Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

October 21, 1953

THE PRESIDENT. Please be seated. Good morning, how are you.

For my part, the most important thing that has happened to me is a swing around through Ohio, Kansas, Missouri, Louisiana, and Texas.

There were two real points to the trip--to meet with the Future Farmers and with the Governors' Conference out in Kansas City, and to meet with President Ruiz Cortines of Mexico.

Both stops seemed to have been well reported in some detail, and so I do not think that you people have any particular interest in any incident that I would know of, because I think you already know about them.

I would like to say this: I was very deeply gratified to see the Governors meet in Kansas City, and meet with the intention of working out a program by which individual States afflicted by the current disaster, the drought, can work with the Federal Government in a cooperative effort to relieve distress.

Moreover, they voluntarily extended that objective to the attempt to work out a long-range program, so that in the event of any kind of natural disaster States and the Federal Government can work together for instant relief on a logical basis of cooperation, and so that we would know exactly how we go about relieving distress without the delay of looking around for new authorizations, new legislation, new understandings between us.

I think that the great interest shown by these Governors in the responsibility of the local area as well as the help they expect from the Federal Government is very encouraging.

In line with that, immediately after that meeting Governor Donnelly of Missouri went home and called a special session; I believe his legislature is now meeting in Jefferson City to carry on this cooperative effort.

I have a number of details of the things that have been done by the Federal Government and by the States in the past months to relieve this drought situation.

We would be foolish to try to minimize its effects; it is very, very serious. Rather than try to recite them to you now, about what we have done in the way of credit and reduced freight rates, supplementing the appropriations of emergency funds, about cutting down the price of feed and of meal and so on, helping to get in hay, I think that if you want those facts it would be better for you to stop and get them from Mr. Hagerty. They make an impressive array altogether. But, naturally, there is still a lot of distress, a lot of things yet to be done. 1

1 The President referred to a White House release summarizing the administration's activities in relieving hardships caused by the drought. The following were enumerated: the designation of drought disaster areas in 13 States, the making available at greatly reduced rates of feeds owned by the Commodity Credit Corporation, an agreement by the railroads to reduce freight rates for the movement of Government-owned feeds to drought areas, increased purchases of hamburger and canned beef to support declining prices, approval of more than $10 million in special livestock loans under emergency credit legislation, and allocation of $10 million from emergency funds to underwrite Federal participation in the distribution of hay in the drought areas.

By the way, I want to say one thing about one officer this morning. I had General Dean for breakfast. I have long been an admirer of General Dean, although he happened to be commanding one division in my command in World War II that I never got to see in its entirety and, therefore, had never met him.

He had a most unusual experience. One thing that interested me was that he was always fed well. He said never once in the whole time he was captive was he fed less well than his own guards and captors around him, which was an interesting thing.

He told about methods of indoctrination, treatment, and also some of the conclusions he formed as a result of his experience on both sides of that line in Korea. They were very interesting.

I can't, of course, take time now to tell you about them, but he is a man, I think, who is well worth talking to. He's got a very rich and unique experience behind him.

With that remark, I think we will go to questions.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, can you tell us what General Dean's next assignment will be? Do you know, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. I think he is not certain. They have discussed one or two with him. He has not yet talked with the Chief of Staff.

I am personally anxious that he get into some place where the benefit of his unusual experiences will redound to the benefit of all of us, all of the Army; and if he has got anything that the rest of us can profit from, I would like to see it utilized.

Q. Richard L. Wilson, Cowles Publications: Mr. President, do you attach any general political importance to the election of a Democrat in a traditionally Republican district in Wisconsin?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course I realize that is a natural question for you to ask.

I will be frank with you, ladies and gentlemen, I think you are probably better analysts of local political situations than I, and I am going to leave the determination of what happened and why it happened, to you. I really don't know, and no one has given me a long or any detailed analysis of it.

Q. Ray L. Scherer, National Broadcasting Company: One of your Cabinet officers told us, Mr. President, that he thought the politicians were more stirred up about the farm situation than the farmers were. I was wondering what your impressions might be on that point, after seeing a number of them last week?

THE PRESIDENT. Frankly, there were several times when I should very much have liked to have collected up all of the press and picturemen that went with me on that trip and asked them what they were gathering, what their impressions were.

I would say that I thought the cattlemen and farmers were taking this more in their stride. After all, in my little home town of Abilene I had lunch with 40 people, most of whom, if they are not farmers themselves, own farms. And certainly, in view of my background with them, there was no reason for them holding back anything they wanted to say. My impression was they were not as concerned as some of the people that visit my office.

However, they don't minimize the seriousness of this thing, and they do hope that a long-range program can be worked out that will insure them against the calamity when they have no control over it.

Q. Robert J. Donovan, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, I had a question on congressional elections generally. You have told us, I think, on two occasions that it would be your policy not to interfere in local elections of any kind. I think the questions that have been asked before, though, have applied to gubernatorial elections or some local elections. Will you take part in the congressional election campaign next year?

THE PRESIDENT. Of course you know, Mr. Donovan, that I am deeply interested in what happens to the complexion of the Senate and of the House of Representatives, but I do not intend to make of the Presidency an agency to use in partisan elections.

I have the conception that although elected by only part of the population, as is evident, anybody occupying this office is President of all the people. He has got the responsibility of attempting to develop a program that is enlightened and progressive and for the benefit of all people. And if the success he has in getting assistance and associates around him in his working with the Congress in an effective way--not just in an apparent, you might say, out-in-front way, but in an effective way--so as to secure the enactment of such programs, then those people that are supporting him, people of his own party, people that are supporting that kind of a program, have a real umbrella under which to operate. That is the best thing I think he can do, both for, you might say-for his party, because he is working for his country.

I have no intention of going out and getting into partisan struggles in any district or in any State, because I know that I, for one, in such a State would resent that kind of intrusion from the President of the United States.

Q. Robert C. Albright, Washington Post: Mr. President, I was going to ask you if that statement applied to the Virginia gubernatorial--

THE PRESIDENT. To the what?

Q. Mr. Albright: To the Virginia governorship contest in the light of your statement in favor of the two-party system.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, I believe in the two-party system. I believe in any area where there isn't a legitimate two-party system working, that that area itself suffers. I believe it is not really enjoying the full benefits that it could under our form of government. But I am not, I repeat not, going out and get into these things that are strictly local where, believing as I do in representative and free government, they have a right to choose as they please.

What I am trying to do with the party of which I am a part, is to establish a record that so nearly as possible a great overwhelming majority of Americans approve of it; and then we will get somewhere.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, I have two questions on these commissions. Some of the studies in the departments which you inaugurated and which the Cabinet officers started on Federal-State relationships were under way before the Manion Commission was set up. Will those studies, when they are finished, have to go to the Manion Commission before they are made public?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I couldn't answer it because I am not certain as to the status of these.

Q. Mrs. McClendon: I found this week in the departments that some of the people say it will be your decision as to whether they have to go to the Manion Commission or the Hoover Commission.

THE PRESIDENT. They have not brought me those questions for decision yet.

Now, what I do believe is this: there have been often in this great and complex Government studies made one place, buried in the shelves, go into the dusty archives, and no one ever hears about them; and then someone gets an idea--say I get an idea and I want a study, and so I start a completely new one.

What I am anxious and have directed the proper members of my staff is to make certain that all of these works of commissions are brought together so that we don't go over the same ground and repeat and just make it more expensive and nothing ever gets done. That is the general rule. The specific case of which you speak has not been brought to me.

Q. Mrs. McClendon: I see.

Now, sir, the other question is, will the reports of the Manion Commission have to go to the Hoover Commission before they can be considered final? Which commission would have precedence over the other? That question has already come up.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think, of course, there is naturally and obviously a relationship between them. I think they are each working independently of the other, except they exchange views as they go along on their work. I don't think the usefulness of one report becomes dependent upon the publication of the other. I don't believe so.

Q. Alan S. Emory, Watertown (N.Y.) Times: I wonder if I could return to the farm question for just a moment? In your swing through the West did you find that the farmers were satisfied or dissatisfied with the progress of farm policy in the Agriculture Department so far?

THE PRESIDENT. It is very difficult for anyone who is in a position that the President is ordinarily in on such a trip to give you a categorical answer. He gets impressions from particular people, but they often have preconceived notions, too.

Again I should say, if we could, I would like to have rise up here and take a vote among all of the people that went along on that trip, because they have a variety of opinion.

This is what I do believe: farmers are very happy that practical farmers, operating farmers, are going to constitute the great majority of the bipartisan commission that has been organized under the law as an advisory commission to the Secretary of Agriculture in all those things.

They have always been, and expressed themselves as being, very wary of academic answers to their problems. They are quite pleased that there has been a readiness to meet their problems on a broad scale.

They also understand that there is no special and specific answer for one farm problem to the exclusion of another. They are quite happy that the organisms for research, for looking into all these problems, are trying to approach it on a comprehensive basis.

Now, very naturally, when a cattleman comes up, and particularly if he is a feeder and paid 33 cents a pound or 34 cents for a calf, and now when it gets fat he can get 22 cents or something of that kind, he is very unhappy and he hopes that something will be worked out. But he does realize always--I think every farmer I talked to said, "Well, there are just too many cattle in the United States." And I had many suggestions as to how we could reduce the cattle population, but they really believed that is the first answer on it.

But I must say I couldn't give you just a categorical answer and say they are happy or they are unhappy. They realize they have got a problem, and they realize it is not easy to solve. They do hope that the answers and conclusions reached are not merely on an emergency basis but they can have some confidence in their semipermanence, let's say.

Q. Peter Heidenberger, Bavarian Broadcasting System: I have a question in regard to Germany. The German Chancellor, Dr. Adenauer, said yesterday that a delay in EDC should not penalize Germany. Do you have any comment on the European situation at this time and possible changes in the relation between EDC and Germany and this country?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I couldn't comment on that. I say this: I have a tremendous confidence in Chancellor Adenauer, I think he is a statesman, I think he is a real leader. And I would certainly study with the utmost interest anything he has to say, either publicly or privately, about the European situation. But on his specific comment, I could not say anything at this time.

Q. L. G. Laycook, Nashville Tennessean: Mr. President, have you reached any decision yet on Governor Clement's proposal that a special commission be set up to study TVA?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I haven't, for the simple reason that at the time he came here, I was about ready to depart. I think this is the first time the word TVA has come to me since then.

Q. Mr. Laycook: One other question, Mr. President: Dr. Manion on a nationwide television show on Monday night said he thought TVA ought to be sold to private business. Do you agree with him on that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would certainly be a bold person if I thought that the interests of either those people or the United States would be served by just shooting from the hip and saying any such thing. As you know, I have always believed in the maximum of free enterprise. I don't emphasize merely the word "free," I mean also "enterprise."

I have urged the maximum of local and State participation in everything we do in a governmental fashion, but I have always stated that the TVA is an historical fact. I don't even know that it could be sold to private industry without doing something to wreck the whole system. After all, the Government uses a great portion of the power developed down there in the eastern part of the State. I have no comment on such a thing, because that would be a pretty drastic step, wouldn't it?

Q. Darwin R. Olofson, Omaha World-Herald: Mr. President, Secretary Benson yesterday announced a decision to support the prices of certain feed grains at the same level at which they had been supported previously. Can you tell me whether that specific decision was discussed with you prior to the announcement?

THE PRESIDENT. Support certain feed grains?

Q. Mr. Olofson: Yes; oats, rye, barley

THE PRESIDENT. The generality has been discussed with me, and I have approved it thoroughly, in spite of the fact that we are providing cheap grain in the drought areas. I don't know what the specific decision yesterday was; I didn't see it. But I do know that Secretary Benson has moved, in all of these things, with my approval of the things he is trying to do.

Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Do you have any comment on the first American soldier to change his mind and come home after first choosing to stay with the Communists?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, except this, that I am glad that he took a second look and was not permanently influenced by the kind of indoctrination that was undoubtedly given him.

By the way, here is an interesting thing. Let me go back for just a minute, with your indulgence, to General Dean.

General Dean sat in a room 7 by 7 during all of his captivity; but during the early part of his captivity, this was occupied by from six to seven soldiers of the Communist army. Every day they went through 4 hours of indoctrination, those soldiers. They had to take books on communism. They laboriously copied page after page out of them. Then they had to outline them. Then they had to discuss among themselves the doctrines of communism.

Now, when you take the meager education that we give to our people, sometimes, as to what their obligation is to a free form of government, what it means to support it, what it means to keep it and to pass it on, you sometimes wonder that there weren't more of our people that succumbed, at least temporarily. I am sure that this lad that is coming back will never regret that decision.

Q. Milton Friedman, Jewish Telegraphic Agency: Mr. President, yesterday Secretary of State Dulles announced that economic aid for Israel was being cut off. Did the Secretary consult with you on this question, sir?


Q. Paul Scott Rankine, Reuters News Agency: Mr. President, would you comment upon the achievements of the London conference of foreign ministers?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I think not. Secretary Dulles, I think, has had a press conference, and he has been very frank in his discussion of those things they are doing. I think it was valuable, and I certainly approve of that kind of thing. But I think he should talk about details himself.

Q. Edward J. Milne, Providence Journal-Bulletin: Mr. President, we have had a good deal of talk about the farm problem. I wonder if you have any comment on the problem which is worrying some of our city friends, of the increase in the cost of living, the continuing increase?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would tell you one thing about the increase in the cost of living. You have seen the statement made that the cost of living has reached an all-time high, but let me show you what the actual fact is. You go and look at the percentage of increase over the cost of living for recent years and then see how it has flattened out this year. It has gone up about 1.7 percent, and in none of the recent years, I think, has it failed to go up from 3½ or more--one year, I believe, 7 percent. The actual fact about the cost-of-living curve is that it is flattening out, which is far more important.

I certainly sympathize with particularly the white-collar workers of the cities that are caught between these squeezes all the time. The best we can do, as I see it, is strive for that middle-of-the-road--the conflict between the desire of people for more wages and the desire of other people to get more for their products, and try to keep a reasonable balance between these things so that everybody can profit. It is not easy, as everybody knows, because we do have conflicting interests. There has got to be some forbearance, some wider view, on the part of all of us than mere immediate selfishness or, as the Communists claim, finally free government won't be free government. They claim, as you know, that capitalism contains its own contradictions and its own elements of self-destruction. I don't believe it. I think we can solve it.

Q. Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Mr. President, there are some wide areas of industry that are not represented on this agricultural advisory body. Are you going to complete those gaps--are you going to name some more members of that body this week?

THE PRESIDENT. You mean, the one body?

Q. Mrs. McClendon: Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. There is one of 18?

Q. Mrs. McClendon: Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. As a matter of fact, you are asking me now out of my memory to remember exactly how many we have appointed.

Q. Mrs. McClendon: I believe there are several that you have not named yet.

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Hagerty tells me we expect the designation to be made shortly.

Q. Nat S. Finney, Buffalo News: Mr. President, during this week, the Commodity Credit Corporation offered to the commercial banks of the country $360 million worth of what they call certificates in trust, which I understand will not show up on the balance sheet that comes under the statutory debt limit. I am curious as to whether you were familiar with that operation and whether you anticipated any further operation of that son.

THE PRESIDENT. The United States, unless I am mistaken, has very, very many billions of contingent liabilities that don't appear in the national debt. The insurance you put back of deposits and mortgages and a great many other things are contingent liabilities of the Federal Government. They don't show up in the public debt because there are no bonds issued against them to make them valid.

Now, the specific thing you talk about, I remember that they came in and talked to me about these things, but just exactly what the implication of the item you bring up is, I am not sure. I wouldn't know.

Q. Else Strom, Aftontidningen (Stockholm, Sweden): Considering the difficulties of the neutral commission in Korea, do you have any comment to make on the O'Konski letter to Syngman Rhee on freeing the prisoners of war?

THE PRESIDENT. I have just heard, and not read, this letter. The Secretary of State has said he is going to study it before he makes any comment. Now, I can't possibly, because I have only an indirect report about it.

I would say this: no one can be more anxious than is the American Government to do a fair, decent thing by everybody in Korea so peace there can rest on something more permanent than just a quick little agreement of the moment. I am sure that anyone who goes along in that hope will have a friend in the American Government. That is all; I can't comment further.

Q. Joseph A. Fox, Washington Evening Star: Getting back to this farm situation a minute, sir, Senator Young said that he thought that Secretary Benson should resign. Is there any comment that you would care to make on that, sir?

THE PRESIDENT [laughing]. As a matter of fact, while I didn't see that statement, I believe it is the President's responsibility to decide who should be his principal associates and advisers. I have seen no one more dedicated to America than is Mr. Benson. I have seen no man who is more anxious to get the welfare of every American--the consumer in the city, the user of grain, the producer of grain, the user of beef, the producer of beef--to get all of them in a fair position with respect to each other, than is Secretary Benson. Now, because he can't produce a miraculous, one-line cure for all the evils, I, for one, am not going to be critical, because I have studied it myself.

I say that is my responsibility. Let us put it that way.

Q. Robert W. Richards, Copley Press: Mr. President, the Secretary has been administering a law passed by the last Congress which supports six basic crops at 90 percent of parity. During the campaign in Minnesota, you said that you couldn't understand why the farmers shouldn't have full parity rather than 90 percent of parity.

THE PRESIDENT. That is right.

Q. Mr. Richards: In other words, 100 percent of parity. Do you still feel that way?

THE PRESIDENT. I didn't say "price supports of 100 percent." I said the objective in any decent farm program in and out of Government should be to get them on the actual equality, which means that their prices that they get for things should be comparable to the prices they pay for things. But I never said that there should be rigid price-support laws at 100 percent of parity, never.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's seventeenth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:30 to 10:56 o'clock on Wednesday morning, October 21, 1953. In attendance: 162.

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/232251

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