Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

June 10, 1954

THE PRESIDENT. Ladies and gentlemen, the only piece of news I have, and I don't believe it is news any more, is that there is gathered in town a group of people who call themselves "Citizens for Eisenhower Congressional Committee." Their name indicates and implies their support of the program the administration submitted to Congress. So I am going to talk to them tonight under circumstances where, I believe, there will be television and radio; and, of course, I am going to talk about those elements of the program that are now under discussion in Congress and are in different stages of the legislative process.

We will now start the questions.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, in 1952 you said during the course of the campaign that you endorsed all Republican candidates for the House and Senate, nominees for the House and Senate. I just wondered if you feel that same way this year?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you are asking me a question that I dislike just answering in great generality. I did say that I endorsed the candidates nominated by the Republicans of their districts and States, and in accordance with law, because of my earnest belief that the legislative body should be controlled through its committees and organization by the same party that provides the occupant of the White House; that if that were not true, there was always an opportunity to dodge party responsibility. Of course, in that sense, I still believe the same thing, that the Republicans as long as they are in power ought to be in power and be held responsible for every action or lack of action that you can trace to them. But I imagine that you could probably pull out of the hat some specific question that could be most embarrassing; I hope you won't do that. [Laughter]

Q. Mr. Smith: Do you have anything on your mind, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't.

Q. Ray Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, as a former military commander, would you be in a position to discuss the changing military situation around Hanoi, Indochina, with particular respect to the possible need for outside naval and air help in such a situation?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, now, I don't want to be misunderstood in any way or have my remarks expanded into the field of speculation here as meaning something other than I am talking about, which is now strictly military.

The French Union forces have had a most difficult task, one that would have been made much easier could they have won the true allegiance and loyalty of the Vietnamese with whom they were working. That task is that of holding a great area. You do it on a defensive basis, because you are not trying to destroy anyone--destroy towns, villages, or people--whereas the opponent has had all the initiative that goes with choosing the time and point of attack. Very naturally, they have had a very, very tough time in trying to defend every place, to be strong enough every place, all the time.

In what you might call conventional warfare, the successful commander does not attempt to do any such thing. He collects up his forces, the largest offensive force he can find, goes and defeats the other one, and so secures the victory and the conditions he wants.

But here, it has been sort of an elusive enemy. There were not large concentrations up until the time of Dien Bien Phu; there were not large concentrations you could go and attack. Any attempt to concentrate and move in any one direction merely led to difficulty in another place; so the French have had a very, very difficult time.

Now, within the Delta itself this situation is present, but on a smaller degree because there is not as much territory to defend. I understand that the French are succeeding in concentrating certain mobile detachments that can be used in rapid fashion to relieve and support those areas that now could be attacked; no longer are they isolated by great areas of jungle where really it was out of the question of producing relieving columns, of bringing them in. So the situation in that respect is possibly better than it was.

Now, as far as outside help is concerned, of course they could use it, no question about the improvement of their situation if they had additional military help.

Q. Joseph Harsch, Christian Science Monitor: Sir, about 2 weeks, I think, ago, Admiral Carney said that all dangers this country faced before were trivial as compared to the danger it faces today, but he didn't tell us why that was the case. May I ask you a double question: first, do you concur in that assessment of our present situation; and, if so, can you give us any details about why the danger today is so much greater than anything we ever faced before?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Harsch, first of all, I try to avoid calling on history in terms of comparison. I have heard so many people say, "This was the toughest battle ever fought in the history of civilization," and so on; I don't use those terms, because I don't know. I imagine that the people that were living, let's say, in the spring of 1864 in this country could not have believed that there could be any set of conditions that represented more real danger and imminence of destruction to the United States than did those conditions. So I don't think it is necessary to talk in those terms, Mr. Harsch.

I think that what we should talk about is, are we in a truly serious situation? I think you will find that the answer is inescapably "yes," and primarily because the Iron Curtain countries do have the control that is imposed by force.

They have that great unification that allows objectives to be chosen and suddenly attacked. In other words, the whole world in a way is in somewhat the condition I was just describing a little while ago for the French effort to defend all of Indochina.

The free world has to be strong everywhere, you might say, as strong as it can be. But we must not forget that still in the military way the best thing for us to do is to have the central and major forces, the reserves, highly mobile, centrally located, and ready to move when vital interests are threatened in any place.

You know, it is easy, because we say that communism does exist and does achieve this unity and this power by the threat of the knife in the back and force, it is easy to dismiss the appeal that communism has had for very great numbers of people--they have voluntarily adopted it.

What I fear more than anything else in this time, is a failure to look this danger in, you might say, its broad face. We think and concentrate on Indochina, or we think of the possibility of penetrations in the Mideast, or of some other country, one of our friends in Europe, weakening. We have got to remember that the attack is so broad in its character that we cannot be complacent in anything, in the realm of the spirit and the intellectual world, the material world, and the economic.

This is, of course, very general; but let's be very specific: we have just had some of our best educated men in America espouse communism, or at least they have been supporters of communism. Now, why? I don't know. I am puzzled in front of this phenomenon. I just don't know why or see how such a doctrine could appeal to the human spirit, particularly when you see its application in Russia and in the countries where it applies--the use of force, indifference to man and his conditions of living, his intellectual or material or economic. I don't know why it appeals that way, but it does, and we have some of our own, some very intelligent men.

Now, as you go around the world, you find that kind of appeal coupled with bribery, deceit, and corruption and profligate spending of money in some areas, and on top of that, threat--threat of force, the fear of people.

Then I would say, if we would look at this thing in its broad way, we cannot possibly minimize in any way the great problem that America is leading; because whether or not she likes it, whether her leadership has been thrust upon her or whether she has naturally inherited it, she does have the leadership of the free world in forming a like unity on our side, spontaneously or, let's say, cooperatively achieved, so that it can defend against this thing in all three of these fields.

I claim it is not enough just to be militarily strong. I believe there is no defense just in the military; we must be strong in our beliefs, our convictions, in our hearts. We must be strong in our intellectual surety that this is the better system; we must prove it throughout the world, we must prove it to others. Finally, we must be strong militarily so that we gain opportunity and time to do all these things.

I am sorry again for making a speech, but this thing is too complicated, too terribly broad, to define it exactly in any one of these areas; we have to think of it in its whole.

Q. James Reston, New York Times: Mr. President, in your judgment, is the military budget that you have sent to the Congress sufficient to deal with this menace?

THE PRESIDENT. Of course I think it is or I would not approve it; that does not mean that I think it is sufficient to start a war or to do anything of that kind.

What I really believe that the democracies must look in the face is this: you have not only a problem that is broad in scope but it is great in depth.

We don't know, this may last 40 years. Now, what we must devise is such a program of defense in the military field that our country can stand the strain and live under a representative form of government for years and years, taking into consideration the problems that we have, the economic, the intellectual, the spiritual, the military. It seems to me we are on the best road in the defense that we can possibly be on.

Now, that doesn't mean that I am completely satisfied and there are never going to be any changes. I could change at any moment, and I certainly would if there were evidence brought to me that I was mistaken in this regard. This is a changing situation, and you have to live with it and study it and devote everything you have to it. I will tell you this: at any moment I think I am wrong, it will be changed, and I won't be afraid to get up and say I think I was wrong.

Q. Mr. Reston: Sir, what I had in mind was whether the lndochina situation in your judgment had--

THE PRESIDENT. I didn't quite hear you.

Q. Mr. Reston: I say, whether the Indochina--the deterioration of the lndochina situation had, in your judgment, forced you to revise the budget or your thinking about it.

THE PRESIDENT. There has been no change for the moment. I think, if you will go back over the things for the past 15 months that both the Secretary of State and I have been trying to say, we have tried to point out that the United States cannot alone by its military might achieve the policies that we must pursue. There must be--and I go back again to what I have been saying here incessantly--the proper psychological, political bases for these things, for merely to go wage a battle somewhere is perfectly useless, costly and useless.

Now, if we can achieve the proper bases, political and psychological, intellectual, anything else that is necessary, then intervention is achieved in such a way that you are strengthened throughout the world and not merely using up resources to win some local battle.

Q. Ruth Montgomery, New York Daily News: Mr. President, will it be feasible to let Congress adjourn this summer without voting you the power to act in Indochina if it becomes necessary while they are gone?

THE PRESIDENT. Frankly, I have no plan as of this moment to ask for anything that is outside the normal traditional processes in the operation of our Government.

Now, the question you ask can't be answered now. If such a thing would become necessary, it would come up on the crest of some crisis, and you would have to go and lay the problem before Congress and ask them. As of this moment I have no such plan.

Q. William Blair, New York Times: Mr. President, Secretary of State Dulles testified before the Joint Congressional Committee last week on the urgency of an interchange of atomic information with our allies, particularly in relation to NATO. He suggested the situation was such that he would dislike to see the international pool or the interchange idea lost because of the domestic side of the program.

In your mind, sir, are those two programs, domestic and international, inseparably linked or would you prefer one over the other under the existing conditions?

THE PRESIDENT. You have asked, certainly, an extremely complicated problem.

I agree with both statements. There should be a greater interchange with our allies about certain aspects of this whole atomic business.

As you know, our present law which governs our actions in this regard at the moment, was written when we hoped that we could retain a monopoly in the manufacture of this kind of thing. Well, we haven't; so, many of the basic hopes and purposes that underlay the writing of that law are gone, and we should take certainly a new look. I do believe that if we are going to ask allies to work and labor with us cooperatively, we can't sit back and refuse to exchange with them information that could be of the most vital consequences and interest to them in the event of war.

Now, as for the other parts, an atomic pool and progressing with the effort to show all humankind how important these things could be to them, I say we must find ways and means of going ahead with that, regardless. The more people in the world that understand that atomic energy and all of the newly developed sciences can be of benefit to them and do not have to be, and should not be, sequestered off in some dark corner to be used merely for destructive purposes, the greater the moral force will be in favor of general peace, general disarmament, and a better life for all of us.

Q. Douglass Cater, The Reporter Magazine: Mr. President, you have termed it reprehensible for employees of the Government to pass secret information out without authorization. As Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, do you believe that people should hold Reserve officer commissions in the Armed Forces and in the National Guard who have publicly urged that such secret information be passed out without authorization?

THE PRESIDENT. It is always dangerous, I have found, to answer questions in generalities when you haven't had time to take a look. As far as I am concerned though, when a man has been given the job of helping defend the United States, and has been given a commission or is an enlisted man in that group, I think that his loyalty and his readiness to obey the military laws and the Constitution of the United States should be unquestioned.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, if the Republican leadership continues to keep the House and Senate from having a chance to vote on extension of reciprocal trade, have you any other tactical moves in mind? What will you do?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, now, to my mind they are not trying to keep them from voting on reciprocal trade. As a matter of fact, I have just been informed that the House committee reported out--you people could tell me whether I am correct--23 to nothing an extension of reciprocal trade.

Q. Mrs. McClendon: They were to meet at 9:30.

THE PRESIDENT. Am I right?

Mr. Hagerty: That is right.

THE PRESIDENT. Twenty-three to nothing, to extend reciprocal trade for 1 year.

Let's be perfectly clear about this: I have heard people say that I have backed away or abandoned the plan that was developed through the Randall Commission, which I sent to Congress with a very strong endorsing message. Nothing could be further from the truth. I thoroughly believe that it is only in a liberalization of trade, an increasing of trade throughout the free world, that we are going to achieve many of the things that I talked about a while ago in answer to questions by Mr. Harsch and others. We have got to do it.

That doesn't mean that the Congress of the United States, which is certainly supposed to be representative of 162 million people, has to take my recommendations, arrived at after months of study with able people, and vote "yes" or "no," and do it now.

It consists of many parts. There are parts involving the increase of tourist's exemptions when they come in, lightening the taxload on investments abroad, simplifying customs procedures, other things of that kind, that can be done now and should be done now. And there is the heart of the program.

As a matter of fact, there are other things that can be done administratively, and we are pushing ahead on them as hard as we can.

Then there are other things that do take time for the Congress to study because, remember this, every single time that you touch the tariff in one way or another, somebody in the United States is affected. These men and women in Congress represent the people of their districts, and they want to have their voices heard: "Is this industry hurt or is that group of labor going to be hurt? ....Is there going to be some unemployment?" "What is going to happen?"

We must have a strong America. Not only for the benefit of that man who is drawing wages must we have high wages, we must have a high consumptive power in this United States, because we are our own best customers.

Nevertheless, along with that, we must recognize the need for this foreign trade.

Now, the one thing that you must have, that I think should be done immediately over and beyond what I have described as really nonargumentative portions of this program, we should have a simple extension of the Reciprocal Trade Act while Congress makes up its mind about the heart of the program which I proposed, which was the opportunity to reduce by 5 percent a year for 3 years, you will recall, the tariffs on selected items that study reveals is necessary for our general overall good in the world and our economy at home.

Now, to say that I have abandoned, because I don't insist that this thing be all done at once, that is just not true. I believe in it just as strongly as I ever believed in it.

Q. Lucian Warren, Buffalo Courier-Express: Mr. President, last year the House passed the Miller-Capehart bill authorizing private power facilities at Niagara Falls. This week, on Tuesday, the Senate Public Works Committee approved the Case bill which would have the effect of turning the Niagara power facilities over to the New York State Power Authority. I wonder what is your attitude on this legislation?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you know, strangely enough, here is one argument that has been going on where they haven't come in front of me and argued their cases.

I think all of you know very clearly that I believe that the authority, the political authority, of local governments must be upheld in this country or in the long run we lose our particular form of government. I believe the authority of the municipality, of the State, must be upheld.

In every instance where it is possible, and no other factors enter into the situation, I would like to leave such determinations to the State: what do they want to do? But this particular case has not been argued out in front of me, and I am not going to give a specific answer other than to state what my belief

Q. Raymond Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, there have been rumors that some of the congressional leaders wanted an understanding that you would not negotiate any reciprocal trade agreements if they extended it for 1 more year. Is 'there any truth in that report?

THE PRESIDENT. I could not possibly make such an agreement.

You know, it seems to me, ladies and gentlemen, I have talked so much this morning and taken so long on some questions, I am almost apologetic; but remember this: we have got people in this country that believe that if we do any trading or anyone does any trading with Iron Curtain countries, it is to our disadvantage; and, therefore, they want to stop it by law, if possible.

We have people who say we must not lend or give or grant any more money. We have others who say we will not take another pound of anything in this country.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, we are trying to build up allies who can make a living.

Isn't it rather odd to say, "We want you as friends, be on our side, but we won't allow you to trade over there, we won't give you any money, we are not going to do anything to defend the trading areas you now have, but you must be our friends and we won't trade with you."

It just doesn't make sense. We have got to decide: are we trying to build up a strong, cooperative family of nations that want to. work together and, therefore, show it by our actions as well as our words, or do we not?

Now, as I have said before, it would be a very comfortable feeling in this world, I think, if you could really be an isolationist, if you could believe the United States could retreat into itself, live there safely and alone, with all of the wonderful prosperity that has come to this country; that would just possibly be a wonderful feeling if you could forget your conscience. But if there is anyone here that has got an idea how that can be done, I would certainly like for him to write me a long memorandum on it and explain it in detail, because I don't, and I confess that.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's fortieth news conference was held in the Executive Office building from 10:33 to 10:59 o'clock on Thursday morning, June 10, 1954. In attendance: 146.

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/232135

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