped in the face. But I believe that this is something that the world position of America has brought to us as one of the things we must solve--the kind of leadership that lessens these bitter occurrences, and brings forward each day, by a little bit, greater assurance of peace and security.
Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, both Prime Minister Churchill and Rene Mayer, before his government fell, have said that they look for the forthcoming Bermuda conference to lead to a Big Four conference, with Russia included. Do you share that objective?
THE PRESIDENT. Not in those terms. I believe that a meeting among the three powers of which we are speaking is important just for itself.
Again, I hope you will allow me to refer to my past experience. When I was in charge of SHAEF, I constantly urged frequent meetings among the commanders on the military side, and among the political leaders and their representatives on the other side, simply for the good that flows out of these contacts through developing understanding.
Let me point out that our Constitution does not require Congress to meet only when there is an emergency to declare, or some other terrible problem is facing the United States; they meet to consult over the business of the United States--the people of the United States. Now, I don't mean to say these bodies of which we are speaking in the international field are governing bodies in the sense that the Congress is a governing body. But if you are going to get understandings among people, promote the feeling of friendliness and create the atmosphere in which they can work effectively, then occasionally you ought to meet--and, I think, at least very occasionally, among the very highest officials of those governments.
So I feel this: the meeting would be beneficial in itself. If it leads to a meeting of the four, or a later meeting, it would be because of some development that would seem to justify it. But I don't think that it is necessarily going to lead to such a meeting.
Q. Richard L. Wilson, Cowles Publications: As I read Senator Taft's speech, he had refined down the general question on international cooperation to about this: that if the present truce negotiations fail, that then we should go it alone--not prior to that time; but that if they fail, we should then go ahead and finish the war, alone if necessary. That is a little different
THE PRESIDENT. Well now, I am not going to put words in Senator Taft's mouth, because I did not read the speech in that detail. But I do believe this: when he says go it alone, he must mean that we insist on following our own beliefs and convictions in the situation. He certainly doesn't mean that we just would throw everybody out.
Q. Mr. Wilson: No, sir. But after the truce negotiations have failed, if I read his speech correctly--in fact, that is what he said exactly, that if the truce negotiations break down, then we should go it alone.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, but suppose these negotiations break down because of something that the Chinese won't agree to? Isn't that it?
Q. Mr. Wilson: Yes, sir, but they might also be something that the United States would not advocate, were it not for the position of Great Britain.
THE PRESIDENT. There is something confusing here. I don't believe I had better try to answer it. I don't understand what could be meant by such a thing. Look--suppose all of us here are friends, and we are trying to get somebody out on the street to agree to something and he disagrees, does that mean we all suddenly here become enemies and break up? I don't understand that.
Q. Mr. Wilson: Would you permit me to read the whole paragraph?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
Q. Mr. Wilson: He said: "I believe we might as well forget the United Nations as far as the Korean war is concerned. I think we should do our best now to negotiate this truce, and if we fail, then let England and our other allies know that we are withdrawing from all further peace negotiations in Korea."
THE PRESIDENT. Well, from further peace negotiations; he doesn't say withdrawal from the allies and Britain. They might agree with you, that there is no further use to conduct peace negotiations.
Q. Mr. Wilson: That is correct.
THE PRESIDENT. As I say, there is some idea there that I am not grasping, and I don't think it is fair to ask me to try to comment on it when I don't.
Q. Anthony H. Leviero, New York Times: Mr. President, your opening statement on this question is a pretty important one at this time. I wonder if you would consider letting us quote you directly on it--your answer to Mr. Smith's question, opening statement on whether we go it alone or not?
THE PRESIDENT. I think you had better take the usual rule, because I don't know whether I used even grammatical language. [Laughter]
Q. Mr. Leviero: The grammar is incidental, we will be willing to forego that. [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. I will say this: I don't know what the practices are, but if you find something there that you think is worthy of quoting, you bring it to Mr. Hagerty. If he says, "Yes, that's what the General said," it's okay by me. I don't care. 1
1 Mr. Smith's opening question and the President's reply were released for direct quotation later that day.
Q. Edward F. Creagh, Associated Press: Sir, in your opening statement, you said something about if we go it alone in one place--I missed the last part of that--it's a rather important part.
THE PRESIDENT. I meant merely this: you can't pick and choose the places where you will have partners and friends, and then in other places in the world say, "We pay no attention to you here--we do as we please," when they think that their interests are also involved. What I am trying to say is that this kind of thing--maybe I shouldn't liken it to a marriage, but let us say to a long-term partnership--you have got to take the ups and downs, you have got to go along with your associates. You can't say, in North Africa we all agree, in South Africa we all go it alone. It just won't work. This is an effort to produce a unity that, as I have said so many times, is based on appreciation of common values, common sense of values.
Now, you must remember that Woodrow Wilson once, in using very literary words in this regard, said that the highest form of efficiency is the spontaneous cooperation of a free people.
What we are really trying to do is, in a practical way, translate in the international world the thought that there is greater efficiency in real cooperation among people who are dedicated to fine ideals than there is in a forced unity, brought about by the power of arms. Now that is really what we are trying to do. It is tough, and it isn't going to be easily accomplished. It isn't going to be accomplished quickly; this is a long-term thing.
Q. William H. Lawrence, New York Times: Has your attention been directed to the effort by an official of the Rumanian Legation to subvert an American citizen by offering to trade his two children who were held hostage?
THE PRESIDENT. Actually, I have gotten no official report, but I did get the report from the papers, and I believe on a television thing I saw it.
So, I have no official thing on it.
Q. James B. Reston, New York Times: Mr. President, I wondered if you would clarify one point on the discussions on the truce talks in the Far East. There seems to be an assumption in what you have said this morning, that somehow the allies were forcing us to do something in the truce negotiations out there other than what we wanted them to?
THE PRESIDENT. You said I said that?
Q. Mr. Reston: No, sir, but there seems to be in the discussions some assumption that they are forcing us, or asking us to do something--
THE PRESIDENT. There have been, of course, differences of opinion on procedures, one person or one government believing so and so would be persuasive, another believing such and such would best serve our interests. But on the basic factor that there shall be no forced repatriation of prisoners, I have seen no wavering anywhere. As a matter of fact, I think publicly the governments in Europe and elsewhere have supported our position.
There have been, of course, within our own government, some people who want to be much tougher, lay down particularly specific rules and procedures. But the basic thing has been, as explained in my talk of April 16--1 tried to do it just as clearly as I could--there has never been any wavering on the idea of no forced repatriation. None that I know of.
Q. Carleton Kent, Chicago Sun-Times: Mr. President, are you satisfied with the explanation that the security people in the State Department have given for their failure to clear Mrs. Mildred McAfee Horton for that United Nations job?
THE PRESIDENT. I really have very little more to say about it than I see Under Secretary Smith has said, where he admitted there was some apparently unwarranted delay in the State Department, and he believed that he had cleared it up for the future.
But I must say this: you people have probably read in the papers some of the impatience that extremists feel because of what they call the slow way in which we are changing the face of government. But when you change a vast organism, such as the Federal Government has come to be, the job of conducting the necessary investigations is stupendous. There is one place-the FBI--where is done all of a certain kind of this work. Their work is detailed, it is laborious, and it really takes time. So I think that the explanation given has a very great degree of logic in it, although I understand that General Smith also said certain delays occurred within the State Department itself. It is a terrific job.
Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, there has been some confusion as to whether the Joint Chiefs of Staff approved the Defense budget cuts, both in appropriations and expenditures?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I must say that, of course, much as my heart and background is tied up in that work, you must know that I can't be present at every meeting. I would assume that not always do you get 100 percent agreement on every proposal made. But I also assume that these men, working together-these Joint Chiefs of Staff and their civilian superiors--come out with what they believe to be the best overall solution they can get to a problem.
You know, if there was only one side to these problems, they wouldn't be problems; you put down the equal sign in a difficult equation only when there are two sides. So the answers are rarely those that meet the convictions and opinions of very honest men but often men that are extremists or attach greater value to particular factors than the group does.
What I am assured is that the group, as a whole, believes these are the best answers that we can derive at this particular moment, as they see the problem. And that is the best that I can hope for.
Q. Mr. Brandt: There is indication that the Joint Chiefs individually have said they made recommendations which they thought were necessary for the security of the country, and that those recommendations were cut down.
THE PRESIDENT. I have no doubt about that. I will tell you this: all my life I did it, starting as a major. I used to have to prepare the reports that went before the Appropriations Committee. All my life I have pointed out where there were great dangers--and I believe there were great dangers. No one can assume that any amount of actual military strength is a guarantee against risk; there is no such thing.
Q. Mr. Brandt: Who makes the final decision? You, or--
THE PRESIDENT. They make them. If it is not made in the Defense Department, and they consider a question that is of such broad policy, basic policy, then it comes to me and I make it.
Q. Mr. Brandt: Did you make this one, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. I think that is all I will say about that particular question.
Q. Martin S. Hayden, Detroit News: Mr. President, there seems to be a desire among some of the Republican Members of the Senate to have you give your personal assurance, from your military experience, that the cuts in the Air Force will not jeopardize our defense. Would you be willing to do that, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. I would certainly do this: I would say that, as of this moment and as I see the situation now, they do not jeopardize it beyond that point that I have often spoken to this group, I am sure, about--the reasonable posture of defense.
I do not say that we have got everything ready as I demanded it would be ready before I went across the Channel in 1944. We are not in the same kind of a situation. We picked the day. We knew when we wanted our maximum force. We knew the buildup we wanted. We knew exactly what we were up against, within a matter of a division or two. We knew the exact force. We knew exactly what the enemy's reactions would be.
We don't know those things. We have got to estimate and to live with estimates. I want to point out to you ladies and gentlemen, again and again, you are dealing in equations now where every single factor is an unknown--all of it. Now you have to take those unknowns and through your experience, through the best things you can get together, get reasonable answers, do the best you can.
Now, my own deep conviction is that what we are now doing is going to give us the greatest ultimate and bearable strength over the years that I see ahead, that we have got to maintain it.
I am, of course, as you know, dedicated to the idea that we will produce better conditions in the world, and these burdens can finally be lightened. For the moment, though, we are preparing on the basis of going up to whatever the circumstances of the moment dictate to be a reasonable posture, and to maintain it.
Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post: One of the points of difference between ourselves and our allies, and of considerable discussion in Congress, has been the question of East-West trade, both in Europe and in the Far East. There has been a considerable dispute as to what actually is the administration's point of view, the Defense and State Departments apparently being in conflict. Would you give us your concept?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't think they are in very deep conflict, as I understand the presentations they have made to me.
Moreover, I should say that there is no permanent philosophy of action or course of action that has been dictated, so far. But I do know this: there have been pointed out, on both sides of the fence, instances over the past 2 or 3 years where the Communists have been helped by certain kinds of trade. But it has been equally pointed out that we would be foolish just to say that we can win the position we are seeking in the world by just refusing to trade with everybody except people that we happen to like at the moment. All sorts of factors enter into this business of trade, one of them being that it is a great influence in the hands of the diplomat. If you make it completely impossible for a country you are trying to win over, to trade with you, it has got to go somewhere else. And if it goes completely into the arms of someone hostile to you and to your form of life, then you haven't been very intelligent.
Now, I have heard these things discussed by both sides. My own opinion, which I don't expect to express here this morning-it is a personal one--I am perfectly clear in what I think we should do, but I do hope that all my own associates and advisers come to a somewhat similar opinion on their own.
Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) papers: Mr. President, if I may go back to Mr. Reston's question, whether we are being pushed by our allies into terms in Korea of which we do not fully approve, do you think we should accept an agreement which is opposed by the South Korean Government?
THE PRESIDENT. I would say this: we certainly should never adopt a solution that at least our own conscience tells us is unfair to South Korea. I do believe this, though: these things we are talking about, these great objectives, are not attained in one great sudden agreement that everybody sits down and signs and then the world is lovely; you have to go ahead step by step. I believe that if we could, at this moment, get an agreement on the order of the kind that they are now seeking--as you know, it is an executive session; the only thing I have said about these things is the great principle of nonrepatriation we stick to--I believe that then we are in a better position to go ahead with what we think is just in Korea than we are now.
Q. Alice A. Dunnigan, Associated Negro Press: I wondered when we can expect a statement on the Contract Compliance Committee?
THE PRESIDENT. I couldn't hear you.
Q. Mrs. Dunnigan: I said that--could you give us any idea when we might expect the statement on the Contract Compliance Committee?
THE PRESIDENT. They have not reported to me yet; but I will have Mr. Hagerty call them up and give you a report on it.
Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, how is the delay in forming a new French government affecting the timing on the Bermuda conference? Is there a possibility of delay?
THE PRESIDENT. I suppose it could be delayed. Very naturally, if I would meet there on the basis I am talking about, to promote friendship and a better atmosphere, well, I should like these three friends, that went through so much together in World War II, all there.
Q. Mr. Smith: Would you tell us, please, sir, how you arranged the meeting with Mr. Churchill; and secondly, whether you intend to take to Bermuda representatives of the Congress?
THE PRESIDENT. Ladies and gentlemen, the thing has really gone very little further than I have explained to you this morning. Now, I have been very anxious that it be a small and not a great, full-dress, so-called, meeting. I have even suggested that we could meet without an agenda, and I think that was a little, possibly, surprising to some.
But what I would want to do is to sit down, with the kind of question we have been talking over here this morning, and actually explore someone's mind and to be frank with him.
Now I did suggest when this thing first came up, let us keep our delegations small--very small. I don't know, as a matter of fact, what the accommodations are in Bermuda. Originally, I might tell you, I suggested going into one of our northeastern sections, because in talking to the Prime Minister I felt that I ought to be able to say there is a place we could meet, mutually convenient. He suggested Bermuda; and I was glad, of course, to accept. So I don't even know what the accommodations are.
Now, as far as taking anyone along that would like to know what is going on day by day, I would be delighted. Actually, whether we can do it until we have talked to the others and what they are going to do, if we are thinking of having them right in meetings, where these two other men and I are talking, then I don't know because I haven't explored that far.
Q. Sarah McClendon, Texas papers: Mr. President, there seems to be some contradiction between Mr. Smith's first question on the Taft speech and your answer, and Mr. Wilson's question and his clarification of the speech; you said, you had not read it in detail.
THE PRESIDENT. That's right.
Q. Mrs. McClendon: Would it be asking too much, sir, since there is such a confusion over this and it is so important, would it be asking too much if you were to read it in detail today, and give us a statement of your views?
THE PRESIDENT. NO. Sorry--I won't--I can't do that. Besides, to tell you the truth--[laughing]--if I had to read all the speeches that are in the papers in detail, I would be pretty badly off.
Now, I have admitted Senator Taft's right to his own convictions and opinions. What I have done is explained my attitude toward this whole business, my philosophy, and what I am going to attempt, to lead this Government and these people in the direction I am going to lead them. I believe in it with all my heart, and I don't believe that discouragement and frustration, and even resentment, have a right to turn us from a course which we believe to be just and good. Now that is my comment on it.
Q. Alan S. Emory, Watertown (N.Y.) Times: Sir, a couple of weeks ago, you said in response to a question, I believe, that you considered the Niagara River power redevelopment primarily a matter of New York State responsibility. Since that time, there has been a little confusion on the Hill as to what exactly you meant by New York State responsibility. Did that mean New York State administration's wishes?
THE PRESIDENT. The New York what?
Q. Mr. Emory: Did you mean by New York State responsibility, sir, the desire of the New York State administration?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't know exactly what their desires are. I have studied this thing only as it was presented to me. New York State has never presented anything to me.
Merriman Smith, United Press: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Eisenhower's tenth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 28, 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/231855