Breadcrumb

The President's News Conference at Key West, Florida

November 16, 1948

THE PRESIDENT. [1.] I have a letter here to Mr. Herbert Hoover--President Hoover-which is for release today, and a statement. If you like, I will read them to you. I haven't copies enough to go around, but Charlie Ross will distribute what I do have.

[Reading] "Dear Mr. Hoover: Today I took occasion to reaffirm the importance which I attach to the work of the Commission to which you and your able colleagues are giving so generously of your time and experience. The field in which the Commission is working is one which calls most pressingly for action.

"There seems to be general agreement that the present organization of the executive branch, in many instances, imposes handicaps on effective and economical administration, and must be brought up to date. The task, as you and I have seen from our own experience, is to crystallize this general belief into concrete and wise proposals for action.

"The country is fortunate that a Commission, composed of men whose capacity in this field has been forged by experience, has devoted so much time and thought to the tremendous problems involved. I am most hopeful that its recommendations will go far to make sound and effective organization possible.

"If at any time the Commission's work can be facilitated by action on my part, you have but to let me know. Very sincerely yours."

Then the statement is like this:

[Reading] "Among the important matters which will require early action by the 81st Congress is that of improving the organization of the executive branch of the Government. For over a year the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government has been at work studying the existing organization, the deficiencies, and proposals for its improvement. I attach the greatest importance to the early solution of the problems which lead to the establishment of this Commission.

"The executive branch under my instruction has in the past cooperated in every way to facilitate the work of the Commission and it will continue to do so. I am most hopeful that the Commission's report 1 will be a milestone in the development of a sound and economical structure and efficient procedures for the executive branch of the Federal Government.

1 A series of reports by the Commission was published in 1949. (Government Printing Office, 1949.)

"To this end, I have written to former President Hoover, Chairman of the Commission, offering assistance in this important work."

Charlie will distribute these, as far as they will go.

Q. Mr. President, is the bipartisan Commission made up of some members of the executive branch and some Members of Congress?

THE PRESIDENT. That's right. The Commission has been in existence, I imagine, more than a year, if I remember correctly.

Q. Mr. President, have you seen the recommendations that Mr. Hoover made? He held a press conference last week, and he outlined some of them.2

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't. I'm sorry to say I haven't seen those recommendations. They are writing a report for me now.

2 In a news conference on November 11, Mr. Hoover disclosed that the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government would recommend an increase in Federal pay as a first step in obtaining more efficient, less costly Government.

Q. [Inaudible]

THE PRESIDENT. I'm sorry to say I haven't read the report yet, personally.

Q. Mr. President, is that report going to you, or to Congress ?

THE PRESIDENT. It goes to me for submission to the Congress.

[2.] Q. Mr. President, it was said on your behalf the other day that you had no plans to meet with Premier Stalin. I know you told us over and over again what your position is on that. Has it changed yet?

THE PRESIDENT. I have no plans. I would be happy to see Stalin in Washington, if he wants to come and see me.

Q. But, just to put it on the record for today, Mr. President, you do not have any plans?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I haven't.

Q. Have you any plans to send an emissary to Moscow?

THE PRESIDENT. I have none.

[3.] Q. Mr. President, in connection with that whole subject, there were stories over the weekend that Messrs. Lie and Evatt had gone over the heads of the General Assembly meeting in Paris, and addressed a communique to yourself and the heads of the other three major governments, suggesting that direct action be taken to settle the Berlin question outside of the purview of the United Nations.

THE PRESIDENT. I received a message like that, but I have no comment on it, at the present time. General Marshall and-[inaudible]--prepared an answer which I have approved, and which will be released at a later date.1

1 On November 13, 1948, Trygve Lie, Secretary General of the United Nations, and Herbert V. Evatt, President of the United Nations General Assembly, sent a communique to the heads of government of Great Britain, France, the United States, and the Soviet Union, appealing for four-power conversations to end the Berlin dispute. On November 17 Secretary of State Marshall answered the letter which had been sent to President Truman. He stated that the United States was willing to engage in conversations as soon as the Soviet Union lifted the Berlin blockade so that the negotiations could take place under conditions free from duress. He added that the United States was ready to take part in all efforts of the Security Council to solve the Berlin problem.

The text of the joint communique and Secretary Marshall's reply is printed in the Department of State Bulletin (vol. 19, P. 655).

Q. Has our position changed, in that we will not enter into negotiations with Russia until they lift the blockade?

THE PRESIDENT. Our position is as it has always been, and that is the position.

Q. Could that be restated ? I asked if our position is that we would not enter into a four-power [inaudible] lifted?

THE PRESIDENT. That's correct, the position still remains the same.

I am expecting to see General Marshall and Mr. Harriman on the 22d of November, when I get back to Washington. They will both be there for discussion of all these questions.

[4.] Q. Mr. President, have you thought of any way of describing your administration to replace the old description of the New Deal?

THE PRESIDENT. The position hasn't changed, it's just the continuation of my program and the people endorsed it. I made my program perfectly clear on the 6th day of September 1945, and helped to write the platform of 1948. That platform of the Democratic Party to the best of my ability will be carried out, and you will find that the position has not changed since I have been President.

Q. [Inaudible] what part of the platform--[inaudible]--of the Taft-Hartley Act?

THE PRESIDENT. That is correct.

Q. [Inaudible] flat restoration of the Wagner Act?

THE PRESIDENT. That's a matter that will have to be worked out legislatively, and there is--[inaudible]--standing by the Democratic platform, which calls for the repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act. It may require the rewriting of the Wagner Act in order to do--[ inaudible ]--because they are so tangled up now I can't tell one from the other.

Q. [Inaudible] your own recommendations a couple of years ago?

THE PRESIDENT. Those recommendations still stand.

Q. Mr. President, is it possible that the Taft-Hartley Act could in fact be repealed by being amended?

THE PRESIDENT. That's entirely possible.

Q. So that it would be done in that way?

THE PRESIDENT. Certainly.

[5.] Q. Mr. President, in Berlin the other day Secretary of Defense Forrestal said that he could not serve through the remainder of the administration, and it would be up to you to determine when his resignation would take effect.
THE PRESIDENT. I have no comment.

[6.] Q. Mr. President, going back to this Lie-Evatt proposal, do you think that that adds more fuel to the flame of the Russian propaganda?

THE PRESIDENT. I have no comment to make on that till later. After I have talked to General Marshall I will comment on that.

Q. Mr. President, may we inquire if Secretary Marshall said that he would discuss the possibilities of his retirement with you when he gets back. If he should say that he would like to retire, would you urge him to remain, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. I'll comment on that after I have talked to General Marshall. General Marshall and I are in perfect agreement on every question, don't worry about that, and I always have been.

Q. Has he communicated to you any idea that he might wish to retire?

THE PRESIDENT. General Marshall never wanted to do anything but retire since his retirement from the Army. He is serving as a patriotic duty, and General Marshall is one of the greatest patriots in this country.

[7.] Q. One question regarding Palestine, Mr. President. There were stories out of that area last week that Mr. Weizmann 1 had addressed an appeal to you to intervene directly as mediator in the controversies between Israel and the Arabs.

THE PRESIDENT. I have no comment on that.

1 Dr. Chaim Weizmann, Provisional President of Israel.

Q. Could you say whether such a communication was addressed to you?

THE PRESIDENT. I imagine it was. I have had all sorts of communiques from Israel and from the Arabs, but I have no comment on either subject.

Q. Mr. President, there was a report that you would send new instructions to the delegation at the U.N. on Palestine, connecting with the Bernadotte report.2 Could you tell us whether you have sent new instructions?

THE PRESIDENT. I have no comment on that.

2 Excerpts from the report, signed by Count Folke Bernadotte on September 16, 1948, are printed in the Department of State Bulletin (vol. 19, p. 436).

[8.] Q. Mr. President, I don't recall what the Democratic platform says about taxation. You were very critical of this tax reduction bill.

THE PRESIDENT. That's right.

Q. I wonder what you plan to ask?

THE PRESIDENT. I'll tell you all about that in the Budget Message, and in the Economic Report which will come out about the first week in January. We are working on that now.

Q. Excess profits?

THE PRESIDENT. Now you have made a lot of assumptions in this last campaign, you'd better not make any more until you're sure of your ground!

[9.] Q. Mr. President, are you planning any new action on China?

THE PRESIDENT. We are in communication with the President of China now.

Q. Mr. President, in connection with China, there was a story out of Washington that the Navy might divert some warships to China and the upper Yangtze River to aid Americans and bolster the morale of the Chinese Nationalist Government, the decision being up to you?

THE PRESIDENT. I have no comment on that.

Q. Mr. President, are you planning any emergency aid to China in the way of ammunition?

THE PRESIDENT. We have been carrying out the demands of Congress which gave an appropriation of $125 million for aid to China. We spent about $112 million of that and we are now trying to make the balance of it go for the distance in China.

Q. [Inaudible].

THE PRESIDENT. No, no emergency measures--[inaudible]--new Congress and I can say right here that there will be no special session of the "do-nothing" 80th Congress.

[10.] Q. Mr. President, one of my editors is very much interested in these smog victims--[ inaudible ]--wanted some comment from you on the refusal of the CAA to permit the airlines to haul free those people down to Wilmington, N.C., which has been offering them refuge.

THE PRESIDENT. I know nothing about it. I haven't been approached on the subject at all.

[11.] Q. Mr. President, did anybody ask you about Secretary Forrestal?

THE PRESIDENT. I said I had no comment.

[12.] Q. Mr. President, are you going to send another civil rights message to Congress?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, it will be in the Message on the State of the Union, and will follow the Democratic platform. It will take in the proposals agreed on in the Democratic platform.

[13.] Q. Mr. President, could you say whether the amendment to the Taft-Hartley Act will be taken up in the first order of business, before the civil rights matter?

THE PRESIDENT. That is a matter for the Congress to pass on. I can't tell you what the Congress--[inaudible]--I am going to suggest to the Congress that they do certain things, and then it's up to Congress and the committees to carry out those recommendations.

Q. [Inaudible].

THE PRESIDENT. All these matters will be in the Message on the State of the Union.

[14.] Q. Mr. President, there was a candidate who--[inaudible]--is apparently--[inaudible]--would not accept the Vice Presidential nomination unless he was sure he was going to have a pretty big job?

THE PRESIDENT. Senator Barkley and I are in complete agreement. I don't think there has ever been a Vice President and a President who understand each other as well as We do.

[15.] Q. Do you know what your weight is now?

THE PRESIDENT. There are no scales down here, but I think I weigh about 173 or 4, something like that.

[16.] Q. Mr. President, turning back to a more serious note, in the past 10 or 12 days down here, have any major decisions been reached or are you going to wait until you get back?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know what you would call major decisions. The major decisions will be made in the State of the Union Message, and will be in the Budget Message, and the Economic Message, and--[ inaudible ]--we are working on those.

Q. [Inaudible].

THE PRESIDENT. No action prior to January.

[17.] Q. Do you propose to ask Congress for additional funds to facilitate reactivation of Army bases?

THE PRESIDENT. I have given it no consideration.

Q. Do you intend to ask for funds for Florida flood control?

THE PRESIDENT. There will be funds asked for flood control. Florida will be treated like any other State.

[18.] Q. [Inaudible] the shipping strike? Will you plan any new action, or is--[inaudible]--new action you can take on it?

THE PRESIDENT. No.

Q. [Inaudible] remedies have been pretty well exhausted?

THE PRESIDENT. They have been pretty well exhausted.

[19.] Q. Did you know that [something about inaugural platform behind the Capitol] has been named the Curly Brooks Memorial Stadium?

THE PRESIDENT. That's a good name for it.

NOTE: President Truman's one hundred and fiftyeighth news conference was held at the Little White House in Key West, Fla., at noon on Tuesday, November 16, 1948.

Due to poor acoustics some of the news conference was inaudible to the Navy stenotype operator who transcribed it.