Harry S. Truman photo

The President's News Conference

February 17, 1949

THE PRESIDENT. [1.] I have no announcements to make, gentlemen, except that I want to clear up just one thing, and that is in regard to the procedure of the Ways and Means Committee.

There has been a lot of speculation on the Ways and Means Committee--Ways and Means Committee and the President on procedure. The Ways and Means Committee have been proceeding exactly as I have requested them to proceed.

I asked them, in the first place, to consider social security ahead of taxes, and that is the reason they are doing it.

Q. Mr. President, Governor Dever was in here a couple of weeks ago and indicated that you favored a special inquiry by the Ways and Means Committee in the domestic watch situation. Is that a correct interpretation--

THE PRESIDENT. The matter was placed before me by the Waltham Watch Company and two or three other American watch companies. I made no comment on the situation, except to take the papers which they gave me and told them I would look into it.

[2.] Q. Mr. President, there is a report that the administration is going to propose home relief funds in the social security program. Anything to that?


Q. What kind of funds, sir, did he ask?

THE PRESIDENT. Home relief funds. I don't know what that means, but go ahead and explain it to him, Tony.1

1Anthony H. Leviero of the New York Times.

Q. People out of work, getting support from the local communities. Story out of New York, that's the reason.

THE PRESIDENT. Never heard of it.

[3.] Q. Mr. President, your military aide, Gen. Harry Vaughan, has been the recipient of a considerable amount of criticism in connection with the decoration offered to him by the Government of Argentina.2 He has been singled out for criticism, although a medal--that medal and other medals under similar circumstances have been offered to other officials and other officers. Have you any comment on why he should be criticized? Any comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT. No reason in the world why he should be criticized. Stanley Woodward informed me the other day--just accidentally happened to inform me that he has more than a hundred--two or three--over there in his drawer that have been presented to nearly every--every general and admiral that we have got here in Washington, and more than twenty of these--this same medal that General Vaughan received, in that drawer, and various other generals and admirals in the service of the United States Government. There wasn't a thing in the world wrong with it. It was handled strictly according to law. And the only reason for the squawk is because General Vaughan happens to be my military aide.

2Medal of the Order of San Martin.

Q. They are gunning for you over his shoulder?


Q. You mean, Mr. President, these generals don't pick up these decorations after they receive them?

THE PRESIDENT. They do not. It's the specific--the law is specific on it, that those decorations are to be--not to be received individually until they receive permission from Congress to get them. That's the--in the criminal code--in the United States Code, not the criminal code--United States Code. During wartime it was allowed by the Congress by specific law that the military services could receive--and civilians, too--could receive decorations from our Allies or associated powers in the World War. That period expired on the 30th

day of last June, and the civil code went into effect at that time.

[4.] Q. Mr. President, there is a good deal of discussion up on the Hill this week about the North Atlantic Pact. I wonder if you will give us some of your ideas about it?

THE PRESIDENT. My ideas were very clearly and specifically expressed by the Secretary of State yesterday after an interview with me.3 There isn't anything mysterious about it at all. Resolution 239 was passed by the Senate and unanimously passed by the House. And I announced clearly in my message on the--in the inaugural message, and in various messages on it previous to that, our stand in connection with the Atlantic Pact. There is no confusion about it at all.

3 Secretary of State Acheson's statement is printed in the Department of State Bulletin (vol. 20, p. 263).

Q. Mr. President, what you said in your message still stands?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes sir. Yes, it does.

[5.] Q. What is your reaction, Mr. President, to the story that Secretary Royall asked to have troops withdrawn from Japan--

THE PRESIDENT. If I remember correctly, Secretary Royall categorically denied the statement. There is no comment to make on it, under those circumstances.

[6.] Q. Mr. President, in his letter of February 14 to Secretary Krug, Mr. Pace said the Central Arizona project does not meet with your program. Is that still your position?

THE PRESIDENT. The Central Arizona project is under consideration by the Congress, and it hasn't been considered as--whether it's a part of the program or not. The water situation in Arizona and in California is in a serious situation. I myself have been making some personal investigations on the situation, with the idea to try to find more water for both of those States.

Q. Mr. President, a subsequent letter to-Mr. Pace sent to Senator O'Mahoney has been interpreted by Arizona as a reversal of your position. Is that correct?

THE PRESIDENT. My position has never been reversed. It has been the same all the time.

Q. There is still considerable confusion--

THE PRESIDENT. There isn't any confusion on the Hill about it. If you will question Senator Hayden and the Senators from California, you will find that there is no confusion, and never has been. Not in my mind.

[7.] Q. Mr. President, have you received a new report from your Economic Advisers?

THE PRESIDENT. I receive a regular monthly report.

Q. Can you give us your estimate on what the business outlook is today? There is considerable apprehension, you know, about falling prices and unemployment.

THE PRESIDENT. I think myself, personally, that the situation is nothing to be alarmed about. I think it's the leveling off that everybody has been wishing for. And I hope that is the case, and that we do not have another spiral in prices.

[8.] Q. Mr. President, do you think-are you in favor of modifying consumer credit controls, under Regulation W?4


4 Regulation W, for the control of consumer credit, was originally issued by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System in 1941 (12 CFR part 112). Under Public Law 905, 80th Congress, the regulation would become inoperative after June 30, 1949.

Q. You are not in favor of modifying--

THE PRESIDENT. I am not considering it at the present time. If it becomes apparent that it should be modified, why it will be modified.

[9.] Q. Mr. President, have you reached a decision on whether Dr. Bruce is going back to Argentina?

THE PRESIDENT. He has been trying to resign ever since he has been down there. I will tell you all about it later, after an interview with him.

[10.] Q. The McGraw-Hill Publishing Company sent out a lot of releases and stuff today, and one of them indicated that Ralph Bunche would be the next American Ambassador to Russia. Is that news to you?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, that's news to me.

Q. Any comment on it?

THE PRESIDENT. That's news to me.

Q. Mr. President, while we are talking about Russia, have you made a decision yet about Bedell Smith?

THE PRESIDENT. That decision will have to be made by General Smith himself. He is under treatment now, on account of his health, and I haven't had a conference with him lately. That is up to General Smith.

Q. He is still at Walter Reed?

THE PRESIDENT. I think that is correct.

[11.] Q. Mr. President, would you care to say anything further on the subject of taxes?

THE PRESIDENT. There's nothing further, after that message.

Q. There is some speculation that since you have put social security ahead of taxes, taxes will have to be abandoned. Is that true?

THE PRESIDENT. No, that is not true. My position is exactly as it was. It hasn't changed a bit. It's a matter of procedure-doesn't make any difference.

Q. Mr. President, would you care to comment on why you asked them to follow that procedure, of social security first?

THE PRESIDENT. Because they are not--we were not ready on the tax proposition as yet. Just a matter of keeping the Ways and Means Committee busy. [Laughter]

Q. Mr. President, are you--would you be considering a compromise on taxes below $4 billion?

THE PRESIDENT. I made my statement to the Congress in my message. And it still stands.

[12.] Q. Mr. President, there is considerable discussion about the secrecy of the trials--military trials in Munich. Have you any ideas on the secrecy of those trials?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know anything about it, Pete5 The Constitution should follow the flag wherever it goes, and trials should be conducted as we usually conduct them in this country. That is my theory, and I am trying to enforce it. I don't know anything about this one to which you refer.

5 Raymond P. Brandt of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

[13.] Q. Mr. President, in the Senate today, Mr. Langer said that you have dropped all pretense of continuing bipartisan foreign policy.

THE PRESIDENT. That is not true. Not a word of truth in that.

[14.] Q. Mr. President, would you care to comment on the Loyalty Board's clearance of William Remington? 6

THE PRESIDENT. I think the Loyalty Board undoubtedly heard all the evidence and made the proper decision. That's all the comment I will have. That's what I set them up for.

6On February 11 the Government's Loyalty Review Board rejected disloyalty charges brought against William Remington, Director of the Export Program Staff of the Department of Commerce, by Elizabeth Bentley. He was ordered to be reinstated, with backpay, in the Department of Commerce post from which he had been suspended since July 1948.

The testimony of Miss Bentley and Mr. Remington is recorded in "Export Policy and Loyalty Hearings Before the Investigations Subcommittee of the Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Departments," dated July-August 1948 (Government Printing Office, 2 vols., 402 pp.).

[15.] Q. Will you clear up the Constitution following the flag? Those spies were tried in this city, those Germans that landed on Long Island, under the greatest of secrecy. That was, I think--

THE PRESIDENT. That was during wartime.

Q. That was during wartime.

THE PRESIDENT. Wartime precaution.

Q. Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT. Merely a wartime precaution had to be done that way.

[16.] Q. Mr. President, I have been asked to ask you if you are opposed to building this Glacier View Dam in the Glacier National Park, which has caused a controversy between the Park Service and the Army Engineers?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't remember enough about the case, Tony.7 That's the first I had heard of that controversy. Is that on the-that Hungry Horse Dam?

7 Ernest B. Vaccaro of the Associated Press.

Q. I think it's Flat Head Dam, or something.

THE PRESIDENT. Flat Head River. But I think that one is the Hungry Horse.

Q. First I heard about it was 10 minutes ago. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Then I happen to know a little bit more about it than you do, Tony. [More laughter]

[17.] Q. Mr. President, getting back to that other thing on the Constitution, is there not a comparable situation in Europe, where you have an occupied area--where you have saboteurs landing in Long Island in wartime?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, that is comparable. It is comparable to that, but I am very anxious that American citizens--I don't want to treat--I am very anxious that American citizens

Q. No American citizens are involved.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, that's--then that's a different matter. I am speaking strictly of Americans under--no matter where they are, you ought to have the same privilege that you have at home, if you work for the Government. I don't care where you are, in the occupied areas, or the trial of these foreigners, it's comparable to that.

Q. Mr. President, on the other hand, don't you think American justice should be full and open?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, that's a matter for argument, I think, if it comes to spies in enemy countries.

[18.] Q. Mr. President, what do you think of this controversy between certain reporters working in Japan and Secretary Royall, as to what he said, that we might have to pull out of Japan in case of war with Russia?

THE PRESIDENT. That's not my controversy. I would talk to the Secretary for Army.

Q. Do you think Japan would be a military asset, or a liability?

THE PRESIDENT. I couldn't understand what you said?

Q. I said do you think that Japan would be a military asset or--

THE PRESIDENT. I have no comment to make on that. The policy on Japan is set and fixed, and it hasn't changed.

There has never been any change in policy, nor is there any indication of a change in policy.

[19.] Q. This is a local question, Mr. President. Philadelphia is having a transit strike that has everything tied up. Is there any law or provision under which you can intervene?

THE PRESIDENT. None at all. That is a matter for Pennsylvania to handle.

[20.] Q. Mr. President, do you have the social security recommendations ready?

THE PRESIDENT. I beg your pardon?

Q. Your recommendations on social security?

THE PRESIDENT. They are in the course of preparation, and as soon as possible we will have them ready.

Q. Will it follow the plan of last May 24, in which you submitted a message to Congress outlining--

THE PRESIDENT. That's right--I believe I referred specifically to it in the message--in the Message on the State of the Union, I think.

[21.] Q. Mr. President, Senator Taft has said that the anti-inflation bill that went up the other day proposes a controlled economy. I was wondering if you have anything to say on that?

THE PRESIDENT. I have no argument with Senator Taft. My views on the subject have been expressed in message after message to Congress. If the Senators want to have an argument about it, that's their privilege.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. You're welcome.

Note: President Truman's one hundred and sixtyninth news conference was held in his office in the White House at 4:02 p.m. on Thursday, February 17, 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/229871

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