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tv   The Contenders  CSPAN  August 9, 2016 11:36am-1:41pm EDT

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eisenhower? that says that either eisenhower wants to try to keep peace in the valley with mccarthy, and he sees mccarthy as being too big to take on on the national stage right here, or he needs to win wisconsin. i mean, wisconsin's a lot of electoral votes now. you don't throw those away. >> must have take and page out of fdr's book then. >> that's an interesting point. that's a good point. i know you. >> so, dr. greene, bob, thank you very much for another excellent program. [ applause ] if the library can find a way to get you back for a fifth program in five years, i'll certainly be here. >> thank you, henry. thank you all very, very much. [ applause ] while congress is on break we're showing you american history tv normally seen weekends on
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c-span3. d coming up the adlai stephenson. a discussion of the impact on the 1952 campaign. tonight american history tv in prime time focuses on the presidential campaign of adlai stevenson. the c-span radio app makes it easy to follow the 2016 election wherever you are. it's free to download from the apple app store or google play.
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get audio coverage and up to the minute information for c-span radio and television plus pod cast times for public affair af. c-span's radio app means you have c-span on the go. now the contenders. her series on key political figures who ran for president and lost but never the less changed political history. our to can kus -- focus is adla stevenson. it was filmed in libertiville, illinois. it's american history tv only on c-span3. >> ladies and gentlemen of the convention, my fellow citizens, i accept your nomination and
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your program. [ cheering and applause ] >> now, my friends, that you have made your decision, i will fight to win that office with all my heart and my soul. [ applause ] >> and with your help i have no doubt that we will win. >> help me to do the job in this autumn in the campaign. help me to do the job in darkness and of crisis which is beyond the horizon of tonight's happy vision and we will justify our glorious path and the loyalty of silent minions who look to us for compassion, for understanding and for honest purpose. thus, we will serve our great tradition greatly.
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i ask of you all you have. i will give you all i have -- >> and that was our contender this week. adlai stephenson accepting in 1952. we are joined by richard norton smith here in adlai stevenson. who was this one-term governor of illinois? >> to millions of americans that's all he was, a one-term governor of illinois. they knew nothing more about him. they'd never heard a voice like his. they did not know that in some ways a political revolution was being touched off that night and that for the next decade adlai stevenson would be the voice of the democratic party, someone who would transform american politics even though he was never successful in his quest
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for the white house. >> how did he get the nomination in 1952 and in 1956? >> he's arguably the last candidate to be drafted and he's the last candidate to require more than one ballot at a convention. he didn't want the nomination, is the short answer especially if the republicans nominated as they did, dwight eisenhower who everyone thought was unbeatable and who stevenson thought was a bad president. harry truman was retiring and there was no obvious successor and stevenson gave a remarkable welcoming address at the chicago convention that had the effect almost of william jennings bryant's cross of gold. it touched off this draft and a couple of days later he was delivering the speech that you just heard. >> and welcome to libertyville, illinois, and "the contenders," this is the ninth in the 14-week series, looking at the men who ran for president and changed american politics. tonight our focus is adlai ewing stevenson 1900-1965 were his
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years of living. we are joined by well-known author and historian william smith. we are 40 miles outside of chicago at the stevenson family farm. we are in adlai stevenson's old study right now in the house and in just a minute we are going to be joined by newton minow who worked and knew adlai stevenson for years and we are also pleased to tell you that we will be joined by senator adlai stevenson iii, the son of adlai stevenson and ten-year senator from the state of illinois. richard smith, before we leave the office here there are some things sitting around that we want to hopefully get to learn a little bit more about governor stevenson. first of all, what is this hand? >> stevenson talked about himself that he suffered from a bad case of hereditary politics. there are multiple generations
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that are part of this story. his great-grandfather was a man named jesse feld who helped persuade abraham lincoln to run for president in 1860. the lincoln connection was a very powerful one for stevenson and this, in fact, is a cast of lincoln's hand and part of the white mast that was created in 1860. >> now also on the desk here on adlai stevenson's desk is an address book. some of the names in this address book include eleanor roosevelt, walter and gene cur, jackie kennedy, john steinbeck, archibald mcleash. it hints at the catholicity of stevenson's appeal. he was an unusual and non-politician in many ways who was lionized by intellectuals and academics and by men and women of letters and eventually by millions of americans who
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proudly declared themselves stevensonians. >> and standing between us is this old office chair. >> yea. very historic piece. this, in fact, is governor stevenson's cabinet chair. during the kennedy administration, no doubt we'll talk about this later on, he had a historic stint as american ambassador to the united nations and as such he was made a member of the cabinet. this is the chair that commemorates that somewhat difficult relationship that he had with the kennedy administration. >> now, richard norton smith, you referred to the dynasty, the stevenson political dynasty a little earlier. here on the wall are some artifacts, very quickly. >> governor stevenson's wife ellen said the stevensons suffered from ancestor worship. they had pretty impressive ancestors. >> under grover cleveland. >> and he ran under william jennings bryant, unsuccessfully. this is grandfather stevenson's
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hat and you can see the campaign items from the grover cleveland campaign, as well. >> again, welcome to you. thanks for joining us tonight for "the contenders" live from libertiville, illinois, richard norton smith and i will work our way over to the barn, the stephenson barn here on the family farm. we are currently in the house, in the study and next to it is a barn. this was a semi-working farm with animal, sheep and horses, et cetera and we will work our way over there where there is a new display about adlai stevenson, so you'll issue able to see that as well, but first, we want to show you campaign commercials so you can see some of the video of adlai stevenson. these campaign commercials are from 1956 and 1952 and one of them we will show you was filmed right here in this study. >> it's wonderful how sitting right here in my own library thanks to television i can talk
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to millions of people that i couldn't reach any other way, but i'm not going to let this spoil me. i'm not going to stop traveling in this campaign. i can talk to you, yes, but i can't listen to you. i can't hear about your problems, about your hopes and your affairs. to do that i've got to go out and see you in person and that's what i've been doing. for the past several years i've traveled all over this country and hundreds of thousands of miles and i've been in every state, many of them more than once and i've met thousands of you and millions of you have seen me. ♪ ♪ >> it's adlai to you, adlai to me. i don't care how you quote it. adlai, adlai, don't pronounce it, just go out and vote it. ♪ ♪ stevenson! ♪ i'd rather have a man with a
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hole in his shoe than a hole in everything he says ♪ ♪ i'd rather have a man who knows what to do when he gets to be the prez ♪ ♪ i love the gov, the governor of illinois ♪ ♪ i know the gov will bring the dove of peace and joy ♪ ♪ when illinois the gop double crossed ♪ ♪ he was the boy who told all of the crooks, get lost ♪ ♪ adlai, love you madly ♪ and what you did for your own great state ♪ ♪ you're going to do for the rest of the 48 ♪ ♪ we're going to choose the gov that we love ♪ ♪ he is the guy nobody can shove ♪ ♪ we have the gov, the president of the you, me and the usa ♪ ♪ ♪ old mcdonald had a farm back in '31 ♪
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♪ conditions filled him with alarm back in '31 ♪ ♪ not a chick, chick here, not a moo, cow there, just broken down farmland everywhere ♪ ♪ he doesn't want to go back to the days when there wasn't a moo or quack, when the day was done ♪ ♪ farmer mac knows what to do, election day of '52 ♪ ♪ going to go out with everyone in the usa ♪ ♪ to vote for adlai stevenson to keep his farm that way ♪ ♪ with a vote, vote here, and a vote, vote there, and a vote for stevenson everywhere, for if it's good, for mack, you see, it's good for you and good for me ♪ ♪ all america loves that farm, vote stevenson today ♪ >> and if you elect me your president next november, i shall
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be the better for having done it, i'm sure, because i know that the strength and the wisdom that i need must be drawn, from you, the people. so finally, i hope that the next time we meet it will be person-to-person and face-to-face. >> i'm adlai stevenson. you and i have been hearing from our republican friends the things that are so good they couldn't be better. better for whom, i wonder? do you think things can't be better for the small businessman like this one? small business profits are down 52%. that they can't be better for our farmers like these? farm income is down 25%. are your schools good enough for the richest nation in history? your schools like this one need a third of a million more classrooms and what about you? are you now out of debt? do you have a comfortable backlog in the bank?
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are you paying less for the things that you buy or more? do you really think things can't be better? of course, they can. working together we can and will >> vote democratic. >> rising cost of farming, lower farm income, caught in a squeeze. then vote democratic. the party for you, not just the few. vote for adlai stevenson for president and estes kefauver for vice president. >> we're back live at stevenson farm in libertyville, illinois. richard norton smith and i are now joined by newton minow. you may know him as the former chairman of the federal communications commission, if you've ever heard the phrase tv is a vast wasteland, that was newton minow's phrase. but for our purposes tonight, he
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worked with and was an associate of adlai stevenson for many years. newton minow, if you could start by telling us, when did you first meet governor stevenson? >> i was a law clerk at the united states supreme court for chief justice vinson. and one of our law professors carl mcgowan came to visit one day. he later offered my co-clerk a job as his assistant in springfield as assistant counsel to the governor. turned out that howard wasn't interested, but i was. and i ended up being interviewed by governor stevenson at 7:00 a.m. for a breakfast in the spring of 1952. and he said to me, if i hire you, young man, is there any reason why you wouldn't take the job? and i said, if my current boss
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chief justice vinson runs for president, and was rumored in the press that he would be a candidate for president, and if he asked me to stay with him, i would like to do that. and governor stevenson looked at me and said, i don't think that's very likely. i then drove him to his next appointment. i went to work at the supreme court. i picked up the new york times, and it said truman offers stevenson the presidential nomination, semicolon, vinson out. this was the morning after president truman had asked aldai to run. well, i was hired. i reported for work and he was then nominated for president. >> what was he known for as governor? >> even as a student, i have worked in his campaign for governor in -- as a college student in 1948. he was known as being, first of all, totally honest, which was
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not necessarily a prerequisite for election in illinois. but he was a different kind of candidate. he was honest. he was an intellectual. he was -- he cared deeply about good government. and he brought a whole different culture and tone to the office of governor. >> richard norton smith, the u.s. in 1952, set the stage for us. >> politically there is no doubt i think one of the reasons and you would know much, much better than i -- that entered into his hesitation at least about seeking the presidency was the sense that the democrats have been in power for 20 years. and even the most partisan democrat who thought they had been 20 glorious years, nevertheless thought that perhaps the party, as well as the country, wouldi inbe well
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served by a change. but the great issue was which republican party would replace harry truman, if harry truman were to leave. would it be the isolationist, conservative midwestern party above taft or would it be the internationalist, if you will, modern republicanism of dwight eisenhower. and stevenson had to among other things weigh and calculate the chances of which party he might be running against. he was very reluctant to run, wasn't he? >> he did not want to run. who could have beat dwight eisenhower? it was like running against jesus christ. it was an impossible thing to win. and as richard said, he's got it exactly right. if it had been robert taft as the opponent, i think adlai would have relished running because there would have been a clear difference in philosophy about america's place in the
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world. but you got to remember the democrats tried to draft general eisenhower. the democrats tried to get eisenhower to run as a democrat. eisenhower was a candidate of both parties. >> well, newton minow, when adlai stevenson gave the welcoming address at the democratic national convention in chicago, in 1952, was he a nationally known figure at the time? was he considered a candidate? >> he was not that well known. i remember the first time he appeared on national television was that spring. he was on "meet the press", the first time he was ever on national television. and adlai was never any good on television. >> why? >> if you're with him, he was a lot of fun, he had a great personality, and you always went away feeling better about yourself. but when you watched him on television, he was either nervous, but he was never
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himself. but the country didn't know him. >> he gives the welcoming address and gets drafted, wins on the second or third ballot, is that correct? >> that's right. and it was really unfortunate for him because the timing was wrong. if he had run for president, against a dwight eisenhower, he probably could have won. >> and, remember, just how different the democratic party was in 1952. who does he pick for a running mate? john sparkman, senator from alabama. it is still the solid south. and in fact he has to worry about keeping the solid south solid. >> exactly. taught me a lesson also about how we picked vice presidents. john sparkman was picked at the last minute. >> did he have a relationship with john sparkman? >> no, not really. and the way we do things in this country, it is amazing we have
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staged this so successfully for a couple of hundred years. >> did kefauver want to be on the '52 ticket? >> of tennessee. >> truman today is regarded as a dear, great president, someone that we all woke up to for his decisiveness, for
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all woke up to for his decisiveness, for his ability to make big decisions. and to commit the united states and the cold war. the fact is at the time he is a very unpopular president. the korean war was an unpopular war. he had fired douglas macarthur, which, today, there is a consensus he did the right thing for the right reason but at great political cost. harry truman had been in power for seven years. and he decided seven years was enough. he had the power to prevent from kauveror from becoming the nominee. he probably had the power to make adlai stevenson the nominee, but with that power went in some ways the dead weight of the truman administration. and i think -- my sense is that truman and stevenson's
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relationship never quite recovered from that fact. >> i think it was worse than that. the -- there was another factor. there have been a lot of corruption in the democratic party. there have been a scandal with one of president truman's assistants and there have been -- it was not a happy thing to become the democratic candidate for president in 1952. >> especially if you had harry truman improm ter on you. >> as i left the supreme court to work for stevenson, i went to see the chief justice to say good-bye and he was very, very close to president truman. chief justice vinson. and the chief said to me, your guy is not going to make it. i said, what? he said, no, he said, i was with the president last night, and he told me that he's lost patience with adlai, doesn't say yes, doesn't say no, he's going to -- it is going to be barkley, alvin barkley. alvin barkley was then the vice president of the united states. >> age 74. >> right.
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they tried to -- actually tried to get it for barkley, but everybody said, he's too old. so that opened it up again and then stevenson was drafted. >> and we are live from libertyville, illinois, the stevenson family farm about 40 miles outside of chicago. the phone numbers are on the screen because we want to hear from you as well. especially if you remember adlai stevenson as a candidate. 202-737-0001. for those of you in east and central time zones, 202-737-0002. if you live in the mountain and pacific time zones. the results, 1952, by the way, that election was held 59 years ago tonight, november 4th, 1952. adlai stevenson won 27 million votes. he got 89 electoral votes and he won nine states. dwight david eisenhower, 442 electoral votes, he won 34
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million votes, and he won the rest of the states, which would have been 40 some at that point. 41 states. >> one thing to keep in mind about that election is to compare it with 1948. in losing, governor stevenson got 3 million more votes than harry truman in winning three years earlier. dwight eisenhower got 12 million more votes than tom dewy. what you had was the largest increase in voter participation. >> why? >> in four years, since the 1820s. >> why? >> because you had two, in many ways, outstanding candidates, each in their own way, who were able to excite the electorate in a way that i don't think we had seen in this country in some time. >> here is a little bit more of adlai stevenson at the 1952 convention. >> what does concern me is not
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just winning this election, but how it is won. how well we can take advantage of this great quadrennial opportunity to debate issues sensibly and soberly. i hope and pray that we democrats, win or lose, can campaign not as a crusade to exterminate the opposing party, as our opponents seem to prefer, but as a great opportunity to educate and elevate a people whose destiny is leadership. let's talk sense to the american people. let's tell them the truth that there are no games without pains, that we are now on the eve of great decisions. >> newton minow, where were you 59 years ago tonight? >> i was in the governor's mansion and i think one thing that really taught the american
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people about governor stevenson was the way he conceded defeat. he gave the most graceful, patriotic talk. he pledged to support the newly elected president eisenhower, who had given him every support. and he ended with a story that he remembered from abraham -- that abraham lincoln used to tell. a story about a little boy who stubbed his toe in the dark. and he said -- >> it hurts. >> it hurts too much to laugh, but i'm too old to cry. >> too old to cry. >> too old to cry. and with that, i think people saw his character. he was a patriot that loved his country and was willing to support a new president, despite
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the fact that he lost. >> let's take some calls. the first call we have up tonight is paul in davenport, iowa. paul, adlai stevenson is our contender tonight. please go ahead. >> caller: hello. i want to first thank c-span for doing this. this is really a great series. my question is this. i have recently finished reading conrad black's richard m. nixon, and in it he puts forward a very negative view of stevenson's '56 campaign for president. he claims he spent too much time attacking richard m. nixon, the vice president rather than the actual president and said it was kind of a blemish on a very stellar career. my question to you is this, do you think the campaign was a low point of stevenson's political career, did he spend too much time attacking nixon and in 1956, what could he have focused on besides vice president nixon to perhaps make the election closer? should he focus on farm issues more or focused more on war and
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peace issues because of the suez crisis and such things. >> thank you, paul. let's start with newton minow. 1956 campaign. >> 1956 campaign, in my opinion, was not as stellar as it was -- as the 1952 campaign. the reason for the emphasis on nixon in '56 was the fact that president eisenhower had suffered a bad heart attack. he had had some bad health problems. there was great concern in the country of what would happen if president eisenhower was re-elected, but that he died during the second term and that nixon became president. so there was a very good reason to go after nixon because nixon would not as it turned out later sadly did not have the character to be president. >> yeah, i would actually say i think the '56 campaign
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stylistically i understand where you're coming from, but from a historical standpoint in some ways it is the campaign that in many ways laid the groundwork for the new frontier and the great society. and specifically that's the campaign when adlai stevenson against considerable odds, for example, embraced the idea of a nuclear test pad treaty. that's the campaign when stevenson endorsed a constitutional amendment so 18 year-olds could vote. in terms of foreshadowing policy to come, '56 turns out to have been a fountain head of ideas, but you are right. the last speech on election eve where he said that basically the medical evidence suggested a real possibility in the next four years that richard nixon would become president. remember, that was something that tom dewey hadn't done in '44 under somewhat similar circumstances when fdr's health
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-- it was just something you didn't go there. in some ways he paid a price for that. >> you're right. the nuclear trust ban, which was very unpopular point of view to take in 1956, but he took it very courageously because he believed in it deeply, and i remember he said someone asked what the weapons would be in world war iv and he said they'd be sticks and stones, and he made his point. >> newton minow, between 1952 and 1956, was adlai stevenson angling to get the nomination again? >> i'd have to answer that with a yes and a no. i think when hoped he might someday be president, but he also knew if he ran against president eisenhower again, the odds were very much against him.
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i was one of the few people around him urged him not to run in 1956, but he felt an obligation to the democratic party. >> here's a little of adlai stevenson at the 1956 convention, also held in chicago. >> i come here on a solemn mission. i accept your nomination and your program. and i pledge to you every resource of my instinct that i possess to make your deed today a good one for our country and for our party. [ applause ] four years ago, i stood in this
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same place and uttered those same words to you. but four years ago, i did not seek the honor that you've bestowed upon me. this time, as you may have noticed, it was not entirely unsolicited. [ l.a..er [ laughter and applause ] and there's another big aughter and there's another big difference. that time we lost, this time we will win. [ cheers and applause ] >> newton minow, you started laughing while you were listening to that video. >> when he said it was unsolicited, it reminded me in 1955, governor stevenson gave a speech at the university of
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texas, and i was asked to go with him. and it was right after president eisenhower had suffered his heart attack. lyndon johnson, majority leader of the senate, had also suffered a heart attack, and we were to spend the night at lyndon's ranch. and we drove in the car with sam rayburn, the speaker of the house. got there late. mrs. johnson was very upset, because the doctor had told her lyndon should be sleeping, and here he waited up until very late in the night, about 2:00 in the morning, for us. and on the way home, just the two of us were traveling, adlai said to me, sam and lyndon say that if i want the nomination next year, i'll have to run in the primaries. i said, they are right. i said, if president eisenhower, because if his health doesn't
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run, every democrat is going to want the nomination, and you're going to have to fight for it. if president eisenhower does run, you ought to forget about it. he said, well, i'm not going to run those primaries. i'm not going to be a candidate like i'm running for sheriff running around those shopping centers shaking hands. i'm not going to do it. of course, he ended up doing it because that's the way the system operated and he eventually won the nomination after winning a couple of the primaries. >> joe in los angeles, we're talking about adlai stevenson tonight on "the contenders." go ahead. >> caller: yes, i wanted to jump ahead to the 1960s and specifically what you thought stevenson's relationship with the kennedys, jack and bobby was. i know that he then ran for president -- or was nominated at a nomination convention, '60. and because of that there was ill feelings with jack kennedy. he wasn't made secretary of state. what would have happened if
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adlai would have been made secretary of state and would the situation in vietnam have been different? thank you. >> let's start with richard norton smith. set the stage here. >> that's a very large subject, i think we have some material on this later on. it is certainly true that there was not a warm relationship between the kennedys and governor stevenson. in 1956 stevenson had done something no one else had done. he had thrown the nomination for the vice presidency open. he let the convention decide. and jack kennedy came within an eyebrow of winning that nomination, and in the end, probably to stevenson's regret, estes kefauver, managed to eke out a victory. ironically, kennedy later on not being on the ticket was probably the best thing that ever happened to him. it introduced him to the
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country. it paved the way for his campaign in 1960. it is also safe to say, i would defer to newt on this, the way in which governor stevenson flirted with the draft in 1960 and held back. in fact, one of the distinguished visitors who came to this house one day was jack kennedy, who very much wanted adlai stevenson's endorsement, who didn't get it, who did not go away, i think, with his admiration of the governor enhanced. and if he was ever going to be secretary of state, i think that possibility probably went down the drain right then. >> and we will talk a little bit later about the kennedy relationship and his years as u.n. ambassador, but the results in 1956, adlai stevenson won 73 electoral votes. he won seven states in 1956, he
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won nine in 1952. he got 26 billion votes. about 1 million less than he got four years earlier. dwight eisenhower, 456 electoral votes. electoral vote7 electoral votes. he won 41 states. it was the last election where there was only 48 states in the nation, and dwight eisenhower won about 35 million votes, about 1 million more than he had won years previous. next call, akron, ohio, kurt, you're on "the contenders." >> caller: thank you, this is an honor to be watching this type of program. i a have a comment, then a question, really. richard norton smith, first of all, stole my thunder about the 1956 election and jack kennedy, but one of my favorite things was he spent more time thinking about what he was going to do rather than doing it, and he said he spent a lot more time talking to college presidents
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than he did to cab drivers and we have a hell of a lot more cab drivers in this country than we do college presidents. but anyway, 1956, richard norton smith made comment to adlai stevenson doing something unprecedented, which is opening the convention to picking a vice presidential nominee, jack kennedy being one and estes kefauver being another one. but very few people really know, unless they really studied this, there were two other candidates in contention for that position. hubert humphrey of minnesota. al gore sr. of tennessee as well. my question then is, seeing as how jack kennedy was out of it and estes kefauver became the nominee for vice president, would that ticket have been a little bit better had it been al gore sr. or hubert humphrey versus estes kefauver?
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also, would -- well, i guess what i was going to say -- >> let's leave it there, kurt. that's a lot of question, and we're going to let newton minow, who was actively involved in the 1956 adlai stevenson campaign. mr. minow? >> certainly, kefauver didn't help. i don't know who would have helped given the fact that, again, president eisenhower was at the top of the ticket. but i think what richard said about kennedy was exactly correct. the opportunity to be at the convention and be seen as a vice presidential possibility introduced jack kennedy to the country, and i remember a few years later i saw him at a dinner, and i said, you know, we called him jack then. i said jack, if you're still interested, you could get the nomination for vice president next time. he looked at me and said vice president? vice president?
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i'm going to run for president. he was only 39 years old, but he had made up his mind. >> can i ask you -- the caller raises a point that i'm sure governor stevenson heard many times during his lifetime, this notion that he talked over the heads of people. what was his reaction to that, what's your reaction to that? >> i think he did not talk over the heads of the people. used to call him an egghead and his followers eggheads, and he made fun of that. eggheads of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your yolks. he joked. i think he reached people. he had a great sense of humor. one time he gave a speech, i was with him in san francisco. a woman came up to him after a speech. she said, "governor stephvenson after that speech, every thinking american is going to vote for you."
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he said, well, thank you, madam, unfortunately, i need a majority. he knew what the situation was. >> next call for our guests comes from nashville, tennessee. hi, martin. you're on "the contenders." >> caller: hi, hi, thank you. great show. i was going to touch on this intellectual thing. my father was an academic. i grew up in washington, d.c. as a child of the '60s. i remember my father talking about how great adlai stevenson was, what a brilliant man he was, what an intellectual, of course, he never won. but the reason i'm calling, i was struck by that 1952 electoral map. seems like the starkman strategy won since he got the southern states, but strangely enough, he didn't get tennessee or his own state illinois. what to make of that? that reminds me of al gore in 2000. >> richard norton smith? >> i think, again, newt would know better, i think it certainly pained him that in
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neither of those presidential elections he won illinois. remember, he had been elected governor of illinois in 1948 by the largest margin in the history of the state. what was then a conservative isolationist state elected this new deal liberal democrat. and it was not surprising that, i assume, he thought he counted on winning it in '52. >> he did. for example, if he had run for governor in 1952 -- >> for a second term. >> -- even with president eisenhower running on the republican -- he would have won the governorship again by a larger margin than he won in '48. >> newton minow, today we talk about taxes, spending, social programs, social security, as some of the presidential issues that we look at during campaigns. 1952, 1956, what were two or three of the main issues that were talked about on this
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campaign and that adlai stevenson stressed? >> '52, the big issue i think helped president eisenhower enormously was korea. we were bogged down in a war there. president eisenhower said i have a plan. i will go to korea. the country thought that meant he'll end the war in korea, which he did. that was important. the other big issues were really the same issues we've got today. we haven't solved the same issues that divided the country back in the '50s. the role of education, the economy was better then than it is now. i think there was less unemployment. but i think this country is equally divided. if you look at the last ten presidential elections, with the single exception, i think, of
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johnson and goldwater in 1964, with that exception, they've all been decided by a few points. the country is basically equally divided. >> in 1956, here is a little bit of adlai stevenson talking about the democratic platform. >> we are on the threshold of another great, decisive era. history's headlong course has brought us, i devoutly believe, to the threshold of a new america, to the america of the great ideals and noble visions. i mean a new america where poverty is abolished and our abundance is used to enrich the lives of every family. [ applause ] i mean, my friends, a new
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america where freedom is made real for all without regard to race or belief or economic condition. [ cheers and applause ] i mean a new america which everlastingly attacks the ancient idea that men can solve their differences by killing each other. [ applause ] these -- these are the things i believe in. these are the things i will work for with every resource i possess. >> and we are live in libertyville, illinois, at the adlai stevenson farm. boston, you're on the air. go ahead, dick. >> caller: hi, how are you? hello? >> we're listening. please, go ahead with your question or comment.
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>> caller: i was very young during the era of president kennedy and adlai stevenson, and i want to share to you an emotional thing that i will probably take to my grave. in 1960, a couple of weeks before his assassination, meaning kennedy, adlai stevenson went to texas, where he was in a convention mood, probably the wrong convention, because they threw oranges to him -- to him from the balcony, and he called president kennedy and told him not to come to texas. at least get a bullet-proofed car, which he didn't do. on the other side of the equation, i believe president kennedy and his brother just had, from football days, had a
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little bit too much ego, and if adlai stevenson knew that, then he would probably treated his demeanor coming down to jack's demeanor and i think there would have been a more listening to save his life. >> we're going to get an answer from both our guests, because they both started nodding their heads. richard norton smith? >> i think it was a united nations day event in dallas that he spoke to and afterwards was struck by some protesters with signs. i think he was actually spat upon, and a classic stevenson rejoinder afterwards when they suggested do you want to prosecute these people. he said, i don't want to prosecute them, i want to educate them. >> newton minow? >> i think he was very aware of the dangers, but i don't think to go as far as the questioner did about it. i think president kennedy had made that commitment and he wanted to keep it.
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i do remember talking about the relationship of adlai and president kennedy. during the '60 campaign, norman vincent peel, a leading protestant clergyman, organized a group of clergymen and they said that jack kennedy was unqualified to be president because of his religion. and adlai was asked about it. and he compared peale to st. paul. and he said, i find st. paul appealing and norman vincent peale appalling. and he could always make a joke or a good humor out of it. politics today has no humor. i don't see, with the exception of bob dole, i don't see any
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politician today, either party, who's really got a great sense of humor. >> do you think in any way it worked against stevenson, some people thought he wasn't a serious person because he always had these wonderful quips? >> well, and his answer to that was abraham lincoln went around telling stories all the time. i don't think it hurt him. i think people like to have someone who has a sense of humor. >> next call on adlai stevenson here on c-span's "contenders." poughkeepsie, new york. nick, good evening. >> caller: hi. >> please, go ahead. >> caller: i'd like to know when stevenson was a child, what was, like, was his incident where he accidently shot his friend, how did that influence his presidential campaign in the future? >> newton minow, did he ever talk to you about that? can you give us a brief history of what the caller is referring to?
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>> never. there was a tragic accident in childhood when there was a loose gun in the family and adlai accidently shot and killed another child. i never heard him say a word about it. i never saw any evidence that it affected him, but i'm not a -- who knows. >> he was 12 years old at the time. but one did get the sense that the family kind of moved on, i mean, it was not something that they dwelled on, and i think years later, he expressed astonishment that his wife knew about the incident, which suggests he really kept it close to his vest. >> who was his wife? >> well, his wife was a woman who came from a very fine, upper-class family. she was not very interested in politics.
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in fact, disliked politics, and when adlai went into politics, i don't think she was very happy about it, and sadly they came to a parting of the ways. >> and that was in 1949, after he had run for governor. >> he had been elected before the divorce. >> right, then divorced. did that hurt him in the 1952 and 1956 presidential campaigns being a divorced man? >> you know, it's curious. i was talking about this with my wife. years ago, people thought a divorced man could never be elected president. now president reagan was divorced. today, we have public officials living without marriage with someone else, nobody raises a fuss about it. i think there's been a vast cultural change here. >> one more instance of stevenson being ahead of his time? >> could be. >> well, we are live from
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libertyville, illinois, about 10, 20 miles from where we are is north brook, illinois. theodore is on the line. please, go ahead with your question or comment. >> caller: hello, i appreciate the program very much. i am a senior in a nearby senior retirement community, and participating in a writer memoir group in which we've been asked to write what good thing from the '50s should be carried into the 21st century. i happen to have been present at his 1952 election where he voted in vernon township, in a little township building next to a congregational church, and i chose that as the icon. my question is, what significance do you place to that icon of the whole in adlai's view and how would you
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summarize what good thing from adlai stevenson could be brought into the 21st century in our own time? >> let's start with richard norton smith. >> i'm just -- again, stevenson, whenever you think of his politics, stevenson was a man who flattered our intelligence, he spoke up to us. he didn't speak down to us. he is, arguably, the last national politician, i think you could actually say this of barry goldwater, who believed that a presidential campaign was, first and foremost, an educational exercise. >> what do you mean by that, richard? >> i literally believed he was forever running out of time. you know, they would cut him off in the middle of a speech. he couldn't believe that people wouldn't take a sufficient amount of time to educate themselves, to listen to thoughtful, sober,
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substantiative issue-oriented appeals from candidates on both sides. that's how he approached running for office. that's how he approached governing illinois. >> he once -- i've heard him say more than once that a campaign was an educational exercise not only for the public, but also for the candidate. that it was an opportunity for the candidate to educate himself or herself about the country and about the people. and he believed that. i also heard him say something i don't hear any politician say today, there are worst things that can happen to someone than losing an election. >> richard norton smith, what is a stevensonian? >> oh, a stevensonian is an egghead, probably entertaining a certain nostalgia for a level of political discourse, of
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civility, urbanity, a whit, self deprecatory, someone who has very little patience with the political claptrap that handlers and spin doctors have foisted upon us. i cannot imagine adlai stevenson being handled by any such individuals. >> it would never happen. i was once member of a american delegation in a conference to japan. in our delegation was don ru rumsfeld who then was a member of congress. and we were having dinner, and i said why did you go into politics? and he said, it was all because of a speech given to my graduating class at princeton. i said were you in the class of 1954?
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he looked at me, how do you know that? i said i know the speech, it was the best speech adlai stevenson ever gave in his life, it was a speech about why everyone should devote some of their life to public service. don stood up and gave me a paragraph by memory, verbatim of the speech. he then pulled out his wallet and he took out a torn, tattered copy of the speech he carries around in his wallet. i said that's why you went into politics? he said that's why i went into public service, and if you read his new book, he starts off by quoting from that speech, so adlai, i'd say his biggest contribution was making politics respectable and honorable. jack kennedy used to say politics is an honorable profession. i think he got that from adlai stevenson.
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>> three sons, adlai the iii, borden, john fell. adlai iii was a marine in 1952, but here's a little bit of a newsreel. >> governor stevenson takes time out from his strenuous campaign to attend the graduation of his son, adlai iii from marine officer school at quantico. he presents his son with a sheaf of commissions for the entire platoon. it is a proud father and an equally proud son on an occasion important to both. >> and now live on your screen is senator adlai stevenson iii, he is in his father's study here on the stevenson farm in libertyville, illinois. senator stevenson, first of all, thank you for opening up this facility for us. secondly, what was your role in the '52 and '56 campaigns? >> '52 campaign, as your remarks indicate, i was in the marine
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corps, i didn't know it, but en route to korea, so i did not have a role in that campaign. we were involved in the '56 campaign and i was a driver in the '48 campaign, which was sort of the beginning of my introduction to politics. >> now, what role did korea play in your father's campaigning in 1952? what was his position on korea with you over there? >> well, as newt -- i think it was newt mentioned, korea became an issue, though i don't think it really was an issue, but it adversely affected my father's campaign. he was advised to say if elected president, i will go to korea. that's exactly what general eisenhower said.
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my father refused to do that because he felt that if he made that commitment to go there and settle the, you know, arrange a truce, that he'd be weakened. and, in fact, the eisenhower administration was weakened by this commitment of eisenhower to end the war. i don't think it -- my involvement didn't have any effect at all, but his integrity had an adverse effect on his campaign because of korea. >> adlai stevenson iii served in the state for the state of illinois from 1979 until 1980. he voluntarily stepped down in 1980. ran for governor twice for this state. senator stevenson, what made you enter the family business? >> well, i was just born with an incurable, hereditary case of politics, if by business you mean my career. we never really thought of it as a business. i'm, by the way, paraphrasing my father, because he was asked the
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same question. >> and, of course, the first adlai stevenson served as vice president. the second as secretary of state here for the state of illinois, then, of course, we had adlai stevenson the governor and now we are joined by senator stevenson, who is adlai iii. he is in his father's study in the home, in the stevenson family home here in libertyville. we are over in what used to be the barn, and it's right next door. it is now set up with an exhibit. senator stevenson, what is going on here, what is being set up where we are? >> yes, this home, which really became our base over the years as we served in washington, london, springfield, everywhere, is now the home of the adlai stevenson center on democracy where we try to bring people together from all parts of the world to address systemic weaknesses in democratic systems of government and continue the
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stevenson legacy. this was the home, but it really became a base from which we, my father ranged the world, not only to serve in springfield and so on, as i mentioned, but also to study the world. the travels, the study of the world from on the ground and within it were incessant. never stopped trying to learn about the world from within it. in the marketplaces and slums and the monuments and ruins, as well as the universities and ministries, trying to see the world from within it, and the united states from without it, and i think that lifetime of on the ground study of the world with a perspective from no ivory tower really helped to create
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the record and make him an electrifying figure, not only at home, but in the world. which ultimately led, of course, to president kennedy's appointment to him as the ambassador to the united nations. where he represented the united states effectively. >> we've got one hour left this evening in "the contenders." this is our ninth in our 14-week series. adlai stevenson is our focus. our guests, senator adlai stevenson iii, newton minow who worked with and for adlai stevenson for years and was former federal communications commission chairman under jfk. and, of course, well-known you a tore and historian, richard norton smith. we're going to take this call from sally in chicago. hi, sally. >> caller: hi, let me correct something, i was born and raised in chicago, but i live in california. and i'm calling because i --
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adlai stevenson's 1952 election was my first presidential -- in other words, when i was eligible to vote. so i went door to door and did whatever i could. i was crushed that he didn't win. but on retrospect, i thought he would contribute so much more on the world stage as a statesman. and, in a way, he did. but i will never forget how disappointed we were. one other thing, being a chicagoan, i worked at the "tribune" tower when the dewey-truman election results -- you never saw such panic in your
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life as was in the "chicago tribune." i will let you go and get your response on air. thank you. >> i think we could talk -- i think we could talk to sally all night, but senator stevenson, if we could start with you, you heard the emotion in her voice, could you talk about his campaign style a little bit? >> i'd like to amplify. i think richard and newt have done a very perceptive job, but getting back to '52, he was also reluctant to run for president because he had been elected governor of a state which we loved and were deeply indebted to, and it succeeded a corrupt republican administration. he reached out and he recruited the best qualified professionals that he could find. it wasn't pay to play in those days, it was sacrifice to serve. they were reforming state
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government, and he wanted to finish the job. newt and richard are right, he was also reluctant because eisenhower, the returning war hero, would be very hard to defeat, and i think secretly, not so secretly at home, he wasn't convinced that, perhaps, it was time for a change. now, remember, he started that '52 campaign. he was drafted. he started that campaign at the convention with absolutely no program, no money, no staff, and it went on to electrify the world. for him, and this is -- i may be repeating, but for him, democracy was not a device, not a system for acquiring power. it was a system for informing the people so that they could make a sound judgment.
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he said trust the people with the truth, all the truth. what wins is more important than who wins, so in response to another suggestion, the '56 campaign was really more substantive because he'd had more time than the '52 campaign. but he used the campaigns and the interim as leader of the party and advisory councils to lay the programmatic foundations for the new frontier and the great society. i heard arthur schlesinger once call -- the late, great historian -- we always called jack, jack. john f. kennedy. the executor of the stevenson revolution. but those campaigns were aimed not only at the american
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people -- and they were substantive, he used half-hour blocks of time for eloquent, substantive speeches. they were also aimed at the world, and it listened. >> senator receivenson, you talked about the '52 and '56 campaigns. your father lost about a millio about the '52 and '56 campaigns. your father lost about a millte about the '52 and '56 campaigns. your father lost about a millved about the '52 and '56 campaigns. your father lost about a millen talked about the '52 and '56 campaigns. your father lost about a millnsd about the '52 and '56 campaigns. your father lost about a million or so between those and a couple more states. what did he not do as well in '56 or what do you think, did he make mistakes? >> i think -- first of all, eisenhower's enormously popular. remember, these were years of economic prosperity and growth. ike was popular, the war was getting -- i can't remember when exactly, but ended -- no, that would come later in korea. no, what happened -- one of the things that happened, i think
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eisenhower would have gotten reelected probably anyway, was the uprising in hungary and the invasion of suez by france, britain, and israel. these international crises rallied the country, as they always do, behind the president, and, you know, from then on, there just really wasn't much doubt about the outcome. >> richard norton smith? >> well, i just want to go back to the '52 campaign, and senator stevenson's point, which, of course, is absolutely accurate, that he started out with nothing. in fact, there was a debate over where to have a political headquarters, whether, you know, truman expected it to be in washington, well, no, it was in springfield. but the story is told, and you can tell me if it's true or not, the story is told that he didn't expect it to be publicized, which again is revealing, that one night very shortly after the convention, he came back to
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springfield and conscious of these crushing responsibilities that had just been handed to him, he left the executive mansion one night, by himself, without guard or entourage, and walked to the lincoln hall on 8th street, walked to the door. knocked. of course, the custodian recognized him, it was not then a national historic site, let him in, and he sat all by himself in the lincoln parlor for some period reflecting, meditating on a man who had confronted even greater responsibilities 100 years earlier. but the interesting thing about that story is not only that it happened, but that stevenson didn't publicize it. he didn't expect anyone to know about that story. is that accurate? >> it's true. in fact, he didn't -- none of us knew about it until later. years later, i said i read this, is this true, and he said yes. but he didn't talk about it.
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>> you have to understand, this story, the family's involvement goes back to jesse phil, five generations. i've tried to record it, american politics in history as we knew it in the black book. it begins with jessty fell who was lincoln's patron. lincoln was a constant presence in this family, right here is little evidence. lincoln was an inspiration. woodrow wilson, former president of princeton, my father was a graduate of princeton in 1922. wilson was an influence also. the enlightened internationalism of wilson heavily influenced my father, but lincoln, who might never have been president without jesse fell, the citizen who, among other things, proposed the lincoln/douglas debates. lincoln was an inspiration and
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forever a presence in this family. >> and our next call for our three guests talking about adlai stevenson comes from oak island, north carolina. jimmy, please, go ahead. >> caller: thanks for taking my call. i am a world war ii veteran, and, of course, it was part of the eisenhower army, but i didn't feel like, at the time -- i'm from north carolina, which you see was one of the blue states that voted for adlai both times, and we felt that adlai was a politician and more able to handle the political things and general eisenhower was more of a military person. and you would know times were good. i was wondering what do y'all think, how would the united
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states have changed in that eight years if adlai stevenson had been president rather than dwight eisenhower? >> senator stevenson, let's start with you. >> you know, dwight d. eisenhower has been quoted first by h techlt d hedley donovan of "time life," and then recently by a member of his family, as saying that if he'd have known stevenenson was going to be the democratic candidate, he would not have run for president. i think on the large international issues there was probably not a great deal of difference between them. one thing my father really, you know, felt strongly about, richard nixon -- richard nixon was loathed by just about everybody in washington. his strength was at the
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grassroots, and, you know, after the checker speech and that incident and eisenhower's retention of nixon on the ticket, i think that, you know, caused some doubts in his mind about eisenhower. but he respected eisenhower. and my father was such a figure in the world that john foster dulles, perhaps reluctantly, made him a roving official ambassador of the eisenhower administration so that in his travels throughout the world, he could officially represent the united states. if there'd been a difference, and the real differences then were between democrats and the eisenhower wing of the republican party with the taft wing. eisenhower's problems were with taft in the conservative wing of the republican party. if my father had been a president, you probably would have had the new frontier and the great society accelerated. medicare, federal aid to
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education, other, you know, such programs might have taken effect earlier. as it was, much of it didn't take effect until after the assassination of kennedy, when johnson very shrewdly -- i remember him consulting my father, what should i do now, you, adlai, should be in these shoes, but you're not. what's your advice? my father was very flattered, i guess you should take time now and put your program and administration together, and he said, no, this is my moment. and within 100 days, the program was all through congress. you know, he knew timing. he was a real politician, but that program had been developing over, you know, since the '52 campaign and might have been accelerated, you know, a little had my father won in '52 or '56. >> newton minow?
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>> i think adlai's got it exactly right, except i would add one thing. i think because adlai was so committed to getting rid of nuclear war, i think we might have had faster progress than actually occurred later in dealing with the russians and dealing with nuclear disarmament. i think that was such a passionate belief that i think he would have given much more attention and persuasion to it than occurred. and i think also that the -- we would have had more friends throughout the world than we ended up with at that time. >> richard? >> you know, it's interesting. it is hard to imagine, and, of course, that's what we're doing is imagining, but it is hard to
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imagine president stevenson sending that u2 plane in may of 1960 on the eve of a great summit. one quick thing. i do think they had real respect for each other. i think they also, as most political adversaries learn to discover the weaknesses of one another, i suspect eisenhower, over time, grew rather resentful of the implication that stevenson was the only wordsmith, the only great eloquent persuader in american politics, and he once said that really, if words are all that matter, the american people can vote for ernest hemingway for president, which i think was a veiled criticism of stevenson. >> next call for our three guests here on "the contenders" comes from portland, oregon, hi, joe. >> caller: howdy, and thank you for taking my call. in '52, i was a high school kid living in a republican household, but in '56, i had
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spent the previous summer as an intern for wayne morse and was fixed forever. i remember well in '56 there was a disappointment, kind of, at the convention, because there wasn't really a contest as there had been in '52. i wondered if you could elaborate more on how the decision was made to throw it open to convention, whether it was so everybody could have a good time or whether it was at least, in part, to be able to dodge the animosity of all of the candidates that didn't get it. >> newton minow, if you could start, then senator stevenson, we want to hear about your role. >> i think adlai felt that he had seen firsthand how the vice president was picked in '52 was so casually done. he realized it needed much more attention. he also was under a lot of pressure. he was fond of hubert humphrey.
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he didn't like kefauver, even though he had been in the primaries. he thought jack kennedy was very promising but was too young and too inexperienced, and so he decided -- also decided it would give a lot of excitement to the convention, which had been pretty much prearranged to his own nomination, so he decided to open it up, and i think it turned out to be as he predicted. it turned out to be an exciting contest and introduced jack kennedy to the country, so there was a lot of good things with it. >> newt has it right. the outcome of the presidential balloting was a foregone
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conclusion, so to create some excitement and interest, he decided to throw up the balloting for vice president, and quietly, we were all rooting for john f. kennedy, though my father adored hubert humphrey and sr. senator al gore were first-rate public servants, but i remember at the state house and at the convention when the balloting was seesawing and kennedy was running downstairs to kennedy's suite where sergeant shriver's brother-in-law was holding the -- guarding the door, running in, jack kennedy was pulling up his trousers, shook his hand and congratulated him and by the time i got back up to my father's suite, i saw him lose to kefauver. we, all of us, were rooting for jack kennedy, but newt is absolutely right. this brought kennedy to the nation's attention.
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and it also spared him involvement in a failed campaign for president and vice president. >> well, let's move four years ahead to the 1960 democratic convention in los angeles. senator stevens, how would you describe the relationship between your father and jack kennedy in 1960? >> well, i think actually, the relationship between my father and jack kennedy was close. i know my father respected kennedy. and i believe it was mutual. but there was, and newt was closer, really, a circle, a very protective circle around john f. kennedy, which was always fearful, always resentful. and in this case, concerned that stevenson was a threat. people were pouring in from across the country. by the tens of thousands. literally hammering on the doors, in some cases knocking
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down the doors of that convention to demand another nomination for their candidate. eleanor roosevelt was there. and gene mccarthy gave a brilliant nominating address for stevenson. and this caused a little anxiety in the kennedy camp. and it probably caused a little, you know, interest, thought on my father's part that maybe if things deadlocked, he could still win the nomination. he had felt that a leader of the party and out of loyalty to eleanor roosevelt and supporters, he should be neutral and he was neutral. i was thinking if he had a chance, maybe neutrality was the best way of getting there. the former secretary of labor was also involved in state administration told me he was in my father's suite on the eve of the balloting. and my father said when bobby kennedy calls, tell him i've gone to bed and i've left instructions not to be woken. well, sure enough, bobby kennedy called. and said i've got to talk to the governor.
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and willard said i'm sorry, he's gone to bed. well, you just tell him this is his last chance. and he better talk to me, or he won't be secretary of state. and willard wuertz responded, i'm sorry, but he has instructed me to tell you that he has gone to bed. so that was the end of any chance for secretary of state. but it signifies something about the relationship not with jack kennedy but his very, very protective circle around jack kennedy. and it would come back to create other problems like during the cuban missile crisis when my father was vilified. >> and we're going to get to that in just a minute. but we're going to play two pieces of video here. we're going to start at the 1960 convention, adlai stevenson at the podium. here it is. >> i won't attempt to tell you
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how grateful i am for this tumultuous and moving welcome to the 1960 democratic convention. i have, however, an observation. after getting in and out of the biltmore hotel in this hall, i've decided that i know who you're going to nominate. it will be the last survivor. >> details of my participation have not been worked out, but i've told senator kennedy that i'd gladly campaign where he wanted me to, and i suspect that will be in the east, in the west and possibly in between. >> dr. stevenson, do you think you can dissuade all of the stevenson followers to vote for senator kennedy? >> i hope so.
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>> what would you do about it? how would you go about it? >> well, i hope by this participation in the campaign that i haven't had much doubt that they would support the ticket. and i hope that they will support it vigorously, and in the same manner that i do. >> i hope they'll follow you as vigorously as they did at los angeles, governor. >> i hope they'll follow you as vigorously as they followed me in los angeles. >> that's my hope. >> and we saw a little bit from the convention, and then we saw a press conference after jfk got the nomination, newton minow. >> i had the most extraordinary experience i had with involving both adlai stevenson and jack kennedy was on may 29th, 1960, it was jack kennedy's birthday. it was the day after the last primary in oregon. and jack kennedy was flying from
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oregon to hyannis for a family birthday party. and bill blair, our law partner, had suggested that he stop in chicago and that bill and i would pick him up and drive him here to the farm, and he'd have lunch with adlai. and we were hoping, because bill and i had both concluded that it was impossible for adlai to be nominated again. we were hoping that they would come to some terms, and adlai would support kennedy. so we got in the car, drove out here. in the course of it, bill was driving. jack was in the front seat. i was in the back seat. jack kennedy said, you think i should talk to him about secretary of state? and bill was smarter than i did. he didn't say anything. there was silence. i couldn't stand the silence. so i said, i wouldn't do that if i were you. and he looked at me and he said, "why?"
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i said, well, adlai will be offended. and second, you ought to decide yourself who you want if you're elected. and came out here. and adlai and nancy were -- adlai 3 and nancy were here. they managed to get the two of them alone into adlai's study. and the minute they came out, i could see it hadn't gone well. and we were getting back in the car to go back. and i was dying of curiosity. so i said, jack, did you say something about secretary of state? and he looked at me with those steely eyes. and he said, you told me not to. i thought, what have i done? so as soon as i got home, i called adlai and told him the entire thing from the beginning to end. he said, you did the right thing. he said, i would have been very offended. and he said, besides, he should
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decide who he wants. and then i decided i'd better tell the kennedys. so i called hyannis. jack hadn't arrived yet. i got bob. i told him exactly what i told adlai. so i felt i had a clean conscience. i had not screwed it up. >> can i ask you a question? we saw that clip from the '60 convention, that rather lame joke that stevenson made from the podium at a moment of maximum suspense. theodore white wrote memorably describing that scene that it was almost it was stevenson's moment. and he threw it away. that he was in a position with the right remarks to have taken that convention away. is that unrealistic? was that convention jack kennedy's no matter what happened, or can you see -- can you see a scenario in which stevenson, at the peak of his form, might, in fact, have set something on fire?
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>> i think he knew that it wouldn't -- wasn't going to happen. i think he had talked to richard daly, then mayor richard j. daly, who had told the illinois delegates we're going to vote for kennedy. i think he knew at that point. we'll see what adlai says, if he agrees with me. >> no, i -- >> one other thing, adlai, i have always thought that gene mccarthy's speech was insincere. i felt he was working for lyndon johnson because he had never been that close to governor stevenson. i just finished reading jackie kennedy's tapes. and she says jack kennedy said the same thing. so there's two people who thought that gene mccarthy was making that -- >> let's let senator stevenson get in here. >> yeah, i don't think i'd want to attribute that motive to gene mccarthy. the gossip which i hate to
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repeat at the time is that gene was just jealous of jack because it was that catholic instead of this catholic who was getting the nomination. i think that's unworthy of gene mccarthy. number one, newt minow's advice was absolutely, you know, right. and my father would have resented it. i don't think there was a chance at that convention of his winning the nomination. he had encouraged everybody to go out and support the candidates of their choice including richard j. daly of illinois. the illinois delegation was pledged to john f. kennedy. you make a pledge. you don't break it. the nomination was sewed up, but yet there was a lot of tension and a lot of fear and a lot of dynamism in the works. after the convention, my father campaigned strenuously all over the country for john f. kennedy. and bobby kennedy's first stop on the campaign trail was right
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here. the home where we had a great rally out on the lawn for bobby kennedy. >> now, newton minow referred to jackie kennedy's new book -- or the new book put out by caroline kennedy called "historic conversations on life with jfk." there were some audiotapes attached to this that arthur schlessinger, i believe, taped with mrs. kennedy. and she talked -- >> shortly after. >> shortly after the assassination, correct, and they were just released. here is jackie kennedy talking about adlai stevenson and jfk. >> and then the big thing with governor stevenson wanting state but telling him that he had to have the u.n. that was rather -- i can remember jack telling me about that. >> did that give him a lot of difficulty? or was he rather amused by it all? >> no, you know, it was unpleasant. i mean, he didn't like it,
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having to do it or anything, but he wasn't going to give him the state department. i remember right after -- the earliest times when we spoke of it, you knew that governor stevenson would get the u.n. not state which he wanted. but it's sort of unpleasant to have to tell someone that. and i remember their conference on the doorstep was rather vague where stevenson said he didn't have anything to say or something funny. >> why do you suppose he decided against stevenson for state? >> stevenson had never lifted one finger to help him. but yet it wasn't bitterness or that because look at all the people jack took who had been against him or for someone else. he knew -- he thought that man had a real disease of being unable to make up his mind. and stevenson irritated him. i don't think he could have borne to have him around every day coming in and complaining as secretary of state about something. it would have been an awfully difficult relationship.
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>> senator stevenson, could we get your reaction? >> well, unfortunately, i couldn't -- i really couldn't hear it. i knew jackie kennedy, and i can tell you that i don't think she was political at all. in fact, she was a very artistic woman, an intellectual, who used to leave washington on weekends which were sometimes spent at bobby's home playing football. she was not athletic. she'd go to new york to the theater with my father. and from all i could see, they had a very good relationship. and he gave her, you know, kind of an escape from washington. i've heard about these comments, not just these, but all of her comments that they are critical of just about everybody.
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so i don't know what to, you know, kind of credibility to place on that. from what i could see, her relationship with my father was very good and in some ways closer than to some of the kennedys, maybe. >> newton minow, a short comment. could you hear the audiotape of jackie kennedy? >> i think -- i was with adlai and jackie not often but several times. i think they had a very good relationship. >> what about jfk and adlai stevenson? >> jfk and adlai -- i had a very important experience about that. i had a very minor role in the cuban missile crisis, but i was involved a little bit. and when it was over, there was an article in "the saturday evening post" written by stewart allsip and charlie bartlett. and in it, there was some
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critical comments not attributed to any single person about what adlai had proposed, which was actually what the united states did. we closed our missile headquarters in turkey in greece in exchange for the bargain that was reached about cuba. but it was critical. and i knew that adlai was upset by it. and early in the morning one day, president kennedy called me at home. and he said, will you tell your leader -- he always would refer when he talked to me, adlai said tell your leader -- tell your leader that i did not leak that story. he said, there's a rumor around that i'm the one who leaked it. tell him i did not leak it. well, i called the gov. and i had his number. and i got him on the phone in five seconds.
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he picked up the phone in the embassy in new york. and he said, i can't talk to you now. i'm on my way to the "today" show to be interviewed. and i said, well, give me one second. i said, the president just called me and told me to tell you he did not leak that story to the "saturday evening post." the governor didn't say anything. 15 minutes later i turn on the holy hell about the episode and got it off his chest. later jfk wrote him a letter apologizing saying he didn't do it, but he made it clear that what adlai had contributed to the cuban missile crisis solution was indispensable. >> we've got about 25 minutes left and our callers have been very patient. damascus, maryland. bill, thank you for holding. please go ahead with your question or comment about adlai stevenson. bill, are you still with us? >> caller: can you elaborate on
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the influence of richard j. daly? of course, as you've already referred to him, mayor of chicago. and the influence that daly had on stevenson's rise in illinois politics. >> senator stevenson, can we start with you, sir? >> it's the other way around. my father got richard j. daly started in politics? as i mentioned earlier, my father recruited these extraordinary professionals, and they came without the endorsements of political leaders and campaign contributors. there was one partial exception. and that was richard j. daly who had been a state senator and maybe did have the endorsement of the cook county chairman. and he served with great distinction in my father's cabinet as director of the department of revenue. he was really a first-rate
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cabinet officer. and then later, my father supported richard j. daly when he contested for mayor of chicago against an incumbent mayor of that city. this is incredible. the governor of the state siding with the challenger to the incumbent governor. so my father was -- had a lot to do with the rise of richard j. daly. it wasn't the other way around at all. >> washington, d.c., go ahead. dave, we're talking about adlai stevenson here on "the contenders." >> hi, peter, this is dave calling. i just want to tell you -- >> hi, congressman. how are you, sir? everybody know congressman obie? former congressman? >> caller: i just wanted to tell a story about adlai stevenson in madison, wisconsin, in the '60 campaign. i was a student at the university of wisconsin.
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and adlai had come to madison to give a speech to the civil war roundtable. and afterwards he was scheduled to appear with then-governor gaylord nelson at the old park hotel. and we had a large crowd of democrats gathered. they were all over an hour late. finally the two walked in. gaylord ushered adlai stevenson up to the front of the room. gaylord grabbed the mike and he said, folks, i'm sorry we're so late. but there were a lot of questions at the civil war roundtable. so he said i've got to get the governor over to the mansion and get him to bed. he's got a long day tomorrow. and one of my typically short speeches and adlai butted in and said now i'll give one of my typically long ones. and nelson said, you do and i'll leave without you. and adlai said, go ahead. see who the crowd follows. and the crowd erupted in laughter. and i think that just shows how
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quick adlai was on his feet and how clever he could be in making the audience feel good about it. he was my hero. >> congressman obie, a lot of talk this evening about the fact that adlai stevenson was the architect of the later great society. would you agree with that? >> caller: i think he certainly defined in the '56 campaign what most of the issues later became that the democratic party ran on and stood for for years. he really set the agenda for the coming decade in that campaign. >> that was congressman dave obie. we did not know he was going to call, longtime congressman from wisconsin, a democrat. thank you for calling in, sir, and watching. seattle, richard, hello. richard? from seattle. >> caller: i'm the author of a book about eleanor roosevelt and adlai stevenson just published
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last year. and i'd like to just relay one of the anecdotes from the campaign trail that was a favorite of the campaign team and then give you a little comment all about adlai. it's about the club woman who came up to him after a speech and said oh, mr. stevenson, your speech was positively superfluous, to which he replied, thank you, i've been thinking about having it published posthumously. that will be nice. the sooner the better. >> senator, i know you're in your dad's office over there. and there's a set of books of his speeches, and they were actually best-sellers, correct? >> yes. and incidentally, my own book is
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here, a black book in which i try to record american politics as we knew it over those five generations including the humor which enriched our politics and could be used to really very good effect. you could, for example, use it to denigrate an opponent without being mean-spirited. the memories, the experience i try to record over these five generations starting with lincoln and ending with china and epilogue on the life cycle of nations in emperor empires is aimed to recall what we're doing tonight, the values that created this country and contrast them with those which i'm afraid are undermining it today. >> and we've talked a little bit about this, and richard norton smith, i want to get your reaction. the cuban missile crisis, adlai stevenson was u.s. ambassador to the united nations. >> yeah, but remember, of course, it didn't happen in a vacuum. a year earlier, you talk about
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the strained relationship with the white house, the kennedy administration, in fact, had put its ambassador in a humiliating position at the time of the bay of pigs. and so a year later, a year and a half later, in the fall of 1962, you have a situation in which we have irrefutable evidence that the soviets are, in fact, installing offensive nuclear missiles. on castro's cuba. and what transpires, the great paradox, i cannot think of a less sound bite political figure than adlai stevenson. and yet if you go on youtube today, he's immortalized by one of the great sound bites of the 20th century. >> and we're going to listen to it right now. >> let me ask you one simple question. do you, ambassador, deny that
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the ussr has placed and is placing medium and intermediate-range missiles and sites in cuba? yes or no? don't wait for the translation. yes or no. >> i should like to say -- mr. stevenson, would you continue your statement, please? you will receive your answer in due course, do not worry. >> i'm prepared to wait for my answer until hell freezes over, if that's your decision. >> richard norton smith. >> until hell freezes over, one of the great sound bites of the 20th century. and afterwards one of the kennedys, maybe it was the
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president or bobby, i'm not sure who is allegedly to have said, i didn't know adlai had it in him. >> that's true. >> well, you know, you mentioned the bay of pigs earlier. he was fed a great deal of misinformation which he relayed to the security council and it came out, of course, that this information was false. and he felt very embarrassed. but it was the kennedy administration that was embarrassed. nobody doubted my father's integrity. and newt alluded to the bay of pigs earlier. the bay of pigs proposal by the kennedy administration was exactly what my father had proposed, namely trading off obsolete bases in turkey for withdrawal of the missiles. but the kennedy administration insisted on keeping the deal secret. my father didn't want it to be secret because he did not want to embarrass khrushchev. he wanted to give them an opportunity to retreat. and that didn't happen.
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and of course, khrushchev was embarrassed. just as my father feared, he fell. he was succeeded by a group from which emerged, the hard-liners and cold war escalated because the kennedy administration had to be tough instead of compromising and giving khrushchev an easy way out. >> well, one of the goals of the contenders is to figure out how the contenders changed their respective parties, how they changed american politics. and after we take this call, we're going to move into that topic area. but rootstown, ohio, duncan, please go ahead with your question on adlai stevenson. >> caller: thanks for having me. i was just curious as to whether or not you've ever heard of an organization called the builder bird and if adlai stevenson had ever attended the builderberg conference. >> thank you for your call. go ahead, senator. >> this adlai stevenson has been
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to a builder bird conference. i don't know about my father, how far back that goes. and i don't know what the implications are, though i can guess. builder bird conferences were occasional meetings of very senior figures from around the world at which they got together to discuss the problems facing the world. there's absolutely nothing sinister about them. this adlai stevenson has been to a couple. i don't know that my father ever was or that they even existed in his time. >> well, we are here in the stevenson barn while senator stevenson is over in his father's study. in the stevenson barn is a new exhibit about adlai stevenson. and there is a photograph -- richard norton smith, you and i looked at this before we started. this is in 1945, the u.n. formation. do you remember that photograph over there around the table? you were commenting on the different players in the photograph. >> well, yeah, i do. i haven't got it in front of me, so i'm not sure. it's a remarkable group of
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people. you've got john foster dulles. you have, of course, governor stevenson, adlai stevenson, before the governorship. >> nelson rockefeller. >> yeah, young nelson rockefeller, harold stassen before he was a joke, when he was taken seriously as an architect of disarmament. the secretary of state at the time, ed tinnius who was about to be fired. >> what was adlai stevenson's role in the founding of the u.n.? >> do you want to take that? >> it had to do with a preparatory conference, as i understand it. >> well, he was also a delegate to the conference in san francisco. and then he was -- at which the united nations was adopted or approved.
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but by late 1945, we were living in london where he was the u.s. delegate to the preparatory commission, as newt was about to suggest, which laid the foundation. i mean, actually it started putting the building blocks together including the location in new york. he represented the united states at that commission where great men from all over europe and canada. they used to assemble at our home at night because we had access to the commissary, an extraordinary group of people. he was in on the birth of the united nations. and incidentally, he died 20 years later just a couple of blocks from our home in london in 1945. that was '65. still serving the united nations and this country. >> we want to talk about adlai stevenson and his effect on the democratic party. here he is in 1952 talking about the democratic party. >> i have been hardened by the
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conduct of this convention. you have argued and disagreed because as democrats, you care and you care deeply. but you have disagreed and argued without calling each other liars and thieves. without dispoiling our best tradition. you have not spoiled our best traditions in any naked struggles for power. and you have written a platform that neither equivocates, contradicts nor evades. you have restated our party's record. if principles and its purposes in language that none can mistake. nor am i afraid that the democratic party is old and fat and indolent. after 150 years, it has been old for a long time. and it will never be indolent as long as it looks forward and not
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back. as long as it commands the allegiance of the young and the hopeful, who dream the dreams and see the visions of a better america and a better world. you will hear many sincere and thoughtful people express concern about the continuation of one party in power for 20 years. i don't belittle this attitude. but change for the sake of change has no absolute merit in itself. the people are wise, wiser than the republicans think. and the democratic party is the people's party, not the labor party, not the farmers party, not the employers party. it is the party of no one because it is the party of everyone. >> newton minow. >> i think adlai's contribution
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to the country was to edu -- he hopes campaigns would educate people, and he succeeded. he succeeded in teaching all of us that politics was something all of us should be involved in. i recently met the governor of indiana -- >> mitch daniels? >> -- mitch daniels. and i said, i'm sorry you're not running for presidency. and he said, why do you say that? i know you're a democrat. i said, i learned from my boss, adlai stevenson, that the best people in both parties should run, not the worst people. and i believe that. and i think adlai taught that to all of us. and i think that's a legacy to be extremely grateful for because his contribution is enduring today. >> yeah, i think historically, of course, he's a bridge between the new deal, really, and the new frontier.
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he holds aloft the banner of liberalism in the '50s, a difficult era. but it's an interesting kind of liberalism. adlai stevenson believed in american exceptionalism every bit as much as many on the right do today. but it was an exceptionalism that was about ideas and ideals. it was leading by example. it was not an exceptionalism enforced by military force. and of course the other thing is he brought a whole generation of young people who were inspired by his words, by his example, by his approach. his very unorthodox approach to politics. >> we only have a few minutes left. and carrie jo, moorehead, minnesota, we want to hear from you. please go ahead. >> caller: in 1952, when i was 13 years old, i was privileged to meet adlai stevenson. he came to the hotel warren
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where my mom and dad owned the hotel. and i was privileged to wait tables on him. we kids grew up in the hotel. and after meeting him, i admired him the rest of my life. i'm now 72 years old. and i am still just so admiring of this wonderful democratic person. and i'm just so thrilled that he was a man of morality, and he was a man that fought for the working people. we need more adlai stevensons in this world right now! and i'm just so happy that i met him. and the rest of my life -- >> all right, carrie jo, thank you for that call. let's let you talk to an adlai stevenson. senator? >> well, you know, the question
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we are left with is adlai stevenson possible today in this money-drenched, corrupt, dysfunctional politics? would he even compete? could he compete for president of the united states? going from stand to stand raising money from money to interest for jingles on television, the half-hour blocks of time would be impossible. i'm not sure that he would be possible today, let alone a franklin roosevelt. it wouldn't have been physically possible for him, which is why we've created the stevenson center to try to address the systemic weaknesses in democratic systems that might make an adlai stevenson possible. we try, as i do in my book, to recall these values, this history that created this country and contrast them with
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our politics today. can a politics as corrupted as ours be expected to purify, to reform itself? i think that's the issue we are left with. i don't worry about the american people. i have enormous faith in the american people. but they are left with a process that represents everybody else. >> senator stevenson, as adlai stevenson iii, if you have to go to a store or show your name somewhere, do people react? >> well, the old folks -- some of the old folks, i was in a store the other day, and i saw this young woman at the counter looking at my credit card. she was looking at my name. i said, is that name familiar to you? she said, no, but it's cool. i think we're forgotten. i think our politics, i'm afraid, is largely forgotten, too. this has been a wonderful program for the opportunity to
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recall other politics and another america. >> jim in east brunswick, new jersey. please go ahead with your question or your comment. >> caller: yes, gentlemen. i'd like to ask the group to reflect on an event late in the governor's life. i've recently reviewed several hours of cbs news coverage of the events of november 22nd, '63. '63. and throughout that afternoon, walter cronkite, severite, harry reasoner, referred to governor stevenson visiting dallas a few weeks earlier and being accosted and warning the president not to go there. and i researched that. it seemed that an airport event, a woman hit to struck governor stevenson over the head with a placard. and it seemed little more than that. but i wonder if the panel could reflect on that, any regrets from the governor not stressing
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>> all right, jim, we got that call. and richard norton smith, you talked about this earlier, the situation. very quickly. >> well, yeah, very briefly. he had gone to dallas, i believe, for a united nations day event and had been confronted by this not an angry people, including the woman with the sign. and she did indeed, i think he was spat upon, and he was struck. he certainly left with a vivid sense of potential dangers that the president might encounter. >> and newton minow, do you know, did he call the president and warn him, or was that just a thought? >> i don't know the answer to that, i'm sorry. >> senator stevenson, do you know the answer to that question? >> no, my recollection is, first of all, somebody said after he had been -- he was asked if he wanted this woman who had hit him over the head with a placard
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prosecuted. he said no, i want her educated. my recollection is that he did not warn the white house and deeply, deeply, deeply regretted afterwards that he had not. you know, i'm sure had he called and described this experience, it would have had no effect, but he felt very guilty for not having done more or anything to try to prevent the president from going to dallas. >> now, we've got time for about one more call. richard, i just want you to think about, what have we not talked about tonight that we needed to bring out? so you think about that and we're going to take this call from phillip in fort worth, texas. hi, phillip. >> caller: good evening. "the contenders" is one of the great series that c-span has done. i really appreciate it. i grew up in the 1960 election, i was 12 years old. i was just becoming politically aware. so i grew up during the '50s.
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and while i'm a conservative and have always been so, and i doubt that mr. stevenson and i would have agreed on very much, i have been exposed to his speeches, his rhetoric, a lot of the things he said, and i'm of the opinion that he is one of the last really great political speechmakers in our age. and we were speaking a moment ago about jingles and things like that. i saw him making that speech, he was taking some of it from his notes pre-teleprompter days. it wasn't just coming off the paper. he knew what he was saying. it was coming from his heart. and i've always admired his speechmaking abilities. and i just don't see that in our political process today. he had something to say. he had took a little time to say it at times, but he was a man who knew what he wanted to say
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and said it well. >> newton minow. >> he took great effort in those speeches. he worked on those speeches himself hour after hour. he was criticized by the politicians for spending so much time on the speeches. but in some ways, that's his legacy. as we wind up the program, i have to say one of the biggest surprises in my life was when he died so suddenly. and adlai iii called me to tell me that he and i were co-executors of his will. i didn't know anything about that before he passed on. but that was, to me, a very touching thing of our relationship. but i think as we wind up the program, he was one of -- even though he didn't win, he won the hearts of millions and millions of americans. and he won a great place in history.
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>> he raised the standards. the one question i think i'd love to ask senator stevenson because at the end of his father's life, it has become almost a kind of folklore that ambassador stevenson was seriously contemplating resigning from the united nations, encouraged to do so by his liberal friends who were opposed to lbj's vietnam policies. and i'm wondering if he ever discussed that with his dad and what his sense is of his dad's intent. >> yes. first, you know, i think these labels, conservative and liberal, can be very misleading. arthur schlessinger used to call my father a conservative. but he had this integrity. he was a creature of reason. when i served in the senate, we weren't democrats, republicans. we weren't really right, left. we were for the country, products of the enlightenment,
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ideology didn't play much of a role. but to your point, he did not tell this to me, but i did hear from a very, very, very close friend that he was planning to resign from the united nations at the end of the year largely because he was very uncomfortable, abdicating policies that he didn't support. and by that i mean vietnam. and he, of course, died in june of '65, july of '65 before he could resign. i think he was planning to resign. quietly. no protest. that would not have been, you know, his way at all. but because he really couldn't continue to advocate policies that he didn't support.
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>> and that will have to be the last word. adlai stevenson ii is buried in bloomington, illinois. senator adlai stevenson iii, thank you for being with us this evening. newton minow, you as well, richard norton smith, this has been "the contenders," and we leave you with this week's "contenders" from the 1956 convention. >> i say trust the people. trust their good sense. their decency, their fortitude, their faith. trust them with the great decisions. i say it is time to take this government away from men who only know how to count and to turn it back to men and women who care. >> while congress is on break, we're showing you american had history tv, normally seen weekends here on

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