Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference

June 17, 1953

THE PRESIDENT. This morning, ladies and gentlemen, I have one or two announcements I think may be of some interest.

The first is about this so-called security order that was issued a year or more ago--I forget just how long--and about which I have been questioned here several times. We have been working on that for a long time, and the Attorney General has given me an analysis of what we have been doing, and what we have not. He has given me in his letter certain recommendations; along with it, we have drawn up a new order.

This order is not yet approved, but it is being put out now for simultaneous comment, both from the press of this ]and and from the Cabinet departments who have not yet had their final say on it. This is in conformity with the frequently announced methods I tried to use, that where people are affected by a proposed order of Government, to give them a chance to talk about it in advance. So in this case, the press and the other media of publicity will have a chance to give their opinions.

Now, this is what we think our new order does: first--we know this--it withdraws original authority to classify information from 29 of the existing agencies of Government. They will not have the right to classify anything as secret or in any other fashion that keeps it away from the public.

It limits the authority to classify in 16 additional departments exclusively to the head of the department, and nobody under that authority can do so.

Then, the information may be classified only if required in the interests of the defense of the United States.

One of these categories, which has been a great catchall, is abolished, and that is "restricted." So that no longer has any effect. The three remaining categories are very explicitly defined so as to prevent indiscriminate use of the power to classify.

By the way, you don't need to copy too much. I should have said you will get copies of the letter from the Attorney General, and you will get the copies of the proposed regulations, so you can do all you please in the way of reading; but I do want to emphasize what we think we are doing. I am sorry if I caused you needless work.

Positive provisions are included for reviewing classified material for the purpose of removing classifications or downgrading it when the interests of national defense no longer require the protection of classification.

Finally, procedures have been revised to make them more definite and certain, so that employees that are required to handle classified information will be alert to the dangers of unauthorized disclosure.

As I say, those documents are out there. Any comments that are submitted on their contents will be considered. I don't by any manner of means promise that your detailed ideas are going to be accepted, but they will certainly be considered, as will those, of course, of the Cabinet departments.

There is a document coming out at 4 o'clock--it will go out through Mr. Hagerty--in which, I think, you will have some interest. It is on the Coal and Steel Community, our relationships with it, the Coal and Steel Community of Europe under Jean Monnet. There will be official documents that will be released showing what the hoped-for relationships will be.

The final thing, a subject that I want to open up personally before we go to the questions, is merely the Korean question.

I wrote a letter to Mr. Rhee in which I earnestly tried to express what is my understanding and, I believe, the American understanding of how we got into that war, what we were trying to achieve, where we are now, and what we are trying to do. In no case have we weakened, as I see it, by the slightest degree on what we attempted to accomplish; and we accept no armistice except within that general framework of objective and purpose. Consequently, I think the fears so often expressed that there has been a complete weakening, or even sellout, are completely groundless. Certainly they are from my understanding of why we went into that war in the first place, and where we are coming out if this armistice is signed.

There is one other point: the possibility of these latest attacks of the Communists delaying or interfering with the signing of an armistice. Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I am not exactly certain what that effect will be, but I would like to call your attention to this one thing. Let us assume that the North Koreans and the Chinese Communists are definitely sincere in their desire for an armistice. Then, I believe, we cannot escape this implication of these attacks: their complete indifference to human life and to the individual, because what would be the purpose of these attacks if they are definitely sincere in wanting an armistice, attacks obviously designed for taking a hill here or a little portion of a position there, and willing to waste the human lives that are involved in such attacks? Those defensive lines are strong, and even little portions of them are taken only at terrific cost in lives.

I think that comprises the things I had personally in mind, and so we will start the questions.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press: Mr. President, your speech this last Sunday at Dartmouth was interpreted or accepted by a great many people as being critical of a school of thought represented by Senator McCarthy; is that right or wrong?

THE PRESIDENT. Now, Merriman, you have been around me long enough to know I never talk personalities. I think that we will get along faster in most of these conferences if we remember that I do not talk personalities; I refuse to do so.

My speech, I think, should stand by itself, but I will amplify to this extent: by no means am I talking, when I talk about books or the right of dissemination of knowledge, am I talking about any document or any other kind of thing that attempts to persuade or propagandize America into communism. Indeed, our courts found 11 Communists guilty of practically traitorous action; they pointed out that these men were dedicated to the destruction of the United States form of government by force, and that they took orders from a foreign government. So, manifestly, I am not talking about that kind of thing when I talk about free access to knowledge.

I believe the United States is strong enough to expose to the world its differing viewpoints from those of what we call, almost, the man who has Socialist leanings to the man who is so far to the extreme right that it takes a telescope to find him. But that is America, and let's don't be afraid to show it to the world. Because we believe that form of government, those facts, that kind of thinking, that kind of combination of things, has produced the greatest system of government that the world has produced. That is what we believe; that is what I am talking about. And let no one try to think that I am attempting to propagate Communist beliefs by using governmental money to do it.

Excluding that kind of thing, I am against "book burning" of course--which is, as you well know, an expression to mean suppression of ideas. I just do not believe in suppressing ideas. I believe in dragging them out in the open and taking a look at them. That is what I meant, and I do not intend to be talking personally and in personalities with respect to anyone.

Q. Raymond P. Brandt, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Mr. President, are you taking any steps to change the directives that have gone to our foreign missions on our libraries abroad?

THE PRESIDENT. Other than to ask Secretary Dulles to come in and talk to me about it, I have done nothing.

Q. Mr. Brandt: Because we have not been able to find the texts of the directives or to find out what they meant, and I could well understand why the foreign missions heads could not understand it.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't mean to say that I have dropped this; I just mean to say I don't know any more about that possibly than you do.

Q. D. Harold Oliver, Associated Press: Mr. President, George Meany 2 weeks ago complained of the delay in getting revision of the Taft-Hartley Act this session, and asked, among other things, "Is President Eisenhower going to keep his pledge to labor?" He complained, among other things, that the President was not following up his pledge to get revision by specific proposals at this session.

THE PRESIDENT. Again, I am not answering Mr. Meany nor am I discussing it, but I promised several things: one, that I would, above all things, try to be a friend of every portion of our population. That definitely and specifically included labor. Now, that is a personal attitude, and I think I am keeping that pledge.

Next, I promised that there would be a revision of the law, if I could bring it about, that would eliminate that one provision that can be used for union busting--you know, it is the kind that prevented men on strike from voting as to their representatives. I promised that, and certainly we are going to do our best to bring it about.

There was another thing, the Communist oath. I said that I didn't believe that labor leaders should be required to sign any such thing because I found no evidence that they required manufacturers to sign it; and I still believe in it.

Now, so far as progress in this field is concerned, I don't know why everybody gets so worried that we have not made great visible progress to lay out in the field in 5 months, when people have been trying for a good many years now to do something about it.

I personally believe we are making progress. Certainly we are not going to stop until we have got an agreed position of the administration which will contain, at least, these minimum things and, unquestionably, certain other recommendations, and lay them out as our position on this labor thing. I cannot promise the exact time that is going to take place, but it is going ahead.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, in your opening remarks about the Communist offensive, is it correct to interpret what you said as feeling that the Communists are not sincere because of these attacks that have been going on?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't think it is; I don't think it is, Mr. Arrowsmith. I don't pretend to any secret way of interpreting their intentions that is infallibly correct. I believe they see in it some value that I don't.

I merely point out that, assuming them to be sincere, we do have some evidence again of how little they value the individual citizen as compared to the state.

Q. Martin Agronsky, American Broadcasting Company: Following up Mr. Brandt's question, Senator Hennings of Missouri remarked that if you were against "book burning," since the State Department came under the executive branch of the Government, you could demonstrate your distaste for "book burning" by rescinding the State Department order which permits books to be removed from our foreign libraries because of their authorship. Could you address yourself to that comment of Senator Hennings?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am not going to try to answer Senator Hennings because, again, I don't know the background from which he is talking, and I don't know the details of the order of which he is speaking.

I would say this: if the State Department is burning a book which is an open appeal to everybody in those foreign countries to be a Communist, then I would say that falls outside of the limits in which I was speaking; and they can do as they please to get rid of them, because I see no reason for the Federal Government of the United States to be supporting something that advocates its own destruction. That seems to me to be about the acme of silliness.

I do say, within the limits of decency and within the limits inside--something that our courts could possibly call treasonous or traitorous, then let's don't be afraid of the kind of thinking that goes on in the United States, the kind of writing, the kind of argument. Let's put it out. Because if we go too far-suppose we go a little further and we try to establish more flexible limits for getting rid of these books--we are not advertising America, because we don't take those things out of American libraries. So I don't think we are honest then in advertising America abroad.

Now, I have not seen that order. As I said before, I have asked them to bring it in and discuss it with me, because I have not seen it. In fact, I didn't know they had issued one in the form that you now apparently intimate that it has. I didn't know there was a definite prescription, that we had a list of books.

Q. Mr. Agronsky: There is such a list, sir, only you cannot get hold of it. I know a number of us have tried.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will take a look.

Q. Douglas B. Cornell, Associated Press: Regarding your new information order, the proposed one, do you believe that the effect of that will be to promote a freer flow of information from the Government to the people?

THE PRESIDENT. That is certainly its purpose.

Q. Mr. Cornell: May I ask another question along that line? Has the Truman order, as such, been canceled at this point?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it will as quickly as this one is approved and ready for issue.

Q. Mr. Cornell: It will stay in effect, then, until this new one is effective?

THE PRESIDENT. I should say so, yes.

Q. Roland Sawyer, Christian Science Monitor: Would it be your policy, sir, to advise the American people when the Russians explode more atomic bombs?

THE PRESIDENT. Would it be my policy to do so?

Q. Mr. Sawyer: Yes; when you have solid evidence of that fact.

THE PRESIDENT. You asked me a question I would not want to answer right off, just shooting from the hip, because I don't know. I will say this: in the past 5 months no such solid evidence has been brought to me. I will give you that negative answer. The other one, I will have to decide when it comes up; I had not thought of that.

Q. Robert J. Donovan, New York Herald Tribune: Sir, this is just one more clarifying question on the book issue. Is it your thought, sir, that, leaving out Communist books entirely, if a controversial book can be on our bookshelves in this country, is it all right that it can be on the bookshelf of one of our libraries abroad?

THE PRESIDENT. I should think so, speaking generally.

Q. Mr. Donovan: Leaving out Communist?

THE PRESIDENT. After all, I have never known any generalization that did not need some modification when it came to applying it to a specific case.

Generally speaking, my idea is that censorship and hiding solves nothing; that is exactly what I believe. But I do say I don't have to be a party to encouraging my own self-destruction. That is the limit; and the other limit I draw is decency. We have certain books we bar from the mails and all that sort of thing; I think that is perfectly proper, and I would do it now.

I don't believe that standards of essential human dignity ought to be violated in these things, and human decency; also, as I say, this Communist propaganda.

Now, on the other hand, let me point out something to you gentlemen. After we got in World War II, and so many of us were astonished at what was taking place, do you remember the self-criticism in which we indulged--in newspapers, in broadcasts, and everything else--because we had failed to read Mein Kampf seriously? We said, "There they laid it out, and we didn't read it."

Why shouldn't we, today, know what is going on? How many of you have read Stalin's Problems of Leninism? How many of you have really studied Karl Marx and looked at the evolution of the Marxian theory down to the present application?

Now, gentlemen, what I am talking about is let's educate ourselves if we are going to run a free government, and let's don't be afraid of its weaknesses as well as its strength. From our viewpoint, its strength so far outweighs its weaknesses that we can afford to be generous in this thing.

I think I am as implacable a foe of the communistic theory as there is in this world; but I am certain in my own mind that the methods of just trying to pretend communism does not exist, or trying to pretend that it does not have a great appeal for people in certain areas and under certain conditions, is silly. We must combat it with something more constructive.

Q. Arthur T. Hadley, Newsweek: Mr. President, during the past few weeks, there have been certain subtle indications around town that your administration has reached a climax in thermonuclear weapons. Within the very proper limits of national security, could you indicate what the position of your administration is in this field and any advances that may have been made?

THE PRESIDENT. You have raised a subject that, with due respect, I must say I will not talk about. This is a very serious and sensitive field, and I just feel that at this moment, at least, I can't talk about it.

Q. Chalmers M. Roberts, Washington Post: Mr. President, the Secretary of State said the other day that this Government was considering, assuming a truce in Korea, allowing the subsequent political conference to cover not only Korean problems, but Far East problems in general. Could you spell that out and tell us if, sir, that means that there might be an effort to get a general Far East settlement before, say, a Big Four meeting on world problems?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't talk about it very definitively, for this reason: he was absolutely correct when he said "we are considering." He was obviously taking you into his confidence, to show that these things are very weighty questions. As I said--I think it was probably in the talk I made to Congress early in this administration or it may have been in the April 16th talk--there is no such thing, as we see it, of a real Korean armistice that merely frees Chinese forces to do something else equally inimical to our interests. So you can't separate these things entirely. But how they will be expressed and where they will be handled is still a moot question, in my own mind.

Q. John Herling, Register and Tribune Syndicate: In your trip out West, you referred in one of your speeches, I believe, to your intention to turn back creeping socialism of the past 20 years. That has caused some confusion in some minds, and I wonder whether you could give us some concrete examples of that creeping socialism.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will give you specific examples. Not long ago I had this appeal made to me in behalf of the expansion of Federal expenditures in the TVA region, and it was this: that since the Federal Government had seized and was practicing a monopoly in power down there, it was impossible for that locality now to expand unless the Federal Government spends more money down there. They quoted as one of their needs for more power that a number of industries from other sections of the country-New England and other places--want to come down there seeking cheap power. So we get to this curious thing in the socialistic theory: that we, all of us, provide such cheap power for one region--apparently it is subsidized by taxes from all of us all over the country--but then it can appeal and take away the industries from the other sections of the country. It seems to me that we have got to have some kind of reevaluation of all these things.

Now, please understand me. I have stated a thousand times, I am not out to destroy TVA. It is one experiment. I have also said that in other areas, when we repeat that thing, I want the local people to have a greater interest and a greater voice in it.

Now, that is what I say--getting on a middle-of-the-road trend and not merely go to the socialistic idea that the central government is the controlling factor in every one of these great economic things.

Q. Mr. Herling: Would that affect your intention to do anything about diminishing the impact of social security legislation?

THE PRESIDENT. We have promised, as a matter of fact, in social security, to expand its benefits in certain directions. There again, you go to the middle of the road for this reason. A strict application, let us say, of economic theory, at least as taught by Adam Smith, would be, "Let these people take care of themselves; during their active life they are supposed to save enough to take care of themselves."

In this modern industry, dependent as we are upon mass production, and so on, we create conditions where that is no longer possible for anybody. So the active part of the population has to take care of all the population, and if they haven't been able during the course of their active life to save up enough money, we have these systems.

There are many ways of implementing this idea. So far as you can, I am always delighted to see local and State people participating so that again the whole power does not get into the Federal Government.

What I am trying to say is that we find a middle-of-the-road basis here, and that is what I call stopping. I don't mean to say turn back the clock; and I hope you understand it.

Q. Roscoe Drummond, Christian Science Monitor: Mr. President, some Republican Members of Congress have stated that they think that unless taxes are reduced at this session on both individual incomes and corporations, it will be a violation of the Republican campaign commitments and the Republican platform. Would you express your view on that?

THE PRESIDENT. I think I have several times, Mr. Drummond, but I will try again. Everybody, of course, is convinced that taxes are too high to stay where they are, particularly over a long-term period, and still have that great incentive that we think is inherent in the opportunity of a man to earn and save for himself and his family. I agree, and everybody else has agreed.

Now, I personally know of not a single man during the last campaign that promised immediate tax reduction. Certainly I didn't. I did say, "Here is an objective, and here is the way we've got to do it."

I think I could bring out talks where I said you are not going to have any real tax reduction until we find a system in the world, some kind of peace and security arrangement in which we have confidence, where there is going to be great and deep tax reduction.

I think that through an easing off of the situation and better administration, we can accomplish some. As a matter of fact--as expressed, I think, by the Secretary of the Treasury several times--we are now counting on definite tax reductions next January 1st. But we are certainly doing our best to get our house in order.

Here is what I believe to be a sound argument. If we don't close the gap in our deficits, in the long run there is no tax reduction; because the constant cheapening of your money, as a result of that, finally brings you to the point that your prices go up and everything goes up on you faster than you can catch it. Inflation has a way of galloping away from you. Consequently, unless we close the gap in our budget, I don't believe that tax reduction in the long term is possible.

Now, that is what I believe. However, don't let anyone quote me as saying I don't believe in tax reduction. I am talking about timing.

Q. Anthony H. Leviero, New York Times: Mr. President, I would like to ask two questions, if I may, one on the books, and one on the security order.

Now, in mentioning a couple of particular books, Marx and Stalin, I believe you are getting back to the old maxim about, "Know your enemy." Certainly, we had that plastered on the walls of G-2 in the war.


Q. Mr. Leviero: But these books are being kept under lock and key in a lot of American libraries. I wondered if you thought that was proper. These are basic documents about the enemy. Should students and others have free access to these books? I wonder what your opinion is on that.

THE PRESIDENT. With your permission, I will quote myself. On October 12, 1948, I made an inaugural address as President of Columbia, and I insisted that communism, the facts of communism, were going to be taught at Columbia. I insisted likewise that if there were any teacher there who was persuaded of communism and who was trying to induce students to follow communism, I wouldn't stay there if we couldn't get rid of that person. I think the distinction is not difficult.

The facts of communism are one thing. Lay it out in front of us. Do you cure cancer by pretending it does not exist? To my mind, this thing has got to be understood. What is its appeal for man? It does no good for me just to get up and shout, "I am against communism." What is it? To some people that actually believe in it, it is practically a religion--although it calls religion in our sense an opiate of the masses, an opiate of the people.

So, these things that expose to us right from the original source what is communism, I don't believe we should hide them. We should attempt to show our students the way in which they should approach them. We shouldn't give that text to a Communist teacher and say, "Now, take your students off, and try to lead them astray," any more than you would give them, let us say, Al Capone's book on how to be a crook. I think this is just as bad. But there is a very great distinction in teaching facts and exhorting, teaching doctrine.

Q. Mr. Leviero: Pardon me, I did reserve another question.

THE PRESIDENT. I will have to consult your governing board. But go on.

Q. Mr. Leviero: About the security order, I know that it has been put to us for discussion. But for some understanding in advance, I believe you said there were 29 departments--


Q. Mr. Leviero:--agencies, which would no longer have the authority. Suppose one of them did get involved in a national defense project. I wonder where they would get their guidance for classification.

THE PRESIDENT. They would immediately appeal to the Security Council. They would say, "We have a subject here that we just think, if we let it go, it would be bad."

But they have no right in themselves to classify things. And, of course, one of the great kicks you people have made is that anyone right down the line, right down to, you said, pretty low down, could classify something and stamp it secret, and then you were helpless.

Q. Mr. Leviero: By delegating authority?


Q. Robert E. Clark, International News Service: Mr. President, I am still not clear in my mind on one point. Would you remove books by Marx and Lenin from our State Department libraries overseas?

THE PRESIDENT. Now, listen; I would be the last to pretend that I have read all of their books. I would say this: in our libraries overseas, it would seem to me that they have plenty of access to the documents that are definitely communistic. But the question that I was answering was in our own libraries, here, that they brought up.

Overseas, I see no reason for bringing these things up unless it were some area where we believed that we had a particular group where we had to show them exactly what communism was out of the mouths of the Communist leaders themselves.

I've said, "Don't let me be the apostle of the doctrine that all generalizations are always true"; on the contrary, I hold with the old Frenchman that said, "All generalizations are false, including this one."

Now, I believe that. I believe that men have got to be wise enough and strong enough to take a look at the problem they have in deciding it. And I just don't believe in making these sweeping "always and invariably true."

Q. Joseph A. Fox, Washington Evening Star: Mr. President, on that story, to carry it a bit further, sir, you feel, then, I take it, that people in foreign countries know enough about communism without being briefed further on it; is that, generally speaking, true?

THE PRESIDENT. Generally, I think that is true. I think the uprisings in Berlin this morning ought to be a good lesson for most of us.

Q. Charles S. von Fremd, CBS Television: Mr. President, prior to the coronation, there appeared to be a slight rift between the British and the United States. Do you think that the coronation with its apparent good effect since then has brought that rift closer together? Do you think our two countries are now more friendly?

THE PRESIDENT. It is unfortunately true in this world that often the best of friends seem to have the greatest right to criticize each other in public. I don't know why this is, but it seems to be true.

I honestly believe that basically the American people respect and admire the British record, and therefore the British people. Of course, we do have exceptions; I am not trying to say that we all agree, but I think basically we do. I am sure that is basically true also in Britain.

Now, when something comes along about the coronation and we are reminded of some of the history of the past, the type of law that we inherited from those people, when we think of our heritage from them of the Magna Carta and other great documents and traditions, I think it is a good thing, and I think it was a good thing to show it to as many people of America as possible.

So far as I can see, only good resulted from it. From the reports I have had from people coming back, they were greatly impressed. 1 The British, of course, are masters of this solemnity and ceremony. I have gone through some of them and practically shuddered, almost, at the requirements of the thing. But I think it was, in all, a good thing.

However, I disagree with the contention that we are constantly at each other's throats down deep.

1The White House announced on March 6 that the President had designated the following as his representatives at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II: George Catlett Marshall as the President's Special Representative; Governor Earl Warren of California and Mrs. Gardner Cowles as Assistant Representatives; and General Omar N. Bradley, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, to represent the three United States Services.

Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland ( Maine ) Press Herald: Mr. President, the Agriculture Department is considering selling off our surplus butter at 10 cents a pound. Republicans advocated free enterprise in their platform. Do you think the continued accumulation of unsalable surpluses is free enterprise?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mrs. Craig, you have opened up a whole philosophy that we could talk about for hours.

I don't know that they are contemplating selling butter at 10 cents, but I do know this: the price of butter has gotten to the point that it is sort of pricing itself out of the market.

Now, if we look at the total surpluses we have, just in money value, you say, "Well, now, if by that kind of purchases we have provided a reasonably stable economy, then we haven't invested too much, because we still have these things we can use."

For example, I hope and I believe that the Congress will approve a million-ton grant to Pakistan. If we didn't have that in a surplus somewhere, it wouldn't be possible, would it?

I don't think that we should get too excited about these surpluses, until we approach that place of unusability, deterioration, and spoilage. Then it gets serious, because I believe now that we have a moral value involved. I just don't think it is right for the sweat and toil and resources of the United States to be thrown out in the middle of the ocean when someone else is starving.

Now, you say "all right, if it is not socialistic, it is based on a purely humanitarian thing"--and I believe George Kennan argues that humanitarian and moralistic values have no place in foreign relations. But after all, we do believe that we are a product and a representative of the Judaic-Christian civilization, and it does teach some concern for your brother. And I believe in that.

So I am not too concerned about these surpluses yet. If the thing keeps building up on us, then we've got a problem we've got to meet, and it is going to be tough. I haven't got the answers yet. But I do say, if we would make a complete practice of buying up butter at 67 2/3 cents and selling it at 10 cents, we would finally be in an awful mess, and I couldn't go with that.

There will be one more question. I am sorry. [To Merriman Smith] You haven't done your duty. [Laughter]

Q. Joseph A. Fox, Washington Evening Star: Is there anything that you would care to say about that uprising in East Germany?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't say much about it, except this: in the face of the propaganda of the happiness and the concern for people's governments that we have heard has been the general feeling just behind the Iron Curtain, this is a significant thing. I know nothing more about it. Frankly, my dispatches are a little behind the papers this morning, and that is all I know about it.

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

Note: President Eisenhower's eleventh news conference was held in the Executive Office Building from 10:30 to 11:08 o'clock on Wednesday morning, June 17, 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/231631

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