Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Oral History Interview with
George M. Elsey

Commander, U.S. Naval Reserve, and duty officer, White House Map Room, 1941-46; Assistant to the Special Counsel to the President, 1947-49; Administrative Assistant to the President, 1949-51; Assistant to the Director, Mutual Security Agency, 1951-53.

July 10, 1969
Jerry N. Hess

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Elsey Oral History Transcripts | List of Subjects Discussed]

This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.

Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. [45]) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.

This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.

Opened 1974
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Elsey Oral History Transcripts | List of Subjects Discussed]

Oral History Interview with
George M. Elsey

Washington, DC
July 10, 1969
Jerry N. Hess


ELSEY: This interview will be based upon a questionnaire submitted to me by Mr. John E. Hopkins of the College of Communications, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio. Jack Hopkins is a candidate for Ph.D. and is working in the field of speech preparation and he has submitted to me a number of questions regarding the preparation of speeches for President Truman. I have requested permission from Mr. Hopkins to make a copy of my responses available to the Truman Library and, hence, this interview will be available both to Mr. Hopkins and to the Truman Library staff. I am requesting the Truman Library staff to keep it closed until December 31, 1970. Following that time, it will be opened to all under the normal rules that prevail at the Truman Library.

The question numbers that I shall refer to are those as listed in Jack Hopkins' questionnaire [see Appendix A], a copy of which is attached to the transcript of this interview.

The first question asks what my undergraduate and graduate school academic majors and minors were. My undergraduate degree was received from Princeton University in 1939. I majored in history. It had been my expectation


that I would teach history at the college level, American history, and so my undergraduate major was in European history. My graduate school work, at Harvard, from 1939 to '41 was in the field of American history.

Jack has asked me to identify two or three academic courses, undergraduate and graduate, that were of particular value to me in preparing presidential addresses for Mr. Truman. I have no special courses that come to mind in response to that question. I feel that the breadth of study that one has in history, world history, European history, American history, is of enormous value because of the scope of one's thinking, the background, the breadth of vision that history, in my prejudiced view, gives one, but I'm not able to put my finger on any particular course that had any more value than any other single one.

As for extra-curricular activities that were of particular value in preparing presidential addresses, I recall none that I would specifically identify. I was involved in some college publications. I was president of a history club and the other normal undergraduate and graduate school activities, but I do not think any of them were particularly helpful.

Question four asks what factors influenced my


personal theory of speechwriting and speechmaking. I think that this is perhaps too philosophical, or too professional a question for me. I don't believe I have any theory of speechwriting or speechmaking. I have some ideas now, based upon my own personal experiences in the last twenty years of fairly extensive public speaking, but I certainly had no theories, as such, in the period that I was working for President Truman. The work that I did on his staff was very practical. My ideas were purely pragmatic, how to get the job done and how to do it most effectively for the "Boss." I believe that I will be elaborating on this further on in the questionnaire.

Question five addresses itself to formal training in the areas of journalism, radio, television, and so on. I had no formal training at any point either prior to or subsequent to my work on the White House staff. In the fields of political science, government, and history, I have already alluded to that in my first and second questions.

Question six, again, is a rather technical one asking for information on my formal training or experience in developing arguments, structuring ideas logically,


adapting to President Truman's language and style. I had no formal training here. The experience was simply on the job experience with respect to meeting the needs of Truman as they arose.

Question seven asks for my business and professional positions held prior to joining the President's staff. I had no professional jobs before joining the President's staff. I went directly from graduate school, in the fall of 1941, into active duty in the Naval Reserve. I was assigned, in early 1942, as a Naval Intelligence officer to the Map Room at the White House and was there for three years, from '42 to '45, and, hence, had been at the White House for three years in a naval capacity, at the time that Truman succeeded to the Presidency in April of 1945. The closest thing I would say to background or training that was of benefit to me in working on presidential messages, documents, speeches, perhaps was the writing of precis, of reports, during those Map Room years. We received, in the Map Room, an enormous volume of intelligence material from the Army and Navy and less voluminous amounts from other Government departments. Those of us who were on duty, all of us young Reserve officers, had to digest these


voluminous reports into very short summaries for the Military and Naval Aides to the President, the chief of staff to the President, who was Fleet Admiral Leahy; Mr. Harry Hopkins, special assistant to the President, and President Roosevelt, and subsequently President Truman. Just the experience of editing, of summarizing, I think--I know, was of value to me in learning to express complex ideas as simply as possible and in handling large amounts of material and distilling the essence, the most important ideas, from this material. During the war years when President Roosevelt, and later Truman, was away from Washington, the Map Room staff would send shore written summaries by coded military channels of communication to the President wherever he was, whether it was Warm Springs, Hyde Park or overseas on one of the military conferences. This, again, was a matter of learning how to make the most of every single word, have it convey the maximum amount of meaning in the most limited space. So, perhaps this background is of, was of some value to me. I happen to think it was. Obviously, this was not direct speech preparation experience, however.

Jack's question eight asks for my business and professional positions since working for the President.


I remained on at the White House through the Truman administration. In 1953 on leaving Government, at the onset of the Eisenhower administration, I joined the headquarters of the American National Red Cross. I was executive assistant to Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker when he was president of the Red Cross, subsequently General Alfred N. Gruenther when he succeeded Bunker. In 1958 I became vice president of the Red Cross with responsibility for its international programs and its educational programs. In 1961 I resigned from the Red Cross to enter private industry and from 1961 to the present, I have been associated with Pullman, Inc. I was on leave of absence from Pullman for most of the past year serving with Clark M. Clifford while he was Secretary of Defense.

Questions nine, ten and eleven ask about association with Mr. Truman prior to his assuming the Presidency. I had no contact with Mr. Truman prior to his becoming Vice President in January l945. I met him a few times in a most informal fashion between the November elections and inauguration in '45, but I recall having seen him only twice during the few weeks that he was Vice President. I did not work in any fashion with him or with members of his staff.


Question twelve asks for my official duties and responsibilities as a staff member during the Truman administration. I can only answer that by running through the chronology here because my duties and responsibilities varied from time to time. As noted above, I was a Naval Reserve officer in April l945 when Truman became President, serving at that time as assistant to Vice Admiral Wilson Brown, the Naval Aide to the President. I accompanied Mr. Truman to the Potsdam Conference. By the time he returned from that, the war with Japan was practically over, and so during the fall of 1945, I was working with the new Naval Aide Commodore James K. Vardaman and his assistant, Lieutenant Commander Clark N. Clifford, on many matters relating to demobilization. During the fall of '45 President Truman was much interested in universal military training and began to concern himself, among, of course, his many other new responsibilities, with the postwar organization of the armed forces. He asked Vardaman, and Vardaman in turn asked Clifford, to begin analyzing the many proposals in these two fields, universal military training and postwar organization of the armed forces, prepare summaries for him, write assessments of the


value of different proposals, and I worked with Mr. Clifford in the fall of '45 on into the spring of '46 on these and related matters. In the spring of 1946 Clifford became Naval Aide to the President, Vardaman having moved over to the Federal Reserve Board. I became Clifford's assistant and served, still in uniform, both for Clifford and other members of the White House staff increasingly on civilian matters, not just naval, as theretofore. Clifford became, in the summer of '46, Special Counsel to the President, and I continued as a Naval Reserve commander, by this time spending about three-quarters of my time with Clifford and one-quarter of my time with the new Naval Aide to the President, James K. Foskett. In the spring of "47 I was demobilized and went to work full-time as a civilian for Mr. Clifford, remaining as his assistant until 1949 when I was named one of the Administrative Assistants to President Truman. I was an Administrative Assistant to Truman until December of 1951. At that time Averell Harriman was named director for Mutual Security, a new post just established by law, and the job was prescribed by law as being in the Executive Office of the President. Harriman had the responsibility of pulling together the various foreign aid programs of the Government, point 4 or


technical assistance, or the Marshall plan, military assistance to foreign nations. These several programs had been administered by State, Defense, and an independent agency. They were going their several ways without much coordination and this was a situation that had to be remedied and Harriman's position, as I said, was established by the Congress so there would be one strong official with full legal authority to pull together these several programs. I had known Harriman since the war years and Harriman asked me to leave the immediate White House staff and join him in the Executive Office of the President as his senior assistant. And I remained with Harriman until January 1953 at the end of the Truman administration.

As to describing my official duties and responsibilities, I think, perhaps, there one can deduce them simply from the outline of jobs I held during that period. Obviously, they varied enormously. When you work for the Special Counsel to the President, or when you are an Administrative Assistant to the President, there is no limit to what you're involved in, speeches, writing of statements of messages to Congress, drafting of legislation, representing the White House staff at


interdepartmental meetings, working with the Bureau of the Budget. Across the board there was literally no field of the President's responsibilities or the White House role that at one time or another, I and others, young staff members such as I was, were not exposed to. I'm sorry I can't be more precise, but it's impossible to be precise without spending the next hour listing a lot of minutiae.

Question thirteen asks my first speech preparation duties while on the Truman presidential staff. I'm not sure I recall what the first speech was that I was concerned with. Actually, I had provided some raw material and had done a bit of editing even in the Roosevelt days on statements and speeches that pertained to the conduct of the war. Now Harry Hopkins asked me to give him some comments on materials that he had from time to time. Judge Rosenman, who was Special Counsel to President Roosevelt during most of World War II and for some months into the Truman administration, similarly would turn to me to provide factual material, obtain factual material for him from the War or Navy Department, or sometimes to put that material into a rough draft, sometimes to comment on that draft of material that he


already had. When Clifford, in the fall of '45, began working on universal military training, he found himself very soon providing material for presidential statements and speeches on UMT, on military matters, and just through natural evolution, I found myself just carrying on what I had been doing in the Roosevelt years. In '46 the Truman White House staff was still not very well organized, the carryovers from the Roosevelt administration were mostly gone, President Truman had not yet assembled a fully developed team of his own and all of us were scrambling around pinch-hitting, catching the balls as they flew past if we could catch them and sometimes we didn't. So, I really can't say what the first speech was. I do not recall which speech I would say was the first of the Truman ones I worked on. I can say that the first major policy speech for which I had an assigned, definite responsibility to develop from scratch, was the Truman State of the Union message for January 1947. And since Jack Hopkins has asked a number of questions about the State of the Union, I'll defer any further comment on that one until we get to that point in the questionnaire.

Question fourteen asks for subsequent changes in


my speech preparation duties while on Truman's staff. Well, that would imply that there was a degree of orderly sequence in my speech preparation duties and the implication is wrong. There is nothing very orderly about how we went about, how we prepared our presidential speeches. Sometimes I would have the assignment to draft a speech from the first word. Other times I would find myself editing material that had come over from the State Department or one of the other departments. Sometimes I would be involved at a second or third draft stage of a speech that had been developed by another member of the White House staff. There is no specific chronological time that these, that I can assign to these activities. I was doing any or all of these in the early Truman years, say '47 and '48 just as in the later Truman years, '51, '52, even after I was working for Harriman I would still work with Charlie Murphy, Dave Bell, Dave Lloyd, Dick Neustadt, on Truman speeches.

In Section B Jack Hopkins' questions relate to speech preparation data. B-I reads: "What criteria were employed to decide when, where and to whom, and what type of speech was to be delivered by Mr. Truman?"


I do not think it's possible to give a single set of criteria in answer to that question. Some presidential speeches are delivered just because the President is head of State. There are formal occasions, an Armistice Day speech, a speech that is given simply because Presidents are expected to give them. We don't spend too much time worrying, usually, about the content of the speech, this subject matter, the lighting of the Christmas tree on the south lawn of the White House for example. The content of the speech is pretty much dictated by the occasion. It would be regarded as poor taste to use a Christmas tree lighting (I'm picking that just as an example), for a formal policy speech. Certainly, that would not be the occasion when you would make a political speech. On the other hand, when you're addressing a group of Democrats at a Jefferson-Jackson Day rally, the purpose of which is to raise money, or to build up a head of steam for an impending election, obviously the content of that speech is wholly different. So, it is the occasion that decides the type of speech that a President is going to give.

In addition to these set occasions that a President is expected to give, either as head of State, or head of


party, or as the chief in all matters pertaining to foreign relations, there are other occasions that the pace of political events force upon him. The President may find that his legislative program is encountering a very heavy going on the Hill and it's necessary to rally some public opinion to put a little backbone in members of his own party to castigate his opponents whether they are in his own party or the other party, and the President, in a case like that, will be on the lookout for a suitable occasion in which he can say what he feels needs to be said to get his program going on the Hill. There are other times when foreign affairs lead the President and his advisors to believe that, as President of the United States he ought to take a strong stand on behalf of the country. There is no, to repeat what I said earlier, no single set of criteria that I can think of which are wholly responsible to the type of speech. It is the circumstances, the occasion, the time, that determines the type of speech, whether it is going to be a platitudinous speech, whether it's going to be an angry political speech, whether it's going to be a forthright speech of a national leader, these are determined by the events of the moment and the circumstances.


My answer to the second question in this set is on a comparable basis. Who are responsible for the decisions as to where, when and what kind of speech the President would deliver? Well, obviously the President himself was ultimately responsible and no one on the White House staff in the Truman days would ever have thought of committing Truman to making a speech without his full knowledge, or full participation in the decision and consent. One simply didn't book the President for a speech without his knowing all about it. Now, as to who was responsible for advising the President, I think I've largely--the answer is implicit in what I have just said in answer to the preceding question. If it's of a foreign policy nature, obviously the President would be expecting advice from his Secretary of State; perhaps the Secretary of Defense if military matters are regarded as being very heavily involved. If it's of a political nature, the President, President Truman always consulted his friends, his closest friends and advisers on the Hill. After the '48 elections Barkley was a very key man; Sam Rayburn always was insofar as Truman was concerned in advising where and when the President ought to speak out on a political matter. Of course, he consulted if it was


partisan politics, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee and those members of the immediate White House staff who were closest to him on political matters, in particular Matthew J. Connelly, the Appointments Secretary. President Truman looked to his Special Counsels. In sequence, they were Sam Rosenman, carried over from the FDR days; then Clifford, and then Charles Murphy, after February 1950 when Murphy succeeded Clifford. These three, insofar as any single official in the White House family was concerned, these three, in sequence, were the principal speechwriters, speech preparors, speech editors for Harry Truman and, although they might not always be the ones to advise Truman or to urge Truman to make a speech, once he decided to do it, they inevitably and invariably, were involved in the preparation of the speech.

I think the third question: What criteria were employed to select and narrow the topic on which the speech would be developed? Again, has been answered by what we have just been covering. The occasion, the reason, the motivation for the speech, largely, determined what the topic would be and the form in which the topic would be developed.


The fourth question: Who selected and narrowed the topic? Again, this was determined by the occasion. Why was the President speaking? Was he on a campaign trip? Was he raising money? Was he giving mother's day greetings? All this was determined by the personnel, who largely were determined by the occasion. If it was an agriculture speech, obviously, the Secretary of Agriculture would have sent over the material. It would then be whipped into shape by the staff at the White House. But as to who selected or narrowed the topic, I really can't say anything more than, it would be determined by the basic motivation that inspired the decision to make a speech in the first place.

Question five: Describe the timing and sequence of procedures employed in the development of the State of the Union and the inaugural address. Each of the State of the Union messages was different. The first Truman State of the Union message was January 1946. This was a long message. In my personal opinion, it was pretty much a scissors and paste job, put together by Sam Rosenman, largely from materials that had been sent to him at his request by the various Cabinet members. As I recall it, and I've not had an occasion to look at it for many


years now, it was very long and lacked very much style or cohesiveness. It was just bits and pieces scotch taped together.

The January 1947 State of the Union was the responsibility of Clifford, who in turn, had me, as his assistant, do the initial spade work. I had been very much perturbed and concerned in the spring, a year earlier, in the closing weeks of '45 and the first few weeks of '46, by the fact that the State of the Union and the budget message really hadn't had much relationship one to the other, and that, aside from Rosenman, who, of course, was gone by the time that we faced the job of preparing the comparable '47 messages, there really wasn't anybody on the White House staff who'd had much experience or much knowledge. And I also felt that we ought to have the State of the Union, economic message, and the budget message, be thoroughly consistent one with the other. This didn't take very much imaginary thinking to arrive at that conclusion, it was self-evident, but I felt and talked at length on several occasions with Mr. Clifford, that unless he took a strong lead in seeing that this was done, we might well find the Counsel of Economic Advisers going one direction with an economic message and the Bureau of the


Budget in another and the State of the Union being developed quite independently. And this was a situation that was not going to be remedied unless Clifford took a hand in it. Accordingly, Clifford met with Jim Webb, the Budget Director, outlined all of these thoughts to him, arid Webb assigned James Sundquist from his personal staff to work with Clifford and me in drafting the State of the Union message and insuring a complete consistency between the State of the Union message and the budget message. I don't recall that we had any effective arrangement from the Council of Economic Advisers. I prepared memoranda for Clifford to send to the Cabinet agencies requesting some material for the State of the Union message. I think it was, perhaps, in mid-November of '46 and as soon as the material came back in early December, Jim Sundquist and I began putting together a first draft. We worked as quickly as we could through a couple of drafts, then presented our package to Clifford and to Jim Webb, and after Clark had had a chance to look it over and make some suggestions of his own, another draft was circulated to other members of the White House staff.

The January '47 message, as I look back on it, should inspire no one to any particular pride of authorship.


I don't think it was very eloquent, I don't think it was as good as it ought to have been, but it was put together by a White House staff that didn't have very much experience in these matters and at a time when the Truman administration program, as such, was still in a very preliminary, and very formative and still a bit tentative. The year 1946 had been a rough one for the President in many, many respects. In the foreign policy field there had been the disastrous row with Henry Wallace, and his abrupt departure from the Cabinet. The President was not getting along as well as he should with Jimmy Byrnes, the Secretary of State. The elections, the congressional elections in November 1946 had been a calamity from the point of view of the Democratic party and the Administration was reeling from a succession of blows, although the President's personal courage was high, the morale of the executive branch was not what it was later to become. And so, the January 1947 State of the Union message, I think, reflected all of these things. Perhaps not directly, but reflected in the sense that it was not the forthright, bold, vigorous, advocacy of programs that was to characterize President Truman later in the year '47 and throughout '48.


Turning now to the 1948 State of the Union. It was clearly apparent to all of us in the White House staff, certainly to the President himself, that the 1948 State of the Union message would be the opening gun--might well be the opening gun in the "48 presidential campaign and it certainly could be if the President chose to make it so. The White House staff by this time was far better organized, far more experienced, far more confident than it had been a year earlier and, insofar as the preparation of speeches was concerned, it had been enormously strengthened by the arrival of Charles S. Murphy. Charlie Murphy had had a number of years experience on the Hill in the legislative drafting section of the Senate. He was well-known to President Truman because Charlie had worked with Senator Truman on a number of matters during Mr. Truman's period on the Hill. Charlie had a very orderly mind, a clear grasp of issues, and, while his prose was not eloquent, it was a simple, clear, and direct prose admirably suited to President Truman's personal style. And so, with Charlie Murphy having joined the team in early '47 and throughout '47, increasingly as each month went by, becoming a stronger and stronger member of the White House staff,


Clifford and I, who had--Clifford had the responsibility and I was his principal assistant, looked forward to the preparation of the '48 message with a degree of confidence that we had not had a year earlier. The '48 message very consciously was an effort to epitomize, to wrap up, to summarize, the Truman program, and by now we felt there was a Truman platform, a Truman program, a coherent, consistent, cohesive body of ideas that President Truman was advocating, was fighting for and stood for, which, as you know, from my remarks a few moments ago, we'd lacked a sense of that a year earlier. The draft of the State of the Union in '48 was put together, as matters of this sort usually are, as a result of perusing the materials that had come in by request from all of the Cabinet agencies, from the Bureau of the Budget, from the Council of Economic Advisers. It's not possible to say that one person put something together like this. One person may hammer out a first draft, but Clifford and Murphy and I went over these drafts so many times that there is no single author and Clifford and Murphy spent a good deal of time in discussion with the President so that by the time the '48 State of the Union message was ready for delivery, it was thoroughly Trumariesque in


spirit, in tone, in content, and it set the stage for, I think, the balance of events in the calendar year 1948.

Forty-nine is a somewhat different story. Of course, the political atmosphere was totally and completely different by January 1949. President Truman had been elected on his own in what to many people was an astonishing election in November of '48 and he remained in Washington for a couple of weeks after that before heading down for a rest and a vacation in Key West, Florida. Prior to leaving Washington, Truman and Clifford had talked a bit about the January '49 messages. And Truman told Clifford that he wanted to make his '49 State of the Union message largely on foreign affairs and he would have his inaugural address on domestic affairs. He didn't think that he wanted to cover both subjects, both times, and he would simply split the subject, the broad subject areas, foreign for State of the Union, domestic for inaugural. And Clifford relayed that to me as he was getting ready to go with the President to Key West and asked that I start thinking about it and start the usual machinery rolling to gather raw material and data from the departments for the messages. I thought about this a good deal while Clifford was in Key West and the


more I thought about it, the less I liked the idea. It seemed to me that the President was going at this in reverse sequence and that was wrong to split the areas as he had suggested and I finally wrote to Clifford after having talked to him by phone, wrote him a long memorandum in which I argued as persuasively, and as forcefully as I could, that the President had one and only one inaugural opportunity and that he had other State of the Union messages and would have still future State of the Union messages, and there was nothing particularly unusual anymore about a presidential State of the Union message, and while it obviously would be listened to and would be an important State paper, the inaugural address was unique, it would be the one and only time in his life that Harry Truman would be inaugurated and it would command a degree of attention, not just in the United States but around the world, and in my view Truman had ought to address the world in his inaugural address on January 20th and it ought to be the foreign policy matter, the address. It would be an address far beyond just the Congress, it would be the American people and other countries, both friendly and unfriendly; whereas, the State of the Union could confine itself to domestic


matters. Truman had fought the 80th Congress with mixed success for two years, now he had an 81st Congress, controlled by the Democrats, his own party. And there was a chance for him to make considerable headway in his legislative program, and that ought to be the theme of the State of the Union.

Clifford seemed convinced by this and began talking with the President along these lines. It's not easy to change Mr. Truman's mind when he's made it up and I regretted at the time, and I've always been sorry that I wasn't at Key West to see how Clark Clifford went about changing Harry Truman's mind, but however he did it, it was done, and a few days after I'd sent my memo down, Clifford phoned me and said that the President had agreed that the inaugural address would be foreign policy and would I go ahead on that basis. Actually from the point of view of the work that was necessary for a staff member in November and December, it really didn't make a heck of a lot of difference other than that the State of the Union, of course, came a few days earlier. But, the preliminary spade work was basically the same in either case.

We prepared the State of the Union in roughly the same fashion we had in the one a year earlier. A letter went out from Clifford to each Cabinet member and to the


heads of some of the principal independent agencies, asking for their recommendations for material for the State of the Union message and giving them usually, oh, two weeks, I think, two or three weeks to have their material back to the White House. The material that came in was many times the amount that could be included in a message. Each department would send in several pages, sometimes fifteen or twenty pages of material. They knew, of course, that not all of this could go into any speech, but they also saw this as a fine opportunity to have their views and their ideas displayed to the White House staff and, they hoped, to the President himself. As for deciding what was to be included in a message; I can't really explain how we would do that. It would be a matter of some personal judgment on our own. We'd operate basically within a time limit structure. The President, for a State of the Union would


probably not wish to speak more than forty or forty-five minutes. That set some rather arbitrary length, wordage, on the message, then how do you fit the pieces into it. The judgments, I suppose, on our part were more subjective than we would have liked to admit, those matters that were of principal interest to us as staff members probably got a little more of our consideration than those that were not. We also would bear in mind the political climate of the moment, and particularly in the January '49 State of the Union, the President, in our judgment, had to give pretty adequate attention to those matters which had been key campaign issues the preceding fall. He obviously could not campaign for re-election and then in his first State of the Union message, turn his back on any of the matters that he'd been elected on. That's the kind of guideline, the kind of thinking that we did and I don't, at this point, believe I can think of anything more precise.

With respect to the inaugural address of January 20, 1949, as you see, I put myself into quite a spot by having recommended that it deal with foreign affairs. It was now my task to draft as powerful a statement as I could of U.S. foreign policy. Some parts of the message were simple and posed no great problem as to content. But


I had worked along through a couple of drafts and still was not satisfied. I felt that the message lacked any really momentous statement and was in this situation of perplexity and some considerable unhappiness when I received a call from a man whose name was totally unknown to me, Benjamin Hardy. Ben worked in the office of Public Affairs for the Department of State, then supervised by Mr. Francis Russell, whom I did know and know quite well. Hardy asked if he could come and see me and I assured him that he could and we picked a mutually convenient time. I was not too surprised at getting a call from someone in State whom I did not happen to know because I dealt all the time with the State Department on many, many matters and since I did know Russell and worked with Russell's office on various State Department publications, this did not seem too out of the ordinary. But what Hardy had in mind when he arrived was to show me a paper that he had prepared on the importance of technical assistance. How significant he thought technical assistance was, could be, should be, and how American--the United States Government ought to adopt a well thought out major effort to make the benefits of our technology known to the developing countries of the world. Hardy


argued that the Marshall plan had been successful-was being successful--in Europe but that nothing comparable to the Marshall plan was appropriate to the poor, newly emerging nations of Asia, Africa, the poorer countries of South America. They did not need large amounts of capital the way Western Europe did. They didn't have the industrial base, they didn't have the expertise, they didn't have the trained manpower, they didn't have the educated professionals, and a different kind of assistance was necessary if the United States were going to take the lead in developing, building a more prosperous, and as more prosperous, hence more peaceful international community. Hardy had a good statement running to several pages outlining this thesis and we talked far beyond the confines of his paper. Hardy had come to me, he said, because he was having no success within the Department of State, in getting people to listen to him and he had been rebuffed at each of the higher levels that he had attempted to sell his ideas to. Hardy was an answer to a maiden's prayer so far as I was concerned. I had been grappling with a speech which lacked a bold and great idea. Hardy had a bold and great idea and was searching around for a way to express it. A way for it to see the


light of day and be seriously considered by high authority.

I had no problems at all in persuading Clifford, on his return from Key West, that this was a concept that deserved the President's personal and close attention. Insofar as I was concerned this idea merited a significant space in the President's inaugural address. Accordingly, I wrote in a summary of Ben Hardy 's thought in one of the drafts of the inaugural address which Clifford reviewed with the President and found the President very sympathetic as both of us knew that he would be. This was so completely in line with the kind of thinking that Harry Truman believed in, as a farmer, with his long background in agriculture he could understand, no one had to explain to him, in fact he knew better than we did, than Clifford and I did, how the advantages of American technology in this area could be exported abroad, and should be.

The story of this point 4, as it came to be known, because it was his fourth point in the inaugural address, is I think fairly, has been widely written about and is no news. When we sent drafts of the inaugural address over to the State Department for comment, which we had to do because it dealt with foreign policy, we got a very


strong and vigorous objection from Bob Lovett, the Under Secretary of State that this was completely inappropriate and point 4 should be knocked out. I heard all sorts of repercussions from lower staff levels in the department, people saying this was premature, the planning hadn't been done, the budgeting hadn't been done, in other words the bureaucratic red tape had not been gone through and it was a terrible mistake to put words like this in the President's mouth before the planning had been done. I was not convinced, nor was Clifford. From our point of view, if we waited until the State Department got through thoroughly digesting, and chewing its cud, why, we'd be waiting another five years and that would scarcely meet our January 20th, 1949 deadline. So, we stuck firm. Clifford, of course, did make it clear to President Truman that we had objections from the Department of State. I might say parenthetically here that we never did put something in a presidential speech or keep something in a presidential speech if it had been objected to by one of the departments without making very clear that the President understood, knew, and was completely briefed on what the objections or ideas were. We never held anything back of that sort because he would get whatever blame or credit would ensue and he obviously


needed to know all of the facts if he wanted to make the decision. So, the point '4 idea, and the fact that the State Department objected to it, was made very clear to President Truman and that didn't budge him any more than it budged Clifford or me. I have still in my personal possession Ben Hardy's original memorandum to me and all the drafts of the inaugural address, which I obviously cherish.

To polish off the remaining State of the Union messages very quickly. By January 1950, Clifford was preparing to leave Government service to return to the practice of law and he had very little to do with the January '50 State of the Union. Charlie Murphy by now was so well established that the responsibility was largely his, and I think that for the January '50 and '51 and '52 State of the Union messages and, indeed, the final one, that Charlie Murphy is in a better position than anyone else to describe how those were prepared and what the philosophy and thinking was in those messages. By that latter period, while I participated to some extent, my role was a much more limited one, I was in position merely of commenting and making suggestions on drafts. was not the carpenter who put them together in their formative stages or had anything to do with deciding what


went in and what went out. My comments for the later years were largely editorial and literary.

Question six in this section, asks for the President's role in the preparation of an address, that is was he the one to initially outline his ideas, suggest he needed a speech? Again, I think this perhaps has already been covered in our comments on the occasion of a speech, what prompted a speech. Sometimes the President would be the one occasionally to initiate the idea of a speech. I think that was probably rare. Ordinarily there were so many people urging the President to make a speech and usually, the political or the State or Defense, or congressional leadership were at--these people were at the President all the time to make speeches in their areas or in their behalf, that there were really darn few occasions left for the President to even think up the speech idea himself. The others were already pressing the thought on him. However, be that as it may, whether the President were the one to originate the idea of a speech or whether he acceded, which was usually the case, to recommendations by others, he rarely would outline the speech or dictate its content. As we said earlier, the occasion would be the determining factor,


and the motivation, the reason why the President acceded to the idea of a speech, those in themselves were the determining forces on the content.

How and by whom were writing assignments made? Oh, this insofar as I can generalize, would depend on the subject matter of the speech. If it were regarded as an important address, a major address, the three Special Counsels in succession, Rosenman, Clifford and Murphy, bore the basic responsibility for seeing to it that the preparation of drafts was in hand and under control. If it was a more perfunctory or routine speech, or statement, back to that Christmas tree exercise again, or an anniversary of the Boy Scouts or something of that sort, throughout most of the Truman administration William D. Hassett had responsibility for that kind of speech, or that kind of a public statement. Hassett was a newspaperman who'd had extensive, classical education. He had a fine and light literary style and Bill was the admiration and the envy of some of us -- and his abilities to clip off mellifluous sentences and paragraphs that sounded fine even though there might not be much content to them. When I say, not much content, that was not a criticism of Hassett. Hassett was simply meeting the requirement


of the circumstance. As I said earlier, you don't want to have a heavy substance to many of these statements, you want them to sound fine, you want them to be impressed and inspired arid made to feel good by the President of the United States. You don't want them to be wearing you down with the necessity of more taxes or labor reforms or foreign policy problems.

The next question, or series of questions, deals with speech preparation conferences. Did all staff members who worked on presidential speeches attend such conferences? Who did, why, why not, and so on. This is hard to answer because over a seven and a half year period the pattern changed from time to time. In the early Truman period, I think, there really weren't very many formal speech conferences and fewer people were in attendance. First Rosenman, then Clifford and always Charlie Ross through his five years of service as the President's Press Secretary. In the latter Truman period, as the staff had grown, as the President became better acquainted with the younger members of the staff, the speech conferences grew. And I refer specifically to perhaps the '49, '50, '51 period by which time Charlie Murphy was there. Charlie had acquired David Lloyd, David


Bell, and Dick Neustadt and one, two or three of these men would be on hand. After '48 I was almost always in any speech conference session. In '46 and '47 I never was. Hassett was sometimes present, sometimes not. Matt Connelly ordinarily was on hand. Matt had little to do with the content or text of a speech, but because he was the President's principal political contact, he was keenly concerned and interested in the subject matter of the speeches and, of course, it was essential that he be thoroughly familiar with everything that was proposed for the President's utterance.

The question is asked as to whether non-staff members attended. It would have been a very rare circumstance for a non-staff member to attend although if the speech were foreign policy, sometimes the Secretary of State himself would be present or a representative of the Secretary of State. After the Korean war broke out and matters of foreign policy became even more critical and sensitive, and we had to be especially concerned with the implications of sentences and even words, at times we, if we didn't have a representative from State on hand, we certainly made sure that State had a crack at every draft of a statement having foreign policy implications. Toward the close of the Truman


administration, we became so well-acquainted with Marshall D. Shulman, a young assistant to Dean Acheson, that we tended to regard Marshall almost as a member of the White House staff, although, of course, he was not, and Marshall attended a number of speech conference sessions in the latter part of the Truman administration.

What, the question reads, were the exact purposes of each speech conference? I'm not sure if Jack Hopkins means speech conferences which the President himself attended or speech conferences of the staff. There is something of a difference here. Speech conferences of the working members of the staff were simply to swap ideas back and forth, to tear each other's work to shreds and to try and put it back together again, to be subject to brutally frank comment. The President rarely was in a speech conference until we were very, very close to the end. This didn't mean that he wasn't aware of what was going on, but the President's time is limited and incredibly valuable. You can't waste his time with four or five or more people sitting around the table going through early drafts of speeches. He doesn't have the time, he can't be imposed upon to that extent. As a draft of a speech got to a point where we, on the staff,


were reasonably satisfied and felt that this was beginning to take the necessary shape, Clifford, later Murphy, would give a copy to the President for him to read at his leisure. At his leisure usually meant the early morning hours, perhaps, after that morning walk, 6:30, 7:00, 7:30 something of that sort, and the President would give his comment back, usually orally, at the morning 9 o'clock or 10 o'clock morning staff, general staff conference. The President would not sit at the Cabinet table with those that worked on the speech until we were really its--just about the very final draft. Then it was his practice to read it aloud so that he would get the feel and the flavor of it and so that we could, in hearing him read it, detect perhaps awkward phraseology or overlong sentences or even words that just didn't sound right coming out of Harry Truman's mouth. Sometimes he would stop and say, "We have to do something about that." Sometimes some of us around the table would simply check in the margin and do something about it after the President had left the room, or if we felt it needed discussion, interrupt him right at that point and propose that the paragraph be recast, the sentences shortened, the words changed, or what have you. But when the President was in attendance at what we would


call a speech conference, it was the content of the message, the length of the message, the ideas in the message were already so far along and he had had his chances through seeing drafts of one or two stages earlier to get his own substantive comments in. These speech conferences tended to be dress rehearsals for the final delivery rather than substantive conferences on the subject matter. Of course, there are exceptions, but that is the best generalization I could make.

I believe I've already covered the tenth question here. Indicate and elaborate on the method of conducting each conference. There was no formal agenda. If the President was in attendance, it was not a brainstorming session as Jack has suggested, but rather one to polish the draft, to be sure that it sounded like Harry S. Truman and not a diplomat or a general or something else, but sounded like the President, and this particular President. If it was a preliminary, a conference held in the early stages of the preparation of the speech, with the President not in attendance, then it would be conducted by Clifford or by Murphy to be sure that we were in agreement and that we were hammering out the right kind of philosophy, arguments, rationale, so on and


so forth. If the speech conferences were of an even more preliminary stage, it might have been conducted, in say, '47 or '48, by me or by Charlie Murphy or by, '49, '59, '51 period, Dave Bell, Dave Lloyd, or Dick Neustadt.

Jack Hopkins asked if notes or recordings were made during the conferences, by whom and where they are available. If by recordings you mean tape or sound recordings, no. I don't recall that we ever recorded anything. Certainly no staff or working conferences were ever recorded to my knowledge at any point during the Truman Presidency. So far as notes are concerned, yes. All of us who worked on this would make our own notes, on drafts, on the margin of drafts, or in longhand, in one form or another. I suppose to the extent that they were preserved, they are in the speech files of those of us concerned. Many of this kind of notes are in the Clifford papers now at the Truman Library. I have extensive speech files, notes, drafts, clippings, comments, etc. in my own papers, some of which are already in the Truman Library, others which will be there in due course, and I believe the same comments hold with respect to papers of Murphy, Lloyd, Bell and


so forth.

Question twelve asks: Who wrote the first, second and succeeding drafts of an address. I think this has already been covered by earlier comments.

Similarly, question thirteen: Describe the timing and sequence of procedures that were followed during the preparation of each speech draft. I doubt that there is anything that I can add to what we have already covered.

Question fourteen asks me to compare the procedures followed by the Truman staff with those followed by other staffs with which I have been associated. I have really no comments that are very valuable here. The President of the United States is obviously in a unique situation. He has access to information, data, unparalleled. He also is subject to unparalleled pressures from those around him, those below him, those opposed to him, and from the press and others to take positions, to say things, to speak, both in substance and in style. So, I'm not sure that it's very meaningful to try and compare speechwriting procedures for some other Government official or someone in private industry, with those of the President. The President's comments, his


speeches, be they formal addresses or merely press releases, are subject to the kind of scrutiny that nobody else's utterances are. Because of the President's unique role in responsibility, he has to be--ought to be--extraordinarily cautious in what he utters. This means that there is a heavy responsibility on the staff of a President, a far heavier responsibility on a presidential staff than on the staff anyplace else, in being sure that the President isn't provided with inaccurate information, incomplete information, misleading information. The material that came to us for use, even from a responsible agency such as the Department of State, and the Department of Defense, or the Bureau of the Budget, was frequently pleading a selfish point of view, the agency point of view. State and Defense are always in a condition of tension, and State would argue its point of view in material presented to the President, hoping that the President would select it. Defense, Agriculture, Justice, what have you, is in a comparable position. And a presidential staff can't play favorites. A presidential staff has to look at everything that comes, from the point of view of the


President, the overall, his ultimate responsibilities. And I would say that I was more conscious of, had to be, more conscious of this kind of responsibility to my President than I have ever had to feel in my responsibilities to other officials with whom I have worked. Some of the lapses that characterize the Truman administration, that have characterized various administrations since, has been due to the fact, I think, that in moments of perhaps carelessness or overwork, staff members have allowed the President to be given material that hadn't been subjected to this merciless scrutiny by them to be sure that the one-sided or too narrow point of view has not been put into the President's hands. I may have a triple negative there, I'm not sure if my sentence comes out right, whoever transcribes it will have to edit because I think you'll understand what I'm saying.

The next three questions I believe we have already covered. The criteria employed in selecting main points, the criteria employed in selecting supporting material, and how material is gathered for the State of the Union and inaugural addresses, I believe have been covered, but if Jack Hopkins or anyone else has further


questions in this regard, I'll be happy to try and answer them.

Question eighteen asks where files of materials to be used in speeches were kept. I don't believe that we ever kept any files of speech materials for future speeches at the White House. For the reasons that have been alluded to, a presidential speech is made when the occasion requires and what he says is again determined by the force of events. There is no way, other than the routine Christmas tree kind of speech, there's no purpose in trying to anticipate what is to be said, and if you build up a huge pile of reference materials, a large part of that's going to be out of date anyway. And, furthermore, for the most part, we didn't have a large enough White House staff to spend our time keeping up speech files. I can recall a particularly grim period so far as I personally was concerned in the spring of 1947. Charlie Murphy was only brand new at the White House staff. Lloyd and Bell, others who were later to be so enormously helpful, hadn't yet come over the horizon, and Clifford and I -- -I should phrase that this way--Mr. Clifford had the principal responsibility, but I, as his assistant, had


an enormous amount of legwork to do, were dashing from major speech to major speech. A Truman doctrine speech in March was just the first of a series of very important pronouncements that marked the President' s utterances in the next few weeks and we would dash from a foreign policy matter to a tax bill, to a Taft-Hartley veto message and radio address. It was impossible to maintain files on all of these. We had to turn to the department or agency concerned, ask for data from them, drafts, if we thought they were competent and capable of producing drafts, take the material, beat it into shape, and move on to the next topic, to the next assignment. So, the idea implied, I believe here, that we might have a reference file of public statements made by the President, and by political leaders, maintaining files of magazine editorials and all that sort of thing. It would have been delightful, but we didn't have the manpower to do it ourselves, nor, frankly would we have time to look at all the stuff if it had been maintained.

Question nineteen: What criteria were employed in selecting the type of proofs, for example rational,


emotional, etc. used in presidential addresses? I think this question implies a greater degree of sophistication than we possessed. I don't believe we, in fact I know darned well, we didn't sit around and discuss the type of proofs to be used nor, question twenty, did we ever discuss the type of reasoning, inductive reasoning or deductive reasoning to be used. I'm not sure that if we had tried to talk about those things we would have known what it was we were talking about and I'm quite certain that if any one of us had spoken to Mr. Truman and said, "Do you wish to use inductive reasoning or deductive reasoning," President Truman would have resorted to very simple, very elementary, Missouri farm language in dismissing that kind of question.

These two questions bring to mind an episode that happened, perhaps, about 1950. One of my teachers when I had been an undergraduate at Princeton University was Doctor Hadley Cantril, a social psychologist who was already well-known and who acquired much greater professional reputation in later years. Cantril had written me from time to time, making suggestions about President Truman's speeches and so I invited him to


come and see me at the White House on his next visit to Washington. He came in and began outlining in social psychologist's jargon some of his thoughts on presidential speeches and how he thought we ought to be using, I cannot now recall what words he might have used, but he might have well of used something like the phrases in these questions, inductive reasoning and so on and so forth. It just so happened that we were hard at work at that point on a speech for President Truman and I introduced Hadley to Dave Bell and to Dave Lloyd, both of whom knew of him by reputation but had never met him before. The speech was not particularly a sensitive one and there were no questions of security or other matters to bother us, so we invited Cantril to have dinner with us that evening and to work with us on the speech. Cantril went through the agonies of working until about 4:30 a.m. in the Cabinet Room with us on the speech. He left to return to Princeton and I never heard from him again. I'm afraid that this was--I was sorry about that because I was fond of the man and my own reason for assuming that I never heard from him again was, that he realized that perhaps, at least I


hoped he had realized, that some of his more philosophical and esoteric approaches to theories of speechmaking didn't have a heck of a lot of applicability when it came to coping with the hard facts and problems the President of the United States had to cope with and setting those forth in words that would appeal and could be understood to the American public at large.

Question twenty-one asks about humor. What criteria were employed in selecting the type of humor to be used in an address? Anyone reading the Truman speeches, I think, will find very little humor in them. Certainly we did not strive to insert humor in prepared texts. Several reasons for this. I have always felt vigorously, I might say violently, that a joke in a prepared text is not in good taste and falls rather flat. To have a joke in a text, which is handed out to the press hours in advance, seems quite false. Furthermore, President Truman was not very good at reading a joke that was prepared, that appeared in cold type in front of him. Such humor as crept into presidential addresses, would not probably ordinarily be regarded as humor. The Truman style was one of informal, spontaneous, wisecrack,


or friendly reference to the audience or to people on the platform or around him, or some warm, human reference to the organization or the city or the occasion. That was much more effective, we felt, I certainly felt personally, and I think the others in the staff shared this view, this was much more effective, that was much more natural, it was much more Harry Truman than a prepared joke, comedian or television comedian style, which, as I said, President Truman wasn't very effective in getting off any way. As for joke books and so on, we never relied on those. I can't recall anyone in the White House ever consciously searched around or hunted for jokes for a presidential address.

Question twenty-two takes us back to criteria: What criteria were employed in conscientiously organizing an address in logical, psychological order, and so on and so forth. President Truman is basically a simple, uncomplicated, straightforward man. He approaches a subject in a very direct fashion. This is what we tried to do in speeches and statements we prepared for him. State in the simplest, most direct fashion what we were trying to get across. We were not trying to be overly sophisticated or devious. We did not try to impress


by grandiloquent language. I'm not sure that I know how to specify the criteria that you're asking about other than to say, perhaps, we ourselves, were so simpleminded that it never occurred to us that there were such criteria.

Question twenty-three I can speak to with some interest and force. What criteria, it reads, were employed in determining the sentence lengths and word sophistication to be used. I believe the first involvement I had with Truman speeches came about precisely because material which was being sent to him or submitted for his use had words which were too sophisticated, too long, too complicated. The sentence structure was too involved, the paragraphs were too long. And Truman found these quite unsatisfactory, difficult to read, awkward to deliver. He was worried about it and had turned to Clifford for comment and suggestions and Clifford, burdened as he was with so many other responsibilities, passed, in each case, this on to me with a request to edit, to sharpen, to rewrite and so on. The problem of sentence structure and word sophistication was bad invariably, if the material came from the


Department of State. It was bad also if material came from the military, because of military jargon. We had problems with material coming from the economists because they liked to use technical language. Those departments, those areas, were the worst in this regard. But my own files are full of speeches and statements that I chopped and edited, I know in many cases, to the great agony of the original drafters or of the departments concerned because they thought I had turned a very fine prose into very pedestrian language. I'm sure that they were right and I'm sure that I had turned it, in many cases, into pedestrian language. But here, again, the thought was, and now I'm turning to question twenty-four, how to adapt speeches to President Truman's language and personality style.

Truman was no FDR. He was no Jack Kennedy. He didn't pretend to be, and he was the first to know that the speech style written for an FDR would have sounded false coming from him. He was not comfortable with that and since I saw, and heard him, formally and informally, and lived with him in a way that people in the departments, of course, did not do, I think I was able to absorb, I certainly was striving to absorb,


his manner of expressing himself, his sentence style, his approach to things, and I was--when I had a speech to draft, either to work up from ab initio or taking a draft that originated someplace else, it was to make it sound as much like Harry Truman as I could do.

Question twenty-five is related, if I helped polish the language style of an address, how did I indicate recommended changes, what factors were considered in polishing and so on. I'm inclined to think that the word "polished" is carrying us in the wrong direction. Much of the effort of the White House staff when stuff came from someplace else was to depolish, if you will. But we had a flowery language that was not particularly apt for Mr. Truman. As to how we indicated changes, this is very simple. You simply get to work with a pencil and scratch out and rewrite and send off to the typist for a new draft, there's no problem of that.

Was language polished during the preparation of a draft? Well, you go through four, six, eight drafts, you're constantly changing, you're constantly editing. In that sense, yes, you're polishing. And as we've said earlier, in some of the speech conferences, when we got to the final or the next to the final draft


with the President himself participating and reading it aloud, that a kind of, of course, that was polishing, in the ultimate sense of adapting it to the President's personal style. We tried all along to do that as staff members but in the last reading the President himself would catch words or simply want to say things a little differently than we had. That was the polishing. But when a word is used such as appears in this question, embellishment, I would say that embellishments were what we were trying to eliminate from Harry Truman's talk.

Question twenty-six: Who had the final word in editing? Of course, the President himself always had the final word in editing.

Question twenty-seven: Was I assigned to aid the President in delivery of addresses? No one was assigned to aid the President in delivery. All of us who worked in any fashion on any of these speeches were always concerned and conscious of problems of delivery and it was because of our concern over delivery that we proceeded in the fashion that we have just been discussing. In the simplification of sentence structure, in the avoidance of too fancy words or complicated ones. Harry Truman was not the kind of fellow that would throw the Latin,


French and other words around. We struck out foreign phrases, foreign words, when people would propose them, that wasn't characteristic of Truman. And so, we were aiding the President in delivery, more by what we gave him to deliver than in any sense serving as a speech coach or an elocution adviser. He had no such person on the staff.

I did assist the President in delivery in this sense. Television, of course, was not widely used in the Truman period. It was only really elementary--well, technically it was well advanced but television sets were relatively few and far between and confined to major cities in the eastern seaboard. So, television was not a major factor. With Truman we were much more concerned with newsreels and insofar as television was concerned, mainly television got, not live coverage of Truman, but would play on television programs newsreel type film. President Truman had problems with his eyesight, he wore glasses as we all know, with rather thick lenses. He had trouble focusing. If he would look out in a large audience, it was difficult for him to catch his place on the page right away. Bright lights bothered him at times in reading. So, all these factors affected


the quality and style of newsreels made of presidential speeches. We adopted in the, oh, I'd say about the mid-Truman years, the practice of filming in a room in the East Wing of the White House, advance paragraphs, or "takes" as they are called in the trade, of key sentences and ideas in the Truman speeches for subsequent broadcast on television or in newsreels. And I guess I had as large a hand in devising this scheme and technique as anyone. I would, as we got to the last draft, mark paragraphs that I thought would particularly key paragraphs for newsreels, check them out with Clifford and Charlie Ross, his successor Joe Short, and the President himself, and would have made arrangements some hours in advance, to have a crew at the Department of the Army standing by. We would rush by messenger these excerpts over to the Pentagon and a crew of draftsmen would print on large cardboard sheets, about four by six feet, the sentences or paragraphs the President was going to use in a newsreel. These would then come back over to the White House and in this East Room, which would always be set up with cameras and the necessary lights, the President would read these speech excerpts from the cards standing on large easels. This gave him


the advantage of being able to look reasonably closely into the lens, camera lens, and was a vast improvement over the circumstances that prevailed the first couple of years of his administration where he would simply read from the typewritten text in a notebook, and that meant that most of the time the camera was catching the top of his head or was catching him while he was looking up at the camera lens and then fumbling around trying to find his place in the text again. This matter of the four by six cards, of course, now sounds terribly primitive with all of the teleprompters and the many devices which have since come into very wide use. But it was a stage in that direction and it's just an evolution in the technique of Truman's presentation of his speeches. In that sense, you could, perhaps, say that I did assist Mr. Truman in the delivery of his addresses. Not before the audiences but before the camera.

Question twenty-eight asks how the staff attempted to cultivate an off-the-cuff style for the President. We didn't cultivate the off-the-cuff style for Truman, he had that off-the-cuff style. He brought it with him to Washington. This was the style that he had used in his


campaigns for political office in Missouri, in his campaigns for election to the Senate, and in all his public utterances prior to assuming the Presidency. I think, perhaps, the staff, if anything, hindered the President in that we were very, very slow to recognize that Truman did have this quality of a forceful off--the-cuff speech. We tried, I think, perhaps overly hard to confine him, to pin him, to formal and prepared texts in the first couple of years in the White House. We were a little too nervous and a little too jittery about what the President might say in off-the-cuff remarks. He had made, in his early weeks and months in the White House, some off-the-cuff remarks to newsmen and others, which had had sort of a political backfire, and I guess that had made us timorous. He, of course, made those principally because he was still getting on top of the job and was not as thoroughly familiar with all the facts as he later was to become and, I think, perhaps, the staff can be faulted for having discouraged Truman from off-the-cuff. I believe this is now quite well understood and known how Truman really broke the shackles that the staff had imposed on him by his trip to the West in the spring of 1948. His rear platform, informal,


off-the-cuff remarks, dubbed "whistle stop" speeches by Senator Taft, had such a remarkable impact on the public and were so, for the most part, rousingly successful, that the staff gave up any further concern that this was the wrong approach for Truman to use arid he himself was convinced this was the way he ought to go from that point on. I will say in that regard, that even that spring 1948 trip had some unfortunate off-the-cuff remarks. Truman's "I like old Joe" reference to Generalissimo Stalin was regrettable. His dedication of an airport to what he thought was somebody killed in the war; when it turned out to be a teenage girl who had some kind of an accident, that was the kind of a goof, a mistake, which was embarrassing to all concerned. So, what the spring '48 trip did on the staff, I think, was two things. One: The President ought to be allowed and ought to be encouraged to speak in his off-the-cuff, natural, forceful style. Two: The staff ought to be darned certain that they understood the occasion and had done their work so that the President was properly briefed and informed about the circumstances in which he would speak and that it would be helpful if we would give the President on each off-the-cuff occasion that


we could foresee, a simple outline, not a text, but an outline of ideas that he could follow. This would in our view, avoid the danger of an "I like old Joe," comment, if not avoid it, it would minimize it, and it would avoid problems of embarrassing erroneous references to people, places, circumstances, so on.

Question twenty-eight A doesn't quite fit into this sequence of ideas. It asks what influence FDR's speaking had on Truman. I would say probably none. Truman wasn't Roosevelt and knew he wasn't Roosevelt. The only effect it might be said to have had was the fact that Sam Rosenman did remain on for some months after the Roosevelt death and Truman's assumption of the office, and Sam Rosenman's style didn't change any and Sam Rosenman continued to give FDR kind of material to Truman to use, which was just not appropriate.

Question twenty-nine asks if the staff had an advance man and how he analyzed an intended audience prior to the preparation of a speech, analyzed the speech site and so on. No, there was no advance man to analyze an audience. There is no way that I know of to analyze an audience and still prepare a speech. A presidential speech has to be prepared long before


there is any audience on hand. Now, if by audience one means the occasion, there again, we've covered that in earlier questions. As for analyzing the speech site, arranging for the auditorium's use, preparing the auditorium, no, the White House staff, as such, really had no responsibilities in this regard. There isn't a big enough White House staff to go wandering around the country looking at auditorium and preparing the lectern and so on. The Secret Service does, for security reasons, visit the site. The Secret Service had certain general guidelines and ground rules. They knew how tall the President was and obviously, they would see to it that microphones and so on were placed at an appropriate height, but Truman took an auditorium or a platform as he found it. He did not have a series of hard and fast arbitrary rules that things had to be set up this way or he wouldn't go. Actually, I don't know any politician who can set his conditions of that sort. If you're campaigning for office, you certainly don't have time to worry about that kind of an arrangement. You leave it in the hands of your local people and hope they know how to do the job.


How much time, question thirty asks, would you estimate the staff had available to prepare the State of the Union and inaugural address. Well, you have all the time in the world. You know you've got twelve months to prepare for the next State of the Union message because you know there's going to be one. That's in theory; in fact, you're lucky if you have a couple of weeks because you're busy in the intervening twelve months, from State of the Union to State of the Union, doing ten thousand and two other things. Normally, as I think we've said earlier in this interview, about the middle of November, the White House staff would prepare a request to departments and agencies asking them for material for the State of the Union and that would ordinarily come in the early days of December. But it really would be a rare occasion when you get around to working intensively on it until about Christmas time. Not because you didn't want to but you just didn't have time to. As for the time on the inaugural, I believe we've already covered that one.

Question thirty-one asks what criteria I personally used in evaluating the effectiveness of a speech. I


think Jack Hopkins is being just a little bit more academic than any of us ever had the time for. It depended on, once again back to that same old question, what kind of a speech was it? Was it the Christmas tree lighting speech which was an occasion that you simply had to endure and had to go through? In that case, you really didn't give a darn how effective it was, you simply wanted to be sure the President appeared with dignity and had said appropriate things and had in no sense embarrassed himself or the office. But you didn't win the votes and you didn't make any policy and you didn't shape the course of world history in an awfully high percentage of presidential addresses because you weren't trying to. Now, if it was a political speech, either a direct partisan speech, or political in the broader sense of the President trying to mold public opinion or persuade congressional leaders, you would have to rely on the reactions that came back to you from political figures, from politicians, from the subsequent comments of newspapers, newspaper editorials, and so on and so forth. There were no criteria, no yardsticks, no formal measuring devices. President Truman didn't have any particularly high


regard, and I am understating it, for public opinion polls, and you don't poll after each speech or even series of speeches. And it isn't in Harry Truman's nature to lie awake at night wondering and asking himself how did I do? The President really doesn't have the luxury of time to worry about how he'd done. For every task that's behind him he's got ten staring him in the face that he's got to get on with and it really is the same with the White House staff. Now, bear in mind, I'm speaking of the White House staff as it existed in Harry Truman's day. The White House staff now is many times the size it was in the Truman days. There are all kind of experts, real or self-designated, on all kinds of subjects, and particularly in the more recent administrations, there have been people who take hold and who test and who analyze and assess and judge and weigh and evaluate and write and God knows what all. We didn't have anything like that in the Truman days and it's a mistake to try to take the kind of a structure that Kennedy or Johnson had, and President Nixon is now assembling and try and uncover what the comparable structure was in the Truman period. I can tell you right


now, it didn't exist.

Question thirty-two really is comparable. What provisions were made by the staff to evaluate the effectiveness of addresses delivered by the President? I don't think we made any provisions other than those I've said. The President himself would hear from his congressional leaders how they thought--how effective they thought he'd been in speaking to Congress, either in whole in a formal address or in smaller groups. Staff of the Democratic committee would report usually through Matt Connelly on straight partisan matters, insofar as an address might be concerned, an address on foreign affairs might be concerned, it's true that we would receive clippings or editorial summaries, precis of foreign press reaction from the State Department. That would all go into the President's reading file, but we took things as they came and we, the relatively--I repeat the small Truman staff concerned with speech preparation didn't have the time to sit around worrying and evaluating the effectiveness of addresses. It might have been better if we had.

I believe question thirty-three is covered in the answer to the preceding, too.


Question thirty-four asks for the identification of ideas expressed in the State of the Union message and the inaugural address, which were provided by staff or non-staff members? I trust that that has adequately been covered, if not, and if there are more precise questions of fact, I'll be happy to try and answer them.

Question thirty-five asks if I consider that I or my colleagues when developing addresses ever formed policy, if so could I identify both the policies and the individuals. Here again, I think Jack Hopkins in phrasing the question is perhaps judging recent White House staff behavior and size, structure, function, and assuming that we had a comparable White House situation in the Truman period, we didn't. The White House staff in the Truman days was a very personal staff to President Truman. White House staff members did not seek publicity for themselves. Their jobs, their titles were not widely described, analyzed, publicized, mulled over by the Walter Lippmanns and the Arthur Krocks and other pundits of the day. White House staff members, at that time, did not regard themselves as having functions of their own, policy formulating, policy shaping, jobs of their own. In those days there was only one man in the White House


who had any authority, any power, any policymaking function of any sort and that was the President himself. Now, today, and in more recent years, a vast amount of machinery has been built up around the White House. There was this extraordinary proliferation of the powers and staff functions of the special assistant to the President for National security affairs. This began in the Eisenhower administration. Bobby Cutler was one of those who held the job. The role was enormously expanded by McGeorge Bundy under Kennedy and by Walt Rostow under Johnson and by Dr. Kissinger under President Nixon. But these men, the public widely believes, and I also believe it to be true, do have a policymaking, policy shaping function of great significance. This was not the case of the Truman staff at all. There weren't such people, there weren't such roles, or there weren't such functions, in foreign affairs or in other matters. I do not mean to say that Dr. John Steelman, The Assistant to the President, or Clifford as Special Counsel, Murphy when Special Counsel, were not important; they were important. But their advice was private advice to the President. The recommendations they made were clearly in recognition of the fact that they had no independent role, they weren't


expected to have an independent role in shaping policy at all. President Truman, perhaps more than any President in the past three decades, has regarded his Cabinet officers as being his principal policy advisers. Now, it's true that most candidates for the Presidency in recent years have given lip service to this idea, at least in their political campaign, but I'm not so sure that--I don't believe that any of them have actually adhered to this principal to the extent that President Truman did.

All right, so much by the way of background and principles. Within those broad guidelines, yes, White House staff members would have an influence on policy. One can't be totally objective no matter how much he tries. Perhaps the personal experiences, the personal background, the personal points of view, of the staff members, would be reflected in the advice they would give the President in the information they would choose to pass on as distinct from the information they would think not worthy of passing on. Dr. Steelman, with his very great experience in labor management fields, obviously had a powerful, an eloquent voice, in advising the President on labor matters, labor policy, but neither


John Steelman nor anybody else would want to say that he shaped or he formed policy in these areas. We were all conscious, at all times, of the fact that we were there to serve the President, not to be the shakers and the doers and the movers of the Government in Washington. I suppose, if one wants to say, do I not think that I formed policy by the episode I described in respect to Ben Hardy and what was to become known as point 4, I suppose in that sense, yes, I had a hand in policy formulation. It's possible that had Ben Hardy not turned to me, he would have turned to somebody else. It's possible that the idea would have emerged in some form. I think it would have, in due course, someplace else, but I certainly did have an effect on policy at that point and there are numerous other examples that could be given of how I, as an individual speechwriter, had a hand in policy matters. But I disassociate myself from any sense of claiming responsibility and credit for point 4 because I accepted the idea as readily as I did because of my knowledge of how Harry Truman felt on foreign policy matters and because of my association, as intimate as it was by that time, my recognition of what he believed in, what he was trying to do, what he


was seeking, what he was striving for, I recognized something that I thought was appropriate for him, for the time, for the country, and for the world situation. Well, that's just being a good staff member to identify and spot and pass on to the President. That's why I feel a little--why my comments at times can be a little caustic about White House staff members in the more recent period who like to let it be known of the major influence they've had on policy. I reject that kind of thinking.

Question thirty-six asks if I were assigned to a specific policy area. I believe I've already covered that in a general way. No one of us on the small Truman staff was ever limited to a specific policy area. Because of my own personal association with the staff began through the military side of things arid moved gradually to foreign affairs, that tended to be a greater area of concentration for me than for other areas, but I was not limited to that. Because David Bell is an economist and came from the Bureau of the Budget, matters of economics, when he joined the White House staff, tended to be his area of concentration, but by no means was he limited to that.


So, we were generalists who came from different areas of experience and brought, perhaps, a bit of extra pespective or depth of knowledge from our special area but generalists we rapidly became, and generalists we stayed while we were on the Truman staff.

Question thirty-seven asks about the similarity between advanced copies of speeches for the press and final speech manuscripts. These were, in almost all cases, identical. I note, and am acquainted with the fact, both from my experience in the Pentagon and my general knowledge here of events in Washington, there have been times in more recent years when the press is given one copy and the final speech turns out to be something quite different. This just wasn't true in President Truman's case. It was an extraordinary circumstance where he would deviate even by a few words in the delivery of an address from the advance text that had been released to the press. Of course, he would frequently, almost invariably, preface the formal speech by the kind of informal remarks about the audience, the occasion, of friends, associates, or others of his that were present. This, as I've said earlier, was the Truman way of building a friendly rapport with an audience rather than the


wisecrack or the canned joke, and sometimes towards the end he would have again add some informal remarks but these would not be off course or deviate from the subject matter, the thrust of the speech. The reading copy, of course, was different in physical appearance from the advance copies of the press. It was typed by Miss Rose Conway, his longtime personal secretary, on a somewhat larger type than the White House press release and in a notebook with the pages securely clipped in so that the wind wouldn't blow any of them off the stage. Not that I ever knew it to happen, but people always would tell anecdotes of grim occasions where it was alleged to have happened. But this has nothing to do with, again, with the text or the subject of a speech. The President was always accompanied, almost always accompanied, by a Mr. Jack Romagna, a shorthand expert from the White House. Jack would have a prepared copy in advance, a press advance copy, in front of him as the President would speak and Jack would note any deviation no matter how minor, even the omission of an article, or the addition of an a, a and, or the, or an adjective so that the official record in the President's possession would be as delivered. In


later years when the White House Signal Corps had developed its expertise, and abilities and equipment, many of the speeches were recorded on tape as well as the Romagna shorthand text so that in the rare occasions where the press would ask Charlie Ross or Joe Short just what the President, what a particular word or phrase was, there was always a record and it could be quickly and properly answered. Now, I'm not speaking, of course, of the off-the-cuff whistlestop style speeches. That's a separate subject and we'll come to that in a moment and I'll amplify what I have said a little later on in this interview.

Question thirty-eight asks if the President conferred with his staff before he delivered an address and how he adapted the address to his own language and personality. I would say to the extent that the President had to himself adapt the address to his own language and personality, we of the staff had failed to do our job because, as I tried to make clear, those of us who have been there for some time, and knew him, felt that this was a major part of our function, not only just to get the content, the subject matter down on paper, but to get it on paper in a fashion that would


reflect the Truman language and personality. And, as mentioned earlier, in final speech conferences, the President would, by rehearsing it aloud, would catch those things which we might have failed to catch.

Incidentally, and perhaps I haven't mentioned this before, the President on many occasions would read a speech to Mrs. Truman and to his daughter Margaret. This was never in the staff's presence, never to my knowledge, but would be either in the White House or during the second term in the Blair House, it would be at dinner, after dinner, or in the early morning, though I must say if it was in the early morning, it would not have been to Miss Margaret Truman. And the President would comment at times to us in a final speech session that Mrs. Truman had suggested a word or a different phraseology. Of course, we welcomed this, we were delighted because this was just one more way of perfecting the tone, the style and the text. Mrs. Truman had a sharp ear and a good ear for matters of this sort.

Thirty-eight B asks whether President Truman ever delivered an address without critically reading it over first. I cannot conceive of an occasion when


that might have happened. This was utterly foreign, and alien to President Truman's personality. He was no puppet and anyone who knew him could never conceive of President Truman being anything other than his own man. That President Truman would have even--back to my favorite Christmas tree lighting episode--not even on that kind of an affair would President Truman have stood up before an audience and read a speech without having gone over it carefully first. Not only was this alien to the Truman personality, he's just not the kind of a fellow who is shoved around or easily handled that way.

This is somewhat off the point but I think pertinent. President Truman had an enormous respect for the institution of the Presidency, he loved it, he revered it. He was widely read as we know, he continued, Lord knows how he found the time but he did, all through his White House years to read books on American history. I don't think a biography of a President or any other major political figure came out during his years in the White House but what he acquired the book and if he didn't have time to read it all he at least absorbed some of it. To him it would have been inconceivable that a man could


treat the Presidency so casually that you would flip off public utterances without accepting the responsibility for what was in them and the only way to accept responsibility for a speech is to read it critically first.

Question thirty-eight C asks whether staff members in the President's estimation were personally liable for comments made in addresses. I'm not sure that I fully understand just what's meant here. The President regarded himself as being responsible for everything in an address, not his staff. He had had enough familiarity with a speech by the time it was finally delivered so that it was his, he took full responsibility. It wasn't anybody else's. If there were a blunder, a gap, if the policy were wrong, the facts were wrong, the speech was Truman's and he knew it and he'd adapted it to himself, he'd absorbed it, and it was his. It certainly never happened to me personally and I am not aware of it happening to any other staff member, that Truman after a speech that had gone sour or that was badly criticized, or where something was alleged to have been erroneous, I'm not aware of Truman's ever having blamed or charged the staff member with


failure there. It's true that after some occasions that hadn't gone as well as all of us had wanted them, the President would talk it over but it was not in the sense of pointing the finger of blame at the staff members. It was more in the, how can we do better next time, and the we was all inclusive, himself and the staff together. I suspect that in cases where things haven't gone as well as they might have, we on the staff agonized a great deal more than Mr. Truman because, again, as I said earlier, he was not the kind of man to sit around wasting time feeling sorry for himself.

Question thirty-nine asks about procedures not already mentioned that I personally employed in preparing addresses for Mr. Truman. I'd like at this point to speak a bit about the whistlestop campaign of 1948 which has been mentioned only briefly heretofore. I was not a member of the staff that accompanied the President on the trip in the spring of 1948, but I was well aware and followed with the greatest of care and was in touch several times a day with Mr. Clifford who was on that trip and we discussed at length the evolving experience of that trip and the evolving success of the


President's off-the-cuff approach. We also discussed with total candor between us, the blunders, as we saw them, and we agonized over the mistakes that were made from time to time. Knowing what an enormous burden would be on us during the campaign itself, we had months earlier talked about how we were going to handle the volume and number of speeches that would be required during the campaign, and we of course, recognized that we could not rely upon Government departments as we normally had because it was completely improper, if not illegal to use Government employees for campaign purposes. And so Clifford had, with the President's approval, had prevailed upon the Democratic National Committee to begin recruitment of a research staff and William L. Batt, Jr. had been chosen, I'm sorry I do not recall the date he reported for duty, as director of the Research Division of the Democratic National Committee. And Bill Batt began recruiting a lively group of young men, all of whom who had had a pretty broad exposure to politics and all of whom had the wide acquaintance with the issues of the day, and most of whom were fairly capable writers, writers of political speeches. I began dealing, as soon as the Truman train was back from the West, with Bill


Batt on the matter of whistlestop speeches because I was convinced that a major part of the campaign was going to have to be whistlestop speeches. We ought not to try to have prepared talks for reasons already mentioned that Truman was very forceful, very effective in off-the-cuff style talks and that we ought to be pursuing or preparing ourselves for a two track approach to the campaign. The first of a series of major, prepared, full-fledged, policy speeches that would be read from a prepared text and that would cover the full range of issues of the campaign. The other track and the one that I foresaw myself having a major role in, after Clifford returned we beat this around pretty thoroughly, was the preparation for the whistlestops and I proposed to Batt that I furnish him, just as quickly as we had any itineraries of any area, of any trip that the President would be taking, with those itineraries, and that he assign some of his Research Division people to preparing brief resumes on each of the cities that would be visited that he further pick or suggest a topic to be addressed by the President in each community and develop a short outline of ideas to amplify that topic. Bill and I spent a lot of time on this whole idea during the


summer and early fall weeks and finally developed, and had by the time the whistlestop campaign began, what we thought was a very effective pattern. Each day the President's itinerary, as developed, would call for eight, ten, twelve, sometimes as many as fifteen simple, rear platform or whistlestop speeches, in addition to one major address. For the dozen, plus or minus a couple, whistlestop speeches, we would have, we would propose that the President speak on a different topic at each of the Whistlestop speeches so that during the course of a day he would have touched on most of the issues of the campaign in this simple whistlestopping informal off-the-cuff manner. Further, that he not talk on the same subject more than once in any one day and that insofar as was possible to do so we would try to pick a whistlestop topic that was pretty close to the hearts of the people in the community where we were going to be. Obviously, if you're spending a whole day in a farm area and you' re going to try to talk on a different subject at each place, you can't continue to speak farm all day long. You get into many other things, some foreign policy, and some prices and some labor and so


on, but insofar as was possible to do so, we would try and adapt the issue chosen to the audience that we anticipated being there. Thus, by the time that we set out on our first cross country whistlestop campaign tour, September 17, 1948, I was armed with reference material on every community we were going to visit and some background about the town, about the history of it, about the leading personalities, about the congressional incumbent, whether he was Republican or Democrat made no difference, and his challenger of the other party, of course. Of the voting records of the incumbent, the issues that the challenger was making, provided we were able to ascertain that, and weren't always able to do so. And then a topic that we thought the President ought to speak about in this informal fashion. My principal job during that first trip and during all the other trips was to take this material and develop an outline that the President could take to the rear platform of the train and speak from.

What kind of an outline was it? Well, I would try always to have two or three full sentences that would get him off to a start where he wouldn't have to fumble around


and then an outline with topic sentences for each new idea, and indented under the topic sentences two, three or four points that would illustrate or amplify or buttress the topic sentence idea. Conclude with three or four sentences that would serve as a wrap-up for the ideas that were contained in that short talk. Now, the virtue of this approach, if it had virtue, and we thought it did, was that the President would have facts, and a theme, and a reasonably logical flow of ideas to develop that theme. By giving him a different subject at each of the whistlestops during the course of a day, he intrigued the newsmen. The newspapermen would pile off the train and go back because they wouldn't know what the President was going to say next and they had to listen to him. And they did listen to him. And all during each of the whistlestop days there would be a continuous flow of traffic from the newsmen and the news media off the train. So, by the time the story was written in the New York Times the next day or what have you, the story wouldn't be just about one speech Truman made but would have comments on a half a dozen subjects that he'd covered. There'd be a long story about many issues that the President was addressing.


Mind you, I'm speaking at this point still, only about the whistlestops.

In addition to this whistlestop exercise that the President would be engaging in each day, there would, and it normally was at night, would be a major address, a full thirty minute address in an auditorium, a stadium, a National Guard Armory or something of that sort. And, of course, this would be a major policy pronouncement, in most cases broadcast regionally, and in a number of instances broadcast nationally. But the whistlestops were not disregarded as being just incidental ways of looking at a crowd and letting a crowd look at him, the whistlestop idea was conceived of being, and was executed as being a very important part of the whole strategy of the campaign. The President, instead of getting out on the rear platform and just talking about platitudes, and how nice it was to be there, and how great America was and so on and so forth, and if you detect any reference here to an opposing candidate, I'll let you draw your own conclusions. Instead these were fighting, forceful talks by a political leader who knew where he was going, knew where he was and knew where he wanted to go. I think


Irwin Ross and his book The Loneliest Campaign and other books have discussed the impact this kind of speech and this kind of campaign had sufficiently so that it is not necessary to go into it any more but I do want to repeat that the range of topics chosen at the whistlestops, the amount of local information the President displayed in a half dozen sentences each place, the fact that he knew where he was, he knew the history of the place, he knew what its principal industry was, he knew that its principal interests were, he knew what the stand of the local political leaders was, this was no accident, it was all carefully developed, diligently, energetically, incredibly- -developed with an incredible amount of hard work by Bill Batt's group from the Democratic National Committee and then put into what I was striving always to make usable form, by me, on the train. Now, why was it done on the train, why couldn't it all be done in Washington? But, it couldn't. To be fresh, to be current, to be up to the minute, to take account of what we were hearing on the train from the Governors and the candidates who would ride with us through their state, to take account of what the papers


were saying about the other candidate, Mr. Dewey, and what was going on in the world at large, in order to keep them fresh and current, the final outline that would go into the President's hands had to be produced on the train within a matter of hours before delivery. Anything that had been done a week earlier, and two thousand miles away, obviously ran the risk of being a little out of touch and a little out of date. The Batt stuff was incredible in being on target. But it did take this last minute editing, adjusting, polishing and sometimes I would, for reasons no fault of the Democratic committee people, have to junk it and just do a whole outline myself right then and there. There was only one time during the entire campaign when President Truman did not have, in his possession, an outline for a whistlestop speech, and that was when we made an unscheduled stop on the Massachusetts-Connecticut border in late October and I just didn't know the train was going to stop there. We had had no advance information. That was the one time that he didn't have speech material prepared. It was awfully close at times. I can recall that there were a couple of occasions when the brakes were on and the train was slowing down, when


I would get to the back car and give the President his outline and that was the sort of circumstance that neither he nor I particularly enjoyed.

Now, if one compares the outlines of the material with the actual text as transcribed by Jack Romagna, or recorded by the Army Signal Corps, of course, there are differences. The actual text is several times longer in wordage than the outline. That's to be expected, of course. We weren't giving him a verbatim text to read from. That would have killed, that would have spoiled the whole impression, the whole impact of the structure, and the idea, and the campaign punch, and the statement of the issue. I think in an overwhelming percent of the cases one would find that what was in the outline emerged, a portion of it finally came out in the text. In any case, whether the President deviated from it or stuck very closely to it, the knowledge that he had in front of him, out of sight down on a low lectern not too visible from the crowd, right there, that he always had some materials, some sentences that would lead him onto another thought, some facts and so on, gave him, as he told me a number of times during the campaign, gave him a sense of security and confidence


so that he never felt that he was at sea or alone or would just have to shoot from the hip. And, even at this late date, I want to thank, again, Bill Batt and his crowd for their contributions in this regard because this teamwork resulted in that at no time in the campaign did we have any of the kinds of embarrassments that had plagued that spring of '48 trip.

In addition to the whistlestops, again as I said earlier, there were these major addresses, and Clifford's principal concern on the train was sweating out the major speeches, taking the drafts that by and large had been prepared back in Washington under Charlie Murphy's direction and sent along. Charlie came with us on some trips but not all. Charlie was principally responsible for the major addresses. Clifford being sort of next above Charlie and worked more closely with the President in the final editing, the final preparation of those. Sometimes I would sit in on a speech conference on the train, on one of the major addresses. For the most part I did not simply because my hands were full already with the whistlestops.

Section C asks about the preparation of statements and whether there were differences, I believe Jack means,


in the techniques of preparing speeches and written public statements. Yes, obviously a public statement did not require the degree of personal attention on the part of the President as a speech. Statements were for many purposes, they are for the record, sometimes they are purely formal. Some written statements are, by this I'll include veto messages, they can be, and sometimes are, very long, very legalistic, very formal. When the President vetoed the Taft-Hartley for example, the veto message was a lawyer's paper, a lawyer's brief. The President also went on the air to give his reasons to the public for having vetoed Taft-Hartley, and I would suggest that Jack Hopkins or any one else wishing to analyze the difference might well compare those two and see how they differ. When I say that not as much time and attention went in, this is not to say that the President did not himself, personally go over every written statement. Every statement issued in President Truman's name, I'm confident, was personally approved by President Truman. Nobody, certainly the Press Secretary, ever turned out statements by the President without knowing that the President had approved that particular statement. The public statements to an extent, not true of all speeches,


were prepared in the departments and accepted with minimal editing at the White House. The matter of style, of delivery, of choice of words, language, did it sound like Harry Truman, that kind of question just was not relevant for the statement and we didn't worry about it.

The second question here asks whether the President reviewed and evaluated the written statements accompanied by his signature prior to their release to the press. Yes, he did review them and okay them. I am inclined to doubt that very often he would go through the formality of signing them. This isn't necessary if it's just a statement by the President to the press. If it's a written statement that goes to the Hill as a formal message to the Congress, yes, that's another matter. By custom, and perhaps by law, I doubt that, I don't think there's any law on the subject, the President does sign a message that he addresses to the Congress. When the President is sending a formal message of greeting to something, let us say like the national convention of the American Legion, yes, it's customary there for the presidential signature to be affixed. Among other things, it's a nicer souvenir in that case. But frequently


several times a day, a statement by the President which is handed out by the press office, that would not, I think, require a signature. It would have been meaningless in any case, well it was just unnecessary. But the President went over it.

Section D asks an interesting question: Provide a justification or rationale for the speechwriting practices when the speech is written for another person, and do I regard the practice of speechwriting for others as unethical. I guess this is simply asking about ghostwriting. Is ghostwriting ethical or unethical? It's a simple, obvious fact of life that a President of the United States could not possibly write all of the material that has to be issued in the name of the President. Speeches, letters, statements, there aren't enough hours in the day for the President to do that himself. He must have help. The President cannot take the time to master, to assemble, all the minutiae of facts, the arguments that go into statements that have to come from him arid there's nothing deceptive or devious about this. It's a matter of public knowledge and has been for, certainly all of my lifetime, for everyone to know that the President had assistants


who worked with him on his speeches and statements. Perhaps this isn't quite the same as ghostwriting, I'm the one who implied that label. Ghostwriting, although some of us in the White House staff used to be called ghost-writers, I'm happy to see that that phrase doesn't seem to be current anymore. Ghostwriting perhaps implies that material is written and put in the mouth or in the pen of someone else and the fact that another person has assisted is concealed. Well, as I say, it is not concealed in the President's case. Everyone knows that the President has staff and this is, I think, completely acceptable, honest, and to pretend that it is otherwise, to pretend that the President doesn't have staff, that's the only thing that would be unethical.

In concluding this questionnaire which has originated with Mr. Jack Hopkins, I would like to say both to Jack and for any person who might either hear the tape or read a transcription subsequently, that all the work that I did, in all the years in the White House, speeches, or other matters, I was enormously assisted by Jack's father. William J. Hopkins is the finest kind of civil servant. He was loyal to President Roosevelt, loyal to President Truman, and to each succeeding President. He


knows more about the White House than any other staff person present. His taste is impeccable, his sense of propriety cannot be challenged and he was tolerant and forbearing of me and others on the White House staff when we came in young and green, at times impetuous, at times using poor taste or poor judgment, and in a gently and kindly fashion, Bill would guide us in the proper direction. He had then, and still does, the respect of all of his colleagues at the White House. Those of us who worked on speeches, I know in the Truman days, and I'm sure it's still true, were terribly demanding and it was not at all uncommon for us to at a quarter of seven in the evening to phone Bill Hopkins who was, of course, still at his desk, to say that we were going to need about six typists all night long, and Bill would see that we had them. We might, on a Saturday, suddenly decide that we were going to work on a Sunday. We might on a Christmas Eve say that we were going to need help on Christmas Day and no matter what our request was, at any time, Bill Hopkins always managed to see to it that we had the assistance that we needed. And when you're writing speeches the creative juices don't always flow, as a matter of fact they are very


stubborn juices and they just don't flow between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. and allow you to go home at 5. Some of our bright ideas, sometimes our not so bright ideas, came in the wee small hours of the night. Deadlines were hard to meet at times and so those of us who worked on speeches, probably more than just about any other part of the White House staff, were very demanding in our requests of Bill Hopkins. And so, Jack, let me say directly to you, it was a great experience to me and of enormous value to have had the privilege of associating with your father while I worked on Harry Truman's speeches.

HESS: One of the questions that Mr. Hopkins has asked deals with the choice of a subject for a specific speech. And, in the papers of Mr. Clark Clifford, which are at the Truman Library, I found a memo from you to Mr. Clifford dated March the 5th of 1948 on this subject, dealing with what you thought that the President should say in a St. Patrick's day speech. Would you expound upon that just a little bit and tell me how this started, how this worked?

ELSEY; Mr. Hess, I think the memorandum probably explains


the situation better than at this date, twenty-one years later, I could do. It is a memorandum--Mr. Hess, I think the memorandum in which I outlined to Mr. Clifford on March 5 what I thought the President ought to be saying in a speech which he had agreed to make on March 17th of that year, 1948. This is one of those circumstances where the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, for a variety of political and other reasons, had asked the President to come to New York. He had agreed to come. It was the kind of an occasion where he could have gotten away with simple informalities. He probably wouldn't even have to have a prepared text, just the presence of the President at that kind of a dinner would have been enough. Of course, he would have been expected to say a few things. But he could have gotten away without any formal substantive speech of any importance.

One of the jobs of those of us on the staff, when we were conscious of international or domestic problems of major import, was to seize occasions like the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick dinner and say here's the time and here is an audience, here is the city and so on, that the President could make good use of. That's all I was doing in this March 5th memo to Clifford, pointing out


that the recent aggression of the Soviets in Czechoslovakia meant that this was a time when something needed to be said and here was a darned good chance to say it, and the rationale why I said this and what my arguments were, why I thought ought to be in the speech, I think can best be covered by our attaching as an annex to this transcript, a copy of the memorandum of March 5 which we're talking about together with a text of the speech that President Truman did deliver at the time.

HESS: One further question on that. The President must have agreed with you on the necessity, because on that same day he made an address to a joint session of Congress on that subject. One question on that: Just when was it decided that the President ought not just make a speech to the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick on this topic, but that it was so important that he should go to Congress and make a speech.

ELSEY: I no longer recall and cannot answer that one. I think that sort of thing that one might find by consulting my speech files and Clark Clifford's. There may well be further memoranda in my files that would--memoranda of conversation or notes that I made of


discussions with Clifford. Perhaps of earlier drafts that I would have annotated in some fashion or another to show when the idea of two speeches came up instead of just one. I, at this point can no longer recall, it is too far back.

HESS: Do you recall if you assisted in the writing of both of these speeches?

ELSEY: It's my recollection that I did. But, again, I would go by what my files show rather than by my recollection at this point.

HESS: All right, fine. Is that all for the day? All for this particular tape, all for Mr. Hopkins?

ELSEY: Let the tape show that I think it's time for lunch.

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