Harry S. Truman photo

The President's News Conference

May 22, 1952

THE PRESIDENT. Please be seated.

[1.] I am sorry that I am 6 minutes late, but my clock over on the mantel that Admiral Nimitz 1 gave me is running slow these days. That is what made me late. I am going to have it adjusted. [Laughter]

1 Fleet Adm. Chester W. Nimitz.

Q. Who gave the clock to you, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. Admiral Nimitz. It's a Navy clock--and it strikes bells.

[2.] I am very happy that the railroad strike is settled at last. 2 And it could have been settled exactly as it was in 1950, but people sometimes can't understand that it is better to abide by the law than not.

2 On May 21, the White House released a statement by John R. Steelman. The Assistant to the President, in which he announced that the dispute between the Nation's railroads and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, the Order of Railway Conductors, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen had been settled on that day. Mr. Steelman listed the provisions of the settlement and added that representatives of the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, who had settled their disputes with the railroads a year before, had cooperated with him in his efforts to help the parties reach an agreement.

For the President's original order providing that the United States Army take control of and operate the railroads, see 1950 volume, this series, Item 221. For the President's letter to the Secretary of the Army directing him to terminate Government control, see Item 141, below.

I am appreciative of John Steelman's hard work in the matter, which finally brought the thing to a proper conclusion, and I hope from now on that the railroad labor and the railroad management will abide by the Railway Labor Act, which has been very successful up to this time.

This situation of seizure was brought about by the request of the unions themselves, so they haven't any kick on seizure, and management was in favor of it also.

The thing is over now, and just as quickly as I can get the papers signed, I will turn the roads back to the owners.

Now I am ready for questions.

[3.] Q. Mr. President, do you think that might be a good pattern for the steel settlement?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't comment on the steel settlement until the big Court down the street acts. 3

3 On June 2 the Supreme Court ruled the seizure of the steel plants unconstitutional.

[4.] Q. Mr. President, you made a speech the other day on tidelands, 4 which speech I believe brought forth comment-as you well know. I wonder if you would like to modify or clarify any statements that you made in that speech on tidelands ?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I said what I meant. And I will go a little further with it when the bill comes to me. I don't like to comment on legislation until it is before me. 5

4 See Item 129.

5 For the President's statement upon vetoing the bill concerning title to offshore lands, see Item 146.

Q. It hasn't come to you yet?

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

[5.] Q. Mr. President, do you want to make your comments on tidelands a precedent for comment on the McCarran immigration bill?6

THE PRESIDENT. NO, I don't think I will, thank you. [Laughter]

6 For the President's statement upon vetoing the bill to revise the Immigration and Nationality Act, see Item 182.

[6.] Q. Mr. President, General Ridgway 7 said yesterday he was not optimistic about the chances for real peace in Korea. Do you share that feeling, or can you elaborate on that situation ?

THE PRESIDENT. I have no comment on General Ridgway's statements. He of course knows more about the situation than anybody.

7 Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway, former United Nations Commander in Korea and former Commander in Chief of the far East Command.

[7.] Q. Mr. President, it has been suggested that your speech before the Americans for Democratic Action was an implied criticism of frank McKinney, chairman of the national committee. I just heard that--

THE PRESIDENT. Oh well, you hear all sorts of things of that sort. It wasn't at all.

Q. It was not?

THE PRESIDENT. No indeed. I have every confidence in Frank McKinney. He is a good chairman.

Q. Mr. President, do you have any comment, sir, on the statement Chairman McKinney made once in Chicago, saying that he hoped that there would be a compromise civil rights plank--

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know anything about that, so I can't comment on it.

[8.] Q. Mr. President, in a poll of correspondents, they showed their sagacity by picking Eisenhower for the Republican side and Stevenson 8 on the Democratic side, do you share their sagacity--

THE PRESIDENT. I am, as you know, a little prejudiced against polls, and I wouldn't like to make a comment. [Laughter]

8 General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Governor Adlai E. Stevenson of Illinois.

[9.] Q. Mr. President, the Senate, as you know, sir, has confirmed Federal Judge McGranery for Attorney General--

THE PRESIDENT. Which they should have done without all the "hooey." He should have been confirmed immediately when his name went down there. He has been confirmed twice before the Senate. 9

9 James P. McGranery had previously been the Assistant to the Attorney General and a Federal court judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, both of which positions required Senate confirmation.

He was nominated as Attorney General on April 3 and confirmed by the Senate on May 20. Mr. McGranery was sworn in as Attorney General of the United States on May 27, 1952.

Q. That wasn't exactly the answer-[Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Well, go ahead and ask your question--go ahead and ask your question, and I will answer it.

Q. In view of that development, sir, would you like to resurvey with us today plans for the so-called clean-up drive in the Department of Justice ?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I would not. That will take care of itself when the Attorney General takes charge--and don't worry about it.

Q. Mr. President, it has been suggested, since there has been this delay, that there won't be time to do anything. Is that correct in your mind ?

THE PRESIDENT. Why no, of course not. The Attorney General will do his job. It makes no difference whether he has a month or 90 days or 3 months to work in. He is going to be a good Attorney General. I am making a prophecy. And I have had a lot of good Attorneys General. [Long pause here]

Well, well--struck a dry hole, have we? [Laughter]

[10.] Q. Mr. President, are we overlooking something ?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know whether you are or not. I thought maybe you might have some very penetrating questions to ask this morning. I was ready to answer them. But you don't seem to care about them.

Q. Which ones do you suggest, Mr. President? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. I am not asking the President any questions!

[11.] Q. Mr. President, do you think that Governor Stevenson could be "had" or could be persuaded--

THE PRESIDENT. That's a question I can't answer. [Laughter]

Q. I had better finish the question--if he could be persuaded to take the Democratic nomination?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know how to answer that question, because I don't know.

Q. Mr. President, I don't want to seem to be asking too many questions--


Q.--there seems to be a belief that you are not very enthusiastic about Senator Kefauver for the Democratic nomination?

THE PRESIDENT. I have said, I think three different times, that I like every man who has come out for the Presidency, and should any one of them be nominated, I will do everything I possibly can to see that he is elected.

And I have started already to see that a Democratic President is elected.

Q. And that will include Senator Kefauver?

THE PRESIDENT. Includes everybody that has come out.

[12.] Q. Mr. President, I know you don't like to comment on legislation until it comes to you, but I was wondering if you had any comments to make on the action of the Senate Banking Committee delimiting the Walsh-Healey Act ? 10

THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course, that has to go before the Senate. That is only a committee report. The Senate has to debate it and act on it, and so does the House; and I wouldn't be in any position to comment on a committee report.

10 The amendments to the Walsh-Healey Act as recommended by the Committee on Banking and Currency are printed in Senate Report "To Amend and Extend the Defense Production Act of 1950" (S. Rept. 1599, 82d Cong.).

On June 30, the President approved the Defense Production Act Amendments of 1952 which included amendments to the Walsh-Healey Act (66 Stat. 308).

[13.] Q. Mr. President, would you comment on the situation in California as regards the delegates out there?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I would not comment on it at all. That is California's business, and not mine.

[14.] Q. Mr. President, going back to the railroad strike, you commented that both labor and management wanted seizure.

THE PRESIDENT. That's correct.

Q. Has there been any consideration in the administration of asking for a seizure law that will have "teeth" in it so neither side will want it and neither side will try and use it?

THE PRESIDENT. I have been trying ever since I have been President to get a law on the books that would make it possible for real negotiation to go on between labor and management. I haven't been able to get it.

Q. Would that include the right of seizure ?

THE PRESIDENT. There would have to be some means to keep the country running in cases like railroads or any industry that affects the whole economy of the country. And seizure seems to be the only ultimate end to things when they can't get together.

Q. When they cannot get together, there will be some provision for seizure. Now--

THE PRESIDENT. There must be some provision to meet the situation. Whether seizure is the answer or not, I don't know. That is what we have had to use, because that is the only thing we had.

Q. Who would have that authority? The President would have that as statutory power in reserve, or would you have him go to Congress at each emergency?

THE PRESIDENT. The President has the power, and they can't take it away from him.

[15.] Q. Mr. President, there was a new arrangement announced last night regarding copper prices. 11 Do you wish to comment?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I have not received the papers on it yet. I will comment on it when I know all the details, but I haven't received the papers on it.

11 Acting Director of the Office of Defense Mobilization John R. Steelman, in an effort to comply with Chile's demands on copper prices, ordered the ceiling on United States imports lifted, thereby allowing United States importers to pay a free market price.

[16.] Q. Mr. President, in his talk to the National Press Club, Mr. Harriman 12 said that he thought that he was the best candidate for President and had every confidence in his own ability. Do you think that sort of self-confidence goes for all the candidates ?

THE PRESIDENT. That is what every candidate for President ought to believe. If he doesn't believe that, he has no business in the race. I proved that in 1948! [Laughter]

12 W. Avereli Harriman, Director for Mutual Security.

Q. Mr. President, do you think a man is likely to receive the nomination and election who doesn't aspire to it?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you never can tell. I think I told you a story about the Republican convention of 1880, when a man was nominated who was not even a candidate. And that same thing happened in 1944 when they nominated a Vice President. They nominated a man who was not even a candidate for it, and he is President now.

[17.] Q. Mr. President, as I understood you to say that the President has the power, that is, of seizure

THE PRESIDENT, That's correct.

Q... and "they" can't take it away--

THE PRESIDENT. That's correct.

Q.-- who did you mean, sir, Congress--


Q.--the courts, who?

THE PRESIDENT--nobody can take it away from the President, because he is the Chief Executive of the Nation, and he has to be in a position to see that the welfare of the people is met.

You study your history. You start with Washington and then Jefferson and then Andrew Jackson, and then Abraham Lincoln-you want to read very carefully Sandburg's 13 Abraham Lincoln, if you want to find out really what it amounts to--and President Hayes, and President "Teddy" Roosevelt, President Wilson, and President Roosevelt, and the present occupant of the White House, have taken whatever steps are necessary to meet an emergency when it comes to the country. And that is what the Executive is supposed to do.

13 Carl Sandburg.

Q. Mr. President, may we have his question read back to us, please sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Why sure. Ask it again.

Q. I will ask it again sir, and I would want to press a little further.


Q. You said the President has this power, talking about seizure, and "they" can't take it away--

THE PRESIDENT. Nobody can take it away from him.

Q.--and that means the courts--

THE PRESIDENT. You can put "they" in any place you want to, but nobody can take it away.

Q. Isn't that what is up before the Supreme Court now ?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't think so. No. As you will find out when the decision comes down.

Q. It might lead to some confusion. Would you explain--


Q.--what you feel is before the Court.

THE PRESIDENT. --I have no explanation to make, because I am not going to comment on what the Court is going to do.

Q. No. No, I am not asking you to do that, but you see, as it stands now, it appears that you have said the Court can't take the power away.

THE PRESIDENT. Nobody can take it away from the President, because it is inherent in the Constitution of the United States. I have cited you some precedents, now go and read them.

Q. Would you explain, sir, not how they are going to rule, but what you feel is now before the Court ?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't do that. That has been done by the attorneys for the Government.

[18.] Q. If I could go back to Elmer Davis' 14 question, did you think he meant Eisenhower or Stevenson ?

THE PRESIDENT. What was the question? Q. If a man who doesn't aspire to the Presidency should be nominated, I think that was the question.

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think he was referring to anybody in particular. It might be Joe Doakes out in Missouri. [Laughter]

14 Elmer H. Davis of the American Broadcasting Co.

[19.] Q. Mr. President, if we can belabor this Supreme Court question--


Q.--because as Martin15 said, it is going to leave things in doubt, you said they can't take it away from you. Now, first, it has been said that the Supreme Court might pass on that individual case without going into the constitutional aspects, but just--then again you have to break your own rule to answer the question--supposing the Supreme Court says the seizure was illegal, and just lets it go at that, where do we stand then ? That's the point--

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Joe,16 I can't speculate on what might happen after that. Let's wait and see what happens, and then you needn't be uneasy about the President acting as he sees fit.

15 Martin S. Hayden of the Detroit News.

16 Joseph A. Fox of the Washington Star.

Q. No sir, I wasn't uneasy about the President, I was just uneasy about my desk wanting an explanation!

THE PRESIDENT. I will tell you what you do, Joe. You tell your editors to do their own speculating.

Q. Mr. President, you said on a previous occasion on the same subject, that you would abide by whatever--

THE PRESIDENT. That's correct.

Q.--decision the Supreme Court handed down.

THE PRESIDENT. That is exactly what I expect to do.

Q. Well, getting back to Joe's question, if the Court hands down a decision that you do not have that power, would you--

THE PRESIDENT. I will turn the steel companies-turn the steel industry back to the companies, and see what happens.

Q. Mr. President, would it not be possible for people to amend the Constitution and put in there that the President does not have these inherent rights ?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, but I don't think they will do it.

Q. They are likely to do it by law.

THE PRESIDENT. What's that?

Q. Likely to do it by law, sir ?

THE PRESIDENT. It has to be signed by the President. [Laughter]

Q. There is such a thing as going over the President's veto.

THE PRESIDENT. Oh yes, it has been tried many a time. I think I have had more vetoes than any other President except Grover Cleveland. And his number of vetoes was caused by pension bills. Mine have been caused by substantive legislative acts which I didn't like.

Q. Now they probably will tack it on the Defense Production Act?

THE PRESIDENT. If they do that, then let's see what happens.

Q. Mr. President, I would just like to suggest, sir, that it does sound as if you are prejudging the Supreme Court

THE PRESIDENT. Oh no I'm not, Eddie.17

Q. [Inaudible] President has the seizure power and nobody can take it away from him.

THE PRESIDENT. That's correct, but I am not prejudging the Supreme Court. I am going to abide by their action, whatever that action may be.

17 Edward T. Folliard of the Washington Post.

Q. Mr. President, suppose they say that you haven't the inherent power?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

Q. Didn't you say at another point you did not think that was the question before the Court?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, let's not argue about what is before the Court. Let the Court do its own arguing. They have heard the case on both sides, and I guess they will argue among themselves now, and then we will get a decision after awhile--I hope.

Q. Well, Mr. President, does it make any difference in your thinking that Judge Pine directed his decision against Secretary Sawyer rather than against the President? 18

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't read Judge Pine's decision, and I don't intend to read it. That's a matter for the Court.

18The Supreme Court was reviewing the April 29 decision made by Judge David A. Pine in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia that the seizure of the steel plants could not be supported by statute nor by the Constitution. Judge Pine stated that the court ordered Secretary of Commerce Charles Sawyer to end the Government possession.

[20.] Q. Mr. President, you were speaking awhile ago about the labor law you have been trying to get through. That refers back, I take it, sir, to that request used on Congress about 5 years ago, for a law that would provide in substance for a cooling off period in all the heavy industries, as I recall, steel and automobile 19--

THE PRESIDENT. That's correct. That's correct. We oughtn't to have strikes in the fundamental industries if they can be avoided. I think there's a way to avoid them.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Truman's three hundred and fifth news conference was held in the Indian Treaty Room (Room 474) in the Executive Office Building at 10:35 a.m. on Thursday, May 22, 1952.

Shortly after the conference, Joseph H. Short, Secretary to the President, gave the Official Reporter the following addendum:

"In a conversation with the President immediately following this press conference, the President said that his point was this:

"Neither the Congress nor the courts could deny the inherent powers of the Presidency without tearing up the Constitution. The President said that the Supreme Court, in the pending steel case, might properly decide that the conditions existing did not justify the use by the President of his inherent powers, but that such a decision would not deny the existence of the inherent powers.

"I would like to make it clear that the President would not have seized the steel mills had he not believed that he was taking a legal step. At the time of this press conference he did not anticipate that the Court would decide otherwise than that he had acted properly. The illustration which he used in talking privately to me was an illustration, and nothing more."
See 1945 volume, this series, Item 204.

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/230743

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