Harry S. Truman photo

The President's Special Conference With the Association of Radio News Analysts.

May 13, 1947

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it's good to have you here. As I told you all on several occasions, there is nothing much that I can tell you. You are always telling me what to do! Very frankly, I think every one of you has given me the right advice on Greece and Turkey, internal affairs and foreign affairs, and taxes, and this portal-to-portal, and the labor bill. If I don't get those things right, I can assure you gentlemen it won't be your fault. [Laughter]

H. V. Kaltenborn (President of the Association): Well, Mr. President, we try to give you advice. Not sure whether the advice is going to be taken.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, that is one of the privileges of the United States. You can do as you please.

[1.] Q. Perhaps we can tell, if you will allow us to ask one or two questions. On the Greco-Turkish relation, there are two approaches to it. One is direct military, the other is the direct economic one--one against aggression, the other the attempt to build up constructively. Which do you feel is the most important at the present moment ?

THE PRESIDENT. I will make

Q. May I interrupt, Mr. President? This is entirely off the record, is that

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will answer that, anyway, because it is an easy question. The internal construction and the restoration to a peacetime economy is what we principally are interested in, on a free basis. We are trying to--you know, there are differences in definition of the word "democracy." Our definition doesn't work all the way around the world. It is a much misused word, anyway, to begin with. Our Government is not a democracy, thank God. It's a republic. We elect men to use their best judgment for the public interest, and if you get that sort of legislature and you get that sort of President, you have a republic that will work in the public interest. A democracy is a town meeting. There is only one place in the world where there is any democracy, and that is in a New England town meeting.

And the radio, I have always been afraid, would restore the Greek approach to the demagogue's ability to mislead the country. I hope it will never come about, the man with the sweet voice and the great personality, for he can do things to this country, if he controlled the air.

My idea is the restoration of a peacetime economy in these countries, with the hope that they will themselves inaugurate a free government that will be for the benefit of the people. That is the principal thing we have in view.

There isn't any difference in totalitarian states. I don't care what you call them-you call them Nazi, Communist or Fascist, or Franco, or anything else--they are all alike. That is not our intention, to tell any country what its internal business should be, how its internal business should be handled. We are hopeful that that internal business will be along lines of most benefit to the individual. I believe in the Bill of Rights. I think that is the most important part of our Constitution--the right of the individual to go where he pleases, to do what he pleases, say what he pleases, as long as he is not materially injuring his neighbors. That is the basis on which our Government is founded, and I think it is the greatest basis in the world for a government. Totalitarian governments do not work that way. The police state is a police state; I don't care what you call it.

I have tried my level best to get along with our friends the Russians, and I still want to get along with them. But when I make straight out and out agreements with a government, in the name of the United States of America, and not a single one of those agreements is carried out, I have got to use other methods. They understand one language, and that is the language they are going to get from me from this point.

I want peace in the world worse than any one thing on earth. I sit here studying that globe over there behind you, and think just what a grand place it could be made--the raw materials, its ability, and its room, and with everything else there for everybody in the world to have a decent standard of living. It could be, if we just stick together and work out the proper distribution of the things that we need today.

That is what is in the back of my mind. Does that answer your

Q. It does, indeed. But you make a broader application of the Truman Doctrine than just confining it to Greece and Turkey.

THE PRESIDENT. All I am interested in is the doctrine of the Republic of the United States of America, to restore free government in the world, to make the United Nations work--in the same manner in which the Colonies made the Federal Government work. That is what we want to do. If we think that can be done in 15 minutes, or 6 months, or 5 years, or 10 years, you are just as mistaken as you can be. It took exactly 80 years before we got the Republic of the United States on a working basis, and we had to lick ourselves in order to get that done.

I am looking forward to the time when the United Nations will be a going concern, and I am doing everything I possibly can to make it a going concern, because that is the only hope for peace in the world. If we can get an understanding with all our neighbors for the exchange of our ability to make things for their own materials, and set this thing up on the basis that the Colonies were set up as a government, which is now the greatest Government in the world, I think we can make that United Nations work, as it did in time of war. I wish you would study that Charter carefully. It has got some good

things in it. But they are no good on paper.

Q. Mr. President, would you say-

THE PRESIDENT. I beg your pardon?

Q. I was going to say that the Constitution of the United States is no good on paper unless they make it work. Would you say that application of the principles you just set forth to Western Europe would be in order?

THE PRESIDENT. Exceedingly helpful-would be exceedingly helpful, and I think it will improve the situation in Eastern Europe.

I think you--eventually that the Russian people will come up with a free government. I am not saying that I want to see the present government overthrown. If they want that kind of government, that's their business. But I don't want them interfering with our own form of government telling me what to do.

Q. Do you think it will have some effect?

THE PRESIDENT. Very decided effect.

[2.] Q. I have just come from the Senate, where they are working on the labor bill, some measures of which it is rumored you might disagree ?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I never analyze a bill or talk about it until it's on my desk for signature or for my veto. When that bill comes to me, I will tell you exactly what I think about it--but not now.

Q. Carl Hatch made a little talk last night for you, and he made a prediction.

THE PRESIDENT. Did he? Well, Carl Hatch is my friend, and I think very highly of him, but nobody is entitled to predict my attitude of mind on any piece of legislation; and I say that kindly.

Q. I don't think he 'pretended to say

THE PRESIDENT. He was guessing as to what I would do, and he had the privilege of that.

Q. Probably obliging, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Which is all right. No, I can't--Congress has to create the legislation. I have a right to decide on what to sign or what not to sign, and I don't like to have a prophecy made as to what I am going to do until I have all the facts. Nobody knows what I am going to do until I know--make up my mind.

[3.] Q. Would you care to discuss the price problem ?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I discussed it as thoroughly and as completely as I could with the Associated Press in New York.1 I gave each one of you a copy of that speech.

1 Item 76.

[4.] Q. What about Korea, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. The Korean situation has all been published. We want a united Korea with a democratic form of government, and we are approaching it now, I think, more nearly to a point of agreement than we ever have been. General Marshall knows how to handle it. He has been over there.

[5.] Q. Have you seen any definite results from your Associated Press speech ?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I have seen some definite results from it. I get reports on the--on the--what do you call it?

Q. Indices.

THE PRESIDENT. Indices, yes. Level of industry, and costs, and things of that sort. It has been going down a little bit. Of course, one of the reasons for the food situation is the fact that all the world--nearly all the world has been fed from our production, and it creates a shortage here which naturally pushes the price up. I was very much pleased to see the report on the anticipated wheat crop for this year, which will be the greatest one we have ever had, if we have the weather. And that will have a good effect on the food prices.

We are in the situation now that is just exactly opposite to the situation in 1930. From 1930 until 1939 we were endeavoring to put a floor under wages to keep the prices of basic commodities at a point where they could be produced economically. We are at the other end of that thing now. We are trying to keep that thing from getting away, getting into a spiral. The roof is there, and the roof is here--[ indicating with his hands, up and down]--and somewhere in between is where we belong.

[6.] Q. Have we taken a position on Palestine? Has it become one of our strategic considerations?

THE PRESIDENT. No. Palestine--everything that has been said about Palestine is still on the record, and still stands.

[7.] Q. Are you disturbed about the situation in Germany, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. I am, yes. Very much disturbed about it. If the Potsdam agreement could be carried out, the situation would be very--[inaudible words]--situation in Japan has been handled because we had control of it. And I think that the situation in Germany, if it had been carried out, if we had got that economic unity which is necessary for the country--[inaudible]-Germany is the industrial heart of Europe, and all we can do is prevent that industrial situation from becoming--[inaudible]--so as to make it work as an individual whole. Italy also is--[ inaudible ]--if it has no chance to get coal, bread, and things of that sort, of which they are short, and until we can get those things all worked out as a unit, we are going to struggle through. That struggle will continue until its done. I don't know how long it is going to take. I hope it will be done inside 2 or 3 years. I started at potsdam.

Q. Do you feel we should go ahead with the political implications ?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I think so.

[8.] Q. Mr. President, in this program of reconstruction, do you perceive that we could reduce taxes in this country ?

THE PRESIDENT. Not now. I don't think there's any possible chance to reduce taxes now, if we are going to maintain the economic stability of this country.

Two hundred and fifty-seven billion dollars in bonds are out in this country. This is off the record, because I am going to have a bill--going to have something on this later, and I don't want any question about it. Two hundred and fifty-seven billion dollars out in this country, in the hands of 80 million people. Forty percent of the assets of 60 million insurance policy-holders are based on that $250 billion in bonds of the Government of the United States. It is absolutely essential that that $257 billion be whittled down as far as we possibly can, so that there won't be any fluctuation in the price of the bonds and we can keep double the interest on those bonds. In order to do that, we have got to have a complete going concern in this country. And while that is a complete going concern here, we ought to scale that debt down, and not be all demagoguing about--talking about tax reduction. That is what it amounts to.

Q. Mr. President, at the price of great self-abnegation, some of us agree with you entirely on this matter of taxes. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Taxes, you know, are always the court of the demagogue. If you are--want to run for office, you are going to cut taxes and decrease appropriations. Never vote against an appropriation. Never vote against a tax reduction. They come together, sometimes.

Mr. Kaltenborn: We are very grateful to you, sir. We know you have a luncheon engagement waiting.

THE PRESIDENT. Nice to see you all.

Note: President Truman's special conference with the radio news analysts was held in his office at the White House at 12:45 p.m. on Tuesday, May 13, 1947. The White House Official Reporter noted that the following members of the Association, in addition to Mr. Kaltenborn, were present: Lowell Thomas, Cecil Brown, Ned Calmer, Charles Hodges, Larry Lesueur, John McVane, Cesar Saerchinger, Paul Schubert, Ernest Lindley, George Fielding Eliot, Albert Warner, George Hamilton Coombs, Leland Stowe, Robert Trout, Gregor Ziemer, Elmer Davis, Richard Harkness, Joseph C. Harsch, Bill Henry, William Hillman, Eric Sevareid, and Raymond Swing.

The meeting is listed in the Official Reporter's records as the President's one hundred and sixth news conference.

Harry S. Truman, The President's Special Conference With the Association of Radio News Analysts. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232191

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