Harry S. Truman photo

The President's News Conference

February 24, 1949

THE PRESIDENT. I have a couple of announcements to make this morning.

[1.] Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney is to be Under Secretary of Commerce, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation last spring of William C. Foster, now with the Economic Cooperation Administration. Mr. Whitney is now serving as Assistant Secretary for Air.

[2.] And I want to make a statement which will be available after the conference on the Israeli-Egyptian armistice.

Q. I didn't understand your preface there, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. It's a statement on the Israeli-Egyptian armistice which was just signed.

[Reading] "I am immensely gratified over the news from Rhodes that the Representatives of Egypt and Israel have signed an armistice agreement. This act is a tribute to the restraint and statesmanship of the two governments. I wish, also, to congratulate the United Nations Mediator, Dr. Ralph Bunche, whose untiring efforts have so greatly contributed to the success of these negotiations.

"I hope that now a formal armistice has been agreed upon between Egypt and Israel, this pattern for peace will be followed rapidly in the conclusion of similar agreements between Israel and the other Arab States. The general armistice will then, I trust, lead to the attainment of permanent peace, thus freeing the talents of these Near Eastern peoples for constructive work in the development of their respective countries. As a member of the Palestine Conciliation Commission, the United States stands ready to assist the parties to the rapid conclusion of a just and honorable peace."

I am ready for questions.

[3.] Q. Mr. President, are you planning to have sent up a message soon on compulsory health insurance?

THE PRESIDENT. Within several weeks I expect to have a message on health insurance and the health situation generally. It will be several weeks before it is ready.

Q. In that connection, Mr. President, we understand that possibly you are going to recommend that the unemployment compensation be returned to Federal control rather than State control?

THE PRESIDENT. When the message is ready why it will explain to you just exactly what I mean and everything, and it will be perfectly clear. I don't like to comment on it before it is ready.

Q. Mr. President, will that be a general statement on social security or on health?

THE PRESIDENT. Health. It will be confined strictly to health.

Q. The whole national health program would be involved, rather than just the one angle there?

THE PRESIDENT. That's right, the whole national health program, and it will be stated very plainly, so there won't be any argument about it.

[4.] Q. Mr. President, do you care to comment on your conference with Ambassador Bruce of Argentina regarding--

THE PRESIDENT. Ambassador Bruce was just reporting to me on the Argentine situation. I have no comment on what he had to say.

Q. Is he going back to Buenos Aires?

THE PRESIDENT. I hope he will.

[5.] Q. Mr. President, a spokesman for the British Government has said in the last few days that Britain has now virtually completed her economic recovery. In view of that statement, do you think it wise that the United States continue to pour Marshall plan money into Great Britain?

THE PRESIDENT. I am very happy at what the British spokesman had to say. I do not know the details, and I can't answer the latter half of your question. The Marshall plan should be continued until European recovery is assured.

[6.] Q. Mr. President, the Federal Reserve Board is holding antimonopoly hearings involving a giant bank holding company in the West. Is that within the scope of your program for antimonopoly activities?

THE PRESIDENT. I know nothing about the hearing you are talking about, and I can't comment on it, therefore.

[7.] Q. Mr. President, congressional leaders say that you had asked for passage of the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act by March 4, and that you had asked for it by that date. Would you tell us why that date--

THE PRESIDENT. I Was anxious to have that trade agreements treaty approved as soon as possible. And March 5 is the date. I hope they will get it through because that date is a weekend.

[8.] Q. Mr. President, Engineer Commissioner Young was here the other day and he discussed District affairs. Is there any light that you would care to throw on that conversation ?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I think that covers it. That is exactly what we discussed.

Q. Broad gauge?

THE PRESIDENT. Broad gauge proposition on the planning for the District.

[9.] Q. Mr. President, Representative Jackson of Washington said yesterday that you are planning to send a member of your staff, along with some of the Interior Department people, out to the Northwest to study the CVA.1

THE PRESIDENT. That is correct.

1The proposed Columbia Valley Administration.

Q. Who is going from the staff?

THE PRESIDENT. I will announce it when it is ready. I can't make any announcement now on that, because we are not ready.

[10.] Q. Mr. President, in connection with Palestine, it has been reported that the Middle East is one of the underdeveloped areas in which you would like to put into effect your bold new program. Is there anything you could say about that?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't like to comment on that at this time. I think there are certain developments in the Middle East that would be for the welfare and benefit of the whole region; and at a later date, after peace has been arrived at in that section, why we can discuss them in detail.

[11.] Q. Mr. President, when you say you believe the Marshall plan should be continued until European recovery is assured, do you mean within the 4-year limit which has already been fixed in that plan?

THE PRESIDENT. If it takes 4 years, all right. If the British announcement proves to be correct, it may not take that long.

[12.] Q. Mr. President, from what you said in the past, that you favor a pay raise for the Army and Navy, do you specifically approve the bill that was introduced this week by, I think, Chairman Vinson?

THE PRESIDENT. I have not been able to analyze that report. I can't comment on a bill that is introduced, because I don't know what it contains.

[13.] Q. Mr. President, what would your attitude be toward enactment now of a pension or a bonus for World War I and II veterans?

THE PRESIDENT. I will comment on that matter when it comes before me.

[14.] Q. Mr. President, do you contemplate taking in the final phases of the Caribbean maneuvers when you are down in that direction?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I do not.

[15.] Q. Mr. President, do you plan to suggest any special aid for the Virgin Islands, now that Governor Hastie is in town?

THE PRESIDENT. I have been making suggestions which I think would be helpful to the Virgin Islands ever since I have been President. I shall continue to make those recommendations.

[16.] Q. Mr. President, are you going to Independence for the opening of the bond drive? I saw a story in the paper this morning that said it would start from out there and you would open it.

THE PRESIDENT. No. I am not going to Independence. I can't. I have too much business here.

[17.] Q. Mr. President, there was an editorial--a short editorial--in the Washington Star yesterday that seemed to me that the writer would seem to be confused as to the meaning of the initials you used in the speech 2--

THE PRESIDENT. I fear he will have to remain confused. [Laughter]

2 In the Washington Evening Star of February 23 a news item states that a change had been made in the official transcript of the President's remarks at the dinner honoring General Vaughan (Item 36); that in the paragraph toward the close which begins "Now, I am just as fond and just as loyal" the President had used the expression "any SOB" instead of the milder "anyone" which appears in the release.

The editorial referred to, which appears in the same edition of the Star, follows:

"Blankety Blank, Mr. President!

"Our language is plagued with initials already. They drive a man wild. Reading a newspaper story is becoming a frightful experience, trying to remember what is meant by such terms as ERP, ECA, BLS, CARE, OEM, WAA, IMF, WHO, UNO. Now the President, unfortunately, has got into the habit of speaking in the same lingo. The Star protests. Why, if he wants to bring it into a public speech at all, does he not say "The Senate Office Building" instead of reducing the term to such a meaningless symbol as SOB? There is a limit to everything. The President has gone too far."

Q. who is confused?

THE PRESIDENT. The editorial writer on the Washington Star.

Q. Is he the only one? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. You would have to see about that, Joe.3

3 Joseph A. Foz of the Washington Star.

Q. I don't believe he was confused. I think he was just looking for a nice way out. [Laughter]

Q. Mr. President, what reaction have you received to that comment.

THE PRESIDENT. Very satisfactory to me. [Laughter]

[18.] Q. Mr. President, I see that among the candidates for the Nobel peace prize are President Peron of Argentina and my colleague, Mr. Drew Pearson. Were either of them nominated by the Government of the United States?

THE PRESIDENT. I can say categorically that they were not. [Laughter] Probably nominated by themselves.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. You're welcome.

Note: President Truman's one hundred and seventieth news conference was held in his office at the White House at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, February 24, 1949.

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/229932

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