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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  August 21, 2011 4:30pm-5:00pm EDT

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in the period after the civil war when franklin roosevelt was born, the united states became very much an economic superpower, competitive with the british. we didn't have the strategic power that the british empire did at that age, but we certainly had comparable economic power. um, and another point is that we often tend to forget that because the oyster bay roosevelt, that is to say the theodore roosevelt branch of the family was somewhat hostile to the hyde park/franklin roosevelt branch of the roosevelt family, we forget that, n., they -- i mean, alice longworth used to make fun of eleanor roosevelt and this, that and the other, but they were closer than we think. and, in fact, not only did franklin roosevelt marry theodore roosevelt's favorite niece, but he also regarded theodore roosevelt, as he said, as the greatest man he ever knew. and i think theodore roosevelt's
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influence on his distant cousin, franklin, was a reality in his life up until his death even though we tend to ignore it. remember, too, that theodore roosevelt became prominent at strategic moments in fdr's life. franklin roosevelt was a schoolboy when theodore roosevelt became mckinley's assistant secretary of the navy. he was at school when theodore roosevelt charged up san juan hill. he had just become, just entered his sophomore year at harvard when theodore roosevelt became president. so roosevelt's vision of an american sentry, of a globally-assertive united states was something that was bred into franklin roosevelt really in his youth. and i don't think ever left him. and all through his public career you hear kind of theodore
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rooseveltian rhetoric. i was just reading and listening the other day to his third inaugural speech where he talks about, um, in lincoln's day the great challenge facing the presidency was danger from within. now we are dealing with danger from without, namely fascist nazi germany and fascist italy. but ea also ends -- but he also ends about the mission of the united states is not only to be vigilant about this, but also to defend and promote democracy around the world. um, so it's a consistent theme in his, in his public life that is, um, i think, striking and
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striking to some degree because it's not, it's not really recognized as such. there's this, i think the historical consensus about fdr is still, as about any historical figure, it's still in flux. but that, um, he was fundamentally a domestic politician who dealt with the depression in the first two terms of his presidency and then as the war in europe came, he suddenly had to pay attention to world affairs and became what he did. and i think that's not quite true. i think roosevelt was thinking globally from the very beginning. um, certainly if you go back to his tenure as assistant secretary of the navy under woodrow wilson, um, he was a constant promoter of -- which is an interesting innocent incidens life because the president,
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wilson, was a kind of diffident person as far as foreign relations were concerned. he felt that the united states should refrain from interfering in foreign affairs. he department think that we thought that -- he didn't think that we thought that we should be very restrained in our use of american power. roosevelt -- wilson's secretary of state, william jennings bryan, was a pacifist who really was a pose today the exercise of american power, resigned because he thought the wilson administration was getting too belligerent by 1915. fdr's immediate boss was a will sewn yang and a disciple of bryan's who looked upon the uniform navy with kind of bemused suspicion. he was always reluctant to use the navy in any way. and, of course; this was all anathema to franklin roosevelt who spent his entire eight years as assistant secretary very, in
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that wonderful way of his, very charmingly but effectively undermining his boss on a day-to-day basis. the extent to which franklin roosevelt was insubordinate in the wilson navy department toward his boss, i mean, when daniels would leave town, franklin would have fun and do all sorts of things which daniels would have to undo when he returned. and yet the amazing thing is that daniels retained his affection for fdr. he loved franklin roosevelt. he actually survived franklin roosevelt. i think he, i think he thought of franklin roosevelt as his kind of like a naughty nephew that he indulged. but it's a kind of interesting thing. and, of course, in the 1920 roosevelt was the vice presidential nominee. on the democratic ticket, he was a strong supporter of wilson's, of course, by then wilson had
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become an internationalist as we now think of him, promoting democracy abroad, the 14-point program for the reinvention of europe as a kind of american-style democratic community. um, fdr was a strong supporter of that after the war, after, i mean, after the election which the democrats lost. america lapsed into a kind of isolationism, but franklin roosevelt was very active in the founding of the council on foreign relations in new york which was a gathering of kind of -- actually, it was a kind of republican organization. it was very much dominated by henry stimson and william howard taft and some of the other republican elder statesmen. probably would have had theodore roosevelt in it if he hadn't been president. but fdr was part of that. and i've always thought it was interesting, and, actually, there's some fdr -- fdr did some
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writing in the 1920s both for small newspapers and for magazines, and almost invariably -- not almost invariably, but frequently on foreign topics. and a strong proponent of america in the wilsonian sense as a beacon of democratic enlightenment. we have this power, we have this great example of our people and our system, and we should be promoting this to the extent that we can around the world, that we're challenged by alien ideologies in russia and in germany and italy and elsewhere and that america is a beacon of hope. there's an interesting incident in 1932 right after, um, the election. you may know the story. fdr is president -- of course, in those days there was a four or five-month gap between the
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election and inauguration which was in march, not january. and fdr famously paid a courtesy call on president hoover, and somewhat to his surprise and annoyance, hoover had with him another duchess county neighbor of fdr's, ogden mills, who was the secretary of the treasury in the hoover administration. and the reason hoover had mills there was that hoover had wanted some sort of bipartisan confidence-enhancing measures during this ambiguous transition period. and he wanted to get roosevelt onboard. of course, nowadays we would think of this as wonderful bipartisan cooperation, isn't it nice, republicans and democrats getting along and uniting for the good of the country. well, fdr was deeply annoyed by this. he didn't want to get anywhere near uniting with the hoover administration on anything, um, and declined to issue the statement that hoover wanted him
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to. nevertheless, the one person that roosevelt did meet with during the transition from the hoover administration was henry stimson who was hoover's secretary of state. who was another new yorker, henry stimson lived on the north shore of long island, but he, like fdr, came from an old new york family, so they probably had a lot of concentric circles in the roosevelt/stimson orbit. but roosevelt actually asked stimson who was secretary of state to come here to his house in hyde park where they had a long meeting, with they discussed -- where they discussed, of course, by that time the japanese were on the march in manchuria, and also there was a pending meeting on, um, the world economic conference in london which stimson would have, would have
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attended if hoover had been reelected. but roosevelt wanted his views on things. so the one aspect of bipartisanship and cooperation and all that during transition as we now call it that fdr welcomed was on, in foreign affakr&9ñ um, i make the point in my book that one of the most important points of the roosevelt presidency, um, came a few years later, um, when he, in 1937 when he gave is so-called quarantine speech in chicago which, i think, a very important event, i think, in the roosevelt presidency. but it's also a very important event in american history because it kind of lays the groundwork for american foreign policy really ever since. and it's interesting because by
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1937, of course, hitler had come to power five, six weeks before franklin roosevelt was inaugurated as president. mussolini had been in power in italy for a decade. the japanese, by then, the rather fascist japanese were on the march in asia. the world was getting dangerous. by 1937, of course, hitler had remilitarized the rhine land, mussolini had invaded ethiopia. it was clear that the fascist parties in europe were, were aggressive and ambitious and college rent. belligerent. but roosevelt, of course, was stymied by several factors, one of which being public opinion. um, most americans in 1937 felt that we had been sold a pig in a poke in world war i, that we had fought and hadn't really -- we'd lost 100-plus-thousand troops,
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but we hadn't really gained much of anything. europe had gone back to being its usual argue meantive stuff. here they were again, the germans and the french and the poles and the british all at each other's throats. who knows how it will turn out. you know, this is nothing to do with us and, you know, if we get involved, it will have the same unhappy end although x number of americans will die in the process. so isolationism was a widespread and bipartisan viewpoint. we often forget that some of roosevelt's most vigorous isolationist opponents in congress -- it wasn't all partisan. a lot of them were new dealç democrats. one of the most prominent isolationists were senator burton wheeler of montana who was otherwise one of fdr's closer supporters on -- and most southern democrats tended to be less interventionist and so on. so it wasn't, it was hardly a
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republican even though the republican party at that time was predominantly isolationist, it was a bipartisan sentiment and reflected in the neutrality acts which were a consequence of legislation in the mid 1930s that came out of, utterly, democratic-dominated senate which reflected that, that point of view, but also was once again reflected, i think, the predominant views of most americans on the subject, um, effectively tied fdr's hands from, in any sense, intervening and showing favortism in helping people that we liked in the hostile act against people of whom we disapproved. by 1937 i think franklin roosevelt was one of the few
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political leaders in the democratic world, small d democratic world, global democratic world who perceived the genuine threat that came from the fascists in europe. and in 1937 he went to chicago to the dedication of a bridge. and as with many presidential speeches, the occasion was neither here nor there, but the location, i think, was significant. chicago was, of course, chicago is more or less the capital of the midwestern united states. the midwest is the, at that time, was the citadel of isolationism in the united states, and chicago was the home of roosevelt's old classmate, colonel robert mccormack, who was the publisher of "the chicago tribune" and by far america's most prominent and vociferous isolationist. so he came to chicago, he came into the lion's den to say, in
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effect, that america, that to lay out what he felt -- and this was all done in kind of slightly ambiguous language, but clearly he's saying that we face a threat from the rising tide of authoritarianism in europe and that the united states, uniquely situated as we are, uniquely conceived as we have been as the great democratic republic, we must be the great arsenal of democracy. that's where that phrase, that term comes from. and that we of all nations must prepare ourselves for the coming challenge, um, and this will not only be a political challenge, but a literal military challenge that we must, we may, we may have to do this, we may have to do that, we may have to fight. so, um, i think that that is kind of -- that has kind of been, i mean, if you look at the
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incremental development of american foreign policy since, since the war -- the truman doctrine and so on -- that is kind of the overall design of american foreign policy. we don't, we don't want to, you know, we don't want new zealand as a colony or anything like that, but wherever democracy is under threat in our, in the world america stands there and says, not so fast. i mean, i think, certainly, president kennedy's inaugural speech in 1961 is very much an expression of the, of the rooseveltian quarantine speech thesis. so i, my, my mission in my little study was not, you know, in history we always are going over the same facts and interpreting them in light of either current wisdom of current
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thinking or how thinking evolves on things, but my, my intention was to try to look at franklin roosevelt in a slightly different way, as a global thinker and not just because global responsibility was thrust upon him as it was in world war ii, but because this was something he had devoted really much of his life to and thought through very profoundly and had very strong and deeply-committed feelings about. now, where does eisenhower come into this? since we're at the roosevelt library, i've -- i'll just mention parenthetically, i want today concentrate on fdr. and, in fact, my book is, to some degree, almost a little bit more about eisenhower because eisenhower, the historical consensus on eisenhower is, i think, in much more flux than as about fdr.
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you have to make the case a little bit more for eisenhower. but once again with eisenhower youok have someone who in the,n the what i call the journalistic memory is, was this general who was elected to two terms as president. then just as he was leaving the white house, he had this epiphany that, oh, my goodness, the military industrial complex is very dangerous, so i should mention that and warn before i ride off into the sunset. and i think that's a terrible simplification of eisenhower's thinking. um, not only because, um, it's misleading, but eisenhower, too, had, um, had spent his whole life pondering these questions as roosevelt did. but in the guise of an officer in the army. um, harry truman famously said ike's going to be miserable as president, he's used to being in the army where they, you know, do this, do that, and he expects
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everyone to jump. that was really not true. truman was one of the most -- eisenhower was one of the most politically experienced people to enter the presidency. he had, he had been, worked for the chief of staff in the 1920s, he'd been in paris in the 1920s working for general pershing at the battle monument's commission, he was the war office -- war department, rather, in the early 1930s. he spent the late 1930s as macarthur's deputy in the philippines, building up the philippine army as, prior to independence. general marshall brought him back prior to pearl harbor because he had recognized in eisenhower a gifted junior officer. he brought him into the war plans division. he actually tasked eisenhower who was barely at that point a brigadier general with the plans for the defense of the philippines. he did the same thing with, when it was decided after pearl harbor to, um, mount an invasion
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of north africa from the west. the british were pushing rommel from the east, and we were going to land in morocco, and marshall tasked eisenhower with the, with the design of those plans. so eisenhower came to the presidency not only a great diplomat-general, but someone with, who knew a lot about the way washington worked and who'd been dealing with global issues for a dozen years by then. he not only was the great diplomat-general of world war ii, he had held together the grand coalition of the second world war, the allied coalition. after the war he was the army chief of staff, he presided over the desegregation of the army that professor moy talked about a few minute ago. he, and he took leave of absence as president of columbia university to be the first military commander of nato in
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paris because at the time it was recognized if there was one american we can send to europe who personifies the american commitment to nato, to the freedom of western europe, to america's continued responsibility in the world, it would be dwight d. eisenhower. and last but not least, eisenhower was over in, um -- the story of eisenhower's nomination is often forgotten. in 1948, for example, james roosevelt, franklin's son, had been one of many prominent democrats who tried to get general eisenhower to run for the presidency as a democrat. and eisenhower declined largely on the basis that he didn't think, he was a professional soldier, and he didn't think that it was appropriate for him to be involve inside politics. but by 1952 things had changed, and his great fear at that time
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was that the republican party, the likely nominee, was senator taft of ohio who was the most prominent isolationist in, in the republican party and, really, this country. and eisenhower felt that the only way that this republican party could be saved from isolationism and that the post-war consensus that had grown between the two parties about america's role in the world would be, frankly, for him to run for president partly to, to prevent taft from being the nominee and probably becoming president. so that was really eisenhower's instinct. i won't bore you with details of the eisenhower presidency, but what intrigues me about roosevelt and eisenhower, too, is that you have these two vivid figures in american history who are utterly dissimilar personally. if you have the, if you have the
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pleasure of visiting the eisenhower library in homestead and abilene, kansas, and compare it to the roosevelt homestead here in hyde park, you'll see the social difference between the two. they're two exceedingly dissimilar places, not to mention western kansas being very different from the hudson valley. but nonetheless, you have these two very dissimilar individuals who, nevertheless, thought alike on what, in my view, the most critical challenges facing the country at the most critical time in our modern history which was at the end of world war ii when europe was prostrate and exhausted, and the united states with its vast economic and by then military power found itself presented with the responsibility of superpowerdom. not something that the united states particularly wanted. i don't think americans are an
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imperial-minded people. but nevertheless, that what fdr talked about in the quarantine speech, that defense of democracy that to be the great arsenal, the both political and military arsenal of democracy was, came to the united states at that time. and you had these two, probably the two most famous americans of the time, dissimilar as they were -- one republican, one democrat, one a kansas farm boy, one a new york aristocrat -- nevertheless, thought exactly the same on that critical issue. and their, their mutual interests coincided. fdr, after all, did deliberately choose eisenhower. he had wanted, initially, general marshall to be the supreme commander of the allied invasion of france but chose eisenhower knowing, i think, to some degree this was going to make eisenhower, if he succeeded, a historic figure and, perhaps, a political figure.
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but i think it's a kind of a nice story about america that these two very different people, um, did have, did have common views on a critical issue and that we were fortunate as a country to have the service of the two of them simultaneously. and that the world that they inherited and dealt with is the world that we know today. so -- [applause] >> [inaudible] if you have a question, please, come up to the microphone. >> thank you, mr. terzian, for that wonderful lecture. um, i'm a huge fan of "the weekly standard" and have been for many year. one of the things i most appreciate about it is that the articles there frequently portray franklin d. roosevelt in an appreciative and admiring
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light. it's one of the few conservative periodicals that does this. i recently defended finishing dr to a -- fdr to a professor, and my question to you is if by some miracle roosevelt had lived to finish his fourth term, what do you think his take on stalin would have been? what would their relationship have been like? >> well, let me just make a comment on your earlier. the weekly standard likes fdr. and we like the sort of roosevelt/truman/kennedy approach to foreign policy in the democratic party. when i took my present job, um, i was putting my various things
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in my office. and one of them, they have a few over here in the library, i have a clock which has -- it's franklin roosevelt, it's this little statue of fdr, and he's standing sort of holding the clock as if it's a, um, a ship's wheel. and it says at the wheel of the new deal. and i put it on this table behind my desk, and i remember our editor, bill kristol, come anything and looking at that and saying it's truly a neoconservative office. we have a shrine to fdr here. [laughter] i think, you know, who knows? i mean, it's always difficult to tell what historic figures would think about anything after their death. i mean, democrats are always lecturing republicans confidently about what lincoln would think about things, you know, he'd be horrified by the republican party today. um, some -- [laughter] somebody asked, somebody asked
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me the other day on a panel what would, what would people like franklin roosevelt think of annie wiener. [laughter] -- anthony weiner. and i said, first of all, the first 20 minutes of my answer would be explaining to him about computers and the internet and twitter which many people alive today don't fully comprehend. so, i mean, it's an unanswerable question. however, to answer your question i think roosevelt gets an unfair rap about that. i think that, i mean, 25 words or less, i think at yalta he was, he and churchill were presented with a fait accompli. i mean, the red army was in west, was in germany and poland and czechoslovakia. it was not their fault. it was hitler's fault that they were there. i don't think, you know, the soviet union at that time was our ally. i don't think there was any -- i think they did what they could,
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but thanks to the germans the russians were where they were. and i think short of suddenly making war on our ally who had just defeated the germans, it makes no sense to me. and certainly, i mean, roosevelt famously thought that his charm could, perhaps, manipulate stalin to some degree. i think he underestimated the degree to which stalin was psychopathic about things and impervious to the sort of charm that roosevelt could exert. um, but there's a lot of evidence if you look at roosevelt's correspondence, certainly, toward the end of the war that he was under no illusions about either stalin or soviet intentionings at the end of the war -- intentions at the end of the war. now, where that would have led, i mean, i tend to think the truman administration was the roosevelt administration as it would have proceeded. it certainly was many of the same people. um, so to answer your question,


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