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tv   The Contenders  CSPAN  October 14, 2011 8:00pm-10:00pm EDT

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industry. >> now, live from albany new york, the life of is profiled in "the contenders". >> i come here tonight knowing i am the underdog in these final weeks. if you know where to look, there are signs of hope. even in the most unexpected places. even in this room full of proud manhattan democrats. i can't shake that the link that some people here are pulling for me. [applause] i am delighted to see you here tonight. >> i was thrilled to get this
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invitation. i feel right at home here because it is often said i share the politics of alfred e. smith and the ears of alfred newman. it is an honor to be here with al smith. i never knew your great- grandfather. everything senator mccain told me, the two of them had a great time before prohibition. [laughter] >> i am not surprised by the final repeal of the 18th amendment. when this matter was submitted, they would readily see it had no place in our constitution. it would be very difficult if not impossible to explain to those who come to this country to make it their business to seek that no such matter as this is ever again made the subject of a federal constitutional
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laws. >> you have been listening to the 2008 presidential nominees talking at that your's al smith dinner followed by al smith himself talking about the lifting of prohibition. welcome to "the contenders" series. we come to you from albany, new york where all smith served for 12 years before becoming the democratic nominee for president. our guests for the next two hours and the life and career of al smith, john evers. he is a ph.d. candidate and is doing his dissertation on al smith. we are also joined by beverly gage.
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she is a history professor. if you could, set the scene for us to begin. 1928 -- the united states. what was going on in this country? what are some of the issues we will be discussing? >> the 1928 election is one of the most interesting and also what of the most vicious elections in american history. we have two candidates who really embodied two different americas that are coming into conflict in the election. al smith is urban, he is from new york city. he is an irishman. he is catholic. he represents a kind of immigrant, urban a barakat that has come of age in the last 30 years. on the other side, we have herbert hoover who in many ways can hardly be more different
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than al smith. he is from the midwest. he is from iowa. he is very straitlaced. he is not our bid. if he is pious. he wears starchy colors. these two mena really encapsule some of the most important cultural class is of that moment. clashes over prohibition. to some degree, clashes over the economy. in many ways, this turns out to be a cultural selection that hinders on which of these two americas is the america that will be voted into office. >> it was said that the three p ls influenced this election -- prohibition, prosperity, and prejudice. >> we have al smith who is one of the nation's biggest critics of prohibition. it has been in effect for almost a decade.
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it has been a real problem for most of that time and throughout al smith has said it is a bad idea not only because it infringes on freedom, but because it is causing and law- enforcement crisis. there are many people who are concerned about this. what is going to happen to prohibition is one of the big questions. we have herbert hoover on the other side. in terms of prosperity, both of them are running in favor of prosperity. the problem for al smith is you had eight years of republican rule. the republicans have a leg up on the prosperity front. you had the 1920's. it has been a boom decade for wall street and for large segments of the economy. i think the darkest part of this election and the reason i said it really is one of the most
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vicious elections in american history is our third p, the question of prejudice. al smith -- i think most americans today are more familiar with john kennedy as a catholic candidates. that caused a real star even in the 1960's. al smith raised all of those questions much earlier in 1928. it had already been a decade that had been seized with a lot of questions about immigration, immigration reform, the rights of the two clocks klan. those come into play. >> how did the role of catholicism play out? >> it was a vicious campaign. this was not new to him. when he ran in new york state, he faced at them. in 1914, martin glenn faced anti catholic prejudice. showed up in the 1915
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constitutional convention as a little bit of it was during campaign. smith what into this for years in advance of the election knowing this would be an issue. he addressed this issue in 1927 and in his reply to the "atlantic monthly." it was a very good statement but it was intellectual. it went over everybody's heads. >> as mentioned earlier, we are in the new york state assembly chamber and albany, new york in the new york state capitol building, finished in 1894. we are also pleased to have joined as a studio audience of albany area residents. some college students and historians, some people interested in al smith. they will also have a chance to ask some questions about al smith in the 18 -- 1928 election.
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we will put some phone calls on the screen so you can start to dial in now. this is the 6th in our 14 week series. john evers, what kind of a candid it was all smith in 1928? >> he was a fighter. if you look at him and d.c. the short stature, his gravelly voice comes out all across america. this is one of the first campaigns where radio plays a role. he campaigns from the back of trains which is very common. he tries to engage in america on issues that are important to americans. they did not want to talk about those issues. prosperity was there so they could not say they were the issues -- he was not candid of
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prosperity. he wanted to talk about prohibition. he came out as a fighter. his speeches were well reasoned. on paper he was a fantastic canada. he was swimming until the whole time. >> beverly gage, electoral vote count at the end. 874 al smith. which states that he when and why? >> it was definitely a blowout election. i think the real -- in some ways we can almost say al smith should thank his lucky stars he did not win the 1928 election. we might remember al smith's name a little more, but what would we remember him for? it was really a blowout election. i think it was heartbreaking for smith supporters in part because it had been such a nasty campaign. a lot of the big questions of the election ultimately became
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-- was it simply the fact that republicans take credit for this boom decade and it therefore, smith never really had a chance? was a rejection of all the things smith felt deeply and stood for? i think smith really took that to heart. he was very concerned about that and the real nastiness of that campaign. he had some support but not a whole lot. >> there is > >p i want to talk about. that is progressivism. he was known as the progressive during his time in the legislature. did that play an issue at all? >> when you think about it, progressivism is a historical phenomenon. it really begins at around 1900 with, say, teddy roosevelt. what it means by the 1920's is very hard to define in many
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ways. there were people who call themselves progressives to support a prohibition and were very impassioned about it. there were people who call themselves progressives who opposed prohibition like al smith and two were also very impassioned about it. the basic idea of progressivism is a sense that come about. al smith really did stand for that you could use government and new and proactive ways to deal with some of the really pressing and industrial conditions that americans faced back in the early part of the 20th century. al smith as governor and running for president really tried to make that case. he changes his mind a little bit later when the new deal comes along. we will get to that. that was really the basic idea of progressivism with the idea that you could use federal power in some significant way to really change people's lives for the better. >> i think that is a key point. we talk about the new deal
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today. we talk about the programs and everything fdr brought in. when smith ran for president, he had experimented with these things into york state. he was a champion of the labor issue. he was a champion of parks and recreation. he was wanting to spend money for the social programs of new york state. there were all four runners to the new deal. in 1928, people did not want to hear that issue. it was overclouded by prosperity. there was a whispering campaign about his religion. even smith what he campaigned, he had won for the story. he was driving on a train for wyoming. there were about one hour out. he sees a horse out in the field. he says, we must be getting close to civilization. somebody said, that is a wild horse and we have one hour to go. he showed how much smith was out of his element.
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he was used the new york. i think the country was used to somebody other than a new yorker. they were used to the tall and coolidge. >> if you were elected governor of new york at that time, working racial and or an automatic for consideration of the national stage? >> absolutely. al smith was nominated -- it was always the favorite son candidacies. they nominated al smith for governor -- for president. it went one route and a drop to the books. eventually, it was cox from ohio. in 1928, he was the nomination. all throughout history, the new york governor -- this is even in modern history, the new york
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governor is automatically considered a presidential material. >> i was just where to jump in there. i think the work was just an incredibly important -- new york was one, and ohio was the other. it kept producing president after president. we have anything like that anymore. maybe we could look at something like texas. when you look at the republican party, all of these figures coming out of republican candidates. out of the democratic party, d.c. for a clear roosevelt. the work as a state as two machines really going. it has a pretty significant effect. >> two machines? >> the republicans head and an incredibly powerful network as well. >> what is tammany hall?
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>> tammany hall is technically just the new york city's democratic party. the manhattan democratic party. tammany hall from the mid-19th century was best known as the machine of machines in urban america. it was identified as a primarily irish machine. a machine that will be depended on the neighborhood power, word power, and that was as much about taking care of your neighborhood and the coming up to the neighborhood as it was anything really about national politics. tammany hall is the most powerful force in new york city politics at that moment. >> how did tammany hall fit into the 1928 election? >> that was the brush that painted smith into a corner. we talk about the religion issue. this started at the convention in 1928. tammany hall would go to the conventions and they would
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always have -- the work was a key state. it would dominate the democratic candidates. many candidates we had both a democrat and republican candidates from new york like teddy roosevelt ran against all mubarak's parker. what was a republican and one was a democrat. tammany hall was always seen outside of new york state and sometimes in the york state as a corrupt machine. people like william jennings bryan would rant and rave about tammany hall. he wanted their votes, but he did not want a tammany man there. eventually, smith is a tammany man and a candidate. it shocked many people within the democratic party. >> al smith lost new york in the 1928 election. >> he did. he had the sad fate of losing the race for president of the united states and seeing his hand-picked successor when the.
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it slips the dynamic of their relationship for ever and ultimately, roosevelt once up where smith wanted to be. smith went up in retirement. >> will get into that. when we ask the prior to the show some issues he thought were important to the 1928 election, when you mentioned was the role of the media in 1928. >> i think particularly for all smith, he has come to age as a media battles. they were after him and after him, one of the most powerful newspaper tycoon's in the country. smith had a certain amount of confidence by 1928 that he knew how to fend off these kinds of attacks. ultimately in the election, one of the interesting things about the catholic issue is that we now understand it to have been absolutely crucial to this election. smith openly acknowledged it. a lot of it was done and talked
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about through a window, fifth commented earlier about a whispering campaign. it was not something that would be set in the press, but the press would feed into these images. i think smith, from my reading of it, he was behind from the press in part because there was so much coded language being used and in part because the press had this feisty personality that likes to write about it but were often quite contemptuous of it and really set a public narrative that did not afford him the respect he deserves. >> i think one of the things that is interesting about smith in the press is that he loved the press. he used to hold press conferences here in albany, the press corps got to be very close to him. he had a great relationship of what was on and off the record. he really enjoyed that. when he left the safe confines
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of york state and the whispering campaign came out. there were papers that were not friendly to him. it would not cover the issues that were important, smith was hurt by that. he was also not used to the media of the day. he used to call the microphone .hat you speak and to writ he would speak to the microphone. he did not like to read prepared speeches. he would take out of this coal pocket and of a look. he wrote everything and on envelopes. he would say, these are the points of light. i will address the nation on these things. i will speak from the heart. with the campaign became more of a prepared speech, he was not used to that. he was used to the old tammany hall way. >> adjusted jump in, you mentioned the rise of radio. i think that made a huge
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difference in how americans were able to perceive smith. he is this me your guide. i will not attempt -- when it attempted to a and l smith impersonation? "i don't have a deep enough a voice. but the fact that people could hear him, too many he sounded forum. he did not so lucky kid from a different country but he sounded different from them. that became and other big issue in the campaign. >> this was the first time ever people were able to hear their candidates, correct? >> yes. as radio started to get bigger and as the media started to circulate, tv came much later. people would hear the campaigns from the political machines, they would read it in the paper. they did not see the candidates, let alone hear the candidates. we have a candidate that comes out and pronounces radio as
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"radio," that added to the whisper campaign. >> again, we are live from albany, new york. "the contenders" with al smith. ' he is the fourth time governor of new york. 1928, the presidential candidates for the democrats. now, the route to this two hours we will be talking about al smith, we will return to the 1928 election as often as our callers want to. but we want to learn a little bit about where all smith came from. here is a little bit of al smith talking about how he was raised. >> i was born in a little house under the brooklyn bridge.
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the bridge was erected when i was a small boy. my father was at the opening ceremony. what he came home, he said, i have just witnessed a great spectacle. at the same time, it was a very bitter disappointment. what did he mean? here is the story as he told it to me. he said, said, this bridge has kept thousands of men working for years. the concrete, the wiring, the machinery, it costs millions of dollars. today was the opening. bands were playing. flights were waving. they found all you had to do was go to brooklyn. >> this was the neighborhood where all smith grew up. he raised his children here. he went to school right around
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the block. his father died, and he had to go off to work and support his mother and sister. this is where al smith's action -- accent came from. this is where it all began for him. it was all irish and italian. they came from over off fromellis island and settle it here. he got involved in tammany hall. it grew from there. >> the second speaker we heard was al smith iv, al smith's great-grandson. >> i never do vocal cords could be inherited. and so did a little bit like his great-grandfather. the lower east side is the southern tip of manhattan. that is where smith was from. it was a poor to.
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it was not like it is today. there were ships -- smith drop that was his playground. he came from an irish family. it is interesting. it is not well-known, his father was actually from german and italian words. smith used to claim he did not know this. he grew up in this bustling area. the center of his neighborhood was the catholic church. he was an altar boy. he used to work can sell papers carried the sad part about his early life was he lost his father very odd. he was about 12. his father was a trucking van. he would card goods from the seaport up to the city. he died young. he never graduated, even for the eighth grade. if you trace his red book entries, which is the official biographies, he always said he graduated from eighth grade, which was not true.
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he said he inherited his father's truck business. that also was not true. that might have been self consciousness of sitting around lawyers and businessmen from upstate. the real struggling diehard and neighborhood shape temper ever. it made him tough. he enjoyed it. for the rest of his life, it was the catholic church, his family, and the democratic party. >> so he went through the seventh grade. >> he had to leave a month or two per graduating eighth grade. it was too tough. >> paint the larger picture. what was new york like and what was the country like in 1873? >> 1873 -- new york is growing increasingly different from the rest of the country in many ways. at that point we are eight years out from the end of the civil war.
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in new york, you are beginning to see the city change in all sorts of interesting ways. in the 1830's and 1840's and 1850's, you have the first massive wave of emigration. that was from places like ireland, germany, irish and german immigrants had settled the city. by the time you get into the 1890's, you are getting waves of emigration from new areas like italy, russia, eastern europe. new york is really becoming the way that we think about it. this is really the age at which that is beginning to congeal and become an important part of the city's politics. as part of this, all of the groups are beginning to organize. this is through the heyday of tammany hall, the irish wishing getting its bearings in the middle of the 19th century.
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what were conditions like on the lower east side is famous during these years, particularly as to get it to the late 19th century as being the single most commonplace on planet earth. there are not much tenant regulations or sanitary regulations. it's kind of a free-for-all. often you have big problems with disease. many people's members, you have tight-knit ethnic neighborhoods which had some powerful institutions. he had it churches, synagogues, labor union starting to emerge during these years. the lower east side at the moment is a tightly packed, very intense place in the york. for a lot of the country, it is a symbol of the urban ills that
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are really beginning to press upon the country. industrial strife, overcrowding, disease. for many people, this continues onto the through the 1920's. immigration is a symbol of the way the country is changing. >> i think it smith's de it was the same. he would talk about sailors from different countries. he would meet people from all over the world. there were sections of his area where he lived. there were russians, jews, people from italy, people from chinatown up the road. he lived in a little enclave that was surrounded by all of this. he would go over a few blocks and there would be areas of the vice. this shaped his image. he thought he knew america by knowing all of these people. he knew what it meant to be tolerant and see different ethnicities. later on when he went out and america, i think part of the shock was -- it is not all like this.
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he thought he knew -- the york state was -- what he first went to the assembly, he realized that he had seen a lot more in his neighborhood then what these people had seen. he could not bring everybody down to the war in manhattan. if he said, this is how and america really is. it is a melting pot. some of that came back to see no phobia, to entire religion, his accent. it was almost a way of saying, you are forum, you are not like us. >> he went to work in 1886 at 13 years old. where did he go to work? >> he had probably one of the toughest careers i have ever heard of. he starts by leaving early. he goes and sells newspapers. he starts after school, i will sell newspapers. he gets a few dollars that way. it is not enough. his mother had to go and get a
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job the day they. his father. she comes back from the funeral, goes back to the forelady in the umbrella factory where she worked prior to burying the al smith junior. it is not enough. eventually, he goes through a rapid series of jobs working in a small candy store that his mother was the proprietor of. pekoes and works in a company of -- truck bombing. he used to run a long the south and and pick up different trucks for his company. don't come back, go to this area. eventually, he gets the most famous job he is known for. it is at the fish market. he got up at 4:00 in the morning, rolled barrels, shoveling crushed ice, coming home smelling like fish. he would go there at 4:00 in the morning and get back to 4 in the afternoon. this led to him getting a job at
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tammany hall. the good thing about it, he wanted to -- he used to take all the fish he wanted. it will slide down the hill 50 feet deep. that was how poor he was. they gave him a lot of the free food. >> this is "the contenders" and we are talking about al smith. first off for our two guests, wayne, you are on cspan. >> hello. the question is two full. i am interested in what al smith's role and commitment was to the new york state civil services and labor. how he championed that.
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what specific things did he do to help reform new york state politics, particularly the self- service and his commitment to labour. >> thank you. that is a really good point that separated out smith when it came to labor issues. in 1911, there was the famous factory fire got in manhattan. smith was on the court to study labor law. he became good friends becameperkins, all the reforming labor activists at this time. the labor laws that would regulate fire escapes, hours of service, health codes, workers' compensation. hand in hand with that was probably the advent of civil service. being a tammany man, there were
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rumors he wanted to pack everything with democrats. but this became more prevalent as it got to the end of his gubernatorial career, the most qualified person should have the job. smith was well-known to having people in his cabinet that were republicans, that were not enrolled. people who had nothing to do with government at all. his highway commissioner was a military engineer who had republican affiliations. he wanted the most qualified people and around it. some of that lead into the civil service. he also wanted to have a strong labor relations. he stood up for those with a cane to labor that were often shunted aside. he took that to campaign, he had the support afl cio.
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the afl j.p. it hit in the state but not nationally in the 1928 campaign. >> those issues that john evers was talking about, did it play out nationally? how strong or the forces behind the issues? >> i think al smith is a good example of somebody who was radicalized over the course of his time on a politician. he starts out as an unexceptional tampa the guy who is not putting forth particularly creative ideas. both through the social turmoil that he had during the progressive era and then threw the triangle fire which doesn't seem to have been this kind of eye opening moment for him, 146 people died in this fire. they are mostly teenage girls, mostly teenage immigrant girls who are locked in on the eighth
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and ninth floor. they are forced to jump to their deaths. he adds up on the commission. he becomes a true progress of in those -- what i would say the radical and did not radical sense of that word. when he begins to work on the commission, they revamp fire codes, they pass legislation to protect women and children. he becomes an advocate of paternalistic labor laws. he is never a super strong supporter of grass-roots organizing. one of the things left out of the triangle story is that there have been strikes under way at the factory and throughout the industry. that does not become something that he champions in quite the same way. he does champion legislation. that is his stance by the time he is running for president in
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the 1920's. the 1920's are not a good decade for american labor. it is not one of the big issues of the campaign. nonetheless, he holds on to the progressive tradition. when other thing worth noting as well, i actually first encountered else with when i was doing some research on a bombing that happened in the new york in 1920 which was an attack on wall street at the time. i encountered al smith because he had just become governor, and this was it during the bits of the red scare after the first world war. five assemblymen who had been voted in from districts of new york were thrown out. al smith turned out to be a champion of their right to stay in the assembly. it was a lot of concern that the bolshevik resolution -- revolution over radicalism. al smith stood up and said they had every right to be here.
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he was a great champion in a few points that was speaking out in favor of a broad vision of democracy at that point. >> knowing what you do about all smith, how do you think he would feel about the current occupy histwall street movement? >> that would be interesting. he was an underdog. smith would out there and it took on popular states is. he got up there in 1920 and told the assembly next day, i will put out a press release championed the rights of these people to hold their seats. it was flabbergasted. nobody would do that. these people are anarchists. the same with labor. smith would go and settle labor strikes by sending state employees from the late labor department, and one case, francis perkins.
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he is not only sending government people, he is sending women now. he was unconventional. when it comes to something like that, i think he would look at it and say, what is it for the good of the people? he was not a big champion of big business. >> francis in cincinnati. you are on "the contenders" on c-span. >> good evening. i have been privileged to have gone to school in albany. i would like to know if you could address the financial banking that elspeth had -- that al smith had and the contention that was because smith was catholic and trying to be president. >> prices, where did you go to
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school here in albany? we have several colleges in our audience. >> i went to the academy of the sacred heart on south pearl street. unfortunately, it has been closed and is now for sale. >> thank you very much. >> he was a good friend of the dupont family. he was one of the key people in general motors. he was a multi millionaire. as i mentioned earlier, smith was not a huge champion of business. he voted as he was told to vote. later on, he drifted towards pro-business, that was after the roosevelt fallout. he wanted to be involved in politics. he became friends with all smith.
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much to the consternation of many people, they said this guy is not a politician. if what are you doing this? a lot of people thought it was because of the money. he also became friends with many people, bill kenny was one, these new york irishman who made a lot of money and became millionaires. they. smith jobs. at that time, smith wanted him as a friend. he brought it lot of money. >> i think it is true. the question that came up about what he would think about occupy wall street, it really depends what al smith bartok in about. he is kind of a straightforward tammany politician. he voted as tammany told him to vote. if there are no glimmers of greatness during those years.
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then he becomes a progressive politicians both as governor of new york and when he is running for president in 1928. but after that, he takes a turn in which he becomes deeply hostile but only to the new deal but takes up some of the kind of red baiting tactics that he had fought so hard against. in terms of trying to judge how he will respond to the social movements of his day, some of which were deeply anti wall street, it depends when you run into him. if you got him at the right moment, he would be exactly as john said. he would be a gesture in in support of not being deeply in support. later in his life, he would have been calling them communists. >> before it got started, you pointed out where he sat in this chamber. he started out somewhere in the back, you said. >> way in the back.
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seat 143 i think it was. he used to get confused with the bystanders and the visitors. that was before they got microphones. before -- 40 dead years, he never spoke. then he sat in two seats that are right here where we have a two jet on that. the job with the beard raising his hand. when he served as majority leader. and this gentleman over here in the tie. that is what he was the minority leader. that was in 1911. smith became majority leader when the democrats took over. in 1912, they went into the minority. in 1913, he while it up -- he wound up being the speaker. maybe 20 steps from where we are sitting is the speaker's office that al smith used. the current speaker -- i am so
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sorry about that. and there is a a portrait isl smith. >> the came from the same district. they both are democrats. the bulk for speakers of the assembly. it is interesting when you talk about -- it is almost 100 years ago that smith was speaker. 100 years later we have a speaker from the same district and political party. the neighborhood is still a very diverse neighborhood. smith became speaker of a fleet. -- on a fluke. he democrats rarely held in this chamber. he was here 12 years and was only in the majority twice. it only became democratic what's in the 1930's. they had to go to these 1960's before smith -- for the democrats took over. i think smith would be proud
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that they finally got it will represent patient. you could then allowed nyc to send its proper amount of legislators to do york and has resulted in another man had speaker. >> we talk with speaker sheldon silver about all smith. here is what he had to say. >> i think he was a man ahead of his time. putting in legislation to deal with child labor, with labor generally. providing rights. we today commemorate that triangle factory fire. we come up -- commemorate the 100 anniversary of it. all of the legislation protecting workers are things that we in the assembly due today. paul smith when he was that the governor of the state --al smith
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when he was governor of the state, he talked about having the wealthier pay a little bit more. he had some great hopes about it. i remember i wrote one down because it was as appropriate today as it was in 1913. he said, what do we say about our colleagues to reject an income tax amendment? they reject it. why? they are unwilling to say that great wall ought to share its share of the burden of government. they are unwilling to subscribe to the indisputable principle that he who benefits the most should pay the most. that was al smith in 1930 and that debate is taking place again today. >> that portrait or that photograph of al smith that is in the office, what was that taken? >> that was probably taken when
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he was the speaker. he was a very young man. he was elected to the assembly what he was only about 30 years old. he would probably be in that picture, mid 30's or so. he might be close to 35 or 36. that might have been one of his official portraits as an assembly man. >> how powerful was the speaker of the new york assembly, and how does that compare with the power today? >> the speaker is always the most powerful person. i would say it is most comparable. back then when smith was just starting out. he did not even meet the speaker until three days before the session adjourned. the speaker back that was almost regal. today, there is more chairman.
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is not as arbitrary as the use to be. the speaker has tremendous control over the bills let come to the floor, over the chairmen who are made chairman, what the program will be. it still is a key job. one of the three most powerful people in the state. >> beverly gage, state politics in the new york candy teens and today. >> as i said, new york is a key state nationally but it has its own political culture. i think it reflects the same things we see today. the difference between your urban core, your new york at that time largely dominated by a tammany machine. upstate new york you have cultural differences, political differences there. because you had all of these differences, it was always a question of, what kind of issues you were actually going to deal with that the state level.
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one of the things that all smith adds up doing as governor, he tries to make it possible for the governor to do more than he has been able to do. it is not a particularly strong post at that point. 4 tammany hall, your power is concentrated in the york city. al smith is an ambassador for the city to the rest of the state in certain ways. he is trying to make it possible in this progress of the impulse to actually make more things possible. to consolidate a little executive power up. albany and ways he had not seen before. portugal talk about his career as for term governor as we take this call. hi,niel. >> first of all, a commentary and then a question. your four of his action -- year
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for its stability. i don't have the credentials you do. i fancy myself and armchair historic. as far as mr. smith is concerned, the catholicism should not enter into the picture. he was clearly a proponent of the middle-class and pro labor. generally, i think he was a well attended individual. i am wondering that if today, if we had a candidate running for the president of the united states, what can it would mr. smith's mindset be able to pull it off? despite that, thank you so much. i enjoy watching. >> i think that is an interesting question. smith goes through a very weird political transition in the 1930's. after it lost the election, he does look of a lot of what he stood for up to that point. i know we will get to talking
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about that a little later in the show. he was a populist of sorts. cuba is not an absolute populace. he was certainly not a william and jennings bryant populace. if anything, he really did not like bryan week of the party around cultural issues. he was an urban populist. i think it is true that he is and advocate of the middle class. he is a figure that embodies and advertises he embodies the kind of, working your way up to the american system from childhood of poverty ought to success. would a candidate today who had that kind of populist message, would it be successful? i think it is hard to say. smith was not particularly successful in his day on the national stage. i think populism has kind -- has had a kind of a mixed history in
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the united states. >> is there a politician today you would compare to elspeth? >> i don't know. it today pose the risk, he might be more of the technocrat. populism itself that smith embodied was almost like a compassion best, he wanted to do the need delaware prior to the new deal. i don't know why all smith is complaining. i am just doing in washington, d.c. what fdr did in new york. with the way the economy is today and the debates over government, smith would probably lead to his lips and say i would love to go to washington, d.c. and figure this out. even discussions now with the bipartisan gridlock, smith had
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done in new york. he would probably sell himself very well today by saying, i have done this in the york. i have battled the legislature that is hostile. i know how to get government under control. i know how to get the economy moving again. he was not flashy, but some of that would be ofbraintrust kind of guy. >> james in dayton, ohio. >> i was wondering if,in 1929 wall street collapsed. i was wondering if he had any party platform that might have contributed to anything -- any of the abuses by the moneyed class is in on the wall street that led to the collapse and ultimately the depression.
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if he had been elected in 1928, would he have done anything that might have possibly avoided or diminished the effects of the depression that followed? >> what would like to be able to say, yes. if al smith had been elected, none of the depression would ever happen. i don't think that is true. i don't think of economic issues by 1928, the 1920's turned out to be a relatively conservative decade on things like labor policy. smith himself is not running in a shanty wall street campaign in the 1928. the real progress of candidates have been four years earlier. that had a much more vocal, into wall street sentiment. it had a much more strict set of
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regulations and have more focus on economic issues. unfortunately, i don't think that smith would have done a whole lot significantly different. i am not sure that any president was really in a position to see what was coming or really have the tools at to that point to prevent it from happening. >> that is kind of what hoover at the end with his ideas of experimentation with government intervention, i heard somebody say once that if smith had it run and won in 1928, hoover would have been the obvious time -- kind attended in 1932. it would say, we need a is this man. we need somebody who is a model of getting the economy going. no matter who won, they would have been unprepared to stop the avalanche of financial ruin pure >> let's take a back to 1918.
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al smith is elected governor of new york for the first time. how? >> the accidental governor. it took all smith until 1925 or 1926 to get into the minds of the republican party that he was not going to lose. so he ran against charles whitman. charles whitman, the d.a. of man had come up becomes governor of new york state. he runs twice in gets elected. he starts i mean the white house in 1920. we like to look back and say what if. maybe it would not have been party. -- harding. smith unseats this governor largely because there is a flu epidemic. he turns out the new york city vote. he wins by a very slight margin. he get in there.
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in 1920, the legislature crosses its arms and says we will not do any of these things. the republican assembly and senate. smith starts the campaign by saying, and will have a reconstruction commission capitalizing on the transition from a wartime economy to the private sector economy. he starts saying he is going to strengthen -- we are going to bond so we can have capital improvement spread out for many years in just -- instead of the infrastructure starts to crumble. he has a lot of these great ideas. the legislature says this guy will never win in 1920. that will be the presidential year. back then, do your governor's ran at the same time the president ran. smith gets reelected in 1920. he has very little to show -- he loses in 1920. he has very little to show what he goes up in 1920.
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they run a very conservative, upstate republican who wins. al smith goes away. people thought he would never come back. he did run again in 1922, 24, and 1926. >> at the same time, all of his elections are pretty close. >> they are close until the last two. they have a very close election which is 50,000 votes in the 1980. he loses a close election in 1920. the national democratic ticket goes down by over 1 million votes. smith only loses by 75,000. that is what they this person said, it is like swimming up niagara falls. you can the closest anybody did. he comes back in 1922 and was a squeaker. in 1924 he starts to add to his totals and he went against teddy
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roosevelt it was only in the 1920's with his third start to come to fruition. >> 1920, when did get to vote. does that make a difference in al smith's career? >> he is interesting because as john indicated before, he actually staffed a lot of his inner circle with women at a ball between not many speakers are doing that. francis perkins becomes the secretary of labor is a close ally of smith. he actually has a fairly progressive outlook of women in government. the advent of the women pose a
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vote does not have a huge impact on national politics. it ultimately begins to build. does not have the impact many people are predicting. in terms of new york politicians, job would know this better than i, i don't have perspective it really transforms -- >> not at first. at first, he was not in favor of forbids a suffrage. it his mother said, i would never vote. there is no need for me to vote. she does. she cast her first ballot for her son for governor. smith's hook is he gets a lot of these people involved. he starts to realize these are the voters. he says, how do i talk to these people? he says talk to the lucky would talk to a chamber of commerce or anyone else in the campaign. he starts to realize that would suffer to is a good idea. i can enlighten these people. that is where he gets the
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braintrust for many of these people who were -- who will work for him who becomes dirty supporters of the democratic party. smith capitalizes on that. >> a few blocks from here is the governor's mansion. what was life like for all smith at the governor's mansion? >> hectic.
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smith always loved animals. when he was a kid he would collect dogs. sown on the south port, sailors would come in and have these exotic animals, monkeys, goats. he would take them home and put them in his attic. he never had less than two dogs, he used to say and when he came for his first term, he had his great dane and it jumped up on charles weight -- whitman and smith joked, "it's tam annie tiger coming to take over." with all these children and animals, it was always a hectic place. it was a very friendly kind of
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atmosphere. >> i could add on the animal front we all owe smathe debt for oys -- his love of animals because one of his great allies first in city government and then state park was robert moses, the commissioner of parks of new york, who made new york in many ways. he and smith remained very, very affectionate wall -- well into the 1930's after smith was out of political life. and p he insists that there be a zoo in central park so that al smith can come and visit the animals. he's living up town at that point. there are poignant stories about smith at the end of his life, he literally had a key to the zoo and he would sometimes go down there in the middle of the night and hang out at the central park zoo. in many ways it's a tribute to
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al smith and his love of animals. >> honorary night superintendent was al smith at the zoom. >> we've had a very, very patient audience here and in just a minute we're going to start taking questions from you as well. but we have a very patient tony from pleasantville, new york, who has been holding. you're on c-span and the contenders. >> thank you for this series and c-span. i've been watching for over 20 years and this -- i think if more people would watch c-span we would have better presidential candidates. but you beat me to the punch. i wanted to ask you about belle mosskowitz. i wonder if they could expand on belle mosskowitz's role and the job she had for governor smith. and also earlier you mentioned al smith didn't speak for two
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years. eighth grade education. didn't speak in the asem establish, timmed by all the other lawyers there. can you tell us what al smith did at night while the others went down on state street to boos -- booze it up and carouse? how deeducate himself to become majority leader and speaker in >> we're going get john to answer those questions. but i know you are a new yorker. is that the reason for your interest in al smith and your knowledge something >> i read a great book called empire statesman. i worked in albany for a while and i knew the al smith building was there, the tallest building in the state wf the -- before the empire state building, i believe. but i read the book called "empire statesman." >> all right. thanks for calling in shouldn't -- tonight the what else about
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belle moss cowitz and what he did to educate himself? >> belle was the unofficial gate keeper. she would serve as his survivor and -- advisor and it was probably the best way to describe it as she was the person who would pass through all of these labor programs, all these reconstruction commissions. in fact the reconstruction of new york state which eventually led to the re-forming of the state constitution and the establishment of a strong chief executive, was done with the reconstruction commission. that was belle mosskowitz's brain child. she recruited bob moses into the commission. in fact, tam annie hall became very jealous of mosskowitz and moses and prockoush and -- prockour. they joked that's the bravenstam an a hall. they weren't irish, they were jewish. the interesting thing about him not speaking in the assembly,
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smith sat so far back and he was so intimidated and so lost that he went back to new york after his second term and told tom foley, the tam annie boss of his district, "i think i might be in over my head." he told him, "i might be able to find you a job, maybe suvent buildings in new york city, if you really can't hack it." that appealed to smith's ability to fight. he said i'm not going to admit i can't handle something. so he went back with a mission. he took all the bills every night and read them, every bill introduced, so he could understand the legislature. he didn't have a high school or college degree. he wasn't a lawyer. the assembly at the time was prominently the legal field. smith made sure that he could do that. also since he didn't have any money, he lived on the $1,500 a year plus traveling expenses, he didn't have anything else to do. he didn't go out partying at
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night. he didn't do bad things. he missed his family. he would go back to his room at his hotel and read. and when he wasn't there he would be in the legislative library reading ut bills and what they affected. >> about 300 pages long? >> yeah, they could have a -- save a lot of trees by having them done electronically the smith used to reat the appropriateations bill cover to cover and i -- he said not more than 10 people approximate could explain the appropriations by. thick, massive, he read that line by line. and it helped him as governor because he had an understanding of the budget system. >> i have a question from our suspense. this is cave pes -- pet rusa. he is an author. did not know he was going to be here tonight. he was a new book coming out
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about the 1948 election. go ahead. >> thank you. and your guests are doing a great job tonight. there are is constance in al smith's career. there is tam annie hall, frankly roosevelt. and another fellow, william randolph hearts. -- hearst. specifically what can you say about that relationship, specifically the gubernatorial races and the 1922 presidential nomination process? >> let's start with beverly gauge. >> hearst is one of the towering figures of this moment and he turns into one of smith's great critics and he's sort of the man around which smith learns how to deal with the press in many ways. i know you, we were talking earlier and you said you had been writing about this in great detail, the milk issue and smith --'s attacks on smith jment oh, god. yeah. great question.
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glad dave brought this up because william randolph hearst was probably one of the most controversial government figures or quasi-government figures in new york history. he ways two-term congressman from new york. he basically bought the seafments tried to get nomination in 1904 for president of the united states. he lost that. he runs for governor in 1906 against charles evans hughes and loses. he runs for new york city mayor and loses. many by has control of the two newspapers, the evening journal and the new york american, and he churns out real are, the basest appeal to people and to try to tell them that i know better, i'm a reformer, i want municipal utilities that will lower your rates. i want transparent government, you can get that if you back me. in 1918 he wants the nomination for governor and they try to figure out who is going to get
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this. they settle on smith. smith goes and gets elected. in 1919, immediately william randolph hearst starts to poke at smith's programs. there's a milk strike in new york city. the upstate daries can't get milk into new york city. they then have a milk strike upstate where the producers won't ship it to new york city. well, none of this is within the purview of the governor's powers. the governor tries to get his departments of farms and markets to act. they won't because many they don't report to the governor. hearst won't take this answer and he also says you are moving too slow on municipal ownership. we want the utilities in new york to be owned. you are the gorvings you should make them do that. they won't. smith goes head-to-head with him. he takes the stage with -- at carnegie hall to debate hearst. hearst won't show up for the
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debate. he goes to san simeon and starts buying more art work. smith loses control, screams and yells, red in the face, about this man and unmasks hearst. hearst then ironically comes out and backs smith for re-election. smith want nothing to do with him. 1922, hearst wants the nomination. smith says i won't run on the ticket if he's going to be on it. he said i'll be gore. he said i won't run on a ticket with hearst at all. smith was one of those guys that was just, well, he's honest. are he said i'm not going to change my mind left and right and be as despicable as hearst and deal in character assassination smith wins. and an ally, one of hearst's allies, he replaces him with
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jimmy walker and takes over the party. but smith gets the last laugh because in 1932 hearst uses his power to throw on the fifth ballot the nomination from the f. with d.l. -- f.d.r. smith battle. he takes his votes under california under mcadoo and give them to roosevelt, knocks smith out and he loses the anaheimation because of hearst's behind the scenes. >> well, there were three he was active in. 1920, 1924 and 1932. here say news reel about the elections. >> then the great political battle of 1924 where with alfred e. smith and john davis, he stood out as a leader. there never was a political convention to match the
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democratic national gathering of 1924 in new york for drama and color. mack doo dense al smith. day after day, terrific storms of passion shaking the delegates. the high note of all, franklin d. roosevelt's presentation of alfred e. smith with the deathless phrase, "the happy warrior." the democratic convention ab tendees from the lone star state and once more franklin roosevelt took the stage to praise as only he could do the man for whom he has always had such affection and respect, naming him again, his friend, al smith, the happy whoorks the governor of new york the al smith will always have his own place in the hearts of the american people, but events
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were moving fast. he wanted a good man to run for governor of new york. he persuaded franklin roosevelt to make the race. although smith lost by a narrow vote, roosevelt was elected to his first term as governor. already roosevelt was the leading favorite for the nomination. the leading opponent, none other than his old p friend al smith >> frank len d. roosevelt, having received more than 2/3 of allle delegates, i proclaim him the nominee of this convention for president of the united states. >> you have nominated me and i know it and i am here to thank you for the honor. i pledge myself to a new deal for the american people. >> and back live in the new
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york constituent assembly chamber. beverly gauge, how did we get from 1928 al smith calling -- f.d.r. calling al smith the happy warrior and nominating him to the 1932 election? >> well, they had been allies before, both coming up through the same new york democratic party. a couple of things happened between 1928 and 1932, some of think -- which are very personal and some of which are on a grand scale. the most important thing that happened is of course that we entered the depression so her better hoover begins in 1929 as president. he gets stock market crash that year and by 1932 you are really in the deepest, darkest moments of debtpression. so that is bad news. but for the democratic nominee for president that's actually really good news. so in 1932 al smith wants to be the candidate again.
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in fact he's put forth as a possibility. but there's a lot of controversy about whether or not this is going to be a good idea. there are a lot of people who do not want to introduce into what looks like it's going to be a smashing democratic year all of the issues that you had seen in 1928, issues about catholicism, about prejudice, about prohibition. all these sorts of things. now franklin roosevelt has a little bit to say about these things, but when he's a candidate in 1932 he's kind of being as even keel about all this as you possibly can be. so smith is gunning for this and there is a lot of pushback about that and it's not clear either that smith is a huge fan of roosevelt's. they've had a very, very cooperative relationship, but it's always been smith through the elder statesman with roosevelt the supportive, younger man. and it seems at this moment and
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we should acknowledge like a lot of people in the united states in 1932 he views franklin roosevelt kind of as a dill hetante -- dill hetante, someone who is not willing to come out and take hard stands on things, he's come from a life of leisure. here's smith who worked his way up. so you have this personal drama playing out at the same time you have the political drama playing out and you know who wins that in 1932, and it doesn't take very long for smith to begin to attack roosevelt personally as well as politically. i think it's easier to understand his personal animosity toward roosevelt as it begins to develop. i've always found it a little bit more puzzling to understand how by 1936 he's actually endorsing the republican presidential candidate and is em basing -- embracing a kind of politics he really hadn't embraced before. is it because hezz heart broken?
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because he doesn't like roosevelt? is it because he has actually changed his mind ease sees roosevelt enak the new deal? these are all sort of open questions about their relationship. >> now back to your calls on the contenders. sheridan, arkansas arkansas -- arkansas. yes, my grandfather al bert godwin was a county democrat chairman, a state senator and supporter of al smith. compare al smith's campaign for president and dewey's campaigns for president. >> well, let's ask the former new york constituent assembly historian if he could -- state assembly historian if he could do that in just a few minutes. >> oh, sure! dewey will be the subject of a future contenders i think in two weeks.
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>> there vl no comparison. with dewey the personalities couldn't be more different. they really couldn't be. first of all if smith is a democrat, dewey is a republican. smith is a progressive, pre-new deal campaigner. dewey takes over the reins in new york state after he heats the hand-picked successor of f.d.r. and al smith and he runs new york state during the new deal, and he is by all accounts somebody that implements his programs. so he's not a rock-ribbed republican in the sense of a conservative. kind of like a nelson rockefeller republican. dewey wanted to be president. think there were rumors he was going to run for president when he was still i think new york district attorney. he had it in the cards that he wanted to do this for a long time. smith's campaign in 1928 had always been troubled from the start.
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he did get the nomination and did his whirlwind campaign from july onwards. dewey had more of the modern campaign. in fact f.d.r. did this in 1932. he knew woe run early on and traveled the country getting his delegates in order. i think the biggest difference is that dewey was out there with this campaign and preparation a lot more tharn -- than al smith ever was. we have a question here in our audience. if you would, if you feel comfortable, tell us who you are and where you are from. >> thank you. amy standard from clifton park, new york the besides the zoo that al smith brought to the governor's mansion, what was his moat noteable achievement for new york and the country? >> i think if i wra -- were to rattle them off it would be kind of impressive but we don't have, like, three hours. probably smith's biggest
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achievements were to bring progressiveism into the modern age. smith was that pre-new deal type of person. smith had the modern labor code, he had parks and recreation, he had new york state vote on bonds, hundreds of millions of dollars in bonds to improve roads, brirgess railroad crossings, parks, hospitals, prisons. he was ahead of his time when it came to criminal jufments smith's whole movement of government was not to downsize government but to use government as a tool to provide people with services instead tv used to be more conservative where government was simply there. the federal government would deliver the mail. it had the military. in new york state it really wasn't that much different. it did certain functions, but it didn't go out there and regulate industry. didn't go out there and regular late utilities. it didn't provide parks and recreation. didn't have the interaction with people that really needed
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it. so i think smith's overall accomplishment in new york state was to launch us on a social welfare state in the best possive sense of the word the we're here in the beautiful old state capitol building. finished in 19 -- 1894. surrounded by state office buildings, many build -- built in the 1960's, 1970's, etc. would al smith -- what would he think about the growth of state government in new york? >> i think he would be ok with state government as it is. when smith was governor, it was 10, 10 about the 5 million people. he realized state government needed to be housed. he said you've got to get all these agencies not only coordinated but he used to joke that we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars every year rint -- renting little offices. can't we build state offices? can't we prellize the work
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force? smith really believed that using the government to organize the people and to deliver services, that's the proper role of government. he stood with that his whole life. he thought the new deal just went too far the >> beverly gauge? >> i just wanted to add i think on the national stage he plays a very different but equally important role in the sense that smith's candidacy in 1928 comes after a decade when we saturday of had already issues about immigration, will -- about race. immigration reform paused in the early 1920's, in part targeting people from places like italy, russia. people considered ethnically different. the other great social phenomenon of that decade was the rise of the ku klux klan. the klan in the 1920's say mass organization. it's not kind of the southern targeted klan we see in the
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1950's and 1960's. it's a mass organization with millions of members. it's stronghold is really in indiana, a lot of mid western state. a lot of urban is centers even in the east have large klans too which are targeting catholics and jews. these are the main issues driving the klan. and smith as a candidate, though he lowses, is a person who stands up on the national stage and says no to all of that. he says no, that's not what the united states is supposed to stand for. all those people you are talking about restricting, talking about pushing out, who you are describing as foreign, those are my people, we are all americans, and he stands for that very powerfully on the national stage, even though he's rejected as the president. >> in just a minute we're going to ask our guests what they think al smith's biggest failures were. but helen, in cape may, new jersey, you are on the contenders. >> i was so excited to hear that you are going have al smith on.
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my grandfather was part of the irish catholic republican bear machine. they did split ranks in 1920 and vote for al smith. my question is after the election al smith had really harsh words to say both about president roosevelt and the new deal and the democratic party doubt. think it's because he feared the democratic party was edging too close to socialism and away from true progressiveism? >> john? >> i think that his initial responses in 1928 were more of a emotional response, basically saying, and he admitted it, saying i'm done, i'm not going to run again. ironically he comes back in 1932 sand -- and says i changed my mind. but he wanted to set the record straight and say i think i could do a good job on this. his split with vooflt hard to
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explain. a lot of historians have really struggled with this. he alternately says it's gone too far but in certain things he says that's ok. he supports prep ear -- preparation for the war in the 1930's but then won't support roosevelt on the war. kind of hard to pin him down at the end except that he thinks the federal government is growing too big the he blames alphabet agencies or how the government as -- has gotten off track and he hides a little bit behind the states' rights issue. you can't through the constitution correct or are control people's vinl behavior and often he said it's a state's issue when it comes to the democratic party but he stretched it with the new deal saying states' rights when he realized a lot of these things were things he implemented in new york state as well.
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>> we've heard from the former new york state historian and from a history prmp at yale university about the f.d.r.-al smith relationship. alf landon he supported in 1936 and wendell wilkie in 1940 over f.d.r. in fact here is al smith on the radio talking about his support for wendell wilkie. >> i'd just like to make a little observation. lied ike -- i'd like to wonder what could be going through the mind of the 16 million men that are in the draft. i wonder if they're not saying to themselves, if this becomes serious, if it becomes necessary that we have to face an enemy, who, upon the record, would you sooner be behind? the third-time candidate or a wilkie?
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in my opinion the only hope for the people is the election of wendell wilkie, who believes -- [applause] -- who believes in the constitution of the united states and the principles upon which it was founded. when he has -- is chosen to guide this nation, then and then only will the stars and stripes again wave over the land of the free and the home of the brave. [applause] >> beverly gauge, what's your reaction to hearing that? >> well, it's really remarkable how quickly and how viciously al smith ends up going after the people who had once been his greatest supporters. i was trying to think if there has ever been another major party presidential candidate who in less than a decade after
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he had run on his party's platform is actually endorsing actively the candidate of the other party -- >> joe lieberman? >> i guess so. joe lieberman is sort of hard to read. was he ever really a democrat? i don't know. but, so going around and actually doing these endorsements in 1936 and 1940 and i think in this way that is incredibly outspoken and vicious, i mean he makes this speech in 1936 where he's accusing the new deal and f.d.r. themselves, as i mentioned earlier, of being communists, socialists. he picks up the most vitriolic new deal language. he calls riflet tyrant, says he's abusing the constitution and becomes one of the standard-bearers of the liberty league, basically a business funded -- really funded by the dupont peam -- family, a group
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founded in the 1930's to attempt to push back the new deal. it rg -- really say puzzling, puzzling moment. people who have tried to trace, well, he always had these platforms, he believed in state power, not federal power, or he had a more limited view of government, but i just don't think that those are answers. i think he went through something personally at that point and his circle in new york as he becomes head of the empire state building and begins to solidify these relationships with businessmen, that really becomes his world in the 1930's. and we're going to talk about that part of his life in just a minute. but we have another questioner in the new york state asemblilt >> good evening. i'm a prefer at schenectady community college and i teach administrative law. as my students are talking
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about government and how government is getting larger we discuss state agencies and we talk a lot about immigration reform tazz relates to department of homeland security. so as we're talking about al smith and his background, having come from new york city, south street seaport, being raised amongst a lot of ethnically diverse groups, i wonder what an immigration policy would look like for today for a governor al smith? what would he think in terms of, aun -- one, the ethnicities of those coming in are vastly different than what he grew up with and as -- also we're looking for policies in today's immigration platform that would deal with labor issues, you know, whether or not people that have been here illegally should have the trite work after having been in the country for a number of years. so i wonder where would al smith stand on that type of issue, immigration as it relates to labor and also racism as you talked about.
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you know, we don't really see much in terms of the ku klux klan any more but we so -- do see a lot of internal racism in agencies as it relates to racism the >> i think al smith would be very understanding of loose immigration, probably because of where he grew up. smith was exposed to all kinds of egs knickities, -- eth nickities -- ethnissities, all kinds of imgrand slam. ms. -- his mother was the drawer of -- daughter of imgrand slam. his father was a son of imgrand slam. he worked in an area with people from all over the world. he joked one time that even representatives from china town came up for one of the marriages of his daughter. so i would say he would be more
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understanding of open immigration or more widely construed immigration just because that's what he grew up with. >> beverly gauge, you want to add significant one thing i remember as a student was compare and contrast, immigration then and immigration now. >> right, i think that's really at the core of who al smith presented himself to be to the world. this question of immigration and labor was one of the hot issues, so immigration law when was being, immigration restriction which is passed in the 1920's, you had decades of debate about the relationship between wages and labor and imgretion and in fact during al smith's day immigration policy was actually under the department of labor. and so these things were really interestmately -- intimately tied then. when he ran in 1928 it was really in the wake of a wave of
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nativist sentiment. if he stood for anything it was a pushback against this reactive nativeism. now, if he had actually been elected president, woe have been able in his day to push back immigration restriction? it seems unlikely. this period in the 1920's is really very intense around imgrailingts it lasts for 40 years. during al smith's childhood there had been almost no restrictions on immigration. that wasn't reopened until the 1960's when as i -- you said you begin to get very different groups of immigrants coming in. >> about 25 minutes levert in our program on alsmippingt howie, you're on the air. >> yes, good evening i wanted to shed some light on prohibition and how president hardy did not force prohibition on states that did not do the job themselves. it was 1926, around may when al
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smith actually signed the repeal of the prohibition act. can you also shed had some light on kansas politics leading to the 1936 election where 58 smith blew the whistle on the new deal? >> i think prohibition is something heavily identified with al smith. he never favored prohibition. it was not an issue he championed. he didn't like how new york state ratified it anyway. they did it by simple resolution through the legislateure. he thought it should be a referendum. 29 -- i believe it was 1924 they had a referendum in new york state, what do you think about prohibition? should you change the percentage of alcohol? i think it was, they wanted beer and light wines to be allowed. it passed overwhelmingly but it didn't mean anything. smith himself was elected the president of the convention in
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new york state in 1933 to repeal the prohibition amendment officially in this chamber. the 150 delegates that gathered overwhelmingly voted, and they overwhelmingly voted for al smith to be president. so he got the last laugh on that. they brought out 88-year-old elihu root to come out and second the nomination and pat him on the back. but it shaped him in that it was almost ridiculous to say that you could use the constitution to control human behavior. it actually took a right away from people in the bill of rights giving rights to people. and he also thought it was hypothetical alt he used to say he saw more people who would come out there who said they were dries and more wets trying to repeal the prohibition so he
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thought it was ridiculous. >> and it was very intimately tied to all these questions about immigration and rural versus urban america. a lot of the imagery to promote prohibition was about the german saloon and immigrants running wild in the city. they took issue with that and with the kind of institutions mobilized to get prohibition passed. >> beverly gauge, was who -- prohibition a christian right issue in the 1920's kind of like abortion or gay marriage today? >> i think it's certainly a cultural issue that mobilized certain sections of the population, but i wouldn't necessarily call it a right wing issue in its day. it got a lot of its base of support from protestant groups, certainly from protestant
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fundamentalists during that day, this again being of the great issues of the 1920's, with the scopes trial and questions about fundamentalism really also at the forefront of american political debate but you also had a lot of progressive reformers, particularly women who had been sufficient rajettes, who had been progressive on any number of other issues who were also supporters of prohibition. partly the feminist issue, saving you from your drunken husband. it's a complicated issue and i think it doesn't line up very neat hi on this left-right spectrum. >> john ebers, in between his presidential runs, 192 and 29 -- 1930, what happens to al smith in 1930? >> al smith after he retires from the governorship here in new york actually as a little bit of a side note he believes and i lot of people attribute
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this to him that he's going to help f.d.r. out, f.d.r. is going to need help. he's going to draft the budget for him, to hold his hand. that turns out not to be the case. f.d.r. wants to stand son his own and doesn't want anything to do with smith the smith goes back to new york city and gets the job to run the empire state building. it's going to be built they were new york -- knocking down the waldorf astoria and were going to break ground for this right around the time the stock market crashes. but they continue through. the dupont family and all the moneyed interests that wanted this built, this huge building that goes up just as the depression happens, just as the rents are, everybody is leaving their leases and nobody wants to rent everything. it's dubbed the empty state building and smith who is making $50,000 a year as the president of the corporation -- >> a large amount? >> large amount but he's
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running like $1 million deficit as a year because nobody is renting the he goes to f.d.r. and says could you put some people in there? he goes hat in hand, by the way, could you put someone in the empoir state building? of course the commep changes and he does recover but at first it was a very hard job to -- difficult job to have, trying to rent space in new york city. >> one of his failures is really bad timing. he ends up as democratic candidate in 1928. if it had been 1932 he would have been a shoe-in. breaks ground on this building in 1929. he had a timing problem in the early 1930's. >> we had another question from the audience. hi. i'm a junior political science major at suny albany.
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i just have a question. when and -- andrew cuomo first came to office as governor he said he wanted to emulate some of the qualities of alfred smith. and earlier in the program we talked about how at one ponte the governor's office was a very weak political office. can you just, if anything, go over what he did to meak the office of governor stronger and what example did he leave behind for others to follow? >> thank you, sir. that is probably one of the lasting legacies of alfred e. smith, and when governor cuomo entered office he put smith's portrait behind the rostrum so that all the press conferences will see al smith and he replaced teddy roosevelt, who was there for the last three governors. governor cuomo also instituted a sage commission which would investigate government and try to make it more efficient,
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which is also like smith's reconstruction commission. the point that smith is probably being emulated most for efficiency in government. smith took 187 massive rolling bureaus, boards, commissions, departments, and rolled them into the 20 department of government and had the legislature pass the constitutional amendments, and then they were ratified by the people to make the governor a strong governor, and this is prior to f.d.r. reforming the executive office of the presidency in d.c. smith is wanted to make sure that if i appoint a commissioner i want him answerable to me. prior to smith's reforms, commissioners' terms overlapped much the health care commissioner had a six-year term. certainly commissioners could be appointed by the previous governor, like the insurance commissioner. so the governor cant remove him. certain departments likeing a
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and -- like ag and others were appointed. the point about smith is he right-sized it. he made it responsive to the executive, who in saturn responsive to the people. that's his most lasting legacy. and had a little bit of the template taken to d.c.. >> albany, new york. mark, we're here in your home town. what's your question on al smith? >> well, my question is this. by the way i do work for state government. i'm an internal audit director for a public authority and i teach a two-day class to state employees about the state budget process. one of the things i teach them and as a under it, -- understand it, al smith also reformed how budgeting is done in new york.
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prior to him, the budgeting wasn't done very well and the budget may have been put forth by the legislature and now we have a very strong executive bng put forth by the governor and that's another legacy that exists to this day for al smith. in my opinion that's one of his real strong contributions to the whole structure of government in upstate new york. wonder if you would comment on that. >> yeah, prior to smith, budgeting was done by the leethure -- legislature. they would get together you all the estimates of what it would take to run government. very inefficient. you had executive agencies reporting to 9 legislature to say this is what i need whereas they technically reported to the governor. smith used to joke about it and say when the initial been bill was presented it was then added to by the legislature so p so that the original budget bill
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could then be almost unroll -- recognizable. they would laden it down with pork. in one constitutional convention they claimed that a clerk passing the bill from one house to the next actually added his own item in there. smith said let the governor submit the budget to the legislature based on estimates from his own executive departments that the legislature can then act on. that made budgeting much more responsive to one virges the governor of new york and that's how it is today. >> beverly, we began this program with a little video from the al smith dinner. what is the al smith dinner and how did it come about? >> it's most famous as a place the presidential candidates show up every four years. they show up, democrats and republicans. it's really a memorial dinner for smith and at this -- i think it's smith -- thing that
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if anyone's heard al smith's name at this point in time that that's where you probably heard about al smith unless you hang around these hallowed halls. in general it's probably his most lasting public legacy, the name where his -- place where his name gets out it's held every year, not just every four years. it's a memorial dinner. it's a catholic charity dinner and a place where people get together and try to assess the legacy be al smith and presidential candidates always try to crack good jokes about each other. >> and they show up together most times. she -- they show up, both the democrat and republican nominees show up together. we want to show you some of the past al smith dinners. might i ask if monsignor clark might come up here because either the president of the united states or i am without a seat and i have no intension of standing. >> i must say traveled the
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banquet circuit for many years and never quite understood the logistics of dinners like this and how the absence of one individual could cause three of us to not have seats. >> mr. vice president, i'm vlad to see you here tonight. you said many, many times in this campaign that you want to give america back to the little guy. mr. vice president, i am that man. [laughter] >> as i looked out at all the white ties and tails this evening, i realized i haven't seen so many people so well dressed since i weant -- went to a come as you are party in kennebunkport. >> we just had really good news out of yugoslavia. especially pleased that mr. milosevic has stepped down. that's one less polysill back -- polysyllabic name for me to remember.
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you know what this world really needs? it really needs more world leaders named al smith. [laughter] >> it is an honor to share the dais with the descendants of the great at -- al smith. al, your great, great grand father was my favorite kind of gore. the kind who ran for president and lost. [laughter] >> about 15 minutes left will. glen in freeland, michigan, you are on the contenders. please go ahead. >> thank you very much. the question i have is with all the anti-roman catholic racism and his being the first major american presidential party
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candidate that was roman catholic and everything, how much international attention did this get? specifically, did the pope at the time ever weigh in or comment on any of the campaign he ran or anything like that? thank you very much. >> thank you, glen. beverly gauge, if you want to start? >> right, well, in terms of polls he didn't really have the -- you didn't really have the same kind of polling mechanisms you have today so these things air little bit harder to gauge in the 1920's. you know, which percentage cares about war and the elect orate. it's tough for historians, actually not knowing that much about the eelectric oray. on the international question it's really interesting because yes, there was a lot of attention paid to this and it came in the wake of two trails -- trials as well that really raised these questions about
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america's national character. the fitzpatrick was the scopes trial in 1925, and the second, the trial had happened earlier but the second was the execution of sacco and venzetti, two italian immigrants, italian an arcists, that happened in 1927. so these questions of what the united states' presentation to the world in terms of race, in terms of immigration policy, in terms of its attitudes towards radicalism and political tolerance, all these were really out there already by the time smith bim the candidate. so his candidacy then on the world stage becomes another moment to ask those questions and call the questions. >> well, after the election and he loses he does eventually go to europe at one time. he does meet the pope and he recounts on a few occasions that on many of his travels around italy they though the was the president because they
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knew he had run. he goes to the house of commons. he had a very good relationship with winston churchill. it certainly did catapult him to the world stage. so in that sense he was a famous also-ran around the world as well. >> catholic sism, 1928. 2008, serious woman contender, potential mormon inspect 2012. is it a fair comparison? >> i think it is a fair comparison in certain ways. in that sense al smith was absolutely, he was a trail blazer on this front and i think in many ways it's hard for people today to unts -- understand the depth of anti-catholicism in the united states at that moment. when al smith was on the campaign trail particularly in places like oklahoma, place eshad never been before and he didn't know much about, his train would pull into town and there would be crosses burning.
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he faced physical danger around these sorts of questions and he also faced all sorts of conspiracy theories about what his role was going to be, if he was going to be taking orders from the pope or were they building secret tunnels from the vatican. all these cuned of really intense conspiracy theories that are hard to remember although we've seen other conspiracy theories come up in recent years. but the intensity of the ante catholic sentiment -- anti- catholic sentiment he faced it hard to remember. >> heli, i'm kathy and i'm a junior american studies major at lauder dame college in seneca, new york 79 how has al smith's legacy been reflected in -- so nar i went to siena. so far so good. one of the things that's a
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great parallel between the two is working with a legislature that is seen as hostile, that is seen as the two-party, the partisanship. smith faced that every year that he was in office here in albany. he only had control of the senate for two years and that was by a single vote. the other eight years it was eight years of republican dominance here in this chamber -- chamber and in the other house he only had the one term. so i would think that the problem of dealing with the other party is something that smith had to battle with and undertake. that's something that the current president has a problem with as well. the other thing that he was -- has is it's remarkable the sense of humor. president obama has a very good sense of humor and handled press krses very with. al smith was the same way. he knew he could be funny on occasions but not all the time because then people wouldn't take you seriously so he could really play a very good
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statesman with a sense of humor, which is another good parallel. >> beverly? >> the only thing i might add is i'm not sure barack obama has quite learned how al smith learned how to make it all happen. not sure he's learned his lessons for dealing with a hostile legislature. >> next call from houston, texas. joe. good evening to you. please go ahead. >> oh, thanks for taking my call. my first question, i know smith lost new york in 1928 to hoover. how well did he do in the five boroughs? i also wanted to know, was anti-catholicism vote more prevalent in the southern states as compared to like the midwest, say kansas, nebraska, etc.? and i also wanted to know, he had a fallout with f.d.r., i was surprised to hear he endorsed wendell wilkie in
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1940, but i'd like to know how did he feel about social security? >> all right. thank you. >> he did well in new york. he always did well in new york city. he did extraordinarily well in his own district. but he just couldn't make it up over the whole state. the other question, what was the other? >> well, did he win new york city? do you know off hand if he won in 1928? >> oh, i don't recall. i don't think he did. >> not even new york city? >> new york city also had outer boroughs that had republican dominance, which is stilt case in staten island. but in pock -- but in pockets of queens as well. >> social security? >> the issue on social security is something that smith had tried to implement in new york state when it came to widows and orphans' pensions. he tried to experiment with health insurance for industrial workers and also tried to do all kinds of social security issues when it came to trying
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to support those that were downtrodden, make-work projects were something that he had experimented with and it might have been one of those programs he would have carried into the new deal had he won. >> i just wanted to address one other aspect that came up, which is about the south. one of the strange things that emerges, so wasn't a catholicism more powerfulful in the south than in the midwest? that's a hard question to answer. but we've been talking about democrats versus republicans here. one of the things that were very difficult for smith were the divisions in the national party. the whole south at this point is still a democratic south with smith as their national candidate, so you had real tensions within the democratic party between this kind of urban core smith was coming to represent and the more southern wing as well as other wings of the democratic party as well so those inter partying tensions were as important as these
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tensions between republicans and democrats. >> hoover, 444 electoral votes. al smith 7 -- 87. herbert hoover won 40 states. smith won eight. louisiana, alabama, mississippi, south carolina, massachusetts, and rode island. another -- riled -- rhode island. another question? ? if you were to grade him as governor, what letter would you assign? and as the first clock president candidate, deview religion as a factor there in >> i would give governor smith an a because he face aid tremendous hi uphill battle. new york was a pren -- republican state at the time and as i mentioned he had a very tough time dealing with
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the legislateure which was overwhelmingly republican. in 29 -- 1920 when they expelled the socialists i never understood why because they had 110 republicans out of 150 seats tanned didn't really matter when if came to the votes. but i would give smith an a. he created so many -- so many things, the budget, the short ballot, to stop voting for six or seven statewide offices and have some appointed. are and the port authority in new york and new jersey was one of his authorities, bi-state authority. he had a lot of interesting things. >> john evers? biggest failure of smith? >> some of it might be that he overthought things. i think from a political science point of view public authorities were something he wanted to deal with. he created those and now there's deebds -- deeshts over public authorities. and bonding.
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governor smith was a huge proponent of bonding. that has created a tendency -- tendency for dependence on bonding the >> i think al smith called certain questions and faced them down. his candidacy raised questions that had been percolating in various ways throughout the 1920's. these questions that we've been talking about, immigration, nativeism, all these sorts of issues and he really calls the question. he takes a very sort of powerful stand about who is going to be an american, who ought to be included as an american, and becomes a great symbol for that. i think within the democratic are party he's also a very powerful figure in sort of consolidating what we now talk about as the roosevelt coolts but it begins with al smith bringing this urban core into the party. >> beverly gage and john


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