Secret White House Tapes

Meeting with John Gunther—February 7, 1950

About this recording

  • John Gunther
February 7, 1950
Recording begins as Eisenhower is talking about other people's assumption that he must
take a leadership role in this country. He recalls a recent conversation in which "this man
was a little different from most of them because most of them lead with the idea I've got
to get out and wave some flag or carry a sword. This manreally wanted to discuss as,
between us, could we write to each other, exchange ideas. One of the ways of
propagating, furthering these ideas and ideals and he didn't try to insinuate that I had a
duty or responsibility over and above that ofthe average. And so it was a more satisfying
conversation than some of them."
The conversation then turns to a discussion of the differences between liberalism and
conservatism. Eisenhower describes himself as "militantly progressive" believing that
"all processes should be for the benefit of all the people ." In the conversation Eisenhower
points out that a person can hold both liberal and conservative views at the same time.
He says that "Roosevelt was an extreme liberal about child labor and about old age
pensions, but he was an extreme conservative about the Bill of Rights ." He later remarks
"I've gotten so that I hate both terms because those two terms mean all things to all
people ."
Eisenhower expresses his concerns about granting an exclusive interview to Gunther. He
wants Gunther to write in narrative form rather than as an interview. After Eisenhower is
satisfied on this point, he begins a philosophical discussion on mankind and warfare.
Eisenhower says that "behind the pronouncement of every judge in our land. You have
the county judge, 'the sheriff s posse, there's force behind the Supreme Court is finally the
full might of the power of the United States ." On an international level, he believes that
until all nations are almost disarmed there will not be an effective force. He states"I
believe we have not progressed that far, therefore, my first remark about the possibility of
peace is it is just as close as is the readiness of all the great nations to disarm
simultaneously. And it is just as far away as our refusal to do so ." Eisenhower says that
World War II left many with "too great a conviction that humanity would at last reject the
war process . . ."