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Informal Remarks in Washington

June 10, 1948

[1.] BREMERTON, WASHINGTON (Elks Club, 11:40 a.m.)


Mr. Mayor, Governor Wallgren, Secretary Krug, and citizens of Bremerton:

I can't tell you how highly pleased I am to see this wonderful turnout this morning. I think it is always well to travel in good company, and I am sure that I am in good company this morning when I have the Mayor of this great city, the Governor, and the Senator from Washington, and the Secretary of the Interior. That certainly ought to bring you out; as it has.

I have had a most pleasant trip across this great State. I spent yesterday morning at Grand Coulee Dam where there is more than a million acre-feet of water pouring over that dam every 24 hours. It is a magnificent sight. I tried to figure that out in gallons, and there are so many figures it looks like light years from here to the North Star. It is a pity that we couldn't put all that water to work in this great State, and in other States in which the Columbia River runs or borders. Sometime or other, when we get this program finished in the Columbia River Basin, there will be very little waste water, and there will be few floods that do any damage.

I am very much interested in the welfare of this Northwest country. You know, you made a great contribution to the war effort here, particularly in this town. I made two investigations over here, when I was chairman of a committee in the Senate whose job it was to see that that war effort was properly carried out, and I am happy to say that the then Senator Wallgren and myself found nothing wrong here and at this Navy Yard. You worked efficiently. You turned out the work. We are now trying to arrange things so as to have a national defense program for peace, just as we had a war program to win the war. We must have a defense program for peace because in order to enforce the peace you must have the power behind it to enforce it. That is axiomatic and fundamental. You couldn't even have a government in this town if you didn't have an efficient police force to see that the laws were enforced.

We are endeavoring now to make the United Nations work, and it is working. I was very happy this morning to find that the truce had been signed between the Arabs and the Jews in Palestine. That is a victory for the United Nations. And it is also a victory for the United Nations when they signed a truce in the East Indies--in Indonesia. We must keep working at this thing until we get the peace implemented.

When I speak before the University of California graduating class, I want to tell you a lot of things about the foreign affairs of this country in which you are interested.

Again, I am most happy to be in this great State of Washington. I have just had an honor conferred upon me right here. The Olympic Junior College has made me an Honorary Associate in Arts. You know, my daughter graduated from George Washington University a year or two ago to receive a degree, and they gave me one, too. She worked 4 years to get hers, and I got mine right then and there, without any effort! That is the way I got this one, this one here, without any effort on my part, although I hope to deserve it, and I hope to earn it at a later date, maybe. Some time or other, a little later on in the year, I hope it will be possible for me to come back here and discuss the issues before us at that time.

I am not on a political tour this time, at least that is what the newspapers say. But I want to say to you that it doesn't make any difference what the President does, if you just take a walk in the morning, it has political significance. That is as it should be, because the Office of the President represents the people. He is elected by all the people. He is the only official except the Vice President who is elected by all the people. He is responsible to all the people when he is President, and the people have a right to know what he thinks and what he is trying to do.

I have taken this tour over the country here to let you know what I am trying to do as President of the United States. I have been so hopelessly misrepresented on various matters that I thought I had better come out and let you look at me to see whether I am the kind of fellow they say I am or not.

A little later on, when politics really begins to boil, you can make up your mind as to whether you had a President the last 3 years or not. The country is running--the country is prosperous, and everybody is happy except for one thing, and that is the way that price spiral has been going up. If they had carried out all the recommendations which I made to the Congress, we would have had control of that, too.

You know, this Congress is interested in the welfare of the better classes. They are not interested in the welfare of the common everyday man. They said if we lifted price controls, and things of that sort, business would take care of prices. Well, business has taken care of prices, for the welfare and the benefit of the fellows at the top. The poor man is having to pay out all his money for rent and for clothing and for food at prices that are certainly outrageous.

Voice: Pour it on, Harry!

I'm going to--I'm going to! As I said in Butte the other night, if this Congress adjourned before it had done something about prices, and something about the welfare of the laboringman, and something about housing, it would be a disgrace to this country. I want to bring that home to you strongly in every place I can, for the simple reason that this Congress is going to adjourn pretty soon. They say on the 18th. Then they are going down to Philadelphia in a few days and are going to tell you what a great Congress they have been.

Well, if you believe that, you are bigger suckers than I think you are.

Again I want to thank you very much for this cordial welcome. I was in Spokane yesterday, and there were just about 2 or 3 acres of people, as there are here. It looks to me like there are more people here this morning than I have seen together in a long, long time in one place. And I appreciate that. I think that is a compliment to me.

I have sad news this morning--very sad news. I heard that the former Senator, former judge and former Secretary of Labor passed away this morning. Lew Schwellenbach, one of the closest friends I had in the Senate when I was there. A close friend of your Governor, a close friend of Senator Magnuson. He passed away this morning at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington. It was a sad blow to me. He was an able Senator, a just judge, and I think the greatest Secretary of Labor that I have known. I am certainly sorry that I have to make that announcement to you. I thought very highly of Lew Schwellenbach. He was an able, efficient public servant. And that is just what he was. Thank you very much.

[2.] SEATTLE, WASHINGTON (On the Pier, 2 p.m.)


Mr. Mayor, Governor Wallgren, and other distinguished guests:

I am most happy to be in Seattle again. I have had a very pleasant and instructive morning over at the Bremerton Navy Yard. I made some inspections of that Navy Yard during the war, and found it efficiently operated.

It is interesting to see the Navy ships that are tied up now that were in operation during the war. I sincerely hope that it will never be necessary to untie them, although we should keep them in shape so that if it is necessary, we can do it efficiently and quickly.

I wish I had more time here, but I am running on a schedule and we are late, so I will have to bid you a howdy-do and goodbye.

[3.] SEATTLE, WASHINGTON (Press club address, 2:30 p.m., see Item 125)

[4.] TACOMA, WASHINGTON (5:25 p.m.)


Mr. Chairman, Mr. Mayor, Governor Wallgren, distinguished guests, and ladies and gentlemen of Tacoma, Washington:

I am very happy that we were able to stop at Tacoma today. I was here some years ago with the then Senator Wallgren and the then Congressman Magnuson and we had a setup right here on one of these streets on a truck. We all three made speeches for the Democratic Party. And after that Mon ran for Governor and was elected, and Magnuson ran for Senator and was elected. And, well--you see where I am!

I am very happy that Mr. Krug could come out to this northwest corner of the Nation while I am here, because Mr. Krug is a responsible officer in the Cabinet for the things in which this part of the world is most interested, and he does an excellent job of it. I appreciated most highly what he said awhile ago. I have never heard him say it before. It made me feel right good. All of us like to have a pat on the back once in a while, and since your President usually gets kicks, a pat is very, very, very comfortable.

I am interested in this part of the country. I have always been interested in this part of the country. It was my duty during the war to make investigations in this part of the State of Washington. I was in Seattle and Spokane, and I didn't hold any hearings here in Tacoma, but we examined the waterfront here in Tacoma and made a report on it.

I have been vitally interested in the food and the production capacity of the Northwest, especially with relation to those metals which were so vital during the war. This part of the country made an immense contribution to the winning of that war. It would have taken longer and have cost many more lives, had it not been for these immense power projects which were on the Columbia River. And that power project is not half finished.

I was told yesterday that there is a potential development of power in the Columbia River Basin of 50 million kilowatts. Now that is just as many kilowatts as all the privately-owned plants in the United States produce today. Think of that! You know what that would mean to this corner of the world, if that project is finally finished? That is what I am talking for. I am anxious to see that project finished. I am interested in a lot of things that I have been trying to get through the Congress. I have sent message after message to the Congress time after time on things which are in the public interest, and they have done nothing about them. They have shelved most of them. They have cut the appropriations on these particular projects I am talking about, and those appropriations which they have allowed they have tied them up with so many things and hampered what we are trying to do, that they might as well not have the appropriations as far as that is concerned.

I am sorry for that. I am sorry for this Congress, because they are going to have to come out and tell you what they did, and unless they do something in the next 3 or 4 days, it isn't going to be very much.

In 1945, in November, I asked the Congress to extend the price control law another year from June 30, 1946. In January 1946 I asked that same question of the Congress and suggested that they do that. In May 1946 I asked them again to extend the price control law so we could gradually release the price controls as production caught up with consumption. I didn't like price controls any better than the Congress did but I feared very much what would happen. On June 30, 1946, the day of the expiration of the law, they sent me an impossible renewal of the price control law, and I vetoed it. And in 30 days they sent me another one almost as bad, and I had to sign it, but it didn't work. And then in 1946, along in November, about two-thirds of the people stayed at home, and you elected the 80th Congress.

After that price control law went out, prices began to skyrocket. The price of food has gone all the way off the graph, and is still going. The price of clothing is just about to catch up with it. And if the real estate lobby in Washington has as much influence as the other lobbies have, they are going to take rent controls off, and then we will be gone, sure enough.

I am afraid of inflation. And I have been trying to stop inflation. But I can't do it by myself. I can't do it by myself. You housewives who have to pay for the food know what the difference in the pay envelope is now, and what it was just after the war was over. You see, that price control law--that wartime price control law--was a consumers price control law. These fellows told us that if price controls came off that prices would adjust themselves. Well, prices have adjusted themselves, in favor of the fellow who is gouging the public today. He is in this position: he is fixing the prices for all the traffic will bear, and you are paying the bill-- you are paying the bill, and so am I.

Last November, when I called the special session of the Congress, I asked for ten major controls, on a standby basis, to meet the situation with which we were faced. They passed an innocuous law which did not mean a thing--didn't do a bit of good, because those prices are still going up.

I hope Congress--although I haven't much hope--will take notice of the situation and do something about it, and quit listening to the lobbyists. They have got the greatest gathering of lobbyists in Washington that has ever been formed in the country, and they are working for a special interest Congress. And that is a special interest Congress. Just bear that in mind--a special interest Congress. They passed a rich man's tax law, a relief tax bill law--relief for the rich. That is just exactly what it was. I suggested that they let that tax bill alone and pay some of our debts. We owe $257 billions in debts, although that debt has been reduced $20 billion since I have been President. We could have reduced that debt another $7 billion, if they hadn't tinkered with that tax bill.

But, you know, this is 1948. This is 1948, and everybody wants to get elected, and doesn't think much about paying off debts. When a man has money that is when he ought to pay his debts, and when a government has money incoming, that is when the government ought to pay its debts.

They knew the European recovery program was coming on. They knew very well what we were going to be faced with. Do you know what they have done now? We have got a surplus this year had a surplus last year for the first time in a long time, and they are transferring part of that surplus into 1949 so far as to cover up the deficit which will be caused by this rich man's tax law.

Now, if that is commonsense, and if that is good government, then I don't know anything about government, and I do. I do know something about it, for I spent 10 years in the Senate of the United States, and I have been President of the United States for 3 years, and I have had a lot of experience. And I am trying to work in your interest, in the public interest.

That is why I had to come out here and let you look at me, and let you see for yourself what the facts are with regard to what has been going on in the last 3 years. I don't think there is a President in the history of the United States who has been as thoroughly misrepresented as I have been. I never thought much of a lie, because nobody believes a lie if he has a chance to find out the truth. And that is the reason why I am here, to find what the truth is, to help make up your mind whether you have had a good President or not. We are going to find the records, and I am going to explain them from one end of the country to the other, and the people are going to know just what the conditions are, so that when this 80th Congress adjourns, and they go off to Philadelphia lat