November 5, 1958 – The Morning After In America – Eisenhower And The 1958 Midterm Elections
November 5, 1958 – NBC Radio News On The Hour – President Eisenhower’s Press Conference – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
November 5, 1958 – Sixty years ago this day, it was a Wednesday and it was the morning after. For some, it was a prediction that the Democrats would re-take the House and take a look at our Foreign Policy. This “blue wave” had as much to do with repudiating the efforts of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles to plunge the U.S. into conflicts in Asia and the Middle East as it did our domestic policies. In an attempt to assess the damage – President Eisenhower called a Press Conference to discuss the goings-on the previous day.
THE PRESIDENT: Please sit down. Good morning. Any questions?
Question: Merriman Smith, United Press International: Yes, sir. [Laughter] Mr. President, during the past campaign, you told the public repeatedly that the Democrats were left-wing extremists; you pictured them as apostles of wholesale reckless spending, phony doctrines, committed to demagogic excess.
Now, against that background, sir, what do you think caused the Democratic landslide, and particularly how do you propose, as you promised to do during the campaign, as head of this administration, to fight these Democrats who now are in commanding control of the House and Senate?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, first of all I must remind you, you did not read my talks accurately.
I continued to talk about the spender-wing of the Democratic Party. I was very careful. I am sure you will never find any place in my whole campaign when I talked about the Democratic Party as a whole, and in terms of accusation of any kind. The most I ever said about the Democratic Party was “split down the middle.”
Now, I did talk about the spender-wing, and apparently that didn’t make any great impression, for obviously we didn’t get enough Republican votes. But I would like to say a word about the importance of that spending to everyone in this room; and, since you are representative, I’ll say, to all of the 175 million people.
Next year we are going to have to refund $50 billion of bonds of more than 1-year length. We have, during that same time, to roll over something in the order of $23 billion worth of short-term notes, I think four times–certainly three–I forget whether it is three or four. finally, we’ve got to find more than $12 billion of new money; and, next fall, because of the seasonal way in which our income comes into the Treasury, we will have to make temporary borrowings of a considerable amount of money.
Now this, to my mind, is a very serious thing because I am convinced that the two principal spurs to inflation are, one, the continuous wage-price spiral, and the other is unnecessary Federal spending, particularly Federal deficits of the size that we had to face up to this year.
We have got to stop spending if we are going to keep further dilution of the dollar from taking place.
And I have this one conviction: all of you know the extent to which I am dedicated to the whole theory of liberty and freedom and of free enterprise, and I believe that we cannot have these concepts applied completely in our country unless we do stop this money spending. So I did inveigh against that money spending and the people–as a matter of fact, I gave quotes, so I think that I was taking them out of sort of historical record–I still do it. I believe that that kind of spending must stop or the United States is in the most serious trouble that we can think of.
Q. Edward T. Folliard, Washington Post: Mr. President, I’d like to go back to Mr. Smith’s question, but quote what you said in Los Angeles. After saying that the Democratic Party was dominated by political radicals, you said, “Either we choose left-wing government or sensible government, spendthrift government or responsible government.”
THE PRESIDENT. I said the dominant wing of the Democratic Party.
Q. Mr. Folliard: Yes. Mr. President, do you think that the people yesterday chose left-wing government rather than sensible government?
THE PRESIDENT. I think at least this: I don’t know whether they did this thing deliberately. I know this, that they obviously voted for people that I would class among the spenders, and that is what I say is going to be the real trouble. And I promise this: for the next 2 years, the Lord sparing me, I am going to fight this as hard as I know how. And if we don’t, I just say that–well, in the long run, everybody else that is responsible has got to fight it.
The conservative Democrats, the newspapers, every kind of person that has got the brains to see what is happening to this country with our loose handling of our fiscal affairs has got to fight it.
Q. Laurence H. Burd, Chicago Tribune: Mr. President, what factors do you think caused the Republican defeat and the Democratic victory?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don’t know, of course, what trends might have occurred that you really can unearth; but I’ll tell you this: I agree with what the Vice President said last night and with the Chairman of the Republican Party. The Republicans are prone to campaign very hard the last week or 2 weeks, or 2 months of an election, and they don’t fight between elections.
I believe that Mr. Alcorn is correct when he says that if the Republicans don’t start fighting this morning, this very day, for the next election, they’re going to be in a bad way. I believe this is true throughout the country.
Here is the news of November 5, 1958, along with a half-hour distillation of President Eisenhower’s Press Conference.