tv The Presidency CSPAN February 15, 2016 2:30pm-3:31pm EST
pretend to understand what really was -- what mary lincoln's psychosis was, if you can call it that. but there's no question they were both difficult for their husbands. they both caused their husbands embarrassment. worse, they caused their husbands embarrassment in front of their professional peers and colleagues. they would not have been good political wives, as is indeed mary was not. >> thank you all again very much. >> you're watching american history tv. 48 hours of programming on american history every weekend on c-span3. follow us on twitter,@c-spanhistory for information on our schedule and to keep up with the latest
history news. up next on the presidency, journalist paul brandis discusses his book "under this roof, the white house and the presidency." 21 presidents, 21 rooms, 21 insider stories. he explains how presidents from george washington to barack obama have left their imprints on the executive mansion. we'll hear about thomas jefferson's bathrooms, abraham lincoln's war office, and jfk's situation room. the national library for the study of george washington at mt. vernon hosted this hour-long program. okay. good evening, everybody. my name is doug bradburn, i'm the director of the washington library here at mt. vernon and it is my great delight to welcome you to one of our ford evening book talks. i'd also like to welcome the c-span audience who is here as well and everyone watching live online. all ten of you, i'm sure.
thousands of thousands of you, of course. the ford evening book talk is a way to bring relevant books and important history topics and we have a great one for you this evening. it is funded by ford. mt. vernon has had a long relationship with the ford family, with the ford motor company, going back to henry ford's original donation of the fire engine which helped keep the mansion safe. mt. vernon is continually interested in making sure hat that the mansion is safe from destructive fire. this relationship to ford is crucial because the mt. vernon ladies association which has soebd and operated george washington's estate since the 1850s has never taken any government money. we only accept money from private patriotic people and foundations, and that allows us to maintain the house for the
public, but it is a continual challenge going forward. now tonight we have an extremely exciting speaker. paul brandis who is going to talk about his wonderful book tonight about histories of the white house and different stories. he's an award winning independent member of the white house press corps who found pd "west wing reports" in 2009. he distributes television, radio and prind content for clients around the united states and abroad. he is also a washington columnist on economics and finance for "market watch," for the week he moderates panels for the magazine in washington and around the u.s. on topics like cyber security, energy and europe's economic crisis. he is a frequent speaker around the country in front of all sorts of groups. he's known recently as an innovator in social media. his twitter account@westwingreport has the biggest following amongst all
accredited members among the white house press corps. he won the shorty award for the best journalist on twitter sponsored by the knight foundation. he has 246,000 followers on his twitter account. when he started west wing report, it was all the rage, followed by everybody of note. it is ranked as one of the most pin flungs -- influngs twitter accounts. when his account west wing report became all the rage, everybody was like who's running this massive thing? tonight you'll get to see who west wing report is. it's paul brandis. we're delighted to have him here with a career that spans across network television, wall street, and several years as a foreign correspondent in moscow. he covered the collapse of the soviet union for nbc radio and the award winning business and
economics program "marketplace." he's traveled to 53 countries on five continents. that's more than george washington did. at least. that's tremendous. and he's on many boards as well. one factoid to give you, he was part of an investor capital group that purchased the rights to the -- russian rights to air the super bowl for the national football league becoming the first person to show the championship game in russia. >> i did that by myself. >> he did it all by himself. i'm going to be the first person to show the championship game on this screen right here at the rubenstein which is also something to point out. he's here tonight to talk about his book "under this roof -- the white house and the presidency, 21 presidents, 21 rooms, 21 inside stories." he's jumping the gun because i have one more thing to say. but here at mt. vernon we know the importance of telling stories about houses and the
things that go on in them and how much they matter to understanding the sweep of history. the white house is arguably more well known than mt. vernon and many great things have happened there. nobody brings them to life better than paul brandis. please, everybody give him a big mt. vernon welcome. >> well, thank you -- boy, that guy's had a lot of jobs, listening to that introduction. what an honor to speak at mt. vernon. i'm very appreciative. before we start, just thank you, be doug bradburn, for that introduction. just wonderful. also want to just thank you to mark -- is mark in the room? where's mark? did he bail out? okay. i was in the back room.
thank you. mark is the chief librarian here and also steven mcloed, director of library programs. my appreciation to all of you. there are a lot of books about presidents. lots of books about issues and the events that they have been involved with over the past 220 years -- 240 years. i wanted to add a third layer to that, and that's the white house itself, how the building has changed over the years. my theme is that changes to that building reflect the history of america itself. i'm going to break this talk down into two eras. there are too many stories to tell here. but first i'm going to give sort of a quick overview of how the white house expanded, how new technology came in, then i'm going to share with you a couple of stories which i hope will be new to you. let's start out pointing out -- pointing out that we americans,
we like to think of our country as a pretty young country. in the overall scheme of things, 240 years or so is not that old. but when you think about it, the white house is actually one of the oldest, continuous residences for head of state in the world. i don't know what happened to the numbers here. but presidents have lived in the white house longer than kings and queens in buckingham pal also. it's true. longer than emperors have lived in tokyo's imperial palace. that's this one. even longer than one of my old stomping grounds, moscow, the kremlin, which became the russian capital for the second time in 1918 when lenin moved them back from st. petersburg. the white house has quite an old history.
one gentleman who never lived there, george washington, of course. but he picked the winning design for the mansion. it was submitted by the irish architect, james hoban. tragically mr. washington died about a year before john adams first moved in. construction of the white house took eight years. this is what it looked like. this is a wonderful painting, by the way, for the white house historical association. you can see the basic contours of the building taking shape. this back here is the -- what is now the south lawn looking out the south side. over there would be today's lafayette square. roosevelt island off in the distance and so forth. what a wonderful painting that is. the construction took eight years. it cost $232,000. that's about $72 million today. i did the math on that. $72 million.
by the way, the real estate website zillow today now says that it would be -- not that it's on the market -- $393 million. that's sort of what the ad would look like in the paper. prime location. 18 acres. all that. i hear the amenities are pretty good, too. there's going to be a new tenant apparently in about a year or so. i'm not quite sure who that's going to be, but they'll get a four-year lease. if we like them, maybe extend their lease for another four years or so. anyway, so when adams moved in, it was november 1st, 1800. this is what it looked like. this would be the south lawn here and at the time, if you notice, there was no north portico, no south portico. those would not be auntil a quarter century ago. at the time, 1800, this was the
principal entrance to the without. this is the north entrance here. that's basically what john adams saw when he moved in. he was quite pleased. on his first full day in the white house, november 2nd, 1800, he wrote abigail, still back home in massachusetts, he wrote her a letter and in it added what amounted to sort of a benediction of sorts. what he said was i pray to heaven the best of blessings on this house an all that shall hereafter inhabit it. may none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof. that's the title of the book. 30 presidents later franklin roosevelt was so moved by those words, they kind of disappeared for a little while. fdr found that phrase when he
came in to the white house. he actually ordered them carved in to the mantel above the fireplace in the state dining room. a lot of you i know have been in the white house. when you go in the state dining room, this is what it actually looks like, carved there by franklin roosevelt. of course, adams did not last long. he lost the election of 1800 to thomas jefferson. and when he moved in, jefferson of course being the architect that he was, made some changes. one was to add pavilions which eventually became today's east and west wings, the famous k colunade that you see the president walking down. at the time the bathrooms which were really just outhouses. the president of the united states, john adams, used to run out in the back to the outhouse. well, thomas jefferson was a
very festidious man. he thought this is not dignified for a president. jefferson actually added the first two what they called waterclosets at the time. he built a reservoir on the top of the white house that collected the rainwater. that's how they flushed these water closets. so big improvement. jefferson also changed the main entrance to the north side. he didn't like the south entrance that i showed you previously. so this became the principal entrance to the white house. again this looks very familiar, the famous paladian window. jefferson also made an extra change. this is a modern floor plan of the state floor but what jefferson did, what is today's
state dining room here, he actually made that into his office. jefferson's office was on the state floor. this goes back again looking out on the south lawn. that's the north side, that was the main entrance. that was thomas jefferson's office which is today the state dining room. this is what his office looked like. again, this is one of the paintings from the white house. i'll show you what jefferson -- of course he was surrounded by all of his books and his gardening tools and his maps which you might not know about thomas jefferson is that he actually had a pet bird in the white house. a pet mockingbird. it is up here in the upper right of the painting. jefferson just allowed it to fly about the room. sometimes jefferson in fact would actually feed his bird out of his own lips. he had it trained and the bird would sit on jefferson's hand or whatever and feed the bird. just a wonderful painting by
peter wadell. the painting also shows jefferson meeting with his of one closest assistants, by the way, one of his best friends, that's lewis who was an officer in the army, jefferson offered him a chance to come and work for him. jefferson actually -- go back to the floor plan for a second. what jefferson did is he actually let merriweather lewis live in what is the east room today on the south side. he had sort of sail cloth from a sailing ship and he partitioned off two small rooms. one was his bed chamber and the other was sort of a small working space. jefferson of course was a widower. martha died in 1782 so jefferson and lewis would sort of go back and forth all day long down the
famous cross hall, they worked together and took a lot of their meals together and they also plotted in fact what turned out to be a crowning achievement of the jefferson administration which of course was the louisiana purchase. let's jump ahead about a decade now to dolly madison. we were just talking about her earlier today. she is such a fascinating first lady. dolley madison was just a wonderful first lady. everybody loved dolley madison. she was outgoing, she was vivacio vivacious, held tons of parties. everybody, everybody wanted invitation to the white house when the madisons were in power. not so much because of james madison but because of dolley. everybody wanted to meet dolley. she knew how to throw a party. food and the booze were top shelf. she served a popular new dish
that was all the rage. it was called ice cream. a lot of her entertaining took place in what is today the blue room. she had a different color preference. as you can see, it was red in her day. this is another painting by peter wadell. all this went up in flames when the british came to town in 1814. i think that story is pretty well known. it is common knowledge i think that dolley saved what was then, and still now, the most famous piece of artwork in the white house, and that of course is the famous gilbert stuart portrait of george washington. it hangs today in the east room. it's not your average size painting, by the way. it is about eight feet by five. probably half the size of this screen. it is gigantic. even though she knew the british were coming, she refused to leave until that painting was saved. she said i'm not leaving. the president was off at the
front, by the way. it was just her. a couple of assistants tried to take the painting down. turns out the frame was actually bolted to the wall so they couldn't take it down. what they did was they took a hash chet hatchet, hacked away e frame and laid it down on the floor. it was only then that she left so truly courageous on her part and one of our greatest first ladies. i think they named some snack cakes after her, too. then there is the story of the president, by the way, who was nearly killed in the white house on his own inauguration day, if you can believe it. talking about andrew jackson. this is one of the very few photos that we have of jackson. it was taken in 1845, long after he left the white house. but just a striking picture of him. he died in fact a couple of weeks after this was taken.
but what happened when he was nearly killed, there was a wild n inaugural party when he was sworn in. everybody came, all the well wishers. at one point jackson, who wasn't in the very best of health to begin with, was crushed up against the wall, had trouble breathing, and his aides literally had to push him through a window and evacuate him to safety. probably the wildest party that's ever been held at the white house that we know of. so there is the sort of early -- well, there might have been one i don't know. so those are sort of the first early stages of the white house. jefferson's adding of the first bathrooms was an example of how the mansion grew and adapted to changing times. running water came in under jackson. gas lighting during the term of james k. polk. i want to talk about polk for just a second. this is a guy who we don't think about very often, but he was an
enormously consequential president, probably the most consequential one-term president i think we've ever had. war territory was added to the united states during his four years and at any other the lou purchase. and polk was a big believer in technology during the mexican-american war. for example, used the telegraph to communicate with his commanders in mexico, one of the first uses of high-tech electronics in wartime setting. very important. and you know how presidents today are criticized for allegedly taking too much time off, bush all his time at ranch and clinton sailing and doesn't barack obama play too much golf? all of that is debatable, it's the most stressful job in the world. they are human beings, desv time off. james poming literally took a handful of days off in his entire four years.
worked his fingers to the bone, micromanaged everything to a ridiculously granular degree. what did he do? dropped out a couple of weeks after leaving office. i think all presidents, whether riding a horse, playing golf, watching movies, they deserve a little bit of down time. we'll talk about the movies in a few minutes, by the way. polk was president when the first known picture of the white house was taken. and here it is in 1846. if you see it, there's no balcony on the south portico, this is ho you it looked. the south, the balcony that we now know as the truman balcony would not be built for another century ago, until harry truman, after a long, nasty fight said, i want this balcony and he got it. for most of its history that is what the south portico looked like. let's jump ahead to this gentleman, for some reason on the screen, this is alittle bit
blurry but he needs no introduction. this is one of the most famous photos of abraham lincoln taken by the photographer, alexander gardner a couple of weeks before lincoln was assassination. taken in february 1865. what i want to show you now, this photo has been colorized. look at this. abraham lincoln in the flesh, which is just remarkable. and if you look, look at lincoln -- i'm going to pause on this for a second. lincoln was such a powerful photo. lincoln suffered from bouts of depression, the war was enormously stressful, one of his sons died in the middle of his presidency, the war was just getting to him. and you can see al of this in his face, look at the sadness in his eyes, and again this was about two months before his
assassination. lincoln, like polk before him, relied on the telegraph, as well. he was so impressed with the telegraph, in fact, that one day he got the first coast-to-coast telegram sent by the chief justice of the california supreme court and lincoln was so impressed by that, two days later, he ordered the federal government to discontinue its use of the pony express, which was a really big deal. at the time, it took eight days to get pony express to get something out to the west coast, of course, telegraph just took a couple of minutes. lincoln did away with the pony express in a hurry. it was this speed and technology, in fact, that helped him manage the civil war. if you've ever seen the steelburg movie "lincoln"s, it's very authentic. in that film, daniel day-lewis
who plays the president, spends long hours in the room, waiting for the latest dispatches in commanders. that is accurate. lincoln as commander and chief spent a ton of time in the room, which was adjacent to the white house, by the way, it was not in the white house, per se. the use of technology mirrored by other presidents, another president we don't think of too often, rutherford b. hayes, a real high-tech president. he was friends with thomas edison, alexander graham bell and invited them to come to the white house and display their wears knowing that the attention that this would garner would help those products kind of speed up their entry into the marketplace, so he knew what he was doing. and the white house soon in fact got its first telephone. you know the first number of the first white house telephone, by the way, you probably know the answer, the first number of the first white house telephone was
1. that was the number. but not a lot of people could call because there were only two or three other phones in all of washington at the time. who's going to call? i mean, there's a phone at the treasury department next door, in some -- i forget some private citizen, must have been a friend of bells, had a phone, too, might have been three phone nfz all of washington at that time. and if you're one of the other two guys, the president actually answered the phone himself stooms, which i'm sure does not happen today. so, i'm pretty sure the president doesn't answer the phone. but let me come back to the second floor and lincoln for a second because i want to tell you about one of the great misunderstandings about him and it concerns the so-called -- and i say that in quotes -- lincoln bedroom. if you see the arrow there, that is what today, this is a current floor plan of the second floor. this is what today is called the
lincoln bedroom, not so. actually, in lincoln's time this -- that was his office. and he called it the shab. this is what his office looked like. this room was the nerve center of the lincoln presidency he met with his cabinet here, he wrote his speeches here, he issued the emancipation proclamation. everything if his room. he had maps on the wall. the window on the left, he could look out on to the mall the unfinished washington monument, built halfway. the government ran out of money. imagine that, the government running out of money. so they just stopped during the war. the washington monument construction actually stopped and he could look beyond that, across the mall, across the river, and depending how the war was going, he could see confederate flags, at night
sometimes a campfire of the confederate troops in virginia. the enemy was often that close, just remarkable wartime conditions for the president. the enemy was a couple of minutes away. so that is lincoln's office today, back then, his office, rather, back then. and it was since turned into aed by bedroom by the trumans. this is what it looks like today. that's the famous lincoln bed. the rose wood bed purchased by mary lincoln. that's another misunderstanding. lincoln never slept in that bed, by the way. there's no evidence that he actually slept in the lincoln bed. furniture's authentic but he never slept in it. the question is, if lincoln didn't sleep in the bed, didn't sleep in the lincoln bed rom, where did he sleep? and the answer, this is an authentic floor plan of his era, he slept in the southwest corner where presidents today sleep, in
fact. that was the president's bedroom, his office, you can see, on the other side of the mansion. mary lincoln had a separate bedroom. and the crush of visitors during the civil war was so great that really the first family, their whole life was just confined to just these couple of rooms here and to ensure his privacy, frankly for reasons of security, lincoln had this secret passageway built that led to what is today yellow room, secret passageway that led to their living rooming i guess they called it a library, and that was it. that was lincoln's second floor during his day. it's not just the lincoln bedroom, by the way, but lots of rooms have actually changed identity and purpose over the years. here's -- i'll tell you one more story about how these rooms changed.
oops. got ahead of myself here. this is, again, current second floor and with an arrow i added on the north portico, north side of 0 the white house, rather. if you see the second window from the right, that room today is the private dining room of first families. and sometimes if i go into the white house early i'll see the lights on, that's president's private dining room right there sometimes you'll see a shadowy, shadow orsillo wet in the window, oh, mrs. obama is fixing herself a couple of coffee or something. here's president ford sipping his morning o.j. i think this is 1975. look at that cool tv. remember those tvs? people used to have. here's nancy reagan on what was her last visit to the white house. this was 2009, the obamas
invited her for lunch and that's the private dining room. but, what people don't know about this room, it's today the private dining room, what people don't know, however, is that this room actually has a more bid history. william henry harrison, died. willie lincoln, one of the president. sons he died in that room 1862. lincoln himself after the assassination, autopsy and embalm. ing performed. that's a "national geographic" reproduction, i want to point that out there are no photos here. creepy things occurred in that room. you wonder, do the presidents when eating breakfast or having coffee, i'm sure they're aware that that room has kind of a rather morbid history and it
didn't become a dining room until the kennedys moved in. it's not jack rin. she pronounced in jacqueline kennedy wanted more privacy for her two id cans. so she converted that room which was bedroom, into private kitchen. this is what it looked like in 1963, last year of kennedy presidency. now, as long as we're talking about the kennedys here, that's the location of the -- well, prior to getting ahead of myself -- this was the private dining room on the second floor, mrs. kennedy did not like the fact they had to go downstairs to the state floor to have their meals. she thought it was too cumbersome and to intrusive, that where the dining room on the second floor came in. now, as long as we're talking
about the kennedys, everybody knows, of course, about the restoration efforts that mrs. kennedy made in '61, in '62, as an aside, pat nixon did just as much, never got credit that she deserved, i just want to point that out. but it's really changes to the west wing that the kennedys made that i'll talk about here. now, we know that three months into kennedy's term he had the worst humiliation of his presidency, the bay of pigs. in the aftermath of that, the president decided that he was not getting the information he wanted quickly enough and it wasn't the right information. he wanted his own setup. two weeks later he got something called the situation room, it used to be a bowling alley for harry truman who played poker and never really bowled and moved that to the old executive office building. this is what the first situation room looked like.
it looks like early '60s suburban rec room or something. this is what -- this is what john f. kennedy wanted and it's what he got, it enabled him to get information he wanted faster without going through the cha chainchain channels at state department, cia, he wanted raw, unfiltered, fast information and that's what he got. and the irony is that a year and a half after the bay of pigs, the situation room played a really big role in what was probably his greatest foreign policy achievement and that was the cuban missile crisis, where he convinced the soviets to remove their missiles. so the situation room actually played a huge role in his presidency, simply for that reason. the situation room is badly named, by the way. this is current floor plan. it not one room but several rooms. this is below ground. there's the oval office, one
floor above. as you can see, several rooms, remember the famous bin laden picture that they got, obama photo, the night they got bin latden. it was -- that's where that was taken. so that's sort of what president kennedy did to the west wing. other kennedy story, i find a little creepy, and actually concerns one of the most documented covered, discussed defense of the 20th century -- yet a lot of people know that much about it concerns the kennedy assassination. i mentioned that mrs. kennedy redid the mansion itself. she also wanted to redo the oval office itself. there's caroline and kerry kennedy, one of robert kennedy's daughters. she hated the green carpet and drapes that dated back to truman era. she told president kennedy i want to redo your office, too.
he said, fine. and she picked everything out. the workers told her that they both needed to be away for about two days so they could do the job. and again, fall of 1963, and the only two days when they would both be away happened to be the third weekend in november, when they went to texas. so literally, i mean literally as the president and mrs. kennedy made their way from ft. worth to dallas, to get into the motorcade, we know what happened next, workmen went into the oval, removed that fame out resolute desk, ripped up the green carpet, and as the president's motorcade, as he went from ft. worth to dallas, that day, they put in the new carpet on the day of his murder and its color, a deep blood red. this photo, in fact, was taken the afternoon of the
assassination. picture was taken on november 22, 1963. at the time, daniel patrick moynihan, who later went on to become new york senator, he was a white house aide, he looked in, saw the new carpet, and he said, oh my god, it's as if they knew a new president was coming and real will a very morbid story. mrs. kennedy actually saw the red carpet the next day for a few minutes while her husband's casket lay in the east room. she returned to the white house, by the way, just once over the rest of her life. it was simply too painful for her. so it's really stories about stories like that that i tried to find and put in the book. there's just too many to talk about here. and so just the roosevelts and nixons and this picture in the upper right, by the way, i took that one myself of the first family. look how young the girls look. i think that was in january of
2010 when they came back from hawaii. i think that's one of the more competent pictures that i've taken. by the way, i mentioned the movie theater and this is sort of one of the last stories i'm going to tell here, the movie theater is one of the truly great perks in the white house. here's president and mrs. reagan watching a movie, barack obama likes to throw super bowl parties. i think this was right after he moved in, in fact, in 2009. it's really one of the most coveted invitations to watch a movie or anything with the president. here's what i find interesting about the theater. if you look at records of what the presidents have watched over the years, tastes are obviously ehe eclectic and everything, they reflect the tastes and times in which they lived.
one movie, a quiz section of our evening here, there's one movie that really resonated with more presidents than any other one, can you guess what that one movie might be? it will be obvious when i explain it. can anybody guess? what? >> patton. >> patton was a nixon film, no question about it. but everyone from eisenhower up to the president, can anybody guess? >> "gone with the wind." "gone with the wind," good guess but that's not it. that's a good guess, but that's wrong. that would be -- that would be -- that's would be -- that would be -- no, one movie, nobody gets this, one movie that really resonates with so many presidents is "high noon "s. gary cooper western. great movie, a lot of you have seen that. dwight eisenhower loved this
movie, so did ronald reagan, george w. bush, bill clinton claimed he saw it 20 times. i love this movie. so -- was that good? what's your name? so it's really one of the few movies that has resonated with a lot of presidents. why "high noon"? the reason is that, if you know the plot of that movie, the bad guys are coming to unto, sheriff all loaenlo, friends abandoned him, it's up to him to defend the town by himself. presidents can -- that resonates with presidents, sometimes they feel like the burden is theirs alone and no one will help them, they have to make life and death decisions on their own. that's why the presidency is called the loneliest job in the world and it called so with very good reason, i think.
there are a ton of other stories i can tell you here, but i'm going to stop here and say thank you so much for inviting me tonight. and i really appreciate the opportunity to speak to you, thank you. if anybody has any questions, feel free. somebody have -- [ applause ] by the way, don't speak until you actually have the microphone. if you want to be on television. question, anybody? yes, ma'am? >> how much has the footprint of the structure changed since the it burned down? did they rebuild it basically the same architecture and built it back up, or how did it change? >> she's talking about after the fire of 1814. the outer shell of the white house was still there.
they built around that. the same footprint but over the years it's expanded. when ulysses s. grant was president, they thought of moving the president's house to a bluff overlooking rock creek park, after the lincoln assassination, security concerns. then, of course in the truman era of the white house, literally nearly collapsed. the president and bess truman gave margaret a piano. one day a leg of the piano actually fell through the ceiling on the second floor and they really thought it was going to collapse. they had to move into blair house for 3 1/2 years while they fixed it. interesting. but basic footprint is still where it is, except of course east and west wings expanded. and of course it's expanded deep below ground, too. a lot of secret ways down. orb well, oh well. any other questions?
hi. >> you've talked briefly about coming into the white house very early in the morning and seeing the dining room lights lit up. can you tell a little bit about what it's like to have the job that you have and what are some of the things that you have found to be a pleasure in that job, as well as perhaps a bur n burden? >> to me, the pleasure is really the -- the reason why i decided to write a book in the first place. it's such a privilege to go into the white house. such a privilege. and you're enveloped by history when you go in there. i was in the east room last week. i've been in there a million times. here in the center of the room, this is where lincoln's casket lay and john f. kennedy and again there's a famous gilbert stewart painting on the wall, it's where gerald ford was sworn in after nixon resigned. on a lesser note, susan ford had
her prom there and amy carter scuffed up the floor with her roller skates. history is remarkable. you simply can't escape it. it's just remarkable. you're walking where lincoln walked and thomas jefferson walked and roosevelt rolled around. it's amazing. still mind blowing to go in there. >> and the floor plan, i think it was of the current white house on the second floor, there was a room that was noted as cos.room. >> that woulder would be chief of staff office. >> it looked like it was right there in the private area. i got it. >> in the -- go back and look at it. not sure. yes, sir?
>> this is fascinating. i wondered if you've covered the ford children. i heard the roumor the ford children smoked marijuana on the balcony. >> somebody in the room might comment but i'm not going to put him on the spot. but i've heard those stories. and i've heard about jenna bush doing it. so what? you know, they're children. so, yeah. it may be true. may be true. yes, sir? can you get a microphone, actually. probably true. can't prove it. >> i was interested to see that painting of the white house under construction, that showed all of 0 the bricks among the various rooms, we're told that during the complete reconstruction of the white house in 1950, when they
completely gutted it, mt. vernon got the bricks and built the slave quarters in the greenhouse from those bricks. >> is that true? >> yes. >> that is true. >> that is the case. not the entire structure wasn't from those bricks but those bricks were part of what was used to build, that's correct. >> the sad part about that, that's an interesting question. when the reconstruction, '48-'52, truman told these guys just to hurry up, get the job done. as a result, there's a ton of debris from the building. they just dumped it into a giant landfill in virginia, all kinds of bricks, but wood and frames and just a huge waste, trimmer told them to cut corners are and get the job done. some landfill around here that has a bunch of riches in it. yeah. if you're an archaeologist, good
project for you. >> fascinating presentation, thank you. but i have a question based on the introduction of you. what did the russians make of the super bowl? how did you explain it to them? >> well, the -- don't forget, super bowl question about one of the events, you know when i was living in russia -- this is how long ago it was -- the redskins were a good team. that's how long ago, it was. okay. and at the year, the year before they won the super bowl, and i was working over there, and by god i missed the super bowl last t$4b.ci'm going to watch the and i actually figured out that if i had some big screen tvs and a satellite feed, i could make it happen. and there's first western hotel there, a radisson. and cold called nfl from eight time zones away and pitched
them, if you can come to new york, convince us, we'll let you do it. and i wound up buying the rights myself, i wrote a check, so it came back and staged it and everything. the russians were -- they didn't know what to make of it. a weird -- they think they invented baseball, too, by the way. they do. they didn't know -- they didn't know what to make of it. yeah. interesting. >> come on, people. >> mt. vernon, the best questions for any speaker. must be something to ask the man. i'll go ahead. >> okay. >> this gentleman here. >> there you go. get that gentleman right there. >> what's the most interesting story about ulysses s. grant in the white house? >> well, grant -- i'm not sure whether this is a -- grant, one day, got a speeding ticket. he had his civil war horses and he had a buggy, and he liked to
go out on rides around town and one day he was speeding down -- i don't know what the road was, going way too fast and a washington policeman pulled the president over, he was by himself in this carriage. and he started to give the president a ticket and realized oh, it's the president. and grant said, no, no, no, do your job, give me -- it was like $5 tick the or whatever it was and grant thanked him, went back to the white house. that's one of my favorite grant stories. president got a speeding ticket while in office. doesn't happen today, i don't think so, yeah. >> i had read that eleanor roosevelt used to have all kind of people come in and stay at the white house. >> true. >> over the time period. what was the wackiest one she had? >> well, that's a long list. eleanor roosevelt -- eleanor roosevelt would sometimes just
invite total strangers she met on the street to stay overnight in the white house and often there weren't enough bedrooms to go around. so i'm sure hilarity ensued. that was what -- that was what she did. she was a real people person. shy would just service personnel and so forth, sometimes people she met. she just liked to talk to people and that's what she did. so she's quite an interesting character. hi. >> was sally hemmings on staff at the white house in the jefferson administration? >> talking about jefferson's -- his mistress, slave, with whom -- it's believed he fathered, what, i about six children with her. i don't think she was. i'm not sure. i think she probably stayed down at monticello. that's a good question.
don't know. it's a fiction question. >> one of my favorite stories that you tell in the book relates to wilson. the last virginia president, woodrow wilson, who -- >> that's right. >> who got married, second wife, and they had an interesting ip a relationship. tell that story. >> woodrow wilson's first wife died while he was in office, he was very lonely. and he wanted to meet somebody else and he thought, well, i've never going to meet another woman, i'm 53 years old, whatever he was. and about a month later, in fact, he saw a woman on the street corner who happened to be a friend of the person he was with, personal physician. edith gault.
and the president was smitten. and they began dating. and the president to impress -- as if being president isn't impressive enough. president of the united states, impressive enough. he wanted to really impress her. what he did was he shared top government secrets with her, which was a huge, huge security lapse, and that's what he did. i think just being president is enough if that doesn't impress her, i don't know what will. but that's what he did. and they wound up getting married. and during the first world war, edith, in fact -- really interesting -- she learned to code and decode secret government messages. so she went to work as basically a clerk for the war department, sending messages abroad and deciphering them and so forth. very interesting. and after wilson got -- he was severely crippled by -- he had a
stroke in october 1919, nearly killed him, couldn't speak, couldn't move for a long time. and in one of the greatest coverups in american history, his wife, the doctors, white house staffers, they completely covered it up. can you imagine that happening today? president paralyzed and covered it up. she, in fact, took it upon herself to do his job. she looked at papers and signed documents and decided what was important and what was not. this was all kept hush-hush. eventually people figured it out when the president didn't appear for weeks on end. an incredible coverup. and that's her claim to fame and i write about that. it's one of the most -- not untold story, it's an undertold story just 4z;svúçremarkable. edith 6/iz wilson. >> paul, you're a great storyteller. i remember you telling me a story one time about a speed
dial. can you tell that story? >> the speed dial? >> yeah. you were going through and you hit a particular button on a phone and you got a gentleman in california -- >> that has nothing to do with any of this. >> it's like the super bowl, where these questions came from. >> it's not being recorded or anything, don't worry about it. >> well, short of it is, i wound up hanging up on ronald reagan one time because -- no big deal, i was working for a -- thanks a lot, jim -- i was -- i was working for a public relations company, still in business, despite the story -- and on the staff -- this was after president reagan left the white house and he moved back to bel air, and on staff at this public
relations company was a woman named sheila tate, one of the president's former assistants -- sorry, nancy reagan's press secretary. and one night we were working some -- me and some other guys working late on a project, it was, you know, 11:00, 12:00 at night or something, getting bloopy and decided to take a break. these offices had no doors. sheila tate's office. we went in there, she had other ego wall, camp david and air force i. there's her rolodex on her desk and somebody started looking at it and oh, here's a private number for president and nancy reagan in bel air. it's like, can't possibly be their private number. on a dare i wound up calling that number. i was 23, 24 years old. i wound up calling that number, and thinking certainly an assistant or someone would answer the phone. and then they picked up the
phone and it was this unmistakable, hello, and, and we just hung up. and we high tailed it out. very innocuous. i was -- i was certain -- i was certain we were all going to get -- nothing ever happened. but it was -- it was -- so, well, so. that's the time. thank you, that's the time i hung up on the president, yeah. >> let get one last question to finish it off here. i forgot about that. that will go in the next book, maybe. >> hi. an excellent presentation. >> thank you. >> thank you. i haven't been to the white house in over 40 years but now i'm very interested in going. would you consider giving a behind the scenes tour?
to a few of us. >> i think i just did. the best way to get in there now, on a serious note, security's so strict there nower the best way is to go through your congress person and i think that process is rather laborious now, i think it starts -- you have to start six weeks in advance and give your social number and all of that. i can't actually get people beyond the gate. i don't encourage you to jump the fence, by the way, either. but if you can take -- if you can take the tour, you should. it just wonderful. and you will see the state floor that we talked about, the east room, state dining room, you can see the adams benediction carved into the mantle and the red, blue, green rooms. if you're really lucky, on the day you're there, when the president is coming or going on marine i, they might take you out back and you can stand there and watch the chopper come and
go, which is really a thrill to watch. hope you get to do that. >> let's all give him a big round of applause. >> thanks for coming out tonight. administrative notes, books for sale outside the door behind you. and we're going it chain him to that desk right there until he signs all of the things he can sign. >> oh, no. >> before he believes. >> oh, no. >> if you run out of the stock of books, purchase from us at the same discounted rate and we'll ship to you for free. we have little placards so you can have it personalized for you or anyone. it a nice gift for thanksgiving. >> if you like the book, if you can get on to!&qés amazon and wa good review, that would be helpful, too. there's a shameless plug. thank you. >> thank you.
let give him another round. >> thank you. [ applause ] you're watching american history tv. follow us on twitter, for information on our schedule and keep up with the latest history news. tonight on the communicators, the longest serving fcc commissioner, talks about major communications issues, including next month's spectrum auctions,
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