Harry S. Truman photo

The President's News Conference

January 11, 1951

THE PRESIDENT. Please be seated.

I have a couple of announcements I want to make to you before we start.

[1.] The Economic Message will go up to the Congress tomorrow, and it will be ready for your use some time late this evening, I think. 1 And if you will get in touch with Mr. Short 2 on that, you can taunt him all you like.

1 See Item 11.

2 Joseph Short, Secretary to the President.

[2.] There has been a great deal of conversation about the Fair Deal, lots of comment on it since the message. 3 I want to get it straight, and I am having a mimeographed statement prepared for you, which is a quotation from the message, which I think you ought to read very carefully.

3 The State of the Union Message, Item 4.

[Reading, not literally] "We stand behind the Fair Deal and the Democratic platform as much today as ever.

"We do, however, recognize that in an emergency like the present, first things come first, and our defense programs must have top priority.

"There is no reason for anyone to be in doubt about this. I said it as plainly as I could in my State of the Union Message. Let me refresh your memory by reading a few paragraphs in that message:

"'In the months ahead, the Government must give priority to activities that are urgent-like military procurement, atomic energy, and power development. It must practice rigid economy in its nondefense activities. Many of the things we would ordinarily do must be curtailed or postponed.

"'But in a long-term defense effort like this one, we cannot neglect the measures needed to maintain a strong economy and a healthy democratic society.

"'The Congress, therefore, should give continued attention to the measures which our country will need for the long pull. And it should act upon such legislation as promptly as circumstances permit.'"

I just want to put you dear on that, because there has been a lot of speculation about whether I am going back on the Democratic platform or not. I am not.

Now you can ask your questions, if you like.

[3.] Q. Mr. President, the Chicago Daily News has a story from Tokyo, saying there is evidence of Washington stripping General MacArthur 4 of authority to speak freely on the Korean war. It says that they have taken away from General MacArthur all authority to issue decisions on current ground or military operations in Korea ?

THE PRESIDENT, It is not true.

4 General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, USA, Commander in Chief, United Nations Command in Korea.

Q. It is not true?

THE PRESIDENT. It is not true. If you will call up the Defense Department, they will confirm what I am telling you.

[4.] Q. Mr. President, in connection with the statement which you read us concerning the Fair Deal, I think a lot of the speculation arose because in your message this year, unlike your message last year, you did not specifically ask for repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act, for example, but asked for improvements--

THE PRESIDENT. Asked for labor legislation that would clarify the situation so that we could get along better than we had been getting along in the past. If that requires the repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act, why that's it.

Q. And if it doesn't?

THE PRESIDENT. That is up to the Congress to make the decision.

[5.] Q. Mr. President, Senator Connally made a speech on the floor today and "As for the future, I am confident that executive branch will consult Congress on troop commitments to the integrated European defense forces now being mobilized." Is that an accurate reflection of your position?

THE PRESIDENT. Let me read something here, May. 5 I didn't intend to say anything about that unless you asked the question, and I thought maybe you would. [Laughter]

5 Mrs. May Craig of the Portland (Maine) Press Herald.

[Reading] "Under the President's constitutional powers as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces he has the authority to send troops anywhere in the world. That power has been recognized repeatedly by the Congress and the courts.

"This Government will continue to live up to its obligations under the United Nations, and its other treaty obligations, and we will continue to send troops wherever it is necessary to uphold these obligations."

Now, Dean Acheson in his testimony before the Foreign Relations Committee made it perfectly plain that the Atlantic Treaty did not require that troops be sent, but that each country itself should make up its own mind as to what was necessary for the defense of the Atlantic Treaty countries.

That is a matter of record in the Foreign Relations Committee, and that is what Senator Connally was referring to.

Q. Mr. President, could I ask you to read that a little more slowly, so that we can quote it?

THE PRESIDENT. Well--how much of it? You want both those paragraphs read again ?

Q. The first one again.

THE PRESIDENT. [Reading] "Under the President's constitutional powers as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, he has the authority to send troops anywhere in the world. That power has been recognized repeatedly by the Congress and the courts."

And I can give you the page, and the number of the citation, if you want it. I haven't got it with me just now, but you will find decisions by at least three Chief Justices on that very subject.

Q. Well, Mr. President, Senator Connally did not dispute your right to do so, he defended it; but he said that he understood you would consult with Congress before you would do it, and continuing: "It is my understanding that administration leaders plan to do so."

THE PRESIDENT. We always do that, May. We never make any moves in foreign affairs or on any domestic affairs, or any other affairs, that we do not very considerably consult with the committees that are interested in it. We have always done that, and there has been no change in that policy, and won't be. And any Senator who wants to talk to the President can always get a date to do it.

Q. Mr. President, have you made any commitments, verbal or written, to the Atlantic Pact countries, on how many divisions we will send to Europe?

THE PRESIDENT. No. Can't make a commitment like that because we don't know how many we are going to have.

Q. Well, Mr. President, just to make it explicit, you make no distinction, then, in the exercise of your constitutional powers to send troops, say, for reinforcement of our garrison in Germany, or later, perhaps, in sending troops for a North Atlantic army. Do you feel you have as much of a right to do one as the other?

THE PRESIDENT. I do. But, of course, in the latter case, the Congress would be consulted before we do it, as we always do.

Q. I just wondered, in the people who want to make a date, would that include Senator Taft ?

THE PRESIDENT. What's that?

Q. You said any Senator who wanted to consult with you on foreign policy .

THE PRESIDENT. Or any other subject.

Q. --will that--would that include Senator Taft?

THE PRESIDENT. Why certainly. I made that perfectly plain last week.

Q. Mr. President, please let me get this straight. You said that you had the authority by court and Constitution to send them anywhere in the world. Did those opinions given by the courts say that you had to consult Congress?

THE PRESIDENT. No, it did not--

Q. Well, Mr. President--

THE PRESIDENT--and I do not have to unless I want to. But of course I am polite, and I usually always consult them. [Laughter]

Q. Mr. President, you wouldn't be bound--necessarily bound by any opinion--

THE PRESIDENT. Well--

Q.--consulting is one thing--

THE PRESIDENT--the opinions are all in favor of the President's exercise of the Presidential power when in his judgment it is necessary.

Q. I didn't mean that--

THE PRESIDENT. The opinions don't have any bearing on what the President intended, because they are all on his side.

Q. No, I don't have reference to policy opinions--congressional opinions--I mean you said that you would consult, and I said that wouldn't necessarily mean that you would be bound by--

THE PRESIDENT. No, no. That's correct.

Q. Mr. President, things have been going sort of fast here--[laughter]--then you will consult Congress before we send any troops to Western Europe, is that correct?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I didn't say that. I said in case of necessity for the defense of the Atlantic Charter countries--treaty countries--of course I would consult the Congress. It may be necessary to use troops in Germany in an emergency. You can't tell.

Q. Mr. President, could you be more explicit about the form that consultation would take? Would it be with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee? Would the whole Congress--

THE PRESIDENT. No--it would be with the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, which we always consult on every subject that has to do with foreign relations and with defense. I want to make that perfectly plain.

Q. Mr. President, maybe it's my "tin" ear, but I didn't get this straight yet. In this particular case, with the debate raging in Congress over whether you do or do not have the authority to send troops to Europe--and Mr. Hoover said not another man or another dollar should be sent--the debate has been quite general. Do I understand that you will ask Congress for permission--

THE PRESIDENT. No.

Q.--before sending troops--

THE PRESIDENT. No, you do not want to take that view of the thing. I said that--in case of necessity and it became necessary, for the defense of the Atlantic Treaty countries, that Congress would be consulted before troops were sent. I don't ask their permission, I just consult them.

Q. Well, Mr. President, do you--when you say "if it became necessary for the defense of the Atlantic Treaty countries," you seem to be presuming hostilities, and things of that sort, taking place at that time, or would that include increasing forces in Germany or France now?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes--well, the latter.

Q. The latter?

THE PRESIDENT. The latter.

Q. In other words, Mr. President, no further United States troops--no troops aside from the occupation forces in Germany itself--would be sent to, say, England, France, Belgium, or Holland without consultation with the Congress?

THE PRESIDENT. Of course the Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees would be consulted and told about it.

Q. Mr. President--

Q. Mr. President, just one thing

THE PRESIDENT. Let Doris Fleeson 6 finish, Tony, 7 you have got a front seat. What is it?

6 Doris Fleeson of the Bell Syndicate.

7 Ernest B. Vaccaro of the Associated Press.

Doris Fleeson: Not one of the Republican triumvirate of Senators Wherry, Millikin, and Taft is a member of either the Foreign Relations or the Armed Services. In what way would it be possible for you to bring them into the consultation, or do you feel that the Foreign Relations Committee and Armed Services Committee would cover it for the minority party ?

THE PRESIDENT. They have a perfect right to sit with those committees whenever they feel like it; and as I said before, the front door of the White House is always open.

Q. Well--but Mr. President, to go back to Senator Taft, he is not a member of the committees--

THE PRESIDENT. That's not my fault--

Q. -- and he is not--

THE PRESIDENT. --that's not my fault. He controls the Republican side of the House. If he is not a member of the committee it is because he doesn't want to be.

[6.] Q. If I may get back to the question of General MacArthur, has he sent any recommendations to the White House, or to the Pentagon, for withdrawal of United Nations forces from Korea ?

THE PRESIDENT. He has not. He is taking orders.

[7.] Q. Mr. President, this business of-this discussion about consulting Congress, does it envision, as far as your plans are concerned, any new move in the way of conciliation?

THE PRESIDENT. No. It has always been done.

Q. The same procedure?

THE PRESIDENT. Same procedure that has been followed ever since I have been here, and I came here January 3d, 1935, officially-spent 10 years in the Senate, and spent the other 6 up here.

Q. You have the committees in--

THE PRESIDENT. All the time.

Q.--and tell them your plans ?

THE PRESIDENT. We always do that. It's nothing new at all.

Q. Mr. President, there is one thought I was not getting on the question of consultation. You don't need their permission, but as a matter of courtesy you would consult them?

THE PRESIDENT. Certainly. You must always bear in mind, in the background, that it is necessary for the Congress to appropriate the money for the Government to be carried on.

[8.] Q. Mr. President, you are not going to invite Senator Taft to come to see you?

THE PRESIDENT. As I told you time and again, the door has always been open. I don't have to make special invitations to Senators. They ask to come to see me, and I let them.

[9.] Q. Mr. President, on this question of troops to Europe, which may have been confused by tossing it back and forth on a number of technicalities, is it the administration's-the Government's--excuse me-present intention to increase our forces in Europe to give to General Eisenhower something with which he can build a defense?

THE PRESIDENT. Why certainly.

Q. It's our--

THE PRESIDENT. Certainly.

Q. Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT. What's the use of going to all this trouble if we are not going to make use of what we are doing?

Q. That's the point. It doesn't require congressional approval, but you would consult--

THE PRESIDENT. Why certainly--that's right, that's right. I'll keep telling it over and over and over--just keep on asking! [Laughter]

Q. Well, Mr. President, to belabor this thing to the end--[more laughter]-

THE PRESIDENT. Go ahead.

Q.--have you consulted with those committees about sending these troops to Europe under General Eisenhower ?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I have not. General Marshall has. Dean Acheson has. They have been consulted. General Marshall and Dean Acheson represent me when they are down before these committees.

Q. Mr. President, what will be the effect, sir, of an attempt on the part of Congress to restrict, through the appropriations bill, the use of forces.--

THE PRESIDENT. That is up to the Congress, if they want to go to the country with that--and I'll go with them. And I licked them once.

Q. As I understand it, sir, the decision already has been made to send our forces to Europe

THE PRESIDENT. Those that are necessary, yes.

Q. Now just--what will you consult these committees about, if the decision has been made?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, we will have to wait and see what General Eisenhower's report is before we make any definite plans.

Q. About size, and so forth?

THE PRESIDENT. That's right.

[10.] Q. Mr. President, a week ago, I believe it was, you said that prices and--I hope this--I am not intruding on this talk-Atlantic Pact thing--but you said a week ago that price and wage controls were on the way. What is the picture on that ?

THE PRESIDENT. Just the same as it was. Price and wage controls are on the way, and as soon as it is possible it will be put into effect. Mr. Wilson 8 will confirm that, if you want to ask him about it.

8 Charles E. Wilson, Director, Office of Defense Mobilization.

Q. May I clear up a point? Last week you told us, if I remember right, that it would take legislation to control the prices of farm products, and you asked us to look and wait and see in the State of the Union Message as to whether you would recommend that?

THE PRESIDENT. I did. I did recommend that.

Q. I am not dear in my own mind as to whether it is the administration's aim to change the provisions on parity or not?

THE PRESIDENT. No, no. It doesn't have anything to do with parity. This is the consumers prices that I am referring to, of things to eat.

Q. In other words, sir, there is no intention to change the law so that a ceiling can be set below parity ?

THE PRESIDENT. No, the farmers and labor and industry must all be on a par. They must all be treated exactly alike. That is what the intention of Mr. Wilson's setup is, to see that everybody is fairly treated--and that includes the consumer who is being gouged a little right now.

[11.] Q. Mr. President, has Governor Dewey of New York been approached for any job in the Government?

THE PRESIDENT. No.

[12.] Q. Mr. President, some people are assuming that civil rights has been put aside for a while?

THE PRESIDENT. No.

[13.] Q. Mr. President, on the subject of price controls, we all know, of course, that ever since last June prices have gone up and up and up, and they are continuing to rise. I believe Mr. Valentine 9 said yesterday afternoon that they had abandoned the idea of going over for a 30-day voluntary freeze on prices now. Well, that means that more time, apparently, is going by before price controls are put on, and prices may go up more. When this thing does jell, does the administration intend to roll any of these prices--price rises back?

THE PRESIDENT. We will cross that bridge when we get to it. I don't know whether you had any experience in World War II on price controls and wage adjustments. I did. And that was part of my job on that committee. And it is one of the most difficult things in Government, to do just what we are trying to do now. We are trying to do it in an orderly manner, and trying to profit by the mistakes which we made in World War II.

9 Dr. Alan Valentine, Administrator, Economic Stabilization Agency.

[14.] Q. Mr. President, do you intend to use subsidies like you did in World War II?

THE PRESIDENT. I will answer that question when it becomes necessary. I can't answer it now.

[15.] Q. Mr. President, how much of a tax increase are we going to need in 1951 ?

THE PRESIDENT. I will send the tax message down just as soon as I can get it ready. 10 If you will carefully read Mr. Snyder's 11 interview yesterday, he covered it thoroughly.

10 See Item 28.

11 John W. Snyder, Secretary of the Treasury.

[16.] Q. Mr. President, do you plan to send a special message to Congress dealing with the need for control of food prices ?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I do not.

Q. Mr. President, I wonder if you could go a little more into detail on how that food price control system would work, if you don't control parity prices ?

THE PRESIDENT. Parity has nothing to do with price and wage controls at all. It is an entirely different question. All we are after--you will find that the farmer has not profited by these increased food prices at all. I had the Secretary of Agriculture make a survey, and the wholesale prices of farm products are very little above what they were in June.

Q. Mr. President, I think that question might be directed, if I may interpolate, to the fact that the present law says that prices cannot be set below parity. I believe the question I would like to have an answer to, if possible, too, is whether or not that provision of the law might have to be weighed, or changed ?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, whatever is necessary to be done to meet the situation will be done.

[17.] Q. Mr. President, how soon after General Eisenhower's return will it be possible to send troops to Europe?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't answer the question.

[18.] Q. Mr. President, what do you think of the idea of paying Chinese "commies" to prevent the use of--

THE PRESIDENT. What do you mean ?

Q. Well, there is--one of our correspondents recently returned from Korea thought it might be a good idea to pay so much to the "commies" who came over to our ranks for surrendering a machine-gun. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. You are talking about bribery now, and I don't have anything to do with that. I don't believe in it. That's what ruined the Chiang Kai-shek government, just that sort of procedure.

Q. [From the back of the room] Thank you, Mr. President. [Laughter]

Merriman Smith (United Press Associations): Thank you, Mr. President. [More laughter]

Note: President Truman's two hundred and fiftieth news conference was held in the Indian Treaty Room (Room 474) in the Executive Office Building at 4 p.m. on Thursday, January 11, 1951.

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/230378

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