Skip to main content

tv   History Bookshelf  CSPAN  August 29, 2015 4:00pm-5:42pm EDT

4:00 pm
♪ >> history bookshelf airs every weekend at this time. james pearson examines the changes in liberalism after the assassination of john f. kennedy . the american enterprise institute hosted this event in 2007. it is just under 90 minutes. >> welcome for the book forum. normally we are a policy organization, focused on public policy but occasionally the
4:01 pm
tectonic plates of politics undergird us. theant to look at event that is the most traumatic event of the last half-century of american life, the .ssassination of jfk and at almost 50 years removed, is there anything new to be said about this grim episode? surprisingly there is. jim pearson argues in camelot and the cultural revolution that the trauma of his killing went beyond the nation's grief and outrage and led to the d formation of our political consensus. it was the catalyst for transformation of liberalism in the 1960's and should be
4:02 pm
regarded as a key turning point of the end of america's law liberal tradition and the beginning of a new kind of liberalism that represents a repudiation of the older tradition. whether this older tradition was too brittle because of its predecessors is a matter that the panel will take up. we have david brown and the author of a biography of richard hofstadter. hofstadter is important because he is one of the leading mid-century.he consensus liberalism. he contemplated the
4:03 pm
clash between new left and its liberal fathers. striking,aph i found the columbia crisis forced him to realize most liberals did not understand liberalism. they believed it was self-perpetuating even in the face of violence. they had no idea of the toughness and effort required to sustain it against enemies. he noted the style of liberalism was not liberal at all. it was soft, weak, and inconsistent. rather than serve as a consensual middle ground for the majority of americans, liberals were tilting to the left. abandoning their liberalism. i can see why you were taken with his book. our second discussant is michael barone.
4:04 pm
he can tell you exactly how many votes and from which precinct mayor daley rounded up for kennedy. in addition to being a long-time columnist we are pleased he is now a fellow here at aei. he is the author himself of the ourative political history country, which he thinks about the same themes. we begin with jim piereson. jim: thank you. i'm delighted to be here, delighted to be on the panel with old friends. steve hayward. rone.el ba and david brown, a young scholar
4:05 pm
who has turned out a wonderful book on richard hofstadter. the kennedy assassination was what i call an overwhelming events in the 1960's. no one expected it. it came as a shock. it turned out to be an event that was extremely difficult to assimilate according to the assumptions of the time in the assumptions of liberalism. to start out, i have a short , which is a collage of the events of the time, which when i talked to college students i like to show because they have no sense of any of this history. do you want to start it off? i think this will work. [applause]
4:06 pm
full employment. economic growth. a strong society. .qual opportunity for all americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. whether it wishes us, that we shall pay any price. bear any burden. meet any hardship. [applause] ♪ >> a strict quarantine on all
4:07 pm
offensive military equipment is being initiated. all ships at any time bound for cuba from whatever nation report, found to contain cargoes of offensive weapons be turned back. >> some say it is useless to eace, and that it will be useful until the leaders of the soviet union adopt a more enlightened attitude. i hope they do. i believe we can help them do it. >> some say communism is the wave of the future. [applause] >> the cries for equality that no city or state or legislative
4:08 pm
body can choose to ignore. thishave a dream, one day nation will rise up, live up to theies -- live meaning of its creed. all men are created equal. [applause] >> i wish to enact legislation giving all americans the right to be served and facilities open .o the public this seems to be an elementary right. this is an arbitrary dignity. no american in 1963 should have to endure. >> it is been a long time since we have had a rip or on your health. how is your aching back? [laughter] andt depends on the weather
4:09 pm
political allies. >> mrs. kennedy. the crowd yells. and the president of united states shaking hands with the dallas people. withce concern themselves the progressive future. >> i hope to preserve the peace to make sure that this is achieved. [gunshot] >> bullet wounds. the president is seriously wounded. >> here is a flash from the associated press. they say he is dead.
4:10 pm
dead.sident kennedy is capitol is ins disbelief. the sidewalks have been jammed with crowds. -20 feet away from the president. >> three shots rang out towards jackie. said my over on him and god, he is shot. >> here and there people are crying. there are reactions of rage and fury. have, only evidence i ultraconservative groups spreading hate. in mys is the first time life i can say i'm not proud to be an american.
4:11 pm
>> they have little doubt that lee also walled was the one who shot and killed president kennedy. this.eny [inaudible] >> c has been shot. oswald has been shot. >> it is impossible to man cannd, this young be dead in this fashion. there is nothing.
4:12 pm
>> ok. illustrate ailm to couple of things. eventust the shock of the in american life. there were two key issues. civil rights, the cold war. the cold war flash point of the cuban missile crisis the year before, brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. there is in this film the idea that the kennedys were celebrities. the moving scenes associated with the assassination, the
4:13 pm
photos of the event and the scenes of the funeral with the widow, the march 2 arlington national cemetery. engraved on the national memory where they served as a dark backdrop to the tumultuous events that followed in the 1960's. most books on the assassination raise the question of who did it. that oswald do it. he did. or maybe the mafia. maybe the cia or fbi. the radical right wing businessman. those are favored subjects. i ask a different question. what did it mean. this is a large event. what did it mean in american life. what was its meaning for politics? what was the length between kennedy's assassination in 1963
4:14 pm
and the events that followed, which by 1968 turned the nation on its head? end1960's represented the of the liberal era, which began in the 1930's with franklin roosevelt and the new deal. by 1968 the assumptions of the liberal movement that roosevelt, truman, stephenson, humphrey, represented,hnson those assumptions were in tatters by 1968. 1968 was a remarkable year. a wall street journal piece on the events of that year including, two important assassinations. senator kennedy and martin luther king. and the upheavals on campus. lyndon johnson's withdrawal from the race.
4:15 pm
1963 towe get from 1968? we had a stable country. a fairly popular president. his popularity was around 60% when he ventured to dallas. within 4.5 years the country was turned upside down. i spent a great deal of time on postwar liberalism, the liberalism reflected in the work of richard hofstadter. a historicaled narrative of liberalism in the 1950's. set forth whatd i would call a democratic narrative. they believe that america had with thebut that leadership of liberals,
4:16 pm
intellectually and politically the democratic experiment in america could be progressively perfected. and the bounty of america was progressively extended to those who had been left out. that was the narrative they believed in. the cold war represented a new iteration of liberalism. postwar liberalism, the 1950's and 1960's represented the third iteration of 20th century liberalism. the new deal was the second. postwar liberalism the third. and the cold war represented an important piece of this. they believed in fighting the cold war. you saw the clip of kennedy in berlin. fighting oncontrast the plane of ideas, that communism was a failure on the plane of ideas and practicality. element ofne other
4:17 pm
postwar liberalism important to mention. the effect of mccarthyism. the liberals of the new deal were confidence that their ideas were supported by majority of the people. the electoral results seem to prove that. mccarthyism challenged this. it seemed that mccarthy, whom the liberals regarded as a demagogue, gained support. mccarthy might generate sufficient support to overturn the achievements of the new deal. a bodyose in the 1950's of work by these historians which focused heavily on the radical right is a great threat to democratic process and a threat to this democratic narrative they set forth. the radical right consisted of the anti-communists like
4:18 pm
mccarthy, southern racists and bigots, and ministers on the radio the war only what with the previous two groups. there is a very large industry of books and articles on the radical right. daniel bell edited a very anduential book posted reedited in 1962 call the radical right. from a liberal standpoint it was not conservative. it was not associated with groups that held power. it was not respectful of institutions. they were radicals outsiders, they had little power. daniel bell called them the dispossessed. they were at war with modernity. hofstadter wrote and in full and shall assay called the paranoid
4:19 pm
style in american politics in which he characterized these extremist groups as being out of touch with reality, paranoid. most of the examples he gave her from the right, though he did not exempt the left. faith,s the democratic and the democratic analysis set of they liberal thinkers 1950's and early 1960's. kennedy was loosely associated with this tradition. he talked about the future, progressive future of the american dream. even though he was a very cautious politician, kennedy never wanted to get far out in front of public opinion. he came late to the support of civil rights. after there had been at least
4:20 pm
two years, three years of persistent demonstrations in the south. they reached a point by 1963 when he saw this could not be held off any longer. as i said, the two great issues were civil rights and the cold war. was an important flashpoint. eventsthe course of 1963 picked up speed. you saw the clip of the police in birmingham using fire hoses and dogs on the demonstrators. that was flashed across the country. a civil rights activist was assassinated outside of his home in jackson, mississippi. kennedy endorsed the civil rights bill. in september the ku klux klan blew up a church killing for small girls.
4:21 pm
kennedy gave a speech and blamed george wallace for inflaming public opinion to the point where such actions were taken. evenson, view u.s. ambassador ventured to dallas to give a speech he was greeted by hecklers. he was spat upon as he made his way to his car and hit over the head with a cardboard placard. this is the end of october. cause gold attended the event. that dallaseported was overtaken by a spirit of madness in the white house should think twice before they send president kennedy into such a dangerous city. kennedy committed himself to going. there was a rift between johnson and connolly, and sinister yarborough on the other side. johnson wanted to run a conservative against yarborough.
4:22 pm
he ventured to dallas. it was kennedy, events for tita. assee any violence occurring emanating from the radical right. , anti-communists or racists. when word spread that afternoon that kennedy had been shot, broadcasters began to speculate quickly that some forces from the right were responsible. people were shocked when they began -- when all's well was arrested and they showed tapes of oswald demonstrating on behalf of castro the previous summer, appearing on television interviews saying he was a communist. someone who had defected to the soviet union before returning. kennedy, plain that
4:23 pm
given the evidence, was a victim or casualty of the cold war. that would seem to be the interpretation placed on the event. this was not the case. very quickly, this event was interpreted by liberals, political leaders, even political leaders across the spectrum as an event in the civil rights crusade. kennedy is a victim of the nation's culture of the radical right. this is a copy, you can't see it. the front page of the new york after november 23 the day kennedy was killed by snipers. there is a long story on oswald. leftist accused. details all's walled -- oswald's communist
4:24 pm
background. article, you can see it below the photo, why america weeps. victim of a wild streak he sought to curb in the nation. he interprets kennedy's death as an event, a rising from the violent strength in america. itself.wept for the worse in the nation has prevailed over the best. the indictment extended beyond the assassin. some strain of madness and violence that destroyed the highest symbol of law and order. the irony is that it short dashes administration was dedicated to curb the violence in the american character. it goes on in that vein.
4:25 pm
pushing this fame, the new york times published an editorial called the spiral of hate. this is after oswald has been shot. place it in the same context. martin luther king said it had to be seen against the backdrop of violence against civil rights workers in the south. kennedyren said that was a martyr because of hatred injected into the bloodstream of the nation by bigots. hedon johnson said that wanted to tap out the hatred and prejudice and oppression prevalent in american life and the best memorial given to president kennedy would be to pass the civil rights bill. the day after the assassination,
4:26 pm
the leaders of the american telegram party sent a saying that the assassination was the ultimate end of the rise of violence and terror by racists and forces of the ultra-right. the soviet union put out a statement saying reactionary -- reactionaries are using the death to fuel anti-cuban hysteria. also was the man accused of burning the rice stock fire, the rice stock in 1933. the interpretation continued along these lines. looking at the newspapers i saw only one instance of a prominent figure chocking kennedy's assassination of to the cold war and communism. this didn't happen.
4:27 pm
the dominate interpretive motif was that kennedy was a victim not of communism, not of the cold war, but a victim of hatred and violence that was prevalent in american life. why did that happen? very quickly, several reasons. mrs. kennedy wanted her husband remembered as a modern day abraham lincoln. a casualty of the crusade for equal rights. in her mind, being a casualty of the cold war did not carry with it the honor that the other would have. ofdon johnson was fearful complicating relations with the soviet union should the communist aspect be emphasized. liberals were fearful that an emphasis on communism would inflame the public and bring about a replay of the mccarthy
4:28 pm
era that had done so much damage to liberals. robert kennedy and other members of the family were careful of a communist element emphasized, attention will be drawn to efforts to overthrow castro. j edgar hoover did not wish this to be emphasized either. theoryerred the lone nut of the assassination. if it were shown also was a subversive communist the fbi would be held liable for not having identified him and protected the president. the fbi is not responsible for identifying lone nuts. less -- it should be said the public did not know in 1963 of the kennedy administration efforts to eliminate castro. this was not made public until
4:29 pm
1975 when the church commission investigated efforts by the cia when they disclosed efforts by the eisenhower and kennedy administration to assassinate leaders. the public did not have the information needed to put these pieces together that leaders did. i have a long chapter on oswald that i will not get into. also was a strange and bizarre character in the cold war, defecting to the soviet union in 1962.returning in being in contact with the communist arty and the socialist workers party. he purchased a rifle and a the first1963, and thing he did was try to assassinate the head of the john birch society in dallas.
4:30 pm
his shot missed. people living in dallas at the time suspected that he had done this. if he had hit walker and killed him he probably would have been captured. he left a note to his wife telling her what he should -- what she should do if he was killed. that was not until after kennedy was assassinated. he was fearful of staying in dallas after he tried to kill the general and created a fair play for cuba committee. he was interviewed frequently on television and radio. september of 1963 he gave an interview to the associated press reporter in cuba in which he said that american leaders continued efforts to assassinate leaders of the revolution they will not be safe. the text of the interview was published in newspapers around
4:31 pm
the country, including the paper where also called lift. it's an investigator suspected craps all small was like the corgi a's to the king -- cortier s to the king, who will rid me of this miserable priest? he made an effort to travel to cuba in september of 1963 by visiting the cuban and soviet in this these in mexico city. up a call from oswald from the cuban to the soviet embassies and referred this to the fbi who try to get 's also walled trail -- oswald trail. he attended the demonstration against stevenson at the end of october. he was living apart has wife
4:32 pm
and the fbi could not find him. they interviewed his wife twice in early november 1963 but she would not tell him where her husband was. since they didn't interview people at their places of employment the fbi did not track him down. jagerthe assassination hoover discipline agents privately. saying, when as you discipline the agents, i will not tell you actions which have forever destroy the fbi's reputation as a top investigative agency. hoover believe the fbi should have been able to intercept oswald before he assassinated kennedy. book, the the assassination of kennedy and the interpretation imposed upon it, that kennedy was a victim of a
4:33 pm
violent streak in the nation, that it was place in the context of this warfare against the radical right, that this led to the unwinding of liberalism and contributed to it. i don't think it did alone. many events for taking ways in the 1960's. but the narrative of liberalism changed by 1968, i think that today.is with us the democratic narrative the liberals had in 1950's was aggressive and future oriented. the narrative that came into place by the late 60's was a different one. if that america was a flawed and sick society. all the things we had been proud of they regarded as things we should criticize. our prosperity was based upon imperialism and exploitation.
4:34 pm
uponrosperity was based the spoiling of the environment. and the cognitive dictators. this could betray stall the way through american history back to the beginning. so purpose of reform was not much to perfect the democratic experiment but to punish the nation for its sins. this became a narrative that replaced the older narrative. it is this is this as much as anything else that brought about the end of the liberal era. i see a connection from the response of kennedy assassination and development of this narrative. until the 1960's, liberals try to maintain a wall of separation between themselves and the far left. the far left existed. there was a communist or socialist left that saw america as headquarters of world capitalism and therefore a
4:35 pm
nation not to be admired. then there were the cultural radicals who saw oppression not in capitalism but in the institution of civilization itself. the school, the family, the church. the purpose of politics was to liberate the individual from these institutions. try toitical liberals keep a distance from these groups. what happen in the 1960's, the wall between liberalism began to dissolve, and the critiques of the socialist and cultural radical seat into the mainstream of liberal thought. ed to generate a narrative that lives with us today. thank you. [applause] david: good afternoon.
4:36 pm
i would like to thank aei for inviting me here. i would like to thank professor iereson for such an interesting book. i think it is ironic in 1950's and 1960's and age of consensus, there was no consensus about what american liberalism was. conservatives tend emphasize the fact that modern liberalism was a creature of crisis. the crisis was the 1930's. it was the belief once the crisis was over there was no need for modern liberalism to continue. a more traditional conservatism would come back into power. conservatism emphasizing individualism, isolationism. to ms. him.t's
4:37 pm
there was this notion, there was one part that was maybe worth reserving. the programmatic element of it. used in theencies 1930's to combat the great depression. the social security act. the works progress administration. ed, there1930's pass is this question. what is it that is compelling to make a stand, make it last? professor pierson notes in his way that it begins to give to a cold troll liberalism. --cultural liberalism. it is a politics of intellect.
4:38 pm
if the liberalism begins to those soft, you have an artificial construction of ideas rather than programs which are sustaining a movement. you need programs to sustain them, to keep them going. you have historians, social scientists, you had critical , whoers, intellectuals emphasize the efficacy of new deal liberalism and wanted to see it continue into the postwar . not a return to the old conservatism. in politics, you have individuals like at least personifyennedy, who the stylistic elements of postwar liberalism. hofstetter in particular was
4:39 pm
taken by stevenson. he worked for the campaign in 52 in 1956.ff the bus he was a supporter of john f. kennedy, didn't want to get too close to the wheels of power. critical maintain a intellectual distance but look at the alternatives and dwight eisenhower, nexen, found them to be in some sense stayed, anti-intellectual. not interesting politicians. this argument about a kind of politics of style, where is it going to go? couldn't transcend the lack of identity? many conservatives make the argument that it couldn't. it collapsed because there was not enough substance to it.
4:40 pm
liberals take a different tack. liberals argue that modern liberalism has deep roots in the american past. you can go to the populism of the 1890's or post-enlightenment thinkers like thomas jefferson, james madison, and english all goodjohn locke, liberals. liberals make the argument what is happening in america is evolution of an older liberalism responding to the new deal. it does not represent a new phenomenon. it is an evolution of sorts. liberals would emphasize that there is a crisis. the crisis was the crisis of the 19 six. not the economic crisis. thethe cultural crisis of
4:41 pm
1960's that encouraged disenchantment with liberalism. both sides, conservatives and liberals emphasized crisis. a liberal might make a what's happening in the 20th century, since 1968, is the emergence of a conservative movement whose roots are as deep as the liberal movements, the liberal ideology. and what is taking place is in the fact that you have a native conservatism which is coming back into power after 1968. it is a restoration of what was transpiring before 1932. liberals emphasize today they may be looking for their own restoration. cultural openness and tolerance. , thesay the benchmark
4:42 pm
foundation of american liberalism, what they would suggest is the last years has been a hit cup, a movement away from a traditional american ideology. you have this interesting situation, this age of consensus. neither conservatives or liberals agree on vital things. when did liberalism began? 1932, while ago? even more basic. america. ideologically, what is it? is it mostly liberal or conservative? what they do agree on is that something happened in 19 ca. postwar liberalism, the new deal coalition was shattered and has not come back.
4:43 pm
so that is the question that professor peers and raises. what happened to bring this about? the kennedy assassination tells part of the story. someld like to add on additional reasons. some touched upon in the book. they their emphasis here. the impacts of the vietnam war. i late 1960's the country had major asian land wars. coupled with that, there's evidence of cold war fatigue. the resistance against the soviet states, international communism for more than a generation building up a culture that would be impervious to communism.
4:44 pm
a kind of respite in this crusade in the late 1960's. then a buildup in the 1980's. one can emphasize this enchantment by the late 1960's with the civil rights crusade. proudly, wouldnt liberalism be blamed when the black power movement begins to become more prominent, when you have long hot summer's in newark and cleveland. -- what wouldm liberalism's response to this be? this is a huge issue. the riddle of race that has been problematic for so long. liberalism has no concrete answers in 1968. there is also a cultural change
4:45 pm
afoot. is the yearsly it that the feminine mystique comes out. it is not so much a 1960's book, i think of it as a 1950's book. educated female class. it does point to broader colts fishers inl, gender american society at the time. a book that obviously predates the assassination. when i think of movements, i have to emphasize student movements of the 19 six these. they were important response to the war in vietnam. they were a response to universities in general. the tremendous growth due to the baby boom. you had universities that had to
4:46 pm
rapidly within a half a generation begin to expand, offer new curriculums, bring forth new faculty. amidst broader cultural movements, and a cold war state. when i think of the students, i think of some of the things they were pushing for, i'm not sure i would attribute all of this to pacifism. example, while there were certainly anti-intellectualism on the part of the students, at thatoint, the argument universities should be impervious to government. they should be impervious to cold war state. universities should be sanctuaries of critical
4:47 pm
thinking. all ideas, all ideologies should be welcome and express. many students at that time were that the assumption university represented that. you show up, there is an ivory tower. it is very attractive. you make these great professors and think these people can change the world. then you realize that they can't change the world. you can become cynical about that. maybe you are victims of your own high expectations. they are great expectations to have. when they are not met, they looked at some and said you let us down. well there is a social movement. i would add demographic movements in particular. is anansferring
4:48 pm
interesting migration out of the liberal northeast into the southwest. a conservative southwest. by the 1960's new york 10 longer be the most populist stay in the union. texas has also eclipsed the state of new york. that isa population followed by a booming defense industry in the southwest. industry in energy the southwest. so you have people, you have money, military, and power, making very interesting migrations. 1963,ill continue after but it is taking place before 1963 as well. programmatiction, liberalism in the 1930's, i don't think that they died out
4:49 pm
with the great depression. i think one can make an argument in the 1960's programmatic liberalism comes back with a vengeance. is lyndoneferencing johnson's great society programs . medicare and medicaid. civil rights legislation. the war on poverty. johnson a heritage that and made it go. an ironic sense, maybe it wasn't so much the death of programmatic liberalism but it was the dramatic, rapid pace of programmatic liberalism coupled increasenam, and to the pace of activity. a pace that was probably too rapid for the american public to assimilate in such a short time.
4:50 pm
before i conclude my remarks, i would like to mention there were real crux in the liberal edifice before 1963. in politics, one could look at iecratthurmond's dix candidacy. this would point to the race politics of the future. in 1968 you have george wallace. , his 1961enhower address concerning the dangers of an military-industrial complex, the last address that he gave as president. dangerss to a think the not set in concrete at his time at the possible dangers of a warfare welfare state, with -- aninto an artificial imperial presidency.
4:51 pm
anticipating a problematic future. you tie this together with the student movement, you look at this idea of welfare warfare state and what it means to americans in the future. they rebelled against that. some dead. finally, there were a number of interesting, provocative books that appeared in the 1950's and 1960's that emphasized a certain distrust, animosity with the direction of modern liberalism. for example, power elite. and i think also, christopher's book in 1965. was a latee respects 1950's book. this was a new radicalism in america. a book.
4:52 pm
critical of modern liberalism. , the winterteinbeck of our discontent is a beautiful portrait of a fading lost century. i mention these books because there was considerable dissent laid out from the right, and certainly it was modern conservatism that has done well. the collapse of modern liberalism. culturally speaking as well. there was considerable attention from the left trying to not fine tune, not criticize, but to take down the liberal edifice, the consensus state. they played a role as well. thank you. [applause] >> thank you very much, steve.
4:53 pm
i want to thank jim pearson for writing this book. in my view this is a terrific contribution to the study of american history. an explanation for a vast change that occurred in america, a partial explanation but an important one, something i have been trying to understand for many years and have failed to do so. , a narrative political history from 1930 to 1988, i tried to set forth some of these things and how 1963, which was in some sense the 1968, still, it becomes which is very much the 1960's and exerts the holdover our
4:54 pm
culture. how american liberalism moved from a celebration of american exceptionalism to an american adversarial is some, taking an adversary's stance, seeing american liberalism of franklin roosevelt, they saw america as a good place. this was a good country. sinceerican liberalism 1963 has taken a different -- has tended to take a different view. 2004, questions is america basically a fair and decent country or not? with the world be better off if more countries are more like america or not? he found two thirds of the voters answered yes to both
4:55 pm
questions. a quarter answered no. wasg republican voters it 90% yes. democratic voters response was in the nature of 47% to 39%. that is a marginal of reminds me of the story of the teamsters union business agent in the hospital and received a bouquet of flowers with a note that said the executive board wishes you a speedy recovery with a vote of 9-6. less than equivocal support for american exceptionalism. democratic candidates have gotten in trouble for a lack of american exceptionalism. michael dukakis, where the wouldl town meeting debate whether to say the american pledge. bill clinton, the most accessed through democratic politician
4:56 pm
could voice american , and withlism things his adeptness could do so while apologizing for america's past misdeeds from slavery to the overthrow of queen lili oaklawn -- so the monarchy america regrets it overthrew. jim pearson's video at the beginning of this affected me emotionally more than i would have thought. , 19 years old old when kennedy was assassinated. a freshman at harvard. was -- and i was an admirer of kennedy at or to tim in the 1960 election.
4:57 pm
mitt romney was also a students. we had a straw poll in our election. the vote was 92% nexen, 8% kennedy. it is more fun to be with the 8% than with the 92% on any issue in my current position of the press corps has given me that pleasure. he reminds us what a shock this was. i think it was a shock that upset a narrative of american history that was american exceptionalism. we have founding fathers. most countries don't have founding fathers. to1963, not visually visited people that there was a's ends there was a founding. then we had two great struggles that loomed large in memory. ii.civil war, world war in those struggles we had seen a could continue to see through the medium of photography these
4:58 pm
great war leaders, abraham lincoln and franklin roosevelt. in the war them age pictures. you can see their bodies deteriorating. ,hen, at the moment of victory both are taken away from us at the moment of triumph. lincoln just days after lee surrender. franklin roosevelt, three weeks before the eeg day is -- he drops dead of a heart attack. this nurse the idea that we were a blessed country. we had great leaders. thatcally they disappear not after they have obtained a victory. the kennedy assassination is out of sync with that. struggle.no armed
4:59 pm
down after aruck moment of great triumph. but rather in the middle of things, when the civil rights bill was thought to be an uncertain ground, and congress was on the train to passage. and, it knocks literals for a loop. they tended to blame the radical right, which had been documented by richard hofstadter and other is, rather than blaming the communists, even though lee harvey all's will was a self-confessed communist. and, it
5:00 pm
they've taken an adversarial stance for america. you start hearing about the violent streak in america. in "the new york times," literally the day after jim reston is out there saying that we have a violent streak in our country, as if the kennedy assassination was a statistical event. there are so many murders in big got theand one murderer president. it wasn't that kind of happenstance event. it becomes -- that adversarial attitude has continued in many ways since. set of thinking this is an especially good and blessed countries, liberals have started thinking, this is a bad country. we see it today in the idiotic
5:01 pm
multiculturalism on universities. all societies are morally equal, except ours, which is inferior. western culture has got to go. that kind of thing. in the process, american liberals in the 1950's thought that this was basically a good and fair country. we really should do something about the way black people are treated, or negroes as we would have said then, but we will make .rogress we've got two things in the south slowly with progressive change. 1960's vastly laws but injust in daily life its treatment of black people, and by the early 1970's, liberals are teaching is a racist and profoundly unfair country even though it's actually a much
5:02 pm
fairer country than it had been 20 years before, thanks inconsiderable part to those liberals, but also other figures, most notably the black people who demonstrated in the civil rights movement and congressional republicans, a larger percentage of whose votes were cast for the civil rights act then congressional democrats. becoming aess of better country, we start thinking the worst of ourselves. i just want to conclude by noting something jim didn't bring up in his presentation, which is the role of jacqueline kennedy in this. one hesitates to be critical of a person who was subjected to this kind of tragedy and whose marriage we later learned was not totally unrocky. move elite america,
5:03 pm
liberal america towards this adversarialism. she certainly succeeds, in particular, on her home turf. she was the daughter of the upper east side of new york, southhampton, the new york elite. a republican was constituency. the upper east side congressional district represented by john d lindsay, a liberal republican but a republican to be sure, who committed a terrible faux pas when he was a member of congress -- he criticized a woman congressman who was chairman of the subcommittee who had come forward with a bill, and he argued she did a poor job. tip o'neil was outrage because one of the rules unspoken of the house was, you never criticize a woman member. this is before bella absent. [laughter]
5:04 pm
the upper east side has changed. in the upperchoice east side was "the new york " one day in 1962 after they had written an article on favorable to him. our present president who is accused of suppressing dissent, i can say on personal observation that yesterday there was a copy of "the new york times" in the west wing outside the oval office, and i sort of wondered what it was doing there. basically, the upper east side has moved from "the new york yorkd tribune" to "the new herald of books." the upper eastside congressional district which voted 56% for nixon over kennedy voted 74% for john kerry over george w. bush.
5:05 pm
the upper east side in particular, which of course is the home of much of the media elite, the financial elite of , has changed immensely and in ways i must say -- i may have predicted that at the time, and i predicted some movement towards the left, but i never thought it would reach that sort of thing. i think that is another artifact of the kennedy assassination. i agree with david brown that obviously -- with jim pierson -- the kennedy assassination doesn't explain all of this shift. i do think jim pierson has proved beyond any reasonable doubt in my view that it played an important and critical part in this great shift of opinion, which on the whole has been that for american liberalism and bad for america, in my view. oswaldalled -- if
5:06 pm
succeeded in killing general walker, a lot of our country would be very different. thank you. [applause] >> i wonder if i might try and join something you said, jim, and part of david's argument -- you said something today that seems to be different from your book and incorrect. liberalismodern comes in the new deal and in the 1930's. i think that is mistaken. >> didn't i mention progressivism? >> in your book, you explain that. that's the point i want to make. it seems to me an intellectual matter, theoretical matter, what we regard as liberalism today began in the progressive era. this is where i want to bring david in. is supplantedke
5:07 pm
by darwinian evolution and the ideas woodrow wilson argues about, how we need to have a different kind of constitutionalism. one of the reasons why this is hard for people to see his there was no intellectual resistance to that change in american thought during the progressive era. it goes dormant for a while, world war i.e of one of the reasons why the consensus view of hofstadter and other liberals in the 1950's is controversial, it seems to me, because there had been so little argument back and forth about these newer ideas 100 years ago, these premises settled into the furnishings of the american mind and became presumed in such a way that it was thought, you don't need to argue about this. an example of this is hofstadter's famous essay about goldwater and other writings on that theme. what you see in those kinds of writings is, again, it goes by
5:08 pm
in a sentence -- what is so odd about the extreme right, radical right, goldwater is they don't understand there is this progressive story unfolding, and that is what is so odd about them. there's no acknowledgment that controversial, arguable at any level. it seems to me that that still is the root of a lot of our confusions today, and among conservatives, too. a lot of conservatives say, it all started with roosevelt and the new deal. liberals don't appreciate their own history as deeply as they might, including hofstadter for all of his brilliance and insight. > let me comment briefly. these are big questions. let me give a gloss on kennedy. i mentioned that liberals abandoned the substance of many
5:09 pm
of kennedy's ideas. the cold war would be the most important one. by 1968 or 1972, liberal democrats had more or less abandoned the idea of fighting the cold war. however, the thing they grabbed onto kennedy and turned him into the liberal icon was the kennedy style. david has mentioned this. this the thing they admired. kennedy was wealthy. he spoke beautifully. he wrote books. with the help of ted sorensen, he cited ancient writers. his wife was beautiful. his children are beautiful. he was sophisticated. this is what many liberals saw as the essence of kennedy's liberalism even as they abandoned much of his substance. the term "liberal" is not really used much in american political discourse until the turn of the 20th century. example,incoln, for would probably be qualified as a lincoln but the term --
5:10 pm
never used the term, nor did anybody use the term at the time , liberal versus conservative. controversies in political life were constitutional, not ideological. liberalism as a term begins to be used by the progressives in the late 19th, early 20th century, and of course, you are right. they are heavily influenced by german thought. many of the people who began, originated the progressive movement studied in germany and dublin. the founders at johns hopkins university, and so on. a related issue is the question of myth and narrative, which is in the background of all of this . i talked about the democratic of the 1950's. the counter narrative that develops in the late 1960's, which is somewhat different --
5:11 pm
abraham lincoln had his own narrative of american life, which i discussed in the book briefly, which is that the story of america is the retelling of epic of ancient israel. he tried to construct a kind of moral or narrative analogy between american history and the biblical epic, with the founding fathers, the crisis of the civil war, and he argued that the constitution and the founding fathers had to be regarded almost like a church and that they had to be reviewed and the law had to be obeyed, almost as if these were aspects of a church. had a narrative of american life, which was extremely powerful, relatively novel. is it true?
5:12 pm
any of these things true? that is a question lurking in the background. liberalism in the 20th century developed a different idea of progress through history. steve has mentioned it. it was a quite different idea than the one lincoln had. of course, we've got all these that continue to be developed. these things seem to be part and parcel of political movements. political movements need to have these narratives, which locate their movement between past and future and tell, instruct people as to where they are in the movement of history. of course, we talked about jackie kennedy and the mythic camelot, and another powerful , theyought into the story stun "camelot," based on the
5:13 pm
king. the interesting thing about the king," if there retelling of king arthur from an anti-military point of view. king arthur becomes a peacemaker instead of warrior. this is the kind of thing that appealed to jacqueline kennedy. many of you are probably read to your children "the sword and the ."one one of the most popular novels of the 20th century. as i suggest in his book, the eternal flame placed on the gravesite is taken as an image from "the once and future king," that is "the candle in the wind." david: i will just say that i every major party wants to
5:14 pm
claim that it's got history on its side. in the 1950's, you have "the liberal tradition in america," is very influential book. he lays of this foundation for how there is one dominant political tradition in the western world, and the liberals had that in the 1950's. one can argue that this is whigishy a interpretation. there was a conservative tradition. john clay, alexander hamilton. conservatives, he wouldn't go that far. in a famous essay, he referred to conservatives as pseudo-conservatives. there is this tradition. it's respectable. conservatives are best when they operate under the wing of
5:15 pm
dominant liberalism, and when it gets beyond that, you can have trouble, problems. >> i want to turn now to audience questions and comments. please wait for the microphone to come to you. let me start with the gentleman here at the first table. i will try to keep a cue -- queue. >> definitely by the clinton administration and perhaps before that, to an extent, journalists were perfectly willing to talk about the private lives of presidents, but by the time of the nixon administration, they were willing to talk about the scandalous, perhaps illegal of presidents. during the johnson administration, backing up, it policy, butm of to gowas a reluctance
5:16 pm
into personal matters or investigate him of the shady doings, although bobby baker was talked about and written about at that time, and sherman adams during the eisenhower administration. pretty much, presidents were ways,a pass in so many and that seemed to change after the kennedy administration. to what do we owe this? sorts, weurnalist of woodward and bernstein. he went to the national press club, there were guys in fedoras at the bar waiting for some lobbyist to come out and pick up evening. for the i think there was an ethic on older journalists
5:17 pm
that one of the things you are supposed to do in your job is to make america believe in its leaders, that they are good and decent people, either party, and others were more partisan. they thought their job was to make you believe republican leaders were good, democrats were good, but the idea you get involved in investigating their personal life was on a think about. richard nixon has made the point a number of times that he was suggested -- subjected to a in thent standard watergate thing, and i think he is factually correct. i think you could make the further argument that as a political leader, it was his responsibility to understand the standard had changed. he had better watch out and not authorized illegal burglaries or .overups or whatever he did david halberstam who has died recently was reporting on vietnam, which helped to produce the overflow of -- overthrow of
5:18 pm
dm and a set of disastrous events. his reporting specifically complained -- was specifically complained about by president about halberstam's writing. bob woodward who had such --ensely successful careers a begin of hope to an inspiring journalist that you can do good, change america, run the country, and earn millions of dollars. [laughter] an irresistible example.
5:19 pm
>> if i could highlight what david and jim were talking about, the distinction between the appealed the style as opposed to the appeal to .rogrammatic liberalism kennedy went out of his way to try to seduce the intelligentsia. we talked about john mccain in 2000, his main constituency was the media. kennedy was more the intellectual class. we see a contrast, in terms of in with there kennedy style and the style of the time. you've got a supply-side tax policy, rearming the country, massive buildup in missiles, the re-engagement in vietnam, and going fairly slow in terms of in thengs building mid-60's, medicare. civil rights, kind of slow going. .iretapping martin luther king it didn't matter, because the guy talk to good and gave great
5:20 pm
speeches. put this in the larger cultural context. the 1950's reckoned to the liberal intelligentsia, eisenhower was boring. the guy didn't talk right. if we don't have someone more exciting in the white house -- lyndon johnson comes in. he can get a lot of things done, but he's crude. he could never quite measure up to the kennedy mystique. could you put things in that context in terms of how much of that stylistic element was the core remaining legacy of the kennedy legend? >> who wants to give that a whirl? jacksell these books on and jack junior and jackie. the element of style is critical to the perpetuation of that legacy. eisenhower obviously didn't have that. he read westerns.
5:21 pm
hofstetter was interested in ideas, and he was interested of -- in the quality of mind. he wasn't seduced by john f. kennedy. he refused to work for the lyndon johnson white house, although his friend eric gordon did. critical.to be he wanted to be outside of it, but he was sympathetic to this political expression. as far as the politics of style, i think hofstetter wasn't seduced by that. in 1965, heis event probably wouldn't have spoken. he got a lot of invitations to speak a lot of places, and i'm not sure if this was his way of saying, it's not temperamental of me to do this, but he would this aprilever found struck of way to sell books, so thank you, but no.
5:22 pm
the historiansat i'm referencing or the historians mr. pearson is referencing, that they were seduced by this style. it just so happens that the the liberal were on side, and that is the side they supported. >> i think it's clear kennedy to some extent changed standards by which politicians were judged. he is a very attractive man. johnson was judged harshly in that light, and he saw that and resented it very much. i'm not sure exactly how to understand the kennedy phenomenon. i've wrestled with it, the style, the cultural aspect, the sophistication. we still continue to read books about the kennedys and jackie kennedy. there is certainly a romance of the thing. of course, the kennedys interestingly enough adapted themselves to this change in
5:23 pm
liberalism. almost none of them went against the grain of this change. teddy kennedy was well out in front of it. bobby kennedy was out in front of it, leading the charge. the second generation of kennedys are out there with it, as well. i have a sense that this is not so much an ideological phenomenon but a dynastic phenomenon, that it's in a sense the elevation of a family, a dynasty into politics, and it's an adaptation of the family to .he changing currents in that sort of situation, you might have style as a defining element as opposed to ideology, but it is a thought that i've not explored very much. i think it is a dynastic phenomenon. it's going to be hard, i suspect, for future generations
5:24 pm
or the current generation of students to understand the charm and appeal john kennedy had. jim mentioned that his job performance rating was around 60% when he died. if you desegregate the results, what you find is that his job rating was 70% throughout almost all of his presidency. in june of 1963 when he endorses the civil rights bill, it goes down to 30% in the south. it stays at 70% everywhere else. he would've been reelected by as wide of a margin as johnson was elected by in 1964. i think the gallup numbers indicate he might've lost a couple border states, perhaps texas, but he was hugely popular. also,arm was there, and the family did work the media like a drum here joseph p a drum.-- like joseph p kennedy was a man of astonishingly strong nerve and
5:25 pm
manipulativeness. bought a pulitzer prize for his son. [laughter] the paid off his debts. just p kennedy after engineering the nomination of his son for flies back to new york, and he watches the acceptance speech at henry luce's apartment. henry luce is the proprietor of "fortune."fe," he had a soft spot for catholics because his wife was a catholic. kennedy was treated much better by the luce magazines than any other democrat. there's a cover, "the fabulous president on the
5:26 pm
cover of "life" magazine. they manipulated the media. joseph kennedy had a huge flair for this type of thing. he was in with the hearst press. he stayed in beverly hills during the 1960 democratic national convention in los angeles. you know, was this game on the level? not even close to it. john kennedy just had immense charm. you saw some of it on that tape, the self-deprecating comments. wit to televise his press conferences and handle them in a way no president since has been able to come close to. you know, how do you quantify charm? this guy had a lot of it. >> there is a great passage in the book, hofstetter suspecting jfk was a shallow playboy. i wonder if it's intellectuals
5:27 pm
who are also duped by politicians. let's go to more questions. if you couldering talk little bit more about the and the of 1964 goldwater candidacy. it seemed like the immediate impact of the kennedy assassination was that goldwater was, even by 1963, considered one of the major front-runners. his candidacy was pretty much a dead after the kennedy assassination. the second victim of the bullet was goldwater's candidacy. the tremendous lot for a defeat that came into the congress and the passage of every liberal programmatic agenda, which has alluded to, it seems like the kennedy assassination led to the ascendancy of a liberal programmatic state. in 1968 and going on, you have
5:28 pm
republicans coming back into power. attacking that liberal agenda established in the 1960's, not the old liberalism of the roosevelt era. could you comment more on that? is probably best armed to handle that one, but the interpretation of kennedys tendedkennedy's death is to torpedo goldwater's candidacy. i write about this a little bit in the book. i think you are right. opposition from goldwater's point of view became very .ifficult the emotional consequences of kennedy's assassination. you are right.
5:29 pm
it's a landslide election of 1964 with an overwhelming majority -- the democratic majority in the congress. i think some of it occurred in the backwash of the assassination. michael: the polling evidence is pretty clear to me that if kennedy had lived, he would've been elected by a margin bolstered exactly what johnson got. most people at the time didn't believe this. if you looked at the numbers, it indicated he was going to carry places like upstate new york and vermont, which franklin roosevelt never carried, and running in places like nebraska and so forth, which democrats almost never carry. those were the results of 1964. the political pros didn't believe them. i've gone back and asked some people active at the time. that seems to have been the case. it didn't matter which republican ran against him. nelson rockefeller in 1964 makes the big deal -- on the stronger
5:30 pm
candidate. i remember rockefeller republicans at harvard who were convinced rockefeller was going to roll over >> the polling data says not so. carried ar would have different set of five states. but without real change in the result. one thing we lost out of that, goldwater apparently had an agreement with kennedy that they would campaign and debate together. goldwater liked kennedy and he himself was of some charm. that might have sent -- set an interesting precedent for american politics. >> lyndon johnson ignored goldwater through the campaign and not even mention his name. >> here is a question.
5:31 pm
>> do i press anything? there is one thing that has not been emphasized here, that is robert kennedy's assassination. he would have carried on the kennedy name. there was a jubilation -- rejuvenation from him. both parties were in flux. and kennedy came with a new kind of liberalism, almost an authoritarian kind of liberalism. he pleaded action. his idea of the cold war was not the typical democratic approach,
5:32 pm
he believed in winning the cold war just as reagan did. in terms in which he spoke of the cold war would have driven the state department around the end, because he did not say we he did because just -- not say we have to be cautious, he said we have to win. to the an energetic edge democratic party. he was surrounded by a lot of oppositiond when occurred, there is a choice to bymade, you fight depression government spending, which was the choice of the roosevelt democrats, or you listen to
5:33 pm
younger democrats who want tax cuts for corporations. kennedy chose the latter, which worked. that was a very significant choice. one thing, when you think of john f. kennedy and robert comedy, the one word that to mind, compassionate liberalism. not exist,ion does these were competitors. iny were rough and tough their playful games of football, they would end up in the hospital. but that was there style. -- their style. that was the style of the whole family. kennedy, had he not been assassinated, i think he would have been the president and his promise
5:34 pm
of a new liberalism. neo's a decade of --neoliberalism, neoconservatism. assassinations destroy the liberalism that was being born. that based on energy. the liberalism that we have today is liberalism of the homes, victims of -- liberalism of theims, victims majority vote. that is the kind of party we have. so, the second kennedy
5:35 pm
gives as a harder look at a very important assassination. >> thank you. i write a little bit about the bombing -- the bobby kennedy assassination in the book, there was hope that he could get liberalism back on track, that when it was not -- knocked off check by his brothers assassination, he wanted to connect with the year you people, the professors, the students and so on and he could restore order to liberalism. but when he was shot, this hope was destroyed. bobby kennedy's assassination was very much again in the context of civil rights and violence, then johnson appointed a commission to study violence
5:36 pm
in america. jackie kennedy said that she would get out of america because her children were at risk. in the american past there had lynchings, genes -- all of these things. but kennedy had been assassinated by a national. in his headidea appeared even balmy kennedy's assassination had nothing to do -- even kennedy's assassination had nothing to do with domestic issues at that time. >> another question. of the kennedy administration and i would underscore what you said about the president and bobby. bobby was a student of mine at
5:37 pm
university. i worked with him during the administration, i was head of the irs and we saw each other frequently. i was going to ask you a question, jim. you seem to say that there was this --he disk -- and on the fact that also was a communist. oswald was a- communist. you assume he was a soul assassin. but many people are dubious of that. many people have said that there was another. suppose, how do you feel about that? what do you think would change if the mafia had been behind this and used oswald as a pawn?
5:38 pm
>> i think i remember you from the kennedy years. thank you. well, i have gone over the evidence. i don't think there is a doubt ld was the assassin. it is clear that he was the assassin. there is a book on this and it takento me that this was in such detail that nobody needs to write about it much anymore. the gun that he ordered was found at the scene, he was spotted at the scene, witnesses identified him on a description that went over police radio. he shot and killed a police man. he was chased into a movie theater where he was arrested. he had motives, which were not
5:39 pm
clearly understood at the time. all the conspiracy theories start with a premise that so and so had a motive. it will always be true that a lot of people might have a motive to kill the president. they start with a motive and then they work from there to us whom it was done. -- tom their two assume assume it was done. there were no other bullets other than those fired from the gun and they were found at the scene. the theory that he was shot from the grassy knoll is contradicted with autopsy reports that say the bullet came from the rear. so to say that they came from the front suggest maybe the doctors were involved in the conspiracy, that is probably not credible. there is for me no doubt about it. and i suggest in my book that overeason there is doubt
5:40 pm
the kennedy assassination is that he was shot by a communist. if he had been shot by a right-winger, there probably would never have been talk about those theories. >> i want to thank everybody for a fascinating 1.5 hours. jim have to catch a train. thank you ladies and gentlemen. [applause] >> thank you. >> on history bookshelf, here from the best-known american history writers every saturday at 4:00 p.m. and you can visit our website, www.c-span.org. you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. recently, american history tv was at the society for
5:41 pm
historians of american foreign meeting innnual arlington. we spoke with professors and graduate students about research. this interview is about 15 minutes. >> cassandra good is the associated editor on papers of james monroe. she earned her doctorate at the university of pennsylvania. why is james monroe a significant player in american history? cassandra good: the first thing that people think of is the monroe doctrine, but he still has ramifications today, we joke at these papers that he is like force gone, he shows up -- forest gone -- gump. he shows up everywhere. if you look at the painting of washington

41 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on