Press Conference of President Kennedy's

 

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Press Conference President Kennedy August 22, 1962

 

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. I have several announcements to make.

First, two of our nuclear powered submarines have completed an historic rendezvous under the polar ice pack, and then surfaced together through a small opening in the ice at the North Pole. The submarines are the USS Skate from the Atlantic Fleet, and the USS Sea Dragon from the Pacific Fleet, and are now on their way back to the United States. This is the first time that two of our submarines have worked together in this manner under the Arctic ice pack, and I want to congratulate all of those involved in this exceptional technical feat.

Secondly, this Congress in the next weeks has an opportunity to write what I think will be a very impressive record, for there are many bills of great importance now pending before the Congress. I want to take this opportunity to stress five particularly important measures which will be acted upon very shortly.

First, the farm bill, which the Senate passed today, gives us an opportunity to bring some sense and reason and control into an area which has been marked by excesses and chaos in recent years. It extends for another year our presently successful feed grain program while repealing the 1958 Benson feed grain approach, and gives us our new wheat program essentially as we originally requested it, and it contains other important steps towards a wiser use of our land resources and rural area development.

Secondly, the drug bill, which has been tightened in the Senate Judiciary Committee, much along the lines that I requested, will give us every safeguard to protect our American citizens.

And third, a constitutional amendment to outlaw the poll tax in federal elections will be taken up by the House of Representatives on Monday, where a two thirds vote is essential if we are to finally eliminate this outmoded and arbitrary bar to voting. American citizens should not have to pay to vote.

Fourth, the trade expansion bill, the most important measure to be considered by many a Congress, must pass the Senate with bipartisan support as it did the House and without restrictive amendments that will make it impossible for us to bargain for our factories and our farms into the Common Market.

Fifth and finally, the UN bond issue, as I have said many times, poses a test of this nation's good faith in supporting the peace-keeping efforts of the UN and opposing those who try to starve it to death. This bill has had overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate and in the House Foreign Affairs Committee. But this is one of the issues that is not Democratic or Republican, but is American. This bill will help the UN and will help the United States. It will save us money in the long run, and will help keep the peace, which is most important. I am confident it will be approved by all thoughtful members of both parties in the House.

QUESTION: Mr. President, Russia has announced the abolition of its commandant's office in Berlin. I wonder if you can give us your appraisal of the meaning and importance of this action, and what you think the Western Powers should do as a result of this action.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I believe the Department of State has already issued a statement, and in that statement they indicated we were going to be consulting with the British and French who also bear a responsibility. I think our statement indicated, certainly our view, that the Soviet action can not unilaterally affect our rights, which are quadripartite in Berlin. This will be the central theme of our response.

QUESTION: Mr. President, I wondered, could you tell us your general feeling about countries which receive aid from the United States and still do business with the Communist Bloc nations? Specifically, do you think a country receiving aid from us has a moral right to engage in business deals for military or economic purposes with the Communist Bloc countries?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that nearly every country that I know of engages in economic deals with the Communist Bloc. There are other countries which we have for a long period of time assisted which have also received-- which we assisted economically, which have received assistance of various kinds from the Communist Bloc. So that I don't think it is a moral issue. I think we have to make a judgment as to what serves our interest, whether the country is attempting to maintain its freedom, whether the country is pursuing policies which are not inimical to the long-range interests of the United States.

We make that independent judgment on each occasion. I know that I can judge the countries that you are thinking of, and I would say that at least in one country which I assume you are thinking of, we have felt that the assistance which we have given them has helped maintain a very significant country, if you are thinking of the question of India, while the matter of military assistance has not been settled as I understand it in India, most of their assistance in the past having come from the British, it is an extremely large country, 450 million, extremely important. It is free and it is non-Communist and it has indicated it is going to attempt to maintain its freedom, and therefore I think it is in our interest to support it because if it ever passed behind the Iron Curtain, if the present efforts to maintain democracy should fail, then I would think the cause of freedom would have been very adversely affected, not only in Asia, but all through the underdeveloped world.

QUESTION: Mr. President, the Soviet Union's latest exploit, the launching of two men within 24 hours, seems to have caused a great deal of pessimism in the United States. You hear people say that we are now a poor second to Russia. How do you size up the situation, Mr. President, for the present and the future?

THE PRESIDENT: We are second to the Soviet Union in long-range boosters. I have said from the beginning we started late. We have been behind. It is a tremendous job to build a booster of the size that the Soviet Union is talking about, and also have it much larger size, which we are presently engaged in the Saturn program. So we are behind and we are going to be behind for a while. But I believe that before the end of this decade is out, the United States will be ahead. But it is costing us a tremendous amount of money. We are presently making a tremendous effort in research and development. But we just might as well realize that when we started last, last year as you know we made a decision to go to the moon, with bipartisan support, and it is going to take us quite a while to catch up with a very advanced program which the Soviets are directing and there is no indication the Soviets are going to quit.

So there they started with a lead and they determined to maintain it. We have started late, and we are trying to not only-- we are trying to overtake them, and I think by the end of the decade we will, but we are in for some further periods when we are going to be behind. Anybody who attempts to suggest that we are not behind misleads the American people.

We are well behind, but we are making a tremendous effort. We increased, after I took office, after four months, we increased the budget for

space by 50 per cent over that of my predecessor. The fact of the matter is that this year we submitted a space budget which was greater than the combined eight space budgets of the previous eight years. So this country is making a vast effort which is going to be much bigger next year, and the years to come, and represents a very heavy burden upon us all. But we might as well recognize that we are behind now and we are going to be for a while. What we have to do is concentrate our efforts. I think we are doing that, but we can always do better.

QUESTION: Mr. President, in that same area, would you agree with Senator Cannon and others who believe that the space program not only should be expanded, but should be militarized in some thing like a Manhattan District crash program?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, now, we are sending, for military purposes in space, three times what we were in 1960, about $1.5 billion. The two--at least at present--the two important points that should be kept in mind are, one, the ability to build a large booster which can put a larger satellite into the atmosphere. That is being done. NASA is doing that, although there has been, of course, under the TITAN 3 contract a booster program for the military.

In addition, the guidance, navigation, et cetera , et cetera, is extremely important. That we are making a major effort in. So that I recognize that there are those who oppose this program and then suddenly a month later say we ought to suddenly go ahead on a different basis. The fact of the matter is that 40 per cent of the R&D funds in this country are being spent for space, and that is a tremendous amount of money and a tremendous concentration of our scientific effort.

I am not saying that we can't always do better, but I think the American people ought to understand the billions of dollars we are talking about, which I believe a month ago was mentioned as a great boondoggle. I think it is important, vital, and there is a great interrelationship between space, military, and the peaceful use of space. But we are concentrating on the peaceful use of space which will also help us protect our security if that becomes essential.

QUESTION: Mr. President, it has been almost a year since you nominated Thurgood Marshall for the Federal Bench. Senator Keating of New York charges that the subcommittee hearing this nomination is delaying it by ridiculous and unlawyer-like questions. Do you share the Senator's view on the holdup on this confirmation?

THE PRESIDENT: I think it has been much too much delayed. I am confident, in fact. I am sure that the Senate will not adjourn, and I have been given those assurances that the Senate will not adjourn without action being taken by the United States Senate on the Thurgood Marshall appointment. When it does come to a vote, and it will, it is my judgment the Senate will confirm him overwhelmingly.

In regard to Senator Keating, I do think it is interesting to point out that there were seven Circuit Court vacancies during the previous Administration, which the Senator from New York had something to say about the appointments to those, and Thurgood Marshall was not nominated on any of those occasions.

QUESTION: Mr. President, could you say anything about the letter which you have written to Chancellor Adenauer, which was delivered yesterday? There is a certain difficulty here for us because so often in the exchange of these letters, the word of it first comes out in Bonn, and it necessarily reflects the German point of view, and we are somewhat at a disadvantage to present the point of view of our own Government.

THE PRESIDENT: No, I wrote Chancellor Adenauer a letter. It was a general statement of our policy and of our interest in satisfactory relations with the West German people, and also an attempt to respond to some of the rumors which had been discussed at a previous press conference in regard to possible changes in strategic policy or tactical policies by the United States in Western Europe. Those are the matter we dealt with, and I think that it would be-- I don't think it is customary to release a letter from the sender to the receiver. I don't know whether the letter is going to be released, but I think it is in the hands of the receiver.

QUESTION: Mr. President, would you say what military significance, if any, you see in the recent Soviet double orbiting, and also in view of the fact that we are spending about twice as much money for civilian space activity as for military activity, do you expect any possible change in this ratio?

THE PRESIDENT: We are considering in the Defense Department whether there are further steps that might be taken to protect our security, but I want to emphasize that the distinction which is made by some, and perhaps suggested by your question, does not seem to me to be wholly applicable. The important things at the present time, as I said, are the size of the booster and the size of satellite, and the navigational control.

Now, those are carried on by both the Defense Department and by NASA, but of course the information is interrelated, and also whatever skills we acquire in those three areas are interrelated and serve many purposes.

QUESTION: Mr. President, do you see any military significance?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, of course, we are not quite clear as to what the military significance will be, because at the present time it is possible to send a missile from one country to another with a warhead, and with a great degree of accuracy. But it is very possible that there will develop military significance, and it is for that reason that the military program is being carried on at $1.5 billion. And there is also of course the benefits we get from the civilian space program which we are spending many millions of dollars on in these three areas, which can tie in, if necessary, into the military field.

QUESTION: Mr. President, it has been well over a year now since you met Chairman Khrushchev at Vienna. The Berlin affair seems to be blowing up toward a cold winter of some sort. There are rumors that he may come to the UN this fall. If in fact he did, do you think it would be useful about that time for you to have another talk with him?

THE PRESIDENT: I think it would be unwise to attempt to make a judgment. I don't know whether he is coming. We have received no information about it. Of course, if he did come, he would be-- I would hope I would have a chance to talk with him. But I haven't heard that he is coming and we have no information to that effect. But I hope to see, whatever heads of government that come in the fal for the UN session I would hope to see.

QUESTION: Mr. President, there have been reports, sir, that you are considering some more non-political journeys around the country, specifically this time to the urban centers such as Chicago, Cleveland and Philadelphia, to deal with urban renewal problems. Can you comment on these reports?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we haven't made any judgment about it, though the matter has been considered. I thought the trip, the non-political trip, of last weekend was useful. In addition, in early September we have the anniversary of the Housing Act, but we haven't made any judgment as to whether it should be appropriately celebrated by such a trip.

QUESTION: Mr. President, at the present time there are 97 Ambassadors, of which two are Negroes. In view of the fact that this is the same number as the previous administration, and you have made significant strides in the domestic field as far as rights are concerned, how do you feel about the fact that it is only 2 percent and do you think this should be changed?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I think we should, definitely; definitely, we should, not only in the higher ambassadorial level, but all through the Department, as well as the AID agency. I quite agree we have to do better.

QUESTION: Mr. President, after your conference with Mayor Wagner last week, there were reports that you had agreed to endorse Robert Morgenthau as the Democratic Gubernatorial nominee in New York. This, presumably, is an election of some considerable importance to you. Can you tell us, do you have a preference for this election and who it might be?

THE PRESIDENT: No, and I wouldn't take any position on the matter until the Democratic Convention meets in mid-September. I think the choice ought to be made there.

QUESTION: Mr. President, referring to the recent disclosures by Wright Patman, do you think that the Ford or Rockefeller Foundation, or any other tax-exempt foundation, should be able to control the ownership of a large segment of the business community by owning manufacturing plants and retail establishments and such?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, Mr. Patman made several points. Of course, he was critical of some foundations which are being used as tax dodges or for the purposes which you suggested. Other foundations, certainly the two that you named, of course, that is not true. I think his only point there was the rather enormous amount of money contained in both foundations and, therefore, the effect that this might have upon the economy. But I was most particularly interested in the first point, which is whether some foundations are being used as a tax dodge or as a method of avoiding taxes and all the rest, and I think that what we are now examining is whether this is a question of tighter administration by the Internal Revenue, which Mr. Kaplan is looking into, or whether we need new legislation.

On the other hand, I think it fairness to point out that this is an extraordinary development, these foundations, and have done a tremendous job in wide ranges in a most efficient way. So I think we want to be fair, but we want to be sure to catch those who are penalizing the others.

QUESTION: Mr. President, sir, I wonder if you could tell us whether or not the $100 million in UN bonds which you want the Congress to vote, if you can guarantee that that will not be used for military action against the Katanga, in Katanga, with a repetition of some of the atrocities that have been verified by such eye witnesses as the reporter Smith Hempstone and others.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, the purpose of the loan, as you know, is to prevent the United Nations from collapsing, which it will economically unless we are able to secure this special fund, which will come partly from the United States and partly from the other countries. The long-range financing of the United Nations we put on a sounder basis, we hope, as a result of the decision of the court, the World Court.

Now, on the question of the Katanga, I have supported the effort of the UN to prevent a complete chaos and dissolution in the Congo which, in my opinion, would lead to the setting up of a radical, possibly undemocratic government in the Congo. So that I feel the most important step now that can be taken is by Mr. Adoula, Mr. Tshombe, joining together in a constitutional arrangement which will provide for an accord in the Congo.

But I can just assure you that if the UN is denied funds, it will mean the collapse of peaceful efforts not only in the Congo, but in many other parts of the world. The recent agreement over West Irian was carried on under the auspices of U Thant. I would think this money is vitally important, and I cannot accept such an immediate identification as your question suggests between this fund and atrocities.

QUESTION: Mr. President, some months ago from this platform you announced the stockpiling investigation. It is now well along. What do you think of the case that the committee has made out again Mr. Humphrey?

THE PRESIDENT: I thought that everyone should read Senator Engle's speech. I thought it was clear and indicated that matters should be looked into further.

QUESTION: Mr. President, was there any significance in your omission of the 1962 tax bill in your list of desirable legislation? Does it mean—

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, no: no, I was just thinking really of the bills coming up in the next seven days. I was not attempting to set out a program for the Congress, which I did suggest in my speech a week ago. I am just talking about the bills which will be before the Congress within the next week.

QUESTION: Is that coming up now?

THE PRESIDENT: But the tax bill, if it comes up next week in the Senate, definitely, of course, is one of our priority items.

But I mentioned the trade bill because it seems to me it is in a very important stage now, being considered by the committee. What concerns me most about the trade bill is if we will get a trade bill, we may get a bill so limited, which so circumscribed our negotiating power, that we will have the shadow of a bill and not the substance and to attempt to protect our markets abroad, which in this last feet months we have had a tremendous balance, export balance, over imports, if we fail to get the power that we need, it will be a very bad blow to us all. So that is the reason I separated that from the tax bill, which I am hopeful will pass also.

QUESTION: Do you think the withholding is an important part of the tax bill?

THE PRESIDENT: It is very desirable. I think, as you know, they have an alternate language suggested by Senator Byrd which will bring in some money. I don't think it is as effective as the withholding, however., and I am sorry that the Senate has not, or at least the Senate Committee, did not accept withholding. Sooner or later we will. I am confident if we don't do it this session, we are going to, because it is quite logical that those who receive money should pay their taxes in the same way that people who receive wages find their taxes withheld.

QUESTION: Mr. President, sir, are you going to take any further action to end the missile strike at Huntsville?

THE PRESIDENT: As you know, the National Labor Relations Board is involved with an injunction there, and the Missile Committee and Mr. Goldberg is involved, and I am very hopeful those men will go back to work. I think it is a great mistake for them personally, and also it is a great loss to the country. The strike should be ended definitely and they all should return.

QUESTION: Mr. President, the National Committee For An Effective Congress, in a recent statement, said that the candidacy of Edward M. Kennedy for the Senate in Massachusetts has hurt you personally politically, and has hurt the Democratic Party nationally. Now the suggestion is that you could have headed off your brother's candidacy if you had wished.

Do you have any comment on this?

THE PRESIDENT: I think the people of Massachusetts can make a more effective judgment for a more effective Congress than even this committee. I think that they will.

QUESTION: Mr. President, two months ago you invited the Nation to join in a great debate on economic myths and realities in pursuit of fresh ideas and fresh thinking.

Could you tell us first if you are satisfied with the response and, second, if you have any plans or proposals for uplifting that debate?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I think we can always-- we need a good deal more light on it, this matter. I think that the Joint Economic Committee hearings have been very useful. The discussions by not only Americans but by Europeans of our fiscal and monetary policies have been very beneficial, and I think that there is a good deal more consideration being given to them now than there has been in the past. We can do a lot more about it.

I intend to continue to discuss what the proper mix should be under certain economic conditions, but it is quite a long struggle to try to chance the thinking which has been driven into us for so many years. The concept-- I talked to a distinguished banker the other day who was one of those who most strongly believed that the fiscal deficit of 1962 was going to bring inflation in the winter and spring of 1962. Now he agrees that, of course, that didn't happen, so we have got to attempt to make a more successful judgment and try to determine what should be both our interest rate policy and also our debt policy in times of economic slowdown.

QUESTION: Mr. President, what do you think of former President Hoover's suggestion that a council of free nations be formed to supplement the United Nations and to act when Communist obstruction prevents the UN from acting?

THE PRESIDENT: We have been attempting to do that, of course, through the OAS, NATO, SEATO, and CENTO, and I think that we could certainly consider means of improving those agencies. I think one of the problems which we now have is how to improve NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Council, DECD, and all of the rest, and I hope we can improve the functioning of the OAS.

It isn't really a question of a new organization as much as breathing new life and a community spirit into the organizations that we have. But I thought President Hoover's speech was worthy of a good deal of thought by us.

QUESTION: Mr. President, do you have any information or indication that Communist-bloc troops or new supplies of any kind have been landed in Cuba recently?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, new supplies definitely, in large quantities. Troops, we do not have information, but an increased number of technicians.

QUESTION: What is the significance of this, in your opinion?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we are examining it now.

QUESTION: Do you think it is aimed at any other Central American country?

THE PRESIDENT: No, there is no evidence of that. And we are not talking about-- as far as the numbers, we are not talking about the kind of entrants in numbers which would provide support for the sort of operation you suggested. What we are talking about are supplies and technicians of rather intensive quantity in recent weeks.

QUESTION: Mr. President, the Acoma Indians of New Mexico recently asked the Government to send Peace Corps technicians to their reservation. They were turned down. In view of the extensive efforts being made abroad, why can't we extend this kind of service to Indian groups within our own borders that are every bit as depressed as some of the foreign groups that we are helping?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I am not familiar with that. I think-- the Peace Corps was set up to be sent abroad. Mr. Shriver and others have suggested setting up a Peace Corps at home and we have now been looking into that. But I haven't heard of this proposal. Whether we should particularly do it with the Indians I think is worth looking at.

QUESTION: Mr. President, can you tell us how much time you expect to be devoting to the campaign this fall?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I can't, but I will be devoting some of my time in October and in late September.

QUESTION: Mr. President, speaking of non-political matters, as you were a minute ago, the recent defeat of Congressman Frazier in Tennessee and the very close call of Congressman Loser have been blamed by some of the labor groups on their opposition to your bill Medicare through the higher social security taxes.

Are you pleased with these results and do you agree with that analysis and do you think you will use this issue a little bit more in the other races?

THE PRESIDENT: I have always said that I thought health care for the aged would be a very important issue this fall, and that the American people would make a judgment. I think that that will certainly be one of the factors they will take into consideration in deciding which members they will support. I think this bill is essential, very valuable, very important, very responsible, and I think it will be an important issue in the fall, and I think it has been proven already to be.

QUESTION: Mr. President, I understand that airlines between the United States and Europe are already heavily booked for U.S. tourist travel to Europe as soon as the lower fares go into effect in the fall. My questions are two:

First, are you concerned about this heavy spending and what it is going to do to our gold reserves for the last quarter of the year; and (2) do you think that service families will be happy to be separated from their military husband fathers who are again being sent to Europe, this time for a six-month tour, starting in October, when they read of other Americans free spending in Europe while they are being kept home to save the gold drain?

THE PRESIDENT: I think it is very difficult for a good many of them to understand the difference between the burdens and obligations put on those in the public service and the freedom which is available to those in private life. We lose a billion dollars a year in our balance of payments between what we spend abroad as tourists and what we spend-- what tourists spend here, but Americans move freely and I think we have to do the best we can to bring our balance of payments into balance.

We are asking the servicemen to accept this sacrifice. We have not attempted to limit Americans going abroad, and I don't think that it would be desirable. We are trying to emphasize the freedom of goods to move, people to move, and all the rest, capital to move, and we are hopeful, however, as I have said before, that by the end of 1963 we will have brought our balance of payments into sufficient balance to permit American troops greater freedoms than they now have in this regard.

QUESTION: Mr. President, you spoke of the increased supplies going to Cuba. What countries are they going there from?

THE PRESIDENT: The bloc.

QUESTION: Mr. President, would you comment on George Humphrey's charge that the stockpiling investigation is a stab at the back of President Eisenhower, and also do you think that the profits made by his Hanna Nickel Company are the unconscionable profits that you referred to back in January?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, they are extremely large profits with very little risk to the company, extremely large profits. Of course, the Hanna Company, itself, was investigated, not Mr. Humphrey as a responsible official of the Hanna Company, so I don't really see how-- I can quite understand the desire of some witnesses to identify themselves with President Eisenhower or to limit the investigation by charging that it is an attack on President Eisenhower, but I think the Congress ought to do its job.

There are billions and billions involved in this stockpiling and I think it is important that the American people know how much was paid and who made the money out of it. That was done in this case and there will be other cases coming up after the Hanna case, because there are other very large profits involved by a good many other people.

QUESTION: Mr. President, four months ago you nominated former Governor Almond of Virginia to the U.S. Court of Customs and Patent Appeals. Since that time the Senate Judiciary Committee has done nothing whatever towards his confirmation. I wonder if you will comment on that situation and also if you will say whether you plan to make a recess appointment if the Senate fails to act.

THE PRESIDENT: I don't quite understand why the Senate is failing to act. Governor Almond is a distinguished Governor of Virginia. It was my understanding when his name was sent up there that there was no objection by the Senators involved. I regret very much that the Senate isn't acting. I hope it will before the Senate has ended. I will make a judgment on what we do if it doesn't act at that time, but I am still hopeful that the Senate will act, because I think Governor Almond will be a very good judge.

QUESTION: As a result of your agreement with President Sukarno, Mr. President, you have sent an economic survey team to Indonesia known as the Humphrey Mission. Would you comment on the content or recommendations of the Humphrey report?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I think we better wait until the matter has been examined by the Government.

THE PRESS: Thank you, Mr. President.

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