Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

October 08, 1953

THE PRESIDENT. Please be seated. I did make it in the afternoon.

Q. Edward T. Folliard: Thank you, Mr. President. [Laughter] Everybody hopes that is a precedent.1

1See closing discussion in news conference of September 30, Item 198 above.

THE PRESIDENT. I have a few items here that I hope you will consider news.

A few days ago Mr. Lloyd Mashburn, Under Secretary of Labor, was tendered a very important position in one of the unions, and asked whether he could resign. His resignation was accepted, but he kindly agreed to wait, occupying his post until a successor to the Secretary could be appointed.

I have designated, and there will be sworn in, Mr. James P. Mitchell, now Assistant Secretary for Manpower and Reserve Affairs in the Army, a man with long experience in the labor field, and a man who, in my opinion, will be a very great success in that office.

Q. Edward Dayton Moore, United Press: Secretary or Under Secretary?

THE PRESIDENT. He is to be Secretary--Secretary of Labor.

I have accepted an invitation from the Government of Canada to visit Ottawa between November 13th and 15th. There is no specific purpose other than social and a courtesy call in making this visit. As you will recall, the Prime Minister of Canada visited here last May, and stayed for a day or two. I will stay 2 days.

By the way, these things that I am now giving to you from these papers, there will be documents when you go out so that you can get the exact titles and words and experience, and all that, as to these individuals and so on.

I will read you a draft statement. Again, there will be a copy of this. I want to read it, because I want to say exactly what I mean, if you don't mind.

[Reading] There have recently been a number of statements concerning the threat posed by Soviet progress in the development of atomic weapons. The facts, as we know them, are these: [Interrupts reading] Again, I tell you that you will have this verbatim.

[Continues reading] You will recall that our Government announced that the Soviet produced an atomic explosion in 1949 and two subsequent explosions in 1951. In August of this year we learned through intelligence channels of a Soviet test of an atomic device in which some part of the explosive force was derived from a thermonuclear reaction, that is to say, what is popularly known as the H-bomb. The Atomic Energy Commission announced this August 12th detonation as soon as sufficient evidence was in hand, and later announced that it appeared to be part of a test series.

The development did not come as a surprise. We had always estimated that it was within the scientific and technical capabilities of the Soviets to reach this point, and we have been on notice for some years that their own ingenuity has had the material assistance of what they learned of our program through espionage.

The Soviets now possess a stockpile of atomic weapons of conventional types and we must furthermore conclude that the powerful explosion of August 12th last was produced by a weapon, or the forerunner of a weapon, of power far in excess of the conventional types.

We therefore conclude that the Soviets have the capability of atomic attack on us, and such capability will increase with the passage of time.

Now, a word as to our own situation. We do not intend to disclose the details of our strength in atomic weapons of any sort, but it is large and increasing steadily. We have in our atomic arsenals a number of kinds of weapons suited to the special needs of the Army, Navy, and Air Force for the specific tasks assigned to each service.

It is my hope, my earnest prayer, that this country will never again be engaged in war. As I said in Atlantic City this week, with reference to atomic energy, "This titanic force must be reduced to the fruitful service of mankind." Real advances made by our Government in developing peacetime atomic power and other benign uses of atomic energy is evidence of the constructive goals that we have set for ourselves.

I have asked all members of this administration to refrain from comment on Soviet nuclear capabilities unless they first check their statements with the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. [Ends reading]

As I said before, you will get an exact copy of that. Now, we will take questions.

Q. Frank van der Linden, Nashville Banner: You had a conference today with Governor Clement of Tennessee about and regarding TVA. Will you tell us what your reaction was regarding his pleading for TVA money?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Clement is a very charming and a very persuasive gentleman, and I like him. He has a particular philosophy about the place of TVA in the American scene, and he has a very persuasive manner of presenting it.

I listened very carefully and was delighted to have his views, which is not to say that I agree in detail with him; but I was delighted to have them.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, I wonder if you could give us your version on why there have been such divergent statements about the Russian H-bomb program from various members of your Government?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I really have no explanation. We know this, ladies and gentlemen: when things of great moment happen, people reach conclusions, sometimes they just have reactions, and if they state them, they sometimes forget that their words are taken very seriously.

Now, I have no comment to make on anything that anyone has said from one end to the other. I gave you the facts as I think they should be given at this moment.

Q. David P. Sentner, Hearst Newspapers: Mr. President, in the face of this Soviet H-bomb threat, do you anticipate requesting a larger appropriation for defense in the next Congress?

THE PRESIDENT. When you say "defense," of course, you are covering a very large field.

What you are constantly trying to do in your studies, in your technical and professional examinations and in the Security Council, is to find out the best way to adjust our defenses and our own capabilities in the military field to this kind of a possible threat, which doesn't mean always that you necessarily have to go up in the gross amount of money requested, but you do certainly have to use a very definite scale of priority in meeting the threat that you find opposing you.

I am not prepared at this moment because our studies are not complete, as you know--they are going forward--I am not prepared to say what will be the degree of up or down that we will ask for.

Q. Mr. Sentner: Is it likely to affect your hope in balancing the budget?

THE PRESIDENT. Balancing the budget will always remain a goal of any administration that believes as much as we do that the soundness of our money must be assured, and that the unbalanced budget has a very bad effect on it.

That does not mean to say that you can pick any specific date and say, "Here, all things must give way before a balanced budget." It is a question of where the importance of a balanced budget comes in; but it must be an aim of any sound money program. But I do not say that the budget is going to be balanced on July 1, 1955.

Q. Robert W. Richards, Copley Press: Here your statement on the Russian hydrogen bomb potential seems to disagree with the Defense Secretary's estimate that it would be 3 years before Russia could start an atomic war, hydrogen-bomb war, and his caution to the country not to get panicky. Does this concur with that?

THE PRESIDENT. I would say that you shouldn't look for evil where there is none.

Now, anyone can have his own guess as to what is going to happen in the future. I think no one has tried to fool you; we have tried to give you facts. Certainly, I have tried to give you facts today, and I will not stand up here and tell you--certainly I had no intention--that this threat is right on your doorstep at this minute. I am trying to say the facts as we know them; I am going no further.

Q. William H. Lawrence, New York Times: Mr. President, could you tell us anything about your conference last week with Governor Stevenson and his suggestion to you of the possibilities of a nonaggression pact that would guarantee the boundaries--

THE PRESIDENT. The Governor--I think he said this; I am certain I am betraying no confidence--suggested several ways in which he thought approaches could be made where some of these tensions could be relieved in the world; among them was assuring all nations that we were ready to enter nonaggression pacts under acceptable conditions. I merely explained to him that everything of that kind was being studied in the State Department, and I was sure they would like a greater explanation of his particular ideas. And I am sure that he is giving them.

Q. Milton Friedman, Jewish Telegraphic Agency: Mr. President, now that the administration has successfully achieved the passage of your emergency refugee bill, can you tell us if the correction of what you described in your State of the Union Message as discriminations of the McCarran-Walter Act is part of the program for the second session of the 83d Congress?

THE PRESIDENT. I think I lost you a little bit. But if I understand your question, it is do we still have the hope of correcting what we believe to be imperfections in the bill? Is that right?

Q. Mr. Friedman: Yes, sir; that is right.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, while I have not gone back to the study of that question for some time, and I am not, therefore, ready to state positively that on my priority program there is certain "must" legislation in that regard, I will say this: if the people administering that bill, the people responsible for it, still believe there are imperfections, we shall certainly do our best to correct them.

Q. Fred W. Perkins, Scripps-Howard Newspaper Alliance: Mr. President, in view of the difficulty of getting the floor, I have three questions, and I will ask them all at once. [Laughter]

One, do you have a successor to Mr. Mashburn; and, two are you looking for a labor leader; three, did Mr. Mashburn in his letter of resignation intimate the same reason that was ascribed by Mr. Durkin for his resignation?

THE PRESIDENT. As to the first one, the Under Secretary has not yet been chosen. Secondly, there is no particular field to which I would confine my examination. I will look for the best man that I think we can find and, of course, the new Secretary will have a very large measure of responsibility and authority there. Finally, Mr. Mashburn's letter and my answer to it will be given to you outside as you go out.

Q. Richard L. Wilson, Cowles Publications: Mr. President, would you say that there is a greater or lesser prospect of balancing the budget now than there appeared to be 2 or 3 months ago?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't believe I can answer the question with great accuracy, because at various times estimates of income and estimates of outgo vary.

I can only say, as I repeated a little while ago, this remains one of the firm objectives of the administration, as a means of saving life insurance policies, savings bonds, and all of the other things that the little investor of this country puts his money into.

Now, some day that must be reached; we just don't believe that you can continue to go on an inflationary spiral and have a sound country.

Q. Edward J. Milne, Providence Journal-Bulletin: I would like to get at the same thing in a different way, if I may.

Will you ask Congress for sufficient taxes to balance the budget at whatever level the expenditures for national defense require?

THE PRESIDENT. As I explained last week--something of that kind--outside of the one statement I made about the retail sales tax, this whole tax program is being worked out by the Treasury Department, with the Budget, with conferences with the people down at the Capitol. We are going to find out what we believe will be the best tax program, and I am not in position to comment on it in detail beyond that at this time.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post: Mr. President, it has been suggested that Governor Stevenson brought you a personal message from Winston Churchill. I wonder if that is true, and if so, if it had anything to do with his request for a top-level meeting with the Russians?

THE PRESIDENT. He brought me warm greetings from my old friend; that is the only thing I recall--nothing at all about a meeting.

Q. Charles L. Bartlett, Chattanooga Times: Mr. President, would it be accurate to say that your conversation this morning with the Governor of Tennessee did not alter your view of the TVA as an example of "creeping socialism"?

THE PRESIDENT. Did not what?

Q. Mr. Bartlett: Did not alter your view of TVA as an example of "creeping socialism."

THE PRESIDENT. I think he brought to me certain facts that I was not completely aware of. I don't think that he probably convinced me completely to his point of view, let us put it that way.

Now, I never said that all of the TVA was--and you based your question a bit on a false premise. I said there were certain features of that development that were alarming from the viewpoint of my political philosophy, but I never said that the whole thing was such a terrible example of socialism.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, you told us last week that you were planning a report to the people based on studies of the international situation.


Q. Mr. Smith: Can you give us any more information about when that might come along?

THE PRESIDENT. No, except that I am working awfully hard, that is all.

Q. Paul Scott Rankine, Reuters News Agency: Mr. President, it has been suggested in the press that Sir Winston Churchill might personally go to Moscow to see Malenkov by himself, in order to see whether there is a fruitfulness in a Big Four meeting. Have you any views on that proposal?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I had not heard of any such suggestion. Therefore, I haven't studied it one way or the other.

Q. Paul Martin, Gannett News Service: Mr. President, when the Prime Minister of Canada came here you had discussions about the St. Lawrence Seaway. I wonder if your visit to Ottawa contemplates discussions on the Seaway and the Niagara power project?

THE PRESIDENT. I assure you again that I told you the exact truth.

I am going up there to pay a courtesy call, make a social visit. I will probably make one short address, because I believe I am asked to do it. I have no specific subject of any kind in mind.

Q. Marshall McNeil, Scripps-Howard Newspaper Alliance: May I ask you again about TVA, sir? Some of us understood the Governor to say that he had suggested to you the formation of some commission to gather facts about TVA, its power requirements and how they should be met. Is that true, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. That is right; he did

Q. Mr. McNeil: Are you favorable to that suggestion?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know; I haven't looked at it yet. It has been just one of the things that has been fired at me today, like your question is fired at me now, and I just haven't had time to go further into it.

But I do like to get the facts on things, and I will certainly do my best to get them, so far as my own time will permit.

Q. Mr. McNeil: Can it be said that his suggestion is being considered by you?

THE PRESIDENT. It certainly is being considered by me.

Q. Joseph Chiang, Chinese News Service: Mr. President, do you have anything to say about Chinese General Chiang Chingkuo's call on you last week?

THE PRESIDENT. I enjoyed it very much. He brought me a greeting from the Generalissimo, and brought me a copy of a book in Chinese. It was my own, and so he was doing it as a compliment. We just talked, really, about affairs in general, nothing specific with respect to China.

Q. Martin S. Hayden, Detroit News: Mr. President, I ask this because many of us are not well acquainted with Mr. Mitchell. Could I ask you the same question, sir, in reference to him that was asked about Chief Justice Warren last week, that is, what are the qualifications that attracted Mr. Mitchell to you, as Secretary of Labor?

THE PRESIDENT. A man, so far as I can find, of great character, whose interest is in people and not merely in, you might say, the economic processes of our country, a man who has had great experience in the whole labor field. He was, among other things, for a long time the labor relations man for, I believe, Macy's and then Bloomingdale's, and since then in the Army. I find that all of his associates, his superiors, and everybody else thinks that he is a man of extraordinary ability.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's sixteenth news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 3:30 to 3:49 o'clock on Thursday afternoon, October 8, 1953. In attendance: 198.

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/232127

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