Harry S. Truman photo

The President's News Conference

May 15, 1952

THE PRESIDENT. Please be seated.

[1.] I have no special announcements to make this morning, except that I would like to tell you that I have a visitor today who is my Lieutenant Governor of Missouri, Governor Jim Blair 1 --a fine-looking fellow, too. [Laughter] I wouldn't advise you to get into any trouble with him, either.

1 James T. Blair, Jr., Lieutenant Governor of Missouri.

Q. Mr. President, with no thought of getting in any trouble with Jim Blair, there have been several stories about your role at the convention. Now, do you have any idea of having any status as a delegate or alternate from Missouri ?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it has been customary for me to be a delegate from Missouri, but I don't know whether I will be this year or not. Anyway, I shall not attend the convention until after the candidate for president is elected--if I attend at all. I told you once before, I think it was at the editors press conference, that I didn't think it would be the proper thing for me to go to the convention, and make it appear that I was trying to dominate it--which I don't want to do.

Q. Mr. President, do I understand that you do plan to go to the convention, but after the balloting ?

THE PRESIDENT. If I go at all, it will be after the balloting.

Q. You are not yet sure in your mind, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I haven't made any definite plans on the subject at all, except that I know I am not going to the convention until after the President and Vice President have been nominated.

Q. Mr. President, I didn't quite understand what you said about delegate or alternate...

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, I am generally a delegate from Missouri--have been ever since I went to the United States Senate. I am usually always a delegate.

Q. Also the leader of the party?

THE PRESIDENT. That comes naturally with the office. [Laughter]

Q. Then you would--if the State convention named you as a delegate, you would accept the honor ?

THE PRESIDENT. Why certainly I would. I would feel that it was a high honor if they did it.

Q. If they named you as a delegate then you would go, sir, wouldn't you?

THE PRESIDENT. How's that?

Q. If they named you a delegate, would you go ?

THE PRESIDENT. No. The alternate would have to do my job.

Q. Oh--I see.

Q. Mr. President, I have forgotten--were you a delegate in 1948?

THE PRESIDENT. I think I was. I don't remember for sure, but I think I was. You would have to look it up, I can't remember.

Q. Mr. President, if you were a delegate, have you made up your mind how you would vote?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I haven't. I would have to have a little more information on the subject. I know what kind of a platform I would vote for, but I have not yet decided on which candidate I would vote for. I think the Vice President said the other day he was sort of like Josh Billings, he was going to be nice to all of them, for you never could tell what might happen. Josh, you know, put out advice to his friends that it was always well to be nice to your poor relations, because they might suddenly become rich some day, and it would be hard to explain? [Laughter]

Q. Mr. President, to clear up one--if you should go, after the balloting for the ticket, what would be your purpose in going, sir, to make a speech ?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, to make a Democratic speech--start off a whistlestop program.

[2.] Q. Mr. President, a week ago you saw the Chilean Ambassador for half an hour on the copper problem in Chile. Could you tell us something about that conversation ?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't comment on that for the matter is under negotiation, and it wouldn't be well for me to comment on it now.

[3.] Q. Mr. President, are you going to Alabama as Senator Hill and some others have asked you to do, to dedicate that TVA steamplant ?

THE PRESIDENT. I wrote to the--I think Congressman Jones, 2 who sent me the first invitation, and told him I didn't think it would be possible for me to get there. Then Senator Hill came in and told me that he thought I certainly ought to go, and I have the matter under consideration. I doubt very much whether I will be able to get there.

2 Representative Robert E. Jones, Jr., of Alabama.

[4.] Q. Mr. President, did I understand you to say just now that you would make a Democratic speech starting off a whistlestop campaign ?

THE PRESIDENT. That's right. I am going to work for the nominee just as hard as I would work for myself.

Q. Mr. President, do you think you will go to as many places as you did last time?

THE PRESIDENT. I doubt that. I don't think I can get to as many places because I started in June that time.

Q. Mr. President, are you going to start right after the convention this time?

THE PRESIDENT. I am going to do whatever the national Democratic chairman wants me to do. I am that kind of a Democrat.

Q. Mr. President, in that connection--I have heard you say you plan to do that-there is some suggestion that the committee might not have enough money to--[Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Wall, I have never seen the time when the committee did have enough money. There were times in 1948 when we couldn't get the train out of the station-but we went on. [Laughter]

[5.] Q. Mr. President, I imagine you are familiar with the Utah flood situation? I was wondering if there is anything that can be done by the Federal Government to help the people there?

THE PRESIDENT. I was talking to one of your good citizens awhile ago on that thing. I didn't know about it until today. And I have received no word from the Governor or anybody else in control out there, as to whether there is a disaster situation or not, so I can't take any action until I know more about the facts. I will treat Utah and the flood situation just as we would treat Missouri.

[6.] Q. Mr. President, I have got to get this Missouri situation straight. Are there any plans in Missouri to make you a delegate?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know. I don't know. The best way to find out about that would be to ask some Missourian about it. [Laughter]

Q. According to them, they have no plans.

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know anything about it. It's nice to talk about, though. [Laughter[

[7.] Q. Mr. President, Senator Williams of Delaware introduced a bill this week to forbid in the future the deduction from income tax returns of bad debt loans to political parties. What do you think about such a bill?

THE PRESIDENT. I didn't know it had ever been done. That's news to me.

[8.] Q. Mr. President--I don't want to be asking all the questions--it seems to me that you are assuming that the Democratic nominee for President will be satisfactory to you ?

THE PRESIDENT. The Democratic nominee for President will be satisfactory to me. I will abide by the actions of the convention.

Q. Mr. President, Mr. Harriman 3 seems to be the only Democratic candidate who seem to have come all-out for the Fair Deal. Does that give him any different standing now with you?

THE PRESIDENT. I think very highly of Mr. Harriman. I think he is perfectly capable of making a good President, and if he is nominated I will go all-out for him.

3 W. Averell Harriman, Director for Mutual Security.

Q. Mr. President, would you care to say in the same breath, then, what you think of Senator Russell?

THE PRESIDENT. Same thing exactly. I think very highly of Senator Russell, and always have. I made that statement here three times. This just reiterates it. I can say the same thing for all the candidates that are in the field.

[9.] Q. Mr. President, on this political loan question, I don't like to belabor it, but it was brought out that several individuals had contributed or had loaned the Democratic Party in New York State more than $410,000; and when they were unable to get full repayment, they wrote them off as bad debts on their income tax returns. The Internal Revenue Bureau then said that this was established practice as long as it could be established that these were loans. There is now, I understand, some sentiment in Congress for plugging the election laws to forbid such practice in the future.

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know anything about it. I haven't looked into it. This is all news to me. I didn't read about it at all. I never saw anything about it in the paper. And I know nothing about the ruling of the Internal Revenue, so I can't give you an answer.

[10.] Q. Mr. President, do you regard this country as being at war ?

THE PRESIDENT. This country is trying to assist the United Nations in preventing aggression, just as it did in Greece and Turkey, and as it did in Berlin, and in several other instances.

Q. This all goes to the Supreme Court argument, Mr. President. Are we under war conditions ?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think I ought to make any direct comment on the arguments that are made to the Supreme Court until we have heard from the Court; and then I will give you plenty of comment.

[11.] Q. I would like to ask you one more question. You issued a statement 4 --I have forgotten--a week or so ago, with respect to the Korean negotiations. I wonder if there has been any result from that statement, or negotiations broken Off--

THE PRESIDENT. The negotiations are still going on.

4 See Item 121.

Q. Is there any further light you can throw on the situation ?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I can't comment on the situation at the present time.

Q. Mr. President

THE PRESIDENT. Whenever I can comment on it, I will give you the facts as I know them.

What is it, Smitty? 5

5 Merriman Smith of the United Press Associations.

[12.] Q. I wonder if you could comment on the situation at the Koje prison, and the shift in command 6 --

THE PRESIDENT. That is in the hands of the military, and they are handling it, and I have no comment to make on it.

6 The Communist prisoners of war on Koje Island had captured the camp commander, Brig. Gen. Francis T. Dodd, and had held him captive for 78 hours, releasing him on May 10. On May 15, Brig. Gen. Haydon L. Boatner was appointed to succeed Brig. Gen. Charles F. Colson, who had taken over the command after General Dodd was captured and had made concessions to the prisoners in order to obtain General Dodd's release.

[13.] Q. Did you read Mr. Baruch's statement at the War College? 7 Any comment on it?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I didn't read it. I have no comment on it. I didn't even read it.

7 On May 14 Bernard M. Baruch spoke on economic policy at the Industrial College of the Armed forces.

[14.] Q. Mr. President, you saw the Chancellor of Austria 8 twice yesterday, once at lunch and once in your office. Can you comment on your talks with him?

THE PRESIDENT. He came to the office to pay his respects to the President of the United States, as all these men do when they are traveling in the country. Then I went to lunch with him, and had a very pleasant visit with him--discussed the Austrian situation from one end to the other. I have no comment to make on the conversation, however.

8 Leopold Figl.

[15.] Q. Mr. President, you have already taken yourself out of the presidential race, and the senatorial race for Missouri. How about the Vice Presidency, sir? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. I have no ambitions at the present time, politically or otherwise. As I told you, I am going to spend some time doing as I please, to see how it feels. t don't know how long that will last.

[16.] Q. Mr. President, could you tell us what your own ideas of your whistlestop campaigning this year may be?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I can't. They will have to be outlined by the Democratic committee, and as I say, I shall follow the directions of the chairman and the executive committee of the Democratic committee after the nominations are over. I will do everything I can to help elect the ticket.

Q. Mr. President, who is going to carry your ideas on the platform to the convention ?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't understand what you mean?

Q. Well, you said that you are not going up there to take part but you have also said that you are going to see what is in the platform.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think that the Democratic platform will be in line with the Democratic platform of 1932, 1936, 1940, 1944, 1948. I don't think there will be any difficulty about the Democrats writing a platform if the people will vote for it. They always have. [Laughter]

[17.] Q. Mr. President, Governor Dewey 9 last Sunday said that towards the end of the 1948 campaign the Government rigged some farm prices. Any comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT. Not a word of truth in that, and he knows it. That's just a political statement. [Laughter]

9 Governor Thomas E. Dewey of New York.

[18.] Q. Mr. President, if I may tap your knowledge of history, there have been instances where the President in office has campaigned for the nominee. Haven't there been such cases.--

THE PRESIDENT. There have been instances where the President has made speeches for the nominee.

I think President Wilson made a speech for Governor Cox from his sickbed, when the Governor was nominated in 1920. And I think you can go back and find several instances where that has taken place. I think you will find that President Hayes helped campaign for President Garfield. And it is a remarkable story about the nomination of Garfield. If you have got time to listen to it, I will tell it to you.

Q. I would like to hear it.

THE PRESIDENT. James G. Blaine--the Plumed Knight--was the favorite. He went to the convention and had 297 votes, I think. And Roscoe Conkling who didn't like Blaine, persuaded General Grant to let Conkling nominate him for President. Grant got 303 ballots on the first ballot, I think, and that went on for some time. And during the convention James Garfield nominated some gentleman--I don't remember who it was he nominated, but he made the most wonderful speech that was made at that convention. And I am informed that after several ballots, President Hayes called the chairman of the convention and asked him why they didn't nominate Garfield, that he had made the best speech that had been made there. He wasn't even a candidate.

Now, that is a remarkable performance. Which goes to show that a President has a little influence with his party convention, if he wants to use it. [Laughter]

Q. But you won't be there--

THE PRESIDENT. You don't have to be there. President Hayes wasn't there.

Q. Then how did he know it was such a good speech?

THE PRESIDENT. Because President Hayes said it was. He said it was the best speech that was made at the convention. That's all I know about it. Just what I read.

Q. You mean he read it--you mean he read it?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I haven't read the speech, but I am telling you what happened.

Q. I mean President Hayes--

THE PRESIDENT. Oh yes, certainly he had. Oh yes, certainly he had.

Q. James Garfield nominated John Sherman of Ohio.

THE PRESIDENT. Was that who it was? I had forgotten who it was he nominated.

Q. Mr. President, does that story about what happened to a man that made a speech have anything to do with your decision not to speak until after the nominee. [laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. You remember William Jennings Bryan in 1896--the real dark horse. We had a candidate from Missouri we thought we were going to get nominated-"Silver Dick" Bland, 10 if you remember, and he didn't even get a handful of ballots on the first vote. Bryan just took the convention by storm by making one speech. I don't think I could do that. I wouldn't even try to do that. But then, I am not going to take any chances, because I don't want to be nominated. [Laughter]

10 Richard Parks Bland, Representative from Missouri from 1873 to 1895 and from 1897 to 1899.

Q. Mr. President, are you still calling the Democratic program a fair Deal on your whistlestop--

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, indeed. That's my program, and it's a fair deal for everybody. Every section of the economy has had a fair deal since I have been President.

Reporter: We have run out of gas, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. All right--that suits me all right.

Note: President Truman's three hundred and fourth news conference was held in the Indian Treaty Room (Room 474) in the Executive Office Building at 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 15, 1952.

Harry S. Truman, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230678

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