Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

January 27, 1954

THE PRESIDENT. Ladies and gentlemen, I have one or two items I think may be of some interest.

As you know, President Bayar and his wife are going to be here this evening as visitors to our Government, and there will be a formal dinner for them this evening. I am delighted to have them, of course. Turkey has emerged a very modern and sturdy nation and great friend of ours, and so I regard it as a great privilege to have the opportunity of paying a compliment to them.

The other item that certainly interests me and, I hope, you, is coffee.

I want to be very careful what I say. I am going to read one or two sentences, they are not particularly for quotation, but I don't want to misquote the Federal Trade Commission. I understand they are going to have a press conference themselves, so I am not trying to steal their story. I just want to tell you, up to date, what I know about it.

On January 13 they started a preliminary investigation to see what was the trouble about coffee prices in this country. They discovered enough that they thought a full-scale investigation was indicated, and is going to take place.

Now, the Chairman said that the Commission will give particular attention to the charge that domestic trading in coffee futures on the Coffee and Sugar Exchange is restricted to certain types of coffee, and that all domestic coffee prices are tied in in some ways to the Exchange price.

What it all means and comes down to is that they are going to try to determine first whether the law has been violated and, secondly, to publish all the facts in an economic report.

Of course, the Commission will maintain liaison with the Department of Justice.

Just exactly what is going on, no one seems to know. Of course, we do know there is a shortage. Back in the thirties there was a great surplus; there was a reduction in planting, I believe even a cutback in the acreage devoted to coffee, and now demand has caught up. Add to that a few frosts and things like that; it's been bad, and it's bad for all of us in coffee at this time. Anyway, the Trade Commission is making a full investigation of the matter.

In the past week, as you know, the Randall Commission reported to me, and I have sent copies of the Randall Commission Report to each executive agency of Government.

Now, the idea of the Commission was conceived in line with the whole general policy of developing a stronger America. It has to be examined by all interested agencies to make certain that in trying to achieve that effort, we don't damage or harm seriously, at least, any great group in America. To that I would never be a party, because the attempt is to develop the economy of America, make it stronger, not to make it weaker.

Because of the very dedicated work all these people did, I think all of us owe them a debt of thanks. Certainly I feel so. And I feel that Mr. Randall himself has worked so hard on it that he still has a field of usefulness as we analyze and present these conclusions in the form of specific recommendations. So I have retained him as a Special Consultant to the White House, which he has agreed to, to help out in that way for the time being.

Now, let's see if I had anything else here. I think that is all the special items I have. We'll go to questions.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, in your recent speech to the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, you spoke quite highly of part of the American code of behavior being that the accused had the right to face his accuser. A California Congressman, a Democrat named Condon, yesterday before the House Un-American Activities Committee, asked for the right to face his accusers. He had been mentioned in an AEC report as being a Communist, and he denied that. I wonder if you think your code, as you spelled it out for the Anti-Defamation League, would apply in his case?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Smith, you are asking me to take one off-the-record expression of conviction, translate it quickly into a specific case, and make an application in another quick conclusion.

I certainly believe earnestly in the general statement that I made before. This case, I really have had no connection with. As I understand, it was done in the Atomic Energy Commission.

Just what can be done in these cases, I am not certain, but I do think that this man has got to be given every right to clear himself. This is the first time I knew he had been accused of being a security risk, and I don't know any of the circumstances; but I certainly believe that if we are going to have decency and justice for the individual in this country, he has got to be given full opportunity in some way to establish the falsity of charges.

Just how that works out in a specific case, I think I will have to pass that one for a moment. Maybe there will be a report made on it to me, on that subject; I don't know.

Q. Raymond Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, on this Randall Commission Report, after the agencies have reported, will you send a special message to Congress?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't any fixed conclusions; I suppose I will, yes, I think I will. That was certainly my original intention.

Q. Mr. Brandt: And it will follow the general line of the majority report, if you can find out the majority? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. It is being analyzed now, but there is, generally speaking, a majority opinion runs through it. The recommendations I make will be based upon the Report and upon the analyses made by the several Departments of Government.

Q. Ray Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: I have a question allied to Mr. Smith's, and I would like to ask you to comment, if you will, sir, on a development in Norwalk, Connecticut. It appears this morning on the front page of a paper that is generally deemed to be reliable, and it goes like this: "The names and addresses of residents of this city whose record of activities are deemed to be Communistic by the local Post for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, are being forwarded by it to the Federal Bureau of Investigation."

THE PRESIDENT. Now, what do you want me to comment?

Q. Mr. Scherer: Whether you think this fits in with the expressions in your B'nai B'rith speech: "It was learned today that a special committee formed from men from all walks of life had been created to sift the suspects." Do you think this might be a threat to civil liberties?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't believe you can stop anybody from putting something down and sending forward names; but I believe that there are libel and slander laws in our country, and if a man makes or a group of people make false charges against someone, they have to be responsible for their own statements. So just what this one is, I don't know; I had not heard of it, and I am not sure what opinion I would have on this at all.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: In line with that same thing, we learned at Mr. Brownell's press conference last week, and I believe Mr. Donald Dawson stated this in the paper this morning, that if you are employed by the Federal Government and you suddenly leave or quit, your friends may think you have been fired for security reasons; you have no means of proving to them. I know a man who quit the State Department the other day, and he said, "Please don't put it in the paper; I am just quitting, but somebody will think I have been fired for security reasons." Is there some way we can devolve a system for tagging these people, like the Army does, with honorable discharges and dishonorable discharges?

THE PRESIDENT. Of course, this whole thing is a very confused business, and since there have been so many hundreds of thousands, millions of people employed by the Government, unusual and cloudy cases arise.

As I told you before, our idea is here that we should not charge anyone with disloyalty or subversive activity unless that is proved in a court of law, and I don't believe that we should. We talk and try to devise a scheme whereby those people whose records gave you some evidence that they were not good security risks in the Government should not be there employed.

Now, that is all that we have ever tried to say about this thing. Certainly no one that I know of has ever gone a bit further.

As to differentiating between the person who gets, let's say, a letter of commendation when he goes, and the other, I think it ought to be possible. You bring up a point of this thing, I must tell you, that I had not thought about; but I think something like that ought to be possible. Certainly, I am going to ask about it and see whether it can be done.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Maine Papers: Mr. President, last night in a speech at a pro-Bricker amendment dinner, it was charged that the Status of Forces legislation of the last year, which subjected American soldiers to foreign courts in NATO countries does, in fact, deprive them of constitutional rights. When I was in France last September, Americans told me that our American soldiers were so being deprived in their opinion. Has that been brought to your attention in relation to any cases of American soldiers?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, in this complicated business of trying to make America stronger in the world, you do run into a variety of situations involving individuals.

Now, I don't know what the people argue. The Status of Forces agreement was one for which I worked very seriously when I was in Europe, for this reason: fundamentally, any foreigner in the United States can be tried by a United States court if he commits a crime of any kind, and we have units of other nations come here occasionally. This same thing happens in a foreign country.

Now, these people, let me point out, are our partners. In no case where we make agreements with other nations are we trying to establish or act like they're satellites. That is a philosophy that seems to me repugnant to the whole concept of freedom, of liberty.

And remember this: the Status of Forces agreement, as I recall the provisions--after all, it is 2 years ago that I studied them--any crime that is committed between individuals of our units, they are tried by us; anything that happens when the man is on official duty, they are tried by us.

The actual time when the man is exposed to some kind of action by a foreign court is when he is on leave, and he is in exactly the same status, as a practical measure, as you were when you went there.

Now, if you had committed an offense in France, or wherever you were, would you have expected to come back to the United States to be tried? You would have been tried, and you would accept that risk when you go over there.

The difference is that a soldier is ordered over, but he does have his post, he does have his unit, and it is still expected then that when he goes off of his own territory and goes off on leave, on his own personal status, that he does become responsible to their courts. Even there, there are certain safeguards in the way he is represented and the information given to our embassies.

Now, this same thing applies to people who are here. All these treaties are reciprocal, and that is the thing to remember. They are arranged so as to do justice to the very greatest possible extent to the individual, and to meet national needs.

Q. Charles von Fremd, CBS Television: Mr. President, yesterday Senator Young said that during the campaign you always promised the farmers nothing less than 90 percent of parity, and he challenged your flexible price supports at 75 to 90 percent of parity. I would like to ask you, do your recent agricultural recommendations represent a change in your thinking on this matter, and if so, why?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, now, let me ask you one question: did you go to the trouble to read my speeches in the campaign?

Q. Mr. von Fremd: Yes, sir; I did.

THE PRESIDENT. All right; then, did you find anything that said I ever promised permanent rigid price supports at 90 percent? Ever? Any place?

Q. Mr. von Fremd: Mr. President, I am just referring to the remarks of Senator Young yesterday.

THE PRESIDENT. I know, but I don't answer individuals; I answer questions directed to principles and ideas. I am not engaged in argument with individuals.

Q. Mr. von Fremd: My question then, sir, is your present plan, which you submitted on agriculture, does that represent in any way a change in your thinking?

THE PRESIDENT. None at all.

Actually, what I promised was this: I said there is on the books a law, an amendment to the acts of '48 and '49, which carries rigid price supports through December of 1954; that law will be rigidly enforced, and there will be no attempt to tamper with it.

In the meantime--and I promised this in every talk I ever made about agriculture--we will get together the most comprehensive, the most broadly based groups of actual farmers and farm students and agricultural intellectuals, and all the rest of them, get them together to devise a program that seems to meet best the needs of our country; that is exactly what I said. That is exactly what we have done, and we have come up with a program in which I believe. I believe it to be as nearly adapted to the needs of this country as we can possibly devise at this moment.

Q. Marvin Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, would you comment on Molotov's demands for a Big Five Conference including Red China and world problems?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, my attitude about these things, I think, is known; but in any event we do have a conference now going on in Berlin to which our representative has gone.

I have, as you know, I hope, the utmost confidence in Secretary Dulles and his wisdom, and I know there is going to be no change in policy. He is going to stick to and, so far as he is able in that conference, carry out the beliefs and policies of this Government.

I don't think that it is in order for me to speak in detail of my opinions at the moment. He is now on the front line and is carrying out the job, and I am backing him up.

Q. Robert Spivack, New York Post: The Peiping radio, I understand, has been having a propaganda field day with the case of Corporal Dickenson, and while I am sure that he will be given a fair trim, I wonder if you feel that there is any better way of handling the cases of these men who admit their mistake, and had the courage to break with the Communists.

THE PRESIDENT. I have two remarks on that: I was so disturbed when I saw it in the paper that I got hold of Secretary Wilson, and we discussed it.

By no means do I think that this investigation was started merely because the man had been for a moment saying he believed he'd stay Communist and stay over there.

I think there must be something else to it, although I personally am not very well informed on that. This is the fact: they said they were going to put him, I believe, before a court-martial. Actually, any court-martial in the Army--and here I can speak from a little bit more experience-is preceded by a very long investigative process.

If, say, you put a man in to prefer charges against him, those charges are handed to an impartial and objective group, sometimes individuals, sometimes a group, and a long investigation goes through to determine whether there are real grounds for trying this man.

That investigation will, just as a matter of law, take place; and I know that Secretary Wilson himself is keeping close touch with it to see that no injustice is done.

Certainly, I am sure that I know of no Army man or anybody else who would punish a man for a simple mistake committed under the most trying of circumstances, and who later repented. After all, we can read the tale of the prodigal son profitably occasionally.

Q. Daniel Schorr, CBS Radio: Mr. President, aside from the Dickenson case, as such, do you have any thoughts on the whole vexing problem confronting this country in the form of those who signed germ warfare confessions, and those 21 who remained behind?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the 21 who remained behind, I don't know of anything you can do, except to take the action the Services did. Secretary Wilson just decided to separate them from our Services under dishonorable conditions.

Now, for these people who come back, I think there has to be a real investigation and study to see what to do with them.

We must not, sitting here in the comparative safety of Washington-there are dangers of another kind, at least--[laughter]--let us not be too sure of what we would have done under these same circumstances.

What I would hope that the Services do as they investigate this thing is to have some real sympathy in their hearts as they look into it. And I must say this: my own experience, my long experience with the armed services, was that usually you can find there the full average measure of decency and humanity when you are forced into this business of judging and passing judgment upon the weaknesses or failures of others. I think that there will be no attempt on the part of anybody to be harsh in these cases.

Q. Robert L. Riggs, Louisville Courier-Journal: Mr. President, we took up with Mr. Brownell the matter of breaking down these 2200; that was on your advice, I believe. Mr. Brownell said we ought to go to the Civil Service Commission, and I see by the papers that Mr. Young of the Civil Service Commission has notified a Congressman that it is up to the White House and the National Security Council. We are going around in circles, are we not, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, probably what he said is because he is compelled, under an Executive order that I issued some time back, to make reports to us; I hadn't thought of that when I mentioned it before. You see, the Attorney General drew up this security order, as opposed to the so-called loyalty boards and so forth, and I was thinking of him as a man who was more intimately aware of the circumstances than I was.

Now, it is possible that there is some kind of a time thing on it; but on the other hand, I don't know whether there can ever be any real breakdown into specific categories that you people might like.

I will have to ask Chairman Young myself what this thing is developing into. But as far as I am concerned, I am trying to protect the service of the United States and do no one damage, if I can help it. That is the reason I answered one question awhile ago that I believe there ought to be some way of showing when people are separated with complete honor and for reasons of their own, and when they are just something else.

But a poor security risk--I am not going to say that what we deem to be a poor security risk under statements made on the record reaching clear back into babyhood, I am not going to say that he is a disloyal person; I just won't do it because I don't necessarily believe it.

Q. Mr. Riggs: Sir, a moment ago you said you were not aware of anyone who used any such terms. Governor Dewey has used the words "spies and traitors," and then referred to 1400 security risks.

THE PRESIDENT. When I said anyone, I meant anyone that was within this administration. I am sorry.

Q. Norman Carignan, Associated Press: Mr. President, last Thursday you held a meeting at the White House with your brother, Dr. Milton Eisenhower, and several Cabinet officers and other Government officials dealing with Latin America. And I gather it dealt with the loan policy towards Latin America. I wonder if you could tell us something about the meeting and any conclusions reached?

THE PRESIDENT. I merely can say this: the meeting ended with an agreement that there would be an intensive study by several of the interested agencies as to exactly what some of these specific problems are, and whether there should be any change in policy as of now. I would think it would be a little while before their answers would be available.

Q. Edward Sims, Columbia (S.C.) State and Record: Ever since you made the statement in Augusta about unemployment areas and defense contracts for unemployment areas, there has been, of course, intense interest in my section and other sections; and this morning there is a report out that you have assured or the Government has assured--not you personally--20 percent of the defense contracts to unemployed areas. Is that something new? Would you comment on that at all?

THE PRESIDENT. In no case do I think there is a fixed rule of that kind. For example, suppose you are going to build a ship, how can you take 20 percent of a ship and put it some place else? Certain things just have to be done as units.

As I explained to you before, the great mass of these procurement orders will go out in the normal routine manner, lowest bidder and lowest responsible bidder, and that is that.

The law allows the withholding of a certain percentage--even that can differ--that can be put out then for negotiated bids as long as the bid is as low as the lowest bid you got in the normal line of communication. I believe that 20 percent is merely the maximum, that is what I understand.

Q. Jerry O'Leary, Washington Evening Star: Mr. President, do you see any signs of agreement between the opposing sides on the Bricker amendment? Do you have any information of a possible agreement?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I can only say that certain of my associates down on the Hill keep hoping for it. So far as I know, there is nothing different from what you see in the papers.

Q. Richard Wilson, Cowles Publications: Some people have characterized your legislative program as an extension of the New Deal. I think former President Truman is one that has done that. Would you care to comment or discuss that?

THE PRESIDENT. I think the best comment on that is to go and take a look at the budget. Take a look at the budget he proposed, and what we did, and the direction in which we are going.

Q. Mr. Wilson: How would you draw a distinction between the two?

THE PRESIDENT. The difference in the direction in which it would go. One was going further and further into debt and at an increasing rate; and the other is trying to reduce the expenditures of Government and go the other way.

Now, let me point out: there were a number of things that started in the late 1920's and early 1930's that were continued on throughout the New Deal. The RFC notably is one.

I don't think anyone attempts to say that everything that was done by some political opponents, or by a political school in which he did not believe, is necessarily evil or bad for the country. I believe our job, I believe the job of this administration or any other that will come after it, is to take the situation as it exists, and what is good for the country.

I believe that we use titles, appellations, what do you call them, meanings of words that seem to get all confused--liberal, progressive, and all the rest of them. Nevertheless, I think it would be safe to say this: when it comes down to dealing with the relationships between the human in this country and his Government, the people in this administration believe in being what I think we would normally call liberal; and when we deal with the economic affairs of this country, we believe in being conservative.

Now, I quite admit that there can be no distinct line drawn between the economy and the individual, and I am ready to say also that such a little capsule sort of description of an attitude can be pulled to pieces if you want to. But, in general, that is what we are trying to do. The difference here is that the Government's position, the Government's growth, the Government's activity under this new administration is to try to have its functions in conformity with the Constitution of this country; but in doing so, to make certain that the individuals realize that Government is a friend and is not their enemy in any way.

That is, by all odds, certainly an abbreviated answer to such a question, but I do think that all the way along we have showed the difference between this philosophy, the philosophy of this Government, and that of the New Deal.

Q. James Reston, New York Times: I wonder, sir, if you can give us any report about the Atomic Energy discussions you have had with the Soviet Ambassador, or rather that Mr. Dulles has had.

THE PRESIDENT. No, there is no report at this time. I don't know when there will be one, actually.

Q. Robert Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, your social security message would seem to have answered this, but I have been requested to ask you whether the administration has abandoned its original proposal to cut back to 1 ½ percent social security tax.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, last year, of course, I asked for its freezing for a year. Now my recommendations extend social security to something like ten million more people and increase the benefits, and it seems to us necessary to allow the 2 percent to go into effect.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's twenty-fifth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:33 to 11:02 o'clock on Wednesday morning, January 27, 1954. In attendance: 185.

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/232407

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