tv Call-in with Doris Kearns Goodwin Leadership in Turbulent Times CSPAN September 9, 2018 2:35am-3:01am EDT
from his pain medicine. it was like an irish wake. all of our friends came in day after day. he would talk to them and say something to them. he had this light in his eyes. the last thing he said to me is, you are a wonder. something i will never forget. [laughter] >> thank you for that wonderful story. [applause] [cheering and applause] kerns . her most recent book, "leadership in turbulent times." doris, you've been very gracious to our audience this year. you've been gracious to take calls. right away this is your chance to talk to pulitzer
prize-winning, author, doris kerns goodwin. 202-748-8201 for those in the mountain and pacific time zones. you read her work, you know what you want to ask here is your chance. miss goodwin, your most recent book focuses on president lincoln, teddy roosevelt, fdr, and lyndon johnson. why did you pick those four? >> those were four i felt closest too. i spent the most time studying and interestingly each one of those four lived in a very turbulent time, in a time of crisis, which often makes leadership more necessary, more possible. when i chose the title, leadership in turbulent times, i didn't expect it to be as it was today. in a certain sense i hope it can give us reassurance. times we think we're living in
the worst of times. yet if you look back at what faced lincoln when he first came into office. a civil war with 600,000 people who were going to die just on the horizon, if he had ever known out difficult it would be to get through those first months, he would thought he could not have lived through it. theodore roosevelt comes in the industrial revolution, there was fear of revolution, between labor and management would break out. fdr at the height of the depression. lbj with the assassination of jfk. they were fitted for their times. especially lbj for civil rights, if not for the war in vietnam. i wanted people to remember that, so they could feel we've done this before. we can do it again. >> host: they both suffered personal around political defeats prior to their coming of age. >> guest: literature argues that -- is one. most important qualities of a leader. each one of my guys, i do call
them my guys sometimes. i know that may sound disrespectful. i'm so familiar with them, having lived with them so long. they each suffered bad reversals grown through them. lincoln had near suicidal depression, when he felt his he had not kept his word and broken his enmainment to mary. theodore roosevelt, lost his wife and mother the same day, retreated to the badlands. that may him grow being out in the country. fdr had years of polio, took years of him driving for to be able to walk or in his wheelchair. lbj in different way suffered a senate loss should not compared to the terrible reversals, like a repudiation of himself. he finally got back to having a later heart attack. that brought him back to the person he had been before. he had looked for wealth and power. >> host: that was in 1955 he had his heart attack? >> guest: correct. he lost the first race in '41.
trying to win the second race he became more conservative, eschewed wealth and power. when he had the heart attack in' 55. what is power for, what will i be remembered for? it repurposed his life why he got into government in the first place. that led to the great achievements in civil rights. >> host: doris kearns goodwin, would you consider all four presidents to be political animals? >> guest: without question. politics became every fiber of their being. being out of politics would be heart for any one of them. there comes a time in everyone's life when you find that voice within that says this is the real me. they all found out when they were on the campaign trail for the first time. they knew. this is what i want to do. . .
>> guest: be able to look at them in a new way. >> host: living today, how would you compare today to some of the times that we've experienced in the past? >> guest: well, i do think in that they were harder times for the majority of the people in terms of their everyday life. when you think of soldiers in the civil war or people in the depressioning not knowing how they were going to eat or sleep. but i think we feel a sort of lack of moorings right now because we don't feel that sense of the citizens and the leaders working together to solve our broken political system which has been broken for a while. so it increases that sense of sang psity we feel -- anxiety we feel x. that's what's so interesting about these times. not every leader is fitted for the moment, but each one of these was fitted for that moment. >> host: you knew lbj personally. what was your connection? >> guest: i was chosen as the
white house fellow when i was 24 years old. we had a big dance the night i was selected. he did dance with me, he said he wanted me to work for him directly in the white house, but i had written an article against him because i was in the anti-war movement, and it came out in the new republic with the title how to remove lyndon johnson for power. so i thought he would kick me off the program. surprisingly, he said, oh, if i can't win her over, no one can. so i ended up working for him in the white house and accompanying him to help him on his memoirs the last years of his life. it's why i became a presidential historian. he's the most interesting, complicated character i ever met. >> host: what did he think of your harvard pedigree? >> guest: well, in some sense he respected it, in another sense it was the last thing he wanted. because he felt -- his father once told him if you brush up against the grindstone of life, you'll have more polish than anyone who goes to harvard and yale. and he said i wanted to believe
him, but i never did. he was as smart as anybody you could possibly know, but he was restless in college, restless in high school, so he didn't read the same way that maybe lincoln did or theodore roosevelt did. and he always felt those people with academic pedigrees looked down upon him. i remember when he left the white house and he wanted me to move to the ranch full time, but i wanted to go back to harvard and start teaching, and he said that he would come and work with me, i'd come on vacations and in the summers, but he said don't let those harvard people change your feeling about me. i know how they feel about me. they were the kennedy people that he never felt he quite lived up to, although in domestic politics he did more than any of them to get the country moving in the rights direction. >> host: doris kerns goodwin is our guest. stephen is in decatur, illinois, you're on the air. >> caller: oh, good day to you, and thank you for taking my call.
i recall i think it was madison said that, you know, we will have, we have good people, we will have at times in our republic good people, and we won't always have good people. and i think that comes back to the structure of the government, the checks and balances. and really the people and how we come together. we have a system where we're not being brought together by our politics, we're being separated even more. and i hope that mr. madison and mr. jefferson and all the people who constructed our government, that their imperfect invention will somehow kick in, and the people will realize that my worse enemy isn't my neighbor, isn't the lefties or the righty, it's the people that want to destroy our republic and our
union. so -- >> guest: i think you're really, i understand what you're saying. no, i think you're right, steve the. i mean, one of the things that teddy roosevelt said was the way democracy would founder would be if people in different sections and different parts of the country and different classes couldn't understand the other people's point of view. and that's what you need leadership and people to do, to go across party lines, to bring us together, to unify us. and we've had so many divisions in these last years. i mean, in congress it's not just the republicans and democrats, it's tribalism as if the other side has nothing that you want to listen to. and the citizens have a responsibility right now. i mean, when you think of the big changes that have taken place in our country, they're always from the bottom-up. the anti-slavery movement, the progressive movement, the civil rights movement, the women's movement, the gay rights movement. now is the time when we have to band together and figure out who do we want as our leaders, how are we going to fix our broken political system, what are we going to do about congressional
districts lines, about campaign financing. as fdr said, any problem that was created by man can be solved by man. we can do this, we just have to have the confidence to believe we can. i'm glad you brought it up. >> host: identity politics and tribalism, have we ever had a period where we're not in identity politics and tribalism? >> guest: well, i think we have when we've come together for crises -- >> host: world war ii. >> guest: or even you could say teddy roosevelt was able to bring the country, the west and the east together because he had rational reform under the square deal for the capitalists and the wage worker, the poor and the rich. obviously, by the second inaugural of abraham lincoln, the whole theme of that was that the sin of slavery was shared by both sides. both sides prayed to the same bible, neither's prayers were fully answered, but now with malice toward none and charity for all, let us bind up the nation's wounds. we've had divisions always in the country, but we seem to have
brought them together. the civil rights struggle, the desegregated south, we get voting rights, we get fair housing, we do come together. we will again, we just have to fix it somehow. >> host: why do you think that the lbj civil rights leadership perhaps didn't carry over to other areas? >> guest: in his administration? well, it certainly carried over to the great society. it certainly carried over to domestic politics. but foreign policy was foreign to him. i know that's the a crazy thing to the say. he thought if he could get ohio chi min in the room, he thought he would be able to persuade him it was better to have dams and public works projects in vietnam than a war. and somehow because he didn't really want the war in the beginning, he kept putting off decisions, and then he would make the decisions without fully telling the public what he was doing. and when you lose trust of the public by not telling them the truth about what's going on, then your presidency is over. and that was when the
credibility gap started. whereas on domestic affairs he told everybody everything, he loved it. i think that's the difference, he had joy in it. the other thing was a duty, and that makes a difference. >> host: do you see some similarities between lyndon johnson and president trump in personal style? >> guest: well, i think they're both larger than life characters, you know? they both, their emotions are very close to the surface. but i think with lbj when he came into office, even the night that jfk divided, he already knew the purpose to which he wanted his presidency to be devoted. he said that night i want to get voting rights, i want to get medicare, i want to get aid to education, i want to get truman's health care through and the civil rights through. all five things he gets new in 18 months. he just rolled that congress. it's not president trump's fault, but the congress and the presidency have nowhere near the relationship that they had in lbj's time. he had every congressman over to the white house in the first six months in groups of 30. he would call them at 7 in the
morning 10 in the morning, even 2 in the morning. he once called a senator and said i hope i didn't wake you up. [laughter] >> host: you refer in a sense back to your book "team of more libel." you said one of the signs of lincoln's leadership was his temper. >> guest: without question. he didn't have experience, so the very night he won the presidency, he made the decision that i'm going to put each of my chief rivals into the top position in my cabinet. so his secretary of state had been his main rival. he thought he should have been president. the governor of ohio thought he should have been president. bates from missouri thought he should have been president. they all thought they were better than lincoln, better educated, more celebrated and within months they understood that lincoln was the greatest leader of them all. having those factions there meant that he could govern the country, because if he could
convince them of what needed to be done, he could convince the country. >> host: brian's calling in from stanford, connecticut. you're on with historian doris kerns goodwin. go ahead. >> caller: yeah, thank you for taking my question. it's pretty simple. how important is creativity to the leaders you studied and their success? and specifically, do you have any techniques or tricks they used to generate innovative ideas? thank you. >> guest: very interesting question. i would say that creativity is essential. it's not something you can detect easily, but i think the most important thing they were able to do is to get out of washington and find time to think. i'll give you an example of that. when fdr was in washington in 1940 and there was no way we could give aid to england because we had these neutrality acts, and he knew that he had to do something to help churchill who was being bombed by germany and about ready to be invaded perhaps by germany, he took a
10-day fishing trip to get away from the bureaucratic struggles in washington. on that trip he creatively himself came up with the whole lend-lease idea, that we would lend our weapons to britain, and they'd give them back at the end of the war. which made no sense, of course, but it worked . your neighbor's house is on fire, you'll lend them your hose and get it back when the fire is over. he said later he couldn't have thought of that the if he hadn't been away from washington. similarly, abraham lincoln went to the soldiers' home 3 miles away from the white house during the summer, and it was there that he thought through the process of why he could use military necessity to issue the emancipation proclamation. i think in our 24/7 world that's the problem for all of us, not having time to think. creativity often depends upon that solitude and that ability, i think, to come up with different problem-solving solutions for the problems you face. >> host: 202 is the area code,
748-8200 if you live in the east and central time zones. 202-748-8201 for those of you in the mountain and pacific time zones. historian doris kerns goodwin is our guest. that caller mentioned creativity. what about intuition? >> guest: oh, intuition is huge. i mean, i think, or you know, one of the things that all of these people had was when they were talking with somebody, they could feel something about what that other person was feeling, what would move them, what would change them. and, you know, and intuition in a certain sense means an interpersonal sense of what a group of people are feeling. and i think the more people they listened to, the more experiences they had. i mean, teddy roosevelt once said he started off this politics not really thinking he was going to change and make people's lives better, but once he started as a politician going into tenement houses, going into police commissioner works, he could feel what other people were feeling and developed an intuition about what might help
those people. so i think the more people you listen to, the more you get out of washington, but sometimes it's an internal quality that i think people with just intuit what another person is feeling. johnson could walk into a room with a senator, and he would know exactly what that senator wanted. not just something tangible, but maybe he would know i have an intuition they're going to want to trade stuff to get the civil rights bill. he wants to be remembered over time just like i do. he said to him, dirksen, you come to me on this civil rights act, you bring some republicans to break the filibuster, 200 years from now school children will know only two names, abraham lincoln and everett dirksen. how could he resist? >> host: no ordinary time: franklin and eleanor roosevelt, was a pulitzer prize winner in 1995. team of rivals, 2005, won the lincoln prize. several other books in between all of these. you kind of disappear when you're writing a book, don't you? >> guest: it takes me so long. i mean, it took me longer to
write the "no ordinary time" about world world war ii than ik the war to be fight. it took me ten years to write lyndon, seven years to write teddy and taft. but i love it. it's not like i'm just writing every day. i'm reading, i'm researching, i'm going to places where i'm reading their letters and diaries. i love the process. >> host: do you like the book tour? it's been a rough year for you. >> guest: it has been a rough year. my husband died a few months ago, and if he still were alive, i probably wouldn't be able to go on this tour. but in a certain sense now, it gives me something to do, something to think about, and i do love meeting with people. i even like doing the talks and doing the television. and once you've written these things, and in a certain sense never have i believed history's more important than now. i really do feel that unless we can imagine another political system than the one we have right now, unless we can imagine the relationships between our citizens differently, history allows us to know we've had
these different times before. we've gotten through it again. once you imagine something, you can make it happen. i remember when fdr said at the beginning of world war ii that we were going to build 50,000 fighter planes a year, we were building 4,000 at that time, and somebody said, why are you doing that? we'll never be able to do the it. he said people have to imagine a target. and that's what i'm hoping this book could do. i really care about it emotionally, because if it can help us, history, to know we've been through these ups and downs before, america's not as fragile as we think it is. that's what my husband was saying. he was working on a book before he die about his love affair with america and all the speeches and the letters and his experiences with jfk and lbj and bobby kennedy. but he was watching what was happening right now, and he really believed that he had seen these ups and downs. and as he said, the end of america has loomed many times before. it's not as fragile as we think, and i agree with him. >> host: you said he was working on that. is it finished?
or are you going to finish it? >> guest: the best man at our wedding and i are going to finish it. that's our next project to work on. >> host: stephen's in forest hill, new york. >> caller: hi. i have a question. i would like to ask her about the impeachment of andrew johnson. i was a history major in college, but i didn't read much about his impeachment. i was just curious if she could enlighten me regarding that situation. >> guest: well, i think what the context for the impeachment was is that there was a big split in the cabinet and the country between the radicals and the more conservatives into how to handle the south. lincoln had hoped before he died that there'd be a sort of gentleness toward the south, that we should allow people to come in and come back into the union so long as the rights of the freed blacks were respected. and his war secretary, edwin
stanton, was on radical side. he loved lincoln, but he was probably willing to push the south more to give more possibilities to the blacks and make sure that the southerners didn't override them. so he was actually fired from the cabinet. and there was a tenure of office act that supposedly didn't allow you to do that. it was a big fight between congress and the presidency over the firing of this guy. but much more importantly, it really had to do with different ways of handling reconstruction. if only lincoln could have lived, he said that reconstruction would have been the most difficult task a president had ever faced, but he had won the war, he had the patience, he had the humility, he had the persistence, and i believe he could have handled it better and maybe we'd be better off now than we were. andrew johnson just wasn't wered for that. but he probably did not deserve the impeachment. and in the end, it did not stand up in the senate.
so he did win that part of the battle by a very small margin, by one vote, i believe. >> host: april 1865, lincoln is killed. assassinated. when does andrew johnson get impeached? when does he start to get his feet wet as president? >> guest: you know, the problem began really right away. on the day of lincoln's inauguration, which was march 4 of 1865, andrew johnson was making a speech inside before lincoln was going to give the famous second inaugural. and the speech was really a terrible speech. i mean, he started in saying how he came from the people, and he looked out and thought i'll win against them. he seemed like he had too much to drink, and it turned out he had some illness, and there was some medicine. but i remember hearing that lincoln had just worried from that moment on. and the trouble sort of began pretty soon that it was clear that even though he'd been the governor of tennessee and had been a unionist, that he wasn't
up to the job. >> host: well, that's lincoln's second inaugural, but in leadership and turbulent times, doris kerns goodwin talks about the four months between lincoln's first election and his first inaugural in march and what happened in the country. so that's all in "leadership in turbulent times." joe in idaho, we have 30 seconds left. >> caller: i just was calling to see if mrs. goodwin would be interested in george washington because of the great leadership he showed in founding this country through the war of independence and the period before the constitutional convention and during the constitutional convention. i think that would be one of the best examples of leadership. >> guest: i couldn't agree with you more. as i say, i wish i knew more about george washington. you know, the most important thing is not only how he led us
during the revolution, became the first president setting precedents all along the way, but this amazing letter that he writes when he's on his way to his inauguration. he worries about whether or not he has the strength to take our country through this, but he said i have integrity and firmness, and i have character, and that's what i can depend upon. and we were very, very lucky to have him as our first president. so he's a guy i'd love to know more abouti have more time. if i can live for a long period of time, i will study george. >> host: he might be -- i was going to ask you, who's the next president you really want to take on, it's george washington? >> guest: oh, i don't know -- >> host: is there anybody else out there? >> guest: it's going to the take me a long time the. i'm going to work on movies for a little while because i've got a possible movie going on. a great journalist who was with finish. [inaudible] and i got involved with the lincoln movie. i loved working with steven the spielberg, and i was a consultant about lbj. so a friend of mine that's worked with me for the last 18