Public Papers of Harry S. Truman, 1952-1953

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Author: Harry S Truman  | Date: October 4, 1952

278
Address at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.
October 4, 1952

Mr. Chairman, and Mr. Ambassador, Dr. Grady:

I will admit that I did hunt up difficult jobs for Dr. Grady, and the reason I did that was because he was always successful in accomplishing them. He is one of the great citizens of this United States of ours, and he has made a great contribution to the welfare of the Nation. I am honored to have beenpresented to you by such a distinguished citizen of San Francisco. And I thank him very much for what he had to say.

I want to compliment that orchestra up there. I am charged with being a musician—I am not. I wish I were—but I do appreciate good music, and we have had good music this afternoon.

I hope you will take what Dr. Grady had to say about the United fund Drive to heart. That is the most important thing-one of the most important things—that we do in this great Nation of ours. I said what I believed about it the other evening on television, and also on the radio, and I meant every word of it. I hope you will give Dr. Grady your wholehearted support and put San Francisco over the top ahead of all the rest of them—except Independence, Missouri.

Now before I start on the business of the day, I want to tell you how glad I am to be back again in San Francisco. This is the most wonderful combination of water, hills, and city that I know. It is always exciting to come back to San Francisco Bay and San Francisco City. I consider it a very great pleasure. As I was coming over here to this luncheon, I was asked by the chairman of the meeting if I would come back to San Francisco after I get out of my job. And I told him all he had to do was to ask me.

I am pleased at the opportunity to talk to these groups here today.

We meet as friends, because we have common objectives. And the greatest common objective which we have is good government, the welfare of the world, and the peace of the world.

We all want our country to continue as the leader and the partner in the free world’s work for peace.

We all want our Republic to protect and strengthen our greatest heritage—the basic rights and liberties of all Americans.

We all want this Nation to hold fast to the basic objectives of the New Deal and the fair Deal—a decent living and a decent opportunity for all our neighbors. We want these things in a free economy that lives and moves—never stagnant, never shrinking-always growing.

I have said often before that the great difference between our major political parties comes to this: the Democratic Party believes in the people; the Republican Party is bound to privilege. I have been accused of oversimplifying this situation. But speaking broadly, looking at the record, overall, I do not think this is too sharp a way to put the case. For it just happens to be true.

Now they accuse me of going up and down the Nation on a whistlestop train, and the slogans that they hurl at me most of the time are "Give ’em hell, Harry." That reputation I did not earn. All I do is to tell them the truth, and that hurts a lot worse than giving them hell.

Let me illustrate from just three of the specific issues that are before us in this election year—the issue of social security, the issue of housing, and the issue of health. Each of these issues is related to the others-all of them concern the welfare and security of every single one of us.

On all these issues, the Republican Party, as a national organization, has long since become the "do-nothing" party—amply illustrated by the 80th Congress which they controlled and which I named the "do-nothing" Congress. Its philosophy—if you can call it that—is simply to ignore social problems, even when they are of national scope.

Now, this attitude arises from the kind of people who control the Republican Party. The dominating elements are various business and industrial groups whose attention is concentrated on the advancement of their own special interests. They lack compassion for the people. They are very short indeed of any understanding of the needs of the society in which we live.

The difference between the two parties was never clearer than during the great depression of the early thirties. The Republican administration took care of its own-they bailed out the banks and the utilities and the railroads. But they did not lift afinger to help the farmer or the small businessman or the workingman.

What did they do for 14 million unemployed? That, they said, was a local problem.

That attitude cost the Republicans their power in this Nation 20 years ago. It cost them their role as the majority party in our political life. It has kept them as the minority party in the national government ever since. But they still persist in the same old policies. They have not—and perhaps they cannot—change. I urge upon you—read their record in the Congress on any of these issues. Read the record all the way from 1933 to 1952; and you will find them always negative—always opposed to nearly every measure that promotes the people’s welfare.

And this year the Republican ’platform, and the Republican candidate for President, and the men who dominate the party are still of the same stripe. My friends, we are dealing here with something beyond reason, something beneath reason. We are dealing with the herd instinct of the dinosaurs.

Now, take social security. In 1935, the Democratic Congress put unemployment and old-age insurance on the books—along with public assistance. These are the basic elements of our social security system. The Republicans said that was socialism. They said that was regimentation. They said that the moral fiber of the people would be destroyed if they didn’t have to worry about their bread and butter in their old age.

They fought the whole campaign of 1936 on those insane slogans.

Now, all these years have passed. Social security has been broadened and improved three separate times. It is one of the most accepted and most successful monuments to the great administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

But do you think that old talk of the Republicans is dead? Not at all. Listen to the man who is now the Republican candidate for President: "If all that Americans want is security,"—I quote him—"they can go to prison. They’ll have enough to eat, a bed, and a roof over their heads." I wonder how many of you want to go to jail to get social security ? I don’t see anybody volunteering.

On another occasion, he said: "In these times, we hear so much of security, security for everything we do ..."—I am quoting the Republican candidate now—"I should think that the best example of it would be a man serving a lifetime Federal sentence in a Federal prison."

Those remarks were made in speeches before he became a Republican candidate for President. Now, he is traveling about the country, saying that he believes in social security. His political advisers have told him that’s what the people like and that’s what he’d better say. But what counts, in the great office he is seeking, is how he really feels—right here.

It has been 20 years since we saw what it could be like to have in the White House a man who failed to feel deep in his heart that security for the individual American is a good thing, and a necessary thing. Yet, this year, the Republicans are asking us to take that risk again.

The Republican platform on this subject is as revealing as the candidate’s words. The platform states that they want old-age insurance extended to include "those justly entitled to it." Those justly entitled to it-comes from the Republican platform. They showed what they meant by that kind of language in the Both Congress, when they deprived nearly a million people of their social security protection. They showed it again, last year, when 86 percent of the Republican Congressmen voted against adding disability insurance to the social security program.

If all a person wants is something to eat in his old age, or a roof over his head when he’s disabled, he can go to prison, they say-or on the dole. That is dinosaur reasoning and theirs is the dinosaur approach—a dead and gone approach that the people of this country are not going to revive.
Now let me turn to the issue of housing.

Here I can say—and I am proud of it-that the Democratic record for these past 20 years shows a long series of constructive measures to help all Americans live in decent houses. The Republican record through all that time has been a record of obstruction. Theirs is a record dictated by the real estate lobby—a record of opposing aid to the middle-income families and the low-income families.

Back in 1933, when the Home Owners Loan Corporation was set up to end mass foreclosures, the Republican National Committee condemned it as "another New Deal attempt to deceive the taxpayers." When that great venture was finally finished, it had not only saved thousands and thousands of homes for their owners, but it returned a net profit to the Federal Treasury.

At the close of World War II, when we turned to meet civilian needs, the Republicans fought all slum clearance and public housing legislation. They blocked constructive action for 4 long years. They blocked it until the election of 1948, and then they changed their minds a little.

The great and comprehensive law we finally passed in 1949 set as our national goal a decent home for every American. Yet ever since, our work for decent housing has been hindered and hobbled by the real estate lobby. They were willing and anxious to use the new law where it helped them, but they have endeavored constantly to sabotage everything that helped the public.

You here in California know all about that lobby. It took your State Supreme Court to save the low-rent housing program in Los Angeles. But the real estate lobby’s actions spread far beyond this State. They and their Republican friends have tried time and again to kill the public housing program.

It has been a sickening spectacle to watch the vast majority of the Congressmen and Senators who bear the label of a once-great party, jump through the hoop whenever the real estate lobby cracks the whip. You ought to have a grandstand seat on that, like I have.

And why is the Republican Party against slum clearance? for the simple reason that there is money to be made from human misery. And the dinosaur minds who control that party are more interested in profits than they are in the welfare of the people.

And what is true of housing is also true of health.

In thinking about the Nation’s health, we must recognize one basic fact. The costs of medical care are prohibitive for many millions of our people. I am not talking only of the very poor who. might, if they are lucky, avail themselves of charitable care. Neither am I talking of the rich or the well-to-do—but of all the millions in between. These people are doomed to illness, sometimes to death, simply because they are neither rich enough nor poor enough to fit into the scheme of things as practiced in this country in the field of modern medicine.

That to me is a denial of the very meaning of democracy.

That is why I have devoted so much thought, so much attention to the problem of good medical services for our people. That is why some years ago I proposed the addition of health insurance to our social security system.

That attack on that proposal was fantastic in its scope, its bitterness, its vilification. It tried to obscure the problem by fastening on the old scare word of socialism. Naturally the Republican Party in the Congress spearheaded and fronted that attack. And, as usual, the party’s strategy and tactics—and the money—were supplied it gratis, by the lobby which claims exclusive jurisdiction in the field of human health.

This is the medical lobby—and what is the medical lobby? Why, it’s a reactionary faction within that tightly held national leadership of the American Medical Association. The lobby is not the great bulk of the devoted doctors in this country, though it plays freely on their fears and extorts its money out of them. The lobby is, in reality, just a few men and an advertising agency.
And now this little clique has moved overto run the National Professional Committee of Eisenhower and Nixon. I made a speech in Philadelphia on health the other day, and they folded up on their fight on me. Now they are going to help Eisenhower and Nixon.

I would like to give you a little illustration of how this lobby works. I have a clipping from the Nashville Tennessean dated September 26, 1952. It shows the photostat of a letter dated 3 days earlier, on the stationery of a local Nashville doctor. Apparently this letter went to a great number of his colleagues. It reads:

"Dear Doctor:

"I have been asked as a member of Senator Nixon’s Parade Committee to ask a few of my friends to drive their cars in the Nixon parade on Saturday, September 27.

"We want to count on you to be there or if you can’t participate to have someone come in your place. In order to make the best impression on the general public, we are asking you to use a small car if that is at all possible .... "

I want to read that last sentence over again so you won’t forget it: "In order to make the best impression on the general public, we are asking that you use a small car if at all possible." I was over in Montana the other day, and the Governor of Montana is a fine gentleman and a good Democrat. And he told me that the farmers up there had been quarreling about their condition, and one farmer was in such shape that he had come to the point where he had to wash his own Cadillac. That’s what’s the matter with these doctors in Nashville. They are so well off they can’t find a little car that the poor man has to ride around in.

Nearly a year ago, I appointed a Commission on the Health Needs of the Nation. That Commission has just held hearings here in San Francisco, so perhaps you are familiar with its membership and its purpose. Its members are distinguished and its purpose is nonpolitical. It has the task of surveying the whole health problem and the resources of this Nation, and recommending to the next administration the best solution that it can devise.

I have urged no solution upon this Commission. I have no desire, now, to advocate or press for any particular formula or method. All I want is some kind of effective action on the problem with which we are faced.

But the medical lobby has made sure that we shall not keep the problem of medical care out of politics.

The lobby has embraced the Republican candidate and he has returned the favor. Less than 3 weeks ago, he gave out a statement containing his latest views on health. That statement is all of a piece with the violent propaganda of the medical lobby. The General is doing his part to entice the medical professional people in this country into the narrow and confining lair of the Republican Old Guard. I don’t think they are going to go. There are more good doctors than there are in that little clique that runs the Medical Association.

Wherever you look in the Republican campaign today you will now find only dinosaurs in the positions of command.

The surrender has been complete—to the Old Guard—to the lobbies—to the mossbacks of every description. But it is more than a surrender. It is the tragedy of an able and amiable human being, torn out of the life he was trained to follow and shoved around as a tool for others.

At the Republican Convention last July,. it seemed that the dinosaur wing of the Republican Party had suffered a real defeat. If they had nominated your Governor, Earl Warren, it would have been clear that the National Republican Party was on the way to give real recognition to its much abused liberal wing. But they turned away from your liberal Governor, and chose another Californian who is not worthy to tie Governor Warren’s shoes.

That was the first sign of what really’ happened. Now, 3 months later, whatever progressive forces may actually exist within the GOP, have been driven furtherthan ever from the center of the stage. Where is Earl Warren now? Where is Wayne Morse? Where is Paul Hoffman? They staged what seemed to be a battle. They won what seemed to be a victory. But all of this has been taken from them. That old dinosaur has come back. Its hide was only dented. The skin was broken in a place or two. But the wound was never serious or long to heal and every trace of the wound has vanished now.

The only wounds now remaining from the Battle of Chicago are the wounds of the supposed victors, who’ve been kicked off the platform into the bushes.

And as for their commander, their General, the man who was to lead them to a new and better party—a rejuvenated party—why he’s become the saddest spectacle of all.

On my trip west across the country, I have been critical of the Republican candidate. I have not found it easy and I have not found it pleasant; for he was my friend, a man I completely trusted. He was the man I chose to be the chief lieutenant in some of the greatest and gravest undertakings of my administration.

It has been hard for me to have to tell the people the things I have been pointing out to them in recent days.

I would never have engaged in criticism of the General, merely for partisan purposes. No, the reason I have spoken out is far, far deeper than that.

The reason is that the General has betrayed himself. He has betrayed himself by his wild attacks on policies and programs for which he had a great responsibility—and for which he received great credit.

He has betrayed himself by his rejection of the good men in both parties who saw his nomination as a way of elevating this campaign to serve the interests of this Nation and the whole free world.

He has betrayed himself by his surrenders-all of his surrenders—to the narrow, selfish men and shortsighted policies of the Old Guard.

A little while ago, there were many people in this country who went looking for a new leader. Their standards were exacting. They were determined to find the man of highest principle and greatest rectitude—a man of wide experience and great good judgment—a man who could and would give to this country the most inspired leadership, in these perilous conditions which we are faced with in the next 4 years.

Some of these people went to Paris and brought a general home with them.

But now, by every speech and every action, he is showing them he certainly has shown me—that he is not the man we thought him. He does not measure up.

But all is not lost. For we are very fortunate that while some people sought their man in Paris, there were others—Democrats I’m glad to say—who went the other way.

They went to Springfield, Illinois,, and drafted Adlai Stevenson.

And Adlai Stevenson, my friends, in every speech, in every action, has shown himself to be the man those other fellows failed to find in Paris. He, and not the General, has proved in this campaign his fitness to take on the great hard tasks of leading this country in the way that we must—and should-go.
Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 2:30 p.m. in the Palace Hotel at San Francisco. In his opening words he referred to Lyle Cook, chairman of the meeting, and Dr. Henry F. Grady, who had served as U.S. Ambassador to India, Greece, and Iran.

Later the President referred to, among others, Governor John W. Bonner of Montana, Governor Earl Warren of California, Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon, and Paul G. Hoffman, president of the ford foundation and former Economic Cooperation Administrator.

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Chicago: Harry S Truman, "278 Address at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.," Public Papers of Harry S. Truman, 1952-1953 in Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Harry S Truman, 1952-1953 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), P.1216 702–706. Original Sources, accessed March 2, 2024, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=9FKKABJ4WXXZSQ5.

MLA: Truman, Harry S. "278 Address at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco." Public Papers of Harry S. Truman, 1952-1953, in Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Harry S Truman, 1952-1953 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), P.1216, pp. 702–706. Original Sources. 2 Mar. 2024. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=9FKKABJ4WXXZSQ5.

Harvard: Truman, HS, '278 Address at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.' in Public Papers of Harry S. Truman, 1952-1953. cited in , Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Harry S Truman, 1952-1953 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), P.1216, pp.702–706. Original Sources, retrieved 2 March 2024, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=9FKKABJ4WXXZSQ5.