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tv   Book Discussion  CSPAN  November 8, 2014 4:00pm-4:45pm EST

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that suggests that was nothing but victories in his life. in newhave two terms york state. he did become secretary of the navy in world war i. he was then chosen to be the vice president of candidate or the democratic ticket in 1920, when the democratic -- when the democrats were sure to lose, and they lost. he lost with them. he had national visibility. he was sure to go on with other things. that was 1920. in 1921, he suffered an attack of polio, lost the use of his legs. he was paralyzed from that time on. now, we are 23 years into that on hisof immobility
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part. i do not think the public realized how paralyzed he was. physically,ility although he had a good deal of agility verbally. he was a brilliant speaker. he was a brilliant combiner of words. and most of the public never was, to use the word then in use, crippled. pictures were not taken of him in a wheelchair. actors were not taken of him using braces or crutches. if they were, the press was very discreet. they did not do such things back then. today, the press would be a lot less discreet. but we are not dealing with a roosevelt that people thought they knew, but really did not know very well. radio.s speeches on there was no television yet. radio that were
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called fireside chats. he had no fireside as he spoke, and the people he spoke to radios thatkelite were not near any fireside either. this was just a make-believe that was done in the media at the time. he gave a tremendous number of press conferences during his presidency, nearly a thousand press conferences. he did so by sitting behind his desk. people did not realize that he sat behind his desk because he could not stand up. they just accepted it for what it was. he was very astute in what he said. he was warmhearted and humorous. and during world war ii, when there were problems about the prices and the shortages and so on, he knew exactly what to say and when to say it. point, hee, at one
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tried to stress that the prices of things are not really very high. it is just that you should not buy them at the wrong times. he said, someone visited me who was a foreman in one of the substantial trades. an you imagine a foreman in factory coming to visit the president at the white house? he said, he came to me last january and said to me, my old lady is going to hit me over the head with a dishpan. i said, what is the trouble? the cost of living. i said, what for instance? last night, i went home and the old lady said, what is this -- what is this? i went out to buy some asparagus and i got five sticks, and it cost me a dollar and a quarter. it is an outrage. why have you been buying asparagus in january, fresh asparagus?
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he said, i never thought of that. i said, tell that to the old lady with my compliments. someone at the press conference said, was that the same guy who complained about the price of strawberries? oh no, that was someone else. of course, they were all make-believe, but a lot of communication to the public was make-believe. the real communication dealt with more significant matters. , we went through the worst depression in our history, the worst war in our history, and he was the president during both of those, and we did very well to get out of them as we did. in 1944, he said, we are long past the new deal, dealing with the social safety net. we have to deal with how to win the war. this is from a press conference.
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except there was still a part of the safety net that had not been established, the g.i. bill. the g.i. bill was fought over in congress in 1944, before the election, and many conservatives in congress complained that the g.i. bill would stifle the urge of returning veterans to go to work. we didn't need it. it was socialism. well, the g.i. bill, turns out, was actually drafted, written, by a former chairman of the republican national committee for roosevelt. and it had a hard time getting through congress. roosevelt finally had to appeal to a congressman from georgia who was absent to come and bose -- and vote. and the g.i. bill passed by one vote. it is possibly the most significant legislation about social mobility in the history of this country.
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it passed by one vote, and it was written by a republican. this socialist legislation. and we have the equivalent, as in the introduction as you heard, it said we have an equivalent now. we have what is called obamacare. obamacare was drafted and written by republicans for mitt romney. governor romney's romneycare is obamacare with very few words changed, but here we are again with another parallel with 1944, and the last year, the last full year of world war ii. world war ii in 1944 was not yet a very settled thing. we had been invading islands in the central pacific that the japanese had taken over earlier in the war. we had not yet landed in europe. d-day would not be until june 6,
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1944. which i remember because my wedding anniversary is the tenth anniversary of d-day. don't know what that says about our marriage but in any case i won't forget the anniversary because it was the date of d day. but the result of this unsettled thatt this point was roosevelt felt that he had to continue on. won, and theto be one peace effort had to be won. was there someone to take his place? he was not well. he knew he was not well. he didn't know how sick he was but he knew he was not well. the cover of my book shows roosevelt quite gaunt the way he , actually looked in 1944. behind me is a flattering picture of roosevelt supposedly
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done early in 1945 at yalta, but it is flattering and looks like a campaign poster. it was not the roosevelt of reality at that point. roosevelt's collars were too big. his shirts hung on him. he had lost 19 pounds in the previous year. his wife and his daughter said you really need to get a check up. he said, i get a check-up every day. my doctor, the surgeon general of the navy, ross mcintyre, comes in every day and checks me out. he did. he came in every day. he was an ent physician. what is that? here, nose, and throat. he sprayed his throat. that was what he did. didn't check his blood pressure. he didn't check his temperature. he didn't check anything else. he sprayed his throat and left.
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but he was a vice admiral in the navy and the surgeon general of the navy so he was a big man who -- a big man, and who was going to counter what he had to say. nevertheless because of the bat -- the badgering of anna roosevelt and eleanor roosevelt, franklin was taken to bethesda naval hospital. it was almost new in that time, a newly opened facility. he was taken there in a limousine with his wheelchair, his wheelchair was an old kitchen chair with wheels attached. he didn't want to be seen in a conventional wheelchair, hospital type wheelchair, because he didn't want to be thought of as a cripple. so he sat in a wheelchair and was pushed along in the kitchen chair. you can see that kitchen chair at the roosevelt memorial here in washington. because one of the statues shows him sitting in it, and you see
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the wheels on the kitchen chair below. a very honest portrait in that way. at bethesda naval hospital they were appalled at his condition. the young doctor from columbia presbyterian in new york who was then a lieutenant commander in the navy was called in as a heart surgeon to look him over , and he said, roosevelt is in very bad shape indeed. he may not live out the year unless something is done. the first thing we have to do is the only thing we can do for high blood pressure, and that is to prescribe digitalis. there was nothing else at the time. things have changed a great deal since 1944. he was put on digitalis. and then howard berman said, he has to be cut down to one cocktail a day. he loved his martinis. which he would have at what he called children's hour which was
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, 5:00. children's hour, because traditionally many adults within -- would send the children out when they had their 5:00 drinks. roosevelt bargained up to a cocktail and a half each day. he was told he had to give up smoking. you see the iconic cigarette holder in his hand in the portrait behind me. he bargained to five cigarettes a day from two packs. so instead of two packs. five cigarettes a day. he told harry hopkins, his chief assistant, i am in down to five cigarettes a day and just as horrible as ever. but he could not give them up. it was an addiction and he continued that way. somehow he survived this additional restriction on him and he was able to continue on. he would have liked to have had somebody take his place as
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candidate for president, and there weren't very many people who were eager to do the job. he was so powerful a figure in government he overshadowed everybody else in politics, that very few people aspired to that job. jim farley, one time chairman of the democratic party and postmaster general, wanted the job, but roosevelt didn't feel he was up to the job. another person who wanted the job was henry wallace, who was vice president. but he wasn't going to be given the task of remaining on as vice presidential candidate. he was considered too flaky, and that is still another story. a conservative in the south who wanted the job was harry bird of virginia. the elder harry byrd. there were two in the senate. and in the democratic national
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convention in mid july 1944, harry byrd carried three 7 states in the but when roosevelt carried all the other states the chairman of the convention, samuel jackson, the senator from indiana, said, i would like to declare this unanimous. so of course of all the others changed their votes and he was voted unanimously as presidential candidate for a fourth term. he had wanted -- he couldn't get anybody interested but he wanted henry kaiser to be a candidate possibly to succeed him. henry kaiser had no political ambitions. no one knew whether he was a democrat or a republican. who was henry kaiser? you may remember him, if you are old enough, as the industrialist and shipbuilder who built the victory ships and the liberty ships. when i sailed to korea during
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the korean war, which was a few years after world war ii, it was on a victory ship with seven bunks high. you didn't want to be on that bottom bunk because of the rocky ocean. you know what would happen to you there. in any case those ships continued for many years to be used after the war. kaiser was a brilliant man and a brilliant industrialists that no -- industrialist, but no politician. there was no room petition. theevelt had to be politician. his opponent was governor dewey of new york. he had only been governor of new york for two years at this point. he had been the attorney general in new york. he had no military experience. i do not think he had ever even been a boy scout.
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he was not really prepared to be a wartime president. but he was the most popular candidate. some other people wanted the job. the very conservative governor of ohio wanted the job, and they gave him the consolation prize of being the vice presidential candidate. , the senator from ohio, wanted the job, but nobody wanted him. he did not get it. 1940.ted it in he wanted it again in 1948 and 1952. in 1952 he came reasonably close, but dwight eisenhower was the presidential candidate for the republicans then. so roosevelt had a young man, 20 years younger than he was, who looked energetic, to run against him. he had to find a way to look energetic too.
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his pictures would not make him look very good. he was at camp pendleton, california, southern california, at the time of the democratic convention in chicago. he did not want to be in chicago at the time. in the railway car that he used in traveling across the country, microphones had been set up so that he could give a speech accepting the nomination. and he did. several reporters and cameramen were allowed in to listen to the speech live, and to take his portrait. him madere taken of him look so haggard that it nearly lost the election for him. but he was lucky he was alive at that point, because that morning, the morning that he gave his acceptance speech a called toer on, he
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his son jimmy, who was a marine major then it can't pendleton. camp pendleton. jimmy, come help me. i have terrible pains. i opened the book with that episode of flashback. he had had what apparently was a seizure, but nobody knew. his doctor was in another part of the train. he never told him. he said, jimmy, lay me down on the floor. he laid him down on the floor. he said after a while, i am beginning to feel better. help me up. he was helped up and he was assisted to the packard convertible that had been in the car, in one of the railway cars, to travel to the camp pendleton area, where the maneuvers were going to take place for marines to practice the invasion of japan. and he was at those maneuvers. he looked okay then.
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exceptse, nobody saw him for his assistancts. but his speech was rather ragged in accepting the nomination. it did not look good. he needed to show some effort of physical strength. he traveled to hawaii. on the cruiser baltimore, from california. he visited pearl harbor. he visited other places in in all of this in an open convertible. he met general macarthur. they discussed the future of the war. he deliberately traveled to a conventional wheelchair, so he could see the troops and he could see -- and they could see him. he wanted the troops who were disabled to see that he was a guy who had overcome such disability. it was a rare occasion that people saw him like that. i don't think any pictures were
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allowed. that wasn't -- no pictures taken. he went from hawaii to alaska. he visited the aleutian islands, the two aleutian islands captured by the japanese. they had been evacuated by the japanese at that time. but when they were occupied by american troops they found two dogs had been left behind with the japanese. those two dogs became a very strange element of the campaign after that. word got around, when roosevelt returned to the seattle area from alaska, traveling about 14,000 miles. this is a very sick man traveling 14,000 miles going out in small boats and fishing in and so on. pictures taken showing him doing this. the problem became that he not
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only made another speech, this one from the naval base that sounded bad. he was exhausted from the strict -- from this trip to the aleutian's. there was a report, probably based on those japanese left behinde had his own dog on one of the aleutian islands millions of , and it had cost millions of dollars to go off and rescue fala. this was used by republican congressman to raise hell for having abused the defense forces budget to look for his scottie dog. that was untrue. but it gave him a terrific campaign issue. the result was that the first major speech he gave when he returned from his long trip was to a dinner group in washington d.c. i believe it was the teamsters
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union annual convention. he talked to them, and he said, toward the end of the speech -- his speechwriters, by the way, told him, don't put this in. it is not a good idea. he said, well i will ad lib. it. and he did. ber/as a very good ad lib. or he said i don't resent attacks , and my family doesn't resent the attacks. scotty, aseing a soon as he learned that the republican in congress had concocted a story that i left him behind and sent a destroyer back to find him -- it cost the or $20ers $8 million
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million -- he has not been the same dog since. well, this as far as the reporters and other listeners were concerned, roosevelt is back. this was the old roosevelt. he determined not to repeat the fala speech, he did not repeat that. everybody knew about that. he determined to take his campaign vigorously to some of the big cities. he went to new york, first of all. he went again in his train. they green packard convertible was with him. they took the packard out of the frame. he was lifted into it, of course, unseen by the public. and he traveled for 51 miles. all the boroughs of new island, inatoen pouring rain and bitter cold waving his soggy fedora to the , thousands -- millions, literally, of viewers. people were just amazed at his remarkable stamina to deal to do this. of course, that remarkable stamina was an adrenaline rush, but he did.
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he then went on to philadelphia and did the same thing. and again in pouring rain, crossing the river over to camden and also campaigning there. then, the boss of chicago, the democratic boss, mayor kelly, said you have got to come to chicago. you have got to show the midwest that you are vigorous and able to be president for another four years. and so he got on a train again and went to chicago. chicago, the weather was even worse. this was now toward the end of october. he went to soldier field which not yet -- which was not yet the home of the chicago bears, as it is now. but it was an open stadium that sat -- it seated over 100,000 people. there were at least 100,000 more outside.
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a cold wind blew in from lake michigan. the temperature was nearly zero. he drove in to soldier field up on a platform. that is, the car went up on a platform where there were microphones. and he spoke from his car to the crowd outside. they were amazed at his vigor. and he went on to point out that what was very important to keep this safety net, the social net open and available for the returned veterans, that it was very important to have the amenities they needed, not just the four freedoms he had enunciated earlier, but economic freedoms, and the public was, again, amazed at his vigor, his vitality. that still wasn't enough. because there were rumors spread
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by the other side. outs always spread rumors about ins. that he was a dying man. of course they could not prove it. but he then went to boston. and at fenway park, the home of the boston red sox, he spoke again outdoors. one of the people who introduced him was orson welles, who was then a major star. frank sinatra sang "america the beautiful." frank sinatra, by that time, was not only a bobby socks hero, but he had a son whom he named franklin roosevelt sinatra. one does not realize that because later on sinatra, as she became wealthier, also changed his party designation. as a result, frank sinatra jr. came along.
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that is, the son changed his name and became frank sinatra jr. so we forget that earlier history. but roosevelt returned to hyde park just before the election feeling that he had done very well. and he did. partly he was helped by the soldier vote. i have a whole chapter in the book on the soldier vote. how did they vote? were there restricted in any way from voting? we have problems now in the current election season of attempts made to restrict the vote because you want to , restrict the vote of people who are likely not to vote your way. and in this case soldiers might have voted for the commander in chief. and so they were being restricted in congress and all kinds of ways about absentee ballots. nevertheless, absentee ballots
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were fought through and four and a half million soldiers and sailors and marines voted. it was a tremendous number. they were able to vote all kinds of means for communicating with them and getting the absentee ballots back. later on i became the elections officer, the voting officer for my outfit during the korean war. i found out what was done for absentee ballots. ahead to countersign the back of the envelope after they seal the with my name and rank and serial number so that they were considered legitimate. soldiers did much the same thing in europe and in the pacific in world war ii. i wanted to put in something about the soldier vote. there is a whole chapter on it. and number of people helped me interview veterans about how they voted. many veterans, especially
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sailors, said, i voted for roosevelt because he was a navy man, and that puzzled me at first because, a navy man? yes, he was assistant secretary of the navy during world war i. he was a navy man. he wanted very much to join the marines and go over and fight, but woodrow wilson would not let him. he said, we need you here. we need to get home as assistant secretary. so he went over toward the end of the war to inspect the troops and see what he called. but he never was in a fighting situation. he was a navy man. and the sailors voted for him. a lot of troops voted the other way. they voted the other way. they said that is the way my , family voted. they really did not know much about either candidate. and roosevelt was the overwhelming favorite because they knew who he was. so one chapter deals with the soldier vote.
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another chapter, i have to check my time. i think we are okay. another chapter deals with an event in the election season that is reminiscent of other seasons, other election seasons, perhaps. was the party that was in unpatriotic? was it unpatriotic and in what way was it unpatriotic? roosevelt or his government at least had imprisoned the secretary of the communist party in 1940 fourr, passport violations. he had used a fake passport. browder he pardoned because it was a gesture toward russia, toward stalin who was then our ally. we might not have wanted him as an ally, but we needed him and he was there. and this was a gesture to stalin. the result was the republicans attacked roosevelt and said that
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the person who is going to sit at roosevelt's side if he is reelected is oral browder -- earl browder. this was, of course, nonsensical. nevertheless, it was declared and the people accepted this. the other problem was that roosevelt was unpatriotic because he had failed us at pearl harbor. he knew what had gone on and let pearl harbor happen. conspiracy theories are very common. we love conspiracies. we read about them all the time in newspapers and listen and watch about them on tv. the idea was that the president and his advisers knew that the japanese military code had been broken before pearl harbor and we did nothing about it. that was not true. we had broken the diplomatic
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code before pearl harbor, and we knew a week or ten days before pearl harbor that the japanese were going to break diplomatic relations with us. and that very likely meant conflict. general marshall and admiral king -- i'm sorry, admiral leahy -- sent out messages to all of the major posts in the pacific. from the canal zone to manila. saying, this is a war warning. it looks like the japanese may attack. 24/7.the alert this was sent on november 27. pearl harbor was december 7th. nobody was on the alert, despite these cables. no one was on the alert. in fact, admiral kimmel and
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general short, who were in charge of pearl harbor, were planning to play golf on saturday -- on sunday morning at 8:00. 5 minutes before 8:00, the japanese attacked. they did not play golf. they also were not on the alert. general macarthur in manila was asleep in his bed. he did not believe it when he was told about the attack. pearl harbor, the could not have done it. it could not have gone that far. of course within hours manila was attacked. the beginnings of the invasion had occurred. that was the diplomatic code that was broken. we did not break the military code until after pearl harbor, but it did result in our victory at midway because we did know japanese movements at midway by that time. nevertheless, tom dewey wanted to attack roosevelt for having known about the military events. and what was the president going to do? he felt helpless. he wasn't going to do a thing
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but let it happen. but general macarthur -- i'm sorry, general marshall roosevelt'sithout knowing, and got a message to envoy,hrough an physically sending somebody to him saying that, you are all wrong. if you break the news that we have now broken the military code this will be a great advantage to the germans and the japanese because the ambassador of japan in berlin is sending messages constantly to tokyo about what he is learning from hitler about movements of the germans. and he is sending it in the codes we have woken, but they do not know we have broken them. was nonplussed by this. he said, i really don't believe you, but i have no evidence otherwise.
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he spoke with his advisers, and they said it is too dangerous. you better stop it. and so there was never any effort to attack roosevelt for having caused pearl harbor, or having known the codes that were the result of pearl harbor attack. so there are a lot of things in here that we learn, perhaps, for not the first time, but we learn in the context of the election. there is one thing, though, that i find quite fascinating. and almost unbelievable. in the dewey campaign scrapbooks which are at the university of rochester library. they kept all letters to the editor, clippings of all sorts, cartoons, everything that was very valuable to me to have those in their scrapbooks. and those curious predictions about the election came in a letter to the editor from a
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newspaper in syracuse. bertrand was the name of the signer. he wrote that his friend john dalrymple predicted that the president would be reelected by the smallest plurality given him in his four campaigns. that is, the smallest popular vote a relative to the other side. it was still a big vote. dalrymple also claimed that a new as yet unforeseen circumstance will cause both japan and germany to come to their knees literally within six months. it was not six months, but it was not much beyond that. rider -- thee, the writer provided, was in a position to know. he had died at 26 in 1910. dalrymple shade had predicted
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this in a sense. -- in a seance. now, is that a contribution to history? nevertheless, it is so curious that i thought i had to put it in. and so john dalrymple, who died in 1910, predicted the electoral vote very closely. roosevelt did win. he received 432 electoral votes to dewey's 99. that is a big difference. it does not reflect the electoral vote, which is a lot closer than that. nevertheless to roosevelt won. dewey took a long time until he conceded the election. roosevelt finally heard from him in the early hours of the morning, not that he conceded, to roosevelt, but that he conceded he had not won on radio. he was told that by one of his secretaries. roosevelt said, i still think he is a son of a bitch.
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that was probably his last statement about tom dewey. he was inaugurated again on january 20th. is small inauguration ceremony. he was not in good shape. and 83 -- i'm sorry, 83 days later he died, april 12, 1945. harry truman became president. let me stop there. if you have questions, i will be glad to answer them. i've taken a lot of your time. thank you for being here. [applause] >> questions? yes. it is hard to see you over the bright lights. can you come closer? >> the whole concept about the public not knowing about
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roosevelt. for example, in soldier field, if you could drive the packard up on a platform and just to the speech from your car, but you also mentioned the dinner with the teamsters in town. how is that in a small group? in a small room? did people realize what the disability was? how was that done? >> there was of bank of microphones set up that he can speak from the seat in the convertible. but on other occasions he stood up to speak. and by sleight of hand they have learned how to do this. by sleight of hand his assistante got him up and standing on his braces and back down again that way. people did not realize that he was standing on heavy braces. but by the time of yalta, which was the conference in january-february 1945, he could
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braces anymore. too heavy and too uncomfortable. when he came back and reported to congress, he apologized to the congressman and said, you must excuse me for sitting down because the weight of the braces is too much for me know. -- now./ that was the first time he had never confessed that in public. people must have known at that point that he would not make a four-year term in his fourth term. any other? >> how much does the book of truman? selection >> i'm sorry? how much -- >> how much does the book go into the decision to select truman? was that something that fdr himself was involved in? >> the question of how truman became nominated. he turned out to be a great plus on the campaign trail because he was very feisty and did not need to have prepared remarks. he was good at speaking off the cuff.
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but truman was a compromise candidate. there was a compromise because none of the conservative south, which was then democratic, and it's the same conservative south but they have changed party designations, none of them have -- would have accepted wallace. on the other hand, james burns, who was another person that roosevelt thought of as a vice president, would not have been accepted by the north. the liberal north did not want burns. he was a south carolinian, racist, bigoted, and he had also changed his religion. he had been a catholic. -- his religion -- he had been a catholic -- to marry. the urban catholics would not have accepted him. so burns was out. who was there left? it turned out that they wanted somebody who would fall between
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the cracks as they put it, somebody who was the middle of road, who did not have a lot of enemies. that turned out to be harry truman. truman did not want the job. he felt that he was going to go into something over his head. and besides, his wife didn't want the job taken away from her that she was holding as the secretary in truman's office. she would lose her job. she had to lose her job anyway. and truman did not meet roosevelt often during the campaign. a couple of times. that was about it. they did not discuss the future. they did not discuss truman costs becoming president. truman told one of his friends as they left the white house on one occasion, i had an nightmare that the president had died and i had become president. it was a nightmare. it was nothing he felt was in his ambition. but he succeeded, i think, brilliantly as an accidental president.
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>> i want to thank everyone for coming. -- coming to the national portrait gallery at the smithsonian. i encourage you all to stay if you have additional questions. if you would like to take a look at the book we have copies over here. mr. weintraub will be signing. please stick around and join one more time in thinking stanley weintraub for being here tonight. [applause] >> the best-known history books. to watch these at any time, visit our website, you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend, on c-span 3. >> the student cam video competition is underway, to create a 5-7 minute document tree on the theme "the three
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branches and you. show how it has affected you or your community. prizes, 200 cash totaling $100,000. for a list of rules and how to get started, go to student americaweek, reel brings you archival film to take you on a journey through the 20th century. produced by frank capra, "the negro soldier" is a documentary intended to encourage african-americans to enlist in the u.s. army during world war ii. the history of african american to society during war and peace, beginning with the revolutionary war, then showing their work as teachers, judges, scientists, artists, physicians, athletes, and soldiers. film wasthis 40 minute chosen to be preserved in the national film registry of the
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library of congress, and was recently restored by the national archives. >> a paratrooper in the nazi army, men turned into machines, challenging the world. joe louis, training for the fight of his life. this time, it's a fight not between man and man, but between nation and nation. it's a fight for the real championship of the world, to determine which way of life shall survive -- their way or our way. this time, we must see to it that there is no return engagement, or the stakes this time are the greatest men have ever thought for. and what are the stakes? the american states. the german states. nazis, thef the gospel according to hitler. i'm not going to read all


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