Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

April 23, 1953

THE PRESIDENT. It has been a little time since we have met, and a number of things have happened. One or two things that occur to my mind involve, first, further plans for reorganization. We have been going over very intensively, lately, plans for reorganization in both State Department and in Defense. They are not quite ready for publication, but are coming along, and will be sent down to the Congress very soon.

Another question has been the St. Lawrence Seaway. I remember that several times there have been individual questions asked in this meeting about it. Of course, there are no easy answers, because it is very controversial.

But the National Security Council has advised me that in the opinion of the members there is an advantage to the Nation's security if the Seaway should be constructed. They believe it would be desirable for the United States to participate in someway in that construction, if it is to go ahead; although the extent and the limitations upon such participation by the United States are still undergoing study, and we are not prepared to express our opinion on that in exact detail.

However, as I have, I think, said before in front of this body, we are in favor of permitting the State of New York to participate in the power development and have made no change in our attitude toward that one.

I think those are two items that were fresh in my mind, and I believe there is no use of using up the time speculating on my own, so we will start the questions.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, now that we are beginning to see some details from North Korea and how our prisoners were treated over there, some of the stories of brutality and atrocities, I wonder what your feeling is about the prisoner exchange and how our men have been treated?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Smith, I have as yet no complete and full report on this matter so that I can separate actual fact from, let us say, just isolated instances.

Everything that we have heard does make us, of course, happier that we are getting even some of our prisoners back, because it is quite obvious that there has been something wrong.

I am not prepared, at this moment, to express any sweeping conclusions as to what has been going on. But we are studying it, trying to examine--analyze--as rapidly as we can.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post: Would you care to state, sir, about the reciprocal trade program, is it your desire to have a i-year extension of the present law without any amendments, or are you willing to accept some type of amendments?

THE PRESIDENT. I wouldn't say, by any manner of means, that I am not ready to accept any amendment whatsoever. As I recall, in my message, when I sent it down, I merely asked--as the simplest thing that I thought could be done pending a combined executive-legislative study of this thing--an extension for I year of the existing reciprocal trade act.

Now, if there are some logical and necessary minor amendments to it, I don't know; I haven't seen them, so I couldn't give you an unequivocal answer to your question.

Q. Mr. Roberts: Might I ask further, sir, the Simpson bill, which is the one on which the hearings actually will be heard next week, would you reject that bill?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, from what I have heard of it, there are certain items in it that I couldn't possibly accept. But I am not certain, because I have not studied it in detail myself, nor have any detailed reports been made to me about it. As it stands now, I stand merely on my recommendation for the extension by 1 year.

Q. Mr. Roberts: Could I ask a third related question, sir? Very recently, the Secretary of Defense has rejected a British bid on some machinery, which was more than a million dollars lower than any American bid. I wonder if you are familiar with that and would care to comment?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, that point was brought up in detail. The decision was made, and I think very properly, by the Secretary of Defense, that those bids would be rejected and reopened, because there was nothing in the specifications to show that there was equivalent quality in the two items upon which the bids were submitted. Now the specifications are being rewritten and put out, and I assure you there is nothing in them that would tend to exclude the British bids.

We do want to make certain, though, in the face of certain technical advice that we were given, that we are getting items of equal quality and equal suitability to the purpose, that's all.

Q. Joseph R. Slevin, New York Journal of Commerce: Mr. President, all other things being equal, in a case such as this English bid, if the British firm was low bidder, would it be administration policy then to award the contract to the low bidder?

THE PRESIDENT. I think there probably would be some differential made. I have not tried to carry this decision forward into any specific case and into complete detail. Generally speaking, if that bid is a substantially favorable' one for us, why that would be the one accepted.

Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, have you gotten any reaction from the Russians to your peace program?

THE PRESIDENT. I have had no direct reply of any kind.

Q. Martin S. Hayden, Detroit News: Mr. President, in relation to the St. Lawrence Seaway question, would you anticipate, sir, that the studies that are being made would be finished in time for you to make a recommendation to Congress for or against the Wiley bill, which is now pending?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think, yes. As a matter of fact, we will be in a position to make such a recommendation at a suitable time.

Q. [Speaker unidentified], Colorado papers: Mr. President, I want to ask you, what have you done or what are you going to do to develop atomic energy as the source of industrial power?

THE PRESIDENT. Wasn't there a statement issued on that subject just a short time ago? [Confers with Mr. Hagerty]

I thought there was a statement issued by the Atomic Energy Commission, but I assure you that it is a subject that is challenging the attention of the Atomic Energy Commission, and a good many other people in the Government. While I think that certain modifications or revisions of law will be necessary, there is no question whatsoever as to the hope of doing something in that line, and the expectation to do something.

Q. Lucian C. Warren, Buffalo Courier-Express: Mr. President, Dr. Earl McGrath sent you his letter of resignation yesterday from the United States Commissioner of Education office, in which he complained that he was not getting a fair deal on budget matters for the Office of Education. Have you any comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, not on the specific case, because I have not received his letter. I have appointed certain Cabinet people, and people of equivalent rank. They are held responsible for the operations of their organization, and they are expected to find the right kind of people to do it.

Now, just exactly what is going on in this case, I don't know, but if someone wants to resign because administration policy is not acceptable to them, why that is of course, their privilege.

Q. Nat S. Finney, Buffalo Evening News: Mr. President, have you received, since you took office, the resignations of officials in the Government who customarily would offer their resignations at the beginning of a new administration? I mean, by immemorial political custom?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't say that I have gotten them all; I don't believe there has been any report made to me. I have gotten a very vast number, and some of them have asked merely to be relieved upon qualification of their successor. Some have fixed certain dates. Generally speaking, they have been accepted under the terms specified by the individual submitting the resignation.

Q. Arthur T. Hadley, Newsweek: A rather serious situation seems to be developing in Indochina, sir, and I wonder if you have any comment on what this Government might do, either singly or in concert with some of our United Nations allies, to deal with that situation?

THE PRESIDENT. You mean with respect to Laos?

Q. Mr. Hadley: Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. No, I wouldn't be in a position to comment, at this moment, on what would happen. I will say only this: it is being carefully watched; it is something that is discussed every day.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) papers: Mr. President, Price Daniel, Senator from Texas, who supported your nomination, has sent to you about a week ago a letter asking you to consider revoking the Truman order for nonmilitary censorship in some of the civil departments--executive departments. Have you considered his letter yet, or replied?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I haven't seen Senator Daniel's personal letter. It is apparently going through staff processes. What I did tell this group, I believe, a few weeks ago, was that if anyone knew of any obstruction to what they considered the proper flow of news, due to that order, please to let me know. And as I was walking over this morning, Mr. Hagerty told me there had been, involving the Defense Department, one instance. That is the only one reported, and that instance was straightened out. But because of that question that came up several weeks ago, I did put this matter into the hands of the Justice Department, telling them please to study it and let me know whether there were any obstructions contemplated in this order. The Justice Department has not yet reported to me.

Q. Mrs. Craig: Well, Mr. President, have you considered that we do not know what news is hidden from us, and so we can't complain to you about it?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have never seen you backward in reporting on your suspicions. [Laughter]

Q. Frederick Kuh, Chicago Sun-Times: Mr. President, I would like to ask whether it is your intention and wish that at the conference which would follow an armistice in Korea, broad problems of a Far Eastern settlement should be discussed, and that such a conference should not be confined exclusively to Korean questions?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, just exactly where these things will be done, you are getting into questions of procedure and method, which I purposely in my speech left very flexible. I am ready to do anything and to confer anywhere, as I say, within the limitations I have already expressed to you people, to bring about peace. Now, whether the thing is done there or not, I don't know. But I did in that speech, you will recall, flatly state that there can be no real peace in Korea that ignores the other and broader problems in Asia.

Q. Louis R. Lautier, National Negro Press: Mr. President, would you care to comment on the filibuster against the tidelands oil bill now going on?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I see by the papers that they claim it is not a filibuster.

My position with respect to the tidelands has been stated time and again in front of bodies similar to this, and other places. I believe, simply, what I think is justice is a fact. So I have nothing further to state about it except that I do think that after 4 weeks, they ought to be getting pretty well educated about the facts, even as they are seen by someone who opposes my viewpoint very diametrically.

Q. David P. Sentner, Hearst Newspapers: Mr. President, are there any steps being taken for a four-power meeting, as reported this week?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I couldn't say that anything definite is being undertaken. There are no negotiations--I assume you mean preliminary negotiations--going on to set up a meeting place or an agenda.

Q. Mr. Sentner: Even diplomatic feelers, you might say?

THE PRESIDENT. None that I know of.

Q. Mr. Sentner: You said before, sir, that there was no direct response to your speech. Were there any indirect responses you could discuss?

THE PRESIDENT. Only what I see by the papers. When I say "direct," I was not trying to confuse anybody. I meant that .no diplomatic correspondence has come to my attention through channels. I have seen in the papers this kind of thing, and that kind of thing. No communication directed to me.

Q. Eleanor Hamilton, Winston-Salem Journal and Sentinel: A great many cotton and tobacco organizations think that repeal of the Buy-American Act would help our declining farm price situation. A bill has been introduced to repeal that act. How do you feel about this, the Buy-American Act?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't think I could give you a categorical answer at this moment. Every one of these questions brings into the scope of the answer a number of others.

I personally have always felt that there should not be a rigid Buy-American Act, or anything of that nature. I believe that in every case the best interests of the United States should be determined, and they should be followed. If the best interests of the United States require or seem to indicate a broader or better trade with someone else, then we should do that. And when the best interests of the United States demand some other action, we should follow that.

I doubt whether you can solve these problems ordinarily just by fixed policies, prohibitions, or limitations of that kind.

Q. John Madigan, Hearst Newspapers: Mr. President, there seems to be some question as to where you and the administration stand on public housing, in view of the appropriations action in the House in recent days--holding in suspension. Some Democrats have charged that you, during the campaign, had pledged public housing to continue. Would you care to comment on it?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know, and I do not recall--although I sometimes don't like to be too positive when I depend completely on memory--I do not recall that I ever said I was in favor of the continuation of Federal public housing. But I did say this: that I was quite concerned that the Federal Government perform the functions that are proper for it, for the welfare of our people, as well as for its position in the world, and all of the other functions that naturally fall to the Federal Government.

Consequently, I think that at one of our earliest press conferences, I pointed out to you people that I proposed, among other things, to ask for the establishment of an official commission which, made up of people representing the public, the executive departments and the Legislature, and so on, would determine the proper division of functions between the Federal Government and the State governments. I am not certain in my own mind where that dividing line always falls; but I have also said that pending the meeting of such a commission, pending its finding of responsibilities and establishment of division of function and authority, that I thought we should go ahead with the programs now in existence--and in effect, marking time. My own idea of marking time was to take the number of housing units that was in the current bill and let them go ahead. But there has been no positive argument on the point, because the matter of principle was not involved.

All of us have agreed, as I understand it, that we are going to depend upon this commission to tell us how much the Federal Government belongs in this, and how much of this should be taken up by the State governments themselves.

Q. Mr. Madigan: Would you say your position as stated there is in variance in any way with the fact that no money has now been appropriated for continuation at this time?

THE PRESIDENT. The bill is not out of Congress.

Q. Mr. Madigan: Do you think it may be changed?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know.

Q. Richard L. Wilson, Cowles Publications: There is a point of view, Mr. President, that the resignations of some of the heads of established agencies of the Government, like the Bureau of Standards and the Fish and Wildlife Service, is kicking out of Government people who rightfully belong there, who have been part of the career service, and it is a bad thing. Would you care to discuss that development?

THE PRESIDENT. I will say this: the people that I have put in charge of these great departments and responsibilities are the finest people I thought I could find. I made it a matter of my own responsibility to pick people that are Secretaries of these departments, and they know that I have no desire of any kind to get rid of a person merely for change's sake, particularly of career people where they are properly career people. But I do expect of these Secretaries of these departments that they will get assistants that will support the policies that are agreed upon in the Cabinet and the Security Council and so on; and if people cannot support those policies, those positions, then they have no other recourse except to resign, as I see it.

Now, none of these cases has been brought to me as a special case for determination by me. I am not sure, in certain of them that you mention, what my own answer would have been. But I do hold these people at the heads responsible, and I expect them to be fair, and just, and decent, and not to be merely conducting a vendetta for any reasons whatsoever--partisan or otherwise.

Q. Mr. Wilson: I was going to ask that final point. That applies also to perhaps the desire of the member of the Cabinet to make patronage available for members of the party. Should that be a controlling factor, or should it be minimized?

THE PRESIDENT. None whatsoever. In my own opinion, there is this: there is a natural desire, as each of you people certainly understand, for a man to have around him in responsible positions people that he likes and trusts and believes in. Now, if someone has lost his confidence, and I don't care what his job is, you can well understand that he is uneasy with him around. But so far as any discharge having taken place in this Government for patronage reasons, if they have occurred, I am--I tell you flatly--completely unaware of it. That has no appeal to me whatsoever.

Q. Alice A. Dunnigan, Associated Negro Press: Mr. President, would you tell us whether any steps have been taken, since your last press conference, to revive the work of the Contract Compliance Committee, by appointing a chairman to that Committee?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know about appointing a chairman. I did have the matter looked up, and they told me they were looking into the whole matter to see where there was noncompliance, if any, and to do their best on the thing. I haven't heard about it--[confers with Mr. Hagerty]--no chairman. There will be some announcement on it, the secretary tells me, very soon.1

1On August 13, 1953, the President signed Executive Order 10479 establishing the Government Contract Committee. Vice President Nixon was appointed Chairman of the Committee.

Q. [Speaker unidentified], Christian Science Monitor: Mr. President, may I go back to the housing matter just a minute? Do you approve of the action of the House yesterday in rejecting the money for housing?

THE PRESIDENT. It did not agree with my own personal belief of what would be the wise thing and the convenient way of keeping this matter in the status quo, until it could be decided on an objective basis. Now, it does not mean, though, that I have asked these people, as a matter of responsible party leadership, to support my position. I made no attempt to do that, and therefore I do not sense that they have in any way defied me. I certainly don't intend to get up and criticise them. I assume they are all voting their conscience.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, when we were discussing the prisoner situation, you said quite obviously there had been something wrong. Were you referring to the exchange itself or the treatment?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I was referring to the almost universality of the stories coming back, that there had been a lot of difficulty.

Q. Mr. Smith: Treatment?

THE PRESIDENT. Treatment. And I must say, knowing something about the things that occur, a thing like that weighs very heavily on your heart. And if you know anything about it at all-I feel badly when I read those stories, and I hope therefore that we can exchange just as many prisoners as we possibly can, as rapidly as we can.

Q. Joseph R. Slevin, New York Journal of Commerce: Mr. President, in answering an earlier question on reciprocal trade, you referred to an executive-legislative commission that would study the question. Could you tell us something about your plans for this commission, the scope of operations?

THE PRESIDENT. No. We merely agreed that we are studying the thing thoroughly. We agreed that it would take a long time to do it, and so we are taking--we hope to take about--well, we don't hope to use the whole year, but that is the reason for asking for the year's extension as it now stands.

Q. Mr. Slevin: You agreed with the Congress?

THE PRESIDENT. I agreed with the congressional leaders, yes.

Q. Robert J. Donovan, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, in view of the National Security Council's finding on the St. Lawrence, do I understand, sir, that you now favor the building of the St. Lawrence Seaway eventually? I wasn't sure what your policy now

THE PRESIDENT. I said this: that they believe that it would have an advantage from the standpoint of national security, and that whether or not this program went ahead with Canada alone, or with our participation, we must remove any obstacles to its progress. And finally, they also believed it desirable that we participate in some degree, but the limitations upon that participation and exactly how far we would go, they were not yet ready to announce their opinion. Now that is exactly what they said, and exactly what I have approved.

Q. Mr. Donovan: Your extent, so far as you are concerned, sir--you favor at least participation to some extent?

THE PRESIDENT. That is correct. That is correct.

Q. Sarah McClendon, Texas papers: Sir, you speak of having a bipartisan commission for studying reciprocal trade. Then, I believe, you mentioned--

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know whether I said "bipartisan" on the question of trade or not. I have forgotten. If I did, I probably used the word inadvertently. What I did say was in respect to this State-Federal division of functions. There I am getting Governors to participate, bipartisan people, people representing the public. In the other one, I am not sure. I said the legislative executive study; if I used the word "bipartisan," I may have done it in error, because I don't recall that we intended that to be bipartisan.

Q. Mrs. McClendon: Well, I am confused on that. I am just wondering, isn't that what we have in the House Ways and Means Committee? We have a bipartisan group studying this matter. Are you going to set up another commission to study trade, in addition to the studies that are being undertaken by the committee in Congress?

THE PRESIDENT. That is correct.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, have you reached any conclusion yet on defense spending, whether you are going to be able to cut it?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think expenditures will be cut some, yes. I am not ready to predict the amount or the order of that cut, but I think there will be savings effected in that department.

Q. Frederic W. Collins, Providence Journal: Mr. President, again in the field of international trade policy, do you feel that you were fully informed of the views of former Representative Talbot at the time of his appointment as a member of the Tariff Commission?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, no, I couldn't be. I couldn't, certainly, be informed of all of the ideas and feelings. I tried to get in each of these individuals and determine, on the basis of all the reports that are made to me, that I have got hold of an honorable man that can look facts in the face and judge according to the facts as to what he should do. I can't go back into each of these men's minds and try to figure out every prejudice or slant or leaning that they may have. Not at all.

Q. [Speaker unidentified]: I wanted to ask, sir, about the mobilization base matter. The Secretary of Defense has, I believe, already canceled some Air Force contracts, or the Pentagon has, in order to concentrate them for purposes of saving money. Then there has been some question as to whether this really represents a change in the policy of spreading the mobilization base as a precautionary matter in case of all-out war. Would you care to comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT. You are obviously asking a question you ought to take to the Department of Defense. You are getting into some details of which I wouldn't know anything.

Q. [Speaker unidentified]: There has been no discussion at the White House?

THE PRESIDENT. Not on that particular point that you raise.

Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post: Mr. President, in connection with the NATO conference in Paris, there are reports that this country and Britain have agreed on--I think the word is "stretch-out"--to spread this build-up over quite a number of years. Does that represent a change in policy from the time that you were in command of the North Atlantic Treaty forces?

THE PRESIDENT. Eddie, you start off with a premise that I don't know to be correct, and therefore I couldn't answer the question.

Q. Mr. Folliard: Yes, sir. I said reports.

THE PRESIDENT. We go into these conferences; the reason for holding them is to have a new review of the facts--where do we stand?

No one, in my opinion, can stand even where I stood in January of 1951, and looking at Europe and living with Europe, can say Europe can do so much and should do so much in such and such a period, divided 3 months, 6 months, or a year--whatever. There must be constant review. And what can you do?

Now, the first thing that any nation, any locality, any region, must do, before they can really defend themselves is to be able to make a living. That is the thing you are constantly trying to correlate in this job of security that depends upon force. How do you make a living and bear this expense? Now, if you can't make a living in the long run, your people are ground down, and you have a new form of government.

So, I look upon the NATO conference as another honest attempt on the part of all of us to review what we are doing, where we are going, and what we hope to accomplish, and how soon.

Q. Richard Harkness, National Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, my question is connected with Mr. Folliard's. More than a few of us have been told here, Mr. President, that as against a target date for Western European defense, say 1953, 1954, that the policy now will be one of a slower, long-range 10-year buildup?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would object to 10 years just as much as I object to '54. From the time I went into this, one thing that I have insisted on is that for anybody that is in the defensive position--strategically or tactically, or anything--who bases his defense on his ability to predict the day and the hour of attack, is crazy. There is just no sense to it. If you are going on the defensive, you have got to get a level of preparation you can sustain over the years. And I don't know--whether it's 1 year, 10 years, 20 years, or what; but if you try to build up all of a sudden to have an attack in '54, and it doesn't come, what do you do? Now, it just doesn't make sense.

So I don't say that the attack is coming in I o years or that we should build us up in 5 years. I say we have got to devise and develop a defensive program we can carry forward in company with our allies. And until we have got a better solution to these terrible tensions in the world, that is our answer--and not to build up to a maximum in '54 and then look around, and say: What happens to us now?

Q. Mr. Harkness: But, sir, before this, have you looked forward on this long-range basis that you have just described?

THE PRESIDENT. I have never looked at it in any other way, and I have raised my voice in inner circles arguing for it forever. You cannot build a defense, where it has to last for years, reach a peak in '54 and then start to deteriorate. To my mind it makes no sense. And I have never changed my mind one instant about that.

Q. Jean Davidson, France Presse: Would you tell us, sir, how you feel now about the chances for a prompt truce in Korea?

THE PRESIDENT. No; like you, I am waiting.

Q. Robert G. Spivack, New York Post: Mr. President, in the letter that you sent to Congress today, regarding changes in the immigration laws, have you had any indication from the congressional leaders about their attitude; and secondly, does this meet the objections you raised last fall to the McCarran-Walter immigration law?

THE PRESIDENT. They are two separate questions. One, I have had communications with the leaders of the subcommittee, and I have listed for these people those directions in which complaints have come to me about the operation of the law. The other, the emergency question, is entirely different. On that, I asked for special legislation because I believed it to be necessary.

[Speaker unidentified]: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Eisenhower's seventh news conference was held in the Executive Office Building at 11 a.m. on Thursday, April 23, 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/231666

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