Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

December 02, 1953

THE PRESIDENT. Two or three subjects this morning, ladies and gentlemen, I will volunteer.

First, about the United States delegation going to Bermuda, the list has been mimeographed, and it is outside.1 You may pick it up as you go out.

1 Members of the U.S. group as announced by the White House follow: the President; the Secretary of State; Thomas E. Stephens, Secretary to the President; James C. Hagerty, Press Secretary to the President; C. D. Jackson, Special Assistant to the President; Douglas MacArthur II, Counselor of the Department of State; Livingston T. Merchant, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs; Robert R. Bowie, Director, Policy Planning Staff, Department of State; Frank Nash, Assistant Secretary of Defense; Comdr. Edward L. Beach, Naval Aide to the President; and Maj. Gen. Howard McC. Snyder, Physician to the President.

My plane, with most of the party aboard, at least, will leave at 8 o'clock on Friday morning.

The occasion promises to be a very busy one from all I can see, but there is really no formal agenda as usually characterizes such meetings. In other words, while I can't say that any subjects will not be discussed, I have no list of subjects that will be discussed.

Some of you may have been following the reports that have come from the countries that Vice President Nixon has visited. The reports coming to me both through the news channels and through official reports are most encouraging.

He will be back on December 14 and, of course, all of us are looking forward to getting his personal report. His visit, I am certain, has done much to bring the feeling between our own Government and the Governments of these Asian countries which he has visited into a closer concert, and for both of us to realize how many of our interests are parallel and, therefore, create an atmosphere for cooperation.

Now, there of course, some of you may have noticed in the papers, there have been a number of subjects that have been attracting a lot of interest, and getting a lot of headlines.

Now, I have prepared a written statement, and the reason I have written it is for two reasons really: one, is because it is going to be the only words I have to say on these different subjects; but, secondly, so that you may have personal quotes, if you want to use them. You will get this paper outside, and you can use it for any purpose that you see fit.

[Reading] I am in full accord with the statements made yesterday by Secretary Dulles in his press conference.2 I would like to add this comment to what he said: the easiest thing to do with great power is to abuse it--to use it to excess. This most powerful of the free nations must not permit itself to grow weary of the processes of negotiation and adjustment that are fundamental to freedom. If it should turn impatiently to coercion of other free nations, our brand of coercion, so far as our friends are concerned, would be a mark of the imperialist rather than of the leader.

2 Secretary Dulles' statement is published in the Department of State Bulletin (vol. 29, p. 811,).

What America is doing abroad in the way of military and economic assistance is as much a part of our own security program as our military efforts at home. We hope to be able to maintain these overseas elements of our security program as long as our enlightened self-interest requires, even though we may, and probably we always will, have various differences of opinion with the nations receiving our aid.

We do this because unity among free nations is our only hope for survival in the face of the worldwide Soviet conspiracy backed by the weight of Soviet military power. This struggle dominates all other considerations of our times. The issue--freedom versus communism--is a life and death matter. To my mind it is the struggle of the ages.

This fact arouses justifiable concern about communism in our own Government. I repeat my previously expressed conviction that fear of Communists actively undermining our Government will not be an issue in the 1954 elections. Long before then this administration will have made such progress in rooting them out under the security program developed by Attorney General Brownell that this can no longer be considered a serious menace. As you already know, about 1500 persons who were security risks have already been removed. Fair, thorough, and decent investigations, followed by unhesitating corrective action, are the most effective--and the only efficient--way to get this necessary job done.

By next fall I hope that the public, no longer fearful that Communists are destructively at work within the Government, will wish to commend the efficiency of this administration in eliminating this menace to the Nation's security. The people must have the facts on this important subject in order to reach sound conclusions. As provided for in the liberalized regulations of this administration, established facts, so far as the national security permits, will continue to be made available.

The best way to keep subversives out of the Government is not to employ them in the first place. The administration will continue to hunt for any that are present and, of course, any subversives located by a congressional committee will be removed promptly just as will any others.

In all that we do to combat subversion, it is imperative that we protect the basic rights of loyal American citizens. I am determined to protect those rights to the limit of the powers of the office with which I have been entrusted by the American people.

In my judgment, the efficiency and vision with which the Government is administered by this Republican administration, and whether or not the Congress enacts a progressive, dynamic program enhancing the welfare of all the people of our country, will determine the future political complexion of the Congress and the future of the administration. I am convinced that those who fight for the program that I shall soon submit to the Congress will deserve and will receive the respect and support of the American people.

In any event, unless the Republican Party can develop and enact such a program for the American people, it does not deserve to remain in power. But, I know that these sentiments are shared by the vast majority of the Republicans in this country, particularly by my close associates both in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. Because of this unity of feeling such a program will be enacted. [Ends reading]

Now, that is what I am going to say about these late headlines, and on that and any closely related subjects, there is not another word to say. With that one proviso, I will mount the usual weekly cross and let you drive the nails.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, on the basis of the latest Russian note, what do you feel are the prospects for a meeting of the Western powers with representatives of the Soviet Union?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think, Mr. Arrowsmith, there has to be a lot of study given to this matter.

I wouldn't want to make a real guess at this moment because while I have conferred with the Secretary of State about it several times, we have decided that this is, of course, one subject that must be studied very thoroughly before we express an official opinion about it.

Q. Anthony H. Leviero, New York Times: Mr. President, I have a question which you may consider related to that statement; if so, I would respectfully withdraw it, and that is, have you considered the creation of a national commission to study this whole problem of Communists and spies in Government?

THE PRESIDENT. Just before I came over here, one of the staff brought in to me a notice--it is something that had escaped my attention so far--that this had been suggested. I simply haven't studied it. There have been, of course, a number of outsiders called in to see whether this has been a real menace--to take a look. I would say this: I will approach such a proposition with an open mind, take a look at it. I just haven't formed a real conclusion as yet.

Q. David P. Sentner, Hearst Newspapers: Mr. President, would you care to state whether the present position of the United States on the entry of Communist China into the U.N. will be a subject for negotiation at Bermuda, I mean negotiation, not discussion?

THE PRESIDENT. I should say--and I think this view is shared by all my associates--that under present circumstances that question is not open to negotiation with anybody, under present circumstances.

Q. Waiter T. Ridder, St. Paul Pioneer Press and Dispatch: Mr. President, could you tell us what your own personal and specific hopes will be as to what comes out of the Bermuda conference?

THE PRESIDENT. You will pardon me if I reminisce just a little bit. In war, when you go and launch a battle, you know there are certain things you can do; you know there are a few other things that will come along if you have reasonably good luck, and then you have some very big hopes; so it applies here in a way. I couldn't possibly describe all the hopes that might eventually grow out of such a meeting. There are certain things that we know will happen.

In conversations with my very old and very good friend, Sir Winston, and with Mr. Laniel, whom I know and admire, but I have not known him like I know Sir Winston, there should come about a better understanding among us of each other's problems--of the situation, for example, of France in Indochina, of Britain in Iran and Egypt, and all those places, and ourselves in certain areas of the globe.

We can get a better understanding of what each is trying to do, and see whether we can't coordinate all of our actions so as to be fair to everybody in this world that we want and are trying to gain as our friends, and still not get into clashes, one with the other.

All of this business of international negotiation--and I have been aware of this for a long time--is very intricate, very delicate; and it seems even more easy for international associates to develop quick and sometimes violent misunderstandings of the other fellow's motives than it is right here in Washington among some of the different groups. [Laughter]

Now, it is an effort to keep these from occurring or to cure such as have occurred, that such a meeting basically takes place. But in doing so you take up a whole series of specific problems. Frankly, you practically move around the world discussing this, discussing that, what do we do, what is the best thing to do, and try to reach a composite and cooperative decision on the thing.

Now, that is, I think, the best that I can say on the whole subject as of this moment.

I have, of course, a number of things that I know I am going to bring up, just as little details of these points that I am now speaking. Mr. Dulles may have others. I don't know whether he mentioned them yesterday or not; but in any event, as I said before, there is no formal agenda for the meeting.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post: Mr. President, Secretary Dulles did say yesterday that in his view the real basic issue between the West and the Soviet Union was the question of whether the Russians would ever admit what he called "a fresh breath of freedom behind the Iron Curtain." Would you agree with that view?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I should say there are many, many ways of expressing the hope that the aspirations and actions of these two great categories of nations in the world can be brought into a common realization that only through peaceful solutions to our problems is there any happiness or any prosperity for anybody.

There are many ways of stating it, but I certainly believe that we are going to be adamant on one thing: the right of ourselves to have the government of our own choosing; and, certainly, in principle the right of every other nation to have a government of its own choosing--certainly anybody that is classed as our friend.

Now, if you carry that principle on into action, I think then nobody that believes as we do could possibly have any kick. Foster must have meant something like that when he said "a breath of freedom," which must have meant giving to all satellite countries the right to determine their own form of government. I believe that that defines it about as well as I would know how.

Q. Joseph C. Harsch, Christian Science Monitor: Mr. President, if this also borders on the forbidden zone, I will also respectfully withdraw it.

Sir, last week you referred in a speech you made to the right of Americans to face their accuser. Since you made that statement some question has been raised as to the extent to which that right is actually recognized or can be in the security operations of the Government.

My question is, have you taken any steps to determine the proper relationship between the right and the security of investigations of the Federal Government?

THE PRESIDENT. Do you mean security investigation within the Federal Government?

Q. Mr. Harsch: Within the Federal Government, sir, yes.

THE PRESIDENT. The one point I must make clear: employment in the Federal Government is not a right of citizenship, it is a privilege; and if there is real justifiable belief and conviction that a person is a risk, you certainly cannot keep them in a delicate position, and in certain instances probably couldn't keep them at all.

In other words, when you are looking into the fitness of an individual to work for the Federal Government, it is not the same as assassinating a man's character or charging him openly with being a spy.

So, for one thing that I have insisted upon, that there be no effort in this security program to assassinate anybody's character, and to damn him forever as a spy or anything of that kind.

But I do believe that there is some difference between determining whether or not a man should work for the Federal Government and charging any one of us here with a heinous crime of any kind.

Q. Daniel Schorr, CBS--Radio: Mr. President, you made a rather cautious statement about the latest Russian note, as did Secretary Dulles yesterday, saying that it needed further study.

In view of that, do you know what was the basis for Foreign Secretary Eden's statement in Commons the day before yesterday, that he had every reason to believe the United States would endorse the idea of a meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, we have time and again issued invitations. Now, the thing that needs study is, are the conditions that we consider indispensable reasonably met; that is what requires very serious study. Moreover, following the policy in which I most sincerely believe, of treating our allies as partners, there comes the problem of discussing with governmental leaders in the world just what are their attitudes and beliefs and convictions.

No one individual or no one country possesses all the wisdom in the world, so there is a lot of investigation to be done before serious moves of this kind are undertaken; that is all I meant.

Q. Mr. Schorr: Does that mean, sir, that this Government is willing to have such a meeting on suitable conditions?

THE PRESIDENT. We always have said that under conditions in which we could be assured of the good faith of the meeting, we were always, and as a matter of fact, we have joined in issuing invitations.

Q. Mr. Schorr: Since we have asked for a meeting on Germany and Austria ourselves, if assured that the meeting will discuss Germany and Austria, at least first, would that be considered a suitable condition?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am not going--look, you are putting down conditions that I don't know are going to exist, and I think I will just stop speculating on this point at this moment.

Q. Laurence H. Burd, Chicago Tribune: Mr. President, do you expect to have specific recommendations for tax revision ready for Congress in January or soon after?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I think so; yes. As you know, in Washington time seems to have a habit of collapsing on you; right at the moment that you get into the very busy work of preparing budgets and programs, people have to leave and go off to NATO meetings, and I am suddenly going to Bermuda, and everything happens. I don't say there might not be a few days' delay here or there, but in general, yes.

Q. Mr. Burd: Well, in view of your previous statement that you don't expect to balance--don't think you can balance the budget

THE PRESIDENT. Yes.

Q. Mr. Burd: --in the next--will these recommendations be directed at more total revenue than we are now getting or

THE PRESIDENT. No, I doubt if we can get more total revenue or should try to get more total revenue.

Q. Mr. Burd: Then it is a more long-term objective to bring expenditures down?

THE PRESIDENT. Indeed, yes.

Q. Mr. Burd: To our present or somewhat lower tax level?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, through constant improvement in management methods and in those improvements we even take credit in advance. We are certain that these people can produce savings through management improvement, elimination of all kinds of duplication, so that the budget will reflect that belief and conviction.

On top of that, constantly under study is every phase of the defensive program, which, all in all, takes 70 percent of the budget. There, it becomes a very serious question because you certainly don't want, and I think no one wants, to damage the security prospects of this country. That is clear. So the question becomes, how do you cut expenses in that great--

Q. Mr. Burd: Is it still your view that the business tax, the corporate tax, should be held at its present level rather than drop back next spring?

THE PRESIDENT. Well now, I am not going to talk about the details of this, because I have promised the Secretary of the Treasury, among other things, that I would not talk about its details. I don't know what this means and what corporations might do.

I think, if you will excuse me, I will wait until that program comes up.

Q. Anthony H. Leviero, New York Times: Mr. President, have you any views now on the proposed cut of 10 percent in the Army? Secretary Wilson mentioned that.

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, I don't know that I could specify a percentage. I do know that the Korean war is now in, let's say, at least in a quiescent state; it's gone to a cold war status. We don't have casualty lists.

Therefore, the supplies that are going out are no longer great quantities of ammunition and all that sort of thing. Supporting units don't need to be as strong, do they? You don't have to have all the way the pipeline constantly crowded with people to take care of casualties. There are savings all the way along the line.

Moreover, let us remember that without the fault of anybody, the Korean partial mobilization was made under conditions of hurry, of "get the thing done," and it would be only miraculous if there were no mistakes made on the side of, let's say, over-mobilization. So the problem is to find the people in this whole Military Establishment that are not necessary and that, I think, is what Secretary Wilson is referring to. Certainly units that are closest to the hostile position are not going to be reduced in strength, by no manner of means, until the time comes that political considerations make such movement possible.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Maine papers: Mr. President, during the last campaign much was said about corruption in the Department of Justice under the Democrats. Are you aware of the Democratic charges now being made against your Department of Justice?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have seen a lot of headlines about one individual, at least, but that is all. Oh, yes, you mean in these outlying cities?

I had a conference with the Attorney General, and he tells me he is going to release, I suppose today, a complete factual statement on all of these things. I don't mind telling you, ladies and gentlemen, as far as I am concerned, I will help go after corruption wherever it can be found in Government.

As far as my confidence in the Attorney General is concerned, it is exactly what it is in all other members of my Cabinet. I would not know how to change any one of them for the better; and that does not mean that any of us, particularly including me, will not and has not made mistakes.

I am not going to say that there is any human on this earth that is perfect. I have got a little too much sense for that; but I do say that the motives, the actions of these people, are inspired by one thing, the good of this country, and we will publish every fact the national security will allow in order that people can judge of this conviction for themselves.

Edwin Dayton Moore, United Press: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Eisenhower's twenty-second news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:33 to 10:58 o'clock on Wednesday morning, December 2, 1953. In attendance: 189.

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/232486

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