Harry S. Truman photo

The President's News Conference

February 23, 1950

THE PRESIDENT. I have no special announcements to make. I will try to answer questions.

[1.] Q. Mr. President, is the FEPC bill which the House passed today satisfactory to you?1

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't seen the bill. I haven't read it, but my position on FEPC has been made perfectly plain in various messages I sent the Congress.

1 On February 23 the House of Representatives passed a bill (H.R. 4453) to establish a Fair Employment Practice Commission and to aid in eliminating discrimination in employment because of race, color, or creed. The Senate failed to complete action on a similar bill (S. 1728) when moves to invoke the cloture rule were defeated on May 19 and July 12, 1950.

Q. Mr. President, this is a slightly philosophical question, because it has come up several times in the debate up there. Do you think it is possible to prohibit or legislate against racial discrimination, against people of equal aptitude in job opportunity, and still permit a man to operate his business with the right to fire and hire whom he pleases?

THE PRESIDENT. I have always thought so.

Q. Mr. President, we couldn't hear.

THE PRESIDENT. I said I have always thought so.

[2.] Q. Mr. President, Representative Durham, who is the Vice Chairman of the Joint House and Senate Atomic Energy Committee, says that he thinks the current agitation for a new approach to Russia on atomic control might be dangerous. I just wondered if you had any thoughts on that subject?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know what result he hopes to obtain. We have made every approach possible through the regular channels, and through the United Nations, in an endeavor to reach such an agreement. And we haven't been able to reach it. I don't see any reason for what they call a new approach. They are expecting something highly dramatic, some great showpiece to take place. I don't think the matter can be settled in that manner, and I have never thought so.

Q. I don't know whether I have got his position wrong, but he says that the current agitation for such a move might be dangerous.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't know about that. I don't know what he is thinking about.

Q. Didn't you say virtually that in your Alexandria speech yesterday, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I thought I made it very clear. I tried to put it in the simplest English possible in that Alexandria speech, and I think it covers the situation very well.2

2Item 42.

Q. Has there been any sign of any new feeler from Russia, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. No, there has not.

[3.] Q. Mr. President, do you plan to send another representative to the Vatican?

THE PRESIDENT. The matter has been under consideration ever since Mr. Taylor resigned, and no decision has been reached as yet.

[4.] Q. Mr. President, Congressman Biemiller of Wisconsin quoted you as saying that you and he agree that you would like to replace Senator Wiley with a Democrat this year. I wonder if that is correct?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am exceedingly hopeful that a great many Republicans will be replaced by Democrats, and of course, if Senator Wiley is up for election, that would include him. [Laughter]

[5.] Q. Mr. President, can you see any danger in a one-party system?

THE PRESIDENT. What's that? I don't like a one-party system. We haven't two parties now; we've got about four.

[6.] Q. Mr. President, have you decided-this action of the Senate yesterday, for an investigation into alleged subversive employees in the State Department; they voted to give the power to subpoena confidential employment and loyalty records. I wonder if you have given the departments any instructions on that?

THE PRESIDENT. I think I issued very clear instructions on that some time back. It still stands. I have told the Committee--the Foreign Relations Committee--that I would cooperate with them in every way possible to disprove false charges that have been made by Mr. McCarthy.

[7.] Q. Mr. President, what are the four parties you had in mind?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, there's the Dixiecrats--half Republican; there's the Republican Party; and there's what's left of Mr. Wallace's party; and there's a real national party, the Democratic Party. [Laughter]

Q. How about the Socialist?

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, they don't count.

Q. They don't count?

THE PRESIDENT. They have never had an electoral vote in the history of the country.

[8.] Q. Mr. President, are you considering any new moves in the coal crisis?

THE PRESIDENT. The coal crisis is in the hands of the courts right now, and I have no comment to make on that question.

Q. Mr. President, are you getting any red ports of progress from your observers in the coal negotiations?

THE PRESIDENT. I hear from them every day.

Q. Are there any--

THE PRESIDENT. No comment will be made on the matter. It's in the courts now. I told you that to begin with. I can't comment on it. It's a matter for the courts.

[9.] Q. Mr. President, in answering that question about the McCarthy investigation, you said you told the Foreign Relations Committee that you would cooperate in any way to disprove the false charges. You mean by that any way short of delivering these records

THE PRESIDENT. I will answer that question when it comes up. You needn't put words in my mouth

Q. I didn't mean that at all.

THE PRESIDENT. --as I told someone else the other day.

Q. But you are not saying now, sir, that you won't give the records--

THE PRESIDENT. I am not saying anything further to what I said in my directive to the various departments, which is very clear.3

Q. That directive still--

THE PRESIDENT. That directive still stands.

3 For the President's directive of March 15, 1948, on the need for maintaining the confidential status of employee loyalty records, see 1948 volume, this series, Item 50.

Q. That was the directive, sir, in which you said not to turn over the--

THE PRESIDENT. That is correct.

Q. Mr. President, wasn't there something in that, sir, that said to refer all requests to you?

THE PRESIDENT. That is correct.

Q. That part of it still stands?

THE PRESIDENT. That part of it still stands.

Q. The subpoena would make no difference?

THE PRESIDENT. Not the slightest in the world. You can't very well--I was going to say, it's pretty hard to serve a subpoena on the President of the United States. [Laughter] Who is going to enforce it?

[10.] Q. Mr. President, if it is contemplated going to Grand Coulee this spring, are you going to make any speeches on the way out and on the way back?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have been invited to dedicate the Grand Coulee Dam, which is now finished--I think it has all the generators in, and in place. And there has been some discussion about my making a trip out there. No decision has been made on it, but I think your guess is right, that if we do go there will be some stops along the road.

Q. That was the nonpolitical trip you were referring to last week?

THE PRESIDENT. That is correct. Probably be some whistlestops on the way there and on the way back.

Q. Will that be April when

THE PRESIDENT. No decision has been made on that yet. I have been invited. Like every other invitation that I get--and I get many every day to go somewhere--I have taken it under consideration.

Q. Mr. President, how do we tell what is political and what is nonpolitical? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. You will have to make up your own mind on that. That is for you to decide. [Laughter]

Q. We didn't hear that.

THE PRESIDENT. I told her that is for her to make up her own mind on that. That is for her to decide, whether it is nonpolitical or not.

Q. You can make a political speech or a nonpolitical speech.

THE PRESIDENT. Oh yes, it can be done very nicely. Any speech I make or any statement I make is political. It doesn't make any difference whether it is made here or whether it is made in Alexandria, Va., or in New York, or on the back platform of a train.

Q. What about when you discuss the issues, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. That is political, too. [Laughter] That is political, too.

Q. Well, when is it not political ?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, here is the situation you have got to take under consideration. The speech that I made in Alexandria was on the bipartisan foreign policy. That is not supposed to be a matter for local political discussion. That is to be treated as if it was a speech like the one I made once before, which was purely a domestic political statement of my views and how they ought to be carried out. I was speaking in Alexandria for the whole country, and not for any political party.

Q. How would you define political, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, there are lots of definitions for it.

Q. What is yours?

THE PRESIDENT. I think I have told you that a politician is a man who understands government. Usually, if he understands it well enough and has made a reputation, as he should have, he will wind up--when he is dead--by being called a statesman. You have to have your own definition of what to call things political. It depends altogether on what your viewpoint is. If you are for it, it is statesmanlike. If you are against it, it is purely low politics! [Laughter]

[11.] Q. Mr. President, how would you define the speech of Senator Byrd, who called you a stumbling block to balancing the budget?

THE PRESIDENT. That is purely political. [Laughter]

Q. He was a statesman.

Q. What was that question, sir, we didn't get that question?

THE PRESIDENT. He wanted to know how I would define Senator Byrd's statement in yesterday's Baltimore Sun--the Sun is a great supporter of Byrd--and I said it was purely political.

[12.] Q. Mr. President, would you define that half-Republican Party some more?

THE PRESIDENT. The half-Republican Party? Well, the Republican Party is split in two. It has two wings, just like the Democratic Party does.

[13.] Q. Mr. President, have you any intention of listening in on the radio this evening to the results of the British elections?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think it is possible to get the returns immediately. The last time the British had an election, it was 3 days before they decided to count the vote. And I think we will have to wait until the report is made by the people who count the votes. They don't count their votes like we do. They impound them and then after they have been collected they count the votes at a later time, after the election.

[14.] Q. Mr. President, do you feel that the Voice of America is handicapped by the difficulty of getting news up on the Hill ?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes I do, and I think it is also handicapped by a lack of appropriations, principally.

[15.] Q. Mr. President, when you spoke about the difficulty of serving a subpoena on you, did you mean you were protected by the courts or the Secret Service?

THE PRESIDENT. I am protected by the Government of the United States. You ought to know that it has been tried. You remember a certain statement by a gentleman named Jackson? "The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has made his decision, now let us see him enforce it." You remember that, don't you ?

Q. Oh yes.

[16.] Q. Mr. President, going back to coal, Mr. Case put in a bill today to declare a national emergency.4

THE PRESIDENT. What's that?

4 The bill was referred to the Committee on Education and Labor. It was not reported out by that Committee.

Q. Mr. Case put in a bill in the House today to declare a national emergency in the coal situation, and asks the coal miners back and asks the Government to call out the National Guard to make them go back. Do you think that will do any good?

THE PRESIDENT. I have no comment on that.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. You're welcome.

Note: President Truman's two hundred and eighteenth news conference was held in his office at the White House at 4 p.m. on Thursday, February 23, 1950.

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/230693

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