Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
Opened March, 1973
May 3, 1972
By J. R. Fuchs
FUCHS: To start, would you give us a brief resume of your background, when and where you were born, perhaps, your education, and then the various positions you've held up to the time that we're interested in, when you became acquainted with Mr. Truman?
DANIEL: It's too bad that I don't have with me, and I don't know whether I even have a copy of it anywhere, I may, a letter I wrote to President Truman in 1956 when I became engaged to his daughter, because I set out in that letter very briefly my own career, the background of my family, and some of my professional achievements, because I thought President Truman and Mrs. Truman were entitled to know something about the man their daughter was marrying. Moreover, I'm a bit old-fashioned, I thought it proper in a way, not exactly to ask for his daughter's hand, which is a little bit beyond what people do
nowadays, but at least to give him the opportunity to say to me, "I don't think I like this, that or the other," or "Could you explain this, that or the other for me, for my family." Or to say to his daughter, "It doesn't look to me as if this is the sort of man you ought to be marrying." Actually, he happily didn't say that. In fact, I don't know that he ever said anything in response to that letter. I don't recall that he did.
But very briefly, my background, in a sense, is not vastly different from his. We both came from farm families. My father was the son of a tobacco farmer in North Carolina whose name was William Daniel, and he grew up in a very small town, or near a very small town, called Wakefield, in eastern North Carolina, about twenty miles east of Raleigh, the capital. He was employed -- before he was twenty, I think -- in a drugstore which was operated by a local doctor named Dr. Z. M. (Z. for Zebulon, actually), Z. M. Caviness. He subsequently completed his education by studying pharmacy in a pharmacy school in Greensboro, North Carolina, and became a registered pharmacist, and was the operator of that drugstore, which he eventually came to own himself, for more than sixty years in Wakefield, and the little community of Zebulon, which grew up two miles away because the railroad passed two miles to
the south; and the town, in effect, moved down to the railroad. The town was a real estate development, really, built along the railroad, and it was called Zebulonin honor of Zebulon Baird Vance, who was a Civil War veteran in North Carolina, and so many things -- he was very popular -- and many things in North Carolina were named for him. They even got down to the point, as you can see, of using his first name, because there was already a Vance County, and Vanceboro and Bairdsville, and so on.
To go back a moment, I jokingly tell people I was the first white child born in that town. Actually I wasn't, I was about the third or fourth. The town was very young, not much older than I am, and I was born in 1912. I grew up there. My father ran this drugstore. He was active and a leading citizen of the town. He was mayor of it twice. I remember that he had the first telephone in town, and the telephone number was number 1. In those days when we had a hand-operated switchboard that served the town.
I went to school there. The school was located between Zebulon and Wakefield, and had a name that was made up of a combination of the two, called Wakelon School. It was both a primary, secondary and a high school, and a rather good one for that part of the country, good enough so that some children
from some distance away came to school there. They would board in the community and go to school there, because the school was thought to be a rather good one for its time and place.
My father, as I said, was a leading citizen, but he didn't escape the hazards of business any more than a lot of other people did. His business went bankrupt during the depression, which hit North Carolina and the agricultural belt, particularly North Carolina and other states, much sooner than it hit Wall Street. He didn't lose his business, but it went into bankruptcy and had to be reorganized.
It subsequently prospered and my father became, eventually, not only the head of that business, but the president of the North Carolina Pharmaceutical Association, which for him, in his profession, was quite an honor. He also was chosen Pharmacist of the Year by the Association. He received its Fifty Year Award, all of these honors that come to a man in his own profession. He died -- I have trouble remembering the year -- when he was about eighty-three years old, now about four years ago.
I went to the local school, as I said, and from there to the University of North Carolina, at the worst possible time, namely 1929, when there was no money anywhere, but to the
credit of my mother and father they scraped together what they could, and I worked some myself, and we managed to get me a college education.
I was vice president of the student body at the University of North Carolina. I was one of the editors, although not the editor, of the college daily newspaper, and I was the editor of the college magazine. Those were my highest honors, I suppose. I should have been a Phi Beta Kappa student, but I wasn't because I flunked Latin in my freshman year. I got interested in campus politics and journalism and neglected my work my first year, much to the dismay and disappointment of my parents who had always known me as a good student. My average, aside from that one F, was, I would say, a B+, let's say, certainly good enough for a Phi Beta Kappa.
I got the notion rather early in my life of going into journalism, and I think I really picked up this notion from sort of reading about various careers in boys' magazines, and I seem to recall reading advice in Boy's Life or something like that, to the effect that if you wanted to be a newspaperman the way to become one is to start being a newspaperman, that is, to start writing. And I did so. I wrote up, as I remember school athletic events and that sort of thing for the local weekly paper which was called the Zebulon
Record. Some of these things were published, which was fatal, because I never recovered from the delights of seeing my name in print and my words in print, and I have been in that business ever since. In fact, if you include my part-time work in high school and college, I suppose I have been in journalism now since 1927 or '28. I couldn't say exactly. I went to college in '29. I finished in 1933. I went to work that summer on a small newspaper in Dunn, North Carolina, on a newspaper established by a friend of mine who had a little money, and was interested in establishing a small town paper. The paper did not succeed, but before it finally expired I went away to work in Raleigh on the News and Observer, which was owned by Josephus Daniels, and his family -- Josephus Daniels being the man who was Secretary of the Navy during the First World War, and at the time I went there he was Franklin Roosevelt's Ambassador to Mexico. His son, Jonathan, a well-known writer and newspaper editor, was then the editor of the paper.
FUCHS: To go back just a minute, did they have a school of journalism in North Carolina, and was that your major?
DANIEL: They had a school of journalism at the University of North Carolina -- I beg your pardon, they did not have a school of journalism; they had a department, which was a very small
one. It was run by an extremely effective man, a professional newspaperman, by the name of O. J. Coffin, and a graduate of the university. Mr. Coffin was really the whole department when I first went there. He taught courses in journalism. I took some of them, and journalism was my minor, but I majored in English. I was interested in English composition and English literature, and I majored in English rather than in journalism. More than that, I had already had experience in journalism. These courses were rather practical in nature. Now they have a full-scale journalism school at the University of North Carolina, housed, incidentally, in what used to be the pharmacy school, which has a fine new building of its own, and my father played something of a role in getting that new building and in effecting the transfer of the journalism school into the old building. He was a very devoted friend of the university, although he did not attend it and didn't graduate from it. He also, incidentally, was one of the founders of the Institute of Pharmacy at the University of North Carolina, which is a research organization supported by the pharmacists of North Carolina, and the pharmaceutical manufacturers.
After I graduated from the University of North Carolina, worked in Dunn, worked in Raleigh, I joined the Associated Press in New York in 1937. I worked here in New York. I
went in 1939, actually the day before the British declared war against the Germans, I went to Washington to work for the Associated Press there, and remained there during most of the first year of World War II, covering many things. I was a general handyman. I was the youngest man in the office. I covered many things, but conspicuously including what was then called the Munitions Building, where the War and Navy Departments were; so I had an early indoctrination into the issues and problems of the United States in connection with the Second World War. I was there, for example, when the British-American deal in which we exchanged over-aged destroyers for British bases in Bermuda and elsewhere, I was there when that deal was arranged.
So, the following year, that is, as I recall, about November 1940 -- well, I can tell you the exact day, now that I think of it, because it was precisely one year to the day before Pearl Harbor, and Pearl Harbor was December 7, 1941. On December 7, 1940, I left the United States and went to work in Europe and I stayed fifteen years. I first of all worked in Switzerland for one year. That was at the very center of Europe, and a good listening post, but relatively inactive, because Switzerland was a neutral country. I asked to be sent somewhere else, and I ended up in London where I
stayed until finally the allied forces landed on the Continent; and I spent some time, not a very long time, but some time then at allied headquarters in Paris, and a short time at the front. I was not essentially a war correspondent, front-line correspondent, I was more of what you might say it's called a rewrite man and an editor. I sort of got to be the chief editor of the New York Times bureau, not the head of the bureau, but the chief editor of it in the brief time that I was there in London.
My first postwar assignment was in the Middle East, which was a very exciting one, because, especially, of the impending troubles in Palestine. I was there during the buildup which eventually led to the Israeli war of liberation, if you want to call it that, in 1948. I've been back there some time since on short assignments. I was in Egypt at the time when they were really building up to the subsequent break with the British, and their overthrow of the monarchy and the installation of the republic under Nasser. In other words, it was an interesting and exciting time in the Middle East.
I went back to London again, a place which I loved very much. I remained there until 1953 when I went to Germany for a very short period. I stayed in Germany a short time only because the Moscow post became vacant and they were having
trouble filling it, and they offered it to me. I considered Moscow then and now one of the two or three most important capitals in the world. I thought that it was a place that I'd like to see and know about, and I spent a year in Moscow.
Again my assignment was cut short because I was taken ill there, I think mainly from working too much, sleeping too little, because I was the only man in Moscow at a time when it was extremely busy. I was there during the rise of Krushchev, which was a very dramatic period, first of all because of the disappearance of Stalin from the scene, which opened up all kinds of new possibilities for the Soviet Union, and the advent of Krushchev, who was a very rough, tough, somewhat crude, but very active political personality.
I went to Geneva for the 1955 summit conference between Mr. Krushchev and President Eisenhower, Anthony Eden, the British Prime Minister, and I forget who the French Prime Minister was at that time. They change so often it's a little difficult for me to remember which one was which.
That about terminated my foreign career. I came back to the United States with the idea of being prepared for and training for executive responsibilities here, and I went from one to another, beginning with the modest job of assistant to the Foreign News Editor, and I finished up here in 1964 as Managing Editor of the New York Times, which is the position
that directs -- well, let's put it this way, the Managing Editor of this paper directs the gathering and presentation of all the news that appears in the newspaper every day. I held that job for five years, at the end of which I was given my present assignment of an Associate Editor, which is a kind of a minister without portfolio, in that I do not have any major departmental responsibilities, but I take on various assignments that are given to me by the publisher of the paper, and his immediate associates. For example, I've had a hand in helping to redesign some of the sections of the Sunday paper. I have had a hand in our efforts to get into broadcasting, both in television and radio, and I myself do a radio program every evening for half an hour on our own radio station. Things of that sort. I exercised supervision for some time also over the New York Times news service which supplies news from the New York Times to more than 200 newspapers in this country, and more than 100 abroad, including Canada, some 310 newspapers, approximately. So my responsibilities have been more varied in this present assignment, and they tend to change, as I say, from time to time depending on what the boss wants me to do.
Now, that brings us really to where we are at this moment.
FUCHS: Yes, very good. There were a couple of things that occurred to me. I wonder if you recall your subjective, say, viewpoint of the over-aged destroyer deal at the time. Do you recall if you had any feelings about...
DANIEL: Well, we have to begin by the fact that I, for reasons that need not be explained, I suppose, was pro-British, so I was very pro-ally, pro-British, pro-French, it's a common American attitude, and therefore I felt that anything that we could do to assist the British was desirable, and I felt that this would assist them, and I felt this was the thing that we should be doing. I would say, speaking subjectively, I had the feeling when I was in Washington during that period at the Munitions Building and going occasionally to the White house at a press conference where President Roosevelt announced his intention to build 50,000 American aircraft, military aircraft, a program to build 50,000 aircraft. Well, that was unheard of. Nobody could imagine such a thing in those days. I had the distinct feeling that although the President was preaching neutrality and saying "Our boys will never go and fight," and that sort of thing, all the political things that a President sometimes feels he has to say, that the President was very distinctly preparing this country for participation in the war. He knew it was coming, or felt that it should
come, and was preparing the country. To that extent his critics, the isolationists, were right. I think he was preparing the country for war. I don't mean by this that he did anything so reprehensible as inviting the Pearl Harbor attack, which has been charged against him by some people, in order to get us in the war. I know that when I went abroad and was in Switzerland in 1940 and ' 41, one thing that people always asked me was, "Will the United States come into the war and when?" I ventured the prediction that the United States would be in the war in about two to three years, because I felt that that's how long it would take President Roosevelt to gear the country up for a war effort. I didn't count on Pearl harbor which came in December 1941, and galvanized this country and pushed it into war much earlier than I think President Roosevelt wanted to go. But I had no doubt that we were headed for entry into the war. Pearl Harbor, in a sense, was a very useful event if you believed that we should be in the war and on the side of the allies, because it did galvanize the country. Of course, the outpouring of material, the war material, that followed that was absolutely fantastic, the production in this country. We thought 50,000 planes was enormous. That was nothing to what we subsequently did. The capacity of this country to produce was one of the decisive factors in the war. There's no question about it. It helped
save the Russians as well as Western Europe.
FUCHS: Did you cover the White House press conferences regularly?
DANIEL: No, I was at the Munitions Building, and we had the procedure there, as you have in many news organizations, that if you know there's going to be some announcement made at the White House related to your particular area of interest or activity or coverage, you may go to the White House. That's why I was at the White House that day, because we were expecting an announcement on the planes. I did not regularly cover the White House, because it was not my assignment.
I remember going to the White House on another occasion when Joseph Kennedy, the father of the late President Kennedy, came there from England to see President Roosevelt. He came to breakfast one morning. I remember standing -- in those days -- you'd be astonished with all the security there is around the White House now, you'd be astonished at how informal it was. I walked up to the White House early in the morning. Mr. Kennedy was staying at the Carlton Hotel, which was just a block or so away from the White House across Lafayette Square and down 16th Street, I believe it is, two blocks away maybe. He was staying there and I went to the White House to see if he'd have anything to say after seeing the President. I walked in through the gates and up the gravel driveway and
stood under the portico of the White House, unmolested by anybody. I suppose there must have been a policeman standing about, but I don't remember one. And I stood there -- I think there was also a photographer there -- I stood there and Mr. Kennedy came along walking pretty soon, himself. He walked in, went up and rang the front doorbell, went in and had breakfast with the President, and we all waited until breakfast was over and he came out and he told us briefly what he had said to the President, what they had discussed, not anything substantive, but just an indication.
Of course we know at that time that Mr. Kennedy was very pessimistic about the chances of the British to survive against the Germans, and he was disliked by the British on account of his lack of confidence in them, and his advice to the White House to this effect. I didn't know that at the time that I saw Mr. Kennedy, but I subsequently came to know it.
But I did know that pessimistic predictions were being made, but that pessimism wasn't shared, incidentally, in the War Department. I remember General Marshall giving us rather optimistic reports of the air battle over Britain. They knew that the British were doing quite well, better than we were led to believe by the reports one saw in the papers, and certainly better than we were led to believe by the claims of
the Germans. Better than we were led to believe by the rather pessimistic assessments of people like then Colonel Lindbergh, and then Ambassador Kennedy.
FUCHS: Did you have some views on Ambassador Kennedy, whom as you know, I'm sure better than I, was not one of your father-in-law's favorite persons?
DANIEL: I had no very pronounced views on Ambassador Kennedy, certainly not at that time. I later got to know Ambassador Kennedy slightly, and he fitted the general description that we know of him. He was a very ambitious man, ambitious for not only himself, but particularly ambitious for his children. I think he drove them or inspired them, whichever you want to call it, I expect he probably did both, to excel. I did not share his views about the British. I think he was quite mistaken. I did not particularly admire what might be called his predatory business practices. I call them predatory. He certainly wouldn't call them that. But he was really a very tough businessman. I don't know that I particularly admired that, and there are some aspects of his private life that I have no particular admiration for. I've always heard that Ambassador Kennedy was great with the girls. I don't generally have any moral objections to that. I just didn't find it very
admirable in a public man, that's all.
FUCHS: Did you have occasion to come in contact with Mr. Truman as Senator Truman prior to the formation of the Truman Committee?
DANIEL: Let's go directly to that. When President Truman was a Senator, I knew him only by reputation, and frankly when I worked in Washington, I wasn't even conscious that he was there, because Bennett Clark was the best-known Senator from Missouri. He was the senior Senator, he was Champ Clark's son; his father was famous, and he, while not famous, was a very well-known Senator of long service, and Senator Truman was new and inconspicuous when I was there. He became prominent, as you know much better than I do, only when he formed. this investigating committee to pass on our war contracts, and I said a moment ago what a magnificent job of production we did. I might add that in my view, President Truman helped to insure that the job of production was done with reasonable economy and efficiency. There was a vast amount of waste in it, but he did, I think, a great deal to reduce that.
But I wasn't conscious of him, and I had no particular thoughts about Senator Truman. He came to my consciousness really only when he became Vice President, and the picture
of him then was a very indistinct one in my mind, because I was a long way away. Franklin Roosevelt, whom I admired greatly, so dominated my thinking about the Presidency, that I didn't think much about President Truman.
This was true also of the people around me. The British tremendously admired Franklin Roosevelt. I remember the night he died. We had our office in those days, the New York Times office in the Savoy Hotel, which was very convenient, because we had all the amenities of a hotel and the conveniences of a hotel, which was very important in war. You could get food and drink at all hours. There wasn't much to eat, and there wasn't much to drink, but what there was you could get it at all hours of the day and night. It was very convenient for people who worked through the night. If you cared to sleep in a bomb shelter, they had one under the hotel. There were many advantages to it. I didn't care to sleep in it because it gave me claustrophobia. But there were many advantages there. We lived in the hotel. And when word came that President Roosevelt had died I told Kathleen McLaughlin, who has now retired from this newspaper, to go down -- she'd been in Washington, and I had in fact known her in Washington before I joined the New York Times -- I told Kathleen to go immediately to the lobby, actually the coffee room off the lobby of the Savoy
Hotel in London, to watch people as they listened to the 11 o'clock news, which was the last news broadcast of the evening, and everybody who was awake turned it on to see what the latest news was. People gathered in that room to hear it every night, such people as were up and around in the lobby. She went down and the emotion was very strong indeed. Women burst into tears, and it was a very emotional scene. I remember what Kathleen said at the moment, and this was perhaps typical of the way people felt about President Roosevelt in those days. Kathleen, when she heard the news that President Roosevelt had died, she sort of gasped and she said, "My God, Harry Truman is President." I imagine a lot of people felt that way. They simply couldn't conceive of a man of such little reputation, I suppose you would say, stepping into this job held by this man who so commanded the affection and respect not only of his own country, but of all the allied countries, and was really a great and towering figure. Fortunately for us all, President Truman turned out to be a big man, too, but we didn't know it at the time.
FUCHS: Yes. There was a great contrast there.
DANIEL: A great contrast, there was a great difference between them, and we never thought much about I hadn't thought much
about, President Truman. I had seen him in newsreels a few times and then, subsequently began to see him more, of course, in newsreels. In those days we had no television, and you saw people in the newsreels. I subsequently saw him and he made no great, profound impression on me. I remember one oddity about him, that is in an English movie house, with an English audience, his accent sounded really very strange, you know. It was very, very American and very middle western, and it particularly stuck out in that context much more than it would in this country where I don't think most people considered that he had an odd accent; he talked like everybody else.
I first met President Truman -- I met him before I ever met his daughter -- I first met President Truman when I came here from my post in London before I went to my rather short assignment in Germany. I had never seen President Truman; I had seen him in the newsreels, as I said, and I was curious about him. So I set out to satisfy my curiosity. His Press Secretary at the time was Joe Short, Joseph Short, who had been a colleague of mine on the Associated Press. So I called up Joe and said, "I'd like to come to one of the President's press conferences," and he told me when the next one would be and I went. It was in the old Indian Treaty Room in the State Department, where
press conferences were then being held. In President Roosevelt's day they were held around his desk in the White House.
FUCHS: This would have been what year?
DANIEL: This would have been about 1950 -- I may have the date wrong -- it could have been as early as 1950, I have a bad memory.
FUCHS: No, Charlie Ross died in '50, and Short came in.
DANIEL: That's about right. No, I am mistaken. It was while I was still working in London in that case, and it was a couple of years before I went to Germany. But I asked Joe if I could come because I wanted to see the President, and he told me by all means to come along. Again, things were still informal in those days. You didn't have to be checked out by the FBI in order to be admitted to a press conference. Anyway, I went to the old Indian Treaty Room and Joe Short had arranged a seat up front for me, and I sat up close. I remember that most of all I was impressed with the incisiveness of President Truman's responses to questions. I hadn't known from my own knowledge and experience that he was such a decisive man, that he was so much in command of the facts of government, if you like, and so much in command of his audience. He was like a drill sergeant in the way he replied to questions.
After the press conference, Joe asked me to step into the anteroom, which I did, and there I met President Truman for the first time. As it happened, Harrison Salisbury, who later was a very close associate of mine on this newspaper, was also there that same day, for the same purpose, to see the President and to meet him. The President chatted with us very briefly. I remember he asked me something about the situation in England and I also remember my reply, which was to the effect, "Have you read Anne O'Hare McCormick's column in the New York Times this morning?"
He said he had not.
I said, "If you can spare the time, that will tell you more, and more precisely and more graphically, what the situation is in England than I can tell you. It's an excellent column." I realized that the President didn't have time to listen to me expound on the situation in England for ten minutes; indeed, I'm quite sure that he would have been appalled if I had attempted to do so, because he was really just being polite.
But I had two very good impressions of him: One was of his incisiveness on the one hand; and secondly, the way he received me, in a very pleasant way, and showed some interest in what I was doing. In other words, he knew who I was, where I had been, he had been briefed, but he was properly briefed
and he knew who I was and what I was doing and expressed some interest.
Now, later, when we met on a different basis, he had no recollection of this. There was no reason why he should. He met hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people in similar circumstances. In fact, I don't even know whether I ever recalled it to him, although I think I may have said, "Joe Short did bring me to one of your press conferences once."
FUCHS: Could you contrast Roosevelt's press conferences as against President Truman's?
DANIEL: Well, the Roosevelt press conference was much more of a -- it was in one sense more informal, because it was held around the President's desk. The President was pretty well confined to his desk because of his physical disability, and he sat in that big chair at that desk, I think, all day long until he went off to his lunch or to his nap, or whatever he did. The press gathered in and gathered around the desk and it was a great crush, and unless you got forward you might not hear exactly what the President was saying; or unless you were tall, you might not be able to see him even, because he sat behind his desk with that famous cigarette holder in his teeth, cocked up at an angle. He was a very engaging, free and easy, bantering fellow. He always had some humorous,
light remarks to make to people around, the old hands, the ones in the front row.
President Truman's performance was much more formalized because it was staged in an amphitheater with people sitting on seats raked up, which was much better for the purpose, because you could see and hear. As I recall, he had a microphone. So it was less intimate, I would say it was probably the word that I'm seeking -- less intimate than President Roosevelt's press conferences, less jolly, less casual. But I was impressed with President Truman's performance, because I had no occasion to see him operate before in such a context. I don't know exactly what I expected, but I was agreeably pleased by what I saw.
FUCHS: As a newsman, how would you look at the utility of the Roosevelt as compared to the Truman press conference?
DANIEL: I think that both of the press conferences were very useful. I would say that President Roosevelt probably was more intimately in touch with the press corps at the White House than President Truman was. I would guess that was so, although I was not there in those days. Because they all were just outside the door and could be called in at any moment when the President wanted to say anything. Press conferences
in those days were regularly scheduled, but also it was much easier to arrange one informally. Nowadays, they're very highly stylized. They're staged. President Nixon is not at ease, it strikes me, with this free and easy association with the press. President Kennedy was better at that by far than President Nixon. But I don't suppose these days with the size of the press corps, and the importance of the issues involved and the amounts of money that you have to deal with, and the delicacy of some of the things to be handled, I suppose you probably couldn't do it the way you did in President Roosevelt's day. You remember I said how informal it was just to go into the White House. You could walk up to the front door and ring the doorbell if you felt like it. You might get thrown out but you could at least get to the front door.
Nowadays you can't get past the guard post, unless you have business there and can identify yourself or unless you're expected. It's the difference in time. Frankly, I don't know whether President Nixon could handle the kind of press conference President Roosevelt did with any grace and ease.
Now, we know President Truman had a certain capacity in that respect, because after he left the White House, he took up this habit of having peripatetic press conferences as he walked along the street. This was really kind of a form of
publicity, in a way, for him and his views; it was an opportunity for him to say what was on his mind. It got to be kind of an early morning game or contest. It wasn't always serious, although serious issues were frequently discussed and serious comments were made, but it was kind of a social event as well as a political event, these morning strolls that he used to take. Incidentally, I have been on one of those. I went on one only once. I don't remember exactly why I went. Partly out of curiosity, I suppose; but also partly because I think the President in those days had no Secret Service protection and I think that Mrs. Truman rather preferred that somebody go along with him. He was getting along in years then and to have somebody sort of keep an eye on the crossings for him, you know.
FUCHS: This was in New York after you...
DANIEL: This was in New York, yes.
FUCHS: ...had married Margaret.
DANIEL: Yes, yes.
FUCHS: It wasn't the one in which he threw out the remark about the period after the "S" in his name, was it?
DANIEL: About what?
FUCHS: On one of his press conferences, I believe it was in New York (I think it was in New York and not Florida), he was walking along and he started the bit about there being no period after the "S" in his name?
DANIEL: I don't remember that, no.
FUCHS: There's been a lot of interest in that.
DANIEL: I wasn't along on that one. I went with him twice in Florida but this was mainly to take my sons along to let them see this performance, which had gotten to be kind of an American institution. I think I went on those walks only three times. I'm not an early riser. It doesn't amuse me to get out and walk early in the morning. I'd rather sit down and have my coffee and read my newspaper.
FUCHS: President Roosevelt, I believe, held press conferences twice a week and Mr. Truman, of course, as President, reduced them to once a week, and I believe there was some comment about that, but now there's...
DANIEL: And President Nixon has reduced them even more.
FUCHS: I was just going to ask you about the tendency by each
of the successive Presidents, apparently, to reduce the number of press conferences. Do you share the despair of a lot of the newspaperman about this, or do you feel...
DANIEL: Well, I was going to say before we were interrupted by that telephone call from Saigon, that you remarked that President Roosevelt used to hold press conferences twice a week. I did not recall, in fact, that that was the case, although I had the general feeling that he held them more frequently, and as I say, it was easier in a way for him to hold them. He was sitting there at his desk, a relatively small press corps was just next door, he sent his Press Secretary out, Steve Early, his Press Secretary in those days, to bring the press in, and it was very simple to gather them around the desk and hold a press conference. President Truman moved the thing across the street, it became more institutionalized, and you say he cut it down to one a week, I didn't know that either. But President Nixon holds even fewer and my recollection is that in his entire administration, so far, he's only held about twenty to twenty-five press conferences. That, in my view, is not enough. The President ought to be communicating more often with the people than that. He does communicate. I don't mean to say that the press conference is the only device by which the President can communicate
with the press. President Nixon is making use of new techniques, and he is applying his own experience and his own particular techniques and talent. He thinks that he gets more mileage, and he's probably right about this, by going on television and addressing the vast audience in his own way and in his own words, than he would be if he held a press conference which would not be reproduced in full on television most of the time, certainly not if they were held frequently. Then there he is subject to unexpected questions and sometimes embarrassing ones, and he is not able to shape the presentation in his own way. Maybe he's right from his point of view, but from the point of view of the press, and I think from the point of view of the people, it is, to my way of thinking, a less satisfactory way of communicating between the White House and the public.
FUCHS: President Johnson held some of these peripatetic press conferences. Do you have a comment about that?
DANIEL: Well, I wasn't in Washington very much when President Johnson was there, although I knew President Johnson and had visited him in the White House. But I wasn't working there as a journalist and I don't have much to say about them, except that President Johnson obviously was not as graceful in his
conduct of those press conferences and in his speeches as his immediate predecessor, and he suffered from this. President Johnson has a very positive, definite personality which doesn't always come across in the most attractive and charming way. Although to me and my family he was always a very generous and charming host, and I think almost anybody who knows him would say the same thing about him. But President Johnson and President Nixon, I think, both suffer from comparison to President Kennedy and President Roosevelt.
FUCHS: What were your views of President Eisenhower's press conferences?
DANIEL: I never went to one, but I tried to read some of them, and President Eisenhower's syntax defies -- I was brought up to diagram sentences, you know. That was one way we were taught English grammar and English composition in my youth. You couldn't diagram one of General Eisenhower's more complex, or shall I say, more digressive sentences. It just couldn't be done. So, I didn't admire his syntax.
I will say this for General Eisenhower -- of course General Eisenhower was probably the most popular, or to put it another way, the least controversial President we've had in my lifetime. He had great personal charm when seen in person, and
I have met him, too. He was an attractive man. But I did not ha