Press Conference of President Kennedy's

 

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Press Conference November 14, 1963

THE PRESIDENT.  Good morning, gentlemen and ladies.

[1.]. Q. Mr. President, how menacing do you regard the Cambodian threat to reject our foreign aid, and can that country be slipping into the Communist orbit?

THE PRESIDENT.  Well, I regard it as serious.  It is my hope that Prince Sihanouk, who must be concerned about the independence and the sovereignty of his country-he has after all been involved for many years in maintaining that independence will not decide at this dangerous point in the world's affairs to surrender it.  I would think that he is more concerned about Cambodian independence than we are.  After all, he is a Cambodian.  So my judgment is that in the long run he would protect that independence.  It would be folly not to, and I don't think he is a foolish man.

[2.] Q. Mr. President, how do you regard the case involving Professor Barghoorn, and what are we doing about getting his release from the Russian Government?

THE PRESIDENT.  As   you   know, the American-ambassador ---the United States Embassy has made six protests to the Soviet Government in the last 48 hours.  Ambassador Kohler has been to the Soviet Foreign Ministry personally.   The United States Government is deeply concerned about the unwarranted and unjustified arrest of Professor Barghoorn, by the fact that he was held for a number of days without the United States being informed of it, and that the United States officials in the Soviet Union have not had an opportunity to visit with him.  He was not on an intelligence mission of any kind.  He is a distinguished professor of Soviet affairs, he has played a most helpful and constructive role in arranging cultural exchanges, scientific exchanges.  We are concerned not only for his personal safety, but because this incident, I think, can have a most serious effect upon what we understood the Soviet Government's strong hope was, certainly our hope, that we would find a widening of cultural intellectual exchanges.  We have heard from a good many universities and private organizations, which have expressed their alarm-been taking part in these exchanges-and it is quite clear that the Professor's early release is essential if these programs are to be continued.

I can assure you that the Department of State, our Embassy in Moscow, will do everything it can to effect the early release of the Professor.  His arrest is unjustified.  I repeat again: he was not on an intelligence mission of any kind.  I am hopeful that this will become quickly obvious to the Soviet Union and that they will release him.

Q. Mr. President, some persons view Professor Barghoorn's arrest as a sign the Soviets are now deliberately seizing innocent Americans with the aim of later swapping them for some of their convicted espionage agents or that the Soviets ma' ' v be doing this with the hope of somehow extracting political concessions from us.  How would you view any such tactics?

THE PRESIDENT.   I wouldn't think- obviously they would not be successful. I wouldn't attempt to make a judgment as to the conduct of the Soviet Union or what may motivate it from week to week, day to day, but I am certainly-it is quite obvious that if it is based on the presumptions you state, that it will not be successful.

[3.] Q. Mr. President, what are the prerequisites or conditions for resumption of some sort of trade with Red China?

THE PRESIDENT.  We are not planning to trade with Red China in view of the policy that Red China pursues.  When the Red Chinese indicate a desire to live at peace with the United States, with other countries surrounding it, then quite obviously the United States would reappraise its policies.

We are not wedded to a policy of hostility to Red China.  It seems to me Red China's policies are what create the tension between not only the United States and Red China but between Red China and India, between Red China and her immediate neighbors to the south, and even between Red China and other Communist countries.

[4.] Q. Mr. President, it now seems unlikely that you will get either your tax bill or your civil rights bill in this session of Congress.  Does that disturb you?

THE PRESIDENT.  Well, I think that the longer the delay, I think-yes, I think it is unfortunate.  The fact of the matter is that both these bills should be passed.  The tax bill has been before the Congress for nearly a year.  The civil rights has been there for a much shorter time; it didn't go up until June.  I am hopeful that the House will certainly act on that in the next month, maybe sooner.  The tax bill hearings have been quite voluminous.  It would seem to me that it might be possible to end those hearings and bring the matter to the floor of the Senate before the end of the year.  Otherwise, the civil rights bill will come over after the first of the year.  There may be a very long debate.  The tax bill may be caught up in that.  I suppose some people are hopeful that that is so, but I am not.  And I think that the economy will suffer.  The economy will suffer and I think that-I certainly would not want to be responsible for that.  Therefore, I would like to get the tax bill out of the way quickly and this important piece of legislation.  I would think the Members of Congress would.

[5.] Q. Mr. President,-there have been published reports that General Harkins may have lost his usefulness in Viet-Nam because of his identification with the Diem regime and lack of contacts with the new generals running the country.  Would you care to comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT.  I think it is wholly untrue.  I have complete confidence in him.  He was just doing his job.  I think he said in the interview yesterday he had seen Mr. Nhu, I think, only three times.  He had seen President Diem on a number of occasions.  That was his job, that is what he was sent for work with the government in power-that is what he will do with the new government.  I have great confidence in General Harkins.  There may be some who would like to see General Harkins go, but I plan to keep him there.

Q. Following up that, sir, would you give us your appraisal of the situation in South Viet-Nam now, since the coup, and the purposes for the Honolulu conference?

THE PRESIDENT.  Because we do have a new situation there, and a new government, we hope, an increased effort in the war.  The purpose of the meeting at Honolulu-Ambassador Lodge will be there, General Harkins will be there, Secretary McNamara and others, and then, as you know, later Ambassador Lodge will come here-is to attempt to assess the situation: what American policy should be, and what our aid policy should be, how we can intensify the struggle, how we can bring Americans out of there.

Now, that is our object, to bring Americans home, permit the South Vietnamese to maintain themselves as a free and independent country, and permit democratic forces within the country to operate-which they can, of course, much more freely when the assault from the inside, and which is manipulated from the north, is ended.  So the purpose of the meeting in Honolulu is how to pursue these objectives.

Q. Mr. President, Madam Nhu has now left the United States, but indicated that she intends to return.  Will we renew her tourist visa?

THE PRESIDENT.  Yes.

Q. And if she asks for it, will we grant her permanent residence

THE PRESIDENT.  I think we'd certainly permit her to return to the United States, if she wishes to do so.

[6.] Q. Mr. President, year by year, the foreign aid program seems to encounter more and more resistance in the Congress. And this year we are seeing Senators who ordinarily fly in the past have gone along with the program-

THE PRESIDENT.  Yes.  This is the worst attack on foreign aid that we have seen since the beginning of the Marshall plan.

Q. In the event that one of these years the Congress, the arguments for foreign aid notwithstanding, surprises itself by voting the program out, what would we then do?

THE- PRESIDENT.  I think it would be a great mistake.  Of course, some of the difficulty is where the President sits and where the Members of the Senate sit.  It has been said very many times, and I have never questioned it, that the Senate and the Congress have every right to decide how much money should be appropriated.  That is their constitutional right.

But on the other hand, the President bears particular responsibilities in the field of foreign policy.  If there are failures in the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America, and South Viet-Nam, Laos, it is usually not a Senator who is selected to bear the blame, but it's the administration, the President of the United States.

I regard this-President Eisenhower regarded it, and President Truman-it is no coincidence that all three Presidents since this program began, and Presidential candidates-Mr........  Nixon, Mr. Stevenson, Governor Dewey, that all of them, Governor Rockefeller today, others-it seems to me all recognize the importance of this program.  It is because it is a very valuable arm of the United States in the field of foreign policy.  I don't think it is recognized what an important influence this has.

Now, we spend $51 billion or $52 billion on defense.  We spend $2.2 billion on the atomic energy program.  We spend $5 billion on space, of which at least a good percentage has a military implication in the sense of our national security.  We spend all of this money and yet we are going to deny the President of the United States a very valuable weapon in maintaining the influence of the United States in this very diversified world.

I can't imagine anything more dangerous than to end this program.  I can assure you that whoever is President of the United States succeeding me will support this program.

Now, the second point I want to make is that what we are now talking about is only a fourth of what we tried to do in the early fifties.  What I said in the-I don't understand why we are suddenly so fatigued.  I don't regard the struggle as over, and I don't think it is probably going to be over for this century.  I think this is a continuing effort, and it is not a very heavy one.  It is a fraction of our budget, a fraction of our gross national product.  The gross national product of the United States has increased $100 billion, will have by the end of this year, in a 3-year period.

So what we are asking is a billion dollars less than in the average program since '47. The need today is greater, these countries are poorer, there's a good many more of them; and yet we are being denied, the President of the United States is being threatened with denying him a very important weapon in helping him meet his responsibility.  The Congress has its responsibility.  But in the field of foreign policy there are particular burdens placed on the President, whoever he may be.

The Supreme Court in the Curtis Rider case said that the President is the organ of the country in the field of foreign policy.  I just want to say personally as President, and my predecessor said the same, this program is essential to the conduct of our foreign policy, and therefore I am asking the Congress of the United States to give me the means of conducting the foreign policy of the United States.  And if they do not want to do so, then they should recognize that they are severely limiting my ability to protect the interest.  That's how important I think this program is.

Q. Before you leave the subject, sir, would you comment just a bit further? It is still a fact that a negative action by a Congress is something that an administration has great difficulty in coping with.  Has the administration, has the Government, looked ahead to that possibility and prepared against it?

THE PRESIDENT.  No, I can't believe that the Congress of the United States is going to be so unwise unless we are going to retreat from the world.  Are we -going to give up in South Viet-Nam? Are we going to give up in Latin America?

I have said before that what we are talking about the case of Latin America and the Alliance for Progress, for all of Latin America, is what the Soviet Union and the bloc are putting into Cuba alone.  Now, can you tell me the United States is not able to do that? In addition, these amendments, which arc passed because they don't like a particular leader or a particular national policy as of the moment-it is a very changing world.  Because they don't like the fishing policy we are going to decide to end all aid to the three countries in Latin America that are hard pressed, rather than permitting us to negotiate the matter out.  But anyway, as I say, they have their responsibilities and I have mine.  I am just trying to make it very clear that I cannot fulfill my responsibility in the field of foreign policy without this program.

Now, the most important program, of course, is our national security, but I don't want the United States to have to put troops there.  What's going to happen in Laos if it collapses? Are they going to blame the Senate or are they going to blame me? I know who they are going to blame.  So I need this program.

[7.] Q. Mr. President, as a possible candidate for President, would you comment on the possible candidacy of Margaret Chase Smith, and specifically what effect that would have on the New Hampshire primary?

THE PRESIDENT.  I would think if I were a Republican candidate, I would not look forward to campaigning against Margaret Chase Smith in New Hampshire [laughter]-or as a possible candidate for President.  I think she is very formidable, if that is the appropriate word to use about a very fine lady.  She is a very formidable political figure!

[8.] Q. Mr. President, getting back to Professor Barghoorn for a moment, the negotiations for renewal of the exchange agreement with the Soviet Union were scheduled to begin next Tuesday, and now as I understand it have been postponed.

THE PRESIDENT.  That is right.

Q. Do those negotiations depend upon the release of Professor Barghoorn?

THE PRESIDENT.  I don't think it is helpful to the Professor to try to put these conditions upon it.    I just say that there's no sense having a program if a man who is innocent of any intelligence mission, which is true in this case, is subjected to arrest without means of defense.  How can you carry on that kind of a program? I am sure that everybody would agree that it would be hopeless under these conditions.

[9.] Q. Mr. President, would you comment on the wheat deal with the Soviet Union, and tell us whether the Export-Import Bank, or whether any other agency of Government is doing more in this deal than it would for any friendly country?

THE PRESIDENT.  No, it will not do more than it would for any friendly country.  The matter is now in private negotiations, and I don't know what is going to happen on the deal.

[10.] Q. Would you expand, sir, on the changes in the travel restrictions for Soviet diplomats? For example, in Oregon there were five counties that were off limits during the last 2 years, and now it has been expanded to 13 counties.  Could you expand on that?

THE PRESIDENT.  In the case of the Soviet Union, 26 percent of their country is off limits to the United States, and we have put the same percentage of ours.  If they would be willing to change that percentage and drop it, I think we would be willing to.  Now, in the case of the bloc, we have attempted to put some limitations on the travel of bloc military attaches, because we feel that it is important to the security of the United States, and to the alliance.  The base of the alliance rests upon the nuclear forces of the United States.  I think we have to protect their security.  And the Defense Department felt very strongly that this was important to the security of the United States, or otherwise it would not have been done.

[11.] Q. Mr. President, I think a few minutes ago you said it would be unfortunate if the tax bill and the civil rights bill don't get through.  You just said also it is the worst attack on the foreign aid bill since its inception.  Several appropriations bills are still hung up in Congress, the first time in history this late.  What has happened on Capitol Hill?

THE PRESIDENT.  Well, they are all interrelated.  I think that there is some delay because of civil rights.  That has had an effect upon the passage of appropriations bills.  There isn't any question.  On the other hand, of course, what we are talking about in both the civil rights bill and the tax bill are very complicated and important pieces of legislation, in fact more significant in their own way than legislation which has been sent up there for a decade.  My judgment is that by the time this Congress goes home, in the sense of next summer, that in the fields of education, mental health, taxes, civil rights, this is going to be a record that is going to be-however dark it looks now, I think that "westward, look, the land is bright," and I think that by next summer it may be.

Q. In view of what you just said, sir, you listed certain items.  You didn't mention medical care for the aged. Now, even though Chairman Mills has promised to hold hearings this month, there doesn't seem to be any immediate prospect of clearing it.  Since he was so helpful on the tax bill, are you prepared to ask him to cast his vote to get that out of committee so the House can vote on it?

THE PRESIDENT.  I think that we are going to get that bill out -not this year, but next year-and I think we will have a vote on it, and I think it will pass.  But I don't think it will pass this year, but I think it will next year.  I did not mean to make an exclusive list.  I am looking forward to the record of this Congress, but it may not come until-this is going to be an i8-month delivery!

[12.] Q. Mr. President, the bill-the program put forward by this distinguished committee of private citizens seemed to go farther than your bill on Medicare.  Would you be prepared to sponsor a program, say, of Senator Javits joined with Senator Anderson in a bipartisan measure?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes.  I am going to meet with them, and I think that that bill recognized the principle of social security. I thought it was a very valuable job because it was a bipartisan-the committee' had distinguished Republicans on it as well as Democrats.  I am meeting with Senator Anderson and Senator Javits, and I think that this offers a good deal of hope for that bill.  I think they have given it new life.

[13.] Q. Mr. President, part of the disenchantment on Capitol Hill over foreign aid seems to be the feeling that the administration has not fully used the flexibility it asks.  For example, on aid to Indonesia, when President Sukarno was threatening Malaysia.

THE PRESIDENT.  Well, we have suspended the aid to Indonesia.

Q. But you have not suspended it, have you, Mr. President, to the United Arab Republic, which is defying the U.N.?

THE PRESIDENT.  Well, now, in the case of Indonesia, though, we are suspending. It seems to me it is much better- I don't know what the situation is going to be 3 months from now in regard to the relations between Indonesia and Malaysia.  I hope they are better.  But it is the possible use of passing a prohibition for assistance to Indonesia, because of its attitude toward Malaysia when 3 months from now it may or may not be the same as it is today.  That's the point.

Now on the United Arab Republic, the United States, as you know, 8o percent of its assistance consists of food, surplus food.  We have been working to try to get a withdrawal, an orderly withdrawal, in the case of the Yemen.  There has not been a conflict-I think a good deal as a result of effort which we and others have made-between Saudi Arabia and the UAR.  I am concerned about the Yemen because the rate of the withdrawal, of course, has been quite limited.

There are going to be further withdrawals by January, but unless those withdrawals are consistent with earlier statements. I would think that the chance of increased tension between the UAR and Saudi Arabia would substantially increase.  But I don't think that the language that the Senate adopted, which calls upon me to make a finding which is extremely complicated to make, is particularly-strengthens our hands or our flexibility in dealing with the UAR.  In fact, it will have the opposite result.

These countries are poor-I am not talking now about the UAR, most of them threats that the United States is going to cut off aid is a great temptation to Arabic countries to say, "Cut it off." They are nationalist, they are proud, they are in many cases radical.  I don't think threats from Capitol Hill bring the results, which are frequently hoped.  A quiet work may not bring it. But I think there is a great temptation to say-at the time the Aswan Dam was cut off, that produced-that did not bring the Arab Republic to follow us.  It produced the opposite result.  I am afraid of these other threats.  I think it is a very dangerous, untidy world.  But we are going to have to live with it.  I think one of the ways to live with it is to permit us to function.  If we don't function, the voters will throw us out.  But don't make it impossible for us to function by legislative restraints or inadequate appropriations.

[14.] Q. Mr. President, in view of congressional sentiment towards the Alliance for Progress program, is your administration going to make any special effort to persuade the Government of Argentina not to nationalize American-owned oil companies?

THE PRESIDENT.  Well, as you know, Governor Harriman visited the Argentine, discussed the matter. It is now in negotiation. What we are concerned about is that if action is taken there will be adequate machinery for compensation, fair compensation.  We can't deny the sovereign right of a country to take action within its borders, but we can insist that there be equitable standards for compensating those whose property is taken away from them.

We are attempting to work this out with the Argentine, but the Argentine is faced, as are all of the Latin Americans, with staggering problems.  They have emerged from a military junta, Peronism, and all of the rest, and democratic election, and this was one of the commitments that was made.  So now we attempt to adjust our interests.  But we are concerned about the oil in Argentina and in Peru.

[15.] Q. You have been reported as saying you were very satisfied with the vote in Philadelphia.  Why were you satisfied?

THE PRESIDENT.  Because Mayor Tate was elected.  As John Bailey said, the Republicans had the statistics and we, the offices.  So that is why I was satisfied.

[16.] Q. Mr. President, the Fred Korth and Bobby Baker cases have prompted some serious questions about the moral and ethical climate in Washington.  What is your assessment of today's climate in Washington?

THE PRESIDENT.  I think it is always- in the first place I don't lump the two cases together.

I think that there are differences between the two cases.  I want to make that clear.  So there are differences between the cases.

Now, if you are talking about-there are always bound to be in the Government, the newspaper business, labor, and so on, farmers-there are always going to be people who can't stand the pressure of opportunity, so that-but the important point is what action is taken against them.

I think that this administration has been very vigorous in its action, and I think that we have tried to set a responsible standard.  There are always going to be people who fail to meet that standard, and we attempt to take appropriate action dealing with each case.

But Mr. Baker is now being investigated, and I think we will know a good deal more about Mr. Baker before we are through.  Other people may be investigated as time goes on.  We just try to do the best we can.  And I think that-the governmental standards, let me say, on the whole I think compare favorably with those in Washington, with those in some other parts of America.

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