The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. Please be seated.
I have a word or two for you before we start the questions.
[1.] There has been a lot of hooey about the seizure of the press and the radio. As I told you last week, the President of the United States has very great inherent powers to meet great national emergencies. 1 Until those emergencies arise a President cannot say specifically what he would do or would not do. I can say this, that the thought of seizing press and radio has never occurred to me. I have difficulty imagining the Government taking over and running those industries.
1 See Item 98 .
[2.] Now, I want to talk to you a little bit about steel. I told my advisory committee the other day that the reason for the steel seizure 2 was the fact that we are in one of the greatest emergencies the country has ever been in, that in 1945 I had to send an ultimatum to the head of the Soviet Union to get out of Persia. They got out, because we were in a position then to meet a situation of that kind.
2 See also Items 82, 83, 103, 110.
A little later on, the Government of Yugoslavia decided to take Trieste. I sent for General Eisenhower, and General Marshall, 3 and the Navy, and ordered the Mediterranean Fleet into the Adriatic Sea, and told General Eisenhower to send three divisions to northern Italy. There was no march on Trieste.
3 General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, Commander, Allied forces Europe, and Gen. George C. Marshall, former Chief of Staff of the Army.
Then there was an attempt to take over Greece and Turkey. Well, you know the result of that. Greece and Turkey are free countries.
Then came the Berlin airlift, and Berlin is still a free city.
Then came Korea, and that march into Korea was against a United Nations Republic. It was against the whole world. I was in Missouri at that time, and when I came back on an emergency flight, decisions were made to send the 7th fleet off the coast of western Korea and to move divisions into Korea to meet the situation-which we did. And we have met it. And South Korea is still a free country. And I hope some day that Korea will be the republic that the United Nations set up.
Now we had then to go into the defense of the free countries, and we set up the NATO treaties, which were negotiated by Dean Acheson, 4 and carried through to success.
4 Secretary of State.
We are now in the midst of the same emergency. We are trying to arm the NATO countries so they can stand up. We are trying to prevent the Korean army that we have there, along with our allies, from being shot in the back.
And that can only be done by an all-out steel production.
And I felt that we were in the midst of as great an emergency as we have ever faced. I tried to meet it. I have been abused roundly for it. I am not the first President that has been abused under the same circumstances, so I know how to take it.
We want peace in the world. That is all we have been working for since I became the President of the United States. We are going to continue to work for that end as long as I am President of the United States, up to the 20th of January next year. And I hope we will succeed in keeping the peace, which we have done up to date.
Peace in the world means the welfare of every nation in the world. And if we can get the so-called point 4 program working, we will never be able to catch up with our productive machinery with what the world demands and needs.
Now I didn't come over here to make you a speech, I came over here to answer questions. But there has been so much hooey put out about this steel proposition, and about other things, that I felt like I should make a statement to you as to what we really are working for.
There is only one thing, and that is prosperity at home, and peace in the world.
At the present time we have both--almost. And if we can continue, we will have both in its entirety.
Now I will answer questions.
Q. Mr. President, may we quote that word "hooey" ?
THE PRESIDENT. Well--[laughter]--
Q. Mr. President, may I interrupt-- may we quote the whole thing?
Q. Yes, sir, that's what
Joseph H. Short, Secretary to the President: Let's see about putting the whole thing on the record.
THE PRESIDENT. My Press Secretary would like to edit it before he puts it on the record, and I have no objection to its quotation if it works out all right.
Q. Mr. President, how about the word "hooey," pending that ?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, let's "pend" it.
THE PRESIDENT. Keep on "pending" it.
Q. Mr. President, last Saturday night Alexander Jones made his attack on you. 5 I would like to have a copy of the transcript of what you said about the press and steel to give my bosses.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will leave that to Mr. Short. I think you can get it.
5 Alexander F. Jones, editor of the Syracuse Herald-Journal and outgoing president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, spoke at the annual dinner of the society's convention in Washington. In his speech Mr. Jones disputed President Truman's assertion in the news conference of April 17 (Item 98 ) that the President has the power to take control of newspapers and radio stations.
[3.] Q. Mr. President, I wonder in this same line if you would have a similar descriptive word about the efforts to impeach you in the House?
THE PRESIDENT. Oh, well, that's a political proposition. They have a right to do that, if they want to. I have a pretty good defense. [Laughter]
[4.] Q. Mr. President, Congressman Richards 6 has called for Averell Harriman 7 to quit being either Mutual Security Director or a candidate for President. Do you agree with him ?
THE PRESIDENT. I wonder if the Chairman of the foreign Relations Committee should either quit being a Democrat or quit being Chairman of the foreign Relations Committee? [Laughter]
6 Representative James P. Richards of South Carolina, Chairman of the House foreign Affairs Committee.
7 W. Averell Harriman, Director for Mutual Security.
[5.] Q. Mr. President, I would like to get you down to a little lower level--
THE PRESIDENT. Sure--any place you want to go.
Q.--I wonder if you are backing frank McHale for reelection--
THE PRESIDENT. I beg your pardon?
Q. I want to know if you are backing Frank McHale for reelection for Democratic national committeeman in Indiana?
THE PRESIDENT. I have no candidates at the present time. Get that--at the present time.
Q. The election is next month. Will you decide before then ?
THE PRESIDENT. I have no candidates at the present time.
Mr. Short: He said as Democratic national committeeman.
THE PRESIDENT. I have no candidates at the present time.
[6.] Mr. President, can you tell us why you decided to change your mind about presenting a plan for putting the civil functions of the Army Engineers in the Interior Department?
THE PRESIDENT. I came to the conclusion, after a lot of study--and I have been studying it for longer than anybody that I know of--that it was not the right thing to do.
Q. Was there considerable pressure?
THE PRESIDENT. No pressure at all ever affects me, Pete. 8 You ought to know that by this time.
8 Raymond P. Brandt of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Q. I wasn't asking whether it affected you, I was asking you whether there was pressure.
THE PRESIDENT. No. I didn't know anything about it, if there was. I have made an unbiased study of the whole thing. I have been making it for the last 5 years or 10 years, and I decided that there wasn't any use doing what the Hoover report 9 called for. I thought it was wrong.
9 President Hoover was Chairman of the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government. His Commission's report on the Interior Department, which included proposed agency transfers to and from the Department, is Printed in House Document 122 (81st Cong., 1st sess.). See also Item 98 .
Q. I can't understand the shift from--
THE PRESIDENT. There was no shift. There was no shift on my part. I had never made a decision on it.
Q. I thought you said at your last press conference'
THE PRESIDENT. No.
Q.--that there would be a plan to take up?
THE PRESIDENT. That's right. I changed my mind and decided no plan would go up, because I didn't think it was necessary to have a plan when you leave things like they are.
Q. I was trying to get why you changed your mind?
THE PRESIDENT. I didn't change my mind. I have never been for it.
Q. Never been for it?
THE PRESIDENT. No.
[7.] Q. Mr. President, you say that during an emergency you have very great inherent powers to act. Are there any limitations at all over a President's actions during an emergency?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, you had better read your history and find out. There are a lot of Presidents who have had to make decisions in emergencies, and if you will read history you will find out why they had to make them. But it did not hurt the Republic. In fact, it made the Republic better.
[8.] Q. Mr. President, there never was any statement by you that--even by implication--that you intended to seize any newspapers or radio stations, was there, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. Not at all, not at all.
Q. Mr. President, just to really nail that one down-- [laughter ].--
THE PRESIDENT. All right, nail it.
Q. Actually, a number of people, particularly among the editors at your press conference last week, got the idea that-when you were asked that question about whether it would be proper to seize the press and radio that you were implying that you had those powers. Now, were you answering to the point of steel or to press and radio?
THE PRESIDENT. I was answering to 'the point of the welfare of the country, and that's what's at stake.
[9.] Q. Mr. President, may I ask you if that original statement you read us has been mimeographed ?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't think it has.
Q. I just wondered is that for direct quote ?
THE PRESIDENT. We'll see about it all. We will let Joe take care of it. I was going to let you read it, Tony. 10 [Laughter]
10 Ernest B. Vaccaro of the Associated Press.
[10.] Q. Mr. President, I wonder if you would discuss some of the acts of the previous Presidents you are thinking about?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, to start with, there was a gentleman by the name of Jefferson, who paid $15 million for the greatest addition to this country that has ever been made. They tried to impeach him for that, if I remember correctly.
There was a gentleman by the name of Tyler, who agreed to the annexation of Texas. He was the first Vice President, by the way, who became President, and he wouldn't let them call him "acting President." He became President in fact.
Then there was a gentleman by the name of Polk, who made an annexation to the country that was second only to Jefferson's.
And there was a Secretary of State who made a purchase up in the northwest corner of the continent, called Alaska. It was called "Seward's icebox." But it has, I would imagine, a thousand times the assets of what Seward agreed to pay for it as Secretary of State. I think at that time he was working for Andrew Johnson when they bought Alaska. And Johnson approved what he did. Johnson was impeached, but not for that reason.
Mr. Lincoln exercised the powers of the President to meet the emergencies with which he was faced.
So did President Roosevelt.
I don't want to stand here as an authority on the history of the Presidency, but then I like to tell you boys some of the things that are most interesting in the Presidency of the United States.
Now, I am not talking about the individual. I am talking about the Office.
[11.] Q. Mr. President, you referred earlier to the fact that you had sent an ultimatum to the Soviet Union to get out of Persia in 1945.
THE PRESIDENT. That's correct.
Q. Is that something you are telling us for the first time, or are you summarizing what happened in 1945 ?
THE PRESIDENT. That really took place. That really took place in 1945.
[12.] Q. Mrs. May Craig, Portland (Maine) Press Herald. Mr. President, if I might return to the steel, please. I listen up at the Capitol all the time, and the feeling up there is that one of the greatest protections for our liberty is that we live by written law, and they dread a departure into unwritten or inherent powers, fearing that precedent. Do you recognize the danger of that too ?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, of course I do, May. But then when you meet an emergency in an emergency, you have to meet it.
Mrs. Craig: Yes, sir. Then some of them have said that they thought you could perhaps have met this by asking them for laws, as you did in relation once to labor-- the railroad labor
THE PRESIDENT. I have asked them twice.
Mrs. Craig: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT. I have asked them twice to give me advice on how to meet this situation, and all the advice I get is that I have done wrong, and that I ought to be impeached. [Laughter]
Mrs. Craig: Yes, sir. Then they ask-and I mean--I hear them in the corridors, that is why I am bringing this to you--they say that you could have gained 80 days if you had used the Taft-Hartley law in which something might have been done.
THE PRESIDENT. I requested the labor unions not to strike, back in November; and for 99 days they tried to negotiate and get an answer. I couldn't ask them for another 80 days, May, without being unfair to them.
[13.] Q. Mr. President, would you comment on the bill introduced by Senator Morse, that would in effect legitimatize the exercise of emergency powers by the President, but they would be subject to more or less ratification by Congress ?
THE PRESIDENT. Well now, that piece of legislation has not reached me, and I can't comment on legislation until it's on my desk.
[14.] Q. Mr. President, on this ultimatum on Iran, I am sure there is going to be confusion. Is this something that has been published before, or are you.
THE PRESIDENT. No, it hasn't. It's in the record, though.
Q. Was it a message from you to Stalin?
THE PRESIDENT. It was a message from me to Stalin to get out of Persia. Unless he did get out, we would put some more people in there. And he got out.
Q. Would there be a copy of that available ?
THE PRESIDENT. No sir, there would not be.
Q. You would not release the document?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I can't release it.
Q. Mr. President, could you tell us of the terms of it?
THE PRESIDENT. I can't tell you any more than I have told you.
Q. I didn't follow it all--you sent a message to Stalin to get out of Persia, and then something about people ?
THE PRESIDENT. We would take the necessary steps, if he did not get out. And we had a fleet at that time in the Persian Gulf, and we had a lot of soldiers over in that neighborhood--which we haven't got now or anywhere else, unless the Congress goes ahead and gives us a chance to put our defense program into effect.
Q. May I ask the same question about Tito and General Eisenhower in the same relation. Is that new, or is that
THE PRESIDENT. No, that happened back in 1945.
Q. Has that been made a matter of record?
THE PRESIDENT. No, that has not been made public.
Q. Mr. President, did Stalin reply to you in any written way ?
THE PRESIDENT. He got out of Persia. [Laughter]
Q. Mr. President, what was the occasion of them moving into Persia ?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, we used the Persian Gulf as the line through which we sent all the supplies that saved Stalingrad and a great many other of the Russian approaches. We sent them thousands of trucks and tons of ammunition through that route. And they had people in there to guard the route.
Q. They just held them over from the war ?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
Q. Mr. President, was that after the Potsdam conference--
THE PRESIDENT. Oh, no, that was long before Yalta or anything else took place--long before Tehran.
Q. We meant the ultimatum, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT. Oh no, that was right after I took office.
Q. Before the Potsdam conference ?
THE PRESIDENT. Before the Potsdam conference, that's right.
Q. On the Trieste thing, it seems to me I recall that--
THE PRESIDENT. No, no
Mr. Short: Mr. President, I don't think it could have been before Potsdam, sir.
THE PRESIDENT. Maybe it wasn't. Joe says he doesn't think it was. You can check it.
Q. I also remember there was trouble in Trieste when we were coming back from Rio, after your visit there, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, this was another one. This was shortly after, as Joe says, the Potsdam conference.
Q. Both in 1945 ?
THE PRESIDENT. Both in 1945.
Q. Both the Trieste and the Iranian thing in 1945 ?
THE PRESIDENT. That's right--that's right.
[15.] Q. Mr. President, it is very kind of you to make such a statement to show the world that as long as you are the President of the United States until January, you are sure to bring about the peace of the world. Now, the people of the world are looking up to your leadership--great leadership-and believe in you, and trust in you. Now, what will happen after January?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will tell you what will happen. We will elect a Democratic President, and carry on the present policy. [Laughter]
[Confers with Mr. Short.]
[16.] Whatever the dates are. They are facts that I have stated, except as to the time.
Q. I don't think it was 1945.
THE PRESIDENT. It may have been 1946-but then it could have been--but Joe will get you the dates. 11
11 Later in the day, a White House spokesman clarified the President's remarks on Iran and Trieste. The spokesman explained that a formal ultimatum had never been sent to Joseph Stalin but that a note was delivered to Moscow on March 6, 1946, which stated the U.S. position on the retention of Soviet troops in Iran after the deadline agreed upon under the Anglo-Soviet-Iranian treaty of January 29, 1942. The Soviet troops were removed by May 4, 1946.
The spokesman gave June 11, 1945, as the date for Marshal Tito's withdrawal of Yugoslav troops around Trieste.
You don't need to use dates, I am just telling you the facts as they took place.
Q. Was that a personal message to Stalin?
THE PRESIDENT. It went through the regular channels.
Q. Well, Mr. President, the message to Stalin was in 1945, is that--
THE PRESIDENT. I am not sure. Joe says it may have been later. He may be right.
Q. Mr. President, an ultimatum is a very specific, definite word in a political sense, and it usually causes a good deal of attention. In that particular action, does it mean there was a time limit on your communique ?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, we had a certain day in which to get out.
Q. A day what?
Q. What was that? I'm sorry, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. I say there was a certain day in which to get out.
Q. Do you recall, or could you say how many days there were?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I can't. You will have to look up the details.
Q. Mr. President, these troops--Russian troops were the ones that had to guard that line?
THE PRESIDENT. They were in Tehran and every other key position in Iran.
Q. Mr. President, are you saying that we could be more forceful at that time because we had a bigger force ?
THE PRESIDENT. We had a mobilized army and navy at that time. That is what we are trying to get now. Not for aggression, but to prevent it.
Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Truman's three hundred and first news conference was held in the Indian Treaty Room (Room 474) in the Executive Office Building at 10:35 a.m. on Thursday, April 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/230580