THE PRESIDENCY: Word

An unimportant appropriation bill lay on the President’s desk, a bill to provide funds for the Communications Commission. He put his signature to it and then had a press release issued commenting on the event. The release did not concern the bill itself but an amendment tagged on it by Congress: a caboose setting forward from July i to April i the date for restoring the last 5% of the 15% Federal pay-cut made in 1933.

Said the President’s release: “This decision of the Congress will . . . constitute an additional charge on the Government of $16,000,000. It should be noted that this sum was not contained in the budget estimates and that consideration should properly be given to methods by which Government revenues can be increased to meet this and any other new appropriations which tend to throw the regular budget out of balance.”

Had the words come from Calvin Coolidge no one would have been startled. From Franklin Roosevelt who is seeking a $4.000,000,000 work relief appropriation—outside the budget—they sounded mildly grotesque. But they meant two things:

1) A warning to bonuseers that he was going to fight their $2,000,000,000 demand unless an equal amount of taxes was imposed.

2) A warning to citizens that even if some bonus compromise is made on a lesser sum, the Administration will demand that present high taxes be upped another notch.

C. Bill and John and Jim and Ted—all those White House newshawks who are accustomed to having the President jovially hail them by their first names, were shocked at a White House press conference. The President began with the usual banter — about Secretary Steve Early’s coat of tan acquired on vacation. Then someone asked him whether he cared to comment on the bill in Congress to regulate utility holding companies.

He did not.

Suddenly he sat back in his chair. He declared that he never commented on pending legislation—and the correspondents were too flabbergasted to argue the assertion. He gave them pointedly to understand that they were not to draw inferences from his refusal to comment— such inferences were 99% wrong. By the time he had finished, the newshawks had seen a new side of their hitherto cheery President. Abashed, they filed out in silence. Sole cause for the outburst was that at a previous conference, he had denied that he would ask for State NRA to supplement his new NRA act (see p.11). The news was flashed to Indiana. The Governor, Democrat Paul V. McNutt, who is making a great to-do for passage of a State NRA law, was made to look foolish. The President was annoyed.

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