Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

The President's News Conference at Augusta, Georgia

October 22, 1959

THE PRESIDENT. Good morning. Please sit down.

Merely because I thought I should come to a press conference in this unusual place, you are not to assume that I have any startling news to bring. As you know, I had established or scheduled a conference on Wednesday, and then when I decided suddenly, for my own convenience, to come down here, I thought it was only fair to carry out the chore that I gave myself. So that's the reason I am here this morning.

Q. Merriman Smith, United Press International: Mr. President, the Russian Ambassador to Paris says this morning that you have proposed a summit conference late this year, and that Mr. Khrushchev agrees. Now the British also seem to favor the idea of an early summit, and the French want to wait till spring. You have been in touch with the allied leaders recently, and today could you give us your position on this situation? Specifically, do you want a pre-summit Western meeting in the next few weeks, and do you think the big summit conference should be held this year?

THE PRESIDENT. I think the word "proposed" is not quite correct. I stated that I would be ready at any time from now on to go to a Western summit because I thought, preceding any meeting with the Soviets, there should be again an examination of our several positions together, so that we could have position papers, they are called; we want them coordinated.

Now I said I was ready to go any time from there on, and I said thereafter I would be ready to go to a major summit meeting--that is, with the Soviets--whenever we could all agree that we had a chance to study and get ourselves all prepared. In other words, I was thinking we could do this by the end of the year. But it was not a proposal, it was a statement of my position. That still remains my position. And I agree, as time is slipping by, the longer we postpone a Western summit, which I do think is necessary, why then that would have some effect on pushing back any other that we might agree upon, and might have some effect on the date that we might agree on.

Q. Charles Roberts, Newsweek: Sir, before General Medaris announced his intention to resign, he said that we are straddling the issue of whether we are competing with the Russians in space. I wonder if our position is that we are competing with the Russians, and if we are, if their recent successes in launching luniks and probes into space indicate that we must spend more money in this field in our next budget?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you open a big subject with a lot of questions along with it. Here is a thing that has been studied ever since 1955 on a very urgent basis. I need not go again into the history of missile development within the Military Establishment, and the launching of at least our interest into the outer space field. But as early as 1953 or '54, we began to get the recommendations of certain scientific groups, and then I established my own, under Dr. Killian, which reported early in 1955. From there on, missiles and space vehicles began to take first priority in both defense and, you might say, in scientific research affairs.

Where we got into the outer space field was through the International Geophysical Year, if you will recall. Dr. Waterman was the one that proposed this to me, and we went into the Vanguard proposal.

Well now, as time went on, we began to do very well in the missile field. Now there was one reason that we could do pretty well in the missile field, and fairly early; it was this: we were ahead, it seemed clear, of anybody else in the development of efficient and still very powerful bombs. This meant that we did not have the same power in our engines or in our boosters that was required if those warheads had not been so efficiently designed and built.

So we have developed and we now have operational ICBM's. Therefore we have the certainty, the fact, that starting in 1955 until this moment we have done--our scientists have done--a remarkable job in bringing this about. But since we had no great interest at that moment in putting heavy bodies into outer space, we were going along with the engines or the boosters that were capable of handling our Thors, Jupiters, and Atlases--that kind of thing.

As the space exploration studies went further, it began to be obvious that we needed big boosters for this particular thing. We started, I believe, three projects--three routes, you might say--towards their designing. I think the scientists have come pretty well to the conclusion that one of these shows more promise than any other. The team that has had more experience in this field than any other is that headed by Dr. von Braun, a very brilliant group of scientists which was brought together by the foresight and the wisdom of the Army, in the original sense. They have done largely the work that they want to do for the Army. The Pershing, one of those other small items on which they have been working, has been largely completed. They are the ones now that we are looking for to get and develop this big booster.

But this great booster is of no present interest to the Defense Department. Its interest is in NASA, and that's the reason that we have decided to take this very competent team of scientists and this facility--the ABMA--and put it into the space department so that it can get the kind of booster that it needs.

Now, this statement that we are straddling as far as competition with the Russians is concerned: I don't know exactly what it means. I know this: we have established, and it has been published at least in outline, a program of space exploration; and Dr. Glennan has pointed out some of the major things we want to do. Our plan is a positive one, and I see no reason for thinking of it merely as competition with somebody else. It is something we intend to do.

And just one point about this transfer of ABMA I might point out is this: there are two separate facilities there. One of them is the Army Ordnance Center, I believe it is--Army Ordnance Research Center, some such thing. The Army projects stay right there, and their contacts and their coordination and the help that they get from the space agency will be no less than it has been before. Such little items, some finishing touches that remain on Redstone or one or two other programs, will be completed.

But at the same time, Dr. von Braun and his group are going over to the NASA because, I say, the big booster has its primary place in space exploration and not in our missile program.

Q. Art Barriault, National Broadcasting Company: Is any effort being made, sir, to retain General Medaris perhaps in a civilian capacity?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, as a matter of fact, I really don't know. I haven't seen his reasons for wanting to retire, but I understood, just a few days back, from the Army, that he was quite content and happy. I don't know exactly what his disappointments or his disagreements are, and I would like to hear them.

Q. Laurence H. Burd, Chicago Tribune: Mr. President, this is on the steel strike. Where do you think the major blame lies for this strike going on so long? And secondly, from the standpoint of the Government and the public, do you think the Taft-Hartley Act has proved adequate to deal with strikes of this kind, or do you think some other legislation is necessary?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't think that Taft-Hartley has a very brilliant history, therefore I could say I do not believe it is necessarily good or adequate legislation. But on the other hand, I am not so sure that additional legislation is going to do exactly what we want.

Ladies and gentlemen, what we want: we want a growing and expanding economy, with fairness to everybody. But we don't want to try to control this or direct this by Government. And if we come to the point that we believe through the medium of controlling prices or any other compulsory type of action, then I believe we have hurt ourselves very badly.

Now as of the moment, I had no recourse except to resort to Taft-Hartley. Indeed, I am so concerned after 97 days of this strike as to what is happening to our country, that I have made a little memorandum. Mr. Hagerty will have some copies for you. It's just a short memorandum, a recitation of the brief facts of what has happened.

I put it this way: I don't think Taft-Hartley is necessarily presenting any cure for this thing. I believe that serf-discipline, the setting up by all of us as our standard the welfare of the United States of America, is the only thing that ever will do it. Because if we can't settle our economic differences by truly free economic bargaining without damaging seriously and threatening to damage seriously the United States, we have come to a pretty pass.

That's the reason I said, on the day I asked the Attorney General to go and seek this injunction, it was a rather sad day for the United States.

Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post: Mr. President, you have promised Premier Khrushchev to go to Russia next spring. Would it be possible for you to carry out that commitment and also attend a summit-- that is, the big summit conference--in the spring? I have another thought in mind, sir, as I understood your earlier statement, your position still is that a big East-West conference should be held earlier than next spring?

THE PRESIDENT. No I don't--this is what I said, Mr. Folliard: I think that a Western summit must precede any other. And then I think that one of the purposes of the Western conference will be to thrash out just what we should do, as to timing and subjects and our approach, and the positions we take. I want to be very careful, always, to avoid the appearance even of trying to dominate any of our allies. These allies are important. They are equal partners. And so I cannot state things before you as decisions and "We are going to do that." They are matters that we have to discuss and see whether we can agree.

Now whether or not I could make a trip that would comprise both, let us say 7 or 8 days of a summit conference, and then 6 or 7 days of going around Russia, this would be quite long, and would be a time, you know, during which the Congress is in session.

Now normally, Congress, even if they passed any bills, if there were no emergencies of any kind, domestic or otherwise, would hold up bills so as to avoid embarrassment. But it would be quite a long time to stay away at one time.

Q. Mr. Folliard: To follow that up, is it conceivable, Mr. President, that a big East-West summit conference might be held in Russia about the time you went there?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know. The only thing I know about it, every time we have looked for a new spot, we come back to the things of the hotel accommodations and the technical apparatus that is always needed for simultaneous translation and all that sort of thing. So nearly always we go back to Geneva. I would personally have no objection to going anywhere. I have said this time and again so you people get tired of it. I would go any time and anywhere.

Q. Felix Belair, New York Times: The Development Loan Fund in Washington has indicated that any future credits granted by it to recipient governments in underdeveloped areas should be expended on materials or equipment within the United States. It has also indicated lately that this policy, if it is a policy, might be made to apply to other foreign aid agencies. I wonder if that would not mark a rather noticeable departure from your past policy?

THE PRESIDENT. We have always tried to make loans and grants on a basis that was free and where the recipient country could go and shop around, except in the case of one agency; that is the Export-Import Bank, which by law is required to make its loans requiring materials and machinery and things of that kind that were under such study be bought here.

Now I don't believe for an instant that we can make this law apply to the Development Loan Fund and everything else exclusively. I have said and it has been, I think, stated by one or two of my associates, we are going to make it a little less free. This is not a turnaround, a reversal, or going in another direction. It is simply to point out that when we are making this money available, it's dollars that's being made available; and where it is feasible and reasonable, we want that money to be spent here. It's not the abrupt reversal that your question might imply.

Q. Carleton Kent, Chicago Sun-Times: Mr. President, could you discuss with us your reasons for seeming to prefer an earlier summit meeting rather than a later one, as the French apparently do?

THE PRESIDENT. I would say this: I think an early Western summit would be very desirable. If you take four countries like Britain, France, and Germany--they would be there part of the time at least--and ourselves, there are bound to be important subjects come up that are viewed differently by each country. This takes a very great deal of study and work, and finally agreement, at the very head of government level.

Now I would prefer always, as I have told you people often, to do these things by diplomatic means, and then finally get head of government agreement. But fashions have seemed to change a little bit.

Now where you do have a dictatorship, there is only one man can make the decision, and although he can delegate as he chooses, it seems to be not popular with dictators to delegate too much. Therefore, if you are going to make agreements that are useful, I mean general and important agreements, with the Soviets, you are almost compelled to. do it with the head of government. This means the Western heads of government must be coordinated among themselves, otherwise it would just be a Donnybrook.

Now I have no strong feelings exactly when the second one should be done. I said I would go there and make my proposals at the Western summit and we would talk it out and see what we should do. But I wouldn't predict any particular moment for the meeting with the Soviets.

Q. Paul F. Healy, New York Daily News: Sir, either as President or a TV viewer, do you have any strong feelings on rigged quiz shows?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am one of those that never saw them. So my interest has grown only as I have seen the reports in the papers. I think if it was done, it's a terrible thing to do to the American public. But I have made inquiry right away, and so far as I can see, up to this moment, the executive branch of the Government has had no responsibility or even no place to do anything. I have asked the Attorney General and one or two others to look into it. So as I say, my interest didn't develop until after I found out that there was apparently something a little questionable about the whole matter.

Q. Mr. Healy: You don't see any need for Federal regulation of any kind?

THE PRESIDENT. I would say this: I see no power in the executive department. This would be censorship. This would be a political agent. Now you do have the FCC; I am not so sure what their field would be here, but it's one thing that I think the Attorney General is studying for me. But not for executive department action.

Q. William H. Y. Knighton, Jr., Baltimore Sun: Mr. President, how's your cold?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, actually, almost 3 years ago I contracted a bronchitis which finally seems to have developed and become chronic. And so every slight cold has sort of a multiplied effect on me; consequently, I seek the warm weather and sun. [Laughter] However, you can't always be lucky on weather, and I am taking that rather philosophically. But it's really become a chronic condition, and when I went to California, to have an acute cold and flu attack on top of it, the reason becomes rather troublesome. So I take every day I can to get in the sun.

Q. Lou Harris, Augusta Chronicle: Mr. President, the National Cotton Council has petitioned the Department of Agriculture to invoke section 22 under the Agricultural Adjustment Act, because of what it believes is the increasingly large amount of importations from foreign countries in the textile field. Of course 3 years ago this agreement was worked out with Japan.

Do you anticipate, sir, that there is going to be any effort to work out a similar agreement with Hong Kong, Formosa, India, Pakistan?

THE PRESIDENT. The only thing I can say about those things is this: you get these reports, and instantly they go into the hands of the technical experts. A great deal of struggle goes on as to what should be done, because whenever you help somebody, you always seem to be hurting someone else. But finally, after all the technical studies are made and go through different types of organizations, it is brought to me to study; and that is always a tough decision to make.

I would say this: the last thing I heard--I am talking now with both foreign and domestic experts in the field--they said that they thought the situation was improving rather than deteriorating.

Q. Marvin Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, we just want to make sure we understood you. Did you speak of an acute cold and flu attack?

THE PRESIDENT. I said an acute cold when I went to California, and that on top of a chronic bronchitis I said is annoying. I did have an acute cold then.

Q. Mr. Arrowsmith: Didn't you say something about a flu attack, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. I called it flu. Whether the doctor did or not, I don't think I ever asked him. [Laughter] Any time I feel as badly as I did that time, I call it flu, that's all. [Laughter] But as I say, my difficulty is a chronic bronchitis, which didn't originate until after my operation. I don't think it has any connection, but then is when it started--in 1956.

Q. Felix Belair, Jr., New York Times: Mr. President, just to perhaps quiet speculation on the point, can you conceive of a Western summit meeting without France's participation?

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, I wouldn't think so, no. Anything else?

Q. Russell Jones, CBS News: Sir, Mr. Khrushchev is reported to have backed the Chinese in taking Quemoy by force if necessary. Do you think this fits in with his conversations with you in this country and his expressed desire for a summit meeting?

THE PRESIDENT. I think I reported this before, but I am not sure. When the subject of Red China was brought up between Mr. Khrushchev and me, there was no further discussion other than the statement of our two separate positions. And it was then agreed only one thing, which was there was no sense in pushing the discussion any further because our viewpoints were so far apart.

On the other hand, I notice that as quickly as he went out to China, he made one or two speeches in which he put forth the generalization that all international disputes should be solved by peaceful means, in negotiation.

Now I think that both China and Russia argue that the Formosa-Red China dispute is from their viewpoint an internal one and not international. But after all, I believe there are 42 or more nations--I forget how many, but a great number of nations--that recognize the independence of Formosa, so I think certainly the rest of the world would take it as a threat to international peace.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Mr. President, may I ask another question?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes.

Q. Mr. Arrowsmith: In connection with your remarks on Taft-Hartley, do they indicate that you are thinking about asking for new legislation when Congress comes back?

THE PRESIDENT. Not at this moment, for this simple reason. I am still hopeful that these people, both sides, will awaken to their obligations to the United States. I really believe, like I do in one or two other subjects, that punitive law, or law requiring compulsion against peoples' respected rights, is going to worsen the situation rather than better it.

Now, on the other hand, if people will not exercise the self-discipline that the whole concept of free government implies, then indeed this is going to be a time when we all have to study and see just exactly what may be done. Because we cannot allow the country itself to be damaged unconscionably.

Q. Robert H. Fleming, American Broadcasting Company: Have you heard anything from the Chinese Communists about the American fliers?

THE PRESIDENT. Nothing recent--nothing recent. It's one of those matters that is kept always on the agenda, and you make inquiry whenever you can; but we have heard nothing.

Q. Charles Roberts, Newsweek: If I may ask another question, I would like to return to the space situation. Do you plan to ask for more money in your next budget for space exploration?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have forgotten--was it 590 last year?

Q. Mr. Roberts: I couldn't tell you, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. Well listen, why aren't you informed a little bit? [Laughter] As i recall, it became 590; I think they cut out about 68 million, and then put a little back, the way I recall. We will ask for something more than that, I am sure.

Q. Marvin L. Arrowsmith, Associated Press: Something more than--

THE PRESIDENT. Something more than we had last year.

Mr. Arrowsmith: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Eisenhower's one hundred and seventy-third news conference was held in the Gcorgian Room of the Richmond Hotel, Augusta, Ga., at 10 o'clock on Thursday morning, October 22, 1959. The attendance was not recorded.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, The President's News Conference at Augusta, Georgia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/234507

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