|170. The President's News Conference|
August 5, 1948 |
THE PRESIDENT. Gentlemen, I have a statement I want to read to you, and you will find it mimeographed outside as you go out.
[1.] [Reading] "It now appears that the 80th Congress is determined to take no effective action on the proposals which I have submitted to curb high prices and to protect the average American citizen against the certain prospect of increased living costs.
"I have been informed that the Republican leadership has decided that the Congress will not be allowed to consider really effective measures to stop high prices. Republican leaders reached this decision without obtaining the full information that the administration was prepared to offer in connection with my recommendations. In fact, the Chairman of the House Committee on Banking and Currency refused a request for three Cabinet members to be given an opportunity to testify before that Committee.
"The Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, and Interior were and are now prepared to testify. The Secretary of Agriculture was prepared to offer a program directed to the problem of excessive food prices. The Secretary of Commerce was prepared to discuss with the committee the question of shortages of industrial materials and what could be done to correct the situation. The Secretary of the Interior was prepared to submit a program dealing with the proper distribution and prices of coal, heating oil, and other fuels. The Committee of the House refused to receive the views of these members of my Cabinet. In the absence of such basic information, I do not see how the Committee can make an intelligent decision on issues which so gravely affect the welfare of the American people and their standard of living.
"And, following the same pattern, the Ways and Means Committee of the House refused to give any consideration to the recommendation for an excess profits tax, which is necessary to offset the inflationary effects of the tax bill passed last spring. The Chairman of this Committee has not even called a meeting of the Committee since the Congress reconvened.
"It would appear that the Republican leaders are unwilling to extend to the Congress an opportunity to vote on the issues of direct price control, the authority to impose allocations and priorities, and the other elements of a balanced program which I submitted to the Congress, including provisions to strengthen and reinforce rent control.
"It now appears that so far the Congress has failed to discharge the tasks for which I called it into special session. It is my hope, therefore, that the Republican leadership will reconsider their present plans for quick adjournment and will take action upon the recommendations I have submitted.
"There is still time for the Congress to fulfill its responsibilities to the American people. Our people will not be satisfied with the feeble compromises that apparently are being concocted."
And when you go out, you will find that mimeographed.
Q. Mr. President, do you plan to call the leaders of Congress down now, to communicate that--
THE PRESIDENT. I have called the Democratic leaders of the Congress. I haven't called the Republicans.
Q. Mr. President, again not being able-why don't you call them?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I would be glad to see them any time. I don't think there's anything I can say to them that will change their viewpoint.
Q. In other words, you don't think this last-minute appeal will have any effect, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT. I doubt it very much.
[2.] Q. Mr. President, when are you going to start the campaign?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, a little later on. Probably in September sometime. I will let you know when we get ready in time.
Q. Are you going to open the campaign in Detroit with a Labor Day speech?
THE PRESIDENT. Several cities under consideration.
Q. Is Detroit one of them?
THE PRESIDENT. Detroit happens to be one of them.
Q. Mr. President, do you plan to appear in upstate New York, particularly the city of Albany?
THE PRESIDENT. I can't give you any details of the campaign yet. When they are ready to be announced, I will let you know in plenty of time, so you can pack your bag.
Q. Do you contemplate going to Wisconsin?
THE PRESIDENT. The campaign program is not ready. When it is ready, I will give it to you.
Q. Could you say whether any of the speeches during the campaign will deal with questions of foreign policy?
THE PRESIDENT. They will speak for themselves. When the time comes, I will give you copies in advance.
[3.] Q. Mr. President, do you think that the Republican leader has been negligent in offering leadership to the special session of the Congress?
THE PRESIDENT. I have no comment on that.
[4.] Q. Mr. President, do you think that the Capitol Hill spy scare is a "red herring" to divert public attention from inflation?1
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I do, and I will read you another statement on that, since you brought it up. [Laughter]
1 In July and August 1948 Elizabeth Bentley, Louis Budenz, and Whittaker Chambers testified before the House Committee on Un-American activities, and Miss Bentley and Mr. Budenz testified before the Investigations Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Departments. During these hearings they identified a number of former Government officials as members of the Communist Party. Their testimony is recorded in "Hearings Before the Committee on Un-American Activities Regarding Communist Espionage in the United States Government," dated July-December 1948 (Government Printing Office, 2 vols., 1474 pp.) and in "Export Policy and Loyalty Hearings Before the Investigations Subcommittee of the Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Departments," dated July-August 1948 (Government Printing Office, 2 vols., 402 pp.).
[Reading ] "In response to written requests from congressional groups for information relating to the employment of individuals, the department or agency may forward to the committee all unclassified routine papers, such as Civil Service Form 57, records of promotion, efficiency ratings, letters of recommendation, etc.
"No information of any sort relating to the employee's loyalty, and no investigative data of any type, whether relating to loyalty or other aspects of the individual's record, shall be included in the material submitted to a congressional committee. If there is doubt as to whether a certain document or group of documents should be supplied, the matter should be referred to the White House.
"No information has been revealed by these committees' investigations that has not long since been presented to a Federal grand jury.
"No information has been disclosed in the past few days by the congressional committees that has not long been known to the FBI.
"The Federal grand jury found this information insufficient to justify indictment of the Federal employees involved.
"All but two of the employees involved have left the Federal Government, and these two have been placed on leave without pay before the congressional hearings started.
"The public hearings now under way are serving no useful purpose. On the contrary, they are doing irreparable harm to certain people, seriously impairing the morale of Federal employees, and undermining public confidence in the Government."
And they are simply a "red herring" to keep from doing what they ought to do.
Q. Don't you think the American public is entitled to this information?
THE PRESIDENT. What information?
Q. That has been brought out in these investigations?
THE PRESIDENT. What useful purpose is it serving when we are having this matter before a grand jury where action has to take place, no matter what this committee does? They haven't revealed anything that everybody hasn't known all along, or hasn't been presented to the grand jury. That is where it has to be taken, in the first place, if you are going to do anything about it. They are slandering a lot of people that don't deserve it.
Q. Mr. President, could we use a part of the quote there, that last: they are simply a "red herring," etc.?
THE PRESIDENT. Using this as a "red herring" to keep from doing what they ought to do.
Q. Are we going to get copies of that?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
Q. Mr. President, the reports of the hearings yesterday indicated that John Sullivan might ask you with respect to the Remington1--
THE PRESIDENT. That is the answer for John Sullivan.
1On July 30 Elizabeth Bentley testified before the Investigations Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Departments. She identified William W. Remington, a former official of the Department of Commerce, as a Communist who had given secret data to her when she served as a Soviet courier.
On July 31 Mr. Remington, in testimony before the Subcommittee, denied Miss Bentley's allegations. He revealed that he had been requested to resign from the Naval Reserve.
On August 4 Secretary of the Navy John L. Sullivan supported several admirals who refused to testify on the Remington resignation because they felt that it would be a violation of administration policies.
The testimony of Miss Bentley and Mr. Remington is recorded in "Export Policy and Loyalty Hearings Before the Investigations Subcommittee of the Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Departments," dated July-August 1948 (Government Printing Office, 2 vols., 402 pp.).
THE PRESIDENT. That is the answer for John Sullivan, right there.
Q. Does that mean they won't get the information on Remington?
THE PRESIDENT. They will get all the information that they are entitled to on Remington. They will not get any confidential information on him.
Q. Why was Remington asked to resign from the Navy?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't know anything about that. You will have to ask the Navy about that. I can't answer the question because I don't know. I didn't even know he had been asked to resign.
Q. The Navy puts it up to you, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I haven't the information available.
Q. You mean, Mr. President, you think that both Senate and House committees ought to call a halt on these investigations now?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, that is up to Congress. I have said it as plainly as I can.
[5.] Q. Mr. President, in view of the imminence of the campaign, when will the President of Cuba come up on this visit?
THE PRESIDENT. I can't answer that question. I don't know.
[6.] Q. Mr. President, would you bracket the Senate and House committees in this statement you just made on Congress?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
Q. Mr. President, Mr. Mundt, the acting chairman of the Un-American Committee, says today that there is now a Communist spy ring operating in the Capital?
THE PRESIDENT. Its in his mind, I think.
Q. If there wasn't ever anything to it, why did the FBI start the investigation?
THE PRESIDENT. To be on the safe side, of course. They got a lot of indictments on these people in New York, on those that got indicted.1 That was the reason for it. Everything has been presented to the grand jury that they wanted to know about, and if it was possible to indict these people, they would have been indicted.
1 On July 20, 1948, 12 high-ranking members of the Communist Party were indicted in New York City by a special Federal grand jury that had been investigating Communist activities for more than a year. All 12 were accused of conspiring to violate the Smith Act, a defense measure passed in June 1940.
The indictment stated that they had conspired "to organize as the Communist Party of the United States a society, group or assembly of persons who teach and advocate the overthrow and destruction of the Government of the United States by force and violence .... "
[7.] Q. Mr. President, have you received a letter from the Governor of Vermont, acting for the New England Governors, relative to a shortage of pig iron up there?
THE PRESIDENT. I haven't seen it yet. I saw in the paper I was going to receive it, though.
[8.] Q. Mr. President, going back to the oil and fuel statement, do you know of any way the administration can prevent another fuel crisis on the Atlantic coast this winter, without price control legislation?
THE PRESIDENT. I do not. I do not.
[9.] Q. Mr. President, the Soviet-licensed newspaper in Berlin said this morning that General Clay was going to be replaced, and that his successor would report directly to the State Department. Would you comment?
THE PRESIDENT. It isn't true.
[10.] Q. Mr. President, have you decided to appoint the Secretary of Labor?
THE PRESIDENT. I will announce it whenever I have the man ready.
[11.] Q. Mr. President, 3 years ago, I believe, you gave the order for the first atomic bomb to be used. Do you still feel hopeful that atomic weapons will be outlawed?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I do. I sincerely hope that they will be outlawed.
[12.] Q. Mr. President, do you know when there will be a statement on the results of the Moscow talks?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I do not. General Marshall and I are having a conference today.
Q. Are you hopeful about these talks, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT. I am always hopeful for peace.
Q. Can you give us any details on what has been going on in Moscow?
THE PRESIDENT. I can give you no details whatever. No comment of any sort on any of these foreign questions at all, except the one about General Clay.
[13.] Q. Mr. President, in California I believe you said that Governor Warren was a Democrat and didn't know it. Have you changed your mind on that?
THE PRESIDENT. He evidently is a thoroughbred Republican. He was nominated for Vice President. [Laughter] I don't think the Republican platform agrees with his views, however.
Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.
NOTE: President Truman's one hundred and fifty-second news conference was held in his office at the White House at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, August 5, 1948.
Provided courtesy of The American Presidency Project. John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.