tv Book TV After Words CSPAN January 23, 2012 12:00am-1:00am EST
about 20 years and he did not publish a court as the first three volumes of the projected step or published. so what is partly unusual about this is the fact that it's only now that it is being published and it is also gargantuan. it's over a thousand pages if you count the front matter of the new volume and it was only one segment of this massive project which he worked on with an incredible determination and tenacity starting at the age of about 66 puna magnum-opus he started when he was up 70 and was still tinkering just before he died at the age of 90. ..
many mistakes, and in fact the title of this ever-evolving manuscript, wasn't through many titles -- one was called lost statesmanship, the lost statesmanship of roosevelt in particular, and he had comments about hari -- harry truman. but the focus was on fdr. >> some of or -- our viewers might not know about the surprising relationship that was going on between a young hoover and his near neighborhood franklin roosevelt. >> they were initially friends. and became friends in 1917 when roosevelt was assistant secretary of the navy, and in that same year, herbert hoover became the food administrator of
the united states. so hoover and roosevelt were in washington. and had sunday evening dinners now and then, and they were friendly, and roosevelt looked up to hoover, as did many younger men in wartime service. hoover had a humanitarian reputation, and mrs. roosevelt liked hoover, and at the beginning of 1920, when the democrats were becoming desperate, and woodrow wilson was and i will the democrats were looking for someone to run for president and save they're expert run as wilson's success successor, roosevelt wrote to a mutual friend, hugh gibson, the diplomat, that, i wish we could make hoover president of the united states. there could not be a better one. and in research i have done on
the hoover-roosevelt relationship, i have become convinced roosevelt wanted to be hoover's running mate, running as a democrat in 1920. it didn't quite turn out that way. but they remained friendly during the 1920s. >> did that surface in the 1932 campaign? did people -- in today's political climate, you can imagine what an uproar something like that would create. >> don't recall that the letter surfaced, but there were some articles about the fact they had been friendly in world war i, and neither man wanted to for example size the fact particularly in 1932. they had been friendly in a somewhat distant fashion because they had gone their separate political ways, but they had that wartime bond between them. but in 1928, when hoover ran for president, and fdr ran successfully for democratic
nomination for governor of new york, and tensions at that point came out and the rivalry set in, clearly at the heart of what happened next was that roosevelt wanted hoover's job, and also there was some behind the scenes incidents that occurred that led each to think the other was not behaving as a gentleman should. so there was a personal difficulty that developed and hoover emerged as one of roosevelt's most tenacious critics. and then at the time of the outbreak of world war ii and pearl harbor, hoover took the position that the united states, while aiding britain, should not intervene in the war militarily in europe so he opposed roosevelt's foreign policy step after step and that only deep ended the cleavage between them. >> in fact, hoover had, i believe in 1934, published a book called, the challenge to
liberty, which presented some chapter and verse, his first wave of philosophical criticism of the new deal. >> yes. he state there war statist ideology afoot in the 1930s, communism, fascism, and what hoover called regimen addition, the new deal, and he saul the new deal moving in a collectivist direction, and roosevelt argued that it would be conservism. so it took on an idealology cal al cast. >> the recent revisionist criticism of roosevelt from the
left, he didn't use the crisis to move in a nearly radical enough position. did he acknowledge that school of thought or did it even exist at that point? >> that school of thought largely came into fashion in the 1960s and 70s with the so, called new leftist historiography, i think in a more organized fashion it came somewhat later. hoover, if i remember, did think that once roosevelt mol identified the banks by saving the banks and the banking crisis of '33, a crisis that hoover thought was totally unnecessary because he thought roosevelt had not cooperated with him in trying to allay the fair before roosevelt took office. nevertheless, hoover thought that once roosevelt had done that, he would swing to the left. so in hoover's eyes roosevelt
was always pushing toward the left, maybe zig-zagging, but hoover saw an ideaologial threat some not simply pragmatism amok. in other words, roosevelt in hoover's view, was a leftish man. he minute a communist but leftish sympathies, and hoover called the new deal creeping collectivism, as opposed, i pose, to galloping collectivism on the european continent. >> there is a parallel between 1933 and the bush/obama handoff? given the economic uncertainties of the time? >> my impression is the bush and obama teams cooperated more in the -- between '08 and '09.
it was a much more testy interlude -- and a longer one. in those days the president didn't take the oath of office until four months went by since the election and there were meeting between them that were stiff and formal and in one meeting roosevelt felt intellectually intimidate by hoover who gave an hour-long discourse on the war debt and european matters and roosevelt had little cue cards in his lap, questions he could ask hoover, and i suspect part of the relationship had this element. that roosevelt in a way felt a little intellectually intimidated by hoover. hoover, who knew so much about so many things, whereas roosevelt, of course, had the gift of exposition and other political gifts. i sense that in that relationship that roosevelt felt a little uneasy with hoover.
but in short, the difference between hoover and roosevelt was much more difficult and was marked by mistrust on both sides in brief, hoover thought roosevelt was playing politics and trying to allow the crisis to deepen so roosevelt could come in and save the day and be the hero. roosevelt thought hoover was trying to trap him into foreclosuring on policy options. in other words, abandon the new deal before he could implement it. so each distrusted the other. so there was always that level of mutual suspicion in those days that curdled the relationship. >> we talked about 1940 being in some ways a start point of freedom betrayed. that also is arguably the finish line of hoover's presidential amibitions? i mean, i assume that -- in the relationship between the two? >> yes. herbert hoover, i'm convinced --
and i suspect you might agree with this as a fellow hoover biographer, yearns for a rematch with roosevelt. in 1940 hoover was maneuvering for a deadlocked convention and he hoped that by addressing the convention with a stem address, he could show himself to be the superior alternative to the lesser likes of the party and the convention would stampede to him. this may have been a forlorn hope but hoover definitely wanted to vindicate himself by running again. when he did not get the nomination and wilke became the new speaker, hoover behaved in the next few weeks as if there was a great turning point in his life, and he said as much to friends. he wrote poignant notes to friend thanking them, and in a few weeks of the time he started scribbling out his memoirs.
almost as if he knew the chapter in this life was over and he could never again though be president, but the next thing he could be to do is write for history. >> almost like he could no longer make history, but he could try to shape how history was interpreted. >> yes. and as a parallel, he might want to talk about eventually today, and that is that winston churchill wrote his memoirs which are the magnum opus of win extol churchill which could be compared to what hoover and his staff called the magnum opus freedom betrayed, and there's a fascinating book called "in command of history" arguing that churchill was seeking to shape history, and churchill said something to the effect that, i will -- history will be kind to me because ill know -- i know i will be one of the historians, or words to that effect, so
hoover was perhaps seeking to set the record straight. >> you brought up his name. in some ways we're jumping ahead, but with hoover, you know better than anyone, the career is so long, and so he, of course, had run-ins with churchill in the first world war, and he is really rough on churchill in freedom betrayed. talk about that relationship. >> yes. hoover, of course, made his world reputation as a humanitarian with the humanitarian relief of belgium, the entire country of belgium in world war 1. that required the cooperation of the acquiescence of the british government as the as the germans who occupied belgium, and one of the people in the british government who held out initially against allowing a neutral relief agency to go in and give food to enemy-occupied territory was winston churr alcohol, who was first lord of the al-admiralty. that was policy dispute. i don't know if they actually met over.
but jumping ahead to 1940 now, while the war was on in europe and the germans had just overrun much of france and the low countries, in 1940, hoover attempted to reprieve his role as humanitarian in europe by opposing an effort to set up a kind of analog of his belgium relief agency and do the same thing for the oprocessed peoples under german control, arguing the germans would promise, as they did, not to seize any of the imported food, and he said i can administer this. if the germans cheat, we'll stop the project. to hoover argued midges of peoples lives were at risk. and churchill argued and was against it and said any weakening of the blockade was only in effect to prolong the war. so over the next year or more, hoover tried to set up -- did
establish an organization to bring food to the five small occupied democracies of europe, german occupied democracies. but again, roosevelt and churchill blocked him at every turn. they thought that this would be militarily advantageous to the germans, and hoover, i think, became quite disturbed, perturbed, that roosevelt and churchill would block what he thought was a manifestly humane thing to do, and then would have no significant military impact one way or the other. so, the net of this was that churchill wouldn't open the gates unless roosevelt made him do it, you might say, bus churchill was cultivating roosevelt. roosevelt had no particular reason to be friendly to his ashe critic, herbert hoover, who was trying to be humanitarian and was simultaneously running for president and being a political critic of roosevelt. >> you write very objectively,
about this murky period when there was clearly some kind of outreach from the roosevelt white house to hoover about a humanitarian effort, and can you clarify that? >> well, yes. one of the interesting little points about history, when poland was invaded in september 1939, franklin roosevelt sent an emissary to hoover and asked whether hoover would be willing to go to europe to lead american relief efforts of some sort in this newly developing war. and it seems that the idea for this was eleanor roosevelt. eleanor roosevelt, i think, had always had a great respect for hoover's intellect and admired him, and she, i think, was seeking a way to reconcile them at that point, actually. and hoover declined. he -- i think he suspected that
the offer was not genuine, that it was an attempt to get him out of the country and out of roosevelt's hair, so to speak, and hoover wanted his freedom of action to engage in opposition to roosevelt's policy should that be necessary, foreign policies, and also hoover had the -- didn't want to run again so he didn't want to go into the roosevelt administration in some vague way, even for humanitarian work. so hoover challenged roosevelt and said, the red cross can handle the problem. so hoover said no. now, there are many steps in the process. the wheel turned again a few months later when the russians invaded finland, and hoover rushed rushed in and successfully raised millions of doors to help the finns. this helped the finns and helped hoover's prestige. >> on the eve of the 14940
contest. >> so the roosevelt handlers and probably fdr in the white house says, looks like hoover is trying to use the finnish relief to present himself in a favorable forum. so they then leaked the story that just three months before, hoover had been offered a humanitarian role and had declined it for political reasons, and hoover, of course, was very upset at that and thought it was low blow and denied it. again, the effort fell through -- that is the effort to have hoover do anything with roosevelt. that was the last, i think, moment, where they had any possibility of changing. so hoover was free to do his own independent human tearan work, which he did, in aide for finland and aid for poland, and yet he never had the administrative role on the grand scale he had in world war i, and
i think that roosevelt, for all his differences with hoover, was aware of and appreciative of hoover's great administrative skill and his great reputation as an administrator of nonpartisan relief. but once that opportunity passed, roosevelt gave hoover no more -- >> goes to the white house and urges roosevelt to bring hoover out of retirement to in effect organize the home front, and roosevelt says i'm not jesus christ and i'm not raisings him from the dead. >> that's right. >> you say hoover was not an isolationist but a noninterventionity. can you explain the different? >> i think there was a kind of a caricature in our culture, that someone wants no contact with the outside world, being
insular, like burma, hoover actually favored joining the league of nations after world war i, and believed that was a necessary part of european recovery from the great war. he believed in ratifying the treaty of versailles, and the moratorium on war debt payments, and hoover had lived in many different countries, so he was man of the world. and all the senses of the word isolationism, he doesn't fit. he called himself a noninterventionist. he explicitly avoided the term isolation, because i think he saw even then it had a negative con notation. so, he argued that his point was that we should not intervene in the war militarily. and he had various reasons for
making that argument. and those were reasons, of course, that set him in opposition to what he saw as the interventionist tendency of franklin roosevelt. >> this is, i think, as i said, from the ultimate work of revisionist history. i mean, for those of us raised on the heroic story of lonely embattled britain, fighting on because of the verbal encouragement of churchill, and eventually rallying the united states to the cause of freedom. there are statements in the manuscript that makes the jaw dropped. i'm wondering if you were surprised -- for instance, talking about in the veil
chamber lane. >> he abused hitler but not enough, and by that he meant -- hoover strategic's view of the prewar situation in europe was basically what hitler and stalin eventually -- they fight each to ooh to the point of exhaustion, and above all, encouraged germany in its expansion to the east, and so, for example, the guarantee, later withdrawn, to the czechs, and even to the pols, comes into criticism, in hoover's account. that was to me one of the more surprising features of the book, as i began to -- pardon me -- do the research for the introduction. it's not a unique position. a few historians, perhaps more on the right than anywhere else, have occasionally made that
argument. hoover's view was that the very essence of hitler's nazi ideology was to turn eastward from living space, and that meant ukraine and russia us matily and hitler was a fanatic anticommunist and would turn his sights on the russian as he eventually did. hoover's view was that adolph hitler and the nazis had no real desire to swing west. that's debatable among historians but that was hoover's view, and there's some argument as to what hitler's intentions were. so, in herbert hoover's opinion, what happened at munich was not only that the germans seized the land and took that away from second -- czechoslovakia, which hoover thought was acceptable but it was opening the gates for
an eastern expansion and the western democracy should stand aside and were not really in adolph hitler's, nazi germany's line of fire. this is again, i think, probably still debated among historians, but it was, is a thought, encountered at a rather unusual viewpoint. >> what about the jews? where do they fit in this strategic -- >> hitler, of course, ultimately engaged in the holocaust. that was not, of course, known until much later. so, in 1938 and '39, when her abort hoover is writing about the nazi oppression of the jews, he denounces it and is outraged by it, went on the radio denouncing it and gave support to a law that would have permitted german jewish children to immigrate to the united states. >> didn't he cooperate with the
president of harvard in actually raising funds to bring german academics to this country, german jewish academics? >> so hoover had no use for thionates si regime. he argued it would contain the seeds of its own destruction ultimately, and his view was that the two great evil dictators, adolph hitler, and joseph stalin, were bound sooner or later to clash, particularly because of the aggressive urge already expressed on the part of adolph hitler. so it is believed if they did in the vastier rain of eastern europe, that both side would waning each other and it was best for the british and the french and the united states to encourage that mutual self-destruction, hopefully, of these two fanatical regimes.
so that was central part of the hoover geo political vision. now, he did not envisage -- and i don't think too many people did at that time -- what we now know, the appalling orchestrated simplic killing of seven million jews. >> by the time,ously, the writing writing of this book went through vary men drafts over a long period of time, during which it became clear that the holocaust was a historical reality. did that cause him to rethink his view in any way? >> i don't see evidence of it. he makes favorable reference to the creation hover the state of israel. one of his closest friends and sorbses what a man who was his secretary, who became an admiral and head of the atomic energy commission. so hoover had some interesting ideas for re-organizing the middle east after the war.
that's perhaps tangential to your question, but he had sensitivities through. he thought once the war began on the eastern front in june of 1941 -- perhaps we should discuss that at this point -- herbert hoover took the air waves. on june 29, 18941, -- 1941, in a speech that he said was the most important in his life. he said now that the two dictators were confronting each other, the best thing to do was to let them engage in a war which he said was weakening them and letting britain off the hook, and even if germany should temporarily win in the east in the sense of knocking the russians out of the war and perhaps overthrowing the stalinist regime in hoover's view, the germans could never really successfully control the conquered population. he says the conquest always dies of indigestion. i think that is one of hoover's
sayings. he argued there would be rebellions, guerrilla warfare and some of that happened during the war on the eastern front, partly because the germans had the master race viewpoint and therefore the slaves were subhuman and not to be treat as allies but an inferior race to be dominated. so hoover argued even if the germans were to win, they could not conquer britain and could not control the population. they would be bogged down in -- and that's the argument. >> does that apply to occupied europe as well? because obviously in the eastern front, hitler controls the continent. quite apart from britain. >> i -- in one of his public speeches he said the world would be unpleasant but the world could survive because the moat of the atlantic ocean would keep us from any attack directly from germany, and he seemed to thing
the germans were biting off more than they could chew. now in retrospect one could ask if that would transpire in that way. that's a question that historians indulge in but say are impossible to answer. i don't think what people knew at the time until fairly recently become obvious is that the germans had a truly genocidal intent. not only for the jews but for tens of millions of pols and others in the east, and recently a historian had argued, tim any snyder at yale, that if the germans had not knocked the russias out of the war, the senior nazis had plans drawn up for simply starving millions of people to death. i don't think herbert hoover knew that. so the germans might not so much have been done in the east, had
simply engaged in utterly beastal behavior on a scale even greater than what they engaged in that we know about. >> i realize this is speculative and i appreciate the dispassionate approach that a historian takes to explosive material. is it possible that hoover's antipathy toward all things roosevelt in any way colored his judgment? i mean, there seems at the very least a degree of naivete about the extent of the threat that the nazis posed to the wessments -- to the west. >> he did not think the nazis had any serious intense of getting to the new world and he argued they couldn't get across the english channel, how are they going to have any meaningful assault on america. >> latin america, he didn't
think it was endangered. >> he thought because of the distance involved in military operations, that there was not much danger. historians have argued -- and i'm not sure hoover addresses this point anywhere, not in the magnum opus. >> the germans might have been content with economic penetration with friendly states for a time, fascist states in south america, and they wouldn't stage a frontal assault. in 1943, they wouldn't have been capable of that. but in time conceivably there would have been an unfriendlier environment closer to american shores. so, i don't know whether it's tied into franklin roosevelt's antipathy to franklin roosevelt -- hoover does say ma magnum opus, he was sympathetic to british survival and
sympathetic to earn aid to britain. he didn't want the americans to end up transporting the aid in a way that would bring on a war with the germans. so he didn't like the convoy system. he didn't like the seize sure of iceland and then taking -- >> what about land lease? >> fascinating case. hoover favored the aid to britain embodied in lend lease, but he argue it that the lend-lease bill as written was far more than a simple foreign aid bill. the foreign aid element he said, yes, he approved them. but the lend-lease bill was very broadly written, and that's something that surprised me when i went and looked it up. the lend-lease bell actually allowed -- congress wrote the power as president to order any federal agency to either manufacture or procure any defense article that any government whose interests we
favored, could receive solely at the decision of president roosevelt, up to over a bill dollars, which would be at least 10 billion toys. -- today. so one man was given power to order production and procurement of military equipment of whatever kind to send to any country who was threatened, which was threatened, in roosevelt's own and sole judgment. that's a pretty broad gift of power, and hoover thought that it was a constitutional aberration. so he had -- he opposed the lend-lease -- the verbiage around it. not the aid itself but the manner which the aid was given. lend-lease was given to the soviet union and to other countries. roosevelt had the power to do it. and clearly he believed that war in japan could have been averted. >> yes. >> how should?
>> hoover argued that american policy towards japan in 1940 and '41 was rather provocative and perhaps in a juvenile way. he said that we're putting pins in a ratsnake and eventually the rattlesnake with strike back. he cited two cases in point. the first was the cutting off of shipments of aviation fuel and scrap iron to japan, which was at war with china in 1940, and more seriously, roosevelt's imposition of a total economic sanction embargo against japan? july of 1941. he argued this had the effect of driving the japanese into a corner because they thought they're being deprived of vital supplies they need. their economy will collapse unless they get the supplies somewhere. that means they have too ceases ma lay ya or the dutch east indies and the united states might be in the way. he argues that we drove the japanese into a corner and we
did not understand the japanese psychology, which our ambassador was pointing out to him, that the japanese might choose to start a war, and knowing they would lose, rather than surrender to american pressure. so that's one side of the coin. the other side -- i'll be brief -- was in the fall of '41, there was for a time a japanese prime minister who wanted a summit conference with roosevelt, as we would now use the term, and he had certain peace proposals. he wanted a kind of agreement with the united states, and roosevelt was cool towards this, and the secretary of state was even colder, and hoover argued, i think thought at the time and certainly felt and so expressed himself at length in this new book -- that we had missed what was a genuine possibility for some kind of peace for a period,
at least, with japan. when roosevelt and the administration -- and his administration proved unresponsive to this japanese initiative, the prince's ministry fell and he was replaced by hardliner and a few weeks later pearl harbor came. >> this was a book that i found remarkable. hoover takes the view that among the other reasons why we should not have gone to war with japan was that we were put in the position of in effect, defending the imperial domination of the white race in asia, which he thought was unjust, and historically doomed. i think it's fair to say. that we were in effect doing the dirty work for the british, and he had very little sympathy for british aspirations, british
treatment of asiaatics, as he put it. in that sense he is a visionary and believes america's policy towards asia was relatively clean through the open door concept and we were sacrificing our record, i think he would argue, for the sake of pulling european chestnuts out of the fire. >> his relationship with harry truman, i imagine it caused certain hesitation on hoover's part in writing an honest, fully documented, account, if he wanted freedom, because clearly trying to determine foreign policy with which he took exception. hough did he deal with that? >> good question. he did take issue with several key decisions by truman. the two that perhaps are most
notable what that herbert hoover oppose dropping of the atomic bomb. he said it was an immoral order. hoover's view there had been some peace feelers from the japanese government in the early month of 1945, and some of the japanese were evidently looking for some way out, and hoover thought we should have built on that and permitted the emperor to stay as a figurehead and not have gone all the way to drop the bomb. that's an issue we can discussion -- >> didn't macarthur agree on that? >> macarthur agreed in the book i included an an an appendix which are more accusatory in cases, more direct in their argument, than hoover permitted himself to be in the final version. so, one of his critiques of truman was hoover's disagreement
that the dropping of the atomic bomb was not necessary. the japanese could have been induced to surrender without it. the other great objection to truman was the way the administration tried to impose a coalition government on chiang kai-shek, and hoover is highly critical of that. >> hoover is not an apologist. hoover was -- he and henry woo were joined at the hip in this romanticization of chiang kai-shek. >> it's not the opinion in the book he wrote a few months after pearl hash harbor where he says
chiang was an -- and he has a thick chapter on china where he is more sympathetic to chiang kai-shek's predicament if not idolizing chiang kai-shek. >> he was at least implicitly critical of the general. >> yes. >> which is a great error. >> he said that marshall was the executor of the will of truman's adviseddors. marshall was appointed to be a special ad ambassador to china for a year in 1946, where truman sent him and marshall waivered unsuccessfully to bring about a reconciliation of the two
chinese warring factions, and hoover came to the view that general marshall was naive about the communist, and as some people argued at the time, that mao was a reformer and hoover thought that was poppycock, and he thought that marshall was simply out of his element in trying to deal with that kind of a confrontation. >> how did hoover respond to initiatives, anticommunist initiatives like the marshall plan, and nato, and the truman doctrine? >> i think he did support -- you may have some knowledge of this which you can share to -- with me if i am saying this to sketch
hoover thought it was a good step with the marshall plan, but the suspected that europeans might been dependent and they needed to take steps toward their own reconstruction. he was opposed to sending american troops, i believe to europe under nato. there was great debate in 1950-51 about that, and the basic point that hoover made was that east would be hostages, and if the red army, the russians would be far superior in numbers, so it was not only militarily risky but we were letting the europeans off the hook. may i come back to harry truman? i didn't ask your question how hoover felt about truman. he obviously had criticisms of truman but i do not think the personal dimension was there. with roosevelt, there was a feeling of dislike of roosevelt's personality and modus operandi. >> and questioning of his
character. >> yes. whereas with truman he might disagree with truman's judgment but it wasn't that kind of critique. in 1963, as the book was nearly completed and its umpteenth edition, hoover actually sent word to hard harry truman that he hoped that truman would not take umbrage at the publication of a book called "freedom betrayed" and hoover was thinking about the betrayal of the communist and truman said nothing that herbert hoover could do would lower my estimation of him. so hoover had sensitive that the people he criticized might be upset and that tended to make him hold off and revise even more. he wanted the manuscript to be perfect in every way, factually perfect, but he also was concerned about what he called mud volcanos that might erupt on the left from some of the
objects of his ire. >> this is a man who is almost 90 years old, who has painfully regained a certain measure of the lectern that he enjoyed before his name had become synonymous with the great depression, and i assume not only he but his family harbored real reservations about plunging him at that age into the controversy that such a book would be sure to engender. >> in the 1960s in the midst of the project, he said he thought the time was not yet for publishing some of it because it would engender a controversy and might geoff give a sense of living persons and i don't think he wanted to harm his friendship, chit truly was, with harry truman. hoover felt grateful to truman
for giving him a role in humanitarian relief work after world war ii, and somewhere hoover wrote harry truman added ten years to hoover's life by giving him a constructive role. so hoover was not out to -- >> hoover's name to hoover dam. >> yes. >> and hung a portrait of mrs. hoover in the white house. >> yes. >> telling gestures of personal respect. >> yes. >> so i think that would have caused some hesitation on hoover's part. he wanted two things. he wanted to tell the truth. he called this book his will and testament to the american people. he said this is a story i am uniquely able to tell, with the documents at my disposal and so on. he wanted badly to set the record straight. he said it was a record that the american people needed to know. at the same time he was seeking a kind of personal -- more than vindication, recovery of respect.
and he succeeded somewhat before he died and he had state funeral and i believe after that the family thought the time was not right to re-open the old battles and publish a bike that might engender a significant controversy some essentially it remained in storage for a long time. >> i think it wasn't that -- you didn't go to the hoover institution and open a door and find a manuscript called "pi freedom be trade." >> in 2009 i was approached by the director of the hoover institution and told that he herbert hoover foundation, which hoover created and owned the literary rights to the manuscript -- was interested in having that published at last, and i was asked whether i would be willing to serve as the editor.
i assume they came to me because i had written extensively about herbert hoover so i was asked to consider -- and i accepted, and suggested that the time had come to publish the manuscript. i think that the principle member of the hoover family who thought that this is -- was something that should now be made available to history was herbert iii, the grandson, known as pete hoover, who passed away last year, alas, before he could see this project in print, but i believe it was his initiative that led to a decision to bring the book out, now 47 years after hoover's death, and try to heal wounds, and we are now at a point half a century after hoover's death approximately when the people that he was criticizing and their families and others are long gone, harry truman was still alived at the time hoover died so there was
some reason for perhaps holding it back for a time so that the time can heal the wounds, and now we're at a point where really this is a historian say, primary source. this is a matchless window into hoover's mind in his later years, and it's a book which he thought was his most important of his life. and so i have felt honored to be given the opportunity to prepare it for publication, to edit it. >> how many manuscripts actually came together in whole or part to form this? >> well, this version of it, which was the last version, the one he wanted to publish and was essentially completed just before he died in 1964 -- this version was one of many editions that started way back in the '40s. this final version had ten different variants.
he called them additions and then he got tired of revising and called the last edition z, the last letter of the alphabet. that is when he was 88. there are over 100 linear feet of materials pertaining to this book, and that includes many, many, many early drafts. the man was an inveterate reviser and i don't know how many different versions. >> spawned a number of other works along the way. for example, the marvelous and unique sympathetic account of woodrow wilson. the only time a president has written a biography of another president. the ordeal of woodrow wilson based upon their shared experiences. >> well, at one point he was writing several books simultaneously, including this massive one. his research assistant, a man named arthur kemp, said it seemed sometimes we were writing eight, ten, 12 books at once.
this is the way he worked. so hoover had fantastic energy and mental discipline to do this. >> wrote them all himself. how did he do the research? this is a hugely documented work of history. who collected all of that? >> well, first he wrote everything by hand, by pencil. everything. and then it would be type up and then he would revise the typed script and revise it again, and so on, and eventually it would get to point where he would send it off to the printer in galeys and that was an expensive proposition, i'm sure. he wanted to see how it looked. so his writing practice was remarkable in its own right. now, how did he assemble materials? kemp's usefulness to him was really as a kind of a scout to go out and read the current literature, the new volumes being released by governments, and identify key areas and say,
here, have the typist copy out these passages from cornell holt's memoirs or the book by robert sherwood, winston churchill's memoirs, which he read carefully, it appears, and hoover would have all that material in front of him and he would write and incorporate in some of the sections he used a lot of chunks of quotations from other works. so, hoover was constantly on the lookout, but also he learned from consulting people who were there. douglas macarthur. hoover would keep memoranda of conversations with notable people whom he met, like joseph kennedy, colonel truman smith, and james farley, the democratic postmaster general are in fdr. and hoover had the habit of writing memoranda afterward about the conversations, and i
give two or three samples in the appendix of his. he had a marvelous confidante in washington who was publisher of the arm where and navy journal and he was a close friend of the japanese ambassador before pearl harbor, who he evidently met with every day. so, once a week he would write multipaged letters to hoover on the news. this is contemporary with the happenings in the 1940s. some of that material worked its way into the magnum opus because for hoover it was inside information he could draw upon. so he had a research assistant, kemp who was an economist who was teaching and earning a doctorate while working for hoover, and kemp was an intelligent man, very
conservative in his foreign policy outlook, very loyal to hoover, and he wasn't rewriting hoover. no one rewrote hoover but hoover was willing to accept suggestions. >> how was the style? >> i think he could be a very effective stylist. he could -- sometimes he would get into the habit of quoting big block quotations from others to make his point and part of his strategy toward the end was not so much to point a finger at fdr but to collect the information that could be presented that would make hoover's points out of the mouth office the people who were making these erroneous decisions. so hoover thought his better strategy ultimately was to be a little more detached. he still had his convictions. he wasn't changing though, but he thought a more effective method of couldn't vinceing -- convincing people would be to
write as an historian that's right than a prosecuting attorney. >> what did he hope to accomplish? >> i think he wanted americans to understand their history and it would obviously compel revision of the reputations of some key people if one accepts hoover's judgments of them. he argued in that famous phrase that those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it. he thought there was didactic value, and he thought if we learned about the alliance with russia that made the world safe for stalin, if we learned about mistakes we made, perhaps we would have a more realistic and sober if a wareness of the world and a better way of happening future crises. and he certainly felt that america hat much to offer the world. he was an american exceptionallist in the term we now often use, and he thought
that america could return to its roots as a kind of beacon of liberty if we could see where we went off the track again in hoover's judgment. so, i think he hoped that we would understand the predicament we were in. he is writing this at the time of the world war. at the time of the cuban missle crisis or the korean war, thwart became hot. so the urgency to dealing with these issues of what mistakes did we make at yalta or tehran or dealing with the chinese communists or the korean war. so these were not old chestnuts at the time he was writing about them. >> a nonintervengessist. probably unfair. what would he think of the extraordinary extension of american military power around the globe today? >> well, that's a good question and i'm often asked that now. i've been doing some radio
interviews and it comes up frequently because people want to draw some kind of line of inference from his history to our current involvement in the world. i suppose if hoover remained consistent -- we are speculating here. he died nearly half a century ago -- but his view was america's role in the world should be that of a par gone state, an example to the world, not an enforcer of our way of life on the world, and he argued enforcement would be very difficult achieve and that was one of his reinforces wanting to stay out of europe's war in 1939 and 1940. he thought europe was immersed in a pool of hate that had roots a thousand years old and it would be foolish for the united states to thicket could come in and transform europe. so his argument was america should conserve its strength and
use its strength for peaceful purposes through humanitarian work, which he exemplified, and in that way the united states could help to make the world better longer term. so he probably would have remained a noninterventionist, and i'm saying this as one who approached this as an editor, not as an advocate or critic of hoover. i think one could make that kind of infor instance from his basic world view. >> you are the preeminent hoover scholar. you have written three volumes of hoover biography. you know the man better than anyone. you have seen more of his papers than anyone. is there anything that surprised you in the course of doing this project? and is there anything you don't know about hoover that you'd like to? >> hmm. well, i was surprised by the
emphasis he placed on the polish guarantee as a blunder of british diplomacy. i was surprised he said so publicly, his argument we made the greatest blunder in the history of american diplomacy by an alliance with stalin, propping up stalin when hitler attacked and he thought what would lead to expansion of communist in the world. i think one of the interesting parts of be the back is his emphasis on the tehran conference. not yalta but the tehran conference of 1943 as a lost opportunity for trying to reign in the imperialistic appetites of joseph stalin. so that was somewhat surprising. i think what i find most awesome about the book -- not quite surprising, because i've known about it in other ways -- was the sheer energy that he poured into this. here's a man who, in his 80s,
got up at 5:30 in the morning, at his desk at 6:00 and he would wright until 6:00 the next inge with short intervals for break fast, lunch, and an afternoon consecutive fear break. his he was writing many books and between the ages of 58 -- 85 and 90, he published seven books but not the magnum opus, the one that mattered most. so his tenacity, his desire to get the record out, the wrote the four-volume epic series. volume four was a revised version of volume six of the original memoir scheme. so he got that in at the end. what i would like to know more about herbert hoover? i'm always looking for documents where he explains himself on paper and where we don't have t