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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  February 15, 2010 8:30am-9:45am EST

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only if they want to which means we've got to make it sufficiently valuable and attractive for them to want to vote with their data and move with us. >> host: brad smith is senior vice president and general counsel of microsoft cooperation. our guest reporter has been wyatt kash, government computer news as their editor in chief. to both of you, thanks for being on the exhume cay to haves. on "the communicators." >> host: good to be with you. .. flsh
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>> historian h.w. brands recounts the life of former president franklin delano roosevelt. biography of the 32nd presidentw
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his childhood and his marriage with eleanor roosevelt. it lasts about 75 minutes. >> and thank you all of you for coming. i'm delighted to see some old friends and some new i'm going to talk about why i wrote this book. but i hesitate to start in the way i usually do because i wind up giving a lecture quite often. and i don't really want to give a lecture. i usually talk over time so people don't have a chance to ask questions so i have toyed with the idea of starting off with the questions. and i could just ask people what they want to know about franklin roosevelt. but just to make sure that it goes in the direction that i want, i think i'll -- i'll ask the first question. [laughter] >> 'cause i know what the answer is.fmy >> who's going answer it. >> i'll to do that.;.] and the obvious question for
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anybody who's written about franklin roosevelt and that is why do we want another biography of franklin roosevelt. the answer is we don't. we don't need another biography of franklin roosevelt. the better question is why would you want another biography of franklin roosevelt? well, let me just -- there's a really basic answer to this question.ñ.÷ and i'll ask it at the point of asking mercenary. how many of you have biographies, one or more, of franklin roosevelt at home? okay. all right. so the rest of you, you see, you do need this one because you don't have one. and for those of you, ah, okay, well, yes, i'll get to eleanor. and for those of you who do have one, i'll just have to tell you that the reason i wrote this book -- and i'm not saying this is the world needs another book. the reason i wrote about it was that my students had been asking me for years, after i would lecture on franklin roosevelt -- they would come up to me and
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say, okay, what's a good book you can recommend? and i had to say well, there are a couple of three and four, and five-volume biographies of franklin roosevelt. but then i would have to say most of those had been unfinished. they were never completed. arthur schlesinger got three volumes out. he got distracted. he got a job in the kennedy white house. and this happens. franklin roosevelt tends to capture biographies.w -- biographers. there are other presidents who do this. i'm sure robert caro has essentially been sucked into the lyndon johnson whirlpool and will be at least another few years before he gets out. and the result of this was that when those students would ask me what i can read on franklin roosevelt, i didn't have an answer. there was no one-volume biography of franklin roosevelt that i could point to that i
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thought was quite satisfactory. and the other thing was -- and this get to the -- i'll admit the imodesty in me that i could writô÷ a better biography of franklin roosevelt than was on the market. it's not that i was trying to fill a hole that no one had tried to fill. it's just that i thought -- i happen to believe that if a story is good, it's worth retelling. if you can tell it better than other people have told it, then give it a try. i will leave it to critics. i will leave it to you to decide whether i have succeeded. but that's why -- that's sort of one reason why i took on this project. now, another reason was that as scott suggested i have -- some years ago i decided that i was going to write a history of the united states in several volumes. and some of you have heard this story. i proposed this project to a publisher who just laughed in my face. he said nobody writes -- 'cause
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i was thinking of six or seven volumes of the united states. and nobody will publish it or buy it. well, that's a shame. in fact, this particular author said -- i mean, excuse me, this particular publisher said, who do you think you are anyway? will durant? now there are a few of you who know what that means. will durant wrote a 17-volume -- i think it was called "the story of civilization." i think it was a book of the month club thing. it was a big deal in the 1940s. and i'm attracted of the very idea of one author taking on this really big subject. because there is something to me that's kind of engaging about one mind trying to deal with this big period. typically textbooks -- well, studies of american history or other big histories are written by several authors. i happen to be a co-author of a textbook and so somebody deals with the colonial period and somebody deals with the early national period and so on. and you get a certain result out of that but it's not quite the same as having one person lead
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this through you. so i had this plan that i was actually going to write this history of the united states. but i wasn't going to tell anybody that i was going to do it. and i was going to write it in the form of a series of biographies, biographies because -- well, people buy biographies. biographies are the close -- i think they're closest historical nonfiction to novels because they allow to you develop a character. they allow the readers to get inside the head of a care. they have the closest thing to dialog that you find in most historical nonfiction in that you can get letters and diaries -- people speak and they rye maybe and sometimes they just soliloquyize but nonetheless they are there. so i wanted to write a series of biographies. the first one that i wrote was about theodore roosevelt. and then i jumped backwards in time to write about benjamin franklin and the next one was andrew jackson. and the lives of the two over-l.a.p.d. a little bit. -- overlapped a little bit.
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andrew jackson was born in 1767. so just the time that benjamin franklin with you stepping off the stage, andrew jackson was stepping on. i tend to approach biographies as lives and times and the individuals i choose somehow summarize or encapsulate the main themes of american history. my book on benjamin flynn was called "the first american" because it deals with an evolution of an american identity. benjamin franklin died a british citizen but died as an american. theodore roosevelt deals with the industrial era, the progressive era and into the first world war. franklin roosevelt is the latest contribution to this series. and he tells the story or at least his story is the story of the great crises of america in the 20th in your. -- century. if you want to understand why modern america is the way it is, you need to understand franklin roosevelt and this gets more
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precisely at this question why another biography of franklin roosevelt. and what does brands bring that's new. as i tell my graduate students, some of whom i see. those who write history are expected to deliver something new and the new stuff can be new information or new interpretation. and i can tell you that franklin roosevelt has been written about enough. and has been studied enough that i don't claim to have a bunch of new information. there are odds and ends here and there. but i think my contribution is in terms of an interpretation. a new interpretation. historians have been arguing and political scientists have been arguing whether franklin roosevelt was a conservative or a liberal. and i happen to think he was more than -- he wasn't a conservative. he wasn't a liberal. i happen to contend he was a radical. but not a radical in the sense that people who started this argument in the 1960s or even earlier would say -- a radical in the 1960s was expected to be a socialist or a marxist.
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now, in fact, to put it -- to put a finer point on it, i would say roosevelt was less a radical than his presidency was a radical presidency and that's why the subtitle of book. the privileged life and radical presidency of franklin roosevelt. and so his presidency was radical in two respects. in the first place it utterly transformed americans' expectations of government. when roosevelt became president in 1932, it was expected that people would look after themselves primarily. and if misfortune befell them, that was their tough luck. government's job was not to rescue people from crises, emergencies or financial distress. that was not part of the expectation. by the time roosevelt left office, that was a part of the expectation. we can argue -- people still do argue whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. or to what degree it's good and to what degree it's bad. and for the last 20 years, maybe
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even 30 years back to about 1980, there were a lot of people who thought that the new deal and roosevelt's approach to governance had gone too far. that, in fact, the country would be much better off -- much better served if individuals looked after themselves and government stepped off the scene. and then the financial meltdown of the last six months occurred. and all of a sudden people are remembering that government does have a role. it's just -- maybe it's the country's bad luck but i'll be willing to take it as perhaps my good luck that we've arrived at another fdr moment in american history where all of a sudden, yes, the role of the government in bailing out failing industrys, in preserving people from the worst excesses or the downturns of the capitalist marketplace. that role seems to be acknowledged. in fact, it seems to be embraced. the second aspect in which roosevelt's presidency was radical was that roosevelt utterly turned around american
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expectations of the united states with respect to the rest of the world. roosevelt inherited a country that was almost irretrievably isolationist in 1932. and by the time he died in 1945, the united states, americans overwhelmingly had been converted to the idea that the united states needed to pay continuing and substantial attention to the affairs of the world. that the peace of the world would not kept itself. in fact it wouldn't be kept without the participation of the united states. and in both the respect of what americans expected of government at home and what americans expected of their country in the world, so well did roosevelt do his work or so radically did he change american expectations that neither one of those principles has been seriously challenged in the 63 years since his death. okay, so that's sort of why the book -- that's the contribution of the book. now, as to what the book actually does. that's kind of the big stuff.
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that's what i have to say in terms of the justification for the book. and, you know, its contribution to the history of the united states. but the interesting stuff in the book is actually much more to do with the personal life of franklin roosevelt. and this is the first part of the subtitle. the title itself is "traitor to his class." it was a charge that was leveled against roosevelt during his lifetime. during the first year -- actually the first two terms of his presidency. he was generally thought to be someone who had sold out the interests of the well-to-do, of the well-educated, of the well off. sold them out to this kind of raving populism. and it was a puzzle for those people who knew franklin roosevelt how this had come about. and this is the, i hope, the kind of tension built into the subtitle of the book. the privileged life and radical presidency of franklin roosevelt. here was this child of
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privilege. the son of a wealthy family who never really had to work a day in his life. who could have spent his entire life as a hyde park gentleman, as a hudson park gentleman and he decided to go into politics. he became the greatest champion of ordinary americans. and he then established and effected what i've called this radical presidency. so the question is, how did this come about? and getting at this requires looking very closely at the personal life of franklin roosevelt. now i will stop and somebody can ask me, so what was it about the personal -- yes. >> as a man who came from generations of wealth and privilege and power, how did he come to identify so much? >> a very pertinent question. thank you for asking that. >> the question? >> the question was how did this child of privilege become the champion of ordinary americans?
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and the answer takes about 45 years to work out in roosevelt's life. but i can summarize it. i do summarize it in 900 pages in the book and i can do better than that tonight. [laughter] >> for the first 30 years of roosevelt's life -- well, the first 25 years of his life, 20 years of his life, he didn't even go to school until he was 14 years old. he was tutored at home. he then had -- he went to grauton school and harvard. he cruised through harvard. he was editor of the crimson. he studied for about a year until columbia law school until he passed law school and he didn't stick around to get his degree and he started his law practice. and through all of this time he had the kind of sense of obligation to a broader community that one could easily describe simply. he was born wealthy.
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his parents gave to the proper charities. and he was made to understand that because much had been given to him, at least something was expected. maybe not much was expected. but something was expected. so it was a kind of politics as i say of -- well, you could almost call it the politics of consending. his fifth cousin, theodore roosevelt, suddenly became president of the united states. and shortly thereafter cousin ted became uncle ted because franklin roosevelt married eleanor roosevelt, who before she married theodore roosevelt was eleanor roosevelt. she became eleanor roosevelt-roosevelt. and, in fact, at the wedding, theodore roosevelt, who gave his
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niece away, congratulated franklin and said well, franklin there's nothing like keeping the name in the family. [laughter] >> now, this wedding ceremony -- the day of the wedding is one of these critical moments -- well, not so much a critical moment in the development of franklin roosevelt's character. we'll get to those. but a critical moment in eleanor roosevelt's understanding of what she had gotten into. when i originally conceived the book and when i pitched it to my publisher, it was going to do be a dual biography. it was going to be a biography on franklin and eleanor. there was a biography written 37, 36 years ago called "eleanor and frank." and this is really the story that was written -- joseph lash was a dear friend of eleanor roosevelt. and so it's eleanor with frank alongside.
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i really don't think you can understand franklin's personal life and development without paying large attention to eleanor and, frankly, i don't think you can understand his politics either without paying close attention to eleanor. but my publisher was a little bit nervous about the idea of publishing a dual biography. dual biographies are chancy. you don't know how to market them or where to position them. so i allowed myself to be talked out of calling the book "franklin and eleanor." now, i didn't tell the publisher that i was still going to write the same book as before. it just would have a different title. so the book is actually a dual biography of franklin and eleanor roosevelt. and eleanor -- eleanor comes on the scene very shortly after franklin does. she's born two years after franklin. and she grows up in the large circle of the extended roosevelt family. she is the niece of theodore
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roosevelt, as i say, franklin roosevelt's fifth cousin. eleanor roosevelt had an unfortunate, unhappy almost tragic childhood. in some sort of of the ordinary tragic sense, but also in some peculiar senses. eleanor roosevelt's mother was one of the great beauties of new york society in the 1880s. her name was anna roosevelt. and she was, as i say, one of the most beautiful women that anybody knew. and eleanor -- well, how many of you -- how many of you have a mental image of eleanor roosevelt? okay. eleanor is not with us. how many of -- for how many of you -- is that mental images strikingly beautiful? okay. now, in eleanor's defense, i'm sure that nearly all of you -- the mental image that all of you have is of a woman who's probably in her 60s.
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and she probably hasn't bothered to comb her hair. just this two weekends ago i was in new york for a gathering of the theodore roosevelt association. and it brought some of the roosevelts together and i was talking to this guy who said his brother was a member of the new york state highway patrol. and he was somewhat older than he was. and he remembers from the early 1960s pulling this woman over. she was driving very erratically and very fast. and she just -- as he said, she looked horrible. she really looked like she hadn't washed her hair in two weeks. she was wearing this dirty old house dress. and she was very frazzled and she handed over her driver's license and he looked, you got to be kidding? and she said that's me, all right. eleanor roosevelt. we remember eleanor roosevelt when she was in her -- maybe
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advanced middle age at best. and i think we all looked better when we were 20 than we do when we're 30 years older than that. anyway, however, however, and this is the critical point. anna roosevelt, the beautiful mother tells her daughter, you are my ugly duckling. okay. now i ask you, how do you interpret that? you're my ugly duckling she says to her daughter. i don't know at the time if eleanor knew the story of the ugly duckling and what the ugly duckling becomes, of course, the beautiful swan. well, if you read eleanor's memoirs and she wrote a couple of volumes of memoirs, it's very clear what she heard was ugly and she wasn't thinking of swan. and so this is the thing that sticks in her mind. and then her mother dies. her mother never has a chance to revise this judgment upon her daughter.
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eleanor grows thinking she's ugly and knowing she's awkward. she's awkward physically and socially. she's much taller than everybody else. she's 5'11" and she just -- she just doesn't know what to do with herself. her father dies not long after her mother. and she goes off to live with some grandparents who clearly resent having to raise another generation of kids. oh, and there's a moment, too, when -- and this is -- this is one of the problems of writing any biography where you get as closely as you can into the personal lives. there's one bit of evidence -- and again i will let you figure out what you make of it. i present this piece of evidence. and i say, sort of basically make of it what you will. eleanor was living with her grandparents. and there were some rather strange uncles kind of hovering around the larger household.
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and eleanor had a friend over to spend the night. and the friend remarked and then remembered this some years later that eleanor had these three stout locks and dead bolts on her bedroom door inside the house. and she -- and the friend asked, what are the locks for? and eleanor said, to keep my uncles out.uvp okay. was this precaution taken in advance? was it something after the fact? i don't know. i just don't know. anyway there it is. but eleanor grew up convinced that she was unlovely and unlovable. she was very reluctant to put her emotions on the line because whenever she had in the past she'd been disappointed. her parents had died. people had indicated that they didn't love her. okay. so this is eleanor at the age of 20.
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and out of the blue, along comes franklin roosevelt. franklin roosevelt -- i don't know if any of you have seen pictures or have a mental image of the young franklin roosevelt. i will share an experience that i had with a woman -- a much older woman who had -- she was old enough to have remembered -- i guess she actually encountered franklin roosevelt when he was young, this could be 1915, 1920. this is a woman i talked 10 years ago. you decide to make of this comment. we were talking about what franklin roosevelt was like when he was young. and she said, bill, you must know that when franklin roosevelt was young, he was a god. [laughter] >> that's what she said. okay. we see the pictures of a young
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franklin roosevelt. he's a handsome guy. he was athletic. and he was vigorous. he was outgoing. he was charming. he was rich. he had everything going for him. and out of the blue he decides to woo eleanor roosevelt. now, eleanor roosevelt was not rich. eleanor roosevelt was not charming. eleanor roosevelt was -- well, she certainly didn't consider herself very good-looking. although again in defense of eleanor there are pictures -- a couple of photographs and i include them in the book of eleanor when she was young. and eleanor's cousin alice roosevelt, alice roosevelt-longworth was one who really never had a good word for just about anybody. especially anyone she was close to. eleanor -- excuse me, alice roosevelt lived in washington for years and years and years. she lived into the 1970s. she was born the same year as franklin roosevelt in 1882. and she had -- she had a difficult girlhood herself with
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her own father, with theodore roosevelt. but alice roosevelt when she had this house for decades in dupont circle in washington. and on the sofa there was a pillow. and on the pillow in needlepoint was the saying, "if you don't have something nice to say about somebody, come sit here beside me." [laughter] >> well, this was alice's approach to the world. and -- but alice occasionally would find something in her heart to say sort of good about somebody else. and she gave eleanor something of a back-handed compliment when she said, you know, eleanor -- eleanor was not as ugly as some people seem to think. in fact, when she was young, she had beautiful long blonde hair and a tall athletic figure. now, if alice had simply left it at that but it was fine but, of course, alice being alice she had to go on and say, well, and if those hateful grandparents
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had simply gotten her teeth fixed and if she had a chin, well, so anyway. so eleanor is wondering if anybody is ever going to love me. and along comes frank and gives every impression of loving her. and he courts eleanor. and, in fact, defies his mother mother sarah delano roosevelt quite a piece of work in her own right. maybe i should have -- i sort of did write a book simply about franklin and the women in his circle around him and there were some very powerful, very formidable women starting with his mother, sarah. who refused to accept the idea that her son should marry eleanor roosevelt. so she did her best to sabotage the relationship. she sent him off on a cruise thinking that he would meet some other young woman. and his heart would be wooed away and it wasn't and he came
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back and franklin insisted that he would marry eleanor even against sarah's counsel and against her wishes. so eleanor begin to think, well, gee, you know, maybe he really does love me. maybe there's more here. now, i have to say that eleanor was certainly the most intelligent, the best educated, the best read of any of the girls in franklin's circle. so that certainly appealed to him. but still eleanor in the back of her mind has these doubts. what does he see in me? they get married, 1905. it's actually st. patrick's day. and theodore roosevelt, eleanor's uncle, because now he's the orphan. he's the one who's going to give eleanor away. and the wedding takes place in the house of -- the house that sarah's mother has in new york. and so the the wedding takes place. and the vows are exchanged and
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the -- the chairman itself takes place and everybody adjourns to this larger parlor and they gather around theodore roosevelt. theodore roosevelt who always had to be the center of attention. in fact, alice, his daughter, once said of her father. if you want to understand my father, you need to realize that he has to be the bride at every wedding. and the corpse at every funeral. [laughter] >> so, in fact, he became almost the bride at this wedding. and all of the guests grav stated immediately toward theodore roosevelt. and so does the groom franklin leaving his bride, eleanor by herself. well, she must have seen something of her future. in that apparently politics is a greater draw for my husband than perhaps i am. okay. it wouldn't be the first time an ambitious young man perhaps didn't pay enough attention to his wife.
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eleanor learns to live with it. the relationship -- the marriage seems to be relatively happy. although, eleanor continues to have some doubts. franklin by this time has decided that he is going to model his career, model his life on theodore roosevelt. there is something quite -- well, almost unique about franklin roosevelt's experience and his path to the white house. in american politics, it's exceedingly rare for anybody to become president. and to have been preparing in a very serious way, a way that includes sort of reasonable expectations he might actually get the job for more than just a few years ahead of time. what happens in politics typically is somebody decides that he or she likes politics. and goes into politics at the local level and succeeds there. and perhaps is elected to the state legislature and then maybe to congress and becomes a governor perhaps or a senator.
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and only gradually do they realize, hey, you know what? i could become president. once they get close enough to be able to measure themselves against the people who are actually in the white house or at the top level of politics do they say, well, i'm as smart as that guy. i'm as talented as that guy. i could do it. franklin roosevelt was one of two individuals who from a very early age, that is from very young adulthood was able to size up a president personally at close range and say, i could do that. because he spent a lot of time around the theodore roosevelt white house. and he looked at uncle ted. and he said, well, if he can do it, i can do it. oh, i should ask, what do you think the other one that i'm thinking of yes? john quincy adams, yes. his father was the other one. you can think of bill clinton
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shaking john kennedy's hand. but in terms of i can really do this, okay. so franklin roosevelt decides the way to get to the white house is to follow uncle ted's path. theodore roosevelt started out in the new york legislature. that's what franklin is going to do. theodore roosevelt then went to washington and became assistant secretary of the navy. that's what franklin is going to do. theodore roosevelt came back to new york and was elected governor of new york. that's what franklin roosevelt is going to do. theodore roosevelt had six children. that's what theodore roosevelt is going to do. [laughter] >> well, that's what he informed eleanor. [laughter] >> oh, i'm lecturing and i don't want to give away. this gets at the at the crux of the whole permanent story. -- personal story. they do have six children. franklin didn't do it by himself, obviously. they have six children. i'm going to ask you something. there's one aspect of this that is kind of -- it struck me as strange. i want to know if i'm the only
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one that struck you as strange, too. they have a daughter. anna is the oldest child. then the first son is named james for franklin's father. the next son to come along is franklin, jr., fair enough. named after franklin. but franklin, jr. dies at the age of nine months. now, they have a couple more kids and then when they have a fifth child they name him franklin, jr., is this weird? how many think it's weird? how many think it's -- it's natural? i had never heard of it before. but i certainly understand it. maybe i should have heard it. i'm named for my father. i hesitate to think. i shudder to think what if i had died as a child would there be somebody else coming along stealing my name. for the second franklin, jr., seems not to have been damaged by the experience. anyway, after six children -- and this is where the rubber hits the road.
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after six children, eleanor -- well, i guess franklin probably decided enoughbwnñ is enough bee uncle theodore had 6 but eleanor decided enough was enough and this is where we go from the&+j area of what i can demonstrate to what we can maybe surmise. and in the book i don't pretend in the book i don't even go as far as as i'm going to tell you there is -- well, okay. i'm going to tell you what we do know. shortly after the sixth child arrives, franklin roosevelt has an affair with a woman who is eleanor roosevelt's social secretary. a woman who is about 10 years younger, 12 years younger than eleanor. a woman who is, i think, most people would say considerably more attractive than eleanor. especially the way eleanor's thinking and feeling after having six children. lucy mercer hadn't been married.
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hadn't had any children. she was a much brighter personality. she was a lot of fun. nobody really -- nobody ever accused eleanor roosevelt of being fun. she's a good solid citizen but not fun. now, the affair was one that eleanor suspected for some while. she couldn't help suspecting it because her cousin, alice, would helpfully drop hints saying, well, eleanor, do you know who i saw -- no, eleanor, do you know what lovely woman i saw franklin driving around with today. and alice, of course, was dying for eleanor to say, who, who, who. but eleanor refused to give alice that satisfaction. and alice, why doesn't she ask. but eleanor understood that something was going on. but she didn't have to confront
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it directly. and as long as she/cí didn't t have confront it directly, she knows not to. i think because she couldn't decide what she would do. and as long as she didn't have to make a decision, she didn't.ñ but in the summer of 1918, she had to make a decision through a series of -- well, accidents. things that might easily have gone the other way. and one could only imagine how that would have played out. franklin roosevelt was assistant secretary of the navy. in that capacity he traveled to france in the last part of the first world war to see how the navy was doing. and to figure out what to do with some of the navy installations and naval equipment.  there, he letters from lucy. until this time he and lucy had been living in washington. and so they didn't have occasion to write to each other. they could speak each other. they could telephone each other. but now he's across the ocean and so she writes letters.
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franklin roosevelt inherited a characteristic of the delano family. and that was to never throw anything away./2tz so he kept the letters. and that might have been that. except that also on the voyage back from france he became deathly ill and when he arrived in new york, he was delirious with fever. he had to be carried from the ship to the townhouse on the upper east side. and his bags were taken. a couple of naval attaches took the bags up and he's still lying in the&ñ bed delirious and elear unpacks his bags and discovers the letters. at this point as sheñaq says inr memoir, the bottom fell out of her life. she had to confront what she had suspected. and she has to figure out what to do. from here on out, we get sort of
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family legend handed down from generation to generation. and as the family legend goes, eleanor -- and this is the phrase that's repeated. eleanor offered franklin his freedom. under new york divorce law in those days, if eleanor had contested a divorce, if she hadn't offered him his freedom, he would have basically had to stay married. but she and -- with eleanor it's kind of hard to tell when eleanor is being magnanimous, when eleanor is being what a later generation might call passive aggressive.o( but anyway, she sort of throws the ball on franklin's court.5j now, perhaps she understands how it's going to turn out. eleanor was very astute at figuring out how things were going to work out. and they worked out, i assume, as she expected.
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she offers franklin his freedom. apparently, her phrase. and franklin declines. now, if he had declined immediately, dear no, no, i love you please forgive me, then that would show a certain measure of perhaps belated gallantry, i guess, but it seems that it took him a while to decide that he didn't want his freedom. there was some thought that well, if he did divorce lucy would never marry him because lucy was a catholic. maybe. there certainly was a consideration that if he did get a divorce he could kiss his political career goodbye. no one had ever heard of a divorced president. in fact, do you know how many divorced presidents we've had until now? and do you know -- yes, one and do you know who that was?
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ronald reagan. so family values was important and still is. but the clincher seems to be that sarah weighed in and this decision was not made just between franklin and eleanor. sarah is the third pole, the third vertex and sarah who inherited the family fortune and was dolling it out month by month to eleanor and if he divorced her he would be left without a cent and he thought we're sticking together. but eleanor -- eleanor lays down two conditions. number one, the first condition is that franklin will never see lucy again. reasonable enough. he can hardly argue with this. although as it turns out, he
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eventually slips around this one a little bit. and if we get there, i'll tell you more about that. the second condition -- the second condition -- i want you to decide whether this is strange, problematic or what. the second condition is that franklin and eleanor will no longer cohabit as husband and wife. no more sex. that's it. okay. now, franklin is at this point 37 years old. how does he interpret this? i don't know. i don't know. he never wrote this down. how would you interpret it? if you were in franklin's position? did eleanor seriously think that franklin was going to be celibate for the rest of his life? i don't know. eleanor could be very insightful
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in certain aspects of life. but just as obtuse as can be in other aspects of life. okay. now at this point, at this point, you might be thinking -- and i certainly was, kind of at this stage of my exploration of this relationship that that franklin, he really did not handle himself well. and you write a biography with the name franklin roosevelt on the cover and i certainly am not an apologist for franklin roosevelt. and i wasn't -- i can't say that i was even rooting for franklin roosevelt to do the right thing. but in a situation as fraught as this, i think that it's hard not to ascribe responsibility, even blame, to one party in this relationship. and it seems to me franklin was the one who strayed and so it's his fault and maybe he has to live with the consequences but the story turns out to be more complicated than that. because it is entirely possible,
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and i can't say it's more than possible, but i will give you a little bit of information so you can decide whether it's more than possible. it's entirely possible that eleanor had already suspended sexual relations with franklin. in those days, contraception was available for a certain class of people who were willing to seek it out. who were frank enough to deal with these kinds of issues openly. and eleanor was definitely not one of those types of people. so it's entirely possible that when eleanor said, six kids is enough, what she was also saying was, that's enough sex. i'll give you a bit of evidence. anna, the daughter, recalls that on her -- on the night before her wedding, so she's getting prepared. she's going to be married -- i should say her first wedding. i think she was married four times. this may tell you -- may or may
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not tell you something about the dysfunction of the eleanor/franklin marital relationship that of the five surviving children, i think they had a total of something like 20 marriages. anyway, a lot. but on the eve of her first wedding, eleanor told anna -- and this stuck in anna's memory well enough that she repeated it years later. eleanor says, my dear, you must remember that sex is something that must be endured. okay. make of that what you will. anyhow so franklin and eleanor continue to be married. they don't share a bedroom. and before long they don't even share a house. how many of you -- have any of you been to hyde park, new york, to the roosevelt library there? well, one of the interesting things is there's this big house that franklin lived in when he
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was in hyde park. and his mother was there. and the kids would stay there and 2 1/2 miles away at the extreme other end of the property there is eleanor's house. and that's where she spent most of her time. she said that it was -- that he -- that she couldn't feel comfortable living in her mother-in-law's home. and i can certainly understand that. i don't think i would have liked to live with sarah roosevelt either. but that was part of it. and then -- okay. now, perhaps more of this will come up in further questioning. i've got two questions already and i burned almost an hour. the thing that converts franklin roosevelt to this -- i'm going to call him the champion of ordinary americans is something that seemed to befall him really, really out of the blue. in 1921, in the summer of 1921, franklin roosevelt contracted polio. it was almost unheard of for an
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adult to contract polio. the common name for the disease in those days was infantile paralysis. and for 39-year-old franklin roosevelt to come down with polio was so striking that it was -- well, in the first place, it was front page news. this i mentioned partly to correct a common misconception that the american public didn't know. that franklin roosevelt had polio. in fact, as i say, it was reported on the front page of the "new york times." it was repeated in newspapers all over the country. roosevelt received mail from people all over the place who heard about his illness and wished him well. or shared their experiences. in many cases, these were people who had contracted polio as children and then were remarking on the fact that here is this famous public figure because by now he was quite famous. he had in 1920 -- this is 1921
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he contracts polio. none of the blame landed on franklin roosevelt. in fact, roosevelt was seen as the stronger member of the ticket. and he was widely spoken of as an obvious candidate for the republican nomination for president in 1924. did i say -- for the democrats, yes, in 1924. roosevelt instead contracts polio and he spends the next six years trying to rehabilitate himself. the rehabilitation and its failure to do much good at all had some important consequences for roosevelt personally. and for american perceptions of roosevelt. personally, roosevelt, this child of privilege, this kid to whom everything had been given, understood -- came to understand
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very painfully that as much as you've been given it can all be taken away in a moment. it can all disappear through no fault of your own. and this is critical. because when the depression hits, all sorts of americans discover that they've been laid off. they've lost their jobs. their nest eggs, their bank savings disappear through no fault of their own. it was very difficult for someone like herbert hoover to understand that. to feel that herbert hoover who was president at the time was probably the best example in modern american history of a self-made man. himself he was an orphan. he pulled himself up by his boot straps and made himself a millionaire and then became president of the united states. and he had that view that a lot of self-made individuals had. that if i could make it, other people can make it. and if they don't make it means they didn't work as hard. maybe they're not as smart as i am. they often have a hard time understanding, well, if things -- if the dice had been rolled just a little bit
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differently, you wouldn't be where you are today. roosevelt probably couldn't have understood that before he came down with polio. which i didn't specify left him without the use of his legs for the rest of his life. he could stand but only with heavy steel braces that locked his knees into place. i did -- i said that it was no secret that roosevelt had had polio. the secret and the object of something of a cover-up was that he never regained the use of his legs. he exaggerated the extent of his recovery.?my and i won't day the media of his day primarily newspapers but eventually news reels -- they conspired in this but there was a greater sense in those days that an individual's -- even a public figure's private life is his private life and unless it's clear that it impacts his public responsibilities, then they just won't report it.
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roosevelt was able to persuade photographers, for example, not to shoot a picture of him in his wheelchair despite the fact he spent most of his day in a wheelchair. at the roosevelt library where i did most of the research for the book there are 10,000 photographs. and i don't swear to have gone through all 10,000 but i went through thousands of them and i ran across one that shows roosevelt in his wheelchair. and it's in the book. i'm told that there's one other one. but that's it. the other ones simply weren't taken or on the rare occasion when a photographer didn't understand the rules of the game, then somebody on the secret service simply came up and took the camera or took the film or the plates. so roosevelt came to understand that bad things can happen to people without their doing at all. it's just something that happens. and this was important in sort of -- i guess you could say really without exaggerating too
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much -- it really deepened his soul and character in a way that would have been hard to have accomplished otherwise. but even more important, i suppose, politically for roosevelt's fortunes -- it made roosevelt someone that ordinary americans could identify with. i think we've seen in the recent election -- and you see this again and again in presidential elections. people vote for their candidate for president partly based on policies. but at least as much based on some kind of sense of identification. this person captures something about my life. this person understands something about me. this person is in some basic way like me. before franklin roosevelt came down with polio, before he became disabled, it was impossible for almost -- well, for 98% of americans to say this man is like me. but after this, people could say, this man has suffered. this man knows what hardship is
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like. this man understands what life is like for the rest of us. and this connection, this emotional connection -- roosevelt understand them in a way he couldn't have before and they understood roosevelt or they identified with roosevelt in a way they couldn't have before. okay. stop there. and i will ask for other questions. and i promise not to answer these at half an hour's length. yes. >> so all the roosevelts, who do you admire the most? >> of all the roosevelts, who do i admire most? at the moment i'm pitching a book on franklin roosevelt. that's my answer. [laughter] >> no, let me elaborate on that a little bit. as an author and a historian, i don't -- i really try to avoid admiring -- liking, disliking, admiring, disapproving of my characters. what i really try to get at is the story.
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the importance to history. so i will tell you this. that in terms of presidential greatness, and here i'm going to speak about greatness in having a large impact on america and on the world, i would say that franklin roosevelt clearly outstrips theodore roosevelt. now, this doesn't imply necessarily that i approve of roosevelt's policies because whether you like the new deal or not, the new deal transformed american life. now, you may think this was the worst thing that happened in the united states but it would be difficult to argue with the fact that roosevelt was exceedingly important and transformative in making sure the new deal came to pass. but in terms of -- maybe the question might be rephrased is which one would i like to spend time with? who would be the easier one to get along with? and that's a tough one. because theodore roosevelt was one of these people -- eluded to this that he wanted to be the
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center of the attention. i wrote about theodore roosevelt. and theodore roosevelt died at the age of 60. and i had written -- it turns out just by chance that the two books, my theodore roosevelt book and my franklin roosevelt book are almost exactly the same length. this one is skinnier because the publisher used thinner paper. but theodore roosevelt died at the age of 60. and i was glad when he died. because he had worn me out. he never slowed down from the time he was 12 years old until he died. and this is one of the reasons why at a relatively, you know, 60 years old you got this great big full life. franklin roosevelt died at the age of 62. he also had a very full life. he would have been a much easier person to be around because he didn't demand so much of the people around him. theodore roosevelt -- henry adams once said after a lunch with theodore roosevelt, he had
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to come home and feel -- he felt that he had to wring the theodore roosevelt out of his clothes. with franklin roosevelt it wasn't that way. but with franklin roosevelt, you would have felt that you were in the company of somebody who was very charming. someone who was also very self-centered. self-centered both in the sense of really, you know, paying attention to what was going to work for him. but also self-centered in a way that made you know he didn't need other people. one of the things that made it difficult to get to know franklin roosevelt was that he had -- well, he had a couple of people you could call close friends as an adult. louis howe who was really his first political mentor and right-hand man for 25 years was one. louis howe was the last person sort of who could tell franklin roosevelt that he was being an ass. and get away with it.
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but the other people that came around roosevelt -- it was interesting. he had almost no male friends. but he had a lot of women friends. this was part of -- this is one of the things that drew him to lucy mercer who by the way reenters the picture at the end of franklin roosevelt's life behind eleanor's back but i don't know -- if i should say but or and with the help of the anna roosevelt the daughter who by this time -- who for years and years had thought that her mother had been the wronged party. in the franklin/lucy relationship but came to understand that franklin needed something, something personal just sort of a sympathetic ear, a warm voice that eleanor couldn't or wouldn't give him. and so he did have a number of -- well, i hesitate to say they were women friends. they were almost women acolytes.
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they were content to bask in the glow of franklin roosevelt. andrew, do you have a question some >> what would you say politically speaking was fdr's greatest mistake. >> franklin roosevelt's greatest mistake. there were two he made in fairly rapid succession and this after his overwhelming re-election in 1936. he was elected by a very large margin in 1932 primarily with the hope that he would end the depression. the depression continued. in 1936 he was re-elected by an even larger margin. what explains this? well, he certainly was making a start on not exactly ending the depression. but alleviating the symptoms of the depression. and it was -- it's accounted for by an astonishing emotional bond that developed between roosevelt and the american people. they came to believe that he was their man in washington. so they reelect him
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overwhelmingly and roosevelt begins to believe that he can do no wrong. he tries to do one thing and the terms of art at the time he tries to pack the supreme court. the supreme court has recently overruled important elements of the new deal. and roosevelt is irate. that these conservative justices, all of them appointed by his republican predecessors have managed to block not only his will but the will of the people as clearly expressed in his election and re-election. so roosevelt, as believer in democracy, has to figure out how can i do this? how can we let these non -- actually there were seven -- really 5 really conservative justices -- how can they be allowed to politic the will of the people? he comes up with this idea of expanding the number of judges on the court, which was not quite as revolutionary as it might sound. because in roosevelt's living
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memory, the number of justices on the court had gone up and down several times. so the fact that you add a few more justices -- that didn't exactly fly in the face of historical precedent. the number has congealed at 9 since then so we look back and we think, my god, what a revolutionary idea. if roosevelt simply said this is why we want to do it, the result wouldn't have been so negative. but, in fact, he masked it in the rhetoric of the justices are overburdened, therefore, we have to ease the load. and people realize this was a patent cover for simply wanting to change the outcome. so this was the first thing. and roosevelt, who is usually extremely sensitive to political responses, to popular responses to his political initiatives -- much longer than he should have. had he been more politically astute. the other thing was that roosevelt in 1938 ran against
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his own party. now, this might sound rather odd but it's not so strange if you can remember or know what the democratic party was made of in the 1930s. the democratic party for the previous 60 years -- well, since the end of the civil war had been a coalition of big city ethnics, basically in their bosses and the big city bosses and very conservative reactionary and not to put a fine point on it white supremacists senators. because of roosevelt's overwhelming popularity, the southern conservatives went along regrudgingly with the early measures of the new deal. but they were never very happy about it. ...
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and he lost. any made himself look foolish. he encouraged them. and so, as at the end of 1938, it looked as though roosevelt second term is going to be as dismal as in the second terms are. and if not for a remarkable external, you could call it a historical accident, in the sense of bearing no relationship to internal american politics, roosevelt would've left office at the end -- at the beginning
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of 1941. and i contend that the new deal, what was left of the new deal would've been in grave jeopardy. to give you the best example, social security was passed in 1935. unemployment insurance and old-age pension. as of 1939, almost nobody was getting anything out of social security. people are putting money into social security, but this is the way it is. well-paid for years and years and years and then we retire later. as of 1939 almost nobody was getting anything out. it would've been an easy matter for a cell to replace a republican after the 1940 election to dismantle social security and that would have been that. a historical accident talk about was the second world war which made it possible for roosevelt to run for a third term. he was elected on the basis of support for the new deal, but because americans believe that it was bad policy to change horses in midstream. at the results of this is that the new deal got not just four years more, not just in fact
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eight years more, but because here truman pulled an upset victory in 1948, intel 1953 before the new deal was seriously challenged. by which time, their tens of millions of americans who are receiving social security checks. they were getting money out of the system. and at that point even dwight eisenhower was really conservative republican, said we cannot touch so security. it's been built into the fabric of american expectation and anyone who goes after social security is a political idiot. so, does that answer your question? yes, i think i did good in the back. [inaudible] i can repeat the question. >> traipsed to his class, at what point in his life was there sort of this capitulation to his heritage because of the fermentable, maternal instincts, excuse me, surrounded him and also parodying roosevelt out for mail path to the white house.
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was he always on track to be a democrat or liberal? do not actually coming as he was always going to be a democrat. most of the republicans were democrats. the exception really is theodore roosevelt, who became a republican by virtue of while some of the members of the family had been republican. theodore roosevelt grew up during the civil war and for him the democratic ready with the party of the rebellion. he also grew up in new york city. and the democratic party was the party of the most notorious the corrupt political machine in the united states. so theodore roosevelt should've been a democrat. in fact, he wound up a republican. but he was as progressive on certain issues as franklin roosevelt. yes, in the way back?
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>> i'm wondering if you can tell me about robert sherwood, one of the speechwriters who went on to win an academy award. i want you to tell me about the relationship. >> he also won a pulitzer prize for his dual biography of roosevelt and hopkins. robert sherwood was a speechwriter. robert sherwood was very happy sort of closest confidant in government. and that got them quite close to franklin roosevelt as well. because during -- well, starting in 1940, hopkins became roosevelts right-hand man. roosevelt needed a right-hand man. louis howe died in 1936 and we have never had the kind of stature, the hopkins would develop. and hopkins in fact allow themselves to think that he might -- the roosevelt might be grooming him for the presidency in 1940. roosevelt led a number of people think that he might be grooming
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them. watkins became roosevelts indispensable envoy during the second world war. so we traveled to talk to churchill. he traveled to talk to stalin. and hopkins was quite free and hopkins although he shared his paper with sherwood here to sherwood was a brilliant writer. and his book is exceedingly good great impact as one of the most important accounts, one of the most important sources for what roosevelt was thinking. because roosevelt would talk to hopkins and hopkins would come back to sherwood or hopkins would write it down in a journal. the surface that i used for the book were the obvious presidential papers, correspondence and the like. but franklin roosevelt didn't reveal himself very much in letters. he never kept a diary. so i had to rely to a greater sense than some of my previous biographies on roosevelts public, i will call them,
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performances. franklin roosevelt understood that politics, especially presidential politics was a performance art. i one point, orson welles came to the white house. this wasn't orson welles was in his prime, the great actor and director. roosevelt took on the site and he said orson, i want you to know, that you and i are the two finest that there's in america. and roosevelt was perfectly serious about this. and if ronald reagan were here, he could tell you that this doesn't turn out necessarily insincerity anymore than for example i don't know yo-yo ma is insincere by learning how to perform as a musician. at the presidency is a role as much as it is an office or an individual. and roosevelt understood how to perform on the stage. i spent a lot of time reading the transcripts of roosevelts press conferences.
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and maybe especially after the last 7.5 years to see someone who left press conferences, who performed really utley oppressed , this. now i will admit that it's easier for roosevelt then it would be for president in the age of television. because roosevelt could say that i'm about to the record and so he could bring reporters into his confidence in a way that is simply not possible if you're doing it on television. it becomes much more of a spectacle. but for roosevelt he did this twice a week for 12 years, something like 900 press conferences. and every one is the kind of high wire act because roosevelt has to weigh how much he is giving the reporters and how much he has to withhold. and he puts on that show. and the reporters crowd into his office. in fact, he's very careful it's going to take place in his office, and he knows that they know that they are on his turf, therefore they have to play by
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his rules. he asks them questions. he tips his hand in the way that previous presidents had not. he doesn't force the business about some things are for background, somethings are off the record, some things are for direct attribution. but just reading these, you can see roosevelt and reveling in this kind of performance. he loved in the same way the great actors love to go on stage. i once heard an interview that are not dirt, and i think it was joel grey, date somebody who asked a question, i suppose it may be fairly common, commonly asked among a yours and that is, do you ever suffer stage fright? and this actor says, i think it was joel grey and maybe some of you have heard the soap please let me know so i can mail this down. i know what he said was stage fright, no. what i suffer is light fright. and what he was saying is that he felt freer onstage than in
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his personal life. in certain respects i think that apply to roosevelt. and now i forget what your question was, but i hope i answered it your [inaudible] sure, there you go. i answer that part of it i think. yes? >> we hear it turned out like traitor to his class, it kind of grates against modern sensibilities. adult think we've had a prominent politician in this country in the last 50 years that even acknowledges that there is such a thing as class in this country. was this just a roosevelt artifact? when did it go away? >> when did it go away? kerry chairman did very much the same thing. i don't remember president after truman who did it. he did very much the same thing. identified his enemies and made the most of them. now actually i guess, no. they're different kinds of enemies. so republicans and particulars has been railing against what?
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secular humanism and the liberal media. so every president, every affected political leader chooses enemies. you're going to have enemies. and if you can choose enemies carefully and judiciously, then you can get a lot of mileage. roosevelt quite clearly engaged in something that comes really close to class warfare, where he talked about the wealthy of america, having interest only of their own class, who feather their own mass and then kerry about the rest of the country. and so roosevelt made this distinction between the wealthy few and the ordinary mini. and he made clear that he was on the side of the ordinary mini. he could do the numbers as well as everybody else. and if you narrow the field to a small enough group, you can afford to alienate half the population. i was talking about this when iraq obama talks about if you make $250,000, your taxes will be cut.
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reasonably, those would be upset by this. big deal. how many make more than that in the election. roosevelt was very good at depicting his enemies. having said that i will say the roosevelt also was very good when he would criticize republicans. he never criticize republicans. he criticized republican leaders. am i way he can say is just those bad guys in office. because he of course was courting the votes of ordinary republicans. so roosevelt understood the power of words. and he understood the power of enemies. and when he decided to his enemies were, he went after them. i'll take one more question because the last thing i wanted people to feel that they have to leave without having time to buy a book. [laughter] one more question. >> the three presidents you've done and you might've answered this question already, but they made this incredibly controversial decisions to the
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presidency that i would just think what alienate anybody on tv. you'd have handed the end more and more just going nuts. it seemed like they always have its not the approval somewhat of the support of the people during the time. is there anything all three of those folks whose he had in common? >> the three presidents andrew jackson, theodore roosevelt, franklin roosevelt all understood that the presidency is unique in american politics. it's the only office for which every voter in the united states potentially convoke. so a senator, governor has a constituency that is much more narrowly defined. the president can say quite convincingly, i am the representative of the people. and leaders of congress can say this. and i was talking about this to my undergraduate class today. what advice would franklin roosevelt gave barack obama? and somebody suggested and i agree this entirely by one of
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the things that he must do is to make clear that he is the leader of the democratic dirty and not nancy pelosi, not harry reid. because he can say in this last election, everybody can vote for me. i'm the one who represents the whole country. and the presidents were successful and the ones he mentioned were ones that can credibly make that claim. can speak for the people as a whole. it would've been very difficult for warren harding to make that claim or herbert hoover to make that claim. happened to herbert hoover would've been a great president. i think he would've been a great president if not for the great crash and depression. if herbert hoover had been elected eight years earlier, in 1920, he would've been terrific weird kid that mindset, the talent, for dealing with the status quo, extending and preserving the status quo. but when things change or medically, right beneath the sea come he didn't have the flexibility to deal with it. having said that, i think that there's one other aspect of ro


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