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tv   Book TV In Depth  CSPAN  September 8, 2012 9:00am-12:00pm EDT

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"why our drug laws have failed and what we can do about it." this is booktv on c-span2. >> up next, author and historian michael beschloss. the former smithsonian historian talks about the lives and political careers of presidents eisenhower, kennedy and johnson as well as the strategies for winning world war ii and the cold war. the pbs "newshour" commentator, the author, co-author or editor of ten books including "presidential cowcialg" and his 2011 release, "jacqueline kennedy." ..
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>> he was trying to get them to think that the competition with the soviets was serious enough to get americans to pay for defense and perhaps to render their sons and daughters very quickly after world war ii. >> host: how much continuity was there when it came to soviet power from fdr to >> guest: a lot more than people gave a sense of. dwight eisenhower campaign on something called rollback and john wayne would appear at eisenhower rallies a elect bike because he will like the russians out of eastern europe and eisenhower to some extent was curious about that as an ultimate aim of american policy. but this was very characteristic. andrew goodpastor was later general. a very fine man and junior member of the eisenhower staff.
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early in 1953 he decided to have a little study whether they should do rollback or not and it was called operation solarium. was on the top floor with a lot of sense screening. he appointed three teams. one was rollback. pushed the russians out of eastern europe even if it means a war. the other was isolationist. do nothing and let them take over the world and at the center is something akin to something called containment although they didn't call it that. it was structured by eisenhower but he put goodpastor in charge of the containment team because he knew goodpastor would make sure it won and it did end the policy did not change enormously. >> rhetoric aside was stalemate essentials evil of each administration when it came to the soviet union?
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>> short-term stalemate and long-term ultimately the hope that the cold war would end. some presidents for more serious than others. john kennedy was. ronald reagan certainly was and they were not just content to say, was just rhetoric and privately i think the cold war is going to go on a century or two. they felt there were things they could do that would at least hasten the day that the cold war ended. >> host: when kennedy took office in 1961 was he prepared for the soviet threat and foreign policy? >> not really. he had served in congress for 14 years and served in the navy so not as inexperienced as richard nixon's opponent made him out to be. one thing that was a bad legacy was when kennedy was looking for issues in 1960 to run against eisenhower and nixon there were not many because the country was very prosperous more or less and
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generally at peace. he came upon a theory called the missile gap. the idea of it was because eisenhower was so obsessed with federal budget than nixon too they were letting the soviets produce all sorts of nuclear missiles getting ahead of the united states in defense in a way that was so dangerous that we might lose the cold war. kennedy said that over and over again. one of the reasons he won election in 1960. he got into office with access to intelligence and realized soviets are way behind, extremely behind the united states. there is a missile gap in favor of the united states so the problem was kennedy and campaign said we need to increase defense in order to make of this problem and he was committed to that. in 1961 the largest defense buildup in human history and the
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results to a great extent, one of the ways he dealt with that, and a large portion of humanity to death. >> when did crucial of -- >> guest: he was high on solid leadership but when we went to dinner at stalin's, never knew when the car came back whether it would take us home or to the gulag and it did take some people to the gulag but not crucial of. stalin died in 1953. there were two leaders who were essentially joint leadership. khrushchev and malenkov. by 54-55-56, crucial of was the supreme leader.
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>> what policy changes came with his ascension? >> guest: khrushchev would have been shocking 21 in the west only knew him as this engine of stalin but he essentially realized stalin had gone overboard. he knew the number of people who were killed under stalin and that the soviet union was despite its claims behind in defense and economically so the result was crucial of wanted to change something called the secret speech. wasn't secret but essentially said terrible crimes occurred under stalin and we got to fix this. people in the audience cried because stalin was their hero but the result became public quickly so the lesson learned about it but i was saying a moment ago some american presence gave lip service to end in the cold war but assume that would be a stalemate but khrushchev was a tough man but also hopes ultimately to end the
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cold war as well even if it did not mean the soviets would rule the earth. >> host: this e-mail from bj treasure. how much did presidents roosevelt and truman overestimate the new disability of joseph stalin? >> the question is in terms of what they said roosevelt would talk particularly at the time -- i assume that the end when he went to yell i in 1945 a couple months before he died and talk about the fact that we could rely on this. he was pushing this more than he felt in his mind and on the last day of his life, roosevelt was in warren strength and intelligence showed the soviets were being very in transition in eastern europe and there are signs he was getting very disappointed. a little bit unfair to say what he might have done had he had
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the later experience. in truman's case truman had to go -- summer of 1945 and negotiate with stalin and he thought what he was inheriting from roosevelt was we should negotiate and the theory that the russians will talk with us and be serious. fairly quickly realized that was not true and one might make the argument that truman was quicker -- >> host: in your book "mayday: eisenhower, khrushchev and the u-2 affair" you write eisenhower made visits to soviet leaders, and american soviet relations more normal. only a president as popular as eisenhower could have had the antichrist to the white house in camp david without some political arm.
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>> absolutely true. imagine if adlai stevenson were president in 1959, would have been much tougher for some politically, anyone criticized wide eyes and our, and the hero of world war ii. the soviet leader--an astounding event. hard to imagine now but for nikita khrushchev to set foot on american soil and come to the west to a farm in iowa and complain he wasn't able to go to disneyland and visit the studio in an effort to do a scene in a film called can can, 20th century fox, met marilyn monroe and shirley maclaine. 8 scene like this would have been unimaginable a couple of years earlier when joe mccarthy was still strong and alive.
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the more important thing was from his exposure to secret intelligence and his ability to use it gained through world war ii eisenhower knew the soviets were behind and how primitive their economy was especially after world war ii so he essentially said we don't have a need to increase defense. more important to have a balanced budget. any other president in 1915s 2 did that would have been crucified. >> host: how much was in the newspapers? how big were the headlines at the time? how contemporaneously? >> guest: a lot. those of you who don't remember what that was, mayday 1960 and americans biplane when it down in the soviet union and khrushchev revealed it fairly quickly. there was an enormous raucous. i wrote that book in 1986. you read it more recently than i have but when that book was
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published the general view of this was it was an incident that didn't have much effect on the history of the world. one reason i wrote it was that was the moment which in american soviet relations and policy history we get documents declassified. this was early 80s and documents in 1960. as i went through the documents in a fresh way and use some hindsight i began to realize this was more important and influence world history more than eisenhower had allowed. eisenhower wanted to reduce the harshness of the cold war. make a chip in the granite so we had khrushchev of here and agreed to have a summit in spring of 1960 and a general fought in the cold war, at that summit in may of 1960 serious business could have been done that would have accelerated
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this. when this plane went down and crucial of said the americans have sent planes over our territory as an act of war which legally it was eisenhower accidentally put khrushchev in a position of having to be extremely tough. the summit was cancelled. eisenhower had to be tough in response. and a very tough cold war era when the two of them, eisenhower's opening to the soviets which would have been the case. who would be a tougher cold warrior? that was founded the issue. >> host: welcome to booktv. this is our monthly in depth program. we have presidential historian michael beschloss as our guest. he will be here for three hours. take your call leader's new
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e-mails and tweets. 0001 for those in east and central time zones, 0002 in the mountain and pacific time zones if you would like to ask mr. beschloss question. you can tweak him a question at booktv is our twitter handle and send an e-mail to and we will take those in just a minute. >> guest: as long as it wasn't who was the vice president buchanan. [talking over each other] >> host: mr beschloss's book, "kennedy and roosevelt: the uneasy alliance" in 1980, "mayday: eisenhower, khrushchev and the u-2 affair" in 1986, "eisenhower: a centennial life"
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1990, "the crisis years: kennedy and khrushchev, 1960-1963," "the conquerors: roosevelt, truman and the destruction of hitler's germany, 1941-1945," came out in 2002. his most recent solo book was peter slen 18. came out in 2007. mr beschloss is the editor and co-author of several other books including at the highest level:the inside story of the end of the cold war 1989. taking charge of the johnson white house, 63-64-97. lyndon johnson's secret white house takes 1964-'65 came out in 2001 and finally this past year jacqueline kennedy historic conversations on life with john f. kennedy. interviews with arthur schlesinger jr.. with your involvement with the jacqueline kennedy book? >> guest: we are at the end of three hours. thanks for watching.
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this was jacqueline kennedy a couple months after the assassination of her husband in the spring of 1964. seven interviews with historian arthur/injured with the idea of the -- arthur schlesinger with the idea they would be published sunday so they have been closed for decades. caroline kennedy retired two years ago but there was no reason to keep it concealed any more. she decided it would be published and asked me to edit them and write headnotes and footnotes and getting it all in context. the interesting thing is historians killed for documents other people have not seen before and i have known about this oral history for what some time because in 1964 when i was 8 years old i remember it was in the newspapers in the secret interviews that reporters would see arthur schlesinger the to the house in georgetown and all these years this has been one of
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the few things that in my mind i figured i would love to see but would not live long enough for it to be open so the chance to see this thing in terms of satisfying my curiosity but the other thing is she did not give interviews about her husband. she did not speak about that period. in general she was quite silent for the last 30 years of her life. this turned out to be a much bigger event because it told us so much about her experience of those years that we didn't know. >> host: what do you think was her motivation for taking these interviews and caroline kennedy recreating them? >> it is very emotional because from the moment of the assassination and people are so familiar with that incident that sometimes especially those who lived through it people don't realize how horrible this was for her husband to be killed to ride in a car for five minutes.
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46 young men. we are familiar with the event. and especially for her. and certainly distracted with v worry that history will forget because a lot of what people riding in the newspapers was kennedy had not lived long enough to achieve his promise. wasn't long enough. not much more than that. she was determined to do what she could to essentially game for him a legacy that she thought was being already taken away. one way she did that was begin planning the kennedy library. the other was this oral history
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and her desire to talk about those years which were the happiest years of their marriage at a time she was so distraught over the death of her depression it took enormous will power for her to remove those years that great land in seven sessions and she was fragile at that point. and to william manchester. and was intended to be the one account, people around president kennedy so while she was giving these interviews, about the assassination and so fragile was she that in the case of the manchester interviews which were also in her living room in georgetown she insisted the interviews be done at night because to do it during daylight would remind her of high noon in dallas.
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>> host: is it fair to say that history has been kind to jfk and has there been any reassessment at this point? >> history has gone up and down. so many books written it is hard to find any consensus even now which is 50 years after the beginning. in the 1916s understandably after his death for ten years he was treated as a saint by most people writing about him which was not many historians because it was too soon to write real history. arthur/injured -- arthur schlesinger loved kennedy and had a great interest in preserving that legacy not least because he promised jackie that he would. by the mid-1970ss there was beginning to get some distance, documents open and senior parts of that administration becoming
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known. that was the time of the hearing that the cia and possible threats against fidel castro's life and things like that so that there was -- as if his legacy were being made to pay for how people treated him in the 1960s and since then among serious historians has been an effort to synthesize the two, not ignore the side of the administration there were not as admirable but at the same time these 4 two parts of the presidency and the most important part is the accomplishments he did make. >> host: you seem to have specialized in a certain period in american history. let's, the cold war period. why? >> i found this with other friends who were historians. to some extent emotionally if you are writing about events that touch a nerve evening your
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childhood, and i remember vividly his assassination, i was living in illinois, and our teacher came in in fourth grade. she was crying which you are not accustomed to seeing a teacher do and we were sent home and this was a huge trauma. i sat in front of a television the next few hours. nothing else to the point that on the sunday i was watching. and my mother sat on the wall had been shot. you have been watching so much and beginning to imagine things but in any case not long afterwards i wrote a letter to president johnson suggesting that he hire a large carving to carved president kennedy's head in mount rushmore.
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i never expected him to reply. a couple weeks later i replied in white house stationery to his chief secretary. the president asked me to thank you for writing and thank you for your suggestion for honoring president kennedy. i am not sure how grateful he was for the suggestion given the fact he was eager to assert himself in the presidency. i took the letter to the skating rink and show it to my friends and absolute forgery. no president's secretary would write to someone like you. 7 years old. >> host: where did you grow up? >> illinois. i was born in chicago which was there in miles south on the edge -- almost a foreign country in those days. was born in chicago. in the hospital that i later found was on a site of a place where softball was invented in 1887. took my kids back who work huge
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baseball fanatics and that was the only thing that impressed them about my early life. didn't have much to do with me. in any case that is where i was. one thing about growing up in the midwest. in those days people had a little sense of disconnected this from events in washington almost as if he were dependent variable and that was a time of very powerful presence -- presidents. not only john kennedy and lyndon johnson but as personalities, in my mind one of the lessons from the cuban missile crisis was a president is so important and powerful that he has the power to decide whether tens of millions of human beings will live or not and that is true. i remember living through the cuban missile crisis. reminded me of tornado warnings where a couple times during the summer in certain parts of the midwest if you go down to the
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basement and when you come upstairs your house may be gone a retreat came through your house and then real damage. sort of a eight they tornado warning for myself and my little brother and by the time johnson came in, the time of nearly great society and civil-rights and everything that had to do in the summer of 1965. any kid who was a little bit aware. i'm not claiming every 9-year-old everywhere was as aware of these things as i was but had to have the impression presidents were pretty important people. >> host: with your parents do? >> guest: my father was in business. he came from southern illinois and his family had been austrian jews who came before world war ii. my mother was from chicago so i used to think if i ever wanted to run for office in illinois, downstate you have all of those things covered. i have no such interest.
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>> host: you say your father's folks came before world war ii. how soon before world war ii? >> guest: 1939. >> host: they left -- >> guest: for the united states. what happened was in those days for men my grandfather who died before i was born. was a doctor and it was easier to get into the united states if you were a doctor willing to go to a place where there were not enough doctors so they went to taylor'sville, illinois near springfield. the last on abraham lincoln's circuit ride. it had a lincoln's residence. >> host: you worked on two books on lbj and the johnson white house. robert caro spent a career working on lbj. what is the fascination with
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this president? >> guest: two things. he was a historically important. a lot of viewers will know. the other thing is as a human being he is completely -- the interesting thing is when lyndon johnson was president most people just saw that face on tv. most people thought this must be one of the most boring human beings on earth. i remember watching his speeches late 1916s and i would see that face come on the air and i was respectful of him but the know who clutch cargo was? clutch cargo was a cartoon that was on in those days. was primitive. they didn't easily produce cartoons. what this was was a stone faced drawn on a piece of paper with a mouth cut out with someone in the background putting a disk through and talked. that is what johnson reminded me
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of. very stone face and in retrospect i now know that johnson was very important to him not to look like what he called a country backwoodsman. he wanted to look like a president. the result was in public he was a solid figure like grover cleveland. one of the fascinating things about history is you can get behind what was the facades and find things about a president in three dimensions that people who did not know him very well didn't know at the time so there's no better way of doing that than these lbj takes because it is almost like night and day. incapable of saying anything in and an interesting way. if he is saying someone is dumb the gristle i will clean this for booktv, can't find his rear end with both hands. too dumb he doesn't know how to for your and out of a. . you can imagine this stuff. everything he says is
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fascinating but more important in terms of history you are able to write about those times in a way that you could not before because there is all sorts of stuff in those tapes. important events of history. >> host: 65 lyndon johnson began a big escalation in vietnam sending 100,000 troops to south a big escalation in vietnam sending 100,000 troops to south viet nam for the first time and i listen to one of the tapes of lbj and robert mcnamara in february of 1965. he was saying we are going to win the war to improve around the world. on the telephone calls he is saying i can't think of anything worse than losing the war in vietnam and i cannot see any way that we can win. not 1968. this was 65 when it was just beginning. maybe this was a momentary moment of depressions so i listened on and it began to be a
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pretty consistent thing. by the summer of 1965 johnson kindly gave me access to her tape-recorded diaries and she reco5 s linden said to me about tb in vietnam, the summer of 1965 -- i feel as if i am an airplane that's crashing and i do not have a parachute. now, that changes radically about the kind of expectations that johnson had when the war began. >> host: where did you go to school and what did you study? >> guest: i went to public school in part 10 baltimore until the eighth grade. then i went to some boarding schools or very good in massachusetts. eagle brook school, i was there for eighth and ninth grade. best of its kind. in illinois, there were not too many people going off to schools at that time. half of my friends thought i was sent to military s and i do not have a half cent to reform
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school which may have been a judgment of my character. in any case, still there, 180 kids at the top of massachusetts and i went to philips academy, spectacular place then and now. one of the best history department honor and that includes both colleges. college i went to williams college in massachusetts and the way that happened was one of my mentors was ted pfizer who recently passed much too worthy. he was head master and in those days where do you want to go to college and i guess harvard. why that? a lot of my friends want to go there. i don't think that is a good reason to go anyplace. you want to write history books. i think we will send you to williams with 1800 students. you go there you will study closely with a historian or
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political scientist like james macgregor burns. if you are good and you study closely with him which is very hard in the university with a graduate school which graduate students are the ones who work with the professors and that is the way to start. my reaction was i admired william and my friends who had gone there but by the age of 17 we don't like to be told what to do but i did go to williams and he was right that the most important figure in my life was jim burns who very kindly took me on almost as an apprentice and i studied closely with him almost like a tutor and had everything to do with the fact that i had gone into this line of work but without jim burns i would be doing something extremely different and i am happy to say he is 94. we had dinner last week. he is going strong and has written a book on the alignment which will be out next year and i hope you will have on booktv.
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i went to grad school when i was studying under jim burns. the question is if you want to write history you teach or do something else. i had to make a pretty honest judgment which was this. i have and perhaps you have too had teachers who were really devoted to their writing and teaching was something to do in order to allow them to do what they really wanted to do which was to write. it used to annoy me when i saw this. to one really wants to be in a situation where i cannot honestly say that teaching is my first priority or maybe even my second? i talked to jim burns and said what should i do? the only other thing i can think of is being a foundation executive or some job where they see it as a plus that you are also writing history and willing to structure it so that was possible. he got this idea at harvard business school.
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the degree in not-for-profit management which is the best thing if you want to be a manager or foundation and go on to harvard ph.d. in history and as it happens my first book was originally my senior thesis under jim burns at williams college and did not published in 1980 which was my second year of harvard business school and was reasonably well received and the result of that was the foundation rule was my full-time service and i came to washington and went to work and started riding my second book. >> host: michael beschloss is our guest for the next three hours. now your turn to talk to this historian and we begin with a call from portland, new york. >> caller: thank you. mr beschloss. i have read a couple of your
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books. the book on presidential courage. two questions. first, would it be more important to write a book on the opposite of presidential courage, presidential cowardice if you will? >> guest: publishers don't publish 18 volumes anymore. >> caller: the question is can a president do more damage than good? the other thing is how would you evaluate president obama in terms of his health care program? would you consider that an exercise in presidential courage? >> guest: non obama -- i hope this is not too annoying. if you are a historian the idea is unlike current analysts you wade through 40 years and get the documents people did not see in real time and you know how
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the story turned out so you can and give essentially historical view with some retrospect which obviously we can't do with health care. the jury is out for historians on obama. what was your other question? >> host: bernie is gone. i thought he wanted to talk about presidential cowardice. >> guest: that is exactly right. the worst circle of hell should be reserved for a president who dodges the most important issues of his time and i think if you are trying to think of an example president buchanan would be at the top of the scale because the four years he tried to dodge the issue of slavery. didn't want to get involved or make himself unpopular and the results was when it came to a head in 1861 once abraham lincoln had the presidency the
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conflict over slavery was more violent and four years more intense than it would have been had buchanan been more forward. >> host: carl, you are on with michael beschloss. >> caller: i just want to say there aren't a lot of people in this world that could fill the shoes of brian lamb and you do a magnificent job keeping level and asking pointed questions and not in searching yourself overly in the conversation but bringing out the best. >> guest: both proud sons of indiana too. >> caller: a privilege to speak to michael beschloss. i have been a c-span and for decades and the last person i was able to talk to on a program was edwin meese. that makes me pretty far back. i have reference to michael's
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second book "mayday: eisenhower, khrushchev and the u-2 affair". i believe it is on page 10. i don't have the book in front of me but it is in my collection where he relates a conversation that he had with president eisenhower's son john was a close aide to the president during the incident -- that is the focus of that book. i was hoping michael beschloss might be able for the viewers to paint a picture of the order president eisenhower gave to the then director of the cia concerning no more overflights after the end of april and of course we know from history and from mr. beschloss's book titled "mayday: eisenhower, khrushchev and the u-2 affair" that the overflight happened in may and that seems to me also
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referencing the courage, cowardice aspect of presidential leadership. that eisenhower tee is very much on the cusp of that question of having courage to confront those who seem to be meddling in affairs of state like shooting down not just the new 2 plane over soviet central that they but the summit meeting that was upcoming. shooting down what was anticipated. >> host: let's get a response. >> guest: as dramatic as could be because the caller suggests the flight took place on first of may. eisenhower said no more flights during two week for the summit which was to begin in mid may. this is the last possible flight. the flight was shot down. eisenhower was assured by cia that it could never be shot down
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if it flew too high. when the flight went down eisenhower was assured that it was unlikely a pilot would never survive such a crash. there would not be evidence of spying if the plane crashed so eisenhower felt he had been betrayed by the director of the cia and the people who worked with him and he was furious. for those weeks in public he had to keep a stiff upper lip because he didn't want americans to know that essentially he had a director of the cia in confidence caused this terrible fracas. the result was after he went to paris they were flying home. john eisenhower who is now 89 and doing well in the eastern shore of maryland told me i was talking to dad and said to him you should have fired him for
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doing this and he blew up and said terrible famous. essentially suggesting eisenhower had to confine this to himself and bottle it up. the moment his son was there and he could talk frankly to his son it came out remainder. >> host: you are watching booktv on c-span2. our monthly booktv program. michael beschloss is our guest. ron in seattle. good morning. >> caller: good day to both of you. appreciate the opportunity. i have a comment and a question. the comment is a suggestion for possible further research on another book if i may be so bold and that is the ending of the cold war. the collapse of the berlin wall and the implosion of east germany and the soviet union. that was a potentially dangerous period in our history and it was
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outstandingly managed by president george bush senior. i would suggest it has been underexplored. there is one brief book called armageddon averted. the question goes back to your comments earlier from the crisis years that kennedy attacked nixon during the '60 campaign for being soft on communism and whacking defense posture but that cuts two ways. the state issue where nixon attacked kennedy for allegedly being soft on communism and your book does about ten pages, to vietnam out of 500 pages. that was underexport. >> the book was very much on the
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relationship between kennedy and khrushchev and vietnam did not loom very large between them but you are right in terms of the end of the cold war and as a matter of fact the want to pull that one ounce? i actually wrote a book that is not history because it was written at the time but actually covers that period, the deputy secretary of state at the highest level and what we did was formerly 1989 until the end of 91 the two of us were able to talk to soviet leaders in real time, american leaders including jim baker was secretary of state and others and try was going on behind closed doors and diplomacy, trying to ease the end of the cold war and from our side make it favorable to the united states as it turned out to be an george h. w. bush is a
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roadblock in presidential history because he didn't get a lot of credit at the time because he ran for president in 1992 and ran for reelection and there was talk bad economy and people were no longer arrested in foreign policy. they thought very little about fact that he was able to pull this off and end the cold war quietly and soundly. now with hindsight we are increasingly realizing that that was a very spectacular job. >> host: that was published in 1989. >> guest: actually early '93. >> host: from your book "presidential courage: brave leaders and how they changed america, 1789-1989" you write about ronald reagan. turning up the pressure on the soviets made them bargain seriously he would not only deal but try to abolish nuclear weapons. when they heard this many of his conservative champions winked presuming he didn't really need it but when gorbachev showed he
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had similar ambitions reagan proved he meant what he said. he tried to end the nuclear arms race once and for all even if it infuriated some of his earliest supporters. like most effective american presidents reagan ultimately proved he was not a captive of his political base but its leader. >> host: >> guest: i am a huge reagan fan in many ways and when he was running in fall of 1980 people sometimes forget that up to leave october of 1980 he was running even with jimmy carter and running for reelection and the reason they worry essentially tied is there was a significant number of undecideds showing up. what it largely said was we are disenchanted with carter and ready to consider the one thing that bothers us, so tough on the soviet union we might get involved in a war if he is
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elected. governor, give some speeches, suggest there will not be much of a break in policy between you and carter or you and gerald ford and reagan said i won't do that because it is dishonest and i want a mandate so if i'm elected i can go to congress and say one of the most important things i was selected for was increase the defense budget and challenge the soviet union to end the cold war in our time. the results was he was elected and did go to congress the next year and got this increase in the defense budget. during reagan's first term he was seen by his admirers and detractors as a very fervent cold warrior because he was trying to push the soviet union so hard that they essentials lycee we can't compete. we better su for piece which is what they did in the mid and late 1980s. so when gorbachev became leader of the soviet union and began
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meeting with reagan a lot of republicans who thought they knew reagan said he is not going to be taken in. this is gorbachev is a neo stalin or crucial of who will pretend -- khrushchev. what they did not take seriously was when reagan talked about this during his campaign he said i will sit down and i will do my bad reagan impersonation. i will sit down with the soviets for as long as it takes to get an agreement with them. he thought gorbachev was for real so when they met at reykjavik, there is a motion picture about to be made of this starring michael douglas as reagan which should be interesting. gorbachev proposed the elimination of nuclear weapons and delivery system is. any other president in this period would have said this is too draconian and dangerous but reagan for religious reasons went back to his childhood was
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really committed to the idea of eliminating what he called this terrible weapon. he went along way to making a deal with gorbachev which would have been done had not gorbachev insisted on the condition reagan give of star wars. this effort to provide antimissile defense as a price. what often happens is supporters of reagan heard what they wanted to hear an the other side heard what they wanted to here and in reagan's case he was a person of integrity serious about challenging the soviets but once the soviets came to table the was just as serious about negotiating seriously. he had this important role at the end of the cold war. >> host: your still appearing regularly on "the newshour"? >> guest: yes indeed including thursday for mitt romney's acceptance speech. >> host: chris stein's finagle
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e-mails what is the status of your third book of your lbj takes a trilogy. when, expect that to be published? >> guest: thank you for asking. is in process. it will cover the period from late 1965 until the end of lbj's presidency and that sounds like a lot more than 1-third of that presidency but as it turns out johnson's time went out, taint your conversations. that will cover one third of the roughly 650 hours of private conversations johnson had that had been released. it should take a year or two more to do an thank you for asking. you give me added incentive to get it done some. >> host: was your relationship with ladybird johnson? >> guest: she was a wonderful woman. as everyone knows. she was also someone who understood historians in a way
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that often you don't find in a first lady or president or people in the entourage and one example as i got to know her reasonably well. i was down on the ranch for dinner and she said you are a historian writing about my husband and you should come to the ranch and take a look around. mrs. johnson was kind enough to have me -- i know you historians are sitting with your feet under my dining room table what you are really thinking of is what does my bed room look like and what about the bathroom and other rooms you are not seeing which is exactly what was going through my mind. i will arrange for you to come down one day and you can look at anything you want. couldn't have been nicer for her to do that. i went down with brian williams. he also wrote a letter to lbj when he was a little boy in 1966 which he also was able to find in the johnson library and has
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been interested in johnson as i have been and listened to every lbj take more than once and does an excellent lbj autograph much better than mine. in any case we have is almost magical day when we were able to wander around that house and she really did say -- we went into lbj's bedroom and bathroom which was like a museum of 1972 beauty technology and also as those who know the lbj tapes and many viewers of c-span knows these extremely well one of the crown jewels, in summer of '64 when johnson was ordering slacks without using language that should not be on c-span described an extreme anatomical detail to mr. hager why he needs custom-made slacks. he sent them and everyone was
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happy. we went to the closet and there were some slacks. even that was somewhat true. i shed by the way that i put that in my first book and i asked mrs. johnson were you happy with the way the book turned out? i probably could have lived out my life happily without hearing you -- but you should know that one is my grandchildren's favored. i could never quite figure out. she also said a month later i got a letter from old mr. hager who was still alive offering a free pair of custom-made slacks. there are some perks for historians. >> host: what do you think the johnson family motivation was to release these tapes? >> that was ladybird's decision and one of her daughter's had huge reservations about doing this and felt she should not have done it. this was the early 1990s and lbj
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for viewers not familiar with the logistics -- secretly taped these 650 hours. almost no one knew about. he left the lbj library. very few knew about them except mildred stiegel who has been very long time and not long before johnson died in january of 73 called and said i don't think i have long to live. i want you to know my intention is after i die these tapes should be locked up for 50 years and not shown to anyone and whoever is director of the johnson library should listen to them and destroy all of them or decide what he wants to do and she rose an affidavit that said that so for 20 more years most americans did not know about these things. early 1990s a hero of the piece is a man named harry middleton who is the director of the
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johnson library for decades and the mall of someone in that job and he went to mrs. johnson and said historically we should begin opening fees now and her view was she was serious about being faithful to history and i am guessing here but i don't think i am wrong that she also loved and admired her husband and felt that if you open these things there are things she did not like but the preponderance would cause people to admire her husband and she was quite right. >> host: next call from susan in tucson. please go ahead with your question or comment. >> caller: i am in my 70s so i remember the original kennedy campaign for president very clearly. i am looking at what is going on with the met romney campaign and i see a similarity between the
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hysterical fears that if kennedy elected the pope would really be president and the same sort of accusations about mormons. i am curious if you see the parallel. if you think i am seeing something that isn't there. if you think that we can learn something if people would only know about what went on during kennedy's campaign if people could be reminded of that if it would reduce the prejudice. >> guest: the fact that john kennedy was selected suggests he was not as much of a catholic or not observant enough. he eventually answered that question. there was some worry when joe lieberman ran on the al gore ticket that having a jewish vice-presidential candidate might weighed down the ticket in
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certain areas. most of the data suggests that was not true. sort of a happy story. i hope from those two data points we could extend this to say being a mormon will turn out to be nothing but a plus for mitt romney. >> host: e-mail from ron in spring valley. why did jfk not removed jupiter missiles in turkey upon his inauguration in 1961? could we have avoided the cuban missile crisis by removing the missiles in turkey in 61? >> i think not and i will explain what this was briefly. nato, the western alliance of and jupiter missiles that were in turkey and this was one way americans said in a numbers we are defending you. you should feel more secure and be happy with our alliance. by the time of the cuban missile crisis those missiles were outmoded. they hadn't been yanked out yet. that takes a lot of diplomacy
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with other nato members and so when khrushchev in the summer of 62 was considering sending nuclear missiles into cuba one of the things he said was americans should not mind this. i do not think that was his motive for putting missiles in cuba. the motive for putting missiles in cuba was two things. efforts to kill castro or invade the island. he knew if the soviets had nuclear missiles in cuba it is unlikely the americans would bomb those sites and save the islands. by 1962, americans and others around the world were beginning to get the true idea that the soviet union was militarily much weaker than the united states,
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for the missile gap. it can reach hudson bay or leave a, peru or other places in danger. that was his real motive. >> host: good afternoon. >> caller: my question is about munich. there's a lot of talk about pushing the munich agreement. to unpack joseph kennedy's thought process with regards to his experience with the first world war and what a waste that was and how informed his thinking on the munich agreement. >> guest: joseph kennedy was franklin roosevelt's ambassador to great britain's court of st. james and he had a passionate believe the united states should not get involved in any war in
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europe except under the most extreme circumstances. when the prime minister of britain neville chamberlain went to munich 1938 and made a deal with hitler that chamberlain hoped would forestall a war kennedy was jubilant. he thought this was going to save the world. that was a phrase he used. i talked to a close friend of joe kennedy when i wrote this book in the 1970s and asked him why did kennedy feels so emotional about this? a friend who wrote for newsweek said one question, and what were their ages? he was distraught at the idea that he might lose his sons in war and poignantly joe jr. did lose in the english channel, jack kennedy almost died in the south pacific.
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>> host: in your 1980 "kennedy and roosevelt: the uneasy alliance" you right never to be secure in his social and financial position no matter how many millions or how prestigious the offer kennedy sought stability where he could find it weather in new deal reform to preserve or at a heavy price in strong centralized national governance or later in political -- >> guest: joe kennedy was given to emotional depression from time to time. is a sign when people don't quite notice. during these kennedy periods he would think something was happening that was apocalyptic. in the 1930s the entire financial system would come crashing down and the masses would take the money away from rich people and no one was safe. that is the way he described it and he wasn't alone in this. 1940s worrying this was going to be the end of the world, that the world would be consumed in war as indeed it did but that is a lot of where this came from.
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a lot of other people had these views. it was so emotional. the interesting thing was he had a son jack who was noted for his extreme detachments and almost i see ability to look at political problems and analyze them. to some extent that was a reaction to his father who he loved very much but was a very different person. .. different person hosni mubarak how does this book treat joe kennedy? >> guest: there's a fine book coming out this fall. the first biography it uses all the joe kennedy papers from the kennedy library. ..
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i think one could make an argument that the cuban missile crisis might not have happened. i'm not sure i would make the argument that the argument would be this, nixon would've continued the eisenhower policies. he wouldn't have had needed increased defense so much. khrushchev might not have felt so secure -- so insecure and might not a good missiles into cuba. but where i've finally come out on this is where i think that, this is when that book came out, this was an unusual view. i think more, no.
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i think if kennedy made some basic mistakes that lead -- did lead to the cuban missile crisis. if i wanted a president who managed the crisis i think jfk would be at the top. >> host: michael beschloss is our guest this month on in depth. beginning in 1980 with "kennedy and roosevelt: the uneasy alliance." made a commitment i.t. 86. "eisenhower: a centennial life," 1990. "the crisis years: kennedy and khrushchev, 1960-1963", 1991 that was published. "the conquerors" came out in 2002. "presidential courage: brave leaders and how they changed america, 1789-1989" came out in 2007. and he is also co-authored and edited several books including at the highest level, the inside sort of the end of the cold war. that was with strobe talbott.
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taking charge, the johnson white house tapes. reaching for glory, lb jason secret white house tapes. he already discussed the third book in that series, and finally last year, jacqueline kennedy, historic conversations on life with jfk, came out in 2011. and later in the program we will learn, we will learn a little bit about mr. beschloss his upcoming book but will say that for a little later in the program. back to your book, "the conquerors." this e-mail from bob of new york. and -- >> guest: that's on long island i think. >> host: has any of the country faced the sort of devastation that germany did during and after world war ii? do you think enough has been written about what germany has done during and after the war? can you talk about the conditions people faced in postwar germany before the
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economic recovery kicked in? >> guest: they were huge. i read a lot about that because during world war ii, a lot of my book "the conquerors" talks about this. roosevelt considered a plan called the morgenthau plan by his close friend, henry morgenthau junior who was worried that the war would and and state department diplomats which is treat germany like any other country, you instantly get back on its feet and bygones will be got -- by guns and that would be a. morgenthaler's view was because germany perpetrate the holocaust, it was in a different category and should be dealt with harshly. morgenthaler's view was basically that germany should be left to stew in its own juice was perturbed years and not and not help after world war ii. and let determined to starve and realize the results of the horrible things that they had done. roosevelt briefly flirted with that. finally, decided that it was
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inhumane, and also not terribly effective because the vacuum i be filled by the soviet union. so i think there are more and more things being written about the state of the germans at the end of world war ii. we're getting more and more documents. so i think that's a very good subject. >> host: how would you characterize fdr's treatment of the prior to world war ii? >> guest: prior to world war ii, i think quite good. there were many jewish people in his entourage which was unusual in those days. had important jewish advisers. i'm somewhat more critical than some others about his behavior during the holocaust. my general view would be that roosevelt learned pretty much the detail of the holocaust and 42 or 43. and did not speak much in public about it. i think he was worried about arousing americans without can he was with her might be pressure for them to someho the
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first from our war in in europe which was to defeat hitler, to doing something that was somewhat different which was to eliminate the machinery of the holocaust. and so, therefore, in 1944 there was some discussion within the administration that perhaps some bombers should be deferred to bomb the concentration camps and at least stop the killing. roosevelt did not do this. the main reason he suggested for that was we have one more game. if i start diverting us to do other things, other groups will ask for us to do other things, in europe we will keep -- take our eye off the ball. by lynn which, not his. the holocaust was unlike anything else in human history, and i think his great historical imagination should have responded a little bit more uniquely to the. >> host: a tweet, any movement by politicians or the public, including presidents, for the
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u.s. presidency to return to a limited constitutional role and shape our? >> guest: with term limits -- actually i think there's a movement to do that and to be very much within the constitution, which is to my mind, presidents have stretched the limits of presidential power as the constitution gives it to them. one case in point. constitution says that it is going to be a war, president should go to congress to ask for it to be declared. congress should declare it on its own. the last time that congress has declared war against a foreign enemy was 1941. have we fought many wars since 1941? i believe we have. presidents have gotten into a habit, for verse reasons, not going to congress to declare war, and using military power very much on their own hook. i think that was not entirely intended by the founders.
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>> host: has there been a president who has ever voluntarily relinquished some of the powers of the presidency? >> guest: some presidents have felt that president should not act as powerfully as some have. sometimes for bad reasons. james buchanan just wanted to run the meter and let his successors take your problems. dwight eisenhower felt, not a term he would infuse, but roosevelt and truman were too much in people's face. he felt that the eight years of 1950s, his presidency should be spent not with a president crusading for americans to do things are putting pressure on congress, but trying to get the defense budget down, trying to end the cold war perhaps, and also to keep prosperity going. and he wasn't able to do all those things, and historians these days into giving him a lot more credit for that then perhaps people did at the time. the downside with that approach
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is, whenever i was talking about the can is feared to do much about slavery. eisenhower was trapped by his vision by the presidency because the 1950s was a time i think that a president should have gone to americans and said, this country is segregated, congress has to do something. eisenhower himself could have settled that with great authority. i came back from world war ii in europe, we did a part of a job. there were american soldiers that font for good. they went back to mississippi. this is unacceptable. we've got to fix the problem. and eisenhower with a statue could of been an enormous influence for that, but because he felt the president should not be that activist for those eight years, i know a lot of eisenhower people will argue with me about this, i think he was not anywhere near the influence or civil rights he could've been. and the same way that buchanan's
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delay led to a much more violent situation prior to 1851, i think that some of eisenhower's delays made the civil rights revolution of the early 1960s more violent than otherwise it might of been. >> host: from your book "presidential courage," was just a courageous when he came to civil rights? >> he was in the end. teacher wasn't in the beginning. in the 1950s he wanted to be first vice president 1956 and then run for president later on. and he felt that his support was going to probably come from the south. so in 1956 he was not quite anti-civil rights but he was even very hesitant in saying that the court's decision of brown v. board of education, ensuring public schools integration was a good thing, he was that hesitant. one of his first supporters of 1958 was in alabama governor named john patterson who was a segregationist so much so that
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he beat george wallace who was running for governor in 1958 because he was tougher on segregation than wallace was at that point. so kennedy's background basically opportunistically was to soft-pedal any support for civil rights. to his credit, 1960 campaign, once it was politically more helpful to him, he did say things on the campaign trail like elect me president and i will end the discrimination with the stroke of a pin. the problem was when he became president, a lot of americans not only black americans begin sending intends because he was doing too much. he was elected with a narrow margin. i guarantee you that most of those voters were not voting for kennedy expecting civil rights. kennedy knew that. he wanted to get reelected. he also worried about the
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subcommittee chairman in congress who are very powerful, but this is the important thing, this is what he is in my book on "presidential courage." he changed. by 1963, the emotionally realized that this cannot go on anymore. also, the climate became easier. there were meetings in selma, barking dogs that attacked teenage demonstrated that went all around the country. so kennedy in 1963, in june, sent a civil rights bill to congress that would propose the integration of public accommodations at hotels and restaurants. and he did this despite the fact that his general poll rating, nationally, nosedived. a new he was throwing away the south was a which was essential to his victory in 1960. so i think it's not too much to say that he knowingly jeopardize his reelection. that's why he was in texas in 1963 when he was killed because having lost so many southern
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states, he wanted to make sure that he carried texas in 1964 which he had only won by 45,000 votes in 1960. >> host: and you recount a dinner held at the white house prior to his full confession. >> guest: that's exactly right. he was trying to give the impression of someone who is very pro-civil rights, and i believe it was lincoln's birthday, 1963, they had 800 african-americans at the white house for a reception. now, the positive way of looking at this is, that he was allowing african-americans to help them celebrate lincoln's birthday. another positive spin was a number of people with a felt as if this was african-american night at the kennedys, as one of those sent. >> host: j., asheville, north carolina, please go ahead. you were on with michael beschloss. >> caller: yes, mr. beschloss coming you spoke earlier of lyndon johnson's deep fears and
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doubts and agonizing about vietnam. could you please discuss the gulf of tonkin incident and johnson's reaction to it and what his administration hoped to gain by it? >> guest: here's an example of where these tapes will change our knowledge of history. because beginning of august 1964, we all knew lbj had gotten a report from the pentagon saying that there may have been an attack on an american ship in the gulf of tonkin. johnson was running against barry goldwater which criticize him for being soft on communism. but we didn't really quite know what happened next because this happened behind closed doors. thanks to the tapes, you hit his telephone conversations with robert bakker, the pentagon, and others. and what happened that day is tragic to think about. johnson gets the news. he says to mcnamara essentially bob, get some people to find out whether this is a real attack or just a false report. so at the pentagon mcnamara's
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people are analyzing this, it's just false intelligence or was there a real attack. in late in the afternoon mcnamara calls johnson and says we've got a real problem. the ap has gotten a story that there has been an attack on an american ship. and johnson and the pentagon are concealing this for political reasons so they don't have to do anything about it. and johnson was in the middle of the campaign against goldwater, and his reaction essentially was i cannot afford to keep this process going and continuing to analyze, i better -- bomb the hell out of the north vietnamese tonight. and so he went on television that evening saying that he was reacting to an attack am not an alleged attack against an american ship, the first big bombing of north vietnam. and the weeks that followed, there were a number of lapses within the south vietnamese government. it was a rock slide that made it much more necessary for the
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united states to be involved in vietnam. but on the strength of this, johnson went to congress and got what was called the gulf of tonkin resolution, two houses of congress almost unanimously allowing him to use all necessary means to repel aggression in the about. -- via not. about a week or two all this happened johnson privately got a pretty good assurance that actually there've been no attack at all and actually this has been false intelligence as at times happens. it's not a great thing that johnson did not go to the american people and congress and say, i did this in good faith that we should now know that there is some question if this actually happened to instead come he didn't say that, and both he and richard nixon thought the war ultimately in indochina on the basis of the gulf of tonkin resolution for the next decade, which i think it's not the way it was supposed to be done. >> host: jonathan e-mails,
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could you please comment on jfk's choice of lbj for vice president? was jfk's offer merely a pro forma effort with the expectation that johnson would decline? or dj if you really want lbj on the ticket in order to get the southern states electoral votes? >> guest: there are two views that will be argued until the end of time because sometimes you don't find one document is going to result one way or the other. one view is that kennedy just politely went down to johnson's sweet and the biltmore that morning after he was nominated and said, it would be nice for you to be vice president, expecting him to stop at this. johnson snatched it and said of course, where do i sign? the other dude is that kennedy quite shrewdly also on the advice of his father realized that the math suggested it would be very hard for kennedy to get elected in 1960 without the south but as i said earlier it really was essential to his
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victory. so you can take either view, or both. robert kennedy who hated johnson for the rest of his life always suggested that johnson had taken this offer that was never intentionally suggested, the real answer is we will never know for sure. >> host: how did lbj come out in jaclyn kennedys taped conversation? >> guest: not well. she said that jack was increasingly disenchanted with lincoln during his presidency. that he was terrified what might happen to the country if he ever became president. and that was to some extent her view. she acts like a very good relationship with johnson as president and with the johnson, both as vice president, also with jacqueline -- later, i think if i had to analyze this i would say that appeared in which she did these interviews she's been a great deal of time with
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her adored brother-in-law, robert kennedy, who detested lyndon johnson. so i think to some of what she's saying is reflected in the. >> host: james from pennsylvania. could you give some background on lbj's determination to pass the civil rights bill? it seems it took both personal and political courage to pursue the legislation at the time. >> guest: it did, but in history, and i admire johnson as much as i think anyone, you know, no one is ever a delegate and johnson's case it did take political courage to take a kennedys a civil rights bill as his own, and use great political capital, as he did in 1964. but argument the other way. let's say johnson comes into office, decided i just don't want to put my chips on this one, which is a phrase he probably would have used the liberals in the party would've been furious but he might have been denied nomination the
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following year. and especially as a something there, i think by giving full credit for doing it but i think politically he had no choice. >> host: herbert, chicago, good afternoon to you. michael beschloss is our guest. >> caller: yes, thank you. i've looked into these situations regarding franklin roosevelt and abraham lincoln. with some disdain. mr. roosevelt wasn't directly responsible for the death of 300,000 americans in world war ii, and mr. lincoln was directly responsible for the death of 6000 americans during his administration. i don't think of them as great men in this respect. [inaudible] an amendment was offered by congress by the president regarding slavery. >> guest: meaning you can?
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>> caller: hello? >> do you mean buchanan? >> caller: i understand it was president lincoln that signed it. march 2, 1861. and this was the amendment. quote, now and then it shall be made to the constitution which shall authorize or give the congress the power to abolish or anything with any state, that the domestic institutions there, including persons held for service under the laws of such state, end quote. would you speak to that? >> guest: sugared there was a lot of movement before the week before lincoln took the presidency very much with james buchanan. a part of this to find some compromise that would keep more southern states on conceding, and that would've been one of them. when lincoln became president, when he gave his inaugural address, it was very clear to the south that he was not a part of this movement. that's one reason why other
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states seceded, including virginia, and the movement towards the civil war began. on your comment on pearl harbor and the civil war, franklin roosevelt was commander-in-chief at a time of pearl harbor, and he took responsibility, rightfully, for those deaths. did he somehow maneuver, intending that to be the tragedy pearl harbor to get the united states involved in world war ii? to my mind absolutely not. for all sorts of reasons, even though we have three hours, probably not enough. and lincoln with the civil war, yes, he was responsible for huge number of deaths on both sides, and the irony is that lincoln, of all people, this is the opposite of bloodthirsty human being, or presidency tried to extract himself from the depths of american souls, for instance, richard nixon just so i can't let myself get too emotional. i've got to look at soldiers an image or abstract way. lincoln once said to a friend
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that he couldn't imagine that he was the president responsible for all these deaths because as he said elsewhere, i who could not even watch the killing of a chicken am responsible for oceans of blood. >> host: dell from 40 e-mails into you, michael beschloss, do you think political biases exist much in the way historians present history in the book? they could be selective >> guest: i think there are more liberals and conservatives teaching history in colleges, and that's almost quantitatively suggested. but the next question is, therefore doesn't work the way they teach it. that's the difference, because they are suggesting they're not professionals and using their history teaching or writing to push a person agenda. sometimes it does happen. i mentioned arthur schlesinger,
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he made no bones about the fact, emotional ties to the kennedys, and that he did not pretend that his history was not intended to abandon the cause of democratic liberalism. and that was stated. it's very different from what i do. i'm not a very partisan person by nature. so i don't have a great ideology or partisanship to conceal in the first place. but might he basically is that if you're writing the history of presidents well, you wait 30 or 40 years or, look at evidence and lined it up and make a passionate decision in as much as you can. that's what a professional historian does, the rest of it is just sort of propagandist. >> host: how many presidents have interviewed, chatted with and had any kind of relationship with? >> guest: using that term loosely, i guess everyone from gerald ford on, and one that or another, obviously some closer,
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some less, and lady bird johnson. >> host: what can you tell us about those relationships? conversations, with a private? >> guest: they were and private. and they give you a sense of the human being, and oftentimes if you meet the human being years later it's very different than when they were in office. but i think in terms of is this the most important source, you know, for instance, if i have on occasion talked with george h. w. bush or bill clinton, if i wrote a book on them, would my most important source be my conversations with them? probably not because as i sang a second ago, you lined up all the evidence, maybe if one of them said something to me about an important thing, that change but when you otherwise, it might be. but just because i had the experience of being in a room with someone, that conversation would not lose larger than look at the documents or anything people who were with them in real time when they were president. >> host: last year i believe
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it was david and julie nixon eisenhower came up with a book, going home, about eisenhower's post-presidency life. and/or a lot of indications that jfk spent quite a bit of time consulting with former president eisenhower. >> guest: and i commend the book. it's a wonderful book. i talk about it. one of the comment forget to what you're saying is that sometimes you learn more about presidents as human beings if you look at them in retirement after they've withdrawn from power. because when you're watching them in the white house, their schedules, they read speeches that are written for them, there's not too much leeway, there's a certain amount of the job that is all structured, almost like an archer for the. but after the lead and are mature is pulled away, you see how they deal with the withdrawal from power. easy what's important to them in the post-presidency. and i think you're trying to get a fix on the soul of a
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president, pay very close attention to that postpresidential period if they outlived their time in office because i think they are very important clues that sometimes you can't get when they are serving. now, on eisenhower being consulted by jfk, they didn't have a great relationship pro forma they did. eisenhower privately sought kennedy, referred to them as little boy blue aura the harvard med. he saw him as sort of a smart aleck. kennedy had been very critical of eisenhower in 1960. kennedy deprecated eyes now, but there wasn't much there. but he was astounded when they were standing together on the and at the platform on january 61. heat and ice that were standing next to each other. kennedy figured a better talks are to look like to cigar store indians. he said what did you think of the longest day, the book had just come out, read widely read
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about dd. and eisenhower said i haven't read it. kennedy was just astonished them and to him that was a sign of eisenhower's low intelligence or lack of reading. these are people have gotten to know each other better hundred different circumstance, they were extremely smart, a lot of other things in common, they might've had a relationship, but circumstances prevented that. >> host: next call, patricia, oregon. hello. >> caller: hello. mr. beschloss, i have a question about reagan. the republicans seem to worship him like he never raised a tax and never incurred a dollar in debt, and yet he left us $2 trillion in debt and he raised taxes, i don't know, five or six times. that was why bush said no new taxes. and i don't understand how it is they do so well at ignoring history. >> guest: well, i think part of that is right, but when you
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are, especially on the popular, but what party backs to the president's legacy, you pretty much collapsed into about three sentences. and if the deficit catches continue to grow constantly from 1989 on, i think reagan would be criticized more for the deficits. his view at the time was, these are bad deficits that we will get over them and we will overcome them, and they were rewarded by the fact, he would say, these deficits were required for the defense buildup that i initiated to try to end the cold war. and as bad as deficits are, that was the price of any the cold war, it would be a price i'll be willing to pay even economically because ending the cold war is very good for our economy. i must suggest that every delegate to last week's republican convention is thinking all that when they admire romney. but for the same way. franklin roosevelt, a hero to the democrats.
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some think he did extremely well, such as winning world war ii. and ultimately pulling the nation out of the great depression. but sometimes people forget that that happened only after eight years. it was only at the time we began to produce the war that we really got out of the great depression. and i might add that when franklin roosevelt ran for reelection in 1936, we hear about 8% unemployment, which are horrible and tragic right now. the rate that franklin roosevelt ran on in 1936 was 16%, but people said a, it was 25% we came into office, so progress is moving in the right direction, and b, roosevelt made the point you elect my opponent, a republican, you will throw us right back into the mess. ..
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>> caller: the successful resolution of the cuban missile crisis. standing up to launch a military attack. finally, i am sure you are aware of the secret correspondence between nikita khrushchev, which resulted in the installation of the hotline, and the sale of wheat, and the partial treaty
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that look like there was no way that that was going to be able to be passed. the greatest speech ever given by an american president, the american university address, calling for the end of the cold war. >> host: michael, let's leave it there and get a response from doctor michael beschloss. >> guest: i admire kennedy for your reasons. numbers one and two, civil rights and the missile crisis. the third would be that partial test ban treaty was a step in the right direction. even kennedy was disappointed in that. what both he and president eisenhower have been pushing for was a comprehensive test of the idea that if you ban all testing in every venue, you stop the increase in nuclear arsenals. partial test ban illuminated tests in the atmosphere, but ultimately, it did not stop the arms race by any means. some people have stopped at it as an air pollution measure. but it was a movement in the right direction that he might
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have pursued, had he stayed in office. >> host: this is booktv's monthly program. this month it is michael beschloss who is our guest. we have 1.5 hours left in our program. we continue to take your calls, e-mails, and tweets. tania davis, the producer of this program, join you here in washington at the lincoln cottage. to talk a little bit about your new book. we want to show that now. >> i have been writing history books for 30 years. one of the things i have done throughout his every noble, i try as much as possible to go to the sights and experiences that i am writing about. especially presidential sites. this is a historical monument, which is called president lincoln cottage. now, it is worth in history a
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eat deal. it is abraham lincoln's house. they are doing their best to restore it so that it looks like it did at the time lincoln was president. it is in northwest washington. it is upheld from the white house, which is down near the river. as the result, it is far enough away it was safer and cooler. the book that i am writing is about the president in wartime from james madison and the war of 1812 to george w. bush and iraq. one of the centers of this book is abraham lincoln and the civil war. the thing about lincoln is that the experience of america during those years in the largeness of the man, you know, you almost might think is there anything further to be said about abraham lincoln. there always is. both because of the lessons we can take away from his life
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experience and his presidency, and also because new sources still turn up from time to time. coming to a place like this, as a historian, you are trying to repeat and give a real sense of what the president's experience was. in this case, abraham lincoln and the civil war. because you can come here to this house, where he spent so much time as a president, you can go into the room where he woke up in the morning. can see the sights he saw while looking outside. you can hear a lot of this sounds that are very similar to what he would've heard at the time. this is my favorite room in the house. which is the library. for a couple of reasons. one is that you really get a sense, perhaps more than some of the other rooms, what the atmosphere in this room might have been like when president lincoln was living here. also, books and learning were so much a part of lincoln's life
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experience. particularly as president. the room in which he did a lot of business turned out to be pretty important. as a war leader during the civil war, he always wanted to make sure that the decisions he was making about men's lives never got to obstruct anything. the way that lincoln did this was this. so many soldiers were dying in the early months of the civil war that they had to build a new national cemetery. it was going to be in washington. they went to the president and asked where should we put it. lincoln said that i wanted near my summer home so that i will probably be able to look out of an upstairs window and see the men's coffins being taken into fresh graves being dug. he felt that this would almost remind him of the awful toll of the decisions he was making that had taken the country into the
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civil war and allow him to execute it. to come here gives you an enormous sense of why you can write history from the normal sources, documents and memoirs. but if you're writing about a president and you are able to go to where he spent an awful lot of his time, either growing up or while president, i think you are missing a bet. just standing here amidst history in three dimensions, you're going to learn certain things about abraham lincoln that he would you would not if you had never been here. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪
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♪ [music playing] >> host: michael beschloss come i don't want to mischaracterizes, but moving into lincoln and out of your comfort zone. your cold war comfort zone. >> guest: a little bit. i'm writing a little bit of work on presidents in wartime which begins with james madison in 1812 and goes all the way up to the present. part of that is lincoln. i guess i quibble with you about the comfort zone. it is, you know, like appears in "presidential courage." the other thing is you come from indiana where lincoln spends a lot of time. people should know that he is really from illinois, of course. when i was a small boy, which they had a centennial civil war
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celebration, i had a harmonica that i played loudly and my parents kept telling me to stop. if you grew up in illinois and i have asked friends from that. matter of time -- at least in those days when it was almost a requirement that parents take kids to the lincoln sites, as i tell the story, i went down there when i was about seven years old. the only thing i really remember is that i was taken to the house where lincoln lived, which is still there at jackson street in springfield, illinois. i was shown the chair that the guy said that lincoln sat in when he read to his children. i was seven years old and i said, i wish i could say i asked about the great questions that a caller suggested a couple of minutes ago. about the population in march of 1861. i said when lincoln's children were not me, did he spank them.
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this guy said no, lincoln didn't believe in discipline. he let those brats run wild through this house. i heard that, and lincoln was my man from that moment on. i began reading a lot on lincoln and reading about other presidents. by the time i was 10 years old, i really wanted to become a presidential historian. >> host: we are talking with michael beschloss, our monthly "in depth" program. we have 1.5 hours left today. you can call in or e-mail or tweet us. the phone numbers for your time zone are listed below on the screen. those of you wanting to e-mail us, booktv at c-span.ort. art twitter candle is at tv michael beschloss is the author of several books. his first book was "kennedy and roosevelt: the uneasy alliance", "mayday: eisenhower, khrushchev, and the u-2 affair",
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"eisenhower: a centennial life", "the crisis years: kennedy and khrushchev: 1960-1963", "the conquerors: roosevelt, truman, and the destruction of hitler's germany, 1941-1945", "presidential courage: brave leaders and how they changed america: 1789-1989", that came out in 2007. some of his cowritten and edited books include at the highest levels from the inside story of the end of the cold war, taking charge, the johnson white house tapes 1963 to 1964. reaching for glory, lyndon johnson's secret white house tapes. and jacqueline kennedy's new book, "jacqueline kennedy: historic conversations on life with john f. kennedy". we learned a little bit about his newest book, when is that coming out? >> probably about 2015 or so. it is a long book because it covers 200 years.
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it is like researching 20 bucks because i have to be an expert on the war of 1812 as a historian or the war of 1812. >> host: he would have to read off all those books? >> guest: yes, i have two sons that are 18 and 15. one went off to college last week. the younger one, alexander and cyrus -- and cyrus was young, about three years old, maybe five five or six -- one night he wanted me to read to him. i said, i would love to, but i'm just so tired, i will fall asleep. he looked up at me and said, how about if i ask you to read to me from the conquerors. [laughter] >> host: did it work? where is alexander going to school? >> guest: alexander is going to williams college. he started on tuesday. he is not watching us at this
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moment because one of the things that they do up there in massachusetts in general and colleges is that they are much more elaborate rings for incoming first-year students than there used to be. he is on one of them, which is a four-day camping trip across the berkshires. i went there, too, and i wish they did that when i was there. >> host: no cell phones or internet connections or anything? >> guest: that is correct. the hidden agenda is to get these kids to not cure their addiction, but reduce it. >> host: how is the internet and modern technology change how you work? >> guest: less than one would really thing. because if you are going to get documents, you still have to go to the library of congress for other manuscript archives of presidential libraries. maybe one day all those documents would be online. some are, for instance. the james madison papers, to be online, the library of congress
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has been wonderful. in that sense, it is the same as when i started. like when i started my senior peace at williams on 1976. i've been doing this a long time, but i do essentially the same way. i go to the presidential library, for instance, and you go through folders. i would hate to give that part of it. the other thing is that if you don't have that experience, some of the most important things i've learned about the presidents have been when i was, you know, researching month-end, when eisenhower and soviet relations unfolded -- and then there was a hidden gem of his relationship with his grandson. it tells you an enormous amount of about the people you're writing about. if you are doing this kind of research in a quicker or more targeted way, i think it means a lot to. >> host: you think that there will ever come a time when we find out that other presidents
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use a taping system? >> guest: i would highly doubt it. roosevelt did take a few calls. in the fall of 1940, he was worried that he was getting misquoted at news conferences, which he had in the oval office. the profit was, and johnson had this problem too, it kept taping even after the conference was over. in roosevelt's case, he taped himself and he got telling some of his campaign managers to hand out dirty information against his opponent. i hear he has a mistress in new york. maybe the speakers of the county level -- they really complement with his pants down. eisenhower taped some conversations. he once said that i did this because i taped people who come into my office that i do not
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trust. the one who take the most, apparently, was richard nixon. it talks about his distress as vice president. kennedy attended tape more meetings. for instance, you got most of those famous meetings during the cuban missile crisis. some telephone calls, and johnson, of course, finally saying to nixon, johnson tape machine had an on and off switch. there are some things that made it onto these tapes. like certain conversations that i brought up earlier. in nixon's case, he was so clumsy that his famous chief of staff, hr full bomb, had been done when activated in the summer of 73, just about everything, it revealed
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everything that nixon was doing. >> host: two books didn't seem to go very far in the last two years. jimmy carter's white house fire, where he took his experience and put it in the a book. it is pretty raw and straightforward. then bill clinton's diary, i apologize, they didn't seem to really go with anything there. >> guest: president carter has an enormous following. a lot of people follow him and would buy anything written on him. anything i have as far as an elaborate notion goes, we have the same publisher at one point in time. you know, i went into a bookstore a couple weeks ago, and i asked the salesperson -- you have the book by jimmy carter? and the salesperson said, oh, are you the author?
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so that is one thing. the taylor branch book was interesting because bill clinton, reading about president clinton, he has more history than many presidents i know. without the tapes, his presidency would it be documented. a wonderful trilogy exist on martin luther king. putting him regularly on tape for years. he was able to get these special prosecutors to agree not to subpoena these things. so you have, essentially, clinton topping almost weekly, certainly monthly in real-time about things he recently dead. it is just what historians love. what taylor has in that book is not the transcripts of the tapes, but sort of notes that he made afterwards. bill clinton still owns the tapes in the transcripts.
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i hope they are published soon because i think we are about to see a big rise in bill clinton's historical reputation and i think that might fuel it in the way that the johnson tapes that the lbj. >> host: the next call comes from david in new york. >> caller: thank you for letting me join the conversation. i was going to ask, i have been doing a lot. i was going to ask about japan's bombing of pearl harbor and mr. beschloss, you could respond that yes, roosevelt set up basically the situation. but that would have been. >> guest: can i interrupt for a second? i don't think he intended it to be set up for an attack on pearl harbor. his feelings about the navy -- it would not be okay with that.
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but he thought we had a lusitania type incident. one of the things he did do was send a lot of americans to the north atlantic in 1941 without convoys, which made him a little bit more more vulnerable. but pearl harbor, i don't think he did that. >> caller: he had set up the situation economically so that he could have an excuse to fight with the people in europe. you have answered my question fairway. i just want to ask you something else, if i may. i have been meeting him at times, the gop is basically saying something like this -- you know, we don't care about fact checking. we'll just say what we want to say and if you want to print what is not true, you can do it. but we are not going to pay attention to it. that sounds pretty scary to me.
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>> guest: yes, and i think there are people on both sides would do that. not just the gop. peter was asked about the internet earlier. one thing if that is great is that there is a lot more transparency because if a candidate says something that is demonstrably untrue, very quickly, that will be corrected and the correction will be on the record in a way that is very accessible. that hasn't been true for much of american history. i think that's a good aspect. >> host: we have lien from walkie go, illinois. >> caller: good afternoon, i've been watching your "in depth" program. this is the first time i've done a call. i respect your work. if i might ask you, as a historian who studied the scandals, government, and course of history. including nixon as president. i guess that what i can say is that you hope that we learn important lessons from history.
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two specific things. first, what needs to be done regarding the citizens united petition. if you might discuss as a matter of public policy, should it be acceptable for him in a run for presidency and refuse to make public tax returns? >> guest: it has happened in american history, and i think the voters will have to make that judgment. it certainly is not required by the law. in general, every candidate should give as much information as possible about his past life. as far as the other -- citizens united, unregistered independents, i suggest that they stay out of current politics. because it's not what i do and because i think my political views on current events are not any better than anyone else's. i basically have a platform. forgive me for excusing myself
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from talking about that, at least for the next 30 years or so. >> host: mr. beschloss, i did want to point out in one of your books, you have president eisenhower lamenting about professional politicos who run campaigns and all the money involved. >> guest: absolutely great. in the 1950s, at a time when he ran for president, it was a miniscule amount. john kennedy was supposed to be daddy warbucks, putting a lot of money into his campaign, and he did. spring and fall, i don't think that including money that he raised, i don't think the may be more than $15 million will be spent. a lot of money, and certainly more in $2012. but nowhere near a couple of billion now that it takes to run for president in this process. do i think the historical process of money coming into the
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presidential politics is such an enormous waste a good thing? absolutely not. >> host: the next call comes from jeff in san jose, california. hello, jeff. >> caller: hello. doctor michael beschloss. this has to do with ericsson and the cuban missile crisis. the bay of pigs was planned during the eisenhower administration and presumably, they should have known about the division plans. do you think if nixon had been elected in 1960, he would have done the bay of pigs, but number two, unlike jfk, but he also followed up with the airpower aspect of the planning? >> guest: yes to both questions. nixon was pushing the cia very hard, even for the election. because he felt that if that
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happened from his election as president probably would've been locked up, and i believe it probably would have been. >> host: have you ever had the chance to interview fidel castro? >> guest: no, i have not. but he has talked a lot about the event that he was involved in, especially the kennedy period. one interesting thing is that he now speaks with kennedy frequently, at the time that he had reason to believe that there was a good chance that john kennedy was planning to have him killed. the jury is still out on that, but he certainly thought so. >> host: good afternoon, robert, you are on c-span2 tv. >> caller: if you had to look from across the stage at eisenhower, -- he was a pretty well-known republican, and they decided to swim across the vast
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river. when they get to the other side, there was a doctor that they held onto just to take a rest. they were trying to climb up or anything. [inaudible] you know who you're talking to? before he could answer, eisenhower turned and swim back. he never really did now. he didn't know who he was. it showed the shape he was in for one thing. >> guest: i've never heard that one was a very modest person. >> host: fred spring still tweets into us, michael, did you ever have a bad history teacher? that turned me off when i was in college and i had one. you decided to do so since age 10? >> guest: i've never had a bad history teacher. it takes an enormous talent to
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make history boring, but there are certainly a lot of people who do. this e-mail, kind of along the same line, great admirers of your work, i'm interested in the state of history education in our schools. talking high schools and colleges and universities, i would be interested in your overall opinion on how well our schools perform in the u.s. in education. >> guest: less well. the reason is as budgets are cut, it is somewhat understandable. people are just about to go into a career. history may seem a little bit fearful to them, but it's a bad thing for the society. from my point of view, one of the things that the founders felt most important with this. in the monarchies of europe, the history was written by the monarchs. and so inconvenient secrets were
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deleted and you got only a justification with the monarchs had done, nobody learned anything. the congress had the idea that we have documents opened as quickly as possible. we learn from the successes and mistakes of not only our leaders, but also citizens. part of the process is not just preserving and releasing evidence, but also training our people to have some sense of how to analyze it. also, to know what is going on in american history? one of the things that unite this country is our history. increasingly, if americans don't know much about it, we have less and less in common. >> host: we have shone from
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nashville. we think about that? >> guest: i think it's perfect. i wish there were more colleges with it. to some extent, it would help to remedy the problem in terms of agencies. >> host: next the next call for michael beschloss comes from brooklyn, massachusetts. >> caller: hello, how are you, gentlemen? over the years i have read about books cover to cover on the kennedy assassination. i don't know if that is the best area you could shine your opinion on. who is ultimately what president kennedy set? did he have an opinion? >> guest: i do. you say you're from brooklyn? >> caller: yes.
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>> guest: i think it is the home of mike wallace and some prominent people. my own view is that we have not found evidence that there was a larger i believe that all small pulled the trigger and there is not evidence at least yet in my mind that ties him to others who were in concert with him to do that. my standard is pretty high in terms of evidence. at the same time i think one has to say that oswald had an amazing number of connections with groups that would have wished president kennedy. pro castro cubans, anti-castro cuban is, mafia legal is uncle in new orleans was a mafia figure. and others. it strain the imagination to imagine this was not a conspiracy because of those associations but until you have something in terms of solid evidence that shows me that it was -- i have to say it wasn't. >> host: do you think by now it would have come out?
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what about the warren commission? has that been made public? >> guest: it has and the warren commission produced enormously important evidence but it was flawed. what it was flawed by was one of the members was allen dulles, former director of the cia. he knew extremely well that the cia during eisenhower and kennedy trying to kill fidel castro which would have been a motive for castro and pro castro cubans to have a plot against president kennedy all through their deliberations. dulles never mentioned that to the commission and the commission issued a verdict without knowledge of how it happened but it sort of poisoned the test to. a lot of people nowadays will say the commission was pretty thorough but if you didn't know the most important facts having to do with it you have to throw out everything. >> host: wasn't former senator
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arlen specter on emission? >> guest: lyndon johnson interestingly enough when the commission issued its report in september of 1964 it was the beginning of the election campaign. johnson wanted to keep this issue out so we accepted the report so i believe the warren commission. turns out he didn't. in his retirement he told a number of people close to him that he didn't believe oz wald was necessarily a lone gunman and in 1970 he was doing quite famous interviews for cbs with walter cronkite and walter cronkite asked a question such as you believe in the warren commission and johnson paused and almost cleans out of the frame and said i have never been entirely satisfied that there was no international connection or something like that. the second cameras were off johnson's people said you have to take that out for national security.
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have a long struggle and cbs did. that is on tape and documented elsewhere. i think what it connects to is during the days after johnson became president lyndon johnson was someone who didn't believe in conspiracies but he was a furtive person. he believes in political manipulation. one said for lyndon johnson the shortest distance between two points was a tunnel and to some extent that was true. johnson came back from dallas. johnson is told the presumed murder defected to the soviet union and came back. was deemed by the fbi trying to go to the cuban and soviet embassies in mexico city and some of the other associations. johnson's first reaction is where there's smoke there's fire and this is on these johnson takes he was very worried if americans knew all of this they
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would be so furious they would demand the united states attack cuba militarily and maybe even attack the soviet union. a case in which 15 to twenty million americans and others might die. so he called in the chief justice who didn't want to do it, warren said no. he said people suspect there's a conspiracy. you had better handle this so people can be relieved of the worry that this was with international motive. i love a lot about johnson but that does not suggest that he was appointed the commission hoping that it would just follow the truth wherever it led. >> host: imagine asking the chief justice today to lead such a commission. >> guest: i think not. for all sorts of reasons. one of them is there is a much larger wall between what happens on the court of presidents and johnson had a lot to do with that. 1965 he put on the supreme court
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his close friend and crony and confident, made a play for him by enticing arthur goldberg to get off the court to go to the un where johnson assure you can make peace in viet nam and go over later on but he enticed that way. we don't know exactly why johnson did it. i think one motive might have been in johnson lived through the new deal. he saw how the supreme court revealing important laws of the new deal hurt roosevelt just as if president obama's health-care program had been overruled by the court would have been a political blow. i think he wanted someone he could trust and was infamous on the court would quietly keep him oppressed what the court was doing. not illegal but these days would be very improper. when he made the appointed chief justice in 1968 the nomination was killed for a number of
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reasons but one of them was there was too much evidence that florida's well adjusted supreme court was writing speeches for johnson and on the telephone with him all the time giving political advice. as a result of this members of the court nowadays are more distant. >> host: michael beschloss is our guest on booktv's in depth program. we have an hour left. mohamad in dearborn, michigan. good afternoon. >> good afternoon. how are you? i got a couple questions for mr. beschloss. first question in 1951 senator richard nixon voted against a proposal to an amendment to give the president more power on foreign policy and later ron it turns out -- the second question is why did president lincoln called the civil war -- why not call it a war -- an insurrection
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instead of calling it a war? >> guest: legally lincoln refused to recognize the confederacy as a separate country. he felt they were renegades of the united states. legally in his mind this was an insurrection against the federal government has much against american law as for instance the whiskey rebellion was under george washington. that was both in terms of framing the problem and legally dealing with it. that is why he did it that way. the other question about nixon's presidential power from the beginning of this time in congress nixon was in favor of presidents having a lot of authority particularly in foreign policy. one thing he and eisenhower had to deal with in 1953 was something called a proposed amendment, senator john brinker
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was suggesting an amendment to the constitution that would have hugely restricted the president's ability to include treaties and that was something eisenhower and nixon spent a lot of time on. this was the theme that runs through american history. >> host: dean alyson's wes in do we need to evaluate wartime presidents less severely than non wartime presidents? >> guest: i don't. if anything more severely because most serious thing a president can do is send americans into harm's way and therefore that decision should be done with a sense of awe as something that is really sacred. if anything we should scrutinize the decisions to send american men and women to work carefully and also how fat war was conducted. >> host: frank sales jr. tweets in as a journalist i interviewed
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carter and reagan and fought reagan had simplistic answers and wasn't the deep thinker. was that in error? >> guest: a lot of people felt that was true partially because reagan was expert at talking to large groups of americans and felt you don't do that by speaking in elaborate ways people don't understand. something that the lies that is that reagan, one of the last presidents doing this, large group of letters have been released that go all the way back to the 30s and 40s of considerable sophistication about political issues. he was thinking about these things for a very long time. it is another case of a president in private turns out to have been very different from the view at the time. >> host: mary in chicago, illinois. please go ahead with your question or comment for michael beschloss. >> caller: in regard to the question of a former caller about mitt romney not releasing
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his tax records. isn't it true that president obama has sealed all his records from college on down through many of those areas where he expressed his views in essays, has written his views? to my knowledge those are all sealed. is that true? >> guest: i don't believe we have had access to his college and university records. that is true. something you see through the history of presidential politics and i am against it is presidential candidates surprisingly try to conceal what might be embarrassing to them and disseminate what might be helpful to them. the cases in which important information is concealed would help us to choose a president wisely. i wish that wouldn't happen. >> host: george w. bush is well known for saying -- being quoted
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as saying let history judge his presidency. he really stepped out of the spotlight. stepping out of the spotlight the way he has. is that unusual or normal? his being judged by history. >> it is more unusual in recent years because presidents have tended to be more out there so it is unusual but i think he is absolutely right. some times in american history, you see presidents who try to campaign to influence historians after their presidency. sometimes it works. more often it doesn't. as i suggested a good historian does it on the merits not because the president was charming to him or was able -- i think he recognizess that and without being self reverential in president bush's memoir that just came out he cited my book presidential courage and the
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fact the are was watching at -- talking about george washington, relative to 200 years to figure out george washington. will be a lot of time until there is a historical judgment on me and he was right. >> host: feel free to name names but have you ever felt spun by a former president? >> guest: not in so many words. what i mean to say is probably the closest to that would be nixon. nixon felt in his later years after he was president that one thing that would help him in terms of reputation in his time and also later on would be to talked to historians and particularly journalists. he did this and one rule was journalist for historian had to be too young to have been around during watergate. i once got to have lunch with
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nixon which i did and it was fascinating. this president ran through my childhood. i read everything on him. the experience of that was really something. i have a problem telling a story. when my first political experience was held up in the air inside a richard nixon motorcade outside chicago in 1960 and never figured out why that was. don't remember it but was told about it. that republicans were saying vice president nixon is saying your children will not grow up under communism. we want props in the air showing kids who will grow up as communists so i was one of those. the theatre propped. i didn't grow up a communist. that the campaign promise kept. when i had lunch with knicks and i thought this might be a nice time to tell him what he hoped he would find the charming story about my seeing him in the motorcade in cook county of 1960
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and i said you may not remember me but we have met before. i told the story and he fell dead silent. he changed the subject to something like what do you think about yeltsin? when i left i thought i had done something offensive. i called a friend who knew nixon and ask what i could do wrong? he called back and said nixon doesn't like to talk about the past and he sure doesn't like to talk about 1960. if he likes to talk about the past and 1960 he sure would not want to hear about cook county, illinois. that was not necessarily the reason but that is what he >> host: in "presidential courage: brave leaders and how they changed america, 1789-1989" in mentioned with washington's passage from politics into history americans were turning against the general's own party. they were sick of high federal arrest taxes and contempt for civil liberties, snobbish patricians who posted their
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party was the lies, the rich and the good. george washington's terms. >> the backlash against the federalist come in to 1800 and jefferson won and the federalists never recovered to a great extent because of what you just read about. >> host: michael beschloss is our guest. 45 months -- 45 minutes left in this month's in death. you are on the air. >> caller: thank you for taking my call. this question is somewhat bloated in the sense that it is just my opinion. a person with eisenhower's temperament and his core beliefs to leave a string, a dangerous period in the cold war as opposed to any of the other presidential candidates at the time. in other words, difference or
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short-term or long-term with regard to cold war policy. >> eisenhower held down the defense budget and the national budget. tried to negotiate with the soviets in a serious way and that was the time of the currency and anyone else who might have been present in those years could not have done that in my way so i agree with you. >> host: did people feel threatened looking back now today actually feel threatened that the nuclear bomb could be coming? >> when i was a kid in school in western avenue, which you are kind enough to have on that screen we would have air raid drills and the can't cover and crouch under our desks. if it was a large nuclear attack we were supposed to put our heads in the lockers.
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all of this was ridiculous because the building would have been swept away. but this was a measure to give people a little bit of confidence. we were told not to eat the snow because the russians had put radioactivity in it. that is not just a folk tale. what it really referred to was strontium 90 because of atmospheric nuclear tests going into the atmosphere and settle in the snow where children would eat it. that have a little bit of a basis in fact and president kennedy did a partial nuclear test ban treaty. one good part was no more strontium 90 going into the snow. >> host: curtis, please go ahead with your question. >> caller: thank you for taking my call. it reflects a bit on "presidential courage: brave leaders and how they changed america, 1789-1989". a few things bother me about eisenhower. here's a man who helped win world war ii and at the same time when he was running in 52
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he was -- on the same reviewing stand, the george marshall question. if he left joe mccarthy bad mouth george marshall without interrupting him or anything like that. the other question related to courage was when he lied to to crucial of -- khrushchev about the pilot -- and he was caught in that lie. that was very instrumental for many years. >> guest: i agree with you. it was not eisenhower's best moment. in milwaukee gave that speech and people heard about it. eisenhower was not self critical with others. i don't think he ever told anyone i am ashamed of what i did that there are certain things he did that suggests he
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wished he had not failed to trace marshall in a speech where joe mccarthy was sitting nearby and the second one -- >> host: i wrote that down thinking you would get the second one. but going back to the mccarthy hearings what years did those take place and did they take place when eisenhower was president? >> guest: yes they did. the three greatest raps against eisenhower, he didn't know enough for civil-rights which suggested earlier, and the economy in the 1950s but not if you were poor or from an ethnic group that did not have access to opportunity in this country. the third one and historians argue about this is joe mccarthy. eisenhower never gave a speech that set joe mccarthy as a work
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of the devil and all people who think i have a good person should realize this is not a good person and not follow him. he came close. he gave a speech at the dartmouth commencement 1953 urging graduates not to join the book burners but that was pretty vague. eisenhower's defenders nowadays will say you worked under my mccarthy and all sorts of ways. all true but there are certain moments when just as i was saying on civil-rights the president has to exercise moral leadership and tell people to do the right thing. that is something eisenhower never did on mccarthy and i wish he had. >> host: what was the relationship between joe mccarthy and bobby kennedy? >> guest: bobby kennedy was employed by joe mccarthy in the senate staff. later on kennedy quit because he did not get along with roy cohn
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who was a famous anti-communist. bobby kennedy had a very tribal sense of loyalty. his father had dated his sister not very seriously. when mccarthy was laid to rest, in 1957, bobby kennedy was there at the grave site even though it would cost something politically. >> host: this is an e-mail from maine the. when the president was killed, i mailed a sympathy card to the white house. i did not expect a response. i received a black rimmed card by the secretary, how can i found out where my letter is located. you said you found your letter in the archives. >> guest: they have a huge amount of letters sent in
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condolence. and a couple years ago, i would like to go to the kennedy library, my first visit to the johnson library when i was writing my senior thesis when i was down there in the fall of 1977 there was a research assistant named nancy smith and i said i wrote president johnson this letter when i was a kid about president kennedy. i am sure you can find it. i would love it if you can possibly find the 0 original. five minutes later she pulled out my original letter. i have had it ever since. it is amazing what the archives can do. >> host: 3-peat to see that letter from a 7-year-old kid. >> guest: and wonderfully preserved. not the most important correspondence johnson ever had but i can happily say nancy smith is still at the archives in a senior position dealing with the presidential library all these years later. >> host: lenny in arizona. please go ahead with your
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question or comment for michael beschloss. >> caller: i am a late comer to the conversation the glad i got on. i want to push a little back if i may. i will make two statement and i would love your full throated commentary about those statements. i will be brief. my parents and grandparents were collectors of newspapers and magazines going way far back. i have in front of me november 24th from my city, two days after the president was killed. the headline is jfk assassinated. lone wolf assassination killed also. this is two days after this loan will -- there are chapters about the mafia connection and the cuban connection and soviet connection. it is hard for me to believe that could have just been shoe leather reporting after simply
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two days. i find that hard to believe. i would like your comment on that. >> guest: another thing where we have made progress is the dallas police chief was jesse kerri. in the tumult after the kennedy assassination he was -- called on wall's wife on the air and said we have the man and we are sure this is it. nowadays that wouldn't happen in a million years. it would prejudice the case. if you look at the press coverage at the time it doesn't say alleged assassin of war accused assassin as it would nowadays. just says have fashion or is you saw lone wolf. >> host: this week that i just put away -- this is from bill. do you enjoy visiting historical places for enjoyment? >> host: >> guest: i love almost nothing better. i spent a lot of time that a lot
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of historic sites but especially as i think was suggested earlier by the video we were watching if i am writing a book about a president for presidents i try to go to the actual historical site because i think there are certain things you learn about a president. for instance one example among many was i was down on the lbj ranch saying a little earlier you see all sorts of things about the president. when i was down there with brian williams we saw behind the house the -- books like convertible studebaker built in your home state but was amphibious in the way johnson used this thing. went on land and on see and you were a new member of the johnson's staff johnson would take you for a ride and you would say no. and lyndon b. johnson, and begin
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to sing. he wanted to see, a new aid in the passenger's seat pulte try to save the president for himself. would not surprise either of us to know by my count 130 to save themselves letting johnson around so later on he could go back to washington and say little joe or little break but when the crunch came guess who's blank he was trying to save? those are the clues you get into what a president was like behind-the-scenes. some times that comes out through documents and other sources. it helps to see that in three dimensions. >> host: how important was robert taft in the 40s and 50s as a senator? >> guest: a possible future president. he was most important and after
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world war ii he tried to make sure the republican party was isolationist and did not tried to remain involved in the un and help oppose the soviet union and nato. it was important to the eisenhower presidency in one particular way and that was this. eisenhower went to calfs in 1951 and taft was his chief opponent for the nomination and said if you publicly will announce you are in favor of the internationalist future for the united states i will not run against you. had calfs done that eisenhower would not have run and calfs might well have become president. consequences. >> host: and this quote from your book: eisenhower. a centennial life." eisenhower never made a thorough-going effort while president to turn the republican party into a permanent force for moderation in his own image. he always overestimated the capacity and willingness he always overestimated the
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capacity and willingness of the right wing to hurt him and never enlisted his vast popularity to take on the old guard. >> guest: eisenhower is on record many times saying he not only wanted the republican party to be more moderate and progressive. even at times talked about starting a new third party. from his point of view there were only so many hours in the day. party politics was not something he was very good at. he never used political or human energy to do that and it pained him because 1964 was alive and very well when barry goldwater was nominated who called the eisenhower administration a dime star new deal who felt we should use nuclear weapons against the soviet union and essentially stepping on all sorts of eisenhower tenets and eisenhower was confronted with evidence
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that he had not done what in his view he should. >> host: how well did johnson and barry goldwater know each other? >> guest: they knew each other very well as old pros on either side of the aisle, democrat and republican. for instance when johnson came back from accepting the vice-presidential nomination with kennedy in 1960 barry goldwater sent him a note saying i am nauseated. heat thought why would he run with a liberal like kennedy? by 1964 the relations between them were poisoned and it went beyond just the antagonism between two candidates running against each other. johnson really detested barry goldwater. on the state's you see and telling his aides to put out information that barry goldwater had nervous breakdowns and psychiatric treatment. it was pretty bitter. i don't know that the two men
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ever match ataya 64. >> host: were those why is he was talking about? >> you never know. is a pretty loose term but barry goldwater did have some emotional problems that may have been connected that he fought in world war ii. >> host: michael beschloss is our guest. one half hour left. >> thanks for taking my call. i was wondering if you would give me some insight into the relationship between general macarthur and eisenhower. >> guest: eisenhower was his aide in the 1930s. it would not have been much fun to be douglas macarthur's aid because it is all about macarthur and i don't think he treated his people well. eisenhower was a person of great pride and said to be treated by
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macarthur as a frat boy galled him. 1952 douglas macarthur spokane republican convention hoping there would be a draft movement to make him president. eisenhower was nominated -- you imagine that didn't do much for relations between the two men. it was john kennedy who had a fairly good relationship with douglas macarthur through his father who was quite conservative. they met in spring of 1961. kennedy and macarthur and macarthur gave kennedy great advice saying anyone who gets involved in a land war in asia should get his head examine. i wish people that to lyndon johnson. there was -- >> host: a movie on one of the movie channels, gregory peck macarthur movie rather sympathetic to douglas macarthur. was very real movement to have macarthur run for president? was that a serious --
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>> guest: 1951 when truman fired macarthur mccarter came back and famously spoke to congress, gave this the emotional speech old soldiers never die and people were very affected by this. was said by someone that when macarthur spoke on the republican side of the house there was not a dry eye. on the democratic side there was not a dry seat because they were worried he would run against truman and win. in 1951 he looked like a real threat. 1952, it fizzled out for various reasons. >> host: colleen, you are on the air. >> caller: thank you for talking about history. i just finished reading a book, jfk and the unspeakable by james douglas. in it he outlines -- >> guest: about the assassination?
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>> caller: yes and other things as well. it is about the background when jfk was trying to negotiate with russia and trying to find ways to quickly end the cold war. i was very interested in what was written about henry cabot lodge. he was chosen by jfk to be the ambassador and to vietnam and rather than following the instructions that jfk gave him to work with him to try to get vietnam to be neutral, henry cabot lodge seemed to do everything possible to make sure he did not stay as leader of
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vietnam. i am very curious if jfk had his own vision and his understanding of trying to end the cold war and not send troops to vietnam and at the same time the elements within the government who opposed his policies were actually undermined by everything he tried to do. >> host: with get an answer from michael beschloss. >> guest: we need solid evidence and in this one we do. kennedy had a memo on the third of november 1963 on the coup that killed the two brothers, the president of south vietnam and his brother and he criticized himself for having not given enough attention to the process, and henry cabot
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lodge who ran in 1952, kennedy once said and this is a little cavalier. this wasn't all that. it is going to be a mess and better to have a republican ambassador for. >> host: had jfk lived where would the war have gone? >> guest: did lincoln by? that saved his reputation. if lincoln ? that saved his reputation. if lincoln had survived would he have the fate of andrew johnson and make various decisions that would have been tuned him with later historians? >> host: what eisenhower have won a third term? >> guest: yes and eisenhower regretted he did not run. he liked being president but eisenhower saw himself to a great extent for in the spirit of george washington and he never would have violated that
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two term tradition and also an amendment by then would have prohibited that in any case. the anti franklin roosevelt amendment of 1947. >> host: if he hadn't pushed civil-rights would lbj have run in 1968? >> guest: the reason he did not run in 68 was two thing is. everyone is motivated by 90 different things. he was very aware men in the johnson family die before 65. he wasn't 59 years old by spring of 1958. number 2, he had become disillusioned with any escalation and the only way to end the vietnam war and save his reputation was to negotiate and felt he couldn't do that while the and a political candidate in 1968 and he was back and forth and you hear it on these tapes
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just before he gives the speech saying he will not serve another term as president. he is calling kerri sanford of north carolina asking him to be the chairman of johnson 1968 campaign. to the last moment he was ambivalent. >> host: the relationship between harry truman and dwight eisenhower? >> it was sad. when the eisenhower came through the white house on inauguration day of 1953 determined to put on a spread, the new president comes in and they all had coffee and did things and eisenhower wasn't getting out of his car and the trumans will get to the capital and eisenhower was pretty thin skinned or have a
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political background and truman said things against him in public that he should thought have said. the previous year they had a terrific relationship. truman is the one who sent eisenhower back to europe, 1950. truman's diary that was just discovered lately shows us that truman just after the war just after he became president said to eisenhower you should run as a democratic candidate and run for vice president with you. from later on denied that and the way that sometimes happens with history his own diary entry shows he did say that turned out was a book that had been mislaid at the truman library discovered a few years later but the had the end eyewall this was after john kennedy's assassination at a funeral president truman was there as were the eisenhowers and they had a drink together and they rode together in the
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car and they didn't entirely make of their own differences but had their first civil conversation since 1952. >> host: c-span is starting a new series that begins in february of next year. as far as first ladies go, who are the influential ones. let's start with modern history. >> guest: this is not all inclusive. certainly mrs. wilson and eleanor roosevelt. truman in a different way was seen by historians and many at the time as a cipher, he talked to her about everything and she gave a lot of views about personalities. jacqueline kennedy has demonstrated in a new book,
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ladybird johnson, betty ford, nancy reagan, barbara bush, laura bush, hillary clinton, michele obama in all sorts of ways. the trend here, closer to the current time. first ladies have a big influence on their husbands. >> host: what was mamie eisenhower's roll? >> guest: she said i went in eight years in the oval office four times. all four times i was invited. one way their marriage worked was they did not discuss nuclear weapons policy and there was a division of labor and that had quite a good marriage but did not rest on being political partners. >> host: did beth truman hate being first lady? >> guest: i think she protested too much a little bit.
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at the very beginning she went right back to independence and did not come back for a long time and was upsetting to her husband. she did not give press conferences. she was very private. one source of this was when harry truman was about to be named vice president in 1944 in chicago she was at first against it and the reason was her father had died -- committed suicide which no one knew and she was worried that she ran for vice president there would be the glare of attention that would come out and so he was able to get her to agree to let him run and when that became known no one cared about it very much. in a way there is a lesson often times that if someone is worried about something like that it often times turns out to be a lot more important to you than anyone else. >> host: james in bellevue, you are on with michael beschloss on booktv on c-span2.
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>> caller: thank you, gentlemen. an excellent program. you are an american blessing. i will try to do this very quickly. i am an independent and i am very concerned about the situation in our country on something you talk about earlier, term limits. the power of the parties, one to block the other hand thought to get legislation passed. the national debt. did founding fathers down through history anything happen concerning the subject of term limits and also the gerrymandering of district to keep parties in power with no real congressional competition
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in elections? >> guest: gerrymandering began early in american history. as far as term limits the founders were of two mines. they felt that it would be a good thing if you serve in the senate and went back to your house and were not a lifetime professional politician. on the other hand they discussed putting term limits in the constitution and they did not do it. >> host: some e-mails -- i don't know if this is something you know about but i thought i would ask. these are tweets. are you involved in the efforts to save the united states ocean liner in philadelphia? >> guest: i am not but one of my son's classmates in school is the granddaughter of the architect. it is a very good thing. the s s united states, this enormous ship that is now writing in philadelphia. i hope it can be saved.
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>> host: do you have any advice for authors writing history? >> guest: thank you for everyone calling the doctor which is an honorary degree the thank you all the same. >> guest: advice on writing history. >> guest: on how one should start writing history. >> host: i will let you take it any way you want. >> guest: i think two pieces of advice. if you are writing history realize you can't do it three minutes after the event concerned. it is not history. the other thing is the kind of history i practice don't put your private agenda or emotional agenda into your work and if you must, make sure they are clearly labeled. sometimes that doesn't happen.
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>> host: kerri feinberg's e-mail from illinois, it seems -- [talking over each other] >> host: we rarely get a chance to truly know presidential challenger so basically take all things on chance with one glaring exception, herbert hoover. what lessons do we take from the enormous change of national tide from adoration to almost hatred? was hoover all horrible political administrator or just in the wrong place at the wrong time? if saw >> guest: one school of thought gaining steam for years was actually hoover was remarkably progressive for his time and was miscast and a lot of things that led to the depression were more from the harding and coolidge period when the chicken came home to roost. i am not starting a hoover revisionist movement but one thing that is interesting is franklin roosevelt who was in many ways a large minded man
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detested herbert hoover, banned him from the white house. famously the hoover dam was called the boulder dam, did not want to lend to herbert hoover's legacy. that was true throughout the presidency. in retrospect it makes him seem a little bit small. one of the first things harry truman did was invite hoover to the white house. >> host: if you were to recommend one of your books, if people wanted to read one of your books which one would you recommend? >> guest: that is so hard. that is a question you have asked the voters on this and others have as well. it really is like your children. each has a different purpose and different when fan different subject matter. i have two sons and can't choose between them. i can tell you their strengths and weaknesses -- no weaknesses, not strength. please don't ask me. >> host: we will show you again a list of all of michael
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beschloss's folks. you have a web site? >> guest: i don't. maybe i should. >> host: do you tweak? >> guest: i don't. i have no facebook page. i guess i am 18th-century. >> host: what is the matter with you? >> guest: i got to write books. those take a long time. >> host: this e-mail from valerie martin in madison, wisconsin. of your writing. what is the best about content and circumstances related to the famous 18 minute gap in the nixon tapes? >> guest: i think not much. for those who don't remember h. r. haldeman, watergate takes the lead with a little private conversations. there is an important one in summer of 72 which he is talking to haldeman about what one up being obstruction of justice. haldeman kept pretty careful notes of those meetings and we have notes.
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those tell us pretty much what happened during the gap and it is not as important as a lot of the other sections of tapes of we have but it would be nice to have it. the national archives have tried for years to use new technology to find out what was on this accidentally erased tape. some people thought president nixon erase it deliberately. no evidence of that although he might have. but the technology is just not there yet. >> host: jan in wilmington leaders north carolina. go ahead with your question for michael beschloss. >> caller: thank you for taking my call. >> guest: hometown of david brinkley. >> caller: i believe so. i have the new six years and have learned all about it yet. >> host: he was not there during your time. >> caller: no. my question is what did all the presidents go into taking their choice of vice president? was it their knowledge of thing
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of the president did know? that they would sit back and never say a word? or they really could take over the presidency if there was a problem? did they write these fox down about who they chose? >> guest: for most of american history these were made for geographical balance or ideological balance within the party and oftentimes sadly made at the last minute and very hastily. as we were talking about with lbj happened at the last moment. all change in 1972. george mcgovern if at last moment showsthomas eagleton saying the lebanese continue closet? he said no. but he used electroshock treatment and the government felt compelled to throw him off the ticket. there's a very good book on this
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called the 18 they can did it that came out not long ago. presidential nominees since then have been so chastened by that that there is now an elaborate vetting process, discussions with potential candidates. you saw this with mitt romney and paul ryan this year. republic is much better served. >> host: one of the more altruistic vice-presidential picks? >> guest: not for political reasons? hard to think of them. one might be -- choosing truman. roosevelt shows truman knowing that he would not last his next term whether he died or had to resign. he did tell someone who is more moderate than i am from the midwest and experienced and going to the senate and other
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elements, he would do that better than i would. >> host: last call from dallas. the lead with your question or comment. >> caller: thanks for taking my call. my question has to do with timing. for example martin luther king jr. was killed on march 4th, '19 -- >> host: april 4th. >> caller: 1967. he gave a speech in new york condemning the country with respect to the vietnam war and he was killed on the same date, april 4th, 1968. that was several days after lyndon johnson made the claim that he would not run. >> host: are you seeing a conspiracy here? >> caller: i am raising a question. one biographer of lyndon johnson
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talks about the way lyndon johnson turned his back on sam rayburn. >> host: in the 1940s. >> caller: i don't remember the day. >> guest: early in time. relations between martin luther king and lyndon johnson were excellent at the beginning and immediately went south the second martin luther king came out against the vietnam war and that is sad because the two had so many things in common. >> host: please elaborate on the relationship between roosevelt, stalin and churchill during world war ii and how their alliance concord hitler's war machine. >> guest: we have three more hours? one sound bite. it is a happy circumstance of history that they were able to work together especially with stalin given the huge gulf
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between the two western leaders in all sorts of ways. more and more in retrospect world war ii is crucial in recent human history has one problem with history is when you look back at events they seem inevitable. believe me, the victory of the free world against hitler and company in 1945 was not in any way -- might have gone the other way. >> host: how much did churchill and roosevelt trusted stalin? >> guest: they were making an illusion and suggestions that they were on the same side than they were formally but dealing with roosevelt and churchill did a strike you as an interesting people? these are very suspicious politicians who assume even their allies are going to be trade them. political allies.
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i can't imagine that was suddenly suspended. >> host: kerri, you are on with michael beschloss. >> caller: i have a question about a battle in the pacific war during world war ii. very significant battle not often mentioned but it was a battle that made guadalcanal efforts such a slog for the marine corps. as i understand it it was information that was suppressed for many years. i was wondering if you had knowledge about how far up the line the whole effort to suppress the story went. does it come from the top? >> guest: i don't know. i will look into it. >> host: looking at your next book, why not include jefferson and the war of 1805 in your book
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on wartime presidents? >> guest: i think will find if you're dealing with the war of 1812 the name of thomas jefferson does not go unmentioned. >> host: last call from colorado. please go ahead with your question or comment with michael beschloss. >> caller: yes. we find them not very informative but also very entertaining. you are to be congratulated on matt. the decision by the court, it drove a great deal of radical political cost in the country. my question to you is do you believe the decision which i read was constitutionally correct and that is what i need to know? >> guest: to the center was a supreme court majority vote it was a horrible decision.
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just because the supreme court finds a verdict does not mean we in retrospect have to say this was the word of god. it sure wasn't and fortunately belatedly the supreme court made up for that. >> host: your next book is coming out when? >> guest: presidents and wartime. should be out in two years or so. >> host: the lbj takes trilogy, the third in the trilogy. >> guest: i hope that will be done in two or three years. >> host: you work on them simultaneously? >> guest: they are different. they go between horace some teheran to lbj. two parts of the brand. >> host: we have been talking to michael beschloss. here are a list of his books. "kennedy and roosevelt: the uneasy alliance" in 1980, "mayday: eisenhower, khrushchev and the u-2 affair" 86,
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"eisenhower: a centennial life" 1990. "the crisis years: kennedy and khrushchev, 1960-1963" 9 came out in 1991. "the conquerors: roosevelt, truman and the destruction of hitler's germany, 1941-1945" came out in 2002. "presidential courage: brave leaders and how they changed america, 1789-1989" came out 17 -- in 2007. some of his other co-written and edited books include at the highest level:the inside story of the end of the cold war and the two johnson takes books, taking charge in 1987 and reaching for glory in 2001 and his most recent jacqueline kennedy historic conversations on life with jfk:interviews with arthur schlesinger 1964. >> here's a look at some books being published this week. in i would like to apologize to every future i ever had:might year as a rookie teacher in


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