tv The General vs. the President CSPAN December 21, 2016 8:00pm-9:06pm EST
. >> this is the truman library it is wonderful to have such date crowd we have members that were here with us and also that we were sponsoring this together is great to have a crowd with the renowned presidential historian h.w. brands who goes by bill by the way who has written books by many books fdr and teddy roosevelt and very
well-received also a finalist for the pulitzer prize and a couple of different occasions talk about the university of texas in austin where he taught at vanderbilt and texas a&m he did graduate work in mathematics you don't see that every day. and also to sell cutlery across the american west. >> that is unique it is very interesting. >> that's it is true.
>> we will have a formal discussion as well. i have read this book "the general vs. the president" and a fake you have a very balanced and interesting take on both truman and macarthur a very important topic as time goes on that it is the very solid piece around for a long time to explain our nation's history that is a solid contribution that he is here to talk about tonight. so the way you open the book to talk about truman and his desire to rebuild europe and then you bring them back into the nation's and
macarthur had the similar outlook in its audit was interesting so explain to the audience the way they start off with that similar philosophy the way you approach the world to end up in a very different place. >> my first exposure came from the first visit to from policies in the early eight cold war and macarthur and tears the stage of the korean war but truman pretty much revolutionized the approach to the world
because 150 years united states abandoned its alliance with france 18th century to take the position on the advice of washington to avoid alliances the united states would go alone during the '20s and the other days to turn its back on europe during world war i to leave the of a door open and truman learned a lesson the lesson was the world cannot be left to its own devices. that led to such enterprises the united states will stay in europe to ensure that europe would be strong the
american taxpayer did not want to be on the hog to support other countries forever the idea was they would be biased -- revive the great countries to guide them on the path of the democracy so what truman and george marshall did in europe is what they're simultaneously doing in japan there was no marshall plan but the singleminded effort to reshape this country that was america's enemy to make it into america's ally and then friend. >> is his microphone cutting in and out? i hate to interrupt that
not exist that way. >> that was something he inherited from franklin roosevelt. in 1941 united states found itself in the two theater war. the roosevelt administration made a fundamental decision they would focus on europe first that the european heartland was where there was talent not that it was defeated but if japan would then it would be as much as before and it translated very easily meanwhile macarthur was commander of the allied forces tended to focus on the pacific but he
inherited this bias because his father was american military governor the philippines and as a young man he accompanied his father and he himself was sent out after being u.s. army chief of staff they were still an american colony and to help transition to the independent country so his entire career was centered on asia. slow to think of the theater and during world war ii on macarthur george marshall to
focus on the pacific they had to tune him out but he never changes mind to say the rebuilding of japan after the korean war broke out this is where will be won or lost. >> interesting talk about the strength of your book is the personality of these to show. no one is a hero and one is a jerk and in fact one of the quotations that you have to know him is to love him or hate him.
so you have that strain of personality but it is just a classic clash and one the things that attracted me this said different type because he is larger than life boosts its on top and becomes the defacto emperor of japan people gave him a vice he made the decision and was a lone figure and his administrative governing style i should add he was born to greatness. his father was a civil war in hero in it was expected
he was first in his class at west point he was the star of his generation. harry truman was nobody star the political hack from kansas city to get elected to the senate than almost by accident became vice president when franklin roosevelt needed to quell a mutiny of the 44 convention with they could see he probably wasn't wrong for the world that the then vice president would become president so he waves his thing grants says okayed this time he has to be talked into vice president then just three months later he becomes president.
he was flabbergasted. with truman the personality grows it grows on you after a while he does not impress you on the first meeting but macarthur did better harry truman sneaks up on you so we have tens of celebrities then the underdog that is true men that is the political philosophy. >> we will take a second if ever couple of questions here from the audience. >> want to comment.
among the american people they thought he was of great hero to substantiate something but i have not met anyone who has suffered under they did not like tim they call him dugout doug he would never come out of the dugout he would abandon the troops in the philippines he went to australia and got a medal of honor while fleeing of philippines this the statement that the aura he could project they were the sycophantic the people of around him who idolize him than the broader public who knew only through the opera's releases that he gave he was dead at managing
the press they did not have much use for them. >> but to think about what really happened the counterfactual argument would seem that the pass was blamed for what macarthur cause space he gets credit for what might have happened so it is difficult to go back had he gotten his way. >> to suffer from responsibility but if you're in a position mike mcarthur to is not responsible for american global power then
we need to take on chided to win the award. world war three had actually begun rose 42 was against fascism world war iii was dealing with communism then macarthur to it the position war had begun in war there is no substitute for victory but truman knew that some nuclear war is a possibility there is a substitute and that is survival. so macarthur went to his grave to say if i could have gone after china, we would have won world war two and he could say the soviet union would not have dared to enter the war this is the
position he took public and why he got fired because united states did not fall out against china's truman thought he was wrong but if he had done this bill they could prove me wrong. that you really had to prove them wrong just to entertain the thought. >>. >> to believe the same way macarthur did that it was actually a getting out of
hand. >> patton said they shed pat the soviet union. and this was a the mindset to call the of the of battlefield general but he did have the attitude that was widely shared at the time because it american history the all out war that a fence with that unconditional surrender of the anomaly but after aboard old war two because this was the signature aboard -- war we were attacked we go all out we will end and come home that is that.
also what he was dealing with andrea because americans are very frustrated with the ability to win the war against the clearly inferior. that was the rift between the two. the second part of that with the box tops with harry truman that gets back to the responsibility. macarthur could be paid irresponsibly because the burden is not on them to be around the world he had the commanders notion everything is all had where he was and truman would think of the whole world.
>> what we appreciate today about harry truman he had to make of what of tough decisions but yet we see them waffle on the question of the 304th parallel is anything about the subject matter that would cause us to from question our celebration of harry truman? >> celebrating and is farther than igo in the book but i don't think they give them more than his due but
he would extend pariahs in correa he did not have the marshall plan in mind he works his way through things so in dealing with korea and macarthur it's determined by surprise and the communist that the united states those with the wind to the defense of south korea because it declared it was not part of the national security zone it was not important to the united states so when they pulled their troops out they had no idea they would send the troops back in but what happened the communists won
the chinese civil war ended changed everything because now for their aboard the north atlantic treaty was barely one year old and the north atlantic treaty changed everything for the united states because the first time since the 18th century they recommended to a peacetime alliance that we will go to the defense of the allied and it was on the of line in korea so they needed to respond initially this was a defensive maneuver with the soviet delegate not being present
at the time of war broke god was possible to beat under the united asians to say that south korea of would be liberated invade north korea but when macarthur engineered the brilliant cut and dry and too near the capture the entire north korean harvey chairman m. macarthur got greedy. why stop at the 38 parallel? we can clear them all out of korea it was a lull little bit harder to capture those forces have brought them up close with there was serious
he said this is as far as i could go but truman would humor him because macarthur would tell him the war is almost over sochi and had strong suspicion of his willingness to obey the orders and is important to bear in mind douglas macarthur clearly out ranked truman but is true that truman was president and commander in chief but he had risen to the ranks of capt. macarthur was of five-star general. so mcarthur is saying the chinese will never dare to enter the war if they do we will annihilate them so one month later it does enter if anybody gets annihilated it is america so when he
proceeds to say go all-out if they do they will never enter from the soviet. >> would do believe to compare donald trump. [laughter] >> the first thing i would say is for him to announce his favorite general because especially when they are fighting the war it is like the war in korea has military force is the reasons to bring that to to
frustration we are the great military power we cannot defeat a bunch of ragtag terrorist so for truman to say we need more generals is natural he would not have is general giving interviews then you do not know macarthur. [laughter] because he gave interview after interview that was his whole problem and why he got interviewed and actually that there is the impression that surrounds truman decision to fire macarthur
no question he did have a temper but he did not fire him because he was mad or insubordination copies tactically he did not fire inviolate borders he was deliberately creating confusion want to american policy and with the president of united states say we're trying to keep this contained then the commander says we need to expand anwr against china he decided he did not want the war -- the world confused. moret than anyone else because harry truman still
holds a unique distinction the only person in history ever ordered the use of atomic weapons of the postwar interviews he thought about using the of bomb against japan but afterwards did not hickey in the second saw. i am not sure that i believe that and if i do, that is a huge decision i'd like to think he had a few sleepless nights that he was sensitive to the possibility where rolled 42 ended rolled or three would begin with that chronological coincidence that just months before the war in korea began they had
there first atom bomb 45 through the blockade and the crisis there would not have to be worried about using nuclear-weapons against the united states then they would be on the receiving end of the soviets. >> is seems that the korean war and truman have more control as opposed to these unconditional surrender.
is a with the eighth samples of the limited war? >> share. it was a limited war the war with mexico in the 1840's some people said they used to take all of mexico the war in spain but the unconditional surrender aspect was a little over a drawn to say it was not a political decision to utterly destroy a the not c. ritchie because world war i ended with the cease-fire and the german government still remains but it was not
defeated by the allied forces would and the reason was to prevent what happened when they said we did not lose that where we word be trade by the jews and that is why he was willing to take on the jews that we would fight and destroyed but that was the glue that held them together but i would add the war in the pacific does not end in conditional surrender and that was a huge deal that americans word sufficiently leary of war but also realized it was small potatoes compared to
germany. there was a lot of anger if the war in europe pet ended to say that never would have flown but that is what happens because americans during the war were led to believe they were behind all of this but the reason was the of leadership recognized after word said is handy to have the emperor there because they will help macarthur govern defeat sunday a idea that they fight the war all ought but it was applied primarily to the war in europe and so
these are standard in warfare that this not happen most of the time. >> i'll want to move into a the aftermath when you make eloquent statement to the end that there were good reasons to do that is interesting that to macarthur ends up discrediting himself. after he comes back to a hero's welcome to testify before the committee then they talk to other people in
the administration and get a very different picture of what happened in a rare much more sympathetic to truman although that was never made public and remains sealed. the people who heard the testimony did not recant in public but they would no longer look to macarthur with that strategy or politics they woody's away from the general but then they never said why. think that is intriguing. >> and this is what led me back to the story i will ask the question how many of you
remember that macarthur got fired? i was born 1953 silent about in school by literally came across it was in fact, doing research at the truman library but some part did not add up and makes sense had to do with the fact that macarthur gets fired most of the people blame harry truman to be stupid back then macarthur comes home to a hero's welcome to a ticker-tape parade gives a command performance and of the joint session of congress and the stays and
you can punch up the speech to congress it is fantastic a big have never seen a political speech he got people to cheer and to cry wolf soldiers never die they just fade away so if intact at the republican nominating convention he would renominated right there. so then shortly after that to the joint committee meeting to tell them what they got wrong. so for three days against the speech friday were right
or wrong. and vandenberg the chief of staff, most as the american public thought uh testimony was over one because every day they read in the and newspaper page after page in tranten full pages so the american people were buried in this testimony. they were closed hearings but 99.8% open because there word transcripts released the next day said they were following along, and they that they had been there. but the part that they had not heard that was a mystery
to him bb coz i hear this part that macarthur comes home and people suspected macarthur plight truman out because they wanted him to get fired to come home to run for president clearly he was planning to run for president although truman made the mistake to fire him. he is really popular and again there is a town in texas they were in much more favor of macarthur one so launches promisingly and give speeches around uh country and just flashes into truman all of while
with his five stars he has a sense not to say anything in response so what they did not realize that he held himself the nobody knew it. so i could not figure out why the air would leak out the way that it did. so his campaign did not go anywhere. so it turns out to 99.8% of the testimony these were close terris said moments when george marshall led say to the person transcribing, this cannot be
released so what he said was basically chapter and verse five mart one negative macarthur's approach was wrong headed but when macarthur would complain to have to fight the chinese with one hand behind his back and working to the benefit of the chinese will marshal and omar bradley says he has it wrong that he is working to our benefit the reason that handicapped private was marshall wobble and bradley did not want to advertise the brcs stretched as then as could be an vanderberg says pretty much every spare played is fighting in correa so this is an invitation to the
soviets you want to move on berlin? go-ahead. why we could not figure out what happened to his political balloon. he and never found out why. so the rest of the testimony was released. so with was better monte's committees the wind who would run for president to say if he had done what he wanted to do they was walkaway at macarthur really did never find out what happened. so there was another judge girlhood -- another general
decided to put his hat into the ring. [laughter] this is macarthur had run for president in the age of washington to present yourself as being better he may have had a chance but in the '50s he also had to be responsible. >>. >> with the valuations by bradley to expand the war was that the primary decisions? or was that made independently put. >> truman is very good listening to his divisor's
with george marshall and dean acheson. from the joint chiefs and and they all understood. that was why when macarthur promised before they entered the war to say i will have the troops home by christmas they would go back to where they word needed sowed germany was relatively undefended. so they understood they could not get bogged down by korea. bucket was not broadcasting to fight the two-seater war perk of we get any more deeply involved "the reader"
and now the troops to deal with them. won the the things they did was sparked a dramatic rearmament with a three year plan that bradley and marshall and treatment -- truman that could be postponed until 19538 because the concern always was the soviets would take they had ended vantage and they did. answer to the agreement advantage if it had gotten deeper into the war in asia. macarthur never believed he was wrong about what happened in china but the way he put it to truman the soviets will not respond.
so how did truman become the great man quick. >> because truman has the presidential library. [laughter] >> i will say that the chairman case is one history did not vindicate truman when he left office he was the most unpopular president in history his popular approval rating was lowered and nixon even during watergate so if under the constitution he could ever
ever-present again in 1953 even the democrats wanted him to get out of town he says fair enough and he leaves popularity remains very low with delicate the outcome of korea have parted unsatisfactory is not what we want to repeat so macarthur was a more popular figure but truman stock begins to rise a little bit as the career story is repeated in vietnam but then there are worse outcomes in the stalemate and the land war in asia. by 68 johnson would have
given his right to arm for the korean style results in vietnam but it was not for more than a decade after that that the truman reputation begins to soar but not until the end of the cold war because the central policy of containment said we don't have to defeat communism it will defeat itself one. all we have to do is prevent it from spreading that was containment, and make sure reid don't blow up the world in world war iii. that was the paula c. in caria but then it was clear that the united states had the cold war one on america's terms. this is what he said would have been. a tete 40 years but at that
point it seems to be wise and farsighted so wet that point he was ranked right down there the bottom of the list of presidents and rose to take a deposition of where he is now of washington and lincoln and fdr but it is because he played a the long game. this is one where i will not try to speak for george w. bush by cannot help thinking that he does the true then on him -- truman on him that
through the '80s both political parties were coalitions there were liberal republicans as well as conservative republicans and conservative and liberal democrats it was entirely possible to forge a bipartisan domestic policy and foreign policy and truman understood that necessity to engage in those projects like nato and it was very important to get those leading republicans to come on board. is a lot harder to do that today. truman could see that the parties have changed when lyndon johnson the
civil-rights reform did not get that far but to make it a priority but the first thing that happened was the conservative white democrats were more conservative than many republicans the they gravitated out to become republican. so then he felt increasingly uncomfortable such today we have a situation the the most liberal republican is more conservative than the most conservative democrat. the true then would get this bipartisan seal of approval and it was essential to
their success. it is hard for any president to get that today. also the makeup of the political party. >> i was born in 1950 and in a military hospital. did they try to get national health care and here we are 70 years later. >> truman was tabled president and foreign policy and is given a lot of credit for what he accomplished to
change america's foreign policy also domestically as well but he doesn't get as much credit for that. so truman tried to get congress to write legislation in the 40's with favor not willing to go there he wasn't getting much from his own party because the republicans wasn't going to give him a victory on anything with an election coming up was assumed the republicans would win so with american politics those grievances just add up eventually they say he is in power long enough will put in a republican so they would not give him any success on civil-rights and the democrats wouldn't either so he wanted civil-rights legislation
decided to take executive action and ordered the military to desegregate the then he discovered what he predicted about eisenhower because truman did try to get eisenhower to run as a democrat in 1948 and said i will step aside if you will run. right after truman became president in he was uncomfortable he became more comfortable. [laughter] by the time eisenhower was elected he said he doesn't know what he's getting themselves into he will give an order and say do this and the army they do that the politics they don't have to any will not know what to do. truman it experiences with
the civil-rights because truman gave the order the military will desegregate but they took the position it is a bureaucracy and bureaucrats will realize that presidents come and go but bureaucrats reid main. so they found any number of reasons to desegregate the military but when and the korean war began to appear after it was as segregated as ever but the crisis in korea when american forces were beat and the generals discovered they had to throw whenever they had into ever holes they had so they started to put the black soldiers into the foxholes with the white soldiers. they said that would ruin morale because the
conservative southern whites will not want to fight next to the black soldiers. but they all discovered one if somebody can use a rifle of their overhead then it'd so k.. so is partly the orders of truman but also the reality and the necessity if tremendous in get credit to push in that party the johnson themselves that he could make that truman was from a state so not a full-blown southerner but he ender's stood what this meant to be a black person in the south and the
necessity for the united states. . . >> 20 years here, 25 years, whatever it was and he very much appreciated the groundwork that harry truman laid to that. to your point, 51 years ago lyndon johnson and harry truman sat on this stage and signed the medicare act and he came to washington to sign that legislation and he gave the first card to harry truman and then to beth truman.
and he honored them. >> one last question. [inaudible] >> in the pacific ocean during the second world war, he signed to get in in 1942 and had no great love for macarthur. he ended up in the baton death march dying in a hospital, but to this day you can forget macarthur and never forget our military. i've heard that they're trying to identify through dna all the living relatives so these
people can properly be buried and put to rest, so my hat's off to our government and to all the military forces. thank you. [applause] >> indeed. . >> let's just-- i we need to wrap up so we can do some book signings, but i just wanted to ask you one final question, kind of a-- what does it all mean? i mean, what does this -- what does this moment in history tell us? i think that we often talk about constitutional ramifications and the military being demented in this way and talk about the truman doctrine more to europe than asia. and quickly, what are the big things that do you think we learned? you've done a great job of balancing this and not making a hero and villain story out of it, but a moment in our history
where serious decisions needed to be made. what do we gain from those decisions? >> first of all, the story here is this is a moment when there's this-- i i'll say robust base within the administration and some presidents are reluctant to have that robust base. they want a concensus reached at a lower level and they just want to give the stamp of approval to that. truman wasn't like that. truman wanted to hear the opposing views and he was willing up to a certain point to have those aired in public so truman demonstrated there is a nature of leadership that's not afraid of being challenged. and truman tolerated mccarthur for a long time. and you mentioned the constitutional aspects, this is really crucial because since harry truman, we'll call him originally a nobody from kansas
city, fired douglas macarthur, the most celebrated, decorated soldier of his generation. since then there has never been any serious challenge to civ civilian and controlling military. and it's taken as a matter of course this is the way things we run things in this country. there are small aspects of the story that show truman's sort of humanity, but also his understanding of, and i would say his deep respect for the office that he held. and sometimes, you know, let's say in the last 18 months or so, the office of the president, has not been held in that kind of respect, but there's a moment when truman has decided that macarthur needs to be fired and he intended that macarthur would
receive the news personally from the secretary of war, who is travelling in east asia. but the truman white house got wind that macarthur got wind of this and was going to resign ahead of being released. truman was not going to give macarthur that satisfaction. so truman prepares this press conference, excuse me, he prepares a press release and in the press release saying that the president has decided that macarthur needs to be relieved of his duties and a young-- one of the young press secretaries are there, mr. president, i presume you'll want to include on this that this was on the unanimous recommendation of your top civilian and military advisors, which was indeed the case. all of his advisors said macarthur needs to be released and truman turns to this young