tv 1952 Presidential Election CSPAN August 9, 2016 10:21pm-11:32pm EDT
years of darkness and crisis. we'll justify our glorious path. others looking to us for compassion. i ask of you, all you have, i will give you all i have. even as he who came here tonight and honor me. as he's honored you, the democratic party, by a lifetime of service and bravery that'll find him in the history of the republic and the democratic party of harry truman. [ applause ]
finally, my friends of this staggering test, that you have assigned me -- i will always try to do justly to love mercy and walk humbly with my god. [ applause ] american history tv primetime continues wednesday night with a look at the 1964 presidential campaign of barry goldwater. a two hour discussion of the life and career of the nominee.
at 10:50, a look at his role and the conservation movement in the 1950s and 1960s. c-span.org you can watch our public affairs and political programming at your convenience. go to our home page on cspan.org. you can type in the name of the speaker and the bill and the event topics and click on the program you want to watch or refine your search tools. if you are looking at current programs and don't want to search the library -- cspan.org is a public provider. if you are a cspan watcher,
check it out on cspan.org. up next, of 1952 presidential election of john robert greene. mr. greene talks about the introduction of political tv ads and how they change to presidential campaigns. the kansas city public library hosted this event. it is a little over an hour. >> so, good evening, welcome to the kansas city public library. i am henry fortunato. my new part time status at the hall center of the university of
campus. whatever you want to call me, i am off the payroll here but i cannot stay away from this place, i am afraid. i am kind of addicted to us. as one of my former colleagues said an hour ago, i cannot go "cold turkey." tonight, we are hosting presidential historians' greene. where he taught for the past 36 years. as i just suggested since 2012, bob greene has been making annual appearances at the kansas city public library.
in 2013, he was back for a talk about first lady, betty ford, last year to the day of the 40th anniversary of richard nixon's resignation, bob was hear giving the presentation about gerald ford. these three programs are part of our events and held in conjunction of our good friends at the institute. of course, we have another presidential library in the neighborhood, more or less. just down on i-70 in abilene, kansas. this year, which happens to be the 125 anniversary years of eisenhower's birth, we launched the boyhood home to examine the eisenhower era. tonight which marks the midpoint
of that series out there on the corridor if you want to see the other two. bob greene and the library's good friend and someone who has became my good friend is baa k. he's back to give us a review of the 1952 presidential election of eisenhower against the democratic, adlai stevenson. this talk had been in the making for more than 35 years. bob wrote his dissertation about it shortly published there after his first book. the first of 17 that he has written or edited. a seriously revised version of that first book, the dissertation on the 1952 campaign is now forthcoming. it won't be available tonight. unfortunately. but, you will be able to order it on amazon soon enough.
ladies and gentlemen, please welcome, bob greene. [ applause ] >> you are not going to be able to quit this place, never in a million years. >> yeah. >> thank you very much, henry. >> good evening everybody, how are you? >> good. >> wonderful kansas city weather out there. i was worried about you people with snow, i got to worry about you with torrential downpours. it is so good to be back. it is always an awful a lot of fun to come back from casnova college in upstate new york where the snow comes and comes and comes. but, it is wonderful to come
from here to here. i have to tell you i have said this to you before and i mean it every time. this is one of the best venues that speak at in the entire country. [ applause ] i speak absolutely -- [ applause ] >> the truman forum room had this wonderful ability to be intimate at the same time and the audiences are among the best educated and usually the best behaved audience that i speak at. coming here to the truman forum is something that i look forward to every single year. we started talking about this, henry and i about six or seven months ago. for anybody in the pr business, you know that when you get invited some place, they
immediately want a blurb about what you talk about. i came up with this concept that you may have seen around some of the advertising about talking about the myth of the 1952 presidential race. i had no idea of what i am going to say about them six months ago. i poll liished the thing up a le bit ago. i kept this idea of myths as the bases of my talk tonight. when you get involved in academics as a young scour. i was young once. [ laughs ] >> a hell of a long time ago. you get your doctoral dissertation and you get the opportunity to say something and the opportunity to give back to the academy and the opportunity to make a historical case to the public for the first time.
you want to say something important. i mean that's what books are really supposed to be. books are supposed to say something important and lasting. you don't want to say the same thing over and over again. you don't want to just simply latch onto the myths of the past that may or may not not be correct and what is it the people say, if it is not true or should be. you don't want to repeat over and over again of what people have said about a specific event. you immediately drawn as a young person and i think to write something new, to revise history and not to make it untrue but to say something that people have not said before about the elections, about presidential scholarships and history in general that you want to
reinterpret of what was an orthodox view. that's what i did with my first really bad book. that was published in 1985 and as henry said -- well, it was my dissertation, i did not revise it much. i was in a hurry to get the thing in print. it was on the presidential election of 1952 entitled "the crusade." i wanted to say something different about the election that it had been said before. i tackled the myth of the presidential election. and what i center on was the myth of the draft. y'all know what it is. dwight eisenhower was drafted. he did not want to run. he was drafted by a group that was fronted by the citizens for eisenhower, that was organized by -- i am going to talk about a
little more later. he was drafted against his will. and adlai stevenson who did not want to run was drafted by a group of people who were fronted by walter johnson by the university of chicago, and the volunteers in illinois and he was drafted against his will. so what did i say in this first book? none of this happened. that's what i said. i said neither one of them were drafted, that it was a myth. i thought it was great. the reviews were good. then i went to a conference in 1992. now, this is a "where is waldo", you got to find me in this picture. i am the guy fifth from the left with black hair. [ laughs ] >> standing next to mr. john
myers wisdom. >> you may see harold stason there. for three hours at the library, they beat me up about how wrong i was with my book. i kind of thought hiding behind an "i like ike" button would make me objective. i walked away wondering whether or not what i had said a few years before was even valid or correct. over the years and in between projects that i have been fortunate enough to speak to you about other projects as henry so graciously said, i have never let the presidential election of 1952 get away. it is kind of like my first child, who does not want to go away either but that's neither here or there. the more that i thought about
it -- the more that i realize that it was not -- i was not really saying materials that was false. it was not a myth. it was not the whole story. the nigeria author, came up with the idea of a singling story of ted's talk in 2009. she spoke of the dangers of taking a historical event and seeing only one part of it because that's what you want to talk about. that's what interests you. that's what you know the best. the problem with that is that first of all, it is a
stereotype. breaking down the myths of the eisenhower/stevenson draft was a stereotype in itself. it is what i wanted to do. it was incomplete. what a historian needs -- it took me 35 years of teachi teachinteaching teaching -- really grasp this is texture and context. not just to write about what happen but about what it meant. presidential elections are a perfect forum for that. they are exciting and dramatic and often looney. don't get me started. i am from new york.
they're good stories. if you take them and take them just in of itself. you only got part of the story. what they do is they forecast the future. what we call realigning elections, 1932, 1832, 1789, 1960, 2000s, those elections change what happened in america. 1952 did the exact same thing. i was more interested in 1985 telling everybody what i knew about the election ths than telg people what the election meant. not to redo everything but to rethink everything. i am of the opinion now and
this, i was speaking with chuck myers who was here in the audience and my editor a bit ago. i saw him blanched when i suggested this. every author who gets a contract should be automatically given a contract to rewrite their books 20 years later and it has to be mandatory and you have to do this because you are going to get a different book. 20 years later. that's what i am working on now of what i want to share with you. i want to talk about some of the contexts from which this comes. no, that's not a typo. because the presidential election of 1952 begins with the problems that harry truman was having after 1949. you cannot divorce out of elections from what was happening from 1949. nothing that truman wanted was
going to the republican congress. he was faced with scandals. remember the 5 percenter and the problems of skimming off the top and harry truman was never implemented of any of that but heard his administration badly. remember the great debate, i am going to talk more about bob taft in just a sect about whether or not the nation should be participating any kind of security with nato or united nations or drawing within itself after world war ii. the whole concept of truman lost china, that's completely debunked by modern scholars. china lobby was making miserable for truman in congress. truman had the interesting
extinction beginning his wartime president and ending his presidency as a wartime president with two different wars. the domestic war that he unleashed upon himself by recalling douglas macarthur was hurting his administration. the rise of joe mccartney, all of these things and on the domestic front, the fact that the south which had walked out of the 1948 convention over the civil rights platform, the dixie krats were showing out every sign and walking out again of 1952 of the civil rights and issues of the land oil. whether california could own the oil right off their coast or whether or not that oil was
ownow owned by the federal government. all these problems made truman vulnerable. truman could have ran again in 1952 and everybody thought he was going to. bob taft, senator from ohio who had run for presidency three times -- began his fourth presidential campaign moments after he lost the 1948 convention or nomination to tom dewey. taft was an honorable, eloquent, thoughtful, senator. old school, articulate, less conservative or domestic affairs that people giving him credit for. the voice of isolationism would
draw from nato and the united nations and he owned the republican party after tom dewey's third failure as president. everybody thought it is going to be an inevitable taft/truman's race in 1952. he did not want to run. the correspondence is absolutely clear. he also did not want to be at shape. he did not want to be at nato. he was assigned there by harry truman, perhaps, to get eisenhower out of the country as a political threat. truman found that it was equally clear that believed that eisenhower would never run. duty to the world, duty to the nation as head of nato.
if you take sentences of eisenhower's correspondence out of context, which i did as a kid, you can find hence that maybe he may run under the right circumstances, adlai stevenson talks to you as a whole, it is absolutely certain that neither one of them wanted to be run. but, dwight howard changes his mind. we know this because he did it. there is no debating it. in december of 1951, his correspondence suddenly gets to the point where -- well, i might allow myself to be a candidate in january of 1952, eisenhower says okay, i will except taccep nomination and three months later, he's back campaign ing i the united states. he does actively changed his
mind and what changed his mind was simple, he did not want taft to win. hef he was willing against his will of a job what he has horde and he has seen literally ruined so many men. not necessarily the presidents but the people around him. he did not want any part of that. yes, he would have been opposed by minor candidates. yes, smaller pictures. harold stason. people forget before harold began to run over and over again. harold was the youngest governor in the united states in minnesota. they called him the boy wounder.
he had run for vice president of the united states. these were two fairly major players. they were never, ever major enough to deal in the same circles in 1952 with either eisenhower or bob taft, it was always the two of them. as eisenhower's mind suddenly started changing, it shows he was more and more troubled by this stance that bob taft was taken. what was happening and running parallel to his change of mind the politicals were starting to organize a campaign without candidates. tom dewey knew that he could not
run again. instead, he decides what he's going to do is become a king maker. he starts pulling like-minded republican leaders, carlson from kansas and duff from pennsylvania and others together in a shadow organization for eisenhower keeping his name out there. he keeps a link to eisenhower through the gentleman in the center, clay, clay was one of eisenhower's closest friend. a constant companion of eisenhower and dewey communicated with eisenhower through clay. clay was the individual who master minded the berlin air lift. when they finally got to the point where they needed to have some sort of an organization on the ground, they turn to the junior senator from
massachusetts, who was then working so hard for eisenhower that he kind of let slide the challenge by a kid that he never thought could beat him in 1952. young congressman jf. kennedy. >> what ledge gave to eisenhower in 1952 hurts him in the long run. these three gentlemen formed what i call just the eisenhower committee. it was never really a name for it. when eisenhower changes his mind, he comes back to an organization that's already there and running for him. now, eisenhower decides that he is going to be willing to accept the nomination as long as he does not have to run for it. but, he does come back to run. what changes his mind? three things. the first is ticket from an extraordinary and you should really take a look at this
online. an event at madison square garden. the rally was for eisenhower that was run by jacqueline cochran and her husband. they put this thing together and had over 20,000 people at this event. then with the mind of a pr person, they take the tape and fly it to paris and show it to eisenhower. eisenhower writes in his diary that he cried. he was so choked up and he did not really accept to that and until that point -- that people really wanted him. and then he will shown that in two primaries. he's not -- he does not campaign for either one of them.
in new hampshire, he goes up against bob taft, beats him without having set foot in the states. in midnnesota, he comes insect o harold stason in his own state without being in the ballot, he was a write in. it was these events that made eisenhower believved that peopl wanted him. by the way, this was a different primary set. today the primaries run everything. we'll have our two nominees as you well know. we'll have our two nominees probably by may. if not by april of next year. the primaries that were only 12 of them in 1952. the primaries chose a small
number of delegates. the rest was done with back room dealing with the delegates which taft had delegates which taft had sewn up. taft was so far ahead of eisenhower going into chicago, and after winning the wisconsin primary, eisenhower realized that if he didn't come back, he was going to lose the nomination. so he does. on june 1st, 1952, eisenhower comes back and announces his candidacy which had already happened in his hometown of abilene, kansas, right down the road. it was a very inauspicious beginning. eisenhower's speech was absolutely lousy. he was halting. he was terrible. he said so himself the next day which is what this photo is of when he met the press one-on-one and he wasn't delivering a set speech, it was like night and day.
and the eisenhower committee knew just exactly what they wanted to do with him in the fall if he won the nomination and what kind of a speaker he was going to be. so eisenhower comes back in in june of 1952, as a candidate, and he's got three months -- i'm sorry -- two months before the convention to try and deal and get delegates away from bob taft. meanwhile, there's another political party in this country, and harry truman treated it as his personal property. harry truman had decided as early as 1949 not to run. harry truman is wonderful in that he wrote letters to himself. these are extraordinary letters and they're also letters that harry truman wrote. bob ferrell's book "dear bess" would collect some of them. bess went to bed very early and
harry truman would stay up very late. he would write a letter to put on her pillow so she would see it in the morning. and it was almost like a diary entry. he said he didn't want to run in 1952, it only solidified all the problems he had but he was not about to give up his control of the democratic party. he was going to name an heir apparent, and this is almost like a kmety of errors because nobody wants it. what we need to keep in context, nobody wanted to run against bob taft. not eisenhower, but bob taft, they figured they'd end up losing. truman's first choice is the chief justice of the supreme court, fred vinson, there in the picture. vinson dressed for business and i don't know what truman's dressed for. this was actually down in key west. vinson came to the conclusion that his health would preclude him from running. and he dies just a few years later.
so he must have known something. he tells truman no, and truman is disappointed because he saw something special in vinson that people in truman's staff didn't see. clark clifford didn't quite see this marriage as happening. but truman has been linked in to -- through jacob arvey and some others out in the midwest -- another possible candidate for the presidency. estes kefauver, senator from tennessee, who made his mark running against the crump machine, the memphis crump machine for his first senatorial nomination by putting on a connskin cap and proclaiming i may be a bet coon but i ain't boss crump's cartoon is the first reality show presidential candidate.
you might remember the kefauver crime hearings. that was the subject of my master's thesis which has long since been lost to the dustbin. it was a lot of fun to write about because kefauver was the first politician to use a nationally televised event long before mccarthy and see what the potential of television was. but what he did in so doing, kefauver goes in to city after city and exposes corruption in the democratic party and he wants the democratic nomination. he couldn't figure this out. truman hated his guts. called him senator cow fever. so he wins several primaries, but it is never, ever going to be the person who truman will support. truman's heard about somebody else. a young governor of illinois had
built his reputation as a progressive, had built his reputation on a veto of a conservative legislature's laws against civil rights. i'll say more about stevenson's articulateness in a moment. but it's important to note here that even more than eisenhower, stevenson didn't want it, and more than eisenhower, stevenson kept his word. he would stay absolutely true to that. stevenson never did become a candidate for the nomination. wasn't drafted. but he never did become a candidate for the nomination, and on three separate occasions he tells harry truman no. and truman is apoplectic now, truman can't figure this out. he writes long letters about why people won't take this.
he can give them the nomination. he can give them uncommitted delegates and they don't want it, and all he's got to deal with is kefauver. so truman gets mad enough to stay in the new hampshire primary against the advice of all of his aides, and kefauver beats him. outright square beats him with his name on the ballot. one myth that is absolutely untrue, that truman wants to perpetuate that he didn't run in 1952. he did, he allowed his name to stay on the ballot. this is kefauver reading new hampshire results when he's beating him. i don't know how he can suppress a smile, it's only been done three times in american history. truman goes ballistic and finally, since he's lost the primary, decides that he's going to make good, even though he doesn't have an heir. stevenson and vinson had turned
him down, and he's in the middle of the steel strike. he finally decides that the jefferson jackson day dinner, march of 1952, at the old armory in d.c., march 31st, he announces that he will not be a candidate. and it's interesting how he words it, because he had already been a candidate in new hampshire, but he will not be a candidate in 1952. and all of the reporters at the eve even,, it's kind f of like we're looking at truman and then everybody who was there said all the reporters looked and found stevenson in the room and just started staring at him. but there were others who decided that they were going to try to fill in the vacuum of truman's withdrawal. but they all had their liabilities. richard russell of georgia was
too southern. bob kerr of oklahoma was too rich. averell harriman of new york didn't know how to give a speech. so truman finally settles on a 7 72-year-old partially blind man. his vice president, alvin barkley of kentucky. you have to ask yourself, and i think it's fair to ask, why, when stevenson is saying no, and vinson is said no, why does truman settle on barkley, who desperately wanted the job. he'd been an outstanding majority leader under franklin roosevelt. but truman says i'm going to give you your support, and he does it in the presence of advisers. barkley's in the room and he says i'm going to deliver you my support at the convention and barkley takes him at his word.
if you go to wikipedia, where all good knowledge goes to die -- [ laughter ] -- and you type in convention -- i typed in republican convention 1952 -- this is what shows up. not the convention, but the draft eisenhower movement. the myth of the draft continues. and so many writers want to perpetuate it, and it wasn't so. it didn't happen. first off, he allowed his name to be put in in january, then he runs for two months as a candidate. that's not a draft. and when he gets to the convention, taft is so far ahead that what they have to do is change the rules. they change the rules.
the fair play amendment. the amendment that said that you couldn't vote on your own on anything before the convention if you were a contested delegation. it changed the rules that were in place since 1912. it was masterful. it was all henry cabot lodge. eisenhower wins the nomination. but it wasn't a draft. it wasn't even close. and this was not a last-minute choice by any stretch of the imagination. tom dewey had met with young richard nixon, the junior senator from california, early in 1952 at his suite in new york city and offered -- eisenhower isn't even running yet and dewey offers him the vice presidential nomination. nixon helped to deliver, or he was going to deliver the california delegation, but it turned out he didn't have to. the fair play amendment threw it to eisenhower. and nixon is perfect for this. when you think of a vice presidential candidate, you want
them to fill gaps. young. conservative so the presidential candidate can be a moderate. brings a western state in. energetic. the second leading public face for anti-communism in the country at the time. nixon was an absolutely perfect choice. he doesn't look too excited, does he? on the other side of the coin, i type in democratic convention, and what do i get? the successful movement to draft eisenhower. what's with wikipedia, anyway? this myth also needs to be undone, but it's kind of harder than it is with ike. because ike was a candidate and stevenson never was. there was a draft movement. it was run by walter johnson. the history professor from the university of chicago, but it did not draft stevenson.
this is what i thought happened. that harry truman stepped out in suddenly said, you're my boy. but that's not what happened. what happened -- and the story is much more complicated -- is that a group of labor leaders go to alben barkley who's got harry truman's word that he's going to support him, and those labor leaders say to barkley, you're too old, we can't support you. barkley is many things, but he's not a political ne-yo fight. without labor, he can't be nominated. he withdraws just before the convention opens. and in his memoirs, he blames truman, and there's a lot to be said for that. truman could have and did not stop that meeting. truman may have actually had the meeting scheduled.
truman always wanted stevenson. he went to barkley as a last resort. now, the key to the convention was stopping another dixiecrat walk-out. if that meant going with stevenson, that would be great. if it meant going with somebody else, that would be great. for truman, it was anybody but kefauver. on monday of the convention, something happens that we haven't been able to document, wechb even with the great scholarship i've been able to bring to the table. stevenson changes his mind and we don't know why. we can only guess. he definitely changes his mind, because he announces as a candidate. he says, i'm going to let the governor of indiana, henry schricker put my name into the candidate. that's a candidate. a draft did not do that. stevenson consistently said to
the draft, leave me alone, and he shuts them out. they had no role to play at the convention whatsoever in terms of getting stevenson's name in there. he announces himself as a candidate. i have come to the conclusion that stevenson believed that he was the only person who could stop a southern walkout, particularly if he chose a southerner as his vice presidential candidate. a moderate southerner, john sparkman of alabama. he was no dixiecrat. his views on race were repressed during the campaign, but he had quietly worked against the dixiecratic movement in alabama and against the dixiecrats with the loyalty pledge at the convention. stevenson did it himself. neither man -- eisenhower, nor stevenson tsh -- was drafted.
people, however, simply want to continue saying that they were drafted because they fit in to the mythology of both dwight eisenhower and adlai stevenson and the way that people want to perceive them. this, i believe, is the only picture of the two men together. it was during the transition in december of 1952. stevenson's smiling because it's over. eisenhower's smiling because it's just beginning. how, as a writer, should i write on a rout? on a massacre? eisenhower never once trailed in the polls. eisenhower scholars do this by calling it eminently predictable.
it was a foregone conclusion, i liked ike and so did everybody else. it helps them to give validity to the age of eisenhower. stevenson scholars when they talk about the election, the fall campaign, they emphasize that in a losing cause, adlai stevenson raised the bar of political discourse to such a level that it didn't matter that he lost. in fact, one of the most heavily quoted quotes of the fall campaign is when nixon -- nixon? when stevenson says -- nixon will be here in a minute -- when stevenson says to governor alan shivers of texas, i don't have to win. both those assessments have some merit. but both have become cliches. allowing historians to avoid any real discussion of the fall
campaign. everything that has been written, and my book right now, to put it charitably, weak book from 1955 is the only book on the 1952 presidential election. i think that's one of the reasons for that is because people think that a rout is uninteresting. well, another way to deal with it is to kind of take a page from nixon scholarship. as we're going to see in a moment, nixon scholars have looked at the checker speech if you take a look at several moments in the 1952 campaign, several decisions, several
changes, 1952 becomes not only a lot more interesting, but a lot more important. to forecast, if you will, where politics is going. and for that, both eisenhower and stevenson can take credit. this election has been written as if eisenhower didn't run against anybody. it doesn't work like that. i think what you have to do with that, though, is to think in terms of context, in terms of texture. nobody has done this on 1952, least of all me in 1985. so let's take a few minutes and talk about what they bring to the table. the first is called the morning side heights. eisenhower who had just prior to
going to nato served as a college president at columbia university, still maintained his home there at morningside heights in upper new york city. he invites bob taft there to bury the hatchet and hopefully not have bob taft bury the hatchet in him. because bob taft, there were a lot of conservatives who were hurt at what happened at the convention, in the change of the rules. if bob taft did not in any way, shape or form support eisenhower, eisenhower was going to have a very difficult time of it. the two men finally meet and i submit to you this is the last time you're going to see a moderate and conservative being nice to each other in the republican party to the present day. before the republican party is rent apart by nixon and rockefeller in 1960, by goldwater in 1964, et cetera. this is bipartisanship within a party. there's got to be a name for that. and if anybody can think of a name, let he, me know.
i'll use it in the book and footnote it and give you credit for it because there's got to be a name for two wings of the party coming together, maybe the word is just "smart." long before nixon discovered in 1968 that race-baiting in the south would bring republican votes to the table and take them away from the democratic party, dwight eisenhower makes the first moves. he overrules all of his advisers and campaigns in the south. not for very long, but he goes deep in the south. yes, the brown states stayed with stevenson, and most of the deep south did. but the real story of that demographic is that texas, missouri, tennessee, virginia, florida and maryland shift into
the republican column. long before we have the dynamic that we do today, it's dwight eisenhower's very simple decision, and he says this to his advisers, i want to campaign as a candidate of the american people that drives this bus. the simple decision to make television spots rather than make short television speeches which had been tried in 1948 changes the face of presidential campaigning to the present day. citizens for eisenhower, which as a group many continued to say we drafted eisenhower. they did not. what they did do was they paid for and fronted much of the advertising that was done in 1952. they were very simple spots. they showed men and women off the streets saying something and
eisenhower answering it. they were devastatingly clear. they showed the candidate. they weren't negative spots in any way. but once these became a hit, and stevenson wouldn't do it. he said it cheapened the campaign. there's something to be said for that. but eisenhower won. and in so doing, with these ads, changes the landscape of politics forever. adlai stevenson was articulate. he was a gifted speecher. he was not a gifted speaker. he could read an articulate speech better than any politician in 1952 and perhaps since then. what stevenson could not do was in the famous words of john
bartlow martin, one of his speechwriters, was converse with somebody about baseball. what stevenson did with his speeches, and let's face it, one of the best-selling books of 1953 were a collection of stevenson's speeches, and he was the -- it begins the branding of the democratic party as being intellectual egghead, elite and liberal. 1956 would complete that. the death of the intellectual in politics. john f. kennedy figured out immediately that he couldn't campaign like this in 1960. in an unfortunate way, stevenson's gifts as a writer of speeches and as a deliverer of those written speeches brings the death of that kind of intellectualism in american politics to the point where i would argue we haven't seen it
since. but that doesn't mean that he couldn't be a cutthroat politician. stevenson decides right from the start that harry truman isn't going to play any role in this campaign. he lets slip, three days after the nomination, that there's a mess in washington. there was a mess in washington, but a democrat was at the center of it. and the president of the united states to boot. what would have happened had stevenson and sparkman allowed truman to campaign for them? well, you do that at your own peril. hubert humphrey shut out lyndon johnson in 1968 because of the war in vietnam. al gore shut out bill clinton in 2000. the exception who made it work? bush and reagan in 1980. reagan sat the campaign out, largely, and bush was able to
praise reagan enough publicly, to be able to bring the conservatives to the table. how will the democratic candidate in 2016 deal with president barack obama? particularly if his polls drop near the level that harry truman's polls were topped. the fund crisis was small potatoes. the fight over keeping richard nixon on the ticket was never serious. it had absolutely no impact on the presidential election of 1952. in the election, it is completely unimportant. no one votes for a vice presidential candidate. they didn't in 1952. they don't today. this was nothing. nixon had it right.
he kept telling the eisenhower people that they should ignore it, and it would go away. it would have, but eisenhower's people, particularly tom dewey, panicked and forced nixon to a public apology on tv. the gop should have done nothing. but this is of particular importance in the future. and this is an easy one. he makes it one of his crises. in his 1962 memoir. for richard nixon, everything would flow from the crisis and the checker speech. but in the presidential election, you've got to have pretty much a disastrous chain of events for the vice presidential candidates to mean anything. this was a picture that nobody
ever thought would happen. eisenhower, when he was done, said that he felt dirty from the touch of joe mccarthy. but in milwaukee, eisenhower goes in and consciously, finally tracked this down through a lot of research, consciously deleted from a speech a reference that criticized mccarthy for criticizing general george marshall. calling him a dupe of communists. eisenhower either took it out himself or had somebody take it out. it's a little fuzzy there. some say he waffled. but maybe, just maybe, this is the beginning of what fred greenstein called the hidden hand presidency. eisenhower doing things behind the scenes. maybe this was the beginning of
what eisenhower thought would be a mob with mccarthy. always hoped he could work with mccarthy. also hoped mccarthy would blow away, and he didn't, and he used richard nixon to help bring him down. but what does this say about the future president of the united states? and no one speech changes a campaign. october 16th in hartford, eisenhower says, i shall go to korea. the impact of that has been way overdone. the campaign is over by that point. the stories of steven gaining a little after that are way exaggerated. he went from 44 points down in the polls to 45. they were both struggling with how to deal with the korean war in the campaign in ways that are almost eerily like the way that richard nixon and hubert humphrey deal with vietnam in 1968. so what does nixon do? he says he has a secret plan to end the war.
so did eisenhower. what was eisenhower's secret plan? i shall go to korea. nixon just didn't tell anybody what his plan was. eisenhower made a trip. maybe there's a parallel there. this, by the way, as ike with 15th regiment troops in korea in september of 1952. to me, that makes more sense, particularly with where the election turns out with where things are going to go in the future. you can put up all the statistics in the world. and by the way, you put up numbers and college students just go [ snoring ] and they're gone, you put up any statistics. let me break these down a little bit. eisenhower won, he won big-time. there it is, it's broken down. blue states for stevenson. eisenhower won just about everything else.
but there are some things to be said for the future. eisenhower, as we've said, made inroads into the south. again, i'd call your attention to virginia, tennessee, texas and florida. he broke into the fdr coalition, the ethnic vote, the polish vote, the german vote went for eisenhower, and in a stunning for the moment demographic, women voted for eisenhower and abandoned the democrats. but it was the middle class, loosely defined, living out in the suburbs and watching "leave it to beaver," that made eisenhower's victory so big. stevenson does hold together from the fdr coalition two major constituencies. from the fdr coalition. the african-american vote and jewish vote. and it should not be presented that this was any kind of sweep for the republican party, when you got only three-vote majority in the house and one vote in the senate, it's not a realigning
election for the party. it's a personal victory for eisenhower. i shouldn't belittle it, but we should call it what it is. i got somewhat defensive along the way when people were telling me that i wasn't really telling the whole story of 1952 when i was challenged in reviews. my reaction was something like this. but i was young at one point in time. the more research that you do, the more time that you give yourself to think through and not just write what you know and 5,000 footnotes and 750 pages of detail, we have a name for those. those are called encyclopedias. and you actually think through to what it means. maybe something new will come.
and maybe then like eisenhower and like stevenson, people can change their minds and i changed my mind. on many things with 1952, as i sit this summer and write. maybe george bernard shaw had the answer. thank you very, very much. it has been a pleasure speaking with you. now -- i got it. >> thank you so much, bob. we will be taking questions at either one of these two microphones, and remember my instructionses >> yes, that's right. all of the instructions and it would not -- henry, it just wouldn't be the same without you. thank you so much for everything that you have done for the kansas city public library.
>> hi. is there anything stevenson could have done different that would have made any difference? >> no. >> in this election? >> no. and that's the problem with writing about a rout. you have to go through, and there's no dramatic moment where you could say, had you done this, you would have gained 15 points. it was impossible. so the job of the historian, then, if you believe that this was an important election, as i do, is to show how it's important for the future. no, stevenson could have done nothing. but i want to take before i -- i'm going to go kind of like this. i do want to say this. people think that the nixon moment, the checkers speech could have saved it for stevenson. so many nixon biographers treat
this as a moment if nixon had dropped off the ticket and done the honorable thing, blah, blah, blah, stevenson would have become president. that's nonsense. that's absolute nonsense. richard nixon was not that important in 1952. there are days when i write, just like john sparkman, he was not important at all because he's a vice presidential nominee. yes, sir? >> yes. given the landslide victory of eisenhower, do you think stevenson actually thought he had a good chance? >> that's a different question than this one. >> and also, if he didn't, then why the heck did he go through the same torture four years later? >> you have to be a special type of individual. i'm being kind here, to run for president of the united states. you have to be like an athlete on an 0-42 team. you have to believe that the next moment is going to get you your first victory.
you have to act constantly as if you can win. you have to be, if you're carly fiorina, you have to believe every single day that you are going to wake up and you are going to be ahead of donald trump in the polls or you can't run. stevenson acted that way. and people thought that was phony. people treated that -- either that or naive, that he was a fool, but it's just what a politician does. if you can't do that, you shouldn't be in politics and this guy came up through chicago politics. nasty -- >> i'm a native of illinois. >> nasty politics. so he was no babe in the woods. he believes that he somehow could win. more's the pity. yes, ma'am? >> you said that no one ever votes for a vice presidential candidate. >> correct. >> my question is does anyone besides me ever vote against a vice presidential candidate and therefore the whole ticket? i'm thinking of mccain and palin. >> and palin.
the statistics on that election show that the numbers of people who voted against mccain for palin were very, very small. again, like the nixon literature, palin, herself, and people who have written -- "game change," the book, makes palin out to be some sort of a game changer. that's what the whole thesis of the book was about. she did not move that many votes. the answer to your question is, the political scientists will tell you that is just simply not the case, but if you're going to go on, richard nixon, sarah palin, you position your vice presidential run to be more important to the ticket than it really was. yes, sir? >> thinking of examples of iran and guatemala and the eisenhower administration, tee moxie is overthrown by a covert operations and supporting the rise of dictatorships.
what would have -- what do you think would have been the result of a stevenson presidency? what would have been the difference in his foreign policy do you think? >> i read a book once, you may have seen it, "15 things that didn't happen in american history but should have," if we had lost at bunker hill and lost -- if picket's charge, if he'd actually made it. i don't, i don't know. i don't know the answer to that. so i'll only speculate, because that's what this game is about. by the way, i fail students for doing that. i tell them history is history is history. anything else is your little, you know, your little conceded fiction. but let's do that for a moment. and i submit to you it would have been very close to the same. because stevenson would have inherited many of the cold war supporters, i'm sorry, advisers of the truman administration who were setting the table for what happened in guatemala, setting the table for what happened in
iran and iraq, who were setting the table for what happened -- you don't mention one which i think is the key, in cuba, and abandoning batista. and i think that stevenson would have done that as quickly as dwight eisenhower did, but who knows. it's a good question. yes, ma'am? >> i'm usually interested in the women behind the presidents. what was mamie's thoughts on being first lady? and was she instrumental in working with dwight? or -- >> if i may, let me answer the question holistically and start with stevenson as a divorced candidate. and there were, throughout the campaign, there were rumors of stevenson being gay. and these rumors we now know through a couple of books were perpetuated by none other than everybody's favorite person, j. edgar hoover, who had a file on stevenson, and so stevenson had to bring his sister, buffy ives,
onto the campaign trail with him in a completely contrived situation where a lot of people thought she was the wife. and that was infinitely more interesting to what mamie did which was stay in the background on the campaign train. remember the whistle stopping and everything that happened during the campaign. mamie was often ill. she was not drunk. she was often ill on the campaign trail. and the stress really hurt her. the stress bothered her. and she was constantly in the face of eisenhower's adviser saying you're working him too hard. what mamie wanted to happen may have been a good thing. she wanted him to take two weeks off in the middle of the campaign. he was winning, anyway. she wanted him to go to denver, come back to abilene. she didn't win that battle. and by the way, there's an excellent biographer of mamie eisenhower in the first lady series from kansas. i recommend it to you very highly. i had the occasion to review it.
it's really fleshed her out very well. hey. >> there's the story that a few years before, truman had tried to recruit eisenhower as his successor. so what happened in the interim, and why did eisenhower run as a republican if he could have easily run as a democrat in 1952? >> you're talking about an actual offer that was made to eisenhower before the 1948 convention where truman says i will help you get anything you want, including the presidency of the united states. eisenhower did not believe in 1948 that he had the constituency to win. either as a democrat or republican. and he puts out to a publisher, harold finder, i believe is his name, a very sherman-esque statement, i'm not going to run, period. what happened in between is that eisenhower fell into great dislike with harry truman. he did not like the way that truman's administration was running. he thought he was more of a republican than a democrat, and
he was not going to allow himself to be manipulated. this is eisenhower's view, manipulated by harry truman in the race at all. so there was never any doubt in anybody's mind, although they tried to make a bit of a deal out of it. there was never any doubt in anybody's mind in 1952 that ike would run as a republican. to distance himself from harry truman as adlai stevenson did. yes, sir? >> yes. question. general marshall had been the yoda for eisenhower for a number of years having to appoint him as the commander in europe. >> uh-huh. >> i was just wondering, it seems like mccarthy could take shots at people, and eisenhower did nothing about that. i ask you of that question. >> uh-huh. >> the other one, it almost seems like reagan and eisenhower's elections overall could have been eerily similar. >> i'll take a pass on the last