Harry S. Truman photo

The President's News Conference

January 24, 1952

THE PRESIDENT. Please be seated.

I have no announcements to make. I will listen to questions.

[1.] Q. Mr. President, at a press conference a few months ago you said you wouldn't disclose whether you would run again until after your three messages had gone to the Hill. They have gone to the Hill, and I just wondered

THE PRESIDENT. It's a little too soon after it. [Laughter]

[2.] Q. Mr. President, Governor Stevenson of Illinois, in declaring that he had filed for a second term, said that only death, health, or higher office would prevent his seeking reelection as Governor. The other night he called on you at the Blair House. I wonder if you offered him any one of the three, and if so which one? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, I didn't offer him death. I didn't offer him anything in particular, except to talk about the general political situation--worldwide, national, and Illinois. And he was particularly interested-and what he came to see me about was the mine safety proposition. He is very much interested in mine safety, just as I am.1 And we had a very pleasant visit all around.

1 See Item 19.

Q. You didn't offer him higher office?

THE PRESIDENT. How could I?

[3.] Q. Mr. President, out in Illinois, one of my colleagues suggested that joining the mother of Presidents we have Senator Kefauver, Brien McMahon, and perhaps Adlai Stevenson, and Everett Dirksen, maybe--all looking anxious. Is that a part of the sort of stabilizing action--favorite son pinup-so nobody gets--

THE PRESIDENT. I can't answer that question because I don't know.

Q. Mr. President, did you invite Governor Stevenson to come to Washington to talk to you?

THE PRESIDENT. Governor Stevenson came to Washington to discuss mine safety. Of course, when any Democratic Governor comes to Washington, he always asks for an interview with the President. That is the way it happened.

[4.] Q. Mr. President, I have here a political button which is being passed out freely. It says "Elect Kefauver President." Mr. President, is this a definitive Democratic button ?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know.

[5.] Q. Mr. President, I would like to ask one on that Stevenson question in a much simpler form--

THE PRESIDENT. Go right ahead.

Q.--did you have any part in inflating all these trial balloons? Would you say that the Governor was a favorite in case you decide not to run?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I had no hand in it. That is surmise, and it's made by the greatest surmisers in the country. So many of them, you know, who can always tell what is going to happen.

[6.] Q. I wanted to know, Mr. President, as to whether you favored the nomination of Attorney General Taylor2 for U.S. Senator in Missouri, and if you told Mr. Pendergast2a recently that he had your permission to endorse Taylor at the Jackson Day dinner?

THE PRESIDENT. The matter has never been discussed with me by anybody.

2 J. E. Taylor, Attorney General of Missouri.

2a James M. Pendergast, Democratic Party leader in Kansas City, Mo.

Q. Never discussed?

THE PRESIDENT. Never been discussed with me by anybody. However, I am very fond of "Buck" Taylor.

[7.] Q. Mr. President, do you plan to send a personal representative to the Vatican?

THE PRESIDENT. I have the matter--I attempted to do that last fall. I don't usually back up when I start out to do things. [Laughter]

Q. Mr. President, the question was personal representative, not--

THE PRESIDENT. NO, NO. I am not going to send any personal representative. The Senate is going to have to assume the responsibility when the matter's done.

[8.] Q. Mr. President, I hate to take up your time--

THE PRESIDENT. Go ahead.

Q.--on such things. I recall you did endorse someone last time, and I wonder if you intend to again--in Missouri?

THE PRESIDENT. I will cross that bridge when I come to it. The matter has never been discussed with me. I have an idea that it will be discussed with me at a later date, but I can't make any comment on it now.

Q. Mr. President, would you by chance have a personal interest in the candidate for the Senate from Missouri this year?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, sure I would. [Laughter] I have got a perfect right to have an interest in the candidate from Missouri.

Q. Perhaps I didn't put it the way I meant it. [More laughter]

Q. Is there any chance that you might let us know your plans for 1952 by filing for the Senate in Missouri?

THE PRESIDENT. It's quite a long time before those filings close, and I will let you know in plenty of time.

[9.] Q. Mr. President, is there any special reason why you don't want to. tell us now whether or not you are going to run? I am just curious about that.

THE PRESIDENT. Because I am not prepared to make the announcement.

[10.] Q. Mr. President, Congressman Granger, I believe, has filed for the Senate in the Utah primary--Democratic. Is it your hope that he be unopposed in this primary?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, it is.

[11.] Q. You still know whether or not you are going to run?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I know what I am going to do, and when I get around to it, I will tell you about it.

[12.] Q. Mr. President, I know that you ordinarily don't take any part whatever in Democratic primaries--

THE PRESIDENT. That's right. Except in Missouri.

Q. Except in Missouri. Sir, will the one in Illinois be any exception, in view of some statements that Senator Kefauver has made ?

THE PRESIDENT. I will take no hand in any primary outside of the State of Missouri.

[13.] Q. Mr. President, getting back to Stevenson a minute, I wonder if you would say whether you think that he would be a good candidate on the Democratic ticket?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, every good Democrat is a good candidate. It runs in the blood. [Laughter]

Q. Do you think that he has the qualifications for President?

THE PRESIDENT. Now I am not in a position, as President of the United States, to endorse a candidate for President, except the one that I could endorse if I took a notion to endorse. [Laughter]

Q. That's what we're waiting for.

[14.] Q. Mr. President, I want to ask-just a moment ago you said you would take no hand in any primary--

THE PRESIDENT. That's right.

Q.--unless you become a candidate for President yourself?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, that's different. Of course, I don't have to go into any primary if I become a candidate for President. I will make you a statement on that. You opened the door. That is something that I am very much interested in.

I wish we could have a national presidential primary. Woodrow Wilson tried to get that in 1913• He didn't get anywhere with it. If we had a national presidential primary, that would give everybody who wanted to run for President a chance to get into that primary on a national basis, without having to make all these State campaigns.

[15.] Q. Mr. President, to avoid the back-door approach, would you have any comment to make on the first Democrat who has made himself available? He said he is trying for the presidential nomination in Chicago.

THE PRESIDENT. You are talking about Mr. Kefauver?

Q. No one else.

THE PRESIDENT. I think he is a nice fellow, and I think he is a good Senator.

[16.] Q. Mr. President, I believe there is now in process of preparation a special message to the Congress on the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power project?

THE PRESIDENT. That is correct.

Q. I wonder if you could tell us, first, which day that will be sent to Congress?

THE PRESIDENT. I tried to get it ready for today, and we couldn't quite get it ready. Just as soon as it is ready, why it will go down. It will be in a very short time.4

4 See Item 23.

Q. And the second question I would like to ask, if I may: will the message indicate any change in your position to date, if Congress should fail to act on the seaway by a certain time?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't understand what you mean by that. My position on the St. Lawrence Seaway has been the same since 1935, and it hasn't changed. And it won't change. But we must have the St. Lawrence Seaway. If we don't want to be a partner in it, I am sure that the Canadian Government itself will build it.

[17.] Q. Mr. President, to get back to this Kefauver business, about him being a good Senator, would you like him to remain a good Senator?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I always like to see a good Senator in the Senate. I hope we can get one from Missouri to go along with the good Senator that we have there now.

Q. Do you mean Mr. Kern?5

Q. Mr. President, along with your belief--

THE PRESIDENT. Hennings.6

5 Senator James P. Kem of Missouri.

6 Senator Thomas C. Hennings, Jr., of Missouri.

[18.] Q.--along with your belief in a national presidential primary, do you also believe that the retiring President should not take an active hand in the selection of his successor if nominated?

THE PRESIDENT. I didn't say that. The President has the same right as any other citizen.

[19.] Q. Mr. President, on the subject of Senator Kefauver, he said yesterday he did not think that the present administration has done all it should to stamp out corruption. Do you have any comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't seen the Senator's statement, and I don't know what is in it on second hand, and I have no comment to make on it.

[20.] Q. Mr. President, I don't want to press you too much, but can you give us any rough idea, just generally, when you might be able to tell us about your plans--say several months, or several weeks?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't give you any date.

Q. Mr. President, in the event that you were to decide not to run again, would you stand for the Senate?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't answer that question.

Q. Mr. President, in the sort of trade term, would you call that leaving the door open? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I do. The door is always open on politics. It's the--the great American game. I think it beats football, baseball, and basketball and everything else. I like politics. And I have been in it--come January 2, 1953, I will have been in elective office 30 years. And I never was elected to an office I wanted, except in 1948. [Laughter]

Q. Mr. President, do you share the opinion of John Nangle,7 that you are entitled to a rest from the Presidency and ought to return to the Senate ?

THE PRESIDENT. I'm not tired. [Laughter]

Q. We couldn't hear that, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. I said I'm not tired.

7Democratic national committeeman for Missouri.

Q. Mr. President. Several Democratic leaders have come out of your office and have said that you are the strongest candidate the Democrats could propose. I was just wondering if you favored the strongest candidate of the party for the ticket--

THE PRESIDENT. I am in favor of a candidate on the Democratic ticket that can be elected. As I told you the last time we discussed this subject, it would be a terrible thing for the Republicans to get control of this Government at this time.

Q. Mr. President, you said a few minutes ago, with regard to a President endorsing a candidate for President, that you wouldn't want to endorse any but one. Do you have one particular man in mind?

THE PRESIDENT. No. Not at the present time.

Q. Mr. President, would you announce your intentions before the last day for filing in Missouri?

THE PRESIDENT. I probably will.

Q. What was that date again out there ?

THE PRESIDENT. He wanted to know if I would announce my intentions before the last day for filing in Missouri.

Q. What is that date, sir ?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know.

Q. The last week in April.

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know. They have changed it since I was running for the Senate before. I could tell you when I was in the Senate, but I don't know now.

[21.] Q. Mr. President, the Prime Minister of The Netherlands, sir, saw you this week. Could you say something about your talks with him ?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I had a most pleasant talk with the Prime Minister of The Netherlands, one I think that was satisfactory to both him and me.

Q. Could you say what you talked about?

THE PRESIDENT. We talked about everything and how it affects the Atlantic Treaty, particularly the interests of The Netherlands in the matter.

[22.] Q. Mr. President, in Eric Johnston's new job, will he report directly to you, or to Mr. Harriman ? 9

THE PRESIDENT. He will report to me, and he will also report to Mr. Harriman. That doesn't prevent him from reporting to Mr. Harriman.

9W. Averell Harriman, Director for Mutual Security.

[23.] Q. Mr. President, last year, I believe, you classified the irrigation project in New Mexico as an emergency proposition, yet I believe it was left out of the budget this year.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, it was. s Prime Minister Willem Drees of The Netherlands.

Q. Any comment ?

THE PRESIDENT. There were a great many other projects in the same condition that were left out.

[24.] Q. Mr. President, do you have any new assignment for James E. Webb? 10

THE PRESIDENT. He is going to be a consultant to the State Department.

0 10On January 23 the White House had made public the text of the President's letter accepting the resignation of Mr. Webb as Under Secretary of State.

[25.] Q. Mr. President, do you favor our taking retaliation against the Russians for restricting our diplomats still further?

THE PRESIDENT. That is a matter that you will have to ask the Secretary of State. I think he answered it, I am not sure.

[26.] Q. Mr. President, a farm labor advisory group came to see you the other day on the Mexican labor legislation. Would you tell us what you told them ?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will tell you what they told me. [Laughter] They endorsed the program which I have sent to the House and the Senate. The bills are pending in both Houses, and that group was unanimously in favor of what those bills provide.

[27.] Q. Mr. President, I want to ask you one outside of politics. Has Mr. Caldwell11 sent you a note asking you--urging you to pick a successor to him as Civil Defense Administrator ?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I haven't seen it.

11Millard Caldwell, Administrator, Federal Civil Defense Administration.

[28.] Q. Mr. President, since General Eisenhower's statements of his availability on the Republican ticket, and your subsequent comment last week, I wonder if it would be an impertinence to ask you if you have heard anything from the General ?

THE PRESIDENT. No, except in the ordinary reports that I receive from him all the time. They did not refer to politics.

[29.] Q. Mr. President, with regard to General Eisenhower, last time we met you were reminded of a historical precedent in General Scott.12

12See Item 7 [10].

THE PRESIDENT. That's right.

Q. I wonder if the latest candidacy of Senator Kefauver reminded you of any historical precedent ?

THE PRESIDENT. It does, but I don't care to comment on it. [Laughter]

[30.] Q. Mr. President, in your conversation with Paul Fitzpatrick,13 did you discuss a potential Democratic candidate for United States Senator ?

THE PRESIDENT. The discussion between Paul fitzpatrick and myself had to do with the political situation in the State of New York. The only candidate that was discussed was discussed by Paul when he came out and talked to you fellows.

13 Chairman of the New York State Democratic Committee.

[31.] Q. Mr. President, may I ask one question--all these people coming out of the White House and saying that they-that you are going to run or you are not going to run--and this and that--have you told any of these men your intentions, sir, if that is not an impertinence?

THE PRESIDENT. I have told them just exactly what I have told you ladies and gentlemen. They draw their own conclusions, just like you do. [Laughter]

Q. Mr. President, have you told close friends--as has been sometimes said--that you would rather not seek reelection?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, anybody who sits at the President's desk over a period of time feels sometimes like he would very much like to leave it, on account of the fact that it is the most strenuous job in the world. It carries more responsibility than any other job in the world, and it is a difficult one to fill creditably. I have never told anybody that I expected to leave it, or that I expected to stay there.

Q. Mr. President, would it be possible to quote you directly on that last statement on that?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think so. I would rather not start that precedent because you will be wanting to quote the whole interview.

[32.] Q. Well, Mr. President, I am intrigued by your saying about Mr. Kefauver you like to keep good Senators in the Senate. You don't mean that good Senators should not come to the White House, do you?

THE PRESIDENT. No. [Laughter] I came from there.

Q. That's a precedent.

THE PRESIDENT. It's not the first one that came there. I remember one back there in 1920.

Q. Was he a good one?

Q. Mr. President, you don't seem to be very enthusiastic about Senator Kefauver's candidacy?

THE PRESIDENT. Say that again?

Q. You don't seem to be very enthusiastic about Mr. Kefauver's candidacy?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, there are going to be a great many candidates, and I don't want to play any favorites. I want them all to have a fair chance. [Laughter]

Merriman Smith, United Press Associations: Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. You're welcome, Smitty.

Note: President Truman's two hundred and ninetyfirst news conference was held in the Indian Treaty Room (Room 474) in the Executive Office Building at 4:05 p.m. on Thursday, January 24, 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/231207

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