Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

February 25, 1953

THE PRESIDENT. Ladies and gentlemen, there is one announcement this morning that I think would be of interest to all of you. It is a conference that is to open tomorrow morning at 10 o'clock. It will be composed of a group of Governors, leaders from both the House and the Senate, and certain individuals of the administration.

The purpose of the conference is to examine into a question that constantly recurs, sometimes in aggravated form. It is the question of the proper division of functions between the State and the Federal Government, and the consequent division of tax fields and tax revenues between these two echelons of government.

It is, as you can see, not a subject that is susceptible to any clean-cut, quick answer. But it is one that must be studied. And this first group will meet to work out ways and means for continuing the study and making effective such conclusions as it may reach.

The President of the Governors' Conference is Governor Shivers. He will be here. The Chairman of the subcommittee set up by the Governors to study the question, I believe, is Governor Driscoll; he will be here, with Governor Kohler. And there is one other--[confers with Mr. Hagerty]--oh yes-- Governor Byrnes of South Carolina. So that group with, as I say, three of the House leaders and three of the Senate leaders and three Cabinet officers, will start meeting with me at 10 o'clock and stay through lunch--they will be my luncheon guests tomorrow.

Now, there is only one other item that I have--specifically I thought you might take a real interest in. This question of doctors in the United States has been very troublesome, particularly since the Korean war started. The services have demanded so many, because of the needs of the campaign. However, the services have been reviewing their requirements and have reduced them for this last quarter; and the quota of doctors called in will be 1200 instead of 1800.

In order to make this study, they have had the benefit of, I believe it is called, the Medical Advisory Commission; Dr. Rusk, as I remember, is Chairman.1 They have been advocating that the services get along with somewhat fewer numbers of doctors.

1The Health Resources Advisory Committee of which Dr. Howard A. Rusk was Chairman was established in the Office of Defense Mobilization to advise and assist the Director on problems of the Nation's health relating to national mobilization.

They are going to try it this quarter. They believe they will make it but at least they are going to relieve 600 doctors in this coming last quarter.

Now, I think that's the only two points I had in my own mind that I thought might be of particular interest, so we will start the questions.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, would you give us the three Cabinet officers who will participate?

THE PRESIDENT [to Mr. Hagerty]. Do you have them?

Mr. Hagerty: Secretary of the Treasury, Director of the Budget, and Federal Security Administrator.

THE PRESIDENT. I shouldn't have called them all Cabinet officers but I refer to them in that way because they all attend Cabinet meetings.

Q. Robert J. Donovan, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, what subjects will this conference consider besides taxes?

THE PRESIDENT. The proper function--particularly in this whole field of security, old age insurance, and all of the social security program--what are the proper functions of a State; what are the proper functions of Federal Government? They will take these related questions up and try to decide

Q. Mr. Donovan: Resources--would resources enter into it?

THE PRESIDENT: I have no doubt they will touch on everything. There will be certainly no limitations on what they may properly take up.

Q. Edward H. Sims, Columbia (S.C.) State and Record: Mr. President, have you gone into it thoroughly enough to know whether you favor a continuation of the soil conservation payments?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, there is one thing certain: I do believe in soil conservation. And I believe that we must pay far more attention to it, and far more intelligent attention. This morning I met with a group that was, I guess, a third the size of this, who are here on this great task. A volunteer group, they carefully identified themselves as a nonpressure group, interested only in the conservation of soil and water, particularly by the system, you know, of basin development and conservation. And they are meeting today with the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of the Interior, and others. All of us have this problem up--it is a very live one.

I cannot say that I specifically approve at this moment of the continuation of certain payments in a certain line--may be better ways to do it. I do believe the Federal Government must take the lead and follow through on this problem.

Q. Sarah McClendon, Texas papers: I have a question along that same line, sir. Do you favor keeping the building of upstream dams for soil conservation in the Department of Agriculture?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I'll tell you, I have a very definite personal opinion on the question you asked me. It has not at this moment been studied by my associates who should appropriately take it up and come to advise me, because I could easily be mistaken. I will see whether I can answer that question at the next meeting.

Q. Paul Martin, Gannett papers: Could you tell us your attitude, sir, on the St. Lawrence Seaway and power project?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I cannot.

I don't mean to be evasive. I have had it under study. There are so many controversial factors, and they seem to vary geographically as to their content, that I just think it takes a longer time than I have had to reach a real decision.

Q. [Speaker unidentified]: Mr. President, would you care to comment on the statement by Mr. Dodge, the Budget Director, before the Senate Banking and Currency Committee, that it would be very difficult to balance the budget in 1945?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know who said it, I didn't quite understand you, but I'll tell you this--

Q. It was reported in the press yesterday that Mr. Dodge testified to that effect.

THE PRESIDENT. Of course it is going to be difficult to balance the budget. If it weren't difficult, it would have been done long ago, because no one wants an unbalanced budget, I hope.

It is a most difficult task, because far over and beyond those projects and programs which are contained in the budget, that you have seen in the budget proposals, there are other projects, some of which look to the casual observer to be terrifically important, are not even budgeted for; lying behind all of the things we are doing, and plan to do, are other things that you can easily point up are desirable to do.

So it is a terrifically difficult thing to balance this budget, to get income and outgo balanced, and still do all the things that we need to do; that's the point I am trying to make, because there are so many other things to do, if you had any surplus.

Q. Robert Spivack, New York Post: Mr. President, do you think that Senator McCarthy's investigation of the Voice of America is helping the fight against communism?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know exactly what he is aiming to do, but I would say this: it is a question that I will not answer without a bit more preparation on the thing, because I just haven't thought about his particular function--what he can do and what would happen if he didn't do it. So it's a question that I can't answer.

Q. [Speaker unidentified], Washington Evening Star: Do you think it would be unwise for Congress to be more specific in changing your resolution on World War II agreements?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am certainly not one to say that none of my proposals can be improved by the combined wisdom of a number of others. At the same time, I do believe this very clearly: we want to know exactly what we are doing when we propose anything in the form of a congressional resolution. For example, I personally believe we might be in a very awkward situation with respect to a few spots in this world--Berlin and Vienna--if you would just say we repudiate all agreements we have ever made during the war. I think that what the United States repudiates is the idea that we will agree to the enslavement of any other people.

Our whole tradition is one here of being an asylum for the politically persecuted, and for supporting people that want to be free and rule their own destinies. That is our record.

Take the Philippines, an enormously rich area; as quickly as we thought they were capable of self-government we moved out.

I believe that the United States, by and large, is just as concerned about those people as it is possible to be, and therefore we ought to state so; because without such a statement, I think those people forget. They say "we are forgotten," and I don't think we can afford to let them think that they are forgotten.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Maine papers: Mr. President, in your letter to the Speaker, you spoke of Russia having violated the clear intent and having perverted. There is a good deal of criticism of your two predecessors having made those agreements. Do you think they could have foreseen this perversion and violation?

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, I think I have made it quite clear, Mrs.Craig, before a number of such press conferences, that I have no interest in going back and raking up the ashes of the dead past. I think there is little to be gained by such things, except as we can find lessons for improving in the future.

Now I think it was perfectly right, in the past years, to try to establish a method of friendship, of working through friendship, of finding this thing that Latin scholars call a "modus vivendi." Of course we should have sought it. But, as it is now, we believe that there has been twisted interpretation--distortion--and we should make ourselves clear, that's all. I am not trying to criticize.

Q. Roscoe Drummond, Christian Science Monitor: Mr. President, Senator Taft remarked this week, in connection with the congressional investigation, that he thought that Communists who might be teachers in the schools should not be automatically fired unless it was demonstrated that they were using their position to influence the thinking of the students on the subject of communism. I would like to ask if you share this view, or would be willing to comment on it?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Drummond, there are certain things that are personal, personal in the terms of practicality--feasibility. Now I have no doubt that most--say almost 100 percent of Americans--would like to stamp out all traces of communism in our country; it is methods of approaching it.

Now, for myself--I don't mind telling you, for it's a matter of record--I went to Columbia as its President, and I insisted on one thing, that the facts of all philosophies and doctrines of government should be taught there, including communism; the facts should be taught; but that if we had a known Communist in our faculty and he could not be discharged because of anything else, I was automatically discharged. I personally would not be a party to an organism where there was a known card-carrying Communist in such a responsible position as teaching our young a philosophy, because there it becomes preaching, it is exhortation, it is doctrine as opposed to teaching facts.

Q. Mr. Drummond: One thing more, then. I think perhaps the Senator was referring to Communists who might be teaching mathematics or calculus or something like that. His view was--

THE PRESIDENT. Well, again, Mr. Drummond, it is not quite so simple as you think. I was shown a book, just after the close of World War II; it was a German textbook in arithmetic. Now, instead of having the traditional apples or bushels of wheat, and so on, to deal with in the problems, it was problems couched in this language: "if there are so many Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia who actually belong to Mr. Hitler," and so on. So you can use mathematics to be rather doctrinal.

Q. Barnet Nover, Denver Post: Do you plan to recommend early congressional action on statehood for Alaska?

THE PRESIDENT. I believe the Republican Platform says that Alaska's situation will be studied, to make a determination as to whether or not statehood should be recommended and granted. I think in the case of Hawaii the case has been proved. It's a large population, it has a broad local industry to support it, a broad tax base; they provided fighting men in the war that made a fine record, and in numbers. The case has been proved.

To my mind, not yet has the Alaskan case been completely proved. It is more of a dependency than it is a separate and self-supporting region. I think the cases are not the same, so I am not yet prepared to make such a recommendation.

Q. Fletcher Knebel, Cowles Publications: Mr. President, at the time of your inauguration, stories were printed that you had told friends you would not run for a second term. Have you in fact made a decision, or imparted it to anyone?

THE PRESIDENT. Very naturally, I wouldn't make a serious declaration on such a subject at this moment. I probably have made as many facetious remarks as I thought my friends could bear. I have said nothing seriously on the subject. [Laughter]

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, have your studies reached the point where you can say anything about the reciprocal trade agreements act, whether you want it extended "as is," or whether you would eliminate the peril points and the escape clauses?

THE PRESIDENT. No--I can't say that, and I don't believe that I have heard anyone say yet that you could just extend it exactly "as is." But on the other hand, I think that some kind of peril point or escape clause must be contained; because to me that represents somewhat the middle way in this thing, and you cannot go wholly one way nor the other.

Q. Mr. Brandt: On that point, would you liberalize it or make it stricter? Now some of the Congressmen would make it very strict, and others would give you greater discretion in considering a broader picture, such as they did in the Swiss watches, garlic, and so forth.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I really can't answer it in such specific terms this morning. I can only say this: that we must never be in the position of being too wise for the moment, and hurting ourselves for the long pull. And I think, however, that our Congress can see such a point as well as can the administration. I would certainly hope to make them see such a view, but as to exactly how that idea will crystallize into law, I cannot yet foresee.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, can you comment on the break in relations between Russia and Israel?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I have no study on it at all.

Q. [Speaker unidentified]: Mr. President, going back to Roscoe Drummond's questions, would you comment on what you regard the role of Congress--on what investigating powers, in your judgment, it should have in the field of education, specifically Communists in education?

THE PRESIDENT. I think that it would be extremely dangerous to try to limit the power of Congress to investigate. I think it is one of those things that, in the long run, as we trust the will of the American people to produce the best answer for America, then I think in the long run this power in the hands of Congress--which they must have--must be treated properly and used properly by their long-term self-restraint, let us say, in bringing always into the problem moral values as well as strictly legal and constitutional values. Now I can't answer it more specifically than that, because it's one of those questions not capable of being answered. I can have an idea how they ought to use it at the moment, but I would certainly be the last to attempt to curtail their power.

Q. [Speaker unidentified]: Mr. President, in terms of the methods of congressional committee investigations, there have been three speeches from the pulpit, two of them Sunday, and one yesterday by Bishop Oxnam, criticizing the methods and procedures of congressional investigating committees, not--and take the same position that you do, that the power of investigation not be curtailed. Could you be more specific in terms of your opinion of the methods that are being adopted by congressional committees now in the investigative field, and may I add, too, that two congressional resolutions, one by Senator Kefauver and another by Senator Morse, have been introduced recommending improvements in the methods and safeguards for witnesses testifying before such committees. Have you any comment in a specific fashion on the methods?

THE PRESIDENT. I hope that you will allow me to remind you that this is a coordinate branch of Government that you are asking me to comment about. They establish their own rules within their constitutional rights and responsibilities, and they follow them.

Now, frankly, I think it would be completely inappropriate for me to comment specifically on individuals in Congress and their methods, because presumably the Congress approves these, or they wouldn't go on. I don't mind repeating what I have said as often as I have spoken publicly about this subject: I-believe there is power in the Federal Government to defend itself against subversion, and against any kind of internal disease, if it wants to put its heart into it. But I believe also that we must never think that we are protecting the United States, at the same time destroying or attacking those values which have made it great. One of those values is the right of the individual to be innocent until proved guilty.

Now, that's all I will say on the subject.

Q. [Speaker unidentified], Washington Daily News: Do you plan to name a District Commissioner soon?

THE PRESIDENT. As a matter of fact, I am not certain, and I don't think I should discuss it. Next week, though, I will try to give you an exact answer.

Q. Robert J. Donovan, New York Herald Tribune: Mr. President, on a somewhat lighter vein, you have been in office now for a month. I wonder if you would tell us a little bit about how you like your new job? [Laughter] I don't think you have expressed yourself on the subject?

THE PRESIDENT. I should say or remind you, sir, that in the many months, indeed the many years that I talked about such a prospect--even in those days when I thought I had removed it forever by a letter that I wrote--I never said I would like it. It is not a job that I suppose it is intended one should like.

I merely say this: like everything else there are compensations. It is an inspiration to deal with people that believe in America, that want to do right by a country and by a people, rather than merely selfishly seeking their own welfare. I honestly believe that in Government today I find the selfless class really far overwhelming what I would call the strictly selfish group. So to that extent, at least, there is a very great satisfaction. Now the confinement, and all the rest--those of you that have gone with me for years, you know the degree in which I like informality, my own individual freedom to do as I please. Those things are what you pay.

Q. [Speaker unidentified]: Mr. President, can you comment on your attitude toward UMT legislation?

THE PRESIDENT. Since the days when I first studied this problem ( as a postwar thing, it has gone through many changes. Before I came home from Europe in 1945, I could not conceive of this country ever again allowing itself to be caught in the position that we were when we went into war in 1942. None of us here that were war reporters or soldiers in those days, I think, can ever quite forgive ourselves for not making certain that our youth were properly trained before they went into Africa. There are many, many homes today that are bereaved because we did so fail.

Now, as to the exact position today of UMT, while we are having this kind of a draft call to prosecute a fairly major war over in Korea, I am not prepared to say. It is a little confused for me, and I am awaiting final studies. There is a commission, as you know, working on that problem. I think that commission probably differs a little bit. They think it can be done simultaneously; I don't quite see how it can be done, and I am waiting on those studies.

I do say this: never will you find me hesitant in speaking up for the discharge of the responsibility America has to train its own youth in this day and time, until we can reach the happy day when we don't have to fear force, and the threat of force, like we do now.

Q. [Speaker unidentified]: Mr. President, going back to the question about reciprocal trade. On domestic policy, you spoke of the natural workings of economic law, I wonder what the application of that philosophy is to our foreign trade laws.

THE PRESIDENT. Of course, Henry Ford's speech the other day wants you to go the full way--each nation making exactly what it can make best; and through the trade of these economically produced articles throughout the world, everybody's living standards will presumably go up.

There is one factor that I should like to call to your attention, and that is this: the terrific importance this business of trade and partial self-sufficiency, at least in the industrial field, has for national security. One of the difficulties in Europe all these many years has been this: each government has found it necessary to produce all the articles that an army or navy might need, and consequently they have been forced into an unnatural economic framework. The pattern has not been good.

Suppose France got into war with some other nation. Now, France, let us say, does not make clothing, does not make certain other things, due to the free operation of economic law. Now, under the laws of neutrality, how can she get clothes for her soldiers, and how can she do anything in this field during the war? So they have been forced to try to achieve self-sufficiency, and that one thing puts a certain limit upon this free working of the economic law in the international field.

Now, there are other factors that come into it, and of course the age-old argument is that it is cheap labor competing with our labor of higher standards. I do believe that we must keep our people on the highest possible standards--certainly standards that compare with the rest of our economy throughout.

Q. Do you believe, then, Mr. President, that considerations of national security are the chief limiting factors on--

THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't say it's the chief limit; I say it's a very obvious one and that therefore when you go full-out into this field, it will have to be in a world in which you have confidence that we are going to have peace.

Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Stalin is quoted a few weeks ago as saying that he would look favorably on a face-to-face meeting with you. Do you think anything could be accomplished by such a meeting at this time? Would you be willing to go out of this country to meet with Stalin?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you are asking me in advance either to say I think there is a good chance, or isn't a good chance.

I will say this: I would meet anybody, anywhere, where I thought there was the slightest chance of doing any good, as long as it was in keeping with what the American people expect of their Chief Executive. In other words, I wouldn't want to just say, "Yes, I will go anywhere." I would go to any suitable spot, let's say halfway between, and talk with anybody, and with the full knowledge of our allies and friends as to the kind of thing I was talking about, because this business of defending freedom is a big job. It is not just one nation's job.

Q. Andrew F. Tully, Jr., Scripps-Howard Newspapers: Mr. President, would you have any faith in any promises or agreements that Stalin entered into?

THE PRESIDENT. This is what I believe: any worthwhile programs for peace in the future must provide some kind of terms and provisions that make certain it is a self-enforcing treaty; that is, ample provisions for the kind of inspections and the kind of things that leave no doubt as to what will happen.

Q. [Speaker unidentified], New York Times: Mr. President, can you give us any idea of when your order on the new loyalty program may be ready for issuance? That has been held up for some weeks.

THE PRESIDENT. Of course, that is in the hands of somebody else working on it, so I can't give you the exact time. The only thing I can say is they are working very hard, and I think it ought to be ready quite soon.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's second news conference was held in the Executive Office Building at 12:15 p.m. on Wednesday, February 25, 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/231823

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