News Conference 64, November 14, 1963

President John F. Kennedy
State Department Auditorium
Washington, D.C.
November 14, 1963
11:00 A.M. EDT (Thursday)
270 In Attendance

  Listen to this news conference.

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, gentlemen-- and ladies.

QUESTION: 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: I regard it as serious. It is my hope that Prince Sihanouk, who must be concerned about the independence and sovereignty of this country, he has after all been involved for many years in maintaining that independence, will not decide at this dangerous point in the world 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.

QUESTION: 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, and 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 at 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, and I am hopeful that this will become quickly obvious to the Soviet Union, and they will release him.

QUESTION: Mr. President, some persons view Professor Barghoorn's arrest as a sign that the Soviets are not deliberately seizing innocent Americans with the aim of later swapping them for some of their convicted espionage agents or that the Soviets may 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,

QUESTION: Mr. President, what are the prerequisites or conditions for resumption of some sort of trade with Red China?

THE PRESIDENT: We are not planning on trade with Red China in view of the policy that Red China pursues. If 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.

QUESTION: 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: 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 and 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. I think 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.

QUESTION: 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 that he had seen Mr. Nhu, I think, only three times. He had seen President Diem on a number of occasions. That was his job, and that is what he was sent for--to work with the government in power--and 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.

QUESTION: Mr. President, 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: It is to review the situation there, because we do have a new government, we hope an increased effort in the war. The purpose of the meeting at Honolulu, which Ambassador Lodge will be there, General Harkins will be there, and others, Secretary McNamara and others, and then later, as you know, 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 Viet Namese 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 they are solved from the inside, and when the manipulation from the North is ended. So the purpose of the meeting in Honolulu is how to pursue these objectives.

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


QUESTION: And if she asks for it, will we grant her permanent residence--

THE PRESIDENT: I think we will certainly permit her to return to the United States if she wishes to.

QUESTION: Year by year, the foreign aid program seems to encounter more and more resistance in the Congress. This year we are seeing Senators who ordinarily 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.

QUESTION: 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 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 and Laos, it is usually not a Senator who is selected to bear the blame, but it is 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, and Mr. Stevenson, and Governor Dewey, and all of them, Governor Rockefeller today, and 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 $2-1/2 billion on the atomic energy program, and we spend $5 billion on space, of which at least a good percentage has a military implication in the sense of our national security, and we spend all of this money and yet we are going to deny the President of the United States a very, 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.

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 50's. 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, and the gross national product of the United States has increased $100 billion, will have by the end of this year, in a three-year period.

So what we are asking is a billion dollars less than the average program since 1947, the need today is greater, these countries are poorer, there is 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 responsibilities. 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 Curtiss-Wright case said 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, that 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 interests. That is how important I think this program is.

QUESTION: Mr. President, 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, give up in South Viet Nam, give up in Latin America.

I said before that what we are talking about in the case of the Latin American Alliance for Progress, for all of Latin America, is what is the Soviet Union and the bloc are putting into Cuba alone. Can you tell me that the United States is not able to do that? In addition, these amendments which are passed because they don't like a particular leader or a particular national policy at 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 will happen in Laos if it collapsed? Will they blame the Senate or will they blame me? I know who they will blame, so I need this program.

QUESTION: 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 to New Hampshire, 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 very formidable as a political figure.

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

THE PRESIDENT: That is right.

QUESTION: 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 there is 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 and 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 those conditions.

QUESTION: 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 field 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.

QUESTION: Mr. President, would you expand, sir, on the changes in the travel restrictions for Soviet diplomats? For example, there were five counties that were off limits during the last two 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 per cent 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 or 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 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. The Defense Department felt very strongly that this was important, for the security of the United States, or otherwise it would not have been done.

QUESTION: 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: They are all interrelated. I think there is some delay because of civil rights. That has had an effect upon the passage of appropriations bills. There is not 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 by next summer it may be.

QUESTION: Mr. President, in view of what you just said, sir, you listed certain items, you did not mention medical care for the aged. Even though Chairman Mills has promised to hold hearings this month, there does not 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 that the House can vote on it?

THE PRESIDENT: I think that we are going to get that bill out of committee, 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 18-month delivery.

QUESTION: 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 bill recognized the principle of social security. I thought it was a very valuable fob 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 this offers a good deal of hope for that bill. I think they have given it new life.

QUESTION: Mr. President, part of the disenchantment on Capitol Hill over foreign aid seems to be the feeling that the Administration had not fully used the flexibility it asks. For example, on aid to Indonesia, when President Sukarno was threatening Malaysia.

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

QUESTION: But you have not suspended it, have you, Mr. President, to the United Arab Republic, which has been defying the UN?

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

On the United Arab Republic, the United States, as you know, 80 per cent 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 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, Mr. Kenworthy, that the language that the Senate adopted, which calls upon me to make a finding which is extremely complicated to make, 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--these 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 word 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. I think we will 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.

QUESTION: Mr. President, in view of Congressional sentiments 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: As you know, Governor Harriman visited the Argentine and discussed the matter and it is now in negotiation. What we are concerned about is that if action is taken there will be adequate machinery for compensation, and 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 elections, and this was one of the commitments that was made. So now we are attempting to adjust our interests, but I am concerned about the oil in Argentine and in Peru.

QUESTION: 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 have the office. So that is why I was satisfied.

QUESTION: 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--there are always bound to be in the government, in the newspaper business, and labor and so on, with farmers--there are always going to be people who can't stand the pressure of opportunity, so that 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 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, those in Washington, with those in some other parts of America.

QUESTION: Mr. President, last week the Soviet Union in Moscow showed what they claimed was an anti-missile missile. I wonder if you could tell us what you know about that missile. Is it what they claim it is supposed to be, and also what is the effectiveness of their anti-missile system?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't think it is probably useful to discuss it in detail here. I don't think there is any doubt that they have an anti-antimissile, as do we. The problem, of course, is what you do with saturation. I don't think the Soviet Union or the United States have solved the problem of dealing, as I said before, with a whole arsenal of missiles coming at us at maximum speed, with decoys. That, up to now, has been the impossible task.

QUESTION: Mr. President, we seem to be in somewhat of a stalemate on recognizing the new regimes in two Latin American countries, the Dominican Republic and Honduras. I am wondering-- the Administration perhaps has been reluctant to tell these countries precisely what they had to do to get recognition.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we have had discussions with both countries. As you know, this is not just a matter of the United States. This is a matter of nearly the whole Hemisphere. In fact, by a vote of 18 to 1, the OAS voted to have a meeting on the problem of military coups.

We have attempted to indicate or inquire of what steps each of these two countries, the governments of the two countries, are prepared to take to return to constitutional government, which we regard as the most desirable form of government and also the one that would be most effective in meeting the challenges of the Hemisphere. We have inquired of both of them what steps they are prepared to take, when election would be, who would be in the government. So we have been working very assiduously.

QUESTION: In general terms, sir, can you say whether we would be prepared to accept the same conditions for recognition there as we did in the case of the junta in Peru, elections within one year, for example?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it would be unwise to attempt to negotiate out here, but we did recognize the junta in Peru on the assurances that they would hold elections. They did hold them and the result was very fair. So it shows that it can be done. That is what we would like to see done in these countries.

QUESTION:   Mr. President, to go back to the Russian-American problem, given the fact that our relations seem to alternate between hot and cold, the Barghoorn case and the autobahn at the moment, what do you say to those Americans who say that in such a situation we should not sell wheat to the Soviet Union? In other words, certainly not without trying to use it as a method of, say, negotiating some better arrangement on the autobahn.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think the wheat deal is desirable for us. It is desirable for the Soviet Union. I am convinced-- it may mean $200 million in balance of payments for us. It means wheat to the Soviet Union. But in view of the supplies that the Soviet Union has in its own country, in Australia, in Canada, I am not sure that the wheat can carry other loads. I think it pretty much stands on its own. It is of some benefit to us, some benefit to the Soviet Union, but this idea that other things can be hitched onto it--but quite obviously this kind of trade depends upon a reasonable atmosphere in both countries.

I think that atmosphere has been badly damaged by the Barghoorn arrest. In the case of the autobahn, this is a continuing matter over a good many years. We are going to maintain our rights in Berlin and we have made that quite clear. I expect we are going to have difficulties, and the Soviet Union may have difficulties in other matters. But Professor Barghoorn I regard as a very serious matter.

QUESTION: Mr. President, do you feel that you have a firm commitment from the Republicans and the House leadership to back and support in the Rules Committee and on the Floor every provision in the Compromise Bill approved by the House?

THE PRESIDENT: I wouldn't want to speak for them. I think they ought to speak for themselves. I will say that a substantial part of that bill bears Republican language and imprint. It wouldn't have been passed without their support. It is a bill which is Republican and Democratic. I think it is a bill which is bipartisan. I would hope it would have-- it can't pass without bipartisan support.

I would hope it would be able to maintain it on the Floor of the House, because if we don't we are not even going to get it through the House.

QUESTION: Mr. President, in view of the changed situation in South Viet Nam, do you still expect to bring back 1,000 troops before the end of the year, or has that figure been raised or lowered?

THE PRESIDENT: No, we are going to bring back several hundred before the end of the year, but I think on the question of the exact number I thought we would wait until the meeting of November 20th.

QUESTION: Mr. President, we will soon be getting some distressing news from Sao Paulo in Brazil in relation to the Alliance for Progress. The Post had a piece this morning saying that an idea has been circulated by which the Alliance would be made world-wide with the participation of Eastern European countries and the Soviet Union in this to help the Alliance reach its goals. Can you tell us in principle what you think about it?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I have never heard of that, and we are not proposing to engage in a point effort with the Eastern Europeans. That is a matter, of course, of sovereign decision, but I don't regard them as interested at all in the Alliance because the Alliance and the Charter of Punta del Este is based upon the development of free, democratic societies in Latin America, which is our objective. Their objective, of course, is different, so I don't see how you can join them in the Alliance.

QUESTION: Mr. President, several months ago you nominated David Rabinowitz to be a Federal Judge in Western Wisconsin. Since that time the American Bar Association has opposed this nomination and a majority of lawyers polled by the State Bar Association said that the was unqualified. Do you still support this nomination, or in view of this opposition are you going to withdraw?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I am for David Rabinowitz all the way. I know him very well, in fact for a number of years. The American Bar Association has been very helpful in making the judgment, but I am sure they would agree that they are not infallible. Mr. Brandeis was very much opposed. There are a good many judges who have been opposed who have been rather distinguished, and I am for David Rabinowitz.

QUESTION: Mr. President, sir, do you mean to leave the implication by your remarks on the wheat thing that if the Barghoorn case is not satisfactory--

THE PRESIDENT: No, I wouldn't attempt to. I want to get Professor Barghoorn out of prison and it seems to me the best way to do it is to confine my remarks to what I have said. I am merely saying-- in fact, I wouldn't even say it any more.

QUESTION: Mr. President, the Senators from New England met this morning in the office of Senator Kennedy and agreed to renew their annual appeal for relief on wool and for the lifting of restrictions on residual oil. What can you do and what will you do to help the people in New England on these problems?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, as I understand it, on one case there is a desire to limit imports and the other is to encourage imports. I used to take part in those meetings myself.

On the other hand--and there is a matter of concern--as a matter of fact, yesterday I met with the head of the coal producers, the Coal Association are very concerned about the imports of residual oil. But it is a fact that the imports of woolens and worsteds have gone up from about 15 to 22 or 23 per cent, so there has been a sharp increase, and it is a matter of concern. In the case of residual, we are attempting to-- that is a matter of great interest, as you know, to Venezuela, which is a country that is under Communist attack and, therefore, we have to consider that obligation as well as our obligations to the domestic coal industry. So we have not forgotten New England.

MR. MERRIMAN SMITH (UPI): Thank you, Mr. President.