tv 1952 Presidential Election CSPAN October 14, 2015 10:05pm-11:16pm EDT
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presidential campaigns. the kansas city public library hosted this event. it's a little over an hour. [ applause ] >> so, good evening, welcome to the kansas city public library. i'm henry fortuneado, former director of public affairs. or perhaps befitting my new part-time status as a visiting fellow at the hall center for the humanities at the university of kansas, maybe i should say, director of public affairs, emeritus. [ laughter ] whatever you want to call me, i'm off the payroll here, but i can't stay away from this place, i'm afraid. i'm kind of addicted to it. as one of my former colleagues said just an hour ago, i can't go cold turkey. especially tonight when, for the
fourth time in four years, we're hosting presidential historian extraordinaire, john robert greene from kas nofia college in kaz nofia, new york, where he's taught for the past 36 years. as i just suggested, since 2012, bob greene has been making annual appearances at the kansas city public library. in 2012, he spoke on president george h.w. bush. in 2013, he was back for a talk about first lady betty ford. and last year, almost to the day of the 40th anniversary of richard nixon's resignation, bob appeared to give a presentation about the administration of gerald ford. these three programs, part of our hail to the chiefs and beyond the gown series, were held in conjunction with our
good friends at the truman library institute. but of course, we have another presidential library in the neighborhood, more or less, just down i-70 in abilene, kansas. and this year, which happens to be the 125th anniversary year of eisenhower's birth, we've launched a series with the dwight eisenhower presidential library museum and boyhood home to examine the eisenhower era, thanks to the tremendous support from the w.t. kemper foundation, commerce bank trustee. tonight, which marks the mid point of that series, there's a brochure out there in the corridor if you want to see the other two. bob greene, the library's good friend and someone who's become my good friend over the last four years, is back. he's back to give us a review of the 1952 presidential election pitting republican party nominee eisenhower against democratic candidate adley stevenson.
it's no exaggeration to say that this talk has been in the making for more than 35 years. bob wrote his doctoral dissertation about it, which was shortly published thereafter as his first book, the first of 17 that he's either written or edited. a seriously revised version of that first book, the doctoral dissertation, on the 1952 campaign is now forth coming. it won't be available tonight, unfortunately, but you'll be able to order it on amazon soon enough. ladies and gentlemen, please welcome bob greene. [ applause ] >> you're not going to be able to close this place. never in a million years.
thank you so much, henry. good evening, everybody, how are you? wonderful kansas city weather out there. [ laughter ] i was worried about you people with snow and now i got to be worried about you with torrential downpours. it's so good to be back. it's always an awful lot of fun to come back from kas nofia college in upstate new york, where the snow comes and comes and comes and comes and comes. but it's wonderful to come from here to here, i have to tell you, i've said this to you before, and i mean it every time. this is one of the best venues to speak at in the entire country. i speak -- [ applause ] absolutely. the truman forum room has this wonderful ability to be
scholarly and intimate at the same time. the audiences are among the best educated and usually the best behaved of the audiences that i speak at, and coming here to the truman forum, is something that i look forward to every single year. we started talking about this talk, henry and i, oh, about six or seven months ago. and for anybody in the p.r. business, you know that when you get invited someplace, they immediately want a blurb about what you're going to talk about. this is six months before the talk and i came up with this concept, talking about the myths that persist about the 1952 presidential race. i had no idea what i was going to say about them six months ago. i polished it up just a little bit ago, but i kept this idea of
myths as the basis of my talk tonight. when you get involved in academics as a young scholar -- and i was young once -- [ laughter ] a hell of a long time ago -- and you get your doctoral dissertation, and you get that opportunity to say something, you get that opportunity to give back to the academy, you get that opportunity to make an historical case to the public for the first time, you want to say something important. i mean, that's what books really are supposed to be. books are supposed to say something important, something lasting. you don't want to say the same thing over and over and over again. you don't want to just simply latch onto the myths of the past, that may or may not be correct -- what is it that people say? if it's not true, it should be.
you know. and you don't want to simply repeat over and over again what people have said about a specific event. you are immediately drawn, as a young person, i think, to want to write something new, to revise history, not to make it untrue, but to say something that people haven't said before about the elections, about presidential scholarship, about history in general. that you want to re-interpret what was an orthodox view. that's what i did with my first really bad book, that was published in 1985. it was as henry said, a -- well, it was my dissertation, i didn't even revise it too much. i was really in a hurry to get it in print. it was on the presidential
election of 1952, entitled "the crusade." what i wanted to do was to say something different about the election than had been said before. so what i did was, i tackled the myths of the presidential election. and what i centered on was the myth of the draft. you all know what it is. dwight eisenhower was drafted. he didn't want to run. and he was drafted by a group that was fronted by the citizens for eisenhower, that was organized by tom dewey who i'm going to talk about a little more later, and he was drafted against his will. and adlai stevenson who didn't want to run, was drafted by a group of people who were fronted by walter johnson of the university of chicago, leo lerner of the volunteers in illinois. so he was drafted against his well. so what did i say in this first
book? none of this happened. that's what i said, none of this happened. i said that neither one of them were drafted, that it was a myth. i thought it was great. the reviews were pretty good. and then i went to a conference in 1992. now, this is a where's waldo? you got to find me in this picture. i'm the guy fifth from the left with black hair. standing next to mr. and mrs. john miner wisdom, you might see herb brownel, earl stason. and for a good three hours at the eisenhower library, they beat me up senseless about how wrong i was with my book. it was a very humbling experience. i kind of thought that by hiding behind an "i like ike" button would somehow make me more
objective, but i walked away from this seriously wondering whether or not what i had said a few years before was even valid, was even correct. over the years and in between other projects, and i've been fortunate enough to speak to you about these other projects, as henry so graciously said. i've never let the presidential election of 1952 get away. it's kind of like my first child. who doesn't want to go away either, but that's neither here nor there. [ laughter ] and the more that i thought about it, the more that i realized that what i wasn't doing, i wasn't really saying material that was false. it wasn't a myth, but it was not the whole story. the acclaimed nigerian author,
chiti came up with the idea of a single story in a ted talk -- ted chance for technology, education, and design -- talk in 2009, and she spoke of the dangers of taking an historical event and seeing only one part of it, because that's what you want to talk about. that's what interests you. that's what you know the best. and the problem with that is that first of all, it is a stereotype. breaking down the myths of the eisenhower/stevenson draft was a stereotype in itself. and it's what i wanted to do. but it was incomplete. what a historian needs, and i think it's taken me 35 years of writing and teaching to really
grasp this, is texture. context. not just to write about what happened, but about what it meant. presidential elections are a perfect forum for that. because they're exciting. they're dramatic. they're often looney. and don't get me started. i'm from new york. and they're good stories, but if you take them and you take them just in and of themselves, you've only got part of the story. what they do is, they forecast the future. if you look at what we call re-aligning elections, 1932, 1832, 1789, 1960, 2000 -- those
elections changed what happened in american history. 1952 did the exact same thing. and i was more interested in 1985 and telling everybody what i knew about the elections than i was telling people what the election meant. and i have a wonderful opportunity now thanks to the american presidential election series at the university of kansas, not to redo everything, but to rethink everything. i am of the opinion now -- and this, i was speaking with chuck myers who is here in the audience and my editor at kansas press just a little bit ago, i saw him blanch when i suggested this, that every author who gets a contract should be automatically given a contract to re-write their book 20 years later. it has to be mandatory. you have to do this. because you're going to get a
different book 20 years later. and that's what i'm working on now and i want to share with you and i want to talk about some of the context from which this comes. no, that's not a typo. because the presidential election of 1952 begins with the problems that harry truman was having after 1949. you can't divorce that election from what was happening after 1949. nothing that truman wanted was going through congress -- the republican congress. he was faced with scandals. remember the 5 percenters, the problems with skimming off the top? and harry truman was never implicated in any of that, but it hurt his administration badly. remember the great debate? i'm going to talk more about bob taft in just a second, about whether or not the nation should be participating in any kind of
mutual security with nato, or the united nations, or whether we should be withdrawing within ourselves after world war ii. the whole concept of truman lost china, that's been completely debunked by modern scholars, but the republicans were beating him over the head with the loss of china in the evacuation to taiwan and the china lobby was making life miserable for truman in congress. and he had become -- truman had the interesting distinction of beginning his presidency as a war-time president and ending his presidency as a war-time president, with two different wars. and the domestic war that he unleashed upon himself by recalling douglas macarthur was hurting his administration. and the issue of communism on the inside, the rise of joe mccarthy, all of these things,
and on the domestic front, the fact that the south, which had walked out of the 1948 convention over the civil rights platform, the dixiecrats, were showing every single sign -- this was key to the 1952 election -- of walking out again in 1952, over both civil rights and the issue of the tidelands oil, whether louisiana, alabama, and california, could own the oil that was right off their coasts, or whether or not that oil was owned by the federal government. all these problems made truman vulnerable. truman could have run again in 1952. and virtually everybody right down to december of 1951, thought that he was going to. bob taft, senator from ohio, who had already run for the presidency three times, began
his fourth presidential campaign moments after he lost the 1948 convention -- or nomination to tom dewey. taft was a honorable, eloquent, thoughtful senator. old-school, articulate, less conservative in domestic affairs than people have given him credit for, but clearly the voice of unabashed isolationism. withdrawal from nato. withdrawal from the united nations. and he owned the republican party after tom dewey's third failure as president. everybody through the latter part of 1951, thought it was going to be an inevitable taft-truman race in 1952. he did not want to run.
the correspondence is absolutely clear. he also didn't want to be its shape. he didn't want to be at nato. he was assigned there by harry truman, perhaps to get eisenhower out of the country as a political threat. but truman's correspondence is equally clear that he believed eisenhower would never run. duty. duty to the world. duty to his nation, as head of nato. if you take sentences of eisenhower's correspondence out of context, which i did as a kid, you can find hints that maybe he might run under the right circumstances. but if you let eisenhower and in a moment, adlai stevenson talk to you through their correspondence as a whole, it's
absolutely certain neither one of them wanted to be run. but dwight eisenhower changes his mind. we know this because he did it. there's no debating it. in december of 1951, his correspondence suddenly gets to the point where, i might allow myself to be a candidate in january of 1952, eisenhower says, okay, i will accept a nomination. and three months later he's back campaigning in the united states. he does actively change his mind. and what changed his mind was very simple. he didn't want taft to win. he did not want taft's policy of isolationism to compromise what he had built at nato. and he was willing, against his will, to run for the presidency, a job that he abhorred, and he had seen literally, ruin so many men, not necessarily the
presidents, but the people around them. he didn't want any part of that. and, yes, he would have been opposed by minor candidates, yes, smaller pictures. harold staffson, and earl warren. harold stason of minnesota, before he began to run for the presidency over and over and over again, harold stason was the youngest governor in the united states in minnesota. they called him the boy wonder. and earl warren, while he had not yet certainly become what he would become as chief justice, had already run for vice president of the united states. these were two fairly major players, but they were never, ever major enough to deal in the same circles in 1952 with either eisenhower or bob taft. it was always between the two of them. as eisenhower's mind suddenly
started changing, as his correspondence showed that he was becoming more and more troubled by the stance that bob taft was taking, what was happening at -- concurrently, running parallel with his change of mind, were the politicos were starting to organize a campaign without a candidate. tom dewey, as early as 1949, knew that he couldn't run again. he wanted to desperately, but he knew he couldn't. he would be humiliated at the convention, taft would beat his brains in. so he instead decides he's going to become a king-maker. and he starts pulling like-minded republican leaders -- carlson from kansas, duff from pennsylvania -- and others together in kind of a shadow organization for eisenhower, keeping his name out
there. he keeps a link to eisenhower through the gentleman in the center, general lucius clay. clay was one of eisenhower's closest friends, a constant companion of eisenhower at nato and paris. and dewey communicated with eisenhower through clay. by the way, clay was the individual who masterminded the berlin airlift. and when they finally got to the point where they needed to have some sort of an organization on the ground, they turned to the junior senator from massachusetts, henry cabot lodge, who was then working so hard for eisenhower that he kind of let slide a challenge by a kid that he never thought could beat him in 1952, young congressman john f. kennedy. what lodge gave to eisenhower in 1952 hurt him in the long run. these three gentlemen here
formed what i call just the eisenhower committee. it was never really a name for it. so when eisenhower changes his mind, he comes back to an organization that's already there and running for him. eisenhower decides he's going to be willing to accept a nomination as long as he doesn't have to run for it. but he does come back to run. what changes his mind? three things. the first is a ticket from an extraordinary -- and you should really take a look at this online -- an event at madison square garden, and the rally itself was a rally run by jacqueline cochran and her husband, television and radio tar tax mcquarry. they put this thing together and
had over 20,000 people at this event, and then with the mind of a p.r. person, they take the tape, fly it to paris, and show it to eisenhower. eisenhower writes in his diary that he cried. he was so choked up. he didn't really accept until that point that people really wanted him. and then he was shown that in two primaries. and he's not -- he doesn't campaign for either one of them. in new hampshire, he goes up against bob taft, beats him without having set foot in the state. in minnesota, he comes in second to harold stason in his own state, without even being on the ballot. he was a write-in. it was these events that made eisenhower believe that people
wanted him, but taft started winning. he wins in wisconsin. and by the way, this is a different primary set-up. today the primaries run everything. we will have our two nominees, as you well know, we will have our two nominees probably by may, if not by april of next year. the primaries, there were only 12 of them in 1952. the primaries chose a very small number of delegates. the rest was done with back-room dealing. with the kand -- or with the delegates, which taft had sewn up. taft was so far ahead of eisenhower going into chicago, and after winning the wisconsin primary, eisenhower realized that if he didn't come back, he was going to lose the
nomination. so he does on june 1st, 1952, eisenhower comes back and announces his candidacy, which had already happened, in his hometown of abilene, kansas, right down the road. it was a very inauspicious beginning, eisenhower's speech was absolutely lousy. he was halting and he said to himself the next day, which is what this photo is of -- when he met the press one-on-one and he wasn't delivering a set speech, it was like night and day. and the eisenhower committee knew just exactly what they wanted to do with him in the fall, if he won the nomination, and what kind of a speaker he was going to be. so eisenhower comes back in, in june of 1952, as a candidate, and he's got three months -- i'm sorry -- two months before the convention to try and deal and get delegates away from bob
taft. meanwhile, there's another political party in this country, and harry truman treated it as his personal property. harry truman had decided as early as 1949 not to run. harry truman is wonderful in that he wrote letters to himself. these are extraordinary letters and they're also letters that truman wrote where he would -- because best went to bed very early and harry truman would stay up very late, he would write a letter to put on her pillow so she would see it in the morning. and it was almost like a diary entry. he said he didn't want to run in 1952, but he was not about to give up his control of the democratic party. he was going to name an heir apparent, and this is almost like a comedy errors because nobody wants it.
what we need to keep in context, nobody wanted to run against bob taft. not eisenhower, but bob taft, they figured they'd end up losing. truman's first choice is the chief justice of the supreme court, fred vinson, there in the picture. vinson dressed for business and i don't know what truman's dressed for. [ laughter ] this was actually down in key west. vinson came to the conclusion that his health would preclude him from running. and he dies just a few years later. so he must have known something. he tells truman no, and truman is disappointed because he saw something special in vinson that people in truman's staff didn't see. clark clifford didn't quite see this marriage as happening. but truman has been linked in to -- through jacob arvee and some others out in the midwest,
another possible candidate for the presidency. estes keyfauber, senator from tennessee, who made his mark running against the crump machine, the memphis crump machine, by putting on a coon skin cap, is the first reality show presidential candidate. you might remember the keyfauber crime hearing. that was the subject of my master's thesis which has long since been lost to the dustbin, but it was a lot of fun to write about because key fauber was the first politician to use a nationally televised event long before mccarthy. and in so doing, keyfauber goes
into stee after city and exposes corruption in the democratic party, and he wants the democratic nomination. he couldn't figure this out. truman hated his guts. called him senator cow fever. [ laughter ] so he wins several primaries, but it's never, ever going to be the person who truman will support. truman's heard about somebody else. a young governor of illinois had built his reputation as a progressive, had built his reputation on a veto of a conservative legislature's laws against civil rights. i'll say more about stevenson's articulateness in a moment. but it's important to note here
that even more than eisenhower, stevenson didn't want it, and more than eisenhower, stevenson kept his word. he would stay absolutely true to that. stevenson never did become a candidate for the nomination. wasn't drafted. but he never did become a candidate for the nomination, and on three separate occasions he tells harry truman no. and truman is apo plektic now, truman can't figure this out. he writes about why people don't take this. he can give them the nomination, he can give them delegates, and they don't want it. all he's got to deal with is keyfauber. so truman gets mad enough to stay in the new hampshire primary against the advice of all of his aides, and keyfauber beats him.
outright square beats him with his name on the ballot. one myth that is absolutely untrue, that truman wants to perpetuate that he didn't un in 1952. he did, he allowed his name to stay on the ballot. i don't know how he can repress a smile, it's only been done three times in american history. truman goes ballistic and finally, since he's lost the primary, decides that he's going to make good, even though he doesn't have an heir. stevenson and vinson had turned him down, and he's in the middle of the steel strike. he finally decides that the jefferson jackson day dinner, march of 1952, at the old armory in d.c., march 31st, he announces that he will not be a candidate. and it's interesting how he words it, because he had already been a candidate in new hampshire, but he will not be a
candidate in 1952. and all of the reporters at the event, it's kind of like were looking at truman and then everybody who was there said all the reporters looked and found stevenson in the room and just started staring at him. but there were others who decided that they were going to try to fill in the vacuum of truman's withdrawal. but they all had their liabilities. richard russell of georgia was too southern. bob kerr of oklahoma was too rich. avril harryman of new york didn't know how to give a speech. so truman finally settled on a 72-year-old partially blind man. his vice president, alvin
barkley of kentucky. you have to ask yourself, and i think it's fair to ask, why, when stevenson is saying no, and vinson is said no, why does truman settle on barkley, who desperately wanted the job, he had been an outstanding majority leader under franklin roosevelt. but truman says i'm going to give you your support, and he does it in the presence of advisers. barkley's in the room and he says i'm going to deliver you my support at the convention and barkley takes him at his word. if you go to wikipedia, where all good knowledge goes to die -- [ laughter ] -- and you type in convention -- i typed in republican convention 1952 -- this is what shows up.
not the convention, but the draft eisenhower movement. the myth of the draft continues. and so many writers want to perpetuate it, and it wasn't so. it didn't happen. first off, he allowed his name to be put in in january, then he runs for two months as a candidate. that's not a draft. and when he gets to the convention, taft is so far ahead that what they have to do is change the rules. they change the rules. the fair play amendment. the amendment that said that you couldn't vote on your own on anything before the convention if you were a contested delegation. it changed the rules that were in place since 1912. it was masterful. it was all henry cabot lodge. eisenhower wins the nomination. but it wasn't a draft. it wasn't even close. and this was not a last-minute
choice by any stretch of the imagination. tom dewey had met with young richard nixon, the junior senator from california, early in 1952 at his suite in new york city, and offered, why isn't he running yet! and dewey offers him the vice presidential nomination. nixon helped to deliver, or he was going to deliver the california delegation, but it turned out he didn't have to, the fair play amendment threw it to eisenhower. and nixon is perfect for this. when you think of a vice presidential candidate, you want him to fill gaps. young. conservative so the presidential candidate can be a moderate, brings a western state in, energetic, the second leading public face for anti-communism in the country at the time. nixon was an absolutely perfect choice. he doesn't look too excited, does he? [ laughter ] on the other side of the coin, i
type in democratic convention, and what do i get? the successful movement to draft eisenhower. what's with wikipedia anyway. this myth also needs to be undone, but it's kind of harder than it is with ike. because ike was a candidate and stevenson never was. there was a draft movement. it was run by walter johnson. the history professor from the university of chicago, but it did not draft stevenson. this is what i thought happened. that harry truman stepped out in suddenly said, you're my boy. but that's not what happened. what happened -- and the story is much more complicated -- is that a group of labor leaders go to albin barkley who's got harry truman's word that he's going to
support him, and those labor leaders say to barkley, you're too old, we can't support you. barkley is many things, but he's not a political ne-yo fight. without labor, he can't be nominated. he withdraws just before the convention opens. and in his memoirs, he blames truman, and there's a lot to be said for that. truman could have and did not stop that meeting. truman may have actually had the meeting scheduled. truman always wanted stevenson. he went to barkley as a last resort. now, the key to the convention was stopping another dixiecrat walk-out. if that meant going with stevenson, that would be great. if it meant going with somebody else, that would be great. for truman, it was anybody but
keyfauber. on monday of the convention, something happens that we haven't been able to document, even with the great scholars that i've been able to bring to the table. stevenson changes his mind and we don't know why. we can only guess. he definitely changes his mind, because he announces as a candidate. he says, i'm going to let the governor of indiana, henry sh wild ca wild-carder put my name into the candidate. that's a candidate. a draft did not do that. stevenson consistently said to the draft, leave me alone, and he shuts them out. they had no role to play in terms of getting stevenson's name in there. he announces himself as a candidate. i have come to the conclusion that stevenson believed that he was the only person who could stop a southern walk-out. particularly if he chose a
southerner as his vice presidential candidate. a moderate southerner, john sparkman of alabama. he was no dixiecrat. his views on race were repressed during the campaign, but he had quietly worked against the dixiecratic movement in alabama and against the dixiecrats with the loyalty pledge at the convention. stevenson did it himself. neither man -- eisenhower, nor stevenson, was drafted. people however simply want to continue saying that they were drafted because they fit into the mythology of both dwight eisenhower and adlai stevenson and the way that people want to perceive them. this, i believe, is the only picture of the two men together.
it was during the transition in december of 1952. stevenson's smiling because it's over. eisenhower's smiling because it's just beginning. how as a writer should i write on a rouk? on a massacre? eisenhower never once trailed in the polls. eisenhower scholars do this by calling it eminently predictable. it was a foregone conclusion, i liked ike and so did everybody else. it helps them to give validity to the age of eisenhower. stevenson scholars when they talk about the election, the fall campaign, they emphasize that in a losing cause, adlai stevenson raised the bar of political discourse to such a
level that it didn't matter that he lost. in fact, one of the most heavily quoted quotes of the fall campaign is when nixon -- nixon -- when stevenson says -- nixon will be here in a minute -- when stevenson says to governor alan shivers of texas, i don't have to win. both those assessments have some merit. but both have become cliches. allowing historians to avoid any real discussion of the fall campaign. everything that has been written, and my book right now, to put it charitably weak book is the only book on the 1952 presidential election. i think that one of the reasons for that is because people think that a route is uninteresting.
well, another way to deal with it is to kind of take a page from nixon scholarship. as we're going to see in a see nixon scholars have looked at the chapter speech and used it to forecast what nixon would become. if you take a look at several moments in the 1952 campaign, several decisions, several changes, 1952 becomes not only a lot more interesting, but a lot more important. to forecast, if you will, where politics is going. and for that, both eisenhower and stevenson can take credit. this election has been written as if eisenhower didn't run against anybody.
it doesn't work like that. i think what you have to do with that, though, is to think in terms of context, in terms of texture. nobody has done this on 195 2, least of all me in 1985. so let's take a few minutes and talk about what they bring to the table. the first is called the morning side heights. eisenhower who had just prior to going to nato served as a college president at columbia university, still maintained his home there at morningside heights in upper new york city. he invites bob taft there to bury the hatchet and hopefully not have bob taft bury the hatchet in him. because bob taft, there were a lot of confer testifies who were hurt at what happened at the convention and the change in the rules and if bob taft did not in
any way, shape or form support eisenhower, eisenhower was going to have a difficult time of it. the two men finally meet, and i suggest to you that this is the last time that you are going to see a moderate and conservative being nice to each other in the republican party to the present day. before the republican party is rent apart by nixon and r rockefeller, by goldwater. this is bipartisanship within a party. there's got to be a name for that. and if anybody can think of a name, let hihe, me know. maybe the word is just smart. long before nixon discovered in 1968 that race-baiting in the
south would bring republican votes to the table and take them away from the democratic party, dwight eisenhower makes the first moves. he overrules all of his advisers and campaigns in the south. not for very long, but he goes deep in the south. yes, the brown states stayed with stevenson, and most of the deep south did. but the real story of that demographic is that texas, missouri, tennessee, virginia, florida and maryland shift into the republican column. long before we have the dynamic that we do today, it's diet eisenhower's very simple decision, and he says this to his advisers, i want to campaign as a candidate of the american people that drives this bus. the simple decision to make
television spots rather than make television speeches, which had been tried in 1948, changes the face of presidential campaigning to the present day. citizens for eisenhower, which, as a group, many continue to say we drafted eisenhower. they did not. but what they did do is that they paid for and fronted much of the advertising that was done in 1952. they were very simple spots. they showed men and women off the streets, saying something and eisenhower answering it. they were devastatingly clear. they showed the candidate. they weren't negative spots in any way. but once these became a hit, and stevenson wouldn't do it. he said it cheapened the campaign. there's something to be said for that. but eisenhower won. and in so doing, with these ads,
changes the landscape of politics forever. adlai stevenson was articulate. he was a gifted speecher. he was not a gifted speaker. he could read a n articulate speech better than any politician in 1952 and perhaps since then. what stevenson could not do was converse with somebody about baseball. what stevenson did with his speeches, and let's face it, one of the best-selling books of 1953 were a collection of stevenson's speeches, and he was the losing did the. it begins the branding of the democratic party as being
intellectual egghead, elite and liberal. 1956 would complete that. the death of the intellectual in politics. john f. kennedy figured out immediately that he couldn't campaign like this in 1960. in an unfortunate way, stevenson's gifts as a writer of speeches and as a deliverer of those written speeches brings the death of that kind of intellectualism in american politics to the point where i would argue we haven't seen it since. but that doesn't mean that he couldn't be a cutthroat politician. stevenson decides right from the start that harry truman isn't going to play any role in this campaign. he lets slip, three days after the nomination, that there's a mess in washington. there was a mess in washington,
but a democrat was at the center of it. and the president of the united states to boot. what would have happened had stevenson and sparkman allowed truman to campaign for them? well, you do that at your own peril. hubert humphrey shut out lyndon johnson in 1968 because of the war in vietnam. al gore shut out bill clinton in 2000. the exception who made it work? bush and reagan in 1980. reagan sat the campaign out, largely, and bush was able to praise reagan enough publicly, to be able to bring the conservatives to the table. how will the democratic candidate in 2016 deal with president barack obama? technically technically, particularly, if his polls drop near the level
that harry truman's polls dropped? the fund crisis was small potatoes. the fight over keeping richard nixon on the ticket was never serious. it had absolutely no impact on the presidential election of 1952. in the election, it is completely unimportant. no one votes for a vice presidential candidate. they didn't in 1952. they don't today. this was nothing. nexten had it right. he kept telling the eisenhower people that they should ignore it, and it would go away. it would have, but eisenhower's people, particularly tom dewey panicked and forced nixon to a public apology on tv. the gop should have done nothing. but this is of particular importance in the future. and this is an easy one.
he makes it one of his six vcri. for him everything would flow from the crises and the checker speech. but in the presidential election, i've got to have pretty much a disastrous chain of events for the vice presidential candidates to mean anything. this was a picture that nobody ever thought would happen. eisenhower, when he was done, said that he felt dirty from the touch of joe mccarthy. but in milwaukee, eisenhower goes in and consciously, finally tracked this down through a lot of research, consciously deleted from a speech a reference that
criticized mccarthy for criticizing general george marshall. calling him a dupe of communists. eisenhower either took it out himself or had somebody take it out. it's a little fuzzy there. some say he waffled. m but maybe, just maybe, this is what was called the hidden-hand presidency. eisenhower doing things behind the scenes. maybe this was the beginning of whew eisenhower hoped would be a mob with mccarthy. he hoped that mccarthy would blow away, and he didn't. and he used richard nixon to help bring him down. but what does this say about the future president of the united states? and no one speech changes a
campaign. october 16th in hartford, eisenhower says, i shall go to korea. the impact of that has been way overdone. the campaign is over by that point. the stories of steven gaining a little after that are way exaggerated. he went from 44 points down in the polls to 45. they were both struggling with how to deal with the korean war in the campaign in ways that are almost eerily like the way that richard nixon and hubert humphrey deal with vietnam in '68. so what does nixon do? he says he has a secret plan to end the war. so did eisenhower. what was eisenhower's secret plan? i shall go to korea. nixon just didn't tell anybody what his plan was. eisenhower made a trip. maybe there's a parallel there. this, by the way, as ike with
15th regiment trips in korea in 1 1952. to me, that makes more sense, particularly with where the election turns out with where things are going to go in the future. you can put up all the statistics in the world. and by the way, you put up numbers and college students just go [ snoring ] let me break this down a little bit. eisenhower won, he won big town. >> blue states for stevenson. eisenhower won just about everything else. but there are some things to be said for the future. eisenhower, as we've said, made inroads into the south. again, i'd call your attention to virginia, tennessee, texas and florida. he broke into the fdr coalition, the ethnic vote, the polish vote, the german vote went for eisenhower, and in a stunning for the moment demographic, women voted for eisenhower and
abandoned the democrats. but it was the middle class, loosely defined, living out in the suburbs and watching "leave it to beaver", that made eisenhower's victory to big. stevenson does hold together from the fdr coalition two major constituenci constituencies. the african-american vote and jew eaish vote. and it should not be presented that this was any kind of sweep for the republican party, when you have three votes in the house and one in the senate, it's not a realigning victory for the party. it was a personal victory for eisenhower. i shouldn't belittle it, but we should call it what it is. i got somewhat defense i've long the way, when people were telling me that i wasn't really telling the whole story of 1952 when i was challenged in
reviews. my reaction was something like this. but i was young at one point in time. the more research that you do, the more time that you give yourself to think through and not just write what you know and 5,000 footnotes and 750 pages of detail, we have a name for those. those are called encyclopedias. and you actually think through to what it means. maybe something new will come. and then maybe like eisenhower and like stevenson, people can change their minds. and i changed my mind. on many things with 1952 as i sit this summer and write. maybe george bernard shaw had the answer. thank you very, very much.
it has been a pleasure speaking with you. [ applause ]r >> now. >> i got it. >> thank you so much, bob. we will be taking questions at either one of these two microphones, and remember my instrubss. >> okay. yes, that's right. in all of the instructions and it would not, henry, it just wouldn't be the same without you. thank you so much for everything that you have done for the kansas city public library. [ applause ] >> hi. is there anything stevenson could have done different that would have made any difference? >> no. >> in this election? >> no. no. and that's the problem with writing about a rout. you have to go through, and there's no dramatic moment where
you can say, had you done this you would have gained 15 points. it was impossible. so the job of the historian, then, if you believe that this was an important election, as i do, is to show how it's important for the future. no, stevenson could have done nothing. but i want to take, i'm going to go kind of like this. i do want to say this. people think that the nixon moment, the checkers speech could have saved it for stevenson. so many nixon biographers teach it as if nixon had dropped off the ticket and done the honorable thing, stevenson would have become president, that's nonsense. >> richard nixon was not that important in 1952. and there are days when i write, and i will say this, that i feel that just like john sparkman, he was not important at all, because he was a vice presidential nominee. yes, sir. >> given the land slide victory
of eisenhower, do you think stevenson actually thought he a good chance? >> that's a different question than this one. >> and also, if he didn't, then why the heck did he go through the same torture four years later? >> you have to be a special type of individual. i'm being kind here, to run for president of the united states. you have to be like an athlete on a 0-42 team. you have to believe that the next moment is going to get you your first victory. you have to be, if you're carly fiorina, you have to believe every single day that you are going to wake up and you are going to be ahead of donald trump in the polls or you can't run. stevenson acted that way. and people thought that was phony. either that or naïve, that he was a fool, but it's just what a politician does.
if you can't do that you shouldn't be in politics. this guy grew up in illinois politics. >> i'm a native of illinois. >> he was no babe in the woods. so he believed he somehow could win. more's the pity. yes, ma'am? >> you said that no one ever votes for a vice presidential candidate. >> correct. >> my question is does anyone besides me ever vote against a vice presidential candidate and therefore the whole ticket? i'm thinking of mccain and palin. >> and palin. the statistics [ laughter ] on that election show that the numbers of people who voted against mccain for palin were very, very small. again, like the nixon literature, palin herself and people who have written "game change", the book, makes palin out to be some kind of game
changer. that's what the whole thesis of the book was about. she did not move that many votes. political scientists will just tell you that is simply not the case. but if you're going to go on, richard nexten, sarah palin. you position your vice presidential run to be more important to the ticket than it really was. >> thinking of the eisenhower administration, democracy is overthrown by covert operations and supporting the rise of dictatorships, what would have, what do you think would have been the result of a stevenson presidency? what would have been the difference in his foreign policy, do you think? >> i read a book, you might have seen it, 15 things that didn't happen this american history but should have, if we had lost at bunker hill and if picket's charge had, you know, if he had actually made it. i don't, i don't know.
i don't know the answer to that. so i'll only speculate, because that's what this game is about. by the way, i fail students for doing that. i tell them history is history. anything else is your little, you know, your little conceded fiction. but let's do that for a moment. and i submit to you it would have been very close to the same. because stevenson would have inherited many of the cold war supporters, i'm sorry, advisers of the truman administration who were setting the table for what happened in iran and iraq, for are setting the table and you don't mention one, which i think is the key, in cuba and abandoning bautista. and i think stevenson would have done that as quickly as dwight eisenhower did, but who knows. it's a good question. yes, ma'am? >> i'm usually interested in the women behind the presidents. what was mamie's thoughts on being first lady?
and was she instrumental in working with dwight? or -- >> if i may, let me answer the question holistically and start with stevenson as a divorced candidate. and there were, throughout the campaign, there were rumors of stevenson being gay. and these rumors we now know through a couple of books were perpetuated by none other than everybody's favorite person, j. edgar hoover, who had a file on stevenson, and so stevenson had to bring his sister, buffy ives onto the trail with him in a completely contrived situation where a lot of people thought she was the wife. and that was infin italy more interesting to what mamie did which was stay in the background. remember the whistle stopping and everything that happened during the campaign. mamie was often ill. she was not drunk. she was often ill on the campaign trail. and the stress really hurt her. the stress bothered her.
and she was constantly in the face of eisenhower's adviser saying you're working him too hard. what mamie wanted to happen may have been a good thing. she wanted him to take two weeks off in the middle of the campaign. he was winning anyway. she wanted him to go to denver, come back to abilene. she didn't win that battle. and by the way, there's an excellent biographer of mamie eisenhower in the first lady series from kansas. i recommend it to you very highly. i had the occasion to review it. it's really plushflushed her ou really well. >> there's the story that a few years before, truman had tried to recruit eisenhower as his successor. so what happened in the interim, and why did eisenhower run as a republican if he could have easily run as a democrat in 1952. >> you're talking about an actual offer that was made to
eisenhower before the 1948 convention where truman says i will help you get anything you want, including the presidency of the united states. eisenhower did not brielieve in 1948 that he had the constituency to win. and he puts out to harold finder, i believe is his name, a very shermanesque statement, i'm not going to run, period. what happened in between is that eisenhower fell into great dislike with harry truman. he did not like the way that truman's administration was running. he thought he was more of a republican than a democrat, and he was not going to allow himself to be manipulated. this is eisenhower's view, manipulated by harry truman in the race at all. so there was never any doubt in anybody's mind, although they tried to make a bit of a deal out of it. there was never any doubt in anybody's mind in 1952 that ike would run as a republican. to distance himself from harry
truman as adlai stevenson did. >> question, general marshall had been the yoda for eisenhower for many years, having to appoint him as the commander in europe. >> mm-hm. >> i was just wondering, it seems like mccarthy could take shots at people, and eisenhower did nothing about that. i ask you that question. >> mm-hm. the other one, it almost seems like reagan and eisenhower's elections overall, could have been eerily similar. >> i'll take a pass on the last one for a moment, not because it's not an interesting question but because i have to think it through. they have gotten comparisons because of their age, their politics and the size of their victories. but the times were so different. i'd have to think about that one. but in terms of what happens with the moment in milwaukee.
one way of looking at this is that eisenhower deluded what could have been a strong statement of support for his mentor. in so doing, he could have made and taken the opportunity to position his presidency against such irresponsible statements. even if they were true. >> yes. >> right? >> like he doesn't do that. he either, he does one of two things for certain. he either amends the speech himself, or he allows his speechwriters, john hughes, to cut this out at his bequest. what does that say about eisenhower? that says that either eisenhower wants to try to keep peace in the valley with mccarthy, and he sees mccarthy as being too big to take on on the national stage right here, or he needs to win