Harry S. Truman photo

The President's News Conference at Key West

March 15, 1951

THE PRESIDENT [to the photographers]. I think you fellows have had enough now. Get out of here, and let me go to work! [Laughter]

[1.] I have these two statements which-copies will be handed to you. One of them is on the Reorganization Act that was turned down by the House.

[Reading] "I am sorry to hear that the House has not seen fit to approve the proposed Reorganization Act of 1951. If enacted, the bill would have provided a more expeditious means of making organizational changes needed for the best administration of the defense program. The bill had the full support of the Citizens' Committee for the Hoover Report and had been passed by the Senate. While the defeat of the bill eliminates a sound and desirable method for enabling the President to proceed with the cooperation of the Congress in obtaining organizational changes, I shall nevertheless continue to work for the improvement of the organization of the executive branch through the methods which remain available."

I still hope that the House will pass the Senate bill.

[2.] Then, I am establishing a National Advisory Board on Mobilization Policy, which will consist of labor, industry, agriculture, and public members.1 The Chairman will be Mr. Wilson.2 It will serve as an advisory board to the President.

Now I will try to answer questions, if I can.

1Executive Order 10224, establishing the National Advisory Board on Mobilization Policy, was signed by the President on March 15, 1951 (3 CFR, 1949-1953 Comp., p. 736).

2Charles E. Wilson, Director, Office of Defense Mobilization.

[3.] Q. Mr. President, on that first statement, does that affect housing, or is that Defense Department?

THE PRESIDENT. It was defense reorganization entirely. The Executive order explains itself--I mean the reorganization plan explains itself. All you have to do is read it.

[4.] Q. Do you anticipate that labor, having "walked out" on the defense program, will send representatives to sit on this new mobilization advisory board?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think labor walked out. I think labor is as interested in the national defense program as is any other segment of the economy of the United States. I am not worried about that part of it at all, as I have told you before.

Q. You believe they will cooperate?

THE PRESIDENT. There isn't any doubt about it.

Q. Have you had any positive indications, Mr. President--

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't asked anybody-I haven't asked for any positive statements on the subject. I am making the order. We will see what will happen. I am satisfied that it will work. I wouldn't make it if I didn't think so.

Now, anything else?

Q. Yes, sir--well, this doesn't take the place of that wage board, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. No, no--this is the same as the old advisory board that was with the president all during the Second World War. The former Governor of North Carolina was the Chairman of that board--former Under Secretary of the Treasury--and I finally made him Ambassador to Great Britain--

Q. Max Gardner.

THE PRESIDENT.--Max Gardner. And he died before he could get to London.

Q. This is patterned after World War II, sir?


Q. That was called the mobilization board, too?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. It was an advisory board to the President--met once or twice a month. I used to meet with them at least once a month to discuss everything under the sun, just as I do with you gentlemen-and ladies.

What's on your mind?

[5.] Q. I've got a question--I was trying to frame it. [Laughter] You are ahead of me.

THE PRESIDENT. Go ahead and ask it.

Q. This, sir. Since you have been in Key West, Mr. DiSalle3 has issued an order on restaurants which in general, the OPS says, will let prices go up on the menu. Mr. Johnston4 has modified the 10 percent formula to deal with the escalator clauses in the cost of living, and modified his formula to permit that modification to apply to whitecollar workers in the industries. Could you say on the overall anti-inflation policy, is the administration trying to roll back--is the administration trying to hold the line where it is, or is the administration trying to brake or slow down the advance in the cost of living?

THE PRESIDENT. The administration is trying to meet the situation in the best manner possible, and we shall continue to try to do just that. That is all the answer I have.

3Michael V. DiSalle, Director of Price Stabilization.

4Eric Johnston, Administrator, Economic Stabilization Agency.

[6.] Q. Mr. President, yesterday I asked Joe5 if you had seen the popularity poll in the Miami Herald--the Gallup poll on popularity. I wonder if you had any comment on it?

THE PRESIDENT. I commented on that in 1948. The comment is just the same--the comment is just the same. [Laughter]

5Joseph Short, Secretary to the President.

Q. I have forgotten what it was, sir? Could you name it?

THE PRESIDENT. Wall, I would advise you to go and study history.

Q. Mr. President, I think we all remember the overall--we remember the attitude you had toward the polls, but none of us has a 1948 newspaper morgue here in Key West.

THE PRESIDENT. Neither have I. So we are even with you. Your home offices must have them. [Laughter]

[7.] Q. Mr. President, I would like to ask you a question. I had a man on my radio program on Saturday night who caused considerable consternation by saying positively that he had heard that Mrs. E. Merl Young6--he had heard a few minutes before that Mrs. E. Merl Young had been fired?

THE PRESIDENT. No comment.

6Mrs. E. Merl Young was a secretarial assistant in the office of the personal secretary to the President.

Q. No comment?

THE PRESIDENT. No comment. Is that what you came down here to ask me? [Laughter]

Q. No, I came down to see you, and you are looking very well.

THE PRESIDENT. That's wonderful--I appreciate that very much. [More laughter]

[8.] Q. Mr. President, going back to the statement on reorganization, you said you would do the best you can with other means available. What would they be, war powers?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the Reorganization Act itself is still in effect, but this was a special program devoted entirely to defense, in an effort to reduce the expense of the defense program.

[9.] Q. Mr. President, do you see any change in Russia's attitude, sir, as a result of our increasing defense buildup?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't answer that question.

[10.] Q. Mr. President, how do you feel?

THE PRESIDENT. I feel all right. [Laughter] I always feel all right.

Q. I would like to ask a question on that point, sir. Have you lost weight since you have been down here?

THE PRESIDENT. I am exactly the same weight I was when I came down here. It is awfully hard to lose down here. [Laughter]

Q. What is that weight?

THE PRESIDENT. It varies between 175 and 178.

Mr. Short [to the President]: You are not going to make a liar out of me? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. No, Joe, you told the truth.

Q. You said 176.

THE PRESIDENT. I said 175 to 178. I think I weighed 176 this morning.

Q. That's what Joe said.

THE PRESIDENT. That's right. I try to tell Joe every day what I weigh, and what I have for breakfast, which hand I wipe my mouth with, so that you fellows will be right up to date on everything that goes on. [More laughter]

[11.] Q. Well, Mr. President, do you have any new comment on the RFC inquiry?

THE PRESIDENT. No comment. I am glad the House has passed the Reorganization Plan.7

7For the President's message to Congress transmitting Reorganization Plan 1, relating to the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, see Item 39. On March 14, H. Res. 142, opposing the plan, failed of passage.

[12.] Q. Mr. President, are you going to be at this party at the Casa Marina tomorrow night?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't tell you what the situation will be at that time. I would like very much to come. I don't know whether I will be able to.

[13.] Q. Mr. President, will the United Nations forces be allowed to advance beyond the 38th parallel?

THE PRESIDENT. That is a tactical matter for the field commander. A commander in chief 7,000 miles away does not interfere with field operations. We are working to free the Republic of Korea and set it up as the United Nations wants it. That doesn't have anything to do with the 38th parallel.

[14.] Q. Mr. President, what do you think of that UP poll that pictured Truman-Douglas8 running one/two for 1952?

THE PRESIDENT. Wall, I expressed my opinion on polls, and the same on that--it's the same on that.

8Senator Paul H. Douglas, Democrat, of Illinois.

Q. Mr. President, would you tall us one thing that we are all wondering? Are these stories true that you are going to run for the Senate in 1952? Are they inspired, or what?

THE PRESIDENT. No comment, Bert.9 No comment. You can still speculate and draw your own conclusions. You wouldn't have any fun if you didn't have something like that to talk about. [Laughter]

9Bert Andrews of the New York Herald Tribune.

Q. I would rather write about facts.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I hope you will continue to do just that. You won't have any quarrel with me if you do. [Laughter]

[15.] Q. Mr. President, would you like to say anything--


10Robert G. Nixon of International News Service.

Q.--how are you, sir?--at this time about the move in Congress lately to place some restraints upon your constitutional powers--that you will send troops to Europe--

THE PRESIDENT. Bob, do you think that the Constitution can be amended by a Senate and House resolution?

Q. No sir, I don't.


Q. I thought maybe--

THE PRESIDENT. I don't either.

Q.--you might go further along the line of the whole--the impact of that whole movement in Congress on people abroad

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, no. I don't have anything to do with the actions of the Congress. They are a free, elective body. They are elected to carry out all the legislative provisions of the Constitution of the United States. I am elected to carry out the Executive powers in that same Constitution, and

we usually get along all right in the end.

Q. You will go ahead, sir, with the--

THE PRESIDENT. We are going to do whatever is necessary to meet the present emergency under the Constitution of the United States. That is what I am sworn to uphold and defend, and I propose to do just that.

Q. Sir, do you see any harm in any such restrictions, that is, limiting 4 million on the--

THE PRESIDENT. You want to get me into a discussion of a legislative matter which is not before me, and I don't intend to do that.

Q. Well, your spokesmen have opposed any such limitations on the Hill, haven't they?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know that I have any special spokesman. There are lots of Democrats and Republicans down there who are doing everything they can to support the foreign policy of the United States.

Q. Doing what to it, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. To support it. A number of Democratic and Republican Senators and Congressmen who are doing everything they possibly can to support the foreign policy of the United States.

Q. Excuse me--support?

THE PRESIDENT. It is a bipartisan foreign policy.

Q. Support the policy--

THE PRESIDENT. Support the bipartisan foreign policy of the United States.

Q. That would include, also, your fixing the limits on the number of divisions that General Eisenhower--

THE PRESIDENT. I won't go into that.

[16.] Q. Mr. President, yesterday, in the disarmament letter,11 there were no specific proposals for what we might do to disarm the world and set up a basis for peace.

THE PRESIDENT. I think you will find as far back as 1945 specific proposals on the whole subject. Our plan and program has been before the United Nations ever since the Second World War ended, and there has not been any change in those plans and proposals.

11 Item 54.

Q. You are referring specifically to the atomic weapons?

THE PRESIDENT. The disarmament program and the control of atomic energy and everything else has been thoroughly and completely covered. Our stand has never been any different--it isn't any different now from what it was then.

Q. That was reiterated--

THE PRESIDENT. Time and again. Time and again.

[17.] Q. Mr. President, can you comment, sir, on the possibility of Mr. Donald Dawson12 appearing or not appearing before the RFC subcommittee?

THE PRESIDENT. No comment.

12 Donald S. Dawson, Administrative Assistant to the President, formerly personnel director of the RFC.

Q. Has he been to Key West?

THE PRESIDENT. No, he hasn't. That doesn't mean that he won't be coming if he wants to. All the rest of us are here.

Q. He canceled a speaking engagement in Washington the other day, saying that he was coming down here.

THE PRESIDENT. That's all right--I haven't been in touch with him.

[18.] Q. Mr. President, there is one question I would like to ask. Are you going to run for reelection?

THE PRESIDENT. Now, Tony,13 that is a question that we will leave up in the air so that Bert and these other fellows can have something to speculate on for the rest of the year. [Laughter]

13Ernest B. Vaccaro of the Associated Press.

Bert Andrews: I only write facts.

THE PRESIDENT. That's right--and he can speculate, too. [Laughter] I have no comment on that question.

[19.] Q. One more question?


Q. Why did you change from that wonderful shirt that you had, to this modest one?

THE PRESIDENT. Because it was dirty and needed washing. [Much laughter]

Q. We saw the pictures of you in it.

THE PRESIDENT. That is a very quiet grey and white shirt. It didn't show up very well in the pictures, but as I said, it's in the laundry now, that's the only reason I don't have it on.

[20.] Q. They are saying you plan to visit Paris next year. Do you plan to make such a visit?

THE PRESIDENT. I have no plans for next year.

[21.] Q. Mr. President, we have received an exchange of letters on Mr. McCabe.14 Have you anything more to say on it?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I think those letters speak for themselves. Mr. McCabe has been trying to quit for a years. We didn't want him to quit while this controversy was on between the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Board.

14On March 15, the White House made public the President's letter accepting the resignation of Thomas B. McCabe as Chairman, Board of Governors, Federal Reserve System, effective March 31. The release also included Mr. McCabe's letter of resignation, dated March 9, and a second letter to the President from Mr. McCabe on March 14 in which he recommended William McChesney Martin, Jr., Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, as his successor.

[22.] Q. Mr. President, General MacArthur submitted a statement this morning saying we need sizable forces to stabilize the defense line in Korea anywhere along the peninsula, and if he got sizable forces he could drive the Communists back across the Yalu River and hold them there.

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't seen that statement. It has not reached me officially, so I can't comment on it.

Q. Mr. President, is there any outlook for peace in Korea this year?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't answer the question.

Q. What was the question?

THE PRESIDENT. He wanted to know if there was any outlook for peace in Korea, and I told him I couldn't answer the question.

Q. I wish you could.

THE PRESIDENT. I wish I could, too. I would if I could.

[23.] Q. Mr. President, do you like Key West as much this year as ever?

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, yes--always like it. Very pleasant place to be, except that I had to wear an overcoat yesterday.

Q. Mr. President

THE PRESIDENT. It has been one of the most pleasant visits we have had down here. We had one bad day. What was that, Tony?

[24.] Q. Well, I just wondered if you had any comment on statements like those of Senator Knowland,15 who suggests you ought to come home and dean house?

THE PRESIDENT. No comment.

15senator William F. Knowland, Republican, of California.

Q. What was the question?

THE PRESIDENT. He wanted to know if I had any comment on Senator Knowland's statement that I ought to come home and dean house. My house is always clean. [Laughter]

Q. Would that be your answer, Mr. President, seriously, to a lot of cartoons and editorials that have said some of these things indicate a lack of moral and ethical responsibility among some of the people around you?

THE PRESIDENT. That is not true. Pointblank. Categorically. It is just not true.

Q. Well, Mr. President, you still stand on the statement, then, that nothing illegal has been shown in any of these letters, or--

THE PRESIDENT. I was only commenting on that letter--on the congressional letters which I have read. 16 I have not gone to the bottom of them. I have made no FBI investigation or anything of that kind. But the letters I have read were just simply requests that certain loans be considered and granted. Nothing illegal in that. I never wrote any letter of that sort in my life while I was in the Senate, and I was there for 10 years.

16See Items 33 [2] and 49 [11].

Q. Do you consider the letter Senator Murray 17 wrote regarding an RFC hotel loan, where his son profiled as the attorney-do you consider--

THE PRESIDENT, I have no comment to make on that.

17Senator James E. Murray, Democrat, of Montana.

Q. Mr. President, since somebody else started it, do you have any comment on Mr. Dawson staying "for free" at the Saxony Hotel?

THE PRESIDENT. No comment. I can only refer you to my own actions under similar circumstances.

Q. Mr. President, nobody questions your actions. I think you know that.

THE PRESIDENT. I hope not.

Q. What did you do, then, under similar circumstances?

THE PRESIDENT. I never wrote letters to Government departments urging that they do anything. The only two Government agencies before which I ever appeared during the 10 years I was in the Senate were the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission, when I was trying to get railroad securities on the open market so anybody could buy them, on bids. And I succeeded in getting that done; that was in the public interest.

Q. Mr. President, I am not trying to belabor this thing, but when you said it is not true, pointblank, categorically not true, you mean that your people are--

THE PRESIDENT. Tony is trying to find out whether my people are honorable or not-that are around me. They are. [Laughter]

Q. That is what I wanted to be sure of.

Q. All of them, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I wouldn't have them if they weren't.

Q. Sir, I have worn out two pencils.

THE PRESIDENT. Poor Tony. I can't lend you one. I left mine in the house. [Laughter]

Q. Mr. President, you have, however, written letters to Government agencies as a Senator--giving references, etc., or suggesting promotions for people?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't remember any.

Q. Clark Clifford?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't remember. Clark Clifford worked for me.18

Q. Well, Mr. President--

THE PRESIDENT. Clark Clifford did not come to Washington until I was President of the United States.

18 Clark M. Clifford was Special Counsel to the President until his resignation January 31, 1950 (see 1950 volume, this series, Item 24).

Q. He was a Navy officer?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I didn't ask for anybody to promote him to the Army, Navy, etc., during the war.

Q. Mr. President, by your saying that when Senator you did not write such letters, I assume you are referring to the letters that have been written by Members of Congress?

THE PRESIDENT [indicating]. Three or four hundred.

Q. Well now, is the implication there that you do not--

THE PRESIDENT, There is no implication, and you needn't try to put any implications--

Q. No, sir--no, I wouldn't consider you said so.

THE PRESIDENT. I didn't say so.

Q. I was trying to follow through on your--

THE PRESIDENT. That's all right.

[25.] Q. Mr. President, I would like to ask you an easy question, sir?


Q. Almost coming up is the anniversary of your taking the oath. Would you like to comment on how hard the first 6 years are?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't think there is anything to be said.

You know, I will make this comment, though, that all a President of the United States can do is to endeavor to make the Government--the executive branch--run in the public interest. I have striven very hard to accomplish that purpose. And the administration of no President can be evaluated during his term, or within 25 or 30 years after that term. Thomas Jefferson has just now come into his own as a President. Same thing is true of Jackson, and Lincoln, and Grover Cleveland. The same thing will be true of Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt. It takes an objective survey of what has happened and what was trying to be accomplished to decide whether a President has been a success or not. And you can't decide that now or here, and neither can I.

Q. Why don't you put that on the record so we can get it from Jack19 and use it with direct quotes or without the quotes?

THE PRESIDENT. You are perfectly welcome to use it. I will have Jack give it to you because that is a statement of fact, as you all know, if you study history.

19 Jack Romagna, White House Official Reporter.

Q. You have been refreshing yourself, I believe, on some of this from that book "Lincoln and the Press."

THE PRESIDENT. Well, yes, but it wasn't anything new to me, because I had seen nearly everything that was in that book before it was published. Not the manuscript, you understand but historically speaking.

If you really want to find the man who was about the most abused man in the history of the country in the press, go down to the Library of Congress and read some of the newspaper comments on George Washington. You will find a lot of things that you didn't know about, that are not in history.

Q. Well, Mr. President, I would like to ask you one more question. Why don't you put all of this on the record, give us the Q and A of the whole press conference, and let us get a transcript of it?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't think that is necessary, Bert. I don't mind those two answers before--

Q. Consider it a separate press conference--

THE PRESIDENT. I don't mind these last two or three questions being on the transcript order, but I don't think there is any use putting the whole press conference on the record.

Q. I was just trying to make it easy on the people that are writing.

THE PRESIDENT. I know. Tony here is having a hard time making his pencil notes.

Q. You have given us some very good answers.

Q. I would like to second Bert's motion, were you to go along with him.

THE PRESIDENT. No, no. When Jack gets the transcript, I will discuss the matter with Joe.

Q. Will you do that?

Joe Short: I don't think the transcript will be ready today or--

THE PRESIDENT. Well, whenever it is ready.

Joe Short: It won't be ready for some time.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am just telling you exactly what I think and what I am trying to accomplish. All I am working for is the welfare of the United States, and I think nearly every other Government employee with whom I am working is trying to do the same thing, under a severe handicap.

Q. Perhaps we can put that in quotes?

THE PRESIDENT. Character assassination is a terrible thing.

Q. You said that George Washington was the most abused man by the press. Do you consider that the press abuses you? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Oh no, the press doesn't abuse me. The press is very kind to me. [More laughter] I have no quarrel with the press. Never have.

But you ought to read those things, you will--they are just as interesting as can be. You should see what was said about Washington and Jefferson, and John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Jackson. And I believe the man who got the worst treatment besides George Washington in the press was Grover Cleveland. Nobody was as roundly abused as Cleveland in his first term.

Q. You are not saying that you have got some bad treatment from the press?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I didn't say that--I didn't say that.

Q. We can draw that inference.

THE PRESIDENT. Any inference you want to draw, that is your contusion, not mine.

[26.] Q. Mr. President, we have been talking in a historical vein. I remember it was back in the second Roosevelt term, and the President said that he thought his administration would be remembered--it struck me at the time--for its social security program.

THE PRESIDENT. That's right.

Q. I am just wondering now, what you think of your administration, if there is anything it will be remembered for?

THE PRESIDENT. I hope it will be remembered for its sincere effort for world peace. And if we accomplish that, if we get through this era without a third world war, I think that probably is what it will be remembered for.

Q. Could we put that in direct quotes, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will let you argue that with Joe.

Q. If we get through this era without a third world war, is that what it will be remembered for?

THE PRESIDENT. For world peace"establishment of world peace. And I think that the establishment of world peace, and the implementation of the so-called point 4 program will be the things that will be most remembered, if they are successfully concluded. We can't tell what is going to happen, and I am not making any prophecies.

Q. Starting off, sir, with your address closing the United Nations--

THE PRESIDENT. Opening the United Nations and closing it, and also the San Francisco statement on the Asiatic policy, and the United Nations statement after that on world policy. I think that is the meat of the whole epoch of this present administration.

And that doesn't mean that I am responsible for that. That means that the whole Government--legislative, executive, and judicial--have been putting forth the same sort of an effort for world peace. You see, there have been two generations of the young men of Europe slaughtered, and it is a difficult gap to fill. I hope it won't happen again.

Bert Andrews (New York Herald Tribune): Mr. President, I think I will impersonate Mr. Smith, and say "Thank you very much."

THE PRESIDENT. It's nice to be with you.

Note: President Truman's two hundred and fifty-seventh news conference was held on the lawn of the Little White House in Key West, Fla., at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 15, 1951.

Harry S Truman, The President's News Conference at Key West Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230286

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