Franklin D. Roosevelt

Press Conference

November 08, 1940

Q. Mr. President, I think the country would like to know whether you were closer than Mr. Gallup on your electoral vote?

THE PRESIDENT: I was away off. My guess was made, as you know, way back about the first of August, and I saw no reason at any time in the campaign to change it. My guess was 340 electoral votes for me.

Q. 340?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. I was away off. . . .

Up there at Hyde Park the boys had a pool on different sections and regions and, basing the thing more or less on that 340 I lost them all.

Q. Mr. President, what State surprised you?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, about a hundred and ten votes did.

Q. Would you care to identify them further?


Q. Mr. President, the Pan American Union Governing Board, representing the twenty-one American nations, congratulated you unanimously on your election and expressed the view that the vote was an endorsement of the Good Neighbor policy. Could you—

THE PRESIDENT: [interposing] That was awfully nice of them.

Q. Do you share that view?

THE PRESIDENT: I think they probably were correct.

Q. Mr. President, did you get anything from Herr Hitler or Mussolini?


Q. I understood you got something from Marshal Pe'tain?

THE PRESIDENT: No. It may be here, Constantine [Mr. Brown],but I haven't seen anything.

Q. But Hitler did not say anything?

THE PRESIDENT: No—not yet.

Q. Mr. President, there have been suggestions from the public and the press and in conversations that you might have Cabinet changes to the extent of asking Mr. Willkie into the Cabinet or a Government position. Have you anything to say about that, seriously?

THE PRESIDENT: Only this, that I have not considered anything along those lines one way or the other, and I have to warn everybody, off the record, that this kind of a story [indicating the newspaper in front of him] is silly. Where was it? Oh, yes [reading],
"That some Cabinet changes were likely was reported in New Deal circles."

[The President was quoting from the front page of The New York Times of even date.]

What I want to emphasize is that it was not reported in New Deal circles; it was written in this particular office. And the next sentence [reading],
"It was said that the resignation, etc."

It was not said in official quarters, it was written in the office.

Q. Is that off the record?

THE PRESIDENT: No, you can use that if you want to.

Q. [Mr. Godwin] As a matter of personal defense, every time I ask you a question and you pick up a newspaper, they say that it is a planted question. Will you solve that? (Laughter)

THE PRESIDENT: I will solve it. I will say, "Earl, it was not a planted question." (Laughter)

Q. [Mr. Godwin] I happen to be well informed; that is all. (Laughter)

Q. Mr. President, toward the end of the campaign you made certain statements that were regarded by many people as indicating that you would not accept a fourth term. Did you definitely mean that?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, the question is this: Oughtn't you go back to grade school and learn English? It was perfectly clear to me and to almost everybody else in this country.

Q. That was your meaning?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, read it. I am not teaching you English. Read it.

Q. I have read it, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, read it again. It was a statement, and perfectly plain English. Read it again. . . .

Q. Mr. President, anything you have in mind now that would require the attention of Congress between this time and the first of January?

THE PRESIDENT: I cannot tell you because I have not seen the Congressional leaders yet. Most of them are away and I suppose they will be back on Monday, and I shall see them then. . . .

Q. You met yesterday with the Defense Commission and we were told afterward that the Priorities Board was meeting and might give consideration to this 12,000-plane order for Great Britain. Anything definite on that yet?

THE PRESIDENT: I would not put it that way. You see, the Priorities Board would not take up things like completed articles, among them planes, which is a completed article. They will take up, in the first instance, certain component parts, of which there might be shortages, that go into a completed article. In other words, suppose, for the sake of argument, there were orders for 12,000 planes. First, they would look into the question of the manufacturing facilities, the buildings and the labor, skilled labor, and the assembly end of it, and the putting together of the thing, and then they would say, "Where are bottlenecks? What are we short of?"

Now, there might be some essential things we were short of, especially raw materials, so far as getting them up to the line on time.

Well, just for example, just trying to illustrate, yesterday we talked about the steel situation. Probably, through the winter, until next spring when the Great Lakes are open again, there won't be any ingot shortage. In other words, there is enough ore on hand to make ingots—to keep that going. On the other hand, there might be a shortage of manufacturing facilities for some steel process after the ingots are all melted down. There might be a shortage of rolling facilities, or stamping facilities, or something of that kind.

So that is what the Priorities Board is doing at the present time, to check on the primal bottlenecks at the bottom of the line.

Q. Mr. President, in dealing with this request of 12,000 planes, you said the Defense Commission had been asked to give its sympathetic consideration. Has that sympathetic consideration resulted in a final decision?

THE PRESIDENT: Not yet; it is being studied.

Q. Anything to be said about Kennedy [Ambassador to Great Britain] as to whether or not he will go back to London? Any news?

THE PRESIDENT: No. He is carrying on and giving us some very valuable information.

Q. There was a suggestion from somewhere that he is going to remain here and go into defense work?

THE PRESIDENT: We are just talking. He probably will be in touch with me for the next few weeks on information he has and advice.

Q. Mr. President, from general word I got from Buffalo, it seems on your trip you qualified pretty much as an expert. Larry [Lawrence] Bell said he never had anyone ask him so many technical questions on airplane production. Can you tell us anything at all about the two plants you saw up there on your visit?

THE PRESIDENT: I think they were getting on pretty well. I don't pretend to be an expert; but, having started in on the problem of industrial output in the year 1913, I know some of the major questions that ought to be asked in manufacturing plants to bring out things.

Q. Mr. President, what happened to your idea of locating the steel industry on the West Coast?

THE PRESIDENT: They are going ahead with that. They are turning out more and more of certain types of steel, and we are studying the putting in of manufacturing of other types of steel out there. For instance, you take this new plant up on the Columbia River. It is an aluminum plant and it is hoped that they will build not only the aluminum billets that they will make out there, but that they will do the manufacturing there instead of shipping them east and then shipping the finished aluminum back west again.

Q. Who can use the word "priority" on completed articles to which the Government has not yet taken title? I mean, such as airplanes? Is it possible that Britain could get airplanes almost completed and then they could be turned over—

THE PRESIDENT: [interposing] Well, that has nothing to do with priority.

Q. That is not under the Priorities Board but who will make the decision in that case? Army and Navy?

THE PRESIDENT: Probably come up through the Army and Navy to me, I suppose. It has in the past.

Q. Is there any movement along that line now?

THE PRESIDENT: No. I will tell you, there is one thing which you might as well print. I think it is all right. I am very often called "The rule of thumb man." Quite a long while ago, about three weeks, four weeks ago, there came a question about munitions of various kinds for Canada and Great Britain, as they came of[ the line, where we both needed the same thing.

Q. That is what I meant.

THE PRESIDENT: And I laid down a rule of thumb, which is only a general rule and, of course, is absolutely subject to exceptions. And the rule is a 50-50 rule. In other words, we take half; they take half.

Q. Does that apply to the large bombing planes, the flying fortresses?


Q. Mr. President, does that 50-50 rule apply to big bombers, meaning also flying' fortresses?

THE PRESIDENT: As they come off the line, I should say yes, the new ones.

Q. Would it apply to planes that are now coming off the lines?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes and no. In other words, we might need more than the fifty per cent for a while, or there might be some article that we needed less than fifty per cent for the next few months. But, as I say, it is only a rule of thumb, subject to many exceptions in the case of an individual article.

Q. Does this 50-50 ratio increase the ratio that has been in existence for the past several months, or by how much does it increase it?

THE PRESIDENT: I should say a little bit. I think before that it was perhaps 55-45 and now it is 50-50.

Q. The 55-45 being in favor of the United States?


Q. Have you in mind any arrangement with Mexico paralleling that which we have with Canada?

THE PRESIDENT: I think that the armies of both countries have been carrying on studies, joint studies. Didn't we have the chief of staff of the Mexican Army up here?

Q. Yes, sir.

Q. Reports have been circulating in usually good quarters in Europe that some sort of peace move may be anticipated in Washington in the next few weeks. The reports seem to say that one step in the move would be the withdrawal of Germany from Belgium, Norway and the Netherlands. Have you heard such a report?

THE PRESIDENT: I never even heard of it; never even read it. The same way, there was a U. P. report this morning of some kind of agreement—I don't know what it said; I think it said, "High official sources in London," and I am quite sure it did not come from high official sources in London- about an agreement among Great Britain, Australia and the United States. I am quite sure it did not come from high sources.

Q. You mean regarding Singapore, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. I am afraid it was just another one.

Q. That is to say that such an understanding does not even agree in principle?

THE PRESIDENT: I should say the report did not come from any high official sources. We will confine ourselves to that.

Q. Mr. President, London is wondering whether you might use your good offices to bring Churchill and De Valera together on the question of the use of Irish ports?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't know, George [Mr. Durno]; I never heard of it.

Q. Also I have been requested to ask whether any immediate Federal funds are in sight for this Washington-Baltimore Boulevard as a national defense project?

THE PRESIDENT: No. The last I heard about that was when I went to the aviation plant that day. As we came back, you known, from Aberdeen, the Governor of Maryland [Governor O'Conor] told me that he had a board or something that was looking into the question. He said he would let me know about it as soon as they made a report. I have not heard anything since then.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Press Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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