tv Book Discussion on 1948 CSPAN August 8, 2016 6:58pm-8:01pm EDT
pragss in the european theater. have a good day. see you on friday. you are dismissed. the c-span radio app makes it easy to continue to follow the 2016 election wherever you are. it's free to download from the apple app store or google play. get audio coverage and up to the minute schedule information for c-span radio and television plus podcast times for our popular public affairs, book and history programs. stay up to date on the election coverage. c-span's radio app means you always have c-span on the go. at c-span.org you can watch our programming at any time on your convenience on your desktop, laptop or mobile device. go to your home page, c-span.org and click on the video search bar. type in the name of a speaker,
the sponsor of a bill or an event topic. click on the program you would like to watch or refine your search with our search tools. if you're looking for the current programs and you don't want to search the video library, our home page has many current programs ready for you immediate viewing, such as today's washington journal or the events we covered that day. if you're a c-span watcher, check it out at c-span.org. up next on "history bookshelf," david pietrusza discusses his book "1948" harry truman's improbable victory and the year that transformed america. the author describes harry truman's early career, the political climate surrounding the 1948 election and the main players in the campaign. he also takes questions from the audience. this was recorded at the clifton park-halfmoon public library in clifton park, new york. it's been an hour ten minutes.
good morning, everyone. welcome to the clifton park-halfmoon public library. we are very pleased to have david pietrusza with us this morning to talk about his latest book, "1948: harry truman's improbable victory and the year that transformed america." david is the author of a number of books. he's been here to talk in the past about his book about arnold rothstein, about the book of 1920, the year of six presidents, 1960, lbj versus jfk versus nixon, silent pal's almanac, the homespun wit of virginia's calvin coolidge and "ted williams: my life in pictures." he's also written and produced a documentary "local heroes: baseball in capital district diamonds." reviews for his harry truman book talk about how lively it is, illuminating portraits of four candidates and the even-handed appraisal of truman
is especially compelling. the journey that he takes to get us to election day is one that he has definitively become the best at leading. in the past, his work has been compared to theodore white's classic "the making of the presidents" series. after three straight home runs, i think pietrusza is the undisputed champion of chronicling americans' presidential campaigns. he holds a degree from the university of albany and has served on city council in amsterdam, new york, and is the recipient of the 2011 excellence in letters and arts award of the alumni association at the university at albany. in addition to doing presidential biographies and elections, he is also a member of sabra, the baseball historian organization. he is a casey-winning judge and jury and and edgar award finalist for his book on arnold
rothstein. ladies and gentlemen, david pietrusza. [ applause ] >> thank you, natalie, and it's great to be back here again. and the question that people always ask me about my books is, why did you write this book? and americans claim to hate politics, but we love elections, we love sports. my sports background, your sports background, the whole country's crazy about it. we love the competition. we love the 162-game series and things going down to the seventh game of the world series. we love mazeroski hitting the
home run and we love bill buckner and mookie wilson. and 1948 is one of those mazeroski, mookie, bill buckner elections. this is when the underdog comes back and pulls it out when everyone has written them off. that's harry truman's improbable victory. that's the year that was. that's the election that was the great, iconic comeback, the great surprise, the great surprise when the pundits are proven so spectacularly wrong. that's another thing we love. we love to be smarter than all the guys on tv and writing the newspaper columns. and harry truman, who was just an ordinary harry, the only president of the 20th century who doesn't go on to college. he's a high school graduate! not the only once since. not the last one. the only one of the 20th
century. you have to go back to andrew johnson, to abraham lincoln to find such a common man. and not just a common man, but a fellow who's been a failure at business. his famous shop in downtown kansas city that goes bust and he's left to pay off those debts for 20 years, and he pays them all off. he won't declare bankruptcy. he has a standard of honor. and he will pay all his debts. he also has a standard of honor which marks him in his earlier political career where he is the product and he is known for really most of his active political career as being the product of one of america's most
spectacularly corrupt political machines. this is something that, like al smith in 1928 is never really able to transcend. he's a product of tamny, and he gets whooped by herbert hoover for that and a number of other reasons. harry truman is the product of this prendergast machine in kansas city. he's the head of the county government for them. they steal millions and millions of dollars. harry truman never takes a dime. he has to kind of wink at what goes on in some cases. he those get things done. he would sit down. he would sit down and pour out his soul to private letters, which he never sent to anyone. he'd hole up in this hotel and write these letters, which were found decades after his death, as he would wrestle with these questions -- am i a public servant or am i a crook? am i doing the right thing? he's conflicted by this, but he stays in this machine and he eventually determines to get out of local government. he wants to be a congressman. but he's such a puppet, such a nobody, even at that time, that
it's like, no, harry, you can't be a congressman. can i be a governor? no, you can't be governor. when the machine can't find anybody to run for united states senate in 1934 -- okay. we now return to our regularly scheduled programming. so, the machine can't find anyone to run for senate, united states senate in 1934. you'd think they could. it's going to be a big democratic year. harry pulls it off, but he goes into the senate, again, he's like a nobody. a nobody. and then disaster strikes. 1939, boss pendergast on good
friday goes to the federal pen for corruption, and people say, well, that's the end of harry truman now. who's going to want him? who's going to want this pendergast puppet still to remain in the united states senate? his mentor is finished and so is he. he faces a three-way primary and wins. he goes to all the small towns and courthouses and masonic temples and every other place he knows in missouri and wows them, pulls it off. and that's a valuable lesson when it comes to 1948 and the democratic party is split once again. but he's still, he's back in the senate, but who is he? he's given an assignment. look into all these military bases, defense contracting things we're doing to win the war against hitler and tojo. are we getting the bang for the buck?
are we spending our money wisely? harry truman goes around, gets in his car, had really no staff, no expense, delivers a remarkable report that, no, we're not. we're wasting a hell of a lot of money while our boys are fighting and dying in europe, in north africa and in the south pacific. and we have got to stop it, and here's how. and people say, gee whiz, he did that intelligently, honestly in a non-partisan manner. maybe there's something to this harry truman guy. which takes us to 1944. franklin roosevelt is looking for a fourth term. the war's still on. and in 1940, he had dumped his vice president, john nance garner, who had grown a bit too conservative for the new deal.
and he puts in henry a. wallace, his secretary of the agriculture, who is a very left-wing, kind of new-age kind of guy for back then. and he forces wallace on the ticket in 1940. the democratic party does not really want him. and in 1944, roosevelt is getting the word back -- you keep this guy on the ticket, he could cost you a million votes. roosevelt's a great politician. he knows what this means. and he says, i've forced henry wallace on the party once. i can't do it twice. i can't do it twice. he's got to go. not in so many words, not so many words, but he eventually slits wallace's throat. so, who did he replace him with? the guy you replace him with is a guy who's not too southern, not too northern, not too
conservative, not too liberal. respected by the unions but not really in the pocket of the unions. and that's harry truman. he fits in all the slots. they put him on the ticket in 1944, and by april 1945 franklin roosevelt is dead. and harry truman goes to the white house and says to eleanor roosevelt, can i pray for you? and she says, no, we need to pray for you because you are the fellow who is in trouble now. he starts off very popular. the war is won. the atomic bombs are dropped on japan. there is vj day. america's at peace, finally. and harry truman reaches a popularity level of 87%. sic transit gloria mundi, that goes downhill real fast. and people, some of that is beyond his control, but there are reasons why his popularity drops. he is not franklin roosevelt. right now, all the republicans are saying, who is the next reagan?
boy, we miss rean a lot. and back then, it was, by god, by god how we miss fdr among the democrats. and harry truman was no fdr. so, there is a longing for the lost leader there. and also, he's prone to certain gaffes. his appointments are not always the strongest. there was a talk of the gang, hangers-on, small-timers who are put into positions way above their abilities. you see the old new dealers being shoved out of the cabinet, not just henry wallace, who is fired by harry truman for being a pro-stalinist, really, giving speeches against the truman
foreign policy, but you also have where with harry truman, the country turns against the party and the leader, which brings us into war. if you don't believe me, ask either bush, ask lyndon johnson, woodrow wilson after world war i, what happens to the democratic party. what happens to winston churchill? a pretty good war leader in 1945. he's out the door. so, this is a normal thing. the readjustment means a lot of things get thrown out, including parties in power. republicans take the house and the senate in 1946.
they're on a roll. harry truman keeps going up and down in the popularity. by the spring of 1948, he's down in the low 30s in terms of popularity. and it's not only a republican-democrat thing going on here. the democratic party is splitting three ways, not just two ways, not just you've got some sort of, oh, carter/teddy kennedy thing going on, not a george bush/pat buchanan thing going on, but it's being split, the left, the center and the right. on the right, you have the southern segregationist democrats. franklin roosevelt had talked a good game with black civil rights, but he really hadn't
done anything. remember that the army, the navy in world war ii are still segregated. there's no move to desegregate anything in the country. harry truman proposes a big civil rights program at the beginning of 1948. the southern democrats are simply aghast by this. and beyond that, they feel personally betrayed, because they had thought of harry truman as one of their own. his mother had been in an internment camp run by the union during the civil war. confederate sympathizers. and if you look at harry's statements and you look at his private correspondence, he is not exactly a bleeding heart liberal on the topic. but he puts this forward, and the southerners are aghast. they start talking about a strategy in which they will punish harry truman, they will punish the democratic party.
they will make the democratic party come to its senses on civil rights and states' rights and all of these things, and they will do this by putting the election into the electoral college and brokering a deal. and one of the people involved in that is a young man, a young governor of south carolina named jay strom thurmond, a decorated war veteran, former judge, and considered at the time to be kind of a progressive liberal new deal kind of democrat, the new face of the south. except that once he gets caught up in this, when the south carolina legislators and such start talking against the truman civil rights program, he joins with the dixiecrats largely centered in mississippi and alabama in going to these
regional meetings to say what can we do about harry truman. now, the irony of this, and the irony of this when thurmond starts being carried away by this, talking about how the federal government's bayonets will not force black people into our swimming pools, into our homes, into our schools, is the irony is that jay strom thurmond has a black, illegitimate daughter. that's one wing of the democratic party in 1948. the other wing, which seems actually to be more troublesome to harry truman, is the henry wallace wing. and that is the extreme left wing of the democratic party, beyond the new dealers, beyond the eleanor roosevelts, beyond the hubert humphreys, which is in many cases communist dominated, communist party united states of america. not just left wing, not just radical, whatever, but actual party members. and as wallace -- wallace has a problem in that he's been cast aside not once, but twice, and
both times involving harry truman. you would not be human unless you were bitter about this. and you had this bitter former vice president of the united states with left-wing proclivities anyway, and now he's got two reasons, two reasons to be against harry truman personally, and he is talked into not a primary challenge against truman but a third-party challenge. what's their strategy? again, what's their strategy? since the strategy is being dictated from the extreme left wingers, from the people being controlled by really moscow when you get down to it, it's got to be that they're, again, trying to not win an election but to send the message to truman and say, look, you change your foreign policy, democratic party, you change your foreign policy, harry truman, because we will punish you and we will give the election to the republicans. and then we will go back to the way it was under franklin roosevelt, with a guy we can
deal with. in 1944, the communist party of the united states had actually endorsed franklin roosevelt, did not run a candidate. it was kind of one, big, happy family at one point. so, truman is being squeezed on the left and on the right. he's in trouble. and how can he hold together a coalition which will have enough electoral votes to win if the south is going to be stolen away from him by the dixiecrats, and where does henry wallace hold his strength? not all over the country, but in big states like new york, in new york city, in southern california, in illinois, where he can be the balance of power in those states and tip states which a democrat should win into the republican column. so, the republican column. who's the republican going to be? same answer at some point as we have now, looking forward to
2012, a very crowded, confused field. typical. typical when you have a president who -- an incumbent who is vulnerable. when the opportunity is there, then a lot of opposition candidates come out. and the four front-runners that year, governor thomas e. dewey of new york -- new york is the big kahuna -- 45 electoral votes. you take that, you've got a big leg up on the presidency. harold e. stassen, former governor of minnesota, now a punch line in american political history because he ran and lost so many times and ran and lost so many times with absolutely no chance of success. robert a. taft, senator from ohio, leader of the congressional republicans de facto.
mr. republican, mr. conservative, but as they say, dull as paint, not charismatic. and the fourth is not even in the country. general of the army, douglas macarthur, in tokyo running the former -- or i guess still present -- empire of japan and a popular guy. but can he pull it off from far away? he doesn't. he's entered in the wisconsin primary. he should win that. he doesn't. he stumbled. he's out pretty quickly. there aren't a lot of primaries that year. there's a new hampshire primary. there's always the new hampshire primary. there is the wisconsin primary
which macarthur should win and doesn't. he loses it to harold stacin, which elevates stacin. he is an outsider, he's a boy wonder. in 1938, he had been elected governor of minnesota. he was the youngest governor of any state ever. then he quits, he's re-elected saying, if you re-elect me, i'm going to quit and go into the navy. and he's so popular, he still gets elected. imagine being elected with a platform like that. he comes out, he's an internationalist. you've got the debates still going on of internationalism versus isolationist. stassen is on the extreme internationally brigade at that point and is an outsider. he wins in wisconsin, he wins in nebraska, and he's poised to take the front-runner status away from thomas e. dewey as the campaign heads into oregon. now again, notice i've only named four states.
these are about the only four important primaries there are. most of these things are still being done in party conventions, which means in the back room, either in places like albany or columbus or wherever, or when you get to the convention. now, oregon is where we see something happening which is being repeated again this year -- debates. we're debating, we're debating, we're debating. and you see newt gingrich at every stop saying i want a lincoln/douglas-style debate on one topic, just me and this other guy in the room, and it doesn't matter who the guy is or who the gal is or what the topic is. he's calling for that sort of debate. well, he should be calling on historically, because he's a great historian, is a stassen/dewey model debate. because the stassen/dewey debate is the first broadcast debate in
presidential history. it's held in a radio station in portland, oregon, and it is held on one topic. two guys in the room in the iron cage on the topic, should the communist party of the united states of america be outlawed? harold stassen, the great liberal, in the affirmative! in the affirmative. tom dewey -- tom dewey in the negative. now, we haven't talked much about thomas dewey. dewey was the governor of new york, pretty popular guy. he had been the nominee of the republican party in 1944. he had led on the first three ballots in 1940 before losing to wendell willkie. quite remarkable, because this year, 1948, he's only 46 years old.
now, that's about the age that obama was. that's only three years older than jack kennedy was. he's a young man. and he's been on the verge of power and national notoriety even before that 1940. what is he in 1940? he's an ex-district attorney. he's not even governor. he was the district attorney of manhattan. he was mr. district attorney, crime-buster, the guy who went after the mob, put them in jail, went after the wall street guys, put them in jail. he did it all. he was spectacular as a district attorney. but as governor, he begins to trim his sails. he's looking at the polls, and as a candidate, it's the same way. so, people, even though he's the purported front-runner and he's the front-runner in terms of delegates at this point, he's not particularly loved in the party or among the population.
but in this debate, he is the former district attorney. he's a great prosecutor. he's great with a jury. stassen was a prosecutor, too. but evidently, the prosecutors in manhattan have to be tougher than the prosecutors in minnesota. and dewey cleans his clock. stassen is essentially left bleeding on the floor after that primary. dewey wins it, but he still could be stopped. he could still be stopped at the convention because, because he doesn't have the votes, he doesn't have the love, but he knows how to make deals. and he makes a deal with the governor of pennsylvania to push him over the top, and he wins the nomination. at that point, he's faced with a choice -- who do i make my vice presidential candidate? it's a guy he wanted to put on the ticket four years before and one of these guys you've heard
of, earl warren, governor of california. and this is another one of these cases where we look at there's this big, liberal wing of the republican party then. dewey, stassen, warren. warren may be the most liberal of all of them. warren didn't want to do it in 1944, didn't want to do it in '48, but he's thinking if i keep turning these people down, they're not going to ask me to the dance. if i want anything ever again, um, this could be it. so, i'd better take it. so, with great reluctance, it becomes the dewey/warren ticket, which people think is just great! it's great! it's a fairly young ticket. it's progressive, it's forward thinking, it's got geographic balance, it's got new york, it's got california. wow! what a great ticket. and the democrats have got harry truman. maybe not. earlier in the year, the republicans were looking at a
guy named dwight david eisenhower, the grassroots wanted ike. they liked ike. everybody likes ike. they don't know what he is. is he a republican? is he a democrat? he's a general. that's good enough. sort of like some big political version of white christmas, okay? everyone loves a general. and they love him. he turns the republicans down. democrats, things ain't getting better for harry truman. the convention is going into philadelphia. just about everyone has their convention in philadelphia that year, the republicans, the democrats, the progressives. let's go with ike. let's go with ike. and this amazing, incoherent coalition of democrats forms, united by one thing, staying in power. southern segregationists like richard russell and strom thurmond, northern liberals like hubert humphrey, big city bosses
of chicago, jersey city, members of franklin d. roosevelt's family, all of them come together and they want ike. they want to stampede the convention for ike. ike finally draws back and says no at the last minute. otherwise, it could have been eisenhower as the nominee and even as the president beating dewey, but he says no. it's not his year yet. he does become president that year, of columbia university. four years more for the presidency. so, truman, truman -- it's so bad. it's so bad at that convention. he gets on the phone and he's calling william o. douglas, the supreme court justice -- will you be my vice president? why him? because william o. douglas is a guy who's respected by the old new dealers. he has to get back in good graces with that wing of the party. he's got to cement that tie to the new deal. and william o. douglas
supposedly says, "i will not be a number two man to a number two man" and turns him down. so, he takes alben barkley, this democratic leader of the senate, and you've got a ticket which is -- bartley's a pretty good speaker and he's kind of well liked. he's older than harry truman and harry truman is not a young man. they both come from border states. it doesn't look like much of a ticket, doesn't look like much of a ticket. but harry truman goes to the convention, he waits for hours to give his speech. he doesn't give it until like 1:00 in the morning. and the convention has just been all roiled up with everything. hubert humphrey had gone to the floor and forced a floor fight on the civil rights plank. the southern democrats were mad enough going into this convention.
then hubert humphrey says, our plank on civil rights is not as strong as the republicans'! it's the same mush that we were pedalling in 1944. no, we need to move out of the shadow of states' rights into the bright sunlight of civil rights. and he forces a floor fight onto the floor of the convention, first one since prohibition, and he wins. he wins and the southern democrats, some of them, anyway, walk out. they walk out. the convention is just dragging into chaos. then when they announce harry truman is coming to the hall at 1:00 a.m., past any media notice that you could get, they unleash this, they open up this big floral display of the liberty bell because they're in philadelphia, and they fly out the doves of peace, which are all pigeons, actually, and
they've been couped up for hours now and they see all the lights and the noise and the bands, and they just go crazy! and they're attacking things and flying into electric fans and landing on sam rayburn's head, and they're doing things pigeons do. and harry truman has worn a white suit. well, that's probably the low point. harry truman starts off kind of slow, and he kind of has to point to alben barkley to get some applause lines preponderance and then he gets into what he's going to do. and i'm going to challenge the republican party and the do-nothing congress to come back in a special session and turn a day and pass a program for the american people, and the crowd goes wild! and people say, wow, this could be a horse race. maybe there's something going on here.
but when harry truman goes to detroit to start his campaign on labor day, as democrats traditionally do, he hasn't got enough money to get the train out of the station, and they have to make some frantic calls to do that. it's still very dicey for him. the progressives under henry wallace come into philadelphia next. they have their convention. it's very interesting. you see the people who show up and we hear these names later on. pete seeger is providing the music. paul robeson is providing the music. you've got a couple of delegates there who become united states senators, one of which is george mcgovern. and they kind of go off on to their own, but their campaign is downward, downward, downward
with the progressives. the dixiecrats meet again. they dominate strom thurmond. all the while, things are going on in the world and in the country. as the conventions are meeting, country joe stalin decides to block berlin. so, what do you do? start a world war? do you send the convoys in or do you do an airlift? do you figure out how to do an airlift to supply the people of west berlin before they riot and demand communism? and america figures out how to do that. and that's one of the things going on. you've got the return of the peacetime draft. now, world wore ii, there was a segregated army. the blacks are saying, okay, we put up with that during the war. we're not putting up with that again. and a. philip randolph says to harry truman, you do this again, i'm going to have a march on washington before martin luther king, march on washington. and you know, we've taken polls, 30% of our youth will not register for the draft if you
have a segregated army and navy. this is when truman with his back to the wall in the middle of the election, knowing that the dixiecrats have already gone about as far as they can and not sure where the black vote in the north will go, this is when he makes his decision to desegregate the armed services. this happens right in the middle of this. in the spring -- actually, in february, in february there's a special election in new york. there's always a special election in new york for congress. i mean, it just -- every week we have a special election. and this one was in the bronx. pretty safe democratic seat. and what happens is the republicans don't win, but a henry wallace supporter wins and sends shock waves through democratic party.
it's like, whoa, this movement may have legs. and this is in a fairly heavily jewish area, okay? wallace had been taunting truman as being insufficiently pro israel. all the candidates are pretty much pro israel. dewey, taft, all of these guys, truman. but truman has been having problems with the jewish community. they don't think he is sufficiently pro israel. and what he does is 13 minutes after the state of israel's independence or statehood is proclaimed, he is the first chief of state, we are the first country to recognize israel. and this helps solve some of his problems on the left with the wallace vote, but it's very chilling to see, chilling to
read, i think in "the new york times" that day or the next day, that out of egypt, out of cairo, muslim leaders are talking about a jihad against the united states of america. many things are part of that year which continue for a long time afterwards and into today. as the election goes on, we also see, now, harry truman has this turn-of-day special session of the legislature, and the law of unintended consequences. he brings congress back in. congress doesn't want to come back in the middle of an election, but they come in and they hold some hearings on communists, communists in government. they take some testimony. and what this leads to is a guy named whitaker chambers going before the house american activities committee and saying that alger hiss is a member of
the communist party, former secretary of state, undersecretary of state. and this is the beginning of the mccarthy era, communist in government issue. it's also the beginning of richard nixon's political career, because he's one of the few people who when this starts to happen says i smell a rat. i smell a rat. i do not believe hiss. they go after hiss and finally get him. but this is, again, one of the things which differentiates 1948 as starting so many different things. the campaigns start. in the spring, harry truman had made an interesting discovery. well, he kind of knew. part of it was something he knew. he knew he was really bad giving a speech off a script. i mean, really bad. he wasn't just franklin roosevelt. he was bad. when he was in the senate, he probably only gave like three speeches or something his whole career.
could not -- he had very bad eyesight. and he had trouble reading from a piece of paper and just giving a speech like this. but he talks to a bunch of newspaper editors in the white house and he just speaks off -- first he gives his speech and people go, is the bar still open? you know. and then he speaks off the cuff, and even people who don't like him go, hey, that was pretty good. i kind of like that guy. he's got something. and everybody notices this. this is one of these great moments where the light bulb goes on, and then he does it again. he does it again, actually, when he speaks right after recognizing israel. he goes to a jewish group in washington and he does the same thing and he wows them. he says, boy, i've got to keep doing this. i've got to keep doing this because i stink doing it otherwise. and he does. and he goes across the country in the spring on his first whistlestop campaign. at first there's a lot of gaffes. there's a lot of mistakes, there's a lot of errors. and then he kind of gets his stride by the time he gets to california, and then he does it again after labor day. now, dewey does the same thing. he has one of these whistlestop tours as well, but dewey is not
as lively, not as spontaneous. tom dewey had originally not wanted to be president or governor or an attorney. he wanted to be a singer! he wanted to be a performer. harry truman we remember as the piano player. tom dewey was trained to be a concert vocalist. his wife had appeared on broadway, okay? these were showbiz people, so he knew how to present himself. he was really good, but he was too slick and it didn't come across well and his content was too much of mush. harry truman is rocking and socking, and as he leaves washington on his fall whistlestop tour, somebody says, "give 'em hell, harry!" and he says, yeah, i will. and he does. and he used to say, well, i just tell them the truth and they think it's hell.
but he -- in many cases, he's very rough. he's very rough. and his speech in chicago, for example, he pretty much accuses tom dewey and the people behind him of being fascists, okay? it's really over the top. and even his advisers are, like, cringing from it, but it's like, attack, attack, attack. dewey is not attacking. and people should notice things. people often see what they want to see. they've made up their mind. they don't need any more data or the data is irrelevant, so they know that harry truman's a loser. they know tom dewey's the next president of the united states. so when they see these crowds getting bigger and bigger and bigger and more boisterous for harry truman, it's like, eh, they're just curious. they just want to see the president. they don't care. and when they see the crowds not so big and not so enthusiastic for tom dewey, they should say, shouldn't people want to see the
next president of the united states? and they don't. they don't make the connection. the roper polling organization stops polling in mid-october. they think it's in the bag. why waste money on this? also people see that, like, well, looks like humphrey's going to win in minnesota, and it looks like they might win in west virginia against webber, and it's like, we might be in trouble with -- we should -- we might, we're going to lose seats in the -- and they don't connect the fact that the wheels are falling off the republican campaign all over the place because they've made up their mind that this is safe. a week before the election, i think it's gallop has it down to five points. that's nearly within the margin of error. and then when you add in the fact that third-party candidates tend to just collapse as election day comes in, henry wallace collapses.
and those votes go to harry truman. so, election day 1948, it's all festivities in new york at the hotel roosevelt. there republicans have their headquarters there, they're ready to win. the democrats don't even put up a tote board in their headquarters in new york and washington. it's like, we don't want to know what these numbers are? just let us die in peace. but the returns start to come in, and they're not too bad for dewey at first. in fact, what happens is, he wins the northeast. he wins the northeast, in part thanks to henry wallace. he carries new york and he carries maryland over harry truman, thanks to henry wallace. and he does well through the
northeast. pennsylvania's a very republican state. dewey had carried the midwest in 1944 against franklin roosevelt. he had not carried the northeast. he concentrates on the northeast. and in doing that, he starts to ignore the midwest. early on in the truman re-election effort, there was a campaign document developed, and it said, you can safely ignore the south, which was not exactly right. although here's a fun thought. franklin roosevelt had won the presidency four times without needing one electoral vote from the south, without needing one of those votes. harry truman's advisers say, you know, the farmers, the midwest, the far west, the far west is looking for irrigation projects, infrastructure. the farmer in the midwest is looking for government help.
and harry truman was a missouri dirt farmer. he understood these people, okay? he goes and he's walloping the republicans on these issues and also inflation. inflation. he's got 7% inflation in the country, and he is walloping the congress about doing nothing about it. now, he also has prosperity. he's got prosperity, and there's a cold war, but it's not a hot war. nobody's dying, so he's got peace and prosperity. and what do i mean by prosperity? no 8%, 9%, 10% unemployment, no great depression. 3.8% unemployment in 1948. james carville said it, "it's the economy, stupid." and the people who had gone
through a great depression and a world war, this is -- the song really is not "i'm just wild about harry," it's "happy days are here again." this is really the beginning of the '50s. this is the peace and prosperity of the '50s beginning already then. i mean, you get that bump of korea, but otherwise, very similar. so, the returns start coming in, and it's starting to look like a horse race. where's harry? harry goes to a luncheon in independence, missouri, his hometown. sneaks out the back door into a waiting limousine and drives off to a pretty much vacant resort favored by politicians and gangsters outside of town, checks into a room. nobody knows he's there. he's hidden from the press. he's hidden from the nation, really. checks into a room and is determined that he's not going to follow this on a
minute-by-minute basis. there's a bottle of whiskey on the night stand and a ham and cheese sandwich. and that's his election night celebration. he turns out the lights probably about 9:00. every so often, his secret service people wake him up to tell him he's won this state or he's doing well in that state. each time they wake him up, they just annoy him. they just annoy him more and more. but finally, they give him the news which causes him to say, "i think i've won. i think i've won." let's go down to kansas city. let's go down to headquarters. and harry truman has amazingly pulled it off. the ballroom in new york for tom dewey is an empty forlorn place. for henry wallace, for strom thurmond, all these things have fallen apart. but harry truman has proven one thing. as the great political
philosopher lawrence peter barra, a fellow missourian stated, "it ain't over until it's over." and harry truman proved that so right in 1948. and as for this talk, it's now officially over. [ applause ] thank you. we've got time for some questions, and the deal is you go to that microphone so that the people in our c-span audience can hear you and i will attempt to evade your questions. any takers? it's most unusual. oh, we have one. go right up there. >> speak into this? >> yes. >> your book contains a lot of quotes from harry truman that
are blatantly anti-semitic and antiblack. >> absolutely. >> so, how do you square that harry truman -- i'm sorry. talk into the mike. >> talk into the mike? okay. >> yeah, that's actually just going to c-span, so speak up. >> okay. >> pretend you're me. >> start all over? >> go ahead, yeah. >> your book has a lot of anti-semitic quotes from harry, antiblack quotes. how do you square that harry truman with the harry truman that recognizes israel, that pushes for a progressive civil rights plank? >> yeah, people are complex. people are complex and they have really different parts of them and they see different -- things differently at different times. harry truman's partner in the haberdashery was a guy named jacobson. so he has a very good relationship with jacobson. his mother-in-law, truman's mother-in-law, who he did not have a great relationship with,
was so anti-semitic, she wouldn't allow jacobson into the house, okay? truman is -- has sympathy for the jewish people. he has sympathy for black people when they are being lynched, when they are being treated patently unfairly, but i mean, he does not, even after the presidency, he's writing in his memoirs in like 1955 -- this is not some private letter -- that he doesn't want social equality with black people. and you get into the 1960s and he's -- the kennedy campaign kind of has to hide him because he's declaring the sit-in demonstrators as communists, okay? but people compartmentalize things. and i think he does that. and people are contradictory. and truman is just a spectacular example of that.
and i think we cannot exclude a certain amount of political calculation in this, that truman truman and that document i was talking about, his blueprint for re-election says "you've got to hold on to the black vote up north and particularly if dewey is the nominee you've got trouble. you will lose new york, you will lose ohio you will lose period. so there is that political calculation, just as i eluded to, where he's given a lot of credit for integrating the armed services, but it's usually not mentioned that a. philip randolph has the gun to his head in the middle of this election. the southerners have gone off, they've done all the damage -- when i say they've done all the damage they can, the southern strategy, the dixiecrat
strategy, is to dump the democrats off the ballots and once truman knows that he's still on the ballot in these states he knows he can pull it off in large parts of the south. like texas and georgia but up to that point it's dicey for him. so, again, people have different parts -- churchill, for example, churchill has some remarkably anti-semitic statements and franklin d. roosevelt who, of course, very friendly to jewish people not as -- it's very interesting to see what he would have done with the state of israel because he was talking with the arabs just before he dies, with the saudis about well, we'll consult you on everything. i've read that he was part of
the board of directors which instituted the numerous classes at harvard which put in a quota system against jews. and who's really his best friend among cabinet members is morgan morgenthau. people are contradictory and harry truman is just an amazing example of it. anyone else? >> is it true that truman -- well, truman didn't run in '52, stevenson ran against ike -- that he simply -- he and bess simply jumped in their car without benefit of any secret service protection or anything and drove back to independence, missouri? >> well, there's a new book on that -- not as new as my book but it came out about a year ago which, yes, indicates. that years before i was going to do a book on this election i visited independence, missouri, and visited the truman home and it's like, gee whiz, this kind
of -- that's real linoleum on the floor, isn't it? i mean, this was not -- i mean, you go to -- you go to hyde park or you go to some of these other presidential homes and they are pretty modest. even like calvin coolidge's. you go to his house before he's president and it's really modest. it's like -- you know, some place you'd see in amsterdam or something. and afterwards he does have to move into a big place. harry truman never moves into the big place and his circumstances are sufficiently modest that he is the guy that -- he's why we have presidential pensions. up to that point we really don't have that and they may be independently wealthy like a
herbert hoover or they're able to have accomplished something more than truman did, very modest on the payroll his whole life, federal or local, county government. so truman is a modest guy. he might have been taking all these walks to save on gasoline, i don't know. next? >> the photograph, the photograph that you have on your sign, what can you tell us about this picture of truman holding up this newspaper from the "chicago daily"? >> i like that cover. that's a great cover, i like that and the picture is about two days out from the election day. it's in st. louis, they've -- one of his campaigns, campaign aides has brought him the photograph and harry is just in love with it as you can see, even just seeing half his face. but these are times of labor difficulties.
truman threatens to put the steel workers and coal miners in jail in '46 and we have the taft/hartley act by the republicans and there's labor troubles in the "chicago tribune" that night and there will be a delay in setting the headlines by three hours so they get on their phone to their correspondent arthur hennings sears, the tribune does in washington and it's like is this safe? can we go with this? nothing can go wrong. it's in the bag. it's not in the bag. oddly enough, the correspondent was pensioned off right after this. that was the end of his career. you don't see him with george will on sundays or anything
after that. so that's a story and of course once he gets back to washington, he's greeted by this immense crowd at union station and there's maybe the biggest or second biggest crowd in washington. they're lining the streets, they're going crazy and i think it's bess truman who says to her daughter, "you know, there weren't as many people out here when we left washington." everyone loves a front-runner. >> i've got another one, again about a photograph. this picture has the president playing the piano with a young woman sitting on the top, what information do you have about that? >> that's at the national press club. the piano is still there. harry truman at that time was not president, he was vice president. he's at the press club playing piano and lauren bacall is
there, then only about 19 years old and she sits on the piano, actually kind of reclines on it. so when i introduce her in my cast of characters at the beginning of the book i say "the legs on harry truman's piano." and this picture did two things. it really infuriated mrs. truman. [ laughter ] and it -- and it caused the people to wonder who this guy was and did he have the gravitas to be president or was he this hack from the pendergast machine again? so while it's become iconic, at
the time it was shall we say problematical because there were different standards of presidential dignity at that point. even this whistle-stop tour is somewhat unusual for presidents. remember, presidents don't even go to the convention, the national convention, until 1932 with franklin roosevelt. so i've been given the signal that time is just about up so we're going to wrap it up so we don't get caught in the middle of an answer and i wish to thank you all for coming today. you've been a great audience. thank you very much. [ applause ] sunday night on q & a, clifton rayfield talks about his students' award winning documentaries, some of them have been grand prize winners in our student cam competition. he teaches in oklahoma. >> i'm not the kind of teacher that will look at something that's not very good and go, oh, that's nice, you did a really nice job with that. i'll say what's not working, and
eventually, every single one of my kids makes a better piece than they did in the beginning, and eventually the kids who do really, really well, they internalize all this stuff, so i no longer have to say it to them. their own brain is saying these things to them. >> sunday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span's q&a. the c-span radio app makes it easy to continue to follow the 2016 election wherever you are. it's free to download from the apple app store or google play. audio coverage and up to the minute schedule information for c-span radio and c-span television, plus podcast times for our popular public affairs, book, and history programs. stay up to date on all the election coverage. you always have c-span on the go. coming up here on c-span3, american history tv programs normally seen on weekends.
next, historian richard norton smith and thomas e. dewey iii talk about the life and career of thomas e. dewey. in two hours, a closer look at that 1944 presidential election when thomas dewey ran against president franklin roosevelt, and in three hours, we talk about the book about the 1948 presidential campaign when harry truman beat thomas dewey, despite predictions to the contrary. tomorrow night, american history tv in primetime focuses on the presidential campaign of adlai stevenson. we begin with the contenders, our series of candidates that didn't win. that's followed by adlai stevenson's democratic acceptance speech and the election of 1952. american history primetime starts at 8:00 eastern each night this week.