Liveblogging History: January 24, 1946: The President’s News Conference

Harry S. Truman: The President’s News Conference:

THE PRESIDENT. I want to read a couple of things to you, and then I will stand for questions as usual. [1.] ‘Judge Samuel I. Rosenman is leaving the White House officially on February 1st, to return to private life in New York City. I make this announcement with deep regret.’ You will receive copies of this. It is mimeographed, so you don’t have to take it down now. [Continuing reading]: ‘Judge Rosenman sought to resign in a letter to me dated April 14, 1945. I told him I could not let him go, and he patriotically accepted my decision. In justice to him, I can no longer try to dissuade him from leaving. Judge Rosenman’s service to two Presidents, and to his country, has been as able and as devoted as it has been self-effacing. I wrote him June 1st last, ‘Some day, when accurate history is written, you will receive the credit which is your due.’

To that expression I now add that the months since then have materially swollen the account. The work for which Judge Rosenman resigned from the Supreme Court of the State of New York in October 1943, at the request of President Roosevelt, was essentially a war job. Although he had been rendering regular part-time war service in Washington before that, the needs of the war eventually required that his full time be spent in the White House. Now that our enemies have surrendered and he has resigned, I have decided that this wartime emergency post should not be filled. Accordingly, no successor will be appointed to the place vacated by Judge Rosenman as Special Counsel to the President. Judge Rosenman, however, has agreed to come to Washington from time to time, without compensation, to continue to render whatever assistance and advice to me he can. I expect to call on him frequently for help, as did President Roosevelt during his tenure of office.

Where is the Judge? I will give this to him.

Judge Rosenman: Thank you very much, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Now, there has been some conversation, in fact quite a tempest in a teapot, over an addition to the office space of the President of the United States. [Laughter] I want to clarify the situation, if possible, and then if some of our good friends want to come down and chain themselves to a bush or a shrub out here, that will be entirely satisfactory, just as the ladies did when they were building the Jefferson Memorial. Some ladies chained themselves to some Japanese cherry trees, you remember. [Laughter]

[Reading, not literally]: ‘The new office addition is an extension of 145 feet — 145 feet long and 50 feet wide, extending along the West Executive Avenue, south of the existing Executive Office. It will not be visible from Pennsylvania Avenue, and very little, if any, from the White House. The auditorium will be south of the Executive Office and east of the new addition, and it will be 51 feet by 54 feet in size. This new addition will not be visible to the public view, except from the air and from the Executive Avenue — [indicating] out here where it faces. The present actual office space of the President is 17,566 square feet. The new office space will be 13,672 square feet. The White House will not be changed or altered in any manner, interior or exterior.’

‘To the President of the United States: ‘The Members of the Commission on fine Arts were delighted to review with you on November 30 preliminary plans prepared by Mr. L. S. Winslow for additions to the West Wing of the White House, necessary to provide additional space for the more efficient functioning of the Executive Offices of the President.’

A great many of the clerks have to work underground now, and I am not going to allow that to continue. And I am also trying to get business offices out of the White House so that the President can have a residence, which is what the White House is intended to be. [Continuing reading]:

‘The Commission are pleased to advise that they find the plans generally satisfactory, and approve them, subject to further study of certain details of the design by the architect. Mr. Winslow has agreed to confer with the Commission, from time to time, as the more detailed plans are developed. The Commission were pleased to note that the further extension of the West Wing to the South will not seriously encroach upon the grounds of the White House, in fact that the nature of the proposed extension of the West Wing will serve to provide the grounds near the House with greater seclusion than has been possible heretofore. The Commission are especially pleased to be called upon to advise in this matter, with the view toward retaining in this new structure the dignity and the charm which obtains in the case of the White House in the existing Wings in the East and the West.’

That is signed by the Chairman of the Commission.

Now, under the date of December 12, I wrote a letter to the President of the Senate, and sent a letter to the Director of the Budget, containing an estimate for supplemental appropriation for an addition to the Executive Office for alterations, improvements, and furnishings, and for improvement of the grounds, to be expended as the President may determine. Now the White House has had no improvements, no paint or anything else done to it during the wartime; in fact, very little repair has been made to the White House in the last 16 years, due to things that were much more important to be done. I think the White House is the finest residence in the United States, and I want to keep it that way. There are certain improvements that have been pending by the fine Arts Commission and by the National Park and Planning Commission to the grounds which are necessary to be made. This additional office space is absolutely essential to the President. I don’t want to have to do what Dolley Madison was supposed to have done. They say she used to hang her washing in the East Room on rainy days. [Laughter]

Q. That was Abigail Adams.

THE PRESIDENT. I may have to move three clerks in there, if I can’t find —

Q. Abigail Adams.

THE PRESIDENT. Dolley Madison, too. Abigail Adams or Dolley Madison did-both did it. So they say. That is just the story around here.

Now, I have no further announcements to make, but I thought that ought to be made entirely clear to you. I want to make it plain that if anybody wants to chain himself to a bush out here, he is welcome. [Laughter]

Q. Mr. President, that is an appropriation by Congress, is it not?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. Through the regular channels.

Q. The story that it can be stopped by Congress is a little bit of hooey, I should imagine?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don’t think there are any Congressmen interested in — in the thing who are familiar with it, but they can get headlines in Washington papers by talking about it.

Q. Congress had a chance to —

THE PRESIDENT. Congress passed on it. Yes, everything is regular, and has been followed in the regular way. And the White House will not be hurt.

Q. Mr. President, what do you-what is your reaction to the suggestion last night by Benjamin Fairless, that you call a conference of management executives involved in current strikes?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have had conferences with management executives interested in current strikes. I am perfectly willing to have other conferences, but I don’t make appointments over the radio, or through the press. They can come in the regular way, and the door will be open. Now the best thing that Mr. Fairless can do now is to send me word, ‘I accept.’

Q. In that connection, three Senators are preparing a resolution — Senators Tunnell, Morse, and Kilgore — for an investigation of management in the situation, apparently looking to the proposal advanced by Mr. Murray that there might have been a business conspiracy. What do you think of such a resolution?

THE PRESIDENT. I don’t know anything about that situation, and I knew nothing about the resolution. That is a matter for the Congress to decide itself.

Q. Have you received any evidence that might support the Murray thesis that there was conspiracy by some big business men against the unions, in this situation?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I haven’t. I think this is really a tryout of power. I personally think there is too much power on each side, and I think it is necessary that the Government assert the fact that it is the power of the people.

Q. Mr. President, since your last press conference, there has been quite a bit of discussion in and out of Congress on the trusteeship issue. I asked Mr. Ross to give you some questions.

THE PRESIDENT. He gave me those questions, and they are detail questions, which I cannot answer now, because it requires negotiation with our allies and negotiation through the United Nations to accomplish the necessary purpose which we have in view. I can say definitely, however, that the national defense necessities of the United States will not be sacrificed.

Q. Mr. President, Mr. Fairless also said that a high official of the Government told him that if he would accept, that a rise of $4 a ton would be granted. Can you explain what he meant by that?

THE PRESIDENT, NO, I can’t. I am not the high official, and I talked to him. [Laughter]

Q. Mr. President, to use your own words, what are the plans of the Government to assert itself in the steel strike?

THE PRESIDENT. We are doing everything we possibly can on the subject, and have — I think I have done everything I possibly could to get a settlement of the steel strike. As I told you a while ago, I think there is a desire on each side to make known which is the power. Now I don’t think that is in the public interest at all. I think it is in the public interest for the workers to go back to work, and I think it is in the public interest for big steel to settle this strike on the basis which I suggested to them.

Q. Mr. President, are you suggesting that the workers go back to work without an increase?

THE PRESIDENT. I am suggesting that the workers go back to work on the increase which I suggested.

Q. Mr. President, you said that it was time — indicated that it was time the Government assert the fact that it is the power of the people, and you also said that you have done everything you can.

THE PRESIDENT. I have. I have asked Congress for certain improvements in the situation, which the Congress has not seen fit to give me. You see, we have divided powers in the Government, which is a good thing. It requires diffused powers. I don’t like concentration of power anywhere, so it takes the action of the Congress and the President and the courts finally to implement our Government. And I think it is the greatest Government in the world. I am trying to make it that, right now.

Q. Mr. President, if the strike is prolonged, will you seize the mills?

THE PRESIDENT. I don’t think it’s practical to seize the steel mills at the present time. I don’t say that I won’t do it eventually.

Q. Mr. President, how can the workers go back to work if the Corporation won’t give them the increase?

THE PRESIDENT. They can’t. That is what I am saying to you.

Q. Mr. President, in the case of the meat industry, we understand that the men are going back to work at the old wage?

THE PRESIDENT. The men, I am sure, will obey the law. The law requires them to go back to work at the old wage.

Q. If you seized the steel plants, they would have to go back —

THE PRESIDENT, That is correct.

Q. — after the seizure?

THE PRESIDENT. That is correct.

Q. Mr. President, now that Mayor La Guardia is a radio commentator, has he submitted his resignation as Chairman of the Canadian-American Defense Board?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven’t received it as yet. I don’t think I have. I have a drawer full of them. It may be among them. I haven’t seen it.

Q. Mr. La Guardia is coming in today. Will that be discussed?

THE PRESIDENT. It will not. Mr. La Guardia is going as the Special Representative of the President of the United States to the inauguration of the President of Brazil. That is the subject he is going to talk to me about.

Q. Mr. President, Phil Murray yesterday sent a letter to Secretary Vinson, outlining very large rebates from taxes to corporations, including steel companies. Have you gone into that?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I have.

Q. Is there any reply to it?

THE PRESIDENT. None whatever. I didn’t go into Mr. Murray’s — I didn’t know anything about Mr. Murray’s letter, because I had that information on my own initiative, when I was trying to settle this thing. I know all about it, however, but I haven’t seen Mr. Murray’s letter. I know what the situation is.

Q. Anything to be done about it — any suggestions?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I have no suggestions to make.

Q. Legislation?

THE PRESIDENT. I made my suggestions to Mr. Fairless and Mr. Murray.

Q. Mr. President, would you care to make any observations on the new National Intelligence Authority?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I think it is a practical program, and that it will work for the best interests of the Government. It was a necessary arrangement, in order to have all the information available for all the people who need it in implementing foreign policy. It combines the intelligence services of the State, War, Navy, and the President, in a manner so that the information will be available to all four for the transaction of Government business.

Q. Mr. President, is Hap Arnold quitting, and when?

THE PRESIDENT. He was making this tour of South America prior to his retirement. He expected to retire as soon as he returned.

Q. That will be about February 15?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, somewhere between the 1st and the 10th of February. But I think he is coming home ahead of schedule, because he is — he hasn’t been feeling very well.

Q. Is General Spaatz [pronouncing it Spats] going to take his place?

THE PRESIDENT. General Spaatz [pronouncing it Spahts ]. —

Q. Spaatz [Spahts] it is. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. — Will take his place.

Q. Mr. President, going back to that Intelligence Authority for a minute, is that a revival of the OSS in general? THE PRESIDENT. No, it is not. It isn’t. It isn’t.

Q. Mr. President, do you suppose, if we had such a setup back in 1940 or 1941, that there would not have been a Pearl Harbor?

THE PRESIDENT. I can’t say that it was a — contributing greatly towards its not taking place. I can’t say whether there would have been a Pearl Harbor or not. You can make any ‘if’ meet any situation.

Q. May I revert to the steel strike?

THE PRESIDENT. Certainly — certainly.

Q. There is an organization known as nonbasic steel producers headed up by a man named Evans — he heads a steel shop in Detroit — probably everybody’s got it-they run 700 secondary plants or nonbasic plants, and they have this CIO union contract. In none of them is there any dispute with the men on wages, but they are all out.

THE PRESIDENT. They ought to go back to work. They ought to go back to work. If there is no dispute, they ought to go back to work. We are trying to get everybody to work, so as to make this production work. Everybody that can, ought to go back. I have been preaching that ever since August 18.

Q. Mr. President, do you think, if the steel strike is settled, that the General Motors strike will fall in line?

THE PRESIDENT. I can’t say whether it would or not, but that is — it is logical to conclude that that might happen.

Q. Mr. President, do you plan to recommend any further legislation to labor such as beyond the fact-finding, if the strikes continue?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I made that recommendation back December 3d, hoping to avert some of these things.

Q. Mr. President, if we could return to the trusteeship question again, isn’t the veto of the big powers significant in connection with the trusteeship question?

THE PRESIDENT. I think it will be, yes.

Q. Mr. President, have Republicans suggested to you that there should be two Republicans on the Maritime Commission?

THE PRESIDENT. No, they haven’t; but that probably will be the case. I just appointed two Republicans day before yesterday.

Q. Mr. President, from your experience in the Senate, have you any suggestions as to how the Senate can solve this problem of filibustering on the FEPC? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. For your information, I have been through several filibusters, and that is a matter that the Senate itself must settle without outside interference, especially from the President. [More laughter]

Q. Mr. President, have you ever taken a position on cloture?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. Well, all you have to do is to read the Record down there. I was always for cloture. No secret.

Q. Mr. President, is the Anglo credit message going up shortly?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. Just as soon as we get it prepared, it will go up.

Q. Mr. President, the morning papers report the Government has $1 billion worth of steel plants of its own which are now strike-bound. Why isn’t the Government operating them?

THE PRESIDENT. They are integrations of other plants, and principally — except the one at Provo, Utah. That one is a complete plant by itself, and we have under consideration the idea of operating it.

Q. Mr. President, in connection with the new administration starting in office, will Brazil and the United States continue its good neighbor policy?

THE PRESIDENT. Certainly. Brazil is our friend, and we are the friends of Brazil, and every other South American country

Q. [Interposing loudly] Thank you, Mr. President! [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. — that will let us be friends with them. [More laughter]

Q. I was going to have a question!

THE PRESIDENT. It’s too late now!

Originally published on bradford-delong.com