Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

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Harry S. Truman
1945-1953


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Provided courtesy of The American Presidency Project.  John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.
  262. Address in Madison Square Garden, New York City  
October 28, 1948

THANK YOU very much. Thank you. It is certainly good to be here tonight. You know, I was here 4 years ago on the same errand. It's always a pleasure to come to this great city--especially when you have so many friends.

But there is a special reason why I am glad to be here tonight. New York is a mighty source of strength in the battle we are waging to preserve liberal government in the United States. It is the birthplace of many liberal and progressive programs which have restored the strength of the Nation during the last 16 years. It is the State of those true Democrats and great Americans, Al Smith, Bob Wagner, Herbert Lehman-and above all, Franklin Roosevelt. It was here in this State that these men did so much to give new life and new meaning to the principles of democracy. And when I say "democracy," I mean democracy as we understand it in this country. Because of their great work our country, and the entire world, is a better place in which to live.

We have come here tonight to this great gathering under the banner of the Liberal Party--a party which has done so much for liberal causes. And I consider it an honor to be here with the Liberal Party under that banner.

We have come here tonight with one mind and one purpose. We have come to pledge once more our faith in liberal government, and to place in firm control of our national affairs those who believe with all their hearts in the principles of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Now, I have a confession to make to you here tonight. For the last 2 or 3 weeks I've had a queer feeling that I'm being followed, that someone is following me. I felt it so strongly that I went into consultation with the White House physician. And I told him that I kept having this feeling, that everywhere I go there's somebody following behind me. The White House physician told me not to worry. He said: "You keep right on your way. There is one place where that fellow is not going to follow you--and that's in the White House."

I think the doctor's right. I'm going to be there, working for the people, for 4 more years because you believe that I'm trying to do the right thing.

Now, there are some other places besides the White House where this gentleman won't follow me. He won't follow me if I go into the record of the Democratic and Republican Parties.

The Republican candidate can follow me all the way from Los Angeles to Madison Square Garden, but the Republican record makes it certain that he will still be trailing along behind when the votes are counted. He is doing all he can to make you forget that record. He doesn't dare talk about it. I have never in my life been in a campaign where the opposition refused absolutely to discuss the issues of the campaign. I can't understand that sort of an approach. But after I had analyzed the situation I came to the conclusion that the record of the Republican Party is much too bad to talk about. The Republican candidate is trying to run on the record of the Democratic Party--of Franklin Roosevelt and myself. He's a "me too" man.

Let's take a look at the record and see why he can't talk about the record of the Republican Party. Let's go back a few years. In 1928, the Republicans elected a well-known efficiency engineer named Herbert Hoover, and they promised us everything. They told us if we wanted prosperity we must vote for Hoover. Well, the people fell for it. And I think this new candidate-well, he's not a new candidate--I think this second-hand candidate thinks the same way. You know what a bitter experience you had after that.

Many of you here tonight remember 1932. Over in Central Park men and women were living in little groups of shacks made of cardboard and old boxes. They were known as "Hoovervilles." Out here on Eighth Avenue veterans were selling apples. Ragged individualism. I suppose that's what you would call it. Farm foreclosures, homeowners' evictions, starvation wages, labor unions disrupted by company spies and thugs--that was the Republican record when they last had control of the Government. And, you know, there is a peculiar thing about this campaign. I have never heard of a single Republican candidate for office point with pride to any Republican administration or any Republican President.

Now, they made an awful mess of things when they had control back there when they were elected in 1928. And in 1932 we turned them out. The vigorous action which saved the Nation and restored our faith came with the Democrats, with the New Deal, and with Franklin Roosevelt.

We saved the banks. Now, in the last 3 years there hasn't been a single bank failure in the United States.

We saved industry. Now, industry last year and this year have made the biggest profits they ever made in the history of the country--17 billions last year, and nearly 20 billion this year. That's profits after taxes.

We saved the insurance companies. We saved the railways.

At that point the Republicans said we had done enough. But we went right on saving this great Nation of ours. We saved the people--the farmers, the workers, the unemployed, the old people who had lost their savings, and the young people who had never had a chance. And while we were at it, we saved the United States of America. We replanted the forests, we began soil conservation, we built great dams, we developed whole river valleys. We built roads and bridges, schoolhouses and courthouses. We built sidewalks and sewers, parks and playgrounds, and low-rent housing--and quite a few battleships, too.

And all the time, the Republicans kept moaning that we were going too far. I was in the Senate during those years, and I heard them moaning. And the Congressional Record is the best evidence of the policies that the Republicans wanted to pursue, but they couldn't do it. They said we were undermining our own moral fiber--we were destroying individual initiative--that Roosevelt was a dictator--that we were opposed to free enterprise. Now, as early as 1936 they began saying that we were communistic, and socialistic, red, or radical--because we cared for the people and the people knew it, and liked it. They tried to scare labor in 1936--you all remember this--by stuffing pay envelopes with propaganda against social security. That didn't work. They tried a new line of propaganda in 1940, and again it didn't work. The people knew better. They broke with tradition and chose Roosevelt for a third term.

World War II had come and the country was in danger. But that meant nothing to Republican leadership. They came within a single vote in the Congress of the United States of disbanding our Army 3 months before Pearl Harbor--and they spent thousands of dollars and time, without stint, trying to prove that Pearl Harbor was brought about by one of the greatest Presidents who ever sat in the White House--and it's all turned out to be a pack of lies! They hindered and delayed our efforts to rearm the Nation. Nobody knows more about that than I do, for I was there watching them.

And all the time they kept moaning and groaning that the New Deal had weakened America. Weakened America--think of that! Now, Tojo and Hitler knew better than that. They knew the answer to that one, even if the Republicans don't.

But the Republicans kept on trying to stop us, trying to stop the people and trying to kill the New Deal.

In 1944 the Republicans tried to talk their way into power again. They nominated a man who was violently opposed to the New Deal. In fact, he wrote a book about it. They nominated the same man they nominated this year--that's the reason I said he was a second-hand candidate. He was saying the same things in 1944 that he is saying today. He was attacking Franklin Roosevelt's administration then, and he is attacking my administration now. He says that because I want to talk about these things and because I want to talk about the issues that I'm just an ordinary political mudslinger. When I go out to the people of the United States, in every corner of the United States, in nearly every State of the Union, and tell them what the facts are-then I'm a mudslinger. He can't stand the facts--that's what the trouble is.

Time and again in 1944 he told the voters that what we need is "strength and unity." He promised to displace--and I quote--"a tired, exhausted, quarreling, and bickering administration with a fresh and vigorous administration." Now, doesn't that sound familiar to you? And he asked, and I quote again: "Is the New Deal, the tired and quarrelsome New Deal, all America has to offer?" "Must we go back," he asked, "must we go back to leaf-raking and doles?" Well, you people stuck by the New Deal in 1944, and we haven't had to go back to leaf-raking or the doles, or anything else of that kind. And the reason we haven't had to go back to Hooverville and breadlines and soup kitchens is because the Democratic policies of the New Deal are correct and right, and they're for all the people and not just for the privileged few.

I must say, though, that some of you are partly to blame for this, because you didn't vote in 1946. That Republican "do-nothing" 80th Congress did all it could to start us back down that dismal road.

Here's another one. At Baltimore just before the 1944 election the Republican candidate said: "We must have a President who can and will work with Congress." He said he "would like to start the largest housecleaning Washington ever had." That sounds familiar, too, doesn't it? Now he is playing the same old record again, and the record is stuck in the same old groove. What a wonderful thing it was for the people of this United States that they didn't have a President who would go along with that good-for-nothing 80th Congress! Now, he was speaking of the wartime administration of one of the greatest men in history, who was leading a united people to victory in the greatest war of all time. Roosevelt believed in the people, and the people believed in Roosevelt--and so did I. Even with millions of men overseas and away from their homes the Roosevelt ticket won in 1944. Let me put it differently: The Republicans lost and the people won again in 1944.

You know what happened then. We won the war in the most complete military victory ever recorded in history. And since the war we have enjoyed the greatest peacetime prosperity in our history.

My friends, that's the record. And as Al Smith said, "If you look at the record, you can't go wrong." The record of Republican failure and Democratic success--that's why the Republican candidate won't follow me when I talk about the record.

There's another place also where he won't follow me. He won't follow me in discussing the issues of this campaign.

He can follow me into Framingham, Mass., but he won't follow me in raising the minimum wage to at least 75 cents an hour. He said in this campaign that he is for a minimum wage--and I think the smaller the minimum the better it suits him.

He can follow me into Cleveland, but he won't follow me and broaden the coverage of our social security insurance laws and increase their benefits by 50 percent. You know, an old couple now only gets $40 a month, and that's mighty little--just like that minimum wage--$ 16 a week. I've said time and again around the country that I wish that the Republican Congressmen could have to live in Washington for a while on $16 a week or $40 a month. I think they would change their minds just a little bit.

He can follow me into Chicago, but he won't follow me in demanding that Congress pass laws for health insurance and medical care. You know, it's a shame and a disgrace that a country as rich and as important as this great country is today--the leader of all the world--is not able to give the people in the middle the proper kind of medical care. I've asked for health insurance because health insurance is the answer to a healthy nation--and some day we're going to get it.

He can follow me into Boston, but he won't follow me in calling for Federal aid to education so that teachers can get a living wage, and so that modern schools can be built, and so that our children can get a decent education. That's another disgrace on this great country. And our Republican opponent has said that the teachers lobby-he called it "The Teachers Organization"; he's trying to work against the teachers lobby--he says it's the most vicious thing in this country. Vicious because the teachers want to get a living wage and because they want to get decent housing for our school children! Now, we give money to the States to build roads. Why can't we also give money to the States from the Federal Government to build schoolhouses and pay teachers? I think it's much more important to see that the children that ride in the buses over these roads get the proper kind of schooling and the proper sort of teachers than it is to build the roads, myself. He doesn't go along with me on that.

He can follow me to Pittsfield and Providence, but when he gets there they needn't expect him to give them any help on lowcost housing. You know, low-cost houses have been before the Congress for 3 years. It passed the Senate twice. First it was the Wagner-Ellender-Taft bill. That was killed. And then they introduced a new bill in the 80th Congress and they called it the Taft-Ellender-Wagner bill. And when it came up for consideration the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives wouldn't even let it in, and the Members of Congress in the Lower House couldn't even vote on it; and when it came back for reconsideration in the Senate Mr. Taft ran out on his own bill. I don't understand that.

He can follow me into New York City-and I wouldn't be surprised if he followed me right here into Madison Square Garden-but he won't follow me in demanding the repeal of the Taft-Hartley law. You can be sure of that. He can follow me right up here on this platform next Saturday night, but he won't follow me in calling for a law to control high prices. You can be sure of that.

On all these issues, when it comes to doing something for the people, the Republican candidate won't follow me--you can be sure of that. Sometimes it looks as if he is almost persuaded to follow me on some of these questions, but that's as far as he goes, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is as far as he's going to go. Because every time the publican candidate looks at the program of the Democratic Party, he says, "Me too," and his party's record says, "Nothing doing." And his party's record speaks louder than he does. You know, he is trying to persuade the people at large in the country that the elephant's got the new look, but it's just the same old elephant--you can be sure of that.

He could follow me all over the country in his campaign special, but he couldn't get his party to follow me and support a decent law for displaced persons.

Now, he couldn't get that old elephant to behave before election time, and I wonder how in the world he's going to get it to behave after election time with that same old leadership in the Congress. He can't do it.

Now, let me say in all seriousness that I am glad the Republican candidate has followed me around over the country, because it has shown the people how little he has to offer them. And the American people are not going to be fooled. They want to hear something more than platitudes. You know, "G.O.P." now stands for "Grand Old Platitudes."

The Republican candidate can follow me to every city, town, and village in this country. But so long as he is afraid to tell where he stands on the issues he will lose more votes than he gains. Some of those Republican papers now are getting a little scared. They agree I might win. Don't you worry about that--I will win! A Democratic victory is on the way and he is doing all he can to help us win it, and I'm glad of that.

I wish to speak now upon a subject that has been of great interest to me as your President. It is the subject of Israel. Now, this is a most important subject and must not be resolved as a matter of politics during a political campaign. I have refused consistently to play politics with that question. I have refused, first, because it is my responsibility to see that our policy in Israel fits in with our foreign policy throughout the world; second, it is my desire to help build in Palestine a strong, prosperous, free, and independent democratic state. It must be large enough, free enough, and strong enough to make its people self-supporting and secure.

As President of the United States, back in 1945, I was the first to call for the immediate opening of Palestine to immigration to the extent of at least 100,000 persons. The United States, under my administration, led the way in November 1947, and was responsible for the resolution of the United Nations setting up Israel, not only as a homeland, but as a free and independent political state. The United States was the first to give full and complete recognition to the new State of Israel in April 1948, and recognition to its provisional government.

I have never changed my position on Palestine or Israel. As I have previously announced, I have stood--and still stand-on the present Democratic platform of 1948. The platform of 1944 had provisions in it under which I have been trying to act. The platform of 1948 reiterates those positions and goes a little further--and I am glad it did go a little further. What we need now is to help the people of Israel--and they have proved themselves worthy of the best traditions of hardy pioneers. They have created out of the barren desert a modern and efficient state, with the highest standards of Western civilization. They have demonstrated that Israel deserves to take its place in the family of nations.

That is our objective. We shall work toward it, but we will not work toward it in a partisan and political way. I am confident that that objective will be reached. I know that no American citizen, of whatever race or religion, would want us to deal with the question of Palestine on any other basis than the welfare of all Americans of every race and faith.

That is the spirit in which all liberals face the issues of this campaign. We are concerned with justice, and we are deeply concerned with human rights--here in America as well as in the rest of the world.

I am happy to say to you tonight that the spirit of liberalism is going to triumph at the polls on November 2d, just as sure as you are sitting in this hall.

The forces of reaction gained a beachhead in 1946 when they elected a Republican Congress. And this year they have redoubled their efforts to take over control of your Government. And it is your Government when you exercise the right to vote. And when you don't exercise the right to vote you can't complain when such things as the 80th Congress come along and commence doing things to you.

I have never lost faith in the people. I know that when the issues were laid before them they would arise to preserve their liberties. I have not been disappointed. All over the country the people have become aroused. Democracy is on the march, and it's on the march to victory!

I have only one request to make of you: vote on election day. Vote for yourselves. You don't have to vote for me. Vote in your own interests. And when you do that, you can only vote one way--vote for the welfare of the country, vote for the welfare of the world, and vote for your own welfare by voting the Democratic ticket straight on November 2d.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:34 p.m. in Madison Square Garden. During his address he referred to former Governor Alfred E. Smith, Senator Robert F. Wagner, and former Governor Herbert Lehman, all of New York. Later he referred to Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio.
 
Provided courtesy of The American Presidency Project.  John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.