|38. The President's News Conference|
February 16, 1950 |
THE PRESIDENT. Gentlemen, I have no particular announcements to make. If you have any questions, I will try to answer them.
[1.] Q. Mr. President, you were quoted yesterday as having said that if it had not been for the 1948 campaign, you would have sent Justice Vinson to Moscow, and that maybe that would be a thing to do sometime in the future. Is that correct?1
THE PRESIDENT. Did you read the quotation in the paper, Smitty?2
Q. Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT. Read it again. That will answer your question.
1 The reporter was referring to an exclusive interview that the President had granted to Arthur Krock, chief Washington correspondent of the New York Times, on February 14.
In his report of the interview, Mr. Krock quoted the President as having said that he would have sent Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson to Moscow in the fall of 1948 except for the political campaign then in progress and that perhaps he might send him on such a mission sometime in the future.
The text of the interview, as printed in the New York Times on February 15, is also published in the Congressional Record (vol. 96, p. A1272).
2Merriman Smith of the United Press Associations.
Q. Well, that is--
THE PRESIDENT. Read it again. That will answer your question.
[2.] Q. Mr. President, was that interview authorized in that form?
THE PRESIDENT. It was.
Q. Mr. President, does that represent a softening of your attitude toward columnists, and vice versa?
THE PRESIDENT. No, it does not. [The White House Official Reporter stated that there was a period of silence at this point.]
May I say to you gentlemen right now-you seem to be in a kind of disgruntled mood this morning--that the President is his own free agent. He will see whom he pleases, when he pleases, and say what he pleases to anybody that he pleases. And he is not censored by you, or anybody else.
I have tried my best to be as courteous to you gentlemen as I possibly can be, and I expect to continue that. But I don't like your attitude this morning, so just cool off. [Laughter]
Q. Mr. President, inasmuch as I am not disgruntled ..
THE PRESIDENT. Of course you are not--of course you are not.
Q. I might say to you, sir, as I used to work in the newspaper game--[laughter]--that that particular type of thing is a--these fellows feel, I think, that it is a reflection on every bureau chief and reporter in the White House--
THE PRESIDENT. It is nothing of the kind.
Q. I beg your pardon?
THE PRESIDENT. It is nothing of the kind.
Q. That is their attitude, and I hope that you will pardon me if I bring that to your attention?
THE PRESIDENT. That's all right, but it's nothing of the kind. But I don't stand for anybody to edit my actions. I am a free agent, even if I am the President of the United States.
Q. Mr. President, did you intentionally omit "damn" ?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I intentionally omitted it. I could put it in, if you would like to have it. [Laughter]
Q. Where should it go in, Mr. President-the "damn"?
THE PRESIDENT. What?
Q. Where does it go in?
THE PRESIDENT. Put your question in, and I will edit it for you. [More laughter] Now then, have you got any questions that I can answer sensibly? If you have, I will listen to them.
Q. I'm sorry--I think this is not a criticism of your right to do as you please, but of our understanding as to whether others may also obtain exclusive and private interviews ?
THE PRESIDENT. That remains to be seen. I will cross that bridge when I get to it.
[3.] Q. Mr. President, getting back to this question--that direct question which Mr. Smith just asked, you were quoted in this interview as saying that you might have sent Chief Justice Vinson to try to straighten out Stalin and other Russian leaders on our real intentions. Then you were quoted as saying maybe that will be the thing to do sometime. How about this question, sir ? Do you think that time has come?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I do not.
[4.] Q. Mr. President, could I return with the feeling only of wanting information--
THE PRESIDENT. Sure. I will give you any information I can--that I am capable of.
Q.--that your giving of interviews goes by favor, and there is no longer a rule? We were under the impression that there was a rule which had--custom, at least, which had the binding force of a rule?
THE PRESIDENT. It is a custom. I will continue that custom--
Q. But you will--
THE PRESIDENT. --but I will do as I please with regard to breaking it. [Laughter]
Q. Yes sir. That is the information that I want.
THE PRESIDENT. That is the answer. You have the information. And I am not disgruntled in the slightest. [More laughter]
Q. Why should you be?
THE PRESIDENT. I am in as good a humor as I can possibly be, but I would like to answer some questions that have a bearing on the present situation.
Q. I will give you one, Mr. President.
Q. You think our business is quite important, do you?
THE PRESIDENT. Sometimes I am not so sure.
Q. Mr. President, can you--
THE PRESIDENT. What is it?
[5.] Q.--Mr. President, one of your callers yesterday said that he got the impression that you plan to campaign extensively this year, after the nominees were in. He mentioned the States of Ohio and Pennsylvania?
THE PRESIDENT. I think I made a statement to this press conference sometime back that I was not dabbling in any Democratic primaries outside of the State of Missouri, but that after the primaries were over I will be willing to help the Democrats to win in any State in the Union.
Q. Could you tell us
THE PRESIDENT. That is along the same line.
Q. Yes. Inasmuch as he mentioned two States, could you mention perhaps some other States?
THE PRESIDENT. No. Let's attend to that when we get to it. I will take you on a nonpolitical tour, one of these days, and I'll show you. [Laughter]
[6.] Q. Mr. President, about that Missouri primary, have you got any word whether Forrest Smith is going to be at the dinner tonight?3
THE PRESIDENT. I beg your pardon?
3Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner. See Item 39.
Q. Have you got any word as to whether Forrest--Governor Smith will or will not be at the dinner tonight?
THE PRESIDENT. He will be at the dinner.
Q. He will be at the dinner?
THE PRESIDENT. He will be at the dinner. At least, if the weather is good to fly in this morning he will be there.
Q. Mr. President, he wired John Hendren4 that the National Guard wouldn't let him take off.
THE PRESIDENT. That was yesterday, not today.
4 John H. Hendren, chairman, Missouri Democratic State Committee.
Q. Has the weather changed?
THE PRESIDENT. There is not--I don't know--you know, weather conditions change from day to day. I rather think he will be here.
[7.] Q. Mr. President, do you have any comment on the agreement between Russia and the Communist government of China?
THE PRESIDENT. I have no comment, for I haven't myself personally--I haven't read the treaty and don't know what it contains. I think Dean Acheson covered the matter very well yesterday. 5
5 The New York Times reported on February 16 that Secretary Acheson, in his press conference of February 15, had warned the Chinese people that their troubles with the Soviet Union had only begun with the signing of the Sino-Soviet Pact. The treaty of alliance between the two countries was signed in Moscow on February 15.
Secretary Acheson was quoted as saying that even if the full sum of the Soviet Union's promised economic aid--$300 million over a 5-year period--was forthcoming, it would be meager in comparison with the great economic needs of China. He further stated that the most significant features of the new agreements were probably covered by secret protocols that would never be made public, but that could be measured only by Russian conduct in China in the months and years to come.
[8.] Q. Mr. President, do you approve of the selling of hundred-dollar tickets for tonight's dinner to civil service employees who are nonpolitical employees?
THE PRESIDENT. If they want to buy a ticket, they are at liberty to buy one. I don't think their civil rights have been infringed upon in the slightest.
[9.] Q. Mr. President, speaking of civil rights, don't you think that a Federal law against bigtime gambling is just as important as Federal laws against lynching?
THE PRESIDENT. Well now, that is a matter that will have to be worked out by the Attorney General. That is not in my immediate department. I am not a criminal enforcement officer. I will take the advice of the Attorney General on the subject.
Q. Mr. President, have you ever advocated a Federal law against gambling?
THE PRESIDENT. No. I never--it has never come up for consideration.
Q. I do not understand the question.
THE PRESIDENT. No. No, it has never come up for consideration. I think all sorts of lawlessness ought to be stopped by any measure that is possible to stop it. I think, in enforcing the Federal law, that we must always be careful that the civil rights part of the Constitution is not infringed upon. That is what I tried to make perfectly clear in my speech yesterday.6
Q. I beg your pardon--in this particular jurisdiction, where we have two or three counties--two States and a Federal jurisdiction-District of Columbia--we have found here, according to the grand jury, that it is impossible to enforce laws against gambling without the addition of some interstate matter or help of the Federal Government. That is the report of the grand jury.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, that ought to be remedied.
Q. You understand about that?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes. That ought to be remedied.
Q. That ought to be remedied?
THE PRESIDENT. That ought to be remedied, of course.
[10.] Q. Mr. President, do you agree with Mr. Churchill that another top level conference with Mr. Stalin might achieve some results?7
THE PRESIDENT. I have no comment to make on Mr. Churchill's statement. I have always said that the door is open here in Washington. Any time any head of state wants to come and visit me, he is welcome.
7 The New York Times reported on February 15 that former British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill spoke at Usher Hall in Edinburgh, Scotland, on February 14. The Times quoted Mr. Churchill as stating that a new "top level" attempt to reach an agreement with the Soviet Union for the control of the atomic bomb and an end to the cold war should be instigated.
Q. You still want it to be held here in Washington?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
Q. Mr. President, do you think Mr. Churchill is just electioneering?
THE PRESIDENT. That question I do not want to answer.
[11.] Q. Mr. President, did you tell Charles Luckey8 that you might be a candidate for President?
THE PRESIDENT. He drew that conclusion. [Laughter]
8 George (Charles) Luckey, vice chairman of the California Democratic State Committee.
Q. Did you indicate to him that you might be a candidate?
THE PRESIDENT. He drew that conclusion. [Laughter]
[12.] Q. To return to Missouri politics once more, Chairman John Hendren told a group of Missouri Democrats at luncheon yesterday that it is his understanding that the Hatch Act will not prohibit Government workers from joining the Missouri State Democratic clubs, that they could not be solicited while at work but they could solicit them at home.
THE PRESIDENT. I think the Government employee, when he is through with his Government work, can do anything he pleases that does not infringe upon the criminal law. I think he has the same rights as any other citizen of the United States, and if he hasn't he ought to have.
Q. Mr. President, the Hatch Act--that doesn't say that?
THE PRESIDENT. The Hatch Act is specific in that particular. You ought to read it very carefully. I am pretty familiar with the Hatch Act, for I was there when it passed, and I voted against section nine, which is the one to which this refers.
[13.] Q. Mr. President, in your discussion yesterday with Mayor Lawrence of Pittsburgh, did the mayor give you a very promising picture of Pennsylvania?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, he did. Yes, he did.
Q. Do you think Senator Francis J. Myers will be elected ?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, and I hope he will.
[14.] Q. Mr. President, do you have any hopes that the miners will go back to work under the injunction--
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't want to comment on that, because that is a matter that is in the courts, and the courts will have to handle it.
[15.] Q. Mr. President, did Mr. Luckey draw the correct conclusion?
THE PRESIDENT. That question will have to be--you will have to wait awhile for the correct answer to that question.
Q. Didn't hear that answer, sir.
THE PRESIDENT. He wanted to know if Mr. Luckey drew the correct conclusion, and I told him you would have to wait awhile to see whether his conclusion was right or
[16.] Q. Mr. President, your Solicitor General, Mr. Perlman, filed a brief last Thursday regarding two schools in Oklahoma and Texas; and at the time I asked you if you had seen it and you said you had not. Is that brief the official view of the administration?
THE PRESIDENT. I haven't read the brief, and I don't know what is in it, and I can't answer your question now any more than I could last week.
[17.] Q. Mr. President, Mr. Green and Mr. Murray9 were in to see you a few days ago, and they asked you to do something about British arms shipments to the Arabs.
THE PRESIDENT. They brought me in a letter signed by both of them, and I referred it to the State Department.
9 William Green, president of the American Federation of Labor, and Philip Murray, president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations.
Q. Would you care to comment on it?
THE PRESIDENT. No.
[18.] Q. Mr. President, could you comment on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy's statement that there are 57 Communists in the State Department?
THE PRESIDENT. I think the State Department answered that by saying there was not a word of truth in what the Senator said.
[19.] Q. Mr. President, what is your feeling toward the Atlantic Union proposal now being discussed on the Hill?
THE PRESIDENT. I am not familiar enough with it to comment on it. I don't think now is the proper time to press a thing of that sort. We have other things much more important right now.
[20.] Q. Mr. President, do you feel there would be any value in--propaganda-wise or otherwise--a somewhat more dramatic move than the State Department's, by the Assistant Secretary of State, that we are still ready to negotiate on the atomic control ?
THE PRESIDENT. What do you mean by that? The negotiating machinery in the United Nations and our Ambassadors in all the capitals of the world are always ready to discuss any questions with any state when they want to discuss them with us. The door has always been open. We have never walked out of any meetings. We have never used the veto power for the purpose of preventing peace in the world. Why don't you read a little history? Our doors are always open. We are ready to talk with anybody on any subject that will contribute to peace. I don't think it needs any showmanship to carry that through.
Q. Mr. President, the reason--feeling that that had been your constant position was one of the reasons we were astonished at the reference to Vinson in the Krock interview.
THE PRESIDENT. I don't think you should be astonished. Read it very carefully. It did not astonish anybody at the time.
[21.] Q. Mr. President, the CIO executive board early this week urged you to fire Mr. Denham.10 Are you considering that?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I am not.
10 Robert N. Denham, General Counsel, National Labor Relations Board.
Q. Mr. President, have you power to fire Mr. Denham?
THE PRESIDENT. If I have the power to appoint, I have the power to dismiss, except if the law provides that it can't be done. You will find that is the decision of the courts all the way down.
Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. You're welcome.
NOTE: President Truman's two hundred and seventeenth news conference was held in his office at the White House at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, February 16, 1950.
Provided courtesy of The American Presidency Project. John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.