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tv   The Presidency  CSPAN  February 20, 2016 12:00pm-1:31pm EST

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and there he came out -- larry king moderated. secured theh republican nomination. at 6:00, american artifacts looks at selections of objects left at the vietnam memorial wall, including photographs, medals, and artwork. they are all stored at the national resource park center in maryland. for the complete schedule, go to >> next on the presidency, a conversation about william leuchtenburg's new book, "the american president: from teddy roosevelt to bill clinton". he talks with historian douglas brinkley about the president he has met and shares his insight on others like william taft, harry truman, and calvin coolidge. the new york historical society hosted this 90 minute event. [applause]
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>> good morning, thank you for being here. one public service announcement. we will be taking questions. when that happens, we ask you to just ask one question, tried to keep it brief, but also tell us your name. we will try to get as many people through the microphones as we can. two staff members will be on hand. we will be going back and forth and picking up people to ask questions. it is an absolute thrill for me to be here, because william leuchtenburg is a hero of mine. i did my doctorate in u.s. presidential diplomatic history, and his books were a seminal reading when i was coming through the ranks and getting my doctorate. i still now use and teach his books at my class in rice university on the american presidency. i found that one of his books
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about fdr, was just an absolute classic. you have not even considered understanding our modern times without reading that book. what a long legacy fdr passed on to our politics after his death. we want to begin today by asking you -- congratulations on the new book. it is epic. has that been a dream of yours, to write a book that covers all the 20th-century presidents? how did that idea come to you? mr. leuchtenburg: i was at a conference at the university of pennsylvania, about eight years ago. the conference was on the presidency. i was surprised and delighted to have a distinguished scholar of medieval the elegy, to me, and
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-- medieval the elegy and come up to me and say that the foundation wanted to commission me to write such a book. i couldn't get to it immediately, because i was finishing one book, and hadn't started another book. arthur schlesinger asked me to write a short biography of herbert hoover for a series of published by times books, so i had to get that book finished in the next started and done before i could get on with this. but it was a sense of being given an opportunity for a capstone of a lifetime of writing about american presidents. particularly, franklin roosevelt, that you have just written about, but to see and
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educate myself, as well and all of the presidents, starting with the assassination of william mckinley and ending in january of 2001 with bill clinton's last night in office. mr. brinkley: we associate your career often with fdr. i know you are great friends with arthur schlesinger, and the two of you have dominated thinking on franklin roosevelt. what was your relationship with arthur schlesinger junior like? mr. leuchtenburg: i first encountered him when i was on the national staff of americans for democratic action in washington. i worked for the nationally. i was the massachusetts state director a rocky mountain , organizer for them. the first conference that was
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held in washington, in march 1947. i remember hubert humphrey, who is the 37-year-old young mayor of minneapolis on stage, and saying he wished his parents could see him because they would not have imagined he and eleanor roosevelt were on the same stage. afterwards, i talked to arthur schlesinger junior about a research project that, i as a graduate student was interested in, and that started a lifelong friendship. not many years later, i was appointed to the faculty at harvard, and we were colleagues together. in the years i was teaching at columbia, he was in the graduate center and the city university of new york so we saw one another. mr. brinkley: the late historian
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stephen ambrose once mentioned to me, we use as a test, abandon the chronology at your own peril. [laughter] let's go little bit chronologically today through the presidents in your book, beginning with the assassination of william mckinley in buffalo, and how theodore roosevelt becomes president. how would you describe the personality of theodore roosevelt? mr. leuchtenburg: [laughter] i had the great pleasure of working with ken burns almost from the beginning of his career. the most recent one appeared on screen, was "the roosevelt's." and in it, another friend tells the story of a man calling on theodore roosevelt, and explosive sounds coming from the room. afterwards, when the visitor
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walked out, someone said to him, "what did you say to theodore roosevelt?" the man said, "i told him my name." [laughter] mr. brinkley: people talk about the progressive era, and we talk about theodore roosevelt as being a progressive president. do you consider him a bleeding progressive? mr. leuchtenburg: i spent so many years teaching that progressive era, and i think -- i was mentioning, medieval theology, trying to define what was meant by progressivism, it is something that has captivated me for a long time. i found out i would never define it. i better just live with the fact that some things are called
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progressive. if you mean, was roosevelt a change maker? yes, i think he was. it was one of the surprises in writing the book. i have said what many historians have said, the modern presidency begins with fdr. the more i wrote about theodore roosevelt, the more i read about him, the more i was convinced what i said was wrong. the real turning point in the history of the presidency was when theodore roosevelt offense -- ascends to the presidency. that is when the american people have the sense that the man in the white house can shape the nation. that was a view that had never been held before.
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the dynamic way in which he performed the task for president was actually more important than the specific legislation that came out of it, especially the -- though a good deal, railroads, the drug act, but especially the area you have written about. the impact he had on american conservation. this cannot be a mutual admiration society, but if you have not read "wilderness warrior," you have a treat ahead for you. mr. brinkley: thank you. what do you think of the accomplishments of the presidents from 1901-1909, what are the memorable accomplishments of that era? mr. leuchtenburg: i think one of
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the remarkable aspects of this is that we have never had a president who loved war more than theodore roosevelt. and yet, nobody ever dies under theodore roosevelt. save with respect to the all granado insurrection that had begun prior to that time. he was a man who was a consummate war maker, but the first american to win the nobel peace prize. he is a welter of contradictions. but i think probably with respect to domestic policy, as to say what i said before, his extraordinary impact on american
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conservation, which affects not nearly of the saving of land and landmarks, in an imaginative way in which he used at pieces of legislation designating areas of national monuments with a questionable view of the constitutionality of what he was doing, but something with which we bless him today. mr. brinkley: in your chapter on bill clinton, you have an interesting little page, where you are discussing bill clinton and you are wondering and talking about whether he will be a great president, and theodore roosevelt gets the very near great category, meaning ranked fourth or fifth most historians.
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clinton is worried at that point, he's only in the middle, or that he's realizing he can never really be a great president, he doesn't have a major war, so he tries so become pr, maybe that is the marker you try to become a near great, not just average person. do you think theodore roosevelt was one of the near great presidents? mr. leuchtenburg: i have no doubt. what we are talking about is that arthur schlesinger senior, around 1981, created a diagrammatic way of looking at american presidents. some are grouped as great, near great, average, below average, and failure. lots of historians are unhappy with that way of looking at
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trying to grade presidents, because there are opportunities offered to some presidents that are not offered to others, and greatness is an ambiguous term. you could be great by having an extraordinary impact on an era, or the worst. more or less, even historians who are unhappy with this kind of categorization, they use it in their heads even if they do not use those precise terms. poll after poll has been taken more than a generation since then, and it only comes out the same way with only three presidents as great. abraham lincoln, franklin d. roosevelt, and george washington.
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he used to be lincoln, washington, fdr, but more recently it has been lincoln, fdr washington. , nobody appears, in the judgment of historians, likely to move into that top category. and then there is a group just below that of near a great. theodore roosevelt is always pretty much at the top of that group, or close to it. mr. brinkley: theodore roosevelt won a landslide election in 1908 -- i mean, in 1904, but by he decided not to run. 1908, he left in march with of and reallyto africa turning over the republican party to william howard taft. who was taft, and what were the virtues of his presidency? mr. leuchtenburg: he was a commissioner in the philippines,
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he had been a member of theodore roosevelt cabinet. when i was a graduate student, we used to say, always trying to do our elders one better, that taft was actually more of progressive than teddy roosevelt. more antitrust suits under taft proportionately then there were under teddy roosevelt. and elders were shaking, saying you don't understand, they had lived through that era. of course, they were right. we were wrong. maybe that is because i am an elder now. [laughter] mr. leuchtenburg: teddy roosevelt seems so much larger
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a figure, taft said that he never thought of anybody as the president but teddy roosevelt, even when he was in the white house. often, at contrast with progressives, teddy roosevelt, taft is thought of as conservative, although there are a number of ways in which taft did support progressive legislation and was far from being the right winger that he is often portrayed to be. nonetheless, there is a decided change of atmosphere in washington from teddy roosevelt to taft.
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nobody missed it taft for the dynamic -- mystic taft for the dynamic of theodore roosevelt. mr. brinkley: in that case, theodore roosevelt famously, part of his their chase hunting rules, that famous scene in mississippi delta, when they caught a bear, and it had a rope around it, roosevelt said i will not shoot it, that is not hunting. there was a cartoon by a woman in brooklyn, saying roosevelt draws the line in mississippi not to kill that bear, and she writes, i would love to do a toy on that. and roosevelt said, you are welcome to, but nobody is going to care. but of course, the teddy bear becomes the most ubiquitous toy in history. part of the magic with teddy bears, they were dinners with a teddy bear as the centerpiece.
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william howard taft decided he needed to do something, and he created the billy possum toy. [laughter] none of you have one or have ever seen one, we have never seen anyone cuddle one. i found what one looked like. it was a hideous looking stuffed toy. the point being, it was hard to follow and act like theodore roosevelt, who had so much magic, and so many reporters and cartoonists, and press apparatus that backed him so much. but taft loved pr in many ways. theodore roosevelt comes back and creates the most successful third-party in american history, the bull moose party, aimed at destroying taft. why does tr create the bull moose party? mr. leuchtenburg: when roosevelt comes back from africa, when he
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went off to africa to shoot lions, it was said that everyone in wall street hoped every lion would do its duty. [laughter] he manages to dominate the newspapers by his exploits in africa during the taft presidency. when he returns, he becomes considerably more radical, notably in a speech he gave in kansas. it was during the taft presidency. he is upset with taft, because in a controversy, taft had taken a sign that teddy roosevelt was
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not only not progressive, but was disrespectful of his views. by 1912, he decided that he was going to run for another term. he had technically, at a time when the george washington example was still a strong move of not running for a third term, roosevelt was -- he had served two terms, but not eight years, so technically he was not violating it. but actually what he said was, it is true that i said i was not going to run for a third term, but that is like saying you are not going to have another cupcake.
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-- cup of tea. just not one at the moment. he tries to get the republican nomination in 1912, but taft having control of the party machinery, is able to send him off. so he goes and runs as a third-party candidate, as a progressive candidate. in a dramatic speech, he says, i stand at armageddon, and i battle for the lord. and there is a notion of, the band strikes up at one point, onward christian soldiers. it is that kind of element to the campaign that was saying, it is the most successful third-party in history.
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taft actually runs third in the electoral college. roosevelt did not have enough to win the presidency. as a result, a democrat, who has only 42% of the popular vote, is able to get enough electoral votes to slip in. that is how woodrow wilson becomes president of the united states. mr. brinkley: and theodore roosevelt takes the bullet from an assassin in milwaukee, he's bleeding, and he continues to speak. they say, it takes more than a political label to kill a bull moose. he went on for an hour before they took him to the hospital. you become a folk figure when
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you survived that. but in 1919, for all purposes, that was his last major big political act. it is now woodrow wilson's moment. he seems -- arthur link did so many great books on woodrow wilson. scott eric recently did a nice biography on wilson. john milton cooper junior did a tool -- duel biography of woodrow wilson and theodore roosevelt. who was woodrow wilson? he is having a moment. hamilton is having a great moment. [laughter] woodrow wilson, there is a lot of controversy at princeton university whether the woodrow wilson school should be named after him but who was he, what , should we know about him and admire about him? mr. leuchtenburg: when i was a student, i went to newtown high school in queens.
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as a boy, all my teachers were worshipped woodrow wilson. the great moment in their lives was the creation of the league of nations, and the failure of the united states to join. i tried to remember nowadays, if i mention a certain event which seems important to me, and i get a blank stare from younger people that what i am saying to them is what my teachers were saying to me when they talk about bosnia-herzegovina. bosnia-herzegovina was part of that whole mythos of woodrow wilson, and americans lost the opportunity to become a citizen of the world, and a belief that if only we had joined the league of nations, we could have staved off nazism, and avoided the death in world war ii.
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that is something that all of us of my generation grew up with. more recently, there has been a different sense of woodrow wilson. he is not the world's most likable man. when you live with it as a writer, day in and day out -- one journalist of the time said, when i think of theodore roosevelt, i think of an exuberant, cherubic, larger-than-life figure. when i think of woodrow wilson, i think of the steel and gravy. there is a narrowness of the personality. and yet, numbers of things do
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get created under franklin roosevelt -- pardon me, under woodrow wilson. the federal reserve system would be one example. there was a far greater intervention in the economy in world war i than the country had ever seen before. it does leave this legacy of the league of nations. when word got out that woodrow wilson was dying, the numbers of people like pilgrims, in the snow, outside the windows of his home in washington, looking up at the window until the light that was at the window, that they had been looking at all the days since the end of his presidency, was extinguished. mr. brinkley: how do we judge wilson as commander-in-chief during world war i?
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was he successful as -- even though the league of nations failed, how was he has a wartime leader? mr. leuchtenburg: the american troops come in at a time of disaster in 1916, with a million casualties. the allied cause was reeling. the american troops provide a fresh spirit to the allied effort. for the most part, not the kind of controversy about wilson's role as commander-in-chief that there is about other american presidents. the period of intervention was
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relatively short, only from april 1917 to november of 1980, -- 1918, and it took time for the troops to get overseas. some time to fight overseas. the main sense that one has is that wilson went along with the general staff that he inherited, and did nothing to interfere either for good or bad. , he was not a particularly significant figure as far as commander-in-chief. mr. brinkley: now if we go to the 1920 election, and we get now warren harding becomes president, that is the first election women are voting for president. did the women vote help harding? how did the suffrage movement affect politics of this age?
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the 1920's. mr. leuchtenburg: for years i asked my graduate students at columbia what was the main , impact of women's suffrage? the immediate impact. and i'm always surprised that the answer, which is that it swells warren harding's margin of victory. that seems so counterintuitive. how can a great progressive movement of this sort, much too long delayed have that , consequence? the answer is that it takes a while for any new group of voters to become acclimated. the women who were most likely to vote in 1920 were well educated, upper-class women, associated with the republican party. surprising that that was the consequence. theof the main results of
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campaign in 1928 is then he brings into the election women from different ethnic groups from different income classes who had classes, who had not voted. over time, of course, with the impact of women on the electorate has been decidedly more progressive. voted in recent elections, no democrat would have ever been elected. this is first noted in 1988 women votedn
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against the first george bush come because he reminded them too much of their first husband. in fact, there were very good reasons. women, particularly unmarried women or women who were a sole supporter of their children could be voting for a democrat rather than a republican candidate. question, theour immediate impact has been to help harding and help the republicans. that was markedly more so. >> where walking about these rankings. usually see warren harding very low. sometimes at the bottom. thatays used as my marker you never want to be rained loader -- lower than william henry harrison.
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if you are below harrison, you have problems. i have noticed in some ways he is below william henry harrison. why does he suffer so badly? longerously, he served than the first harrison, only less than three years. so, he did not have a very long time to make a mark on the presidency. was a man who said of belong in thenot white house. i am reading this material on a tariff, somewhere, somebody could explain it to be. it -- there was a pathetic aspect to him.
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him thate parts of were likable. when the socialistic candidate for president in 1912, eugene american activity in world war i, he was sentenced to prison. wilson wasoodrow asked to grant a pardon. atn harding was president, the white house.
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he wanted to spend christmas dinner with his wife. i said i'm so glad to see you. man who wasnse of a a man of good will. he was very limited. it was not only because of the corruption of members. notably, in the tea party. >> calvin coolidge was thought for a while. reaganber when ronald became president, he dusted off the portrait of calvin coolidge andriy hung it as a new conservative hero. there has now been some good
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scholarship covered out. rehabilitation by the conservative movement. what was his presidency like -- like? right,witcher thing is there was an attempt to elevate calvin coolidge. it was a time of development of relieve theicies to wall street crash. wasfarces policy, he negligible.
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the one thing that came under coolidge presidency was that he had a classmate like morrow. he sent them to the ambassador of mexico. that was the real start of the good neighbor policy. it begins not with frank roosevelt, but with this behavior and mexico. i was saying that there is a lot to like about harding. there's also a lot to dislike about coolidge. collegeaught at smith for a couple of years, i lived out of the streets. and, i thought she was a wonderful woman. calvin coolidge behaved abominably. he would never let her speak.
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, a wonderful moment came was ahey met when she teacher at the clark school for the deaf and dumb. atre is a press conference which she felt she had to obey her husband. she use sign language. she was able to define him in that fashion. >> now, tells about herbert hoover. to write a volume for the american presidency series, there are lessons here. that, youe writing obviously dealt with hoover a lot in your work. kind of newany appreciation for herbert hoover as an american citizen? are you still fairly negative -- negative about amerco -- about
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him? i don't like his performance as president. if you look at the whole of his career, and the final paragraph he saved more people than anyone else. that is true. not allow his political disposition into fear with his humanitarian work. at the time of the great russian climb in the soviet union in the early 1920's, hoover, although he loathed bolshevism, he provided so much aid that they decided to find how many millions of russian children, how many millions of russian adults live he saved by his
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activity. hoover isange about as anis whole career engineer was in government. he was secretary of commerce for two administrations. he somehow convinced himself that only volunteerism ever achieved anything. contrary to all he had achieved at a federal agent. as a federal official. when it came to dealing with the great depression, and was contrary to the usual myths about him was an active president. conviction that
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voluntary effort was taking care of all of the needs of the hisployed at a time when own aides or telling him that millions of people were on the verge of starving. this is a tragedy of hoover's life. a misperception and a tragedy for the american people. could anybody be tim in 1932, with his presidency in decline, is it possible that -- is it automatic to be a democrat. >> any democrat. the only possibility of defeating him would be for the nomination. party was still laboring as it had hundred two thirds rule.
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, a candidate, camp clark of missouri had a majority of votes. since he cannot get two thirds, he was on ballot after ballot until woodrow wilson was nominated. in 1924, the madison square garden convention, the ballot went on to 103 roll calls before they could find a candidate. so, fdr was a very powerful populist two-term president of the new york state. it was unclear if he could overcome the advantage. as against hoover, it was clear that any democrat would be the victor. i watch wanted to talk something
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out that had missing elsewhere. in 1932 isosevelt the first democrat to enter the house with a majority of popular vote. 50% or more in 80 years. that is how republican the country was. since franklin pierce in 1852. a few democrats had slipped in twice. woodrow wilson, james buchanan earlier, not with 50% or more of the vote. a and, that almost happened in his direction. said fdr was aer command changing his colors every second. fdr called himself a juggler. i never let my left hand know
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what my right hand is doing. who was franklin roosevelt? do you feel like you understand his personality and what made him take. book, it wasg this the hardest chapter for me to write. i wrote eight books on roosevelt. but try to figure out how to say something new. that was the puzzle. the notion that roosevelt was a ofmeleon, that he was a man no firm views. but he said yes to every last person that he talked to is so common in literature, i think it is wrong.
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in 1990, there was a conference at cambridge university as they mentioned on the book or the shadow of fdr. this is called in the shadow of luxenberg. the influence i have had. people came from new zealand or australia. there is this conference. keynoter speaker, the was a british historian. they thought he had too much to drink. it he kept saying the speech. it is hard to understand what he was saying. was a speech that franklin roosevelt gave in new york in 1912. a great gary and sense
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of the american state. online anything that any other american politician, he had a strong sense of affirmative action. he had to adapt to opposition in congress. , he heldt his life firmly to this. death, it was said that if he had gone on, and would have moved in a conservative direction. his response was what we know about what roosevelt's beliefs were come at the end of his life was the economic bill of rights.
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in 1940 43 was talking about the extension of the new deal, much more broadly than they have ever extended that before. fdr is that notion that a man who is attempting to please all people, who is a chameleon, though widely held. >> how would you go this many years later, the new deal. it is somebody they have written probably better on the new deal, which of the new deal programs do you personally admire the the wpa, or the ccc? is there one year that has really garnered your interest over the decades deco >> one that meant the most to me 1939, i wasummer of
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train toto going by l a college in new york. i had my heart set on going away. how is trying to get to cornell. in august of that year with the , there was ag out cutback from a vacation with my grandparents farm. there was not a mailbox. a letter from one of my patrons. then, there was another envelope from another teacher in another one. i had $200 more.
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that target believed nowadays. your children. at an ivy league college, it was $400 per year. i was $100 short. i got a job wheeling a bike through sunnyside. the trouble is that it cost a dime and everything else was a nickel. they have to day i would sell almost nothing. with registration coming nearer and nearer, and a man with a truck carrying 23 blocks from where i was. franklin roosevelt was going to dedicate an extension of the boulevard. i pedal pedal pedal. i completely sold out.
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[applause] >> accidentally come years i started one question by saying you and i both throughout in queens. he said sunnyside, sunnyside. they had good humor. he said, you know, you must have had coke in that machine. he meant cocaine. to have sold enough. but, then, i arrived at cornell. my parents are giving me $15 per month. for rent, food, everything.
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so, i had to find a job. there was an me organization called the national youth administration. i could get a job. i cleaned test tubes and types. i got through cornell. so, the ny a method that. it meant a great deal to me. does eleanor roosevelt holed up in history? >> absolutely. i never really knew her. i was in the room with her in number of times. felt like the passage at the big dinner of a movie. there was a stirring in the crowd in london.
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murmur goes out across the crowd that world tea has moved by. that majesty has moved by. and, she was the most direct kind of person. the kindest woman. of somethingnse special. of something regal about her. it was wonderful to be in her presence. dies and harryr truman assumes the presidency, very quickly, and the truman the comment age with bombs being dropped on hiroshima and nagasaki. respect his decision to use atomic weapons? >> it is something that bothered me a long time.
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i have never been able to shake off the tension. there had already been so much bombsation with ordinary in japan and in dresden and elsewhere. same to be a very great step beyond this. for him to have taken that. it more that i wrestled with he was at i felt that a culminating moment. he had notd that if used the bomb, and there had morehundreds of thousands deaths, as there would have been
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it haveacific, and, been found out that it could have been prevented by this single terrible act, he not only would have been impeached and removed from office, but he should have in. and, i quote in the book one of it was aas saying horrible act. this is the whole war was horrible. it is going to be an awful loss of life no matter what. so, it does not seem as decisive a moment as it once did.
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we will never resolve this questions about it. >> george, who we mentioned, died last week. i read that he was the great naval aide for fdr. he had the only signed copy of the atlantic charter meeting in newfoundland when roosevelt met churchill was a press release. that is all it was at that time. it was something signed it fdr. he was a young naval aide. he got this press release and asked fdr to sign it so he had a signed atlantic charter document as a collective or franklin roosevelt. well, fdr died and 45. churchill continued. he got to see churchill handed the leading charter. andchill looked at them said young man, you had a lot of value hereby sign this. all may signed copy of the atlantic charter.
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he went to set inside it. so, he kept the document's whole life. it was a special heirloom. we have to march to these other presidents. let me ask you. just a couple of the copper accompaniments of truman that you admire. tongs that he did from 1945 1953 that you think were spot on. me, what,e have asked if you read the book may surprise you the most? i think it may be the chapter on harry truman. history is, it on think not sufficiently known. someone described him as being the caesar augustus to the changes wrought by franklin roosevelt. it was during his administration that the executive office of the president really expanded. so, many of the institutions
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that live on today, the unification of the armed forces. the department of defense. the cia. the atomic energy commission. begin under harry truman. look at the impact on foreign policy, the creation of the united nations. the end of world war ii, the occupation of germany. and of japan. the berlin arrow lift. the truman doctrine. the marshall plan. nato. the korean war. happened under harry truman. most important of all, the civil rights messages. disappointment of the
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civil rights committee. and, his message to congress. , i was the only flight. i was 23. we had an office on a street. those of us on the steps could not sit down at a drugstore fountain and have lunch. we had to walk for blocks to assemble the service. in order to be able to eat together. willn's summer its message be the appointment of the committee in 1947. that, the intervention was
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briefed. a number of civil rights cases before the supreme court. that transformed the entire political landscape. >> dwight eisenhower had some civil rights moments. a federal intervention in little rock. but, how do he look at eisenhower? in grad school, there is the idea that eisenhower ironed things out. there has been a revisionism that he was more hands-on.
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did you miss something on him back then? >> certainly. that eisenhower demanded all memos be only a paragraph long so that his lips would not get tired. there were bumper stickers. to have agoing golfer, why not elect ben hogan? this is the view at the time that john foster dallas actually ran american on policy. this is when the papers opened in abilene.
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clear that eisenhower was a man that controlled foreign policy. i think that this rehabilitation of eisenhower has gone too far. nevermind how i voted. it is said now that he brought down joe mccarthy. for theis responsible war in court. that he was an advocate of civil rights. i do not think any of this things are very correct. he caved in to joe mccarthy almost until the last moment. only when the general was instead of his
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appointment that it was the biggest dance move mistake he ever made. when he was forced to send troops into little rock, he said he wanted to make absolutely itar that he was not doing because he believes and integration. there's only doing it to uphold the court. a lot is absolutely right that there has been this rehabilitation of his reputation. i think that currency was excessive. >> he had spot in 1957. i assume he got credit of the saint lawrence freeway. he had the farewell address.
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he wanted to talk about space for a minute. john f. kennedy comes in and he gets this very quickly with alan shepard. we'll put a man on the moon. kennedy got sok involved with space at that time >> he had a great sense of the importance of the american prestige being upheld. he said if there is somebody who can tell me how to put a man on the moon, i do not care who he is, i will back him in full. he was there at the time when some a new nations were created in the late 1950's.
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sputnik was the prime example of this. it was said that under eisenhower, one effort after another fizzled. thought as kennedy believed that it was conceivable that america could do something that the soviet union had never succeeded in. if the united states did so, it would move ahead of the soviet union. that is in the international family. >> to remember where you were for kennedy's inauguration? were you moved by that taking
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>> you know, i did not follow that very closely. that he would seize upon an opportunity as the first democrat in the white house since truman to do something forthright. the entire speech was about the cold war. about foreign policy. it is a scary speech. when you read it. i knew ted sorensen a little bit. i admired him. not share the general admiration for that famous speech. was toot that it warmongering. too little attention to americans troubles at home.
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there were other things that kennedy did. >> was martin luther king jr. a hero of yours? what about the death of kennedy, when he was killed, it eternally television and watch it? do remember how you process to those grim days ago -- days? >> i suppose all of us remember where we were and what we felt. i was in columbia for 30 years. i also lived in new york. and, i know that each of us has a story of where we were. we went down to a shoe store where shoes were being repaired. who did nota man talk to make him he stared. i thought he was having a
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psychotic episode. totally what had happened. remember driving a car to my home and racing to turn on the tv. i think it was walter cronkite who broke the story. i member that terrible weekend. the terrible weekend that followed. it was the constant playing of greenstreet and jack ruby and everything is that happened. next week, i went into my graduate lecture course of columbia. there was a large group of students. i feel obliged to go , because thatass
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is why you are here. i will say a few things first. anybody feels it is an appropriate to try to carry on with class and wants to leave, please do. nobody left. afterwards, there was a woman in the class. an older woman. ran a fineberg magazine. took excerpts from unusual sources from around the country and printed them. when she went home, she told them what had happened. she decided to do a special issue on jfk. there were people, like myself who, all around the country had said some things. certainly felt something's. they wanted to get them on paper now.
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>> they were in that group of the magazine. >> civil rights was such a big , you had someeing disappointments with kennedy. although, he did come around and some things. johnson, you got a jackpot with civil rights act in voting rights act. what is your assessment of lyndon johnson any voting rights movement? again, there is a criticism that he should have gone further, that he go so thatbed in the vietnam war he did not carry on the crusade for civil rights with the intensity that he should have earlier. pardon me, that is not
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altogether unsure. my main view of johnson is very positive. rights, he is overwhelmingly a great figure for the president. >> what is a different step? we have all the writing on the great society. there in the mid-20th century. 1930's connecting through the 1960's. do you see the similarities? >> very much. when johnson was in congress in april 1945, and when fdr dies, then, the near times reported into tears. that fdr was like a father to him.
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it first happened in 1937 in the midst of the controversy over the supreme court plan. ofwas a young man in a field 10. and come he came out in favor of the plan at a time when poland was not yet as well-developed as it is now. there is a large question on the land. what do the country think about passing the supreme court? johnson camedon out in 1937, it was taken as evidence that roosevelt had the country with him. made a point of inviting it to avoid the campaign string and, giving him the number, the private phone
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number to get him a choice committee assignment. when he answered congress. he felt all along that what he was doing was carrying out the unfinished business of the new deal. ,ome of this made his advisers made them had been part of the the circle around fdr in the 1930's. >> there is some scholarship going on that calls nixon the last of the new dealers. this idea of him -- the theory is that he continued to create government programs. he created the environmental protection agency. he continued clean air and water. he was pro-affirmative action. do you see in any way him being a part of the new deal society
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continuation? >> i think presidency certainly is. the creation of the epa, of osha, it takes place, not because they said himself was , butcularly interested some of his aides were. he told them that all he wanted them to do was keep them out of trouble. and, although if there is something to celebrate. with enough them leeway so a fair amount was achieved. it is also true in the supreme people may be inclined to think all the great breakthroughs of the worn court
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that a number of the supreme court decisions of the 1970's were a part of the legacy of the did court, but roe v wade not take place under worn, it took place under nixon. not directly, because it was nixon's intent, far from it. continuity in the 1970's and it said presidency. >> would you rather have a dinner with nixon or harding? my sons has been reading my book, he e-mailed me
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a few days ago. is i just read your nixon chapter. after you wrote it, did you wash your hands? i was going to dodge the question anyway. one person i did have dinner with was jimmy carter. presidency after his come at the smithsonian in washington, we run a panel together. and, i know i would not want to have dinner with him. ways, he was admirable man. with the possible exception of john quincy adams, the most admirable ex-president we have ever had. but, he spent the whole evening smiling. just the way we think of him. he just smiled.
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he never said a word. but for two hours. so, i knew that. think that president carter has been combating cancer his 90's, would you think will be his legacy? how will he be viewed? >> i envy the carter chapter by borrowing from something somebody else said. like the wizard of oz, new the end of the film, dorothy, that you're very bad man. am not a very bad man. i'm a good man, i'm just not a very good wizard.
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that is jimmy carter. >> gerald ford, i know your said gerald ford should get more appreciation. getting out of the vietnam war. it cost him the election possibly 1976. any feelings we are underappreciated and him? i think more as a human being than as a president. hard or much that to understand what was achieved. abused the media during his presidency.
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the term of lyndon johnson ford could not shoot gum and walk at the same time. actually companies as of the more vulgar than that. it was said that he played too much football without a helmet. fact, this is a man who had gone through the university of michigan as a football player. he had gone through yale law school. as tough a law school as it was in the country. he was not a dummy that he was said to be. and, i always thought that the notion that he was clumsy, but
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who's constantly falling down out of airplanes and stuff, he, himself said that when he was people with him desert combat pay. that this was unfair. i was once in a conference with him. in the meantime, i was standing in line, the man crashed into me. i'm usually good-natured. i turned around and it was gerald ford. so, maybe there was something to that. do not want to leave gerald ford without saying how much i admire betty ford. she was an extraordinary woman. and going to the ford museum at grand rapids, you find on tape
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some of the great videos of her and her outspokenness. about her addiction. about her mastectomy. >> we are about to open this up to questions. have a couple questions. go ahead. you can use the mic there. we did not get to ronald reagan. we did not get the last few. we did get far. >> we can ask clinton about the q and a if you like. >> you mentioned harry truman's accomplishments. could you address the election of 1948? >> yes. the question was what i the election of 1948. that is a vivid memory. i was sent into kansas city that
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work in the campaign of richard boeings congress. this was his first campaign. he later had a distinguished career in the house. and, i wrote back to my office that iington saying liked bowling very much. i very much hope to be reelected to congress. what always worried me about him was that he sometimes acted as if he thought harry truman was going to get elected. so there might be something wrong with that judgment. on election night, the returns came in. early on, it was clear that boeing had one. man, we get phone calls from around the country in what was
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expected to be a terrible year for democrats. adelaide stevenson and paul douglas phoned in from illinois and checked the polls from connecticut. had one. and, at a 3:00 in the morning, i closed up shop visit to a young it is really too bad about harry. income i got up early the next morning. went to a drugstore counter for breakfast. at 9:30 they were saying to my surprise that the election is still in doubt. about 10 minutes later, they said we have now determined everything hinges on ohio. uncounted ballots were in the county near cleveland. just as a democrat.
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which is to say truman had one. stalinist thane anybody else. >> go ahead sir. being very disappointed in the quality of the debates now going , andr the presidency today hearing your disappointment with respect to the presidency of william howard taft i would like to know what to think the knowledge of the constitution and the appreciation of the constitution as a factor in deciding who should be the next president. >> i am not sure i can put together all of the parts of your question, what is striking
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whoetween the candidates were debating as recently as this week, and william howard extraordinarye move to the right with respect to politics. move the extraordinary away from stability. one cannot imagine liam hard to have saying destruction things we have been hearing for months in the campaign. constitutionto the , i envy the chapter on president taft of pointing to differences with the presidency.
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taft saying that he thought that was being toot expensive with the role of the president. powers thatbinding a president could exercise. years if thatter was the ruling view of the country. taft himself went on to be chief justice. it was felt that this was the most important role in his life. had a flexible view of the constitution. thought that there were limits that we needed to abide by. >> the last chapter in the book , that is justn
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unbelievably interesting. i hope you all get the book to find out his take on bill clinton. we are going to have to wrap up. we'll take a question over here. both of us will be around to answer some questions in the foyer when we're finished. name is tom gains. thank you for this conversation. would you comment on the whole process by which we have a selection of presidential candidates? what would you recommend would be an improvement in the system by which we select presidents? >> that is a very good question. i think that the whole impulse of my life has been a more democratic populist and direction. implored the choice of presidential candidates, my party bosses, they were asking
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earlier about president harding, wasfamous line there, harding being chosen in a smoke-filled room at 2:00 in the chicago,ou go and, in it seems as though it was a great move forward to move a way from the convention into a popular primary ready people can make a decision. this becausek on it has not worked out. a lot of us hoped it would work out differently. i do not know how we will ever get that genie back into the bottle. >> let's give a big round of applause. [applause]
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>> well, doug, william, thank you so much. yes, we need a part two. absolutely. everyone, please state for the book signing. you do not want to miss out on the clinton chapter. i also just want to make an announcement for those of you who attend our film series, on january 29, we will deal with dr.opening remarks of strangelove, that is a great film to come to. we do it to have you back. this was great. thank you all for coming. [applause]
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>> every weekend on american history tv and c-span3, feature programs that tell the american story. some of the highlights for this weekend include this afternoon at 2:00 eastern, president woodrow wilson nominated woody the highestsit on court. in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of his nomination, brandeis university hosted a panel including supreme court totice ruth bader ginsburg discuss his contributions to american democracy. then come at 6:55 professor joanne freeman discusses early american politics and brian bello's specializes in the 20th century discussed the evolution of political parties and partisanship. from the founding year through to the present day. on road to the white house rewind.
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a south carolina republican primary debate featuring texas governor george w. bush. john mccain, and alan keyes. cnn host the event in columbia. larry king moderated. on to secure the republican nomination. and, at 6:00, american artifacts looks at artifacts left at the vietnam memorial wall. including letters, photographs, artwork and metals. selections include 4000 items all stored at the national park service museum research center in maryland. for the complete we can schedule, go to >> american history tv and c-span3 feature stories that tell the american story. this weekend, we continue our story on the vietnam era. 50 years later, we will hear a special consultant of general maxwell taylor's opening
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statement, followed by committee members. >> our position is clear and defined. his speech of april 7, 1965, president johnson did so in the following terms. >> we want nothing for ourselves , only that the people of south vietnam be allowed to guide their own country in their own way. this has been our basic objective since 1954. it has been pursued by three successive administrations and remains our basic objective today. >> next saturday, secretary of state dean rusk gives his defense on the policy. for the full schedule, go to week, american history tvs american artifacts visits museums d


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