Harry S. Truman photo

The President's News Conference at Key West

November 15, 1951

THE PRESIDENT. Go ahead, what's on your mind?

Q. First, Mr. President, have you anything you want to tell us before we start?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I have nothing.

[1.] Q. Mr. President, since we last saw you, Mr. Auriol of France has proposed a Big Four meeting. We know what your views on that have been in the past. I wonder what you think of this proposal of his ?

THE PRESIDENT. My views haven't changed. The United Nations is the conference we should attend and work with.

[2.] Q. Do you have anything to add to your meeting with Mr. Churchill in January?

THE PRESIDENT, No.

[3.] Q. Mr. President, do you care to comment on the killing of the 2,500 American prisoners of war by the North Koreans and Chinese?

THE PRESIDENT. I think it is a horrible thing. I have no official facts on the subject as yet, but I suppose they will come up to me eventually. But I think it is a horrible thing. It's the most uncivilized thing that has happened in the last century, if it's true.

Q. Mr. President, does the killing of these Americans bring any closer the day when tactical atom bombs may be used in Korea ?

THE PRESIDENT. No comment.

[4.] Q. Mr. President, did you at any time in your conversations with General Eisenhower discuss domestic politics?

THE PRESIDENT. Did not.

Q. You did not?

THE PRESIDENT. He has made that statement, and so have I, and I think we both have reputations for telling the truth. And so they end right there.

Q. Mr. President, the Krock story, though, does beg one question, sir. Do you have any intentions of supporting General Eisenhower for the Democratic nomination? 1

THE PRESIDENT. No comment.

1An article by Arthur Krock, published in the New York Times on November 8, stated that "this correspondent was assured today by a person whom he believes to be thoroughly reliable and informed" that during the recent visit of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower to Washington, President Truman had offered to support him as a Presidential candidate in 1952.

[5.] Q. Mr. President, what was your reaction to Vishinsky's response to your pro, posal,2 that he laughed all night and couldn't sleep?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, if Vishinsky laughed all night, that's the first time in his life that he has ever had a hearty laugh that I know of.

2 See Item 293.

Q. Do you have hopes, Mr. President, despite Vishinsky's laughing all night, that perhaps the Russians might come around to the peace proposal?

THE PRESIDENT. We of course have no official communication from the Russian Government itself on its attitude toward the proposal that was made by the three powers. We hope that that reaction will be favorable. I think the Russian people want peace just as all the rest of the world wants peace.

Q. You say you think it will be favorable, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. I hope it will be favorable.

Q. That is, the response of the Russian people themselves, I take it?

THE PRESIDENT. The response of the Russian Government to the proposal.

Q. You haven't heard anything officially from them?

THE PRESIDENT. Nothing official at all.

[6.] Q. Mr. President, what do you think of Governor Warren's announcement? 3

THE PRESIDENT. Governor Warren is a fine man. I once said that he is a Democrat and didn't know it. [Laughter]

3On November 14 Governor Earl Warren of California declared himself a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

Q. Does that still go, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. Still goes.

[7.] Q. Mr. President, Senator Taft says that the Korean war is a Truman war and hasn't done any good. Do you think that thing is in politics, or that it should be an issue in the campaign?

THE PRESIDENT. It should not.

[8.] Q. Mr. President, I have been asked to ask you about your best recollection again of a conversation you had with Chief Justice Hughes, when you were filling the vacancy of Chief Justice. There seems to be some conflict in the new book that has just come out, an authorized biography of Hughes,4 as to whether he recommended Mr. Vinson to you, or whether he recommended Mr. Jackson?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the facts are these. I don't mind telling you what the facts were.

4 "Charles Evans Hughes," by Merlo J. Pusey, 2 volumes, The Macmillan Company, New York, 1951.

I telephoned to Justice Hughes--Chief Justice Hughes was retired at that time-and told him that I would like to come out and see him; he was up in the eighties at that time--and discuss the then vacancy of the Chief Justice, on account of the death of Chief Justice Stone.

He said that he would immediately come down to the office--which he did, and we had a most pleasant conversation, I imagine it lasted an hour or more.

And we went over all the judges of the Circuit Courts of Appeals of the United States--discussed various individuals all around the country, and some State supreme court judges. And at the end of the conversation, the Chief Justice said that there was a man in my Cabinet who was eminently fitted for the position--he hadn't been mentioned up to that time--and it was the Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Vinson.

I had the same sort of conversation with Mr. Justice Roberts, along exactly the same lines, and he wound up with exactly the same recommendation.

Those are the facts.

Q. Mr. President, Justice Roberts had left the Court by that time?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, he was living in Philadelphia, and he came down to see me, at my invitation, on the same subject.

Q. Came down from Philadelphia?

THE PRESIDENT. Philadelphia, yes.

Q. What year was that, sir?

Q. 1946.

THE PRESIDENT. 1946, yes--that's right.

Q. I believe so.

THE PRESIDENT. I think that is correct -- 1946. I was down the Chesapeake Bay on the Williamsburg when we got word that the Chief Justice had passed away.

[9.] Q. Mr. President, when are you going to, or are you going to, issue the order that Representative King 5 requested? He said yesterday that you told him you would issue that--

THE PRESIDENT. I suggested to Representative King that he call me and discuss the situation that has been developing before his committee. Then I suggested to him to send me a memorandum on the subject, which he agreed to do. That memorandum has not arrived, and I don't want to comment on what took place until we see the memorandum.

5Representative Cecil R. King of California, Chairman of the House Ways and Means subcommittee which was investigating the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

Q. But you have made no promise to issue the order?

THE PRESIDENT. I made no promise of any kind to anybody. But I want to see that we get to the bottom of the inquiry, with justice to all concerned, and if anybody's at fault, they will have to take the consequences.

[10.] Q. Mr. President, in your State of the Union Message, do you expect that you will recommend again your Fair Deal program ?

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, of course. The Fair Deal will be a part of the Democratic platform, too, I can guarantee you that. [Laughter]

Q. Regardless of who runs, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Regardless of who runs. [More laughter]

[11.] Q. Mr. President, there has been another Washington report that while you were down here--that some intimates of Washington said you might announce your own plans for 1952 ?

THE PRESIDENT. I didn't get that. Say it again a little louder.

Q. Well, Paul Leach 6 is saying that intimates in Washington said that while you were here that you expected to announce your plans for 1952 perhaps ?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I have no intention of doing that.

6 Paul R. Leach of the Chicago Daily News.

Q. You will let us know if you change your mind ?

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, yes, I will--probably see you a time or two before I leave. You can still ask the same question and I'll give you the same answer!

Q. The last word was that you wouldn't disclose it, anyway, until after you had presented the three messages?

THE PRESIDENT. That's right.

Q. That still stands?

THE PRESIDENT. That still stands. It may be a little later than that before I make any announcement.

[12.] I want to say something further about these investigations that have been going on, and the discoveries of some malfeasance in office.

Whenever that is discovered, immediate action has always been taken to part the men who have done the wrong from the service, and if they have committed any criminal acts, they have been put before a grand jury.

It is my opinion that the average of Government employees is above the average of employees of big business, and newspapers, and every other line of business. But whenever a Government employee goes wrong, it is my--always been my attitude to immediately take the necessary steps to part him from the service, and take whatever legal procedures are necessary to see that he is punished if he has committed a crime.

I still think that the average Government employee is an honorable man, or an honorable woman, and I think that the vast majority of them, I would say more than 95 percent, try to deliver to the Government what they are paid for. And some of them-a great many of them--deliver a great deal more than they are paid for.

I think you ought to make that perfectly clear.

Some effort on the part of some columnist to whom you referred--not the one you referred to specifically--but some columnists have been trying to imply that the President of the United States condoned misconduct in public office. That is not true at all. The record will speak for itself.

[13.] Q. You are looking well, Mr. President. You are obviously enjoying yourself down here.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I am feeling well, and getting an immense amount of work done--you would be surprised. I get to work in the daytime now, instead of all night. I get to sleep at night, that's the reason I feel better.

[14.] Q. Mr. President, in connection with my question about the Fair Deal program, do you anticipate that the Taft-Hartley Act will again be an issue in the campaign?

THE PRESIDENT. We will have to analyze any amendments that are made by the next session of Congress before I can answer that question.

Q. I see. I was going to ask this question: Do you favor a change in the law as it now stands ?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes.

Q. Would you be able to say--

THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't want to elucidate on it, because it is a very complicated proposition.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.

Q. Thank you. I hope you have a nice swim.

THE PRESIDENT. That was easy this morning.

Note: President Truman's two hundred and eighty-fifth news conference was held on the lawn of the Little White House at Key West, Fla., at 9:40 a.m. on Thursday, November 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/231288

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