Skip to main content

tv   Book TV In Depth  CSPAN  September 2, 2012 12:00pm-3:00pm EDT

12:00 pm
page. >> the next three hours is your turn to talk to water and historian michael beckof. you talk about president eisenhower, kennedy and johnson as well as the strategy for winning world war ii and the cold war. .. >> he was trying to get them to think that the competition with the soviets was serious enough to get americans to pay for
12:01 pm
defense and perhaps to render their sons and daughters very quickly after world war ii. >> host: how much continuity was there when it came to soviet power from fdr to president johnson? >> guest: a lot more than they give them credit for. dwight eisenhower had something called rollback. they said elect him because he will wipe the russians out of eastern europe. to some extent, he was serious to that effect. but the way that eisenhower handled this, he had it aide called andrew goodpaster. he was sort of a pullback supporter. they had this operation called
12:02 pm
operation solarium. the way he did it was he appointed three teams fred one was rollback, push eastern europe back even if it means war, and the other was isolationists, do nothing and let them take over the world, and of the center would be something akin to what we would call containment. although they didn't call it that. he put andrew goodpaster in charge of the containment team. because he knew that he'd make undreamt would make sure that one. and indeed it did. >> host: rhetoric aside, was still make the goal of these administrations when it came to the soviet union? >> guest: i think short-term stomach, long-term and hope that the cold war would end. some residents were more serious about it than others. i think the dwight eisenhower
12:03 pm
and john kennedy and ronald reagan certainly were. they were not just content to say that this is just rhetoric, you know, privately come i think the cold war will go on for a century or two. in fact, they felt that there were things they could do that would hasten the day that the cold war ended. >> host: when kennedy took office in 1961, was he prepared for the soviet threat and foreign policy? >> guest: not really. he had served in congress for 14 years. he had served in the navy, certainly not as inexperienced as richard nixon made him out to be. but when kennedy was looking for issues to use in 1961 against eisenhower and nixon, there were not many because the country was very prosperous. more or less. and generally at peace. he came upon the missile gap. the idea was because eisenhower
12:04 pm
was so obsessed with balanced budgets, they were letting the soviets produce all sorts of nuclear missiles, getting way ahead of the united states in defense and wait it was so dangerous that we might lose the cold war. kennedy said that over and over again. to some extent, one of the reasons that he won the election in 1960. he gets into office and has access to intelligence and realizes that actually soviets are way behind, extremely behind. there is a missile gap in the united states. the problem was that kennedy in the campaign, they said that we need hugely increased defense in order to make up for it and he was committed to that. the result was in 1961 at that time, the largest defense bill in human history, and it was to a great extent that it made --
12:05 pm
needless to say, the missiles could have caused a lot of destruction. >> host: wended nikita khrushchev come on the scene? >> guest: it did take some people to the blog, but not nikita khrushchev. there were two leaders who were essentially a joint leadership. by 19541956, khrushchev was a supreme leader. >> host: what policy changes came with his ascension? >> guest: khrushchev would've been shocking to anyone in the west. but khrushchev actually realized
12:06 pm
that stalin had gone way overboard. a number of people have been killed under stalin. despite all the claims, the soviet union was way behind economically and with defense. the result was khrushchev wanted to change it because something called the secret speech. it was a speech that essentially said terrible crimes occurred under stalin and we have to fix this. people in the audience cried because stalin was their hero. but the result was that became public because the west learn about it. but khrushchev, remember an american president giving lipservice during the cold war saying there would be a stalemate? khrushchev on his side was a very tough man. he also hoped ultimately to end the cold war as well, even if it did not mean that the soviets would rule the earth. >> host: michael beschloss, how
12:07 pm
much did roosevelt and truman negotiate the presidency of stalin. >> guest: and again in 1945 a couple of months before roosevelt died. he would talk about the fact that joe and i have a great relationship and we can rely on us. i think he was probably pushing out a little bit more than he really felt. during the last days of his life, roosevelt would get messages and intelligence showing that the soviets were being very intransigent and eastern europe. and there were signs that he was beginning to get very disappointed. a little bit unfair to say what he might have done had he had the later experience. in truman's case. he had a top-down summer and he
12:08 pm
negotiated with song. very quickly he realized that it was not true that the russians would be furious. truman was quickly come to the view is that the soviets were a worldwide set and i have let. >> host: in your book, "mayday: eisenhower, khrushchev, and the u-2 affair", you write it was more commonplace in american soviet relations, more normal. only a president as popular as eisenhower, could not have done so much to keep from presidential harm. >> guest: that's absolutely
12:09 pm
right. imagine if adlai stevenson was president instead. so we have a lot of latitude with ranking of soviet leaders, which was an astounding event, hard to imagine now, but for khrushchev to set foot on american soil, later to come to the midwest and go to a farm in iowa and be able to go to disneyland he visited the studio and effort to do a film called cancan. marilyn monroe, shirley mcclain. a scene like this would've been unimaginable. a couple years earlier the more important thing that i could do was from his exposure to secret intelligence and his ability to use it, eisenhower knew that the
12:10 pm
soviets were behind. he knew how primitive their economy was, especially after world war ii. so he essentially said that we don't have a need to increase defense. it's more important to have a balanced budget. any of the president would've been publicly crucified who do that. >> host: .u-2 affair. how big were the headlines? >> guest: well, a lot. viewers may not have remembered what it was. americans went down in the soviet union. at the time i wrote that book, which was published in 1986. you have read a lot more recently than i have, the general view was it was an incident that did not have too much impact on the world.
12:11 pm
that was the moment for which american soviet relations and foreign policy, we can get the most recent documents that were classified. these were documents from the 1960s. as i went to the documents in the 80s in a fresh way, i begin to realize that that was a lot more important and influence world history much more than certainly eisenhower allowed. he had khrushchev here and they agreed to have a general summit here. i think at that summit in may of 1963, it would have accelerated this cold war. when the plane went down and khrushchev demagogue claims over our chair territory from
12:12 pm
eisenhower accidentally put khrushchev in a position of being extremely tough. eisenhower had to be tough in response. and so the attitude was set for the whole campaign. it was a very tough cold war era in which the two competed. not for the medal of who could continue eisenhower's opening to the soviets, which would have been the case, but who would be a tougher cold warrior. if it weren't for u-2, there would be no shoe pounding. >> host: welcome to the tv. this month we have presidential historian michael beschloss. as our guests come he will be here for the next three hours. we will take your calls, e-mails and tweets. if you live in the time zones,
12:13 pm
look for the numbers at the bottom of our screen. you can set an transcendent e-mail send e-mail at we will begin taking those questions in just a minute. here is a list of his books. "kennedy and roosevelt: the uneasy alliance" came out in 1980. in 1986, "eisenhower: a centennial life", "the crisis years: kennedy and khrushchev: 1960-1963", "the conquerors: roosevelt, truman, and the destruction of hitler's germany, 1941-1945", it came out in 2002, his most recent book was "presidential courage: brave leaders and how they changed america: 1789-1989", which came
12:14 pm
out in 2007. and he is also the editor and co-author of several other books. including at the highest levels, the inside story of the end of the cold war, 1989. taking charge, the johnson white house tapes of 1963 in 1964. reaching for glory, lyndon johnson's secret white house tapes in 1964 to 1965, and this past year, "jacqueline kennedy: historic conversations on life with john f. kennedy" with john f. kennedy. mr. michael beschloss, what was your involvement with the jacqueline kennedy book? >> guest: jacqueline kennedy, a couple of months after the assassination of her husband, did interviews with historian
12:15 pm
arthur schlesinger, with the idea that it would be locked up for period of time and in released sunday. caroline kennedy decided about two years ago there was no reason to keep them concealed anymore. so she decided it would be published, asking to edit them and write notes and footnotes. and setting it all in context. the interesting thing here is historian's -- there were several historians. it was set in the newspaper when i was a little boy that she was doing these secret interviews at georgetown. all these years, this is one of the few things that in my mind, i would love to see, but i probably would not live long enough for it to be opened. so the chance to see those
12:16 pm
things as a historian, in terms of satisfying my kurowski. the other thing is that she did not give interviews about her husband were speak about that period in general. she was quite silent for the last 30 years of her life. this turned out to be a much bigger event because it told us much about her experience of those years that we didn't know. >> host: what you think was her motivation for keeping these interviews and caroline kennedy for releasing him? >> guest: i think it is very emotional. from the moment of the assassination, and people are so familiar with that incident, i think that sometimes, those who lived through it especially, people don't realize how horrible it was for her to be killed in her arms and to ride in a car for five more minutes to the hospital. she was 34 years old. he was 46 years old. quite a young man.
12:17 pm
it is hard to remember what a horrible shock that was for anyone, especially for her. the weeks thereafter, she became almost obsessed, certainly distress that history will forget jack. a lot of the newspapers said that kennedy had not lived long enough to achieve his potential. it wasn't long enough, had not done enough, a promising president -- but not too much more than that. she was determined to do what she could to essentially gain from the legacy that she felt was being already taken away. one way she did that was to very quickly begin planning for what was to be the kennedy library. the other was this oral history. her desire to talk about those years, which she thought of as the happiest years of their marriage, at a time when she was so distraught and the death
12:18 pm
depth of her depression, it took enormous willpower for her to really relate those years at great length in these seven sessions. she was so fragile at that point. at the same time, she was giving interviews with william manchester, who wrote a book about the death of the president. it was not the official account that was intended to be the official account that enjoyed her cooperation or at last she was giving these interviews, she was also giving interviews to manchester about the assassination. so fragile was she, in the case of the manchester interviews, which were also at her living room in georgetown, she insisted that the interviews be done at night. to do it during the daylight would remind her of dallas. >> host: is it fair to say that history has been kind to jfk, has there been any reassessment at this point? >> guest: well, i think history has gone up and down.
12:19 pm
there are so many books written, it is hard to find any kind of -- if you had the look of it in the 1960s, understandably, after his death. for about 10 years, he was treated the same by most people who are writing about them. not too many historians, because they thought it was too early to write that. arthur schlesinger had very great interest in preserving the legacy. he promised jackie that he would. by the mid-1970s, he was beginning to get some distance and beginning to be documented. parts of the administration --
12:20 pm
documenting things like fidel castro and his at-bat. it was almost as if his legacy was being made to pay for how poorly people treated him in the 1960s. there has been an effort to sympathize with you. to not ignore that administration that we are not as admirable. but at the same time, these were two parts of the presidency, and perhaps most the most important part is the consummate he did make. >> host: michael beschloss, you seemed to have specialized in a certain period in american history. we will call the cold war. not. why is that? >> guest: to some extent, emotionally, if you're writing about events that touch a nerve even in your childhood, for instance, what happened with john kennedy -- i remember the assassination when i was seven years old. i was living in illinois, in a
12:21 pm
suburb of chicago and it was raining. the teacher came in fourth grade and was crying. we were not accustomed to seeing a teacher do that. we were sent home. this was a huge. i sat in front of the television for the next 72 hours, almost nothing else to the point that on the sunday i was watching and i saw oz will be shot on tv. and she said i'm going to turn off that television because you've been watching so much that you're imagining things. not long afterwards, i wrote a letter to president johnson suggesting that he -- i got a
12:22 pm
letter back and on white house paper there was a response from anita johnson. i showed my friends the letter. they thought it was forgery, no presidential secretary would write someone like you, seven years old. i grew up mainly in illinois. i was born in chicago. it is about 30 miles south. just on the edge of the suburbs. it was almost in farm country in those days. i was born in chicago. actually, in the hospital, it was on the side of the place where softball was invented in 1887. i took my kids back there that were huge baseball fanatics and players. that was the only thing that impressed them about my life. it didn't have too much to be with me. in any case, that is where i
12:23 pm
was. one thing about growing up in the midwest, and i now know you do, too -- people had a little bit of disconnectedness from events in washington almost if you were dependent upon variables. that is a time of john kennedy and lyndon johnson, but also as personalities -- but in my mind, one of the lessons from the cuban missile crisis is that the president has the ability to decide whether tens of millions of human beings live or not. i remember the cuban missile crisis. it reminded me of tornado warnings were a couple of times during the midwest, you go in the basement and when you come upstairs your house may be gone or a tree may have come through your house and done damage. it was like an eight-day tornado
12:24 pm
warning for myself and my little brother. by the time johnson came in, society, civil rights, everything that had to do in the summer of 1965. any kid who was at least a little bit aware. i was nine years old by then. i'm not claiming that every 9-year-old was aware of the things i was, but had to have the impression that presidents were pretty important people. >> host: what your parents do? >> guest: my father was in business in southern illinois. his family had been austrian jews who had come have come here before world war ii. my mother was from chicago. i always used to think if i ever wanted to run for office in illinois, the suburbs of the city and downstate where i had all those basic connections. but i had no such interest. >> host: you save your father's parents came here before world war ii? how soon?
12:25 pm
>> guest: 1939, at a time it was getting pretty dangerous. what happened was that in those days, my grandfather who died before i was born -- and never met him, he was a doctor. it was easy to get into the united states if you are a doctor. they went to taylor bell, illinois, which is near springfield. the last stop on the abraham lincoln circuit ride. >> host: michael beschloss come he worked on two books on lbj. and also the johnson white house tapes. what is the fascination with this president? >> guest: i think two things. first of all, he was historically important and we can get into a lot of what the viewers know.
12:26 pm
another thing is just a sick human being, he is completely indifferent. the interesting thing is that when lyndon johnson was president and all that most people saw was the face on tv, most people thought that this must be one of the most boring human beings on earth. i can imagine remember watching his speeches in the late 1960s. i would see his face come on the air and i was respectful of him, but you know who clutch cargo was? clutch cargo was a cartoon that was on in those days. it was permanent. but this was was a stonefaced on a piece of paper with a cutout that has someone in the background. that is the way that we see clutch cargo topic. that is what johnson reminded me of because of his very stonefaced and, in retrospect, i now know that it was very important to johnson to not look like what he called a country
12:27 pm
backwoodsman. he wanted to look like a president. he was this very stylish figure, almost like grover cleveland. one of the fascinating things about history is that you can get behind what was the façade, and find a president in three dimension that people didn't know well at the time. there is no better way of doing not then these lbj tapes. because it's almost like night and day. >> host: okay. >> guest: he is incapable of saying anything in an uninteresting life. if romney can't find his rear and with both hands. he doesn't know how to pour urine out of the blue. this kind of stuff. everything he says is fascinating. but in terms of history, you are able to write about those times in a way that you were not before.
12:28 pm
there are all sorts of stuff. case in point, this is a sad one in early 1965 when johnson began the big expiration in vietnam, sending over 100,000 troops to south vietnam for the first time. i listened to one of the tapes of lbj and they're very 1965 -- they're going to win the war and nail that coonskin on the wall. on the telephone he says i can't think of anything worse than losing the war in vietnam, and i cannot see any way that we can win. this was 1965 when i was just beginning. and i thought maybe it was just a momentary, you know, moment of depression. i listened on, and it began to be by the summer of 1965, lady byrd johnson kindly gave me access to her tape-recorded diary, which it almost everyday.
12:29 pm
she reports in her diary the linden said to me about the war in vietnam, the summer of 1965 -- i feel as if i am an airplane that's crashing and i do not have a parachute. now, that changes radically about the kind of expectations that johnson had when the war began. >> host: where did you go to school and what did you study? >> guest: i went to public school in part 10 baltimore until the eighth grade. then i went to some boarding schools or very good in massachusetts. eagle brook school, i was there for eighth and ninth grade. best of its kind. in illinois, there were not too many people going off to schools at that time. half of my friends thought i was sent to military school or sent to reform school, which, played on the judgment of my character. either way, 180 kids at the top
12:30 pm
of the class. then i went to andover massachusetts, which is a spectacular place. they have one of the best in history departments on earth. i went to williams college in massachusetts. the way that happened was actually one of my mentors was a man who passed way too early. he was the headmaster of andover. in those days, you would go see the headmaster and he would say where would you want to go to college or a a lot of my friends wanted to go to this particular college and he said i don't think that's a good reason for you to go anyplace. he said you want he wants to write history books, don't you? he said i think we will send you to williams. 1800 students. you go there and be able to study closely with the historian like james macgregor burns. if you are good and you can study closely with him -- which would be very hard, the graduate
12:31 pm
students and want to really get get to work with the professors -- that is the way he will start. my reaction was, you know, i admired williams and have gone there. but at the age of 17, you don't like your life to be told dictated and told what to do. but this guy took me on as an apprentice. he studied with me almost like a tutor. it had everything to do with the fact that i have gone into this line of work. without jim byrnes, i would be doing something extremely different, not having to say that he is now 94 years old. we had dinner last week. he is going strong. he has written a book next set for next june. he went to grad school. when i was studying under temperance jim byrnes come the question is would you like to write history being taught to do something else? and i had to make a pretty
12:32 pm
honest judgment, which was this. i have, and perhaps you have, too, had teachers who are really devoted to their the writing and the teacher was basically something to do in order for them to do what they wanted to do, which was write books. it used to annoy me when i saw this. i said, do i really want to be in a situation where i cannot honestly think that the teaching is even my first priority? maybe even my second. i talked to jim byrnes and said what should i do. the only other thing i can think of doing is being a foundation executive were some job where they would actually see it as a cluster you are writing history and they might be willing to structured differently. so he got this idea of going to harvard business school and getting a degree in not-for-profit management, which is the best thing. you want to be a manager of foundation and perhaps go on to get a harvard phd in history. as it happened, my first book,
12:33 pm
which i see you have done that, was originally my senior thesis under jim byrnes at williams college. it got published about 1980, which was reasonably well received. as a result of that, it was the foundation employed my full-time services and i came down to washington to work at the smithsonian. >> host: and you started writing? yes. >> host: michael beschloss is with us for the next couple of hours. now it's your turn. bernie from brooklyn new york on the phone. >> caller: thank you, c-span. michael beschloss, i've read a couple of your books. the book on presidential carriage, two questions. sir, would it be more important
12:34 pm
to write a book on the offices of presidential carriage but -- the opposite, cowardice? >> guest: sure. >> caller: can a president who would be evaluated, like president obama, can you give me your forethought on obama? >> guest: one thing, and i hope this is not too annoying, if you are a true historian, the idea is that unlike current analyst who wait 30 or 40 years and get the documents that people did not see in real-time and also know how the story turned out so that you could gain ahistorical
12:35 pm
view -- i was we can do that with health care yet. i think on obama, what was your other question? >> host: bernie is now gone. he wanted to talk about presidential cowardice. >> guest: oh, yes, that's right. in my mind, the worst circle of hell should be for a president of doctors the issues of the most important time. if you're trying to think of an example, i think president buchanan would regret the top of the scale. because for four years he tried to dodge the issue of slavery. he didn't want to get involved. he didn't want to make himself unpopular. the result was that when it really came to a head in 1861, once abraham lincoln had the presidency, the conflict over slavery was four years were violent, four years more intense than would've been. buchanan, had he been a little bit more forward.
12:36 pm
>> host: we have carl from elizabeth, new jersey. >> caller: thank you, peter. i just want to say that there aren't a lot of people in this world that can fill the shoes of brian lamb and you. you to do a magnificent job. in keeping level, asking points, not inserting yourself overly in the conversation. but bringing out the best. >> host: both proud sons of indiana, to. >> caller: it is a privilege to be able to speak to michael beschloss. i've been a fan for decades, and i think the last person i was actually able to talk to on the program was edwin meese. >> guest: we are two peas in a pod. >> caller: in reference to michael's second book, "mayday", i don't have the book is for in front of me, although it is in my collection -- where he
12:37 pm
relates to a conversation that he had with president eisenhower's son, john eisenhower, who was a close aide to the president. during the incident, which is the focus of that book. i was hoping that michael beschloss might be able to pay a picture of the order that president eisenhower gave to the director of the cia, allen dulles, talking bout no more overreaching flies at the end of april. we know from history and mr. michael beschloss, his book entitled "mayday", it that it happened in may. it seems to me speaking also, referencing the courage and aspect of eisenhower catering
12:38 pm
very much on the question of having the courage to confront those who seem to be meddling in affairs of state by shooting down not just the u-2 plane, but shooting down the summit meeting that was upcoming. >> host: thank you for calling in. >> guest: is dramatic as can be. as the caller suggested, the flight took place the first of may. eisenhower said no more flights. during the two weeks before the summer, which was to begin in mid-may. this is the last call for the flight. the flight was shot down, assured by allen dulles that it could never be shot down, because it flew too high. then when the flight went down, eisenhower had also been assured that it was unlikely that a pilot would ever survive such a
12:39 pm
crash. so there would not be the evidence if the plane did crash. so eisenhower felt as if he had been betrayed by allen dulles and the people who work with him. and he was furious. for those weeks in public, he had to keep a stiff upper lip. he didn't want americans to know essentially he had a director of the cia that he thought was incompetent and caused the soldier will situation. the result was that they were flying home and john eisenhower, who is now 89 years old and doing well in the eastern shore of maryland -- he told me that i was talking to my dad. i said to him, you should've fired allen dulles for doing this. and dad took me aside and look inside, don't say turbo things we've heard he was suggesting that eisenhower as a confinement
12:40 pm
to himself, that he was bottling it up. at the moment that his son was there, they could talk frankly, but it all came out in his anger >> host: you are watching the tv on c-span2. this is her monthly in-depth program, michael beschloss is our guest this month. we have ron in seattle. good morning to you. >> caller: good morning to both of you gentlemen. taking the opportunity here. i have a comment and question. it is a suggestion for the research of another book. another is the ending of the cold war, third world and potion on east germany and the soviet union. i think it was a dangerous era in our history. it was expertly managed by george bush senior and i would
12:41 pm
suggest were in the writings. there is a book called armageddon's verdict. my question was back your comments earlier from the crisis years. that kennedy attacked nixon during the 1960 campaign for being soft on communism and lacking in defense posture. dear member the debate issue where nixon attacks kennedy for being soft on communism. the book only about devotes 10 pages, "the crisis years", 10 pages out of 100 pages. >> guest: the book was very much about the relationship between kennedy and khrushchev. i think you're absolutely right in terms of the importance of
12:42 pm
the end of the cold war and as a matter of fact, peter, do you want to pull that one out? the jackie kennedy book their? i actually wrote a book that is not history. but actually covers that. matt, which went on to become deputy secretary of state at the highest level. what we did there was from early 1989 until the end of 1991, the two of us were able to talk to soviet leaders and we would have american leaders, including jim baker who is the secretary of state -- and what was going on behind closed doors and the diplomacy that is trying to ease the end of the cold war, as it turned out to be. i think george h. w. bush -- he didn't get a lot of credit at the time.
12:43 pm
he ran for reelection in 1992. by then, people were not interested in foreign policy. they thought very little about the fact that they would be able to pull this off in the cold war. i think that now, we are increasingly realizing that that was a very spectacular job. >> host: that was published in 1989. >> guest: 1993. from your book you write about ronald reagan. reagan had always told the public that is turning up the pressure on the soviets. making them bargain seriously. he would not only deal, but try to abolish nuclear weapons. when they heard this, many champions had waited. with gorbachev, it showed that he meant what he had said. at break of it, he tried to end
12:44 pm
the nuclear arms race once and for all, even if it infuriated some of his earlier supporters. like the most effective american president, reagan alternately proved that he was not a captive of his political base, but his later. >> guest: one of them was in the way that he was running in 1980, people forget that late october -- until late october, he was running even with jimmy carter. the reason they were essentially tied is they are a significant number of undecided. with the undecided largely slight is that -- there is one thing that bothers us, it is so tough on the soviet union that we might get involved in the war. later, he went him and said, governor, give some speeches with a little bit more.
12:45 pm
reagan was huge and principles. he said i won't do that because number one it's dishonest, and number two, i want a mandate. if i'm elected, i can say -- one of the most important things to be elected for is to increase the defense budget and try to and the cold war in our time. the result was he was elected and he did go to congress the next year. he did get his increase in the defense budget. during reagan's first term he was seen by admirers and detractors as it cold war warrior. he was trying to push the soviet union so hard that they were essentially say they can't compete with this and they better sue for peace, which is what they did in the mid-and late 1980s. so when the cal gorbachev became the leader, a a lot of republicans who thought that they knew reagan said well, this is basically gorbachev and a neil stalin or neo- khrushchev.
12:46 pm
but not much is going to change. what they had not taken seriously was that when reagan talked about this during his campaign, he said i will sit down and do my best, as long as it takes, to get an agreement with them. when they met at reykjavík, gorbachev proposed that this was much to do draconian and dangerous. reagan went back to his childhood. he was really committed to the idea of eliminating this terrible weapon, if it was possible. he went a long way to dealing with gorbachev, which wouldn't
12:47 pm
have been done if gorbachev didn't insist on reagan giving up star wars. but what oftentimes happens -- the supporters of reagan heard what they wanted to hear the others heard what they wanted to hear. in reagan's case, he was a person of integrity. serious about challenging the soviets but once the soviets came to the table, he was just as serious about negotiating seriously. so he has, i think, this comport into the world war. >> host: are you still hearing, michael beschloss, on "the newshour"? >> yes-man yes, i am. >> host: what is the status of your lpga tapes trilogy?
12:48 pm
would expect that? >> guest: thank you very much for asking that. it is a process. it will cover the period from 1965 to end of lbj's presidency. that might sound as if it is a lot more than one third of the presidency. as it turns out, johnson, as time went on, takes fewer conversations about one third of the roughly 650 hours of conversation that had been released. it should take a year or two more to do. thank you for asking. you get the added incentive for me to get it done soon. >> host: what was your relationship with lady byrd johnson? >> guest: it was very good. she was a wonderful woman. she was also someone who understood historians that oftentimes you don't find in a first lady or president or people in the entourage. one example of this is getting to know someone reasonably well.
12:49 pm
i was down on the ranch for dinner. she said you are a historian, you're writing about my husband. you should really does come to the ranch and take a look around. i said, mrs. johnson, you have been kind enough to have me for dinner. she said yes, but i know you guys are sitting with your feet under my dining room table. i know what you're really thinking. what does my bedroom look like and the bathroom of lyndon johnson -- she said our range of you to come down, we will arrange some things you can do that. that was very nice of her. i went down with brian williams and our wives. he also wrote a letter to lbj when he was a little boy. i think 1966. which he also was able to find in the johnson library and has been as interested in president often as i have. he listened to every lbj tape. many more than once.
12:50 pm
yes and lbj autograph. much better than mine are. in any case, we have this magical day when we are actually able to wander around that house. and she really did say, we could go into lbj's bedroom and bathroom, which was like a museum of 1972 male beauty technology. also, those who know the lbj tapes. many of you but c-span knows this well. one of the crown jewels is a conversation in the summer of 1964 when johnson was ordering from mr. hagar. without using language that should not be on c-span, describing anatomical detail. mr. hagar sent the flats and everybody was happy. brian and i went into the closet and sure enough there were some hagar slacks. i should add, by the way, that i did put that in my first book.
12:51 pm
i asked her how she felt about my book. but she said the hagar story is my grandchildren's favorite and i could never figure it out. a month later i got a letter from old mr. hagar. there are some perks for historians. >> host: michael beschloss, we think the johnson family's motivation to release these tapes in all? >> guest: that was lieber johnson's decisions. one of her daughter and granddaughters told that she shouldn't have done it. this is the early 1990s and lbj had viewers not familiar with logistics. he had secretly taped about 650 hours. no one knew about it. he had locked them up in the lbj
12:52 pm
library. an older woman knew about them named mildred. not long before johnson died on january 22, 1973, he said i want you to know that my intention is that after i die, these tapes should be locked up for 50 years. not shown to anyone. then, whoever is director of the library should listen to them. destroy some or all of them are decide what he wants to do. so she wrote an affidavit that said -- for about 20 more years, most americans didn't know about these things. >> host: in early 1990, he saw a man named terry middleton. joe dimaggio presidential library director. sort of a model for someone in that job. he went to johnson said, you know, historically, maybe we should really begin opening these now.
12:53 pm
her view was that, you know, she was serious about being faithful to history. i'm guessing, but i don't think i'm wrong, i think she also loved and admired her husband and felt that, you know, there would be thing she would not light, like the hagar slacks keep, but the preponderance would cause people to it admire her husband. hosni mubarak the next call comes from suzanne in tucson. >> caller: thank you. i i'm in my 70s, and so i remember the original kennedy campaign for president. i remember it very clearly. i am looking at what is going on with the mitt romney campaign. i see a similarity between a hysterical fear that were kennedy be elected, the pope would really be president. and the same sorts of
12:54 pm
accusations about mormons. i'm curious, if you see the parallel. if you think i am seeing something that isn't there. if you think that we can learn something, if people would only know about what went on during kennedy's campaigns, if people could be reminded of that, it would reduce the prejudice. >> guest: yes, i agree with you. the fact that john kennedy, in office, if anything, he asserted himself that he was not enough of a catholic to be observant enough. i think he answered that question essentially. there was some worry when joe lieberman ran on the al gore ticket in 2000. but having a jewish vice president might weigh down the gore ticket in certain areas. most of the data that was picked up was not true. it is sort of a happy story. i hope that from those two data points we could extend this to
12:55 pm
say that being a mormon will have turned out to be nothing but a plus for mitt romney. >> caller: we have ron in spring valley. why did jfk not remove the missiles in turkey upon his inauguration in 1961. could we have avoided the missile crisis by removing those in 1961? >> guest: i think not. to explained briefly, the missiles that were in turkey, this was one of the ways that america says that you should be happy with their alliance. by the time of the missile crisis in late 1962, those missiles were loaded but they hadn't been taken out yet. that takes a lot of diplomacy with nato members. when khrushchev in the summer of 1992, was considering sending
12:56 pm
nuclear missiles in cuba -- one of the things that he said is that americans should not mind this. they have western missiles in turkey. i do not think that that was his motive for putting everything in cuba. number one, he knew that there were efforts by the united states to kill fidel castro and perhaps invade the island. even if the soviets had nuclear missiles and cuba. but he unlikely that the americans could bomb both sides. the more important thing was that by 1962, americans and others are beginning to get a true idea that the soviet union actually was militarily much weaker than they are. he felt this would be an instant fix the missile gap. suddenly, kennedy will wake up and there are dozens of nuclear missiles that can reach parts of canada, peru, the whole western hemisphere, that was his real
12:57 pm
motive and i think the jupiter missiles were sort of an excuse. >> host: we have victor in los angeles. good afternoon. >> caller: good morning in los angeles, actually. my question is about munich. there has always been a lot of talk that, you know, joseph kennedy pushed the munich agreement and what a disaster was. it certainly was a disaster. but i'm wondering if you could impact joseph kennedy's thought process in regards to his experience with the first world war and what a waste that was and how that inform his thinking in the munich agreement. >> guest: joseph kennedy was at that time the ambassador to great britain. he had a passionate belief that the united states should not get involved in any war in europe, except for under the most extreme circumstances. so when his close friend, the prime minister britain neville
12:58 pm
chamberlain went to munich in 1948 and made a deal with adolf hitler, that chamberlain hoped would forestall the war. that is actually a phrase he used. i talked to a close friend of joe kennedy when i was writing my book. in the late 1970s. and i asked him, why did kennedy feel so emotionally about this? and the friend was a man named ernest who had written for newsweek. who were their sons and what were their ages? >> he was distraught at the idea that he might lose his sons in war. joe generic he did lose in the english channel. jack kennedy almost died in the south pacific. his nightmare came to pass. >> host: in your 1980 book "kennedy and roosevelt: the uneasy alliance", never fully secure in his social position and financial position, no
12:59 pm
matter where he could, he bought for stability. peace at a heavy price and strong centralized national government. or later and political fashion. >> guest: joe kennedy was very emotional from time to time. during these periods, he would think that something was happening that was apocalyptic. during the 1930s, entire financial system would come crashing down and the masses will come and take the money away from rich people when no one was safe. this is the way he would've described it. of course, in the 1940s, he thinks this will be the end of the world. as indeed, it did. i think that is probably a lot of where this came from. a lot of other people have these views. but in kennedy's views were so emotional.
1:00 pm
we have a son, jack, who is noted for his extreme detachment and almost hyper ability to take a look at political problems and analyze them. i think to some extent, that was a reaction from his father, who we love very much, but who was a different person hosni mubarak how does this book treat joe kennedy? >> guest: there's a fine book coming out this fall. the first biography it uses all the joe kennedy papers from the kennedy library. ..
1:01 pm
i think one could make an argument that the cuban missile crisis might not have happened. i'm not sure i would make the argument that the argument would be this, nixon would've continued the eisenhower policies. he wouldn't have had needed increased defense so much. khrushchev might not have felt so secure -- so insecure and might not a good missiles into cuba. but where i've finally come out on this is where i think that, this is when that book came out, this was an unusual view. i think more, no. i think if kennedy made some basic mistakes that lead -- did lead to the cuban missile
1:02 pm
crisis. if i wanted a president who managed the crisis i think jfk would be at the top. >> host: michael beschloss is our guest this month on in depth. beginning in 1980 with "kennedy and roosevelt: the uneasy alliance." made a commitment i.t. 86. "eisenhower: a centennial life," 1990. "the crisis years: kennedy and khrushchev, 1960-1963", 1991 that was published. "the conquerors" came out in 2002. "presidential courage: brave leaders and how they changed america, 1789-1989" came out in 2007. and he is also co-authored and edited several books including at the highest level, the inside sort of the end of the cold war. that was with strobe talbott. taking charge, the johnson white house tapes. reaching for glory, lb jason secret white house tapes.
1:03 pm
he already discussed the third book in that series, and finally last year, jacqueline kennedy, historic conversations on life with jfk, came out in 2011. and later in the program we will learn, we will learn a little bit about mr. beschloss his upcoming book but will say that for a little later in the program. back to your book, "the conquerors." this e-mail from bob of new york. and -- >> guest: that's on long island i think. >> host: has any of the country faced the sort of devastation that germany did during and after world war ii? do you think enough has been written about what germany has done during and after the war? can you talk about the conditions people faced in postwar germany before the economic recovery kicked in? >> guest: they were huge. i read a lot about that because during world war ii, a lot of my book "the conquerors" talks about this.
1:04 pm
roosevelt considered a plan called the morgenthau plan by his close friend, henry morgenthau junior who was worried that the war would and and state department diplomats which is treat germany like any other country, you instantly get back on its feet and bygones will be got -- by guns and that would be a. morgenthaler's view was because germany perpetrate the holocaust, it was in a different category and should be dealt with harshly. morgenthaler's view was basically that germany should be left to stew in its own juice was perturbed years and not and not help after world war ii. and let determined to starve and realize the results of the horrible things that they had done. roosevelt briefly flirted with that. finally, decided that it was inhumane, and also not terribly effective because the vacuum i be filled by the soviet union.
1:05 pm
so i think there are more and more things being written about the state of the germans at the end of world war ii. we're getting more and more documents. so i think that's a very good subject. >> host: how would you characterize fdr's treatment of the prior to world war ii? >> guest: prior to world war ii, i think quite good. there were many jewish people in his entourage which was unusual in those days. had important jewish advisers. i'm somewhat more critical than some others about his behavior during the holocaust. my general view would be that roosevelt learned pretty much the detail of the holocaust and 42 or 43. and did not speak much in public about it. i think he was worried about arousing americans without can he was with her might be pressure for them to somehow the first from our war in in europe which was to defeat hitler, to doing something that was somewhat different which was to eliminate the machinery of the holocaust. and so, therefore, in 1944 there
1:06 pm
was some discussion within the administration that perhaps some bombers should be deferred to bomb the concentration camps and at least stop the killing. roosevelt did not do this. the main reason he suggested for that was we have one more game. if i start diverting us to do other things, other groups will ask for us to do other things, in europe we will keep -- take our eye off the ball. by lynn which, not his. the holocaust was unlike anything else in human history, and i think his great historical imagination should have responded a little bit more uniquely to the. >> host: a tweet, any movement by politicians or the public, including presidents, for the u.s. presidency to return to a limited constitutional role and shape our? >> guest: with term limits -- actually i think there's a
1:07 pm
movement to do that and to be very much within the constitution, which is to my mind, presidents have stretched the limits of presidential power as the constitution gives it to them. one case in point. constitution says that it is going to be a war, president should go to congress to ask for it to be declared. congress should declare it on its own. the last time that congress has declared war against a foreign enemy was 1941. have we fought many wars since 1941? i believe we have. presidents have gotten into a habit, for verse reasons, not going to congress to declare war, and using military power very much on their own hook. i think that was not entirely intended by the founders. >> host: has there been a president who has ever voluntarily relinquished some of the powers of the presidency?
1:08 pm
>> guest: some presidents have felt that president should not act as powerfully as some have. sometimes for bad reasons. james buchanan just wanted to run the meter and let his successors take your problems. dwight eisenhower felt, not a term he would infuse, but roosevelt and truman were too much in people's face. he felt that the eight years of 1950s, his presidency should be spent not with a president crusading for americans to do things are putting pressure on congress, but trying to get the defense budget down, trying to end the cold war perhaps, and also to keep prosperity going. and he wasn't able to do all those things, and historians these days into giving him a lot more credit for that then perhaps people did at the time. the downside with that approach is, whenever i was talking about the can is feared to do much about slavery. eisenhower was trapped by his vision by the presidency because
1:09 pm
the 1950s was a time i think that a president should have gone to americans and said, this country is segregated, congress has to do something. eisenhower himself could have settled that with great authority. i came back from world war ii in europe, we did a part of a job. there were american soldiers that font for good. they went back to mississippi. this is unacceptable. we've got to fix the problem. and eisenhower with a statue could of been an enormous influence for that, but because he felt the president should not be that activist for those eight years, i know a lot of eisenhower people will argue with me about this, i think he was not anywhere near the influence or civil rights he could've been. and the same way that buchanan's delay led to a much more violent situation prior to 1851, i think that some of eisenhower's delays
1:10 pm
made the civil rights revolution of the early 1960s more violent than otherwise it might of been. >> host: from your book "presidential courage," was just a courageous when he came to civil rights? >> he was in the end. teacher wasn't in the beginning. in the 1950s he wanted to be first vice president 1956 and then run for president later on. and he felt that his support was going to probably come from the south. so in 1956 he was not quite anti-civil rights but he was even very hesitant in saying that the court's decision of brown v. board of education, ensuring public schools integration was a good thing, he was that hesitant. one of his first supporters of 1958 was in alabama governor named john patterson who was a segregationist so much so that he beat george wallace who was running for governor in 1958 because he was tougher on segregation than wallace was at
1:11 pm
that point. so kennedy's background basically opportunistically was to soft-pedal any support for civil rights. to his credit, 1960 campaign, once it was politically more helpful to him, he did say things on the campaign trail like elect me president and i will end the discrimination with the stroke of a pin. the problem was when he became president, a lot of americans not only black americans begin sending intends because he was doing too much. he was elected with a narrow margin. i guarantee you that most of those voters were not voting for kennedy expecting civil rights. kennedy knew that. he wanted to get reelected. he also worried about the subcommittee chairman in congress who are very powerful, but this is the important thing, this is what he is in my book on "presidential courage." he changed.
1:12 pm
by 1963, the emotionally realized that this cannot go on anymore. also, the climate became easier. there were meetings in selma, barking dogs that attacked teenage demonstrated that went all around the country. so kennedy in 1963, in june, sent a civil rights bill to congress that would propose the integration of public accommodations at hotels and restaurants. and he did this despite the fact that his general poll rating, nationally, nosedived. a new he was throwing away the south was a which was essential to his victory in 1960. so i think it's not too much to say that he knowingly jeopardize his reelection. that's why he was in texas in 1963 when he was killed because having lost so many southern states, he wanted to make sure that he carried texas in 1964 which he had only won by 45,000 votes in 1960. >> host: and you recount a
1:13 pm
dinner held at the white house prior to his full confession. >> guest: that's exactly right. he was trying to give the impression of someone who is very pro-civil rights, and i believe it was lincoln's birthday, 1963, they had 800 african-americans at the white house for a reception. now, the positive way of looking at this is, that he was allowing african-americans to help them celebrate lincoln's birthday. another positive spin was a number of people with a felt as if this was african-american night at the kennedys, as one of those sent. >> host: j., asheville, north carolina, please go ahead. you were on with michael beschloss. >> caller: yes, mr. beschloss coming you spoke earlier of lyndon johnson's deep fears and doubts and agonizing about vietnam. could you please discuss the gulf of tonkin incident and johnson's reaction to it and
1:14 pm
what his administration hoped to gain by it? >> guest: here's an example of where these tapes will change our knowledge of history. because beginning of august 1964, we all knew lbj had gotten a report from the pentagon saying that there may have been an attack on an american ship in the gulf of tonkin. johnson was running against barry goldwater which criticize him for being soft on communism. but we didn't really quite know what happened next because this happened behind closed doors. thanks to the tapes, you hit his telephone conversations with robert bakker, the pentagon, and others. and what happened that day is tragic to think about. johnson gets the news. he says to mcnamara essentially bob, get some people to find out whether this is a real attack or just a false report. so at the pentagon mcnamara's people are analyzing this, it's just false intelligence or was there a real attack. in late in the afternoon mcnamara calls johnson and
1:15 pm
says we've got a real problem. the ap has gotten a story that there has been an attack on an american ship. and johnson and the pentagon are concealing this for political reasons so they don't have to do anything about it. and johnson was in the middle of the campaign against goldwater, and his reaction essentially was i cannot afford to keep this process going and continuing to analyze, i better -- bomb the hell out of the north vietnamese tonight. and so he went on television that evening saying that he was reacting to an attack am not an alleged attack against an american ship, the first big bombing of north vietnam. and the weeks that followed, there were a number of lapses within the south vietnamese government. it was a rock slide that made it much more necessary for the united states to be involved in vietnam. but on the strength of this, johnson went to congress and got what was called the gulf of
1:16 pm
tonkin resolution, two houses of congress almost unanimously allowing him to use all necessary means to repel aggression in the about. -- via not. about a week or two all this happened johnson privately got a pretty good assurance that actually there've been no attack at all and actually this has been false intelligence as at times happens. it's not a great thing that johnson did not go to the american people and congress and say, i did this in good faith that we should now know that there is some question if this actually happened to instead come he didn't say that, and both he and richard nixon thought the war ultimately in indochina on the basis of the gulf of tonkin resolution for the next decade, which i think it's not the way it was supposed to be done. >> host: jonathan e-mails, could you please comment on jfk's choice of lbj for vice president? was jfk's offer merely a pro
1:17 pm
forma effort with the expectation that johnson would decline? or dj if you really want lbj on the ticket in order to get the southern states electoral votes? >> guest: there are two views that will be argued until the end of time because sometimes you don't find one document is going to result one way or the other. one view is that kennedy just politely went down to johnson's sweet and the biltmore that morning after he was nominated and said, it would be nice for you to be vice president, expecting him to stop at this. johnson snatched it and said of course, where do i sign? the other dude is that kennedy quite shrewdly also on the advice of his father realized that the math suggested it would be very hard for kennedy to get elected in 1960 without the south but as i said earlier it really was essential to his victory. so you can take either view, or both. robert kennedy who hated johnson for the rest of his life always
1:18 pm
suggested that johnson had taken this offer that was never intentionally suggested, the real answer is we will never know for sure. >> host: how did lbj come out in jaclyn kennedys taped conversation? >> guest: not well. she said that jack was increasingly disenchanted with lincoln during his presidency. that he was terrified what might happen to the country if he ever became president. and that was to some extent her view. she acts like a very good relationship with johnson as president and with the johnson, both as vice president, also with jacqueline -- later, i think if i had to analyze this i would say that appeared in which she did these interviews she's been a great deal of time with her adored brother-in-law, robert kennedy, who detested lyndon johnson. so i think to some of what she's saying is reflected in the.
1:19 pm
>> host: james from pennsylvania. could you give some background on lbj's determination to pass the civil rights bill? it seems it took both personal and political courage to pursue the legislation at the time. >> guest: it did, but in history, and i admire johnson as much as i think anyone, you know, no one is ever a delegate and johnson's case it did take political courage to take a kennedys a civil rights bill as his own, and use great political capital, as he did in 1964. but argument the other way. let's say johnson comes into office, decided i just don't want to put my chips on this one, which is a phrase he probably would have used the liberals in the party would've been furious but he might have been denied nomination the following year. and especially as a something there, i think by giving full credit for doing it but i think politically he had no choice.
1:20 pm
>> host: herbert, chicago, good afternoon to you. michael beschloss is our guest. >> caller: yes, thank you. i've looked into these situations regarding franklin roosevelt and abraham lincoln. with some disdain. mr. roosevelt wasn't directly responsible for the death of 300,000 americans in world war ii, and mr. lincoln was directly responsible for the death of 6000 americans during his administration. i don't think of them as great men in this respect. [inaudible] an amendment was offered by congress by the president regarding slavery. >> guest: meaning you can? >> caller: hello? >> do you mean buchanan? >> caller: i understand it was president lincoln that signed
1:21 pm
it. march 2, 1861. and this was the amendment. quote, now and then it shall be made to the constitution which shall authorize or give the congress the power to abolish or anything with any state, that the domestic institutions there, including persons held for service under the laws of such state, end quote. would you speak to that? >> guest: sugared there was a lot of movement before the week before lincoln took the presidency very much with james buchanan. a part of this to find some compromise that would keep more southern states on conceding, and that would've been one of them. when lincoln became president, when he gave his inaugural address, it was very clear to the south that he was not a part of this movement. that's one reason why other states seceded, including virginia, and the movement towards the civil war began. on your comment on pearl harbor and the civil war, franklin
1:22 pm
roosevelt was commander-in-chief at a time of pearl harbor, and he took responsibility, rightfully, for those deaths. did he somehow maneuver, intending that to be the tragedy pearl harbor to get the united states involved in world war ii? to my mind absolutely not. for all sorts of reasons, even though we have three hours, probably not enough. and lincoln with the civil war, yes, he was responsible for huge number of deaths on both sides, and the irony is that lincoln, of all people, this is the opposite of bloodthirsty human being, or presidency tried to extract himself from the depths of american souls, for instance, richard nixon just so i can't let myself get too emotional. i've got to look at soldiers an image or abstract way. lincoln once said to a friend that he couldn't imagine that he was the president responsible for all these deaths because as he said elsewhere, i who could not even watch the killing of a
1:23 pm
chicken am responsible for oceans of blood. >> host: dell from 40 e-mails into you, michael beschloss, do you think political biases exist much in the way historians present history in the book? they could be selective >> guest: i think there are more liberals and conservatives teaching history in colleges, and that's almost quantitatively suggested. but the next question is, therefore doesn't work the way they teach it. that's the difference, because they are suggesting they're not professionals and using their history teaching or writing to push a person agenda. sometimes it does happen. i mentioned arthur schlesinger, he made no bones about the fact, emotional ties to the kennedys, and that he did not pretend that
1:24 pm
his history was not intended to abandon the cause of democratic liberalism. and that was stated. it's very different from what i do. i'm not a very partisan person by nature. so i don't have a great ideology or partisanship to conceal in the first place. but might he basically is that if you're writing the history of presidents well, you wait 30 or 40 years or, look at evidence and lined it up and make a passionate decision in as much as you can. that's what a professional historian does, the rest of it is just sort of propagandist. >> host: how many presidents have interviewed, chatted with and had any kind of relationship with? >> guest: using that term loosely, i guess everyone from gerald ford on, and one that or another, obviously some closer, some less, and lady bird johnson. >> host: what can you tell us about those relationships? conversations, with a private?
1:25 pm
>> guest: they were and private. and they give you a sense of the human being, and oftentimes if you meet the human being years later it's very different than when they were in office. but i think in terms of is this the most important source, you know, for instance, if i have on occasion talked with george h. w. bush or bill clinton, if i wrote a book on them, would my most important source be my conversations with them? probably not because as i sang a second ago, you lined up all the evidence, maybe if one of them said something to me about an important thing, that change but when you otherwise, it might be. but just because i had the experience of being in a room with someone, that conversation would not lose larger than look at the documents or anything people who were with them in real time when they were president. >> host: last year i believe it was david and julie nixon eisenhower came up with a book, going home, about eisenhower's post-presidency life.
1:26 pm
and/or a lot of indications that jfk spent quite a bit of time consulting with former president eisenhower. >> guest: and i commend the book. it's a wonderful book. i talk about it. one of the comment forget to what you're saying is that sometimes you learn more about presidents as human beings if you look at them in retirement after they've withdrawn from power. because when you're watching them in the white house, their schedules, they read speeches that are written for them, there's not too much leeway, there's a certain amount of the job that is all structured, almost like an archer for the. but after the lead and are mature is pulled away, you see how they deal with the withdrawal from power. easy what's important to them in the post-presidency. and i think you're trying to get a fix on the soul of a president, pay very close attention to that postpresidential period if they outlived their time in office because i think they are very important clues that sometimes you can't get when they are serving.
1:27 pm
now, on eisenhower being consulted by jfk, they didn't have a great relationship pro forma they did. eisenhower privately sought kennedy, referred to them as little boy blue aura the harvard med. he saw him as sort of a smart aleck. kennedy had been very critical of eisenhower in 1960. kennedy deprecated eyes now, but there wasn't much there. but he was astounded when they were standing together on the and at the platform on january 61. heat and ice that were standing next to each other. kennedy figured a better talks are to look like to cigar store indians. he said what did you think of the longest day, the book had just come out, read widely read about dd. and eisenhower said i haven't read it. kennedy was just astonished them and to him that was a sign of eisenhower's low intelligence or lack of reading.
1:28 pm
these are people have gotten to know each other better hundred different circumstance, they were extremely smart, a lot of other things in common, they might've had a relationship, but circumstances prevented that. >> host: next call, patricia, oregon. hello. >> caller: hello. mr. beschloss, i have a question about reagan. the republicans seem to worship him like he never raised a tax and never incurred a dollar in debt, and yet he left us $2 trillion in debt and he raised taxes, i don't know, five or six times. that was why bush said no new taxes. and i don't understand how it is they do so well at ignoring history. >> guest: well, i think part of that is right, but when you are, especially on the popular, but what party backs to the president's legacy, you pretty much collapsed into about three
1:29 pm
sentences. and if the deficit catches continue to grow constantly from 1989 on, i think reagan would be criticized more for the deficits. his view at the time was, these are bad deficits that we will get over them and we will overcome them, and they were rewarded by the fact, he would say, these deficits were required for the defense buildup that i initiated to try to end the cold war. and as bad as deficits are, that was the price of any the cold war, it would be a price i'll be willing to pay even economically because ending the cold war is very good for our economy. i must suggest that every delegate to last week's republican convention is thinking all that when they admire romney. but for the same way. franklin roosevelt, a hero to the democrats. some think he did extremely well, such as winning world war ii. and ultimately pulling the nation out of the great depression. but sometimes people forget that that happened only after eight
1:30 pm
years. it was only at the time we began to produce the war that we really got out of the great depression. and i might add that when franklin roosevelt ran for reelection in 1936, we hear about 8% unemployment, which are horrible and tragic right now. the rate that franklin roosevelt ran on in 1936 was 16%, but people said a, it was 25% we came into office, so progress is moving in the right direction, and b, roosevelt made the point you elect my opponent, a republican, you will throw us right back into the mess. ..
1:31 pm
>> caller: the successful resolution of the cuban missile crisis. standing up to launch a military attack. finally, i am sure you are aware of the secret correspondence between nikita khrushchev, which resulted in the installation of the hotline, and the sale of wheat, and the partial treaty that look like there was no way that that was going to be able to be passed. the greatest speech ever given by an american president, the american university address, calling for the end of the cold
1:32 pm
war. >> host: michael, let's leave it there and get a response from doctor michael beschloss. >> guest: i admire kennedy for your reasons. numbers one and two, civil rights and the missile crisis. the third would be that partial test ban treaty was a step in the right direction. even kennedy was disappointed in that. what both he and president eisenhower have been pushing for was a comprehensive test of the idea that if you ban all testing in every venue, you stop the increase in nuclear arsenals. partial test ban illuminated tests in the atmosphere, but ultimately, it did not stop the arms race by any means. some people have stopped at it as an air pollution measure. but it was a movement in the right direction that he might have pursued, had he stayed in office. >> host: this is booktv's monthly program. this month it is michael
1:33 pm
beschloss who is our guest. we have 1.5 hours left in our program. we continue to take your calls, e-mails, and tweets. tania davis, the producer of this program, join you here in washington at the lincoln cottage. to talk a little bit about your new book. we want to show that now. >> i have been writing history books for 30 years. one of the things i have done throughout his every noble, i try as much as possible to go to the sights and experiences that i am writing about. especially presidential sites. this is a historical monument, which is called president lincoln cottage. now, it is worth in history a great deal. it is abraham lincoln's house.
1:34 pm
they are doing their best to restore it so that it looks like it did at the time lincoln was president. it is in northwest washington. it is upheld from the white house, which is down near the river. as the result, it is far enough away it was safer and cooler. the book that i am writing is about the president in wartime from james madison and the war of 1812 to george w. bush and iraq. one of the centers of this book is abraham lincoln and the civil war. the thing about lincoln is that the experience of america during those years in the largeness of the man, you know, you almost might think is there anything further to be said about abraham lincoln. there always is. both because of the lessons we can take away from his life experience and his presidency, and also because new sources still turn up from time to time.
1:35 pm
coming to a place like this, as a historian, you are trying to repeat and give a real sense of what the president's experience was. in this case, abraham lincoln and the civil war. because you can come here to this house, where he spent so much time as a president, you can go into the room where he woke up in the morning. can see the sights he saw while looking outside. you can hear a lot of this sounds that are very similar to what he would've heard at the time. this is my favorite room in the house. which is the library. for a couple of reasons. one is that you really get a sense, perhaps more than some of the other rooms, what the atmosphere in this room might have been like when president lincoln was living here. also, books and learning were so much a part of lincoln's life experience. particularly as president. the room in which he did a lot of business turned out to be pretty important.
1:36 pm
as a war leader during the civil war, he always wanted to make sure that the decisions he was making about men's lives never got to obstruct anything. the way that lincoln did this was this. so many soldiers were dying in the early months of the civil war that they had to build a new national cemetery. it was going to be in washington. they went to the president and asked where should we put it. lincoln said that i wanted near my summer home so that i will probably be able to look out of an upstairs window and see the men's coffins being taken into fresh graves being dug. he felt that this would almost remind him of the awful toll of the decisions he was making that had taken the country into the civil war and allow him to execute it. to come here gives you an
1:37 pm
enormous sense of why you can write history from the normal sources, documents and memoirs. but if you're writing about a president and you are able to go to where he spent an awful lot of his time, either growing up or while president, i think you are missing a bet. just standing here amidst history in three dimensions, you're going to learn certain things about abraham lincoln that he would you would not if you had never been here. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪
1:38 pm
♪ ♪ ♪ the ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪
1:39 pm
[music playing] ♪ ♪ ♪ [music playing]
1:40 pm
>> host: michael beschloss come i don't want to mischaracterizes, but moving into lincoln and out of your comfort zone. your cold war comfort zone. >> guest: a little bit. i'm writing a little bit of work on presidents in wartime which begins with james madison in 1812 and goes all the way up to the present. part of that is lincoln. i guess i quibble with you about the comfort zone. it is, you know, like appears in "presidential courage." the other thing is you come from indiana where lincoln spends a lot of time. people should know that he is really from illinois, of course. when i was a small boy, which they had a centennial civil war celebration, i had a harmonica that i played loudly and my parents kept telling me to stop. if you grew up in illinois and i have asked friends from that.
1:41 pm
matter of time -- at least in those days when it was almost a requirement that parents take kids to the lincoln sites, as i tell the story, i went down there when i was about seven years old. the only thing i really remember is that i was taken to the house where lincoln lived, which is still there at jackson street in springfield, illinois. i was shown the chair that the guy said that lincoln sat in when he read to his children. i was seven years old and i said, i wish i could say i asked about the great questions that a caller suggested a couple of minutes ago. about the population in march of 1861. i said when lincoln's children were not me, did he spank them. this guy said no, lincoln didn't believe in discipline. he let those brats run wild through this house. i heard that, and lincoln was my man from that moment on.
1:42 pm
i began reading a lot on lincoln and reading about other presidents. by the time i was 10 years old, i really wanted to become a presidential historian. >> host: we are talking with michael beschloss, our monthly "in depth" program. we have 1.5 hours left today. you can call in or e-mail or tweet us. the phone numbers for your time zone are listed below on the screen. those of you wanting to e-mail us, booktv at c-span.ort. art twitter candle is at tv michael beschloss is the author of several books. his first book was "kennedy and roosevelt: the uneasy alliance", "mayday: eisenhower, khrushchev, and the u-2 affair", "eisenhower: a centennial life", "the crisis years: kennedy and khrushchev: 1960-1963", "the conquerors: roosevelt, truman, and the destruction of hitler's germany, 1941-1945",
1:43 pm
"presidential courage: brave leaders and how they changed america: 1789-1989", that came out in 2007. some of his cowritten and edited books include at the highest levels from the inside story of the end of the cold war, taking charge, the johnson white house tapes 1963 to 1964. reaching for glory, lyndon johnson's secret white house tapes. and jacqueline kennedy's new book, "jacqueline kennedy: historic conversations on life with john f. kennedy". we learned a little bit about his newest book, when is that coming out? >> probably about 2015 or so. it is a long book because it covers 200 years. it is like researching 20 bucks because i have to be an expert on the war of 1812 as a historian or the war of 1812.
1:44 pm
>> host: he would have to read off all those books? >> guest: yes, i have two sons that are 18 and 15. one went off to college last week. the younger one, alexander and cyrus -- and cyrus was young, about three years old, maybe five five or six -- one night he wanted me to read to him. i said, i would love to, but i'm just so tired, i will fall asleep. he looked up at me and said, how about if i ask you to read to me from the conquerors. [laughter] >> host: did it work? where is alexander going to school? >> guest: alexander is going to williams college. he started on tuesday. he is not watching us at this moment because one of the things that they do up there in massachusetts in general and colleges is that they are much more elaborate rings for incoming first-year students
1:45 pm
than there used to be. he is on one of them, which is a four-day camping trip across the berkshires. i went there, too, and i wish they did that when i was there. >> host: no cell phones or internet connections or anything? >> guest: that is correct. the hidden agenda is to get these kids to not cure their addiction, but reduce it. >> host: how is the internet and modern technology change how you work? >> guest: less than one would really thing. because if you are going to get documents, you still have to go to the library of congress for other manuscript archives of presidential libraries. maybe one day all those documents would be online. some are, for instance. the james madison papers, to be online, the library of congress has been wonderful. in that sense, it is the same as when i started. like when i started my senior peace at williams on 1976.
1:46 pm
i've been doing this a long time, but i do essentially the same way. i go to the presidential library, for instance, and you go through folders. i would hate to give that part of it. the other thing is that if you don't have that experience, some of the most important things i've learned about the presidents have been when i was, you know, researching month-end, when eisenhower and soviet relations unfolded -- and then there was a hidden gem of his relationship with his grandson. it tells you an enormous amount of about the people you're writing about. if you are doing this kind of research in a quicker or more targeted way, i think it means a lot to. >> host: you think that there will ever come a time when we find out that other presidents use a taping system? >> guest: i would highly doubt it. roosevelt did take a few calls.
1:47 pm
in the fall of 1940, he was worried that he was getting misquoted at news conferences, which he had in the oval office. the profit was, and johnson had this problem too, it kept taping even after the conference was over. in roosevelt's case, he taped himself and he got telling some of his campaign managers to hand out dirty information against his opponent. i hear he has a mistress in new york. maybe the speakers of the county level -- they really complement with his pants down. eisenhower taped some conversations. he once said that i did this because i taped people who come into my office that i do not trust. the one who take the most, apparently, was richard nixon. it talks about his distress as vice president.
1:48 pm
kennedy attended tape more meetings. for instance, you got most of those famous meetings during the cuban missile crisis. some telephone calls, and johnson, of course, finally saying to nixon, johnson tape machine had an on and off switch. there are some things that made it onto these tapes. like certain conversations that i brought up earlier. in nixon's case, he was so clumsy that his famous chief of staff, hr full bomb, had been done when activated in the summer of 73, just about everything, it revealed everything that nixon was doing. >> host: two books didn't seem to go very far in the last two
1:49 pm
years. jimmy carter's white house fire, where he took his experience and put it in the a book. it is pretty raw and straightforward. then bill clinton's diary, i apologize, they didn't seem to really go with anything there. >> guest: president carter has an enormous following. a lot of people follow him and would buy anything written on him. anything i have as far as an elaborate notion goes, we have the same publisher at one point in time. you know, i went into a bookstore a couple weeks ago, and i asked the salesperson -- you have the book by jimmy carter? and the salesperson said, oh, are you the author? so that is one thing. the taylor branch book was interesting because bill clinton, reading about president
1:50 pm
clinton, he has more history than many presidents i know. without the tapes, his presidency would it be documented. a wonderful trilogy exist on martin luther king. putting him regularly on tape for years. he was able to get these special prosecutors to agree not to subpoena these things. so you have, essentially, clinton topping almost weekly, certainly monthly in real-time about things he recently dead. it is just what historians love. what taylor has in that book is not the transcripts of the tapes, but sort of notes that he made afterwards. bill clinton still owns the tapes in the transcripts. i hope they are published soon because i think we are about to see a big rise in bill clinton's historical reputation and i think that might fuel it in the
1:51 pm
way that the johnson tapes that the lbj. >> host: the next call comes from david in new york. >> caller: thank you for letting me join the conversation. i was going to ask, i have been doing a lot. i was going to ask about japan's bombing of pearl harbor and mr. beschloss, you could respond that yes, roosevelt set up basically the situation. but that would have been. >> guest: can i interrupt for a second? i don't think he intended it to be set up for an attack on pearl harbor. his feelings about the navy -- it would not be okay with that. but he thought we had a lusitania type incident. one of the things he did do was send a lot of americans to the
1:52 pm
north atlantic in 1941 without convoys, which made him a little bit more more vulnerable. but pearl harbor, i don't think he did that. >> caller: he had set up the situation economically so that he could have an excuse to fight with the people in europe. you have answered my question fairway. i just want to ask you something else, if i may. i have been meeting him at times, the gop is basically saying something like this -- you know, we don't care about fact checking. we'll just say what we want to say and if you want to print what is not true, you can do it. but we are not going to pay attention to it. that sounds pretty scary to me. >> guest: yes, and i think there are people on both sides would do that. not just the gop. peter was asked about the internet earlier. one thing if that is great is that there is a lot more
1:53 pm
transparency because if a candidate says something that is demonstrably untrue, very quickly, that will be corrected and the correction will be on the record in a way that is very accessible. that hasn't been true for much of american history. i think that's a good aspect. >> host: we have lien from walkie go, illinois. >> caller: good afternoon, i've been watching your "in depth" program. this is the first time i've done a call. i respect your work. if i might ask you, as a historian who studied the scandals, government, and course of history. including nixon as president. i guess that what i can say is that you hope that we learn important lessons from history. two specific things. first, what needs to be done regarding the citizens united petition. if you might discuss as a matter
1:54 pm
of public policy, should it be acceptable for him in a run for presidency and refuse to make public tax returns? >> guest: it has happened in american history, and i think the voters will have to make that judgment. it certainly is not required by the law. in general, every candidate should give as much information as possible about his past life. as far as the other -- citizens united, unregistered independents, i suggest that they stay out of current politics. because it's not what i do and because i think my political views on current events are not any better than anyone else's. i basically have a platform. forgive me for excusing myself from talking about that, at least for the next 30 years or so. >> host: mr. beschloss, i did want to point out in one of your books, you have president
1:55 pm
eisenhower lamenting about professional politicos who run campaigns and all the money involved. >> guest: absolutely great. in the 1950s, at a time when he ran for president, it was a miniscule amount. john kennedy was supposed to be daddy warbucks, putting a lot of money into his campaign, and he did. spring and fall, i don't think that including money that he raised, i don't think the may be more than $15 million will be spent. a lot of money, and certainly more in $2012. but nowhere near a couple of billion now that it takes to run for president in this process. do i think the historical process of money coming into the presidential politics is such an enormous waste a good thing? absolutely not. >> host: the next call comes from jeff in san jose, california. hello, jeff.
1:56 pm
>> caller: hello. doctor michael beschloss. this has to do with ericsson and the cuban missile crisis. the bay of pigs was planned during the eisenhower administration and presumably, they should have known about the division plans. do you think if nixon had been elected in 1960, he would have done the bay of pigs, but number two, unlike jfk, but he also followed up with the airpower aspect of the planning? >> guest: yes to both questions. nixon was pushing the cia very hard, even for the election. because he felt that if that happened from his election as president probably would've been locked up, and i believe it probably would have been. >> host: have you ever had the chance to interview fidel
1:57 pm
castro? >> guest: no, i have not. but he has talked a lot about the event that he was involved in, especially the kennedy period. one interesting thing is that he now speaks with kennedy frequently, at the time that he had reason to believe that there was a good chance that john kennedy was planning to have him killed. the jury is still out on that, but he certainly thought so. >> host: good afternoon, robert, you are on c-span2 tv. >> caller: if you had to look from across the stage at eisenhower, -- he was a pretty well-known republican, and they decided to swim across the vast river. when they get to the other side, there was a doctor that they held onto just to take a rest.
1:58 pm
they were trying to climb up or anything. [inaudible] you know who you're talking to? before he could answer, eisenhower turned and swim back. he never really did now. he didn't know who he was. it showed the shape he was in for one thing. >> guest: i've never heard that one was a very modest person. >> host: fred spring still tweets into us, michael, did you ever have a bad history teacher? that turned me off when i was in college and i had one. you decided to do so since age 10? >> guest: i've never had a bad history teacher. it takes an enormous talent to make history boring, but there are certainly a lot of people who do. this e-mail, kind of along the
1:59 pm
same line, great admirers of your work, i'm interested in the state of history education in our schools. talking high schools and colleges and universities, i would be interested in your overall opinion on how well our schools perform in the u.s. in education. >>uest: less well. the reason is as budgets are cut, it is somewhat understandable. people are just about to go into a career. history may seem a little bit fearful to them, but it's a bad thing for the society. from my point of view, one of the things that the founders felt most important with this. in the monarchies of europe, the history was written by the monarchs. and so inconvenient secrets were deleted and you got only a justification with the monarchs had done, nobody learned
2:00 pm
anything. the congress had the idea that we have documents opened as quickly as possible. we learn from the successes and mistakes of not only our leaders, but also citizens. part of the process is not just preserving and releasing evidence, but also training our people to have some sense of how to analyze it. also, to know what is going on in american history? one of the things that unite this country is our history. increasingly, if americans don't know much about it, we have less and less in common. >> host: we have shone from nashville. we think about that? >> guest: i think it's perfect. i wish there were more colleges with it.
2:01 pm
to some extent, it would help to remedy the problem in terms of agencies. >> host: next the next call for michael beschloss comes from brooklyn, massachusetts. >> caller: hello, how are you, gentlemen? over the years i have read about books cover to cover on the kennedy assassination. i don't know if that is the best area you could shine your opinion on. who is ultimately what president kennedy set? did he have an opinion? >> guest: i do. you say you're from brooklyn? >> caller: yes. >> guest: i think it is the home of mike wallace and some prominent people. my own view is that we have not found evidence that there was a larger conspiracy than lee
2:02 pm
harvey oswald. i believe that lee harvey oswald pulled the trigger and there is not evidence them at least yet, in my mind. my standard is pretty high in terms of others. at the same time, the same breath, one has to say that oswald had an amazing number of connections with groups that would have wished president kennedy ill. fidel castro, cubans, anti-castro cubans, the mafia, his uncle in new orleans was a mafia figure. and others as well. it almost strains the imagination to imagine that this was not a conspiracy because of the associations. >> host: do think by now would've come out? what about the warren commission? has not been made public? >> guest: in hats.
2:03 pm
the warren commission produced evidence, but it was flawed. what was flawed by one of the members was allen dulles. we mentioned earlier. former director to the cia. he knew extremely well that the cia during the eisenhower and kennedy years, which would've been a big motive for the cubans and fidel castro to have a plot against president kennedy -- all through their deliberations. it sort of poisoned the test tube. a lot of people, nowadays, will say that the commission was pretty thorough, but one of the most important facts having to do with this,, you had to throw everything they did. which is unfortunate. >> host: what about arlen
2:04 pm
specter. >> guest: lyndon johnson, when the commission issued a report in september 1964. it turns out that nixon didn't. it turns out he told a number of people that he didn't leave that oswald was necessarily an armed gunman. in 1970, 1969 in 1970 -- he was doing interviews to cbs with walter cronkite. he said i have never been entirely satisfied that there was no international connection. the second the cameras were off, they said you have to take that up to national security. finally, cbs did.
2:05 pm
it is documented elsewhere. i think what it connects to is that during the days that johnson became president, johnson was someone who didn't believe in conspiracies, but he believes and political manipulation. johnson was told they presumed murderer, a defector, was seen by the fbi trying to go to the embassy in mexico city. this is on the johnson tapes. he was very worried that if americans knew all of this, he would be so serious to attack
2:06 pm
the cuban military, maybe even the soviet union, so he called in the chief justice and he said please leave this commission. .. >> guest: his very close krone think and confidant, he made a place for him by enticing goldberg to get off the court to
2:07 pm
go to the u.n. where jonathan assured him you could make peace in vietnam with me. goldberg was furious later on that he had been enticed that way. we don't know exactly why johnson did that. he lived through the new deal. he saw how the supreme court repealing important laws of the new deal really hurt roosevelt just as president obama's health care program if it had been overruled by the court, it would have been a political blow. so i think that he wanted someone that he could trust and with whom he was intimate on the court who would quietly keep him abreast of what the court was doing. not illegal, but these days it would be very improper. and when he made, he appointed the chief justice in 1968, the nomination was killed for a number of reasons, bun of them was that -- but one of them was that there was too much that he was writing speeches for johnson, was on the telephone with him all the time giving political advice.
2:08 pm
so as a result of this, members of the court nowadays are much more distant. >> host: michael beschloss is our guest on booktv's "in depth" program. we have a little less than an hour left. mohamed in dearborn, michigan, good afternoon. >> caller: good afternoon. how are you? >> host: good. >> caller: i've got a couple questions for mr. beschloss. >> host: sure. >> caller: the first question is i think in 1951 senator richard nixon voted against a proposal to an amendment to give the president more power in dealing with foreign policy, and later on how his presidency turned out, and the second question is why didn't lincoln, president lincoln call the civil war, why did not call it a war but instead he called it an insurrection instead of calling it a war? >> guest: well, because on the lincoln question legally lincoln refused to recognize the confederacy at a separate country.
2:09 pm
he felt that these were just renegade states, still part of the united states, so legally in his mind this was an insurrection against the federal government that was as much against american law as, for instance, the whiskey rebellion was under george washington. so that was both in terms of framing the problem and also legally dealing with it, that's why he did it that way. the other question about nixon and presidential power, from the beginning of his time in the congress, nixon was very much in favor of presidents having a lot of authority particularly in foreign policy. one thing that he and eisenhower had to deal with in 1953 and 4 was something called the proposed bricker amendment. senator john brick or of ohio was appoint -- bricker of ohio was suggesting an amendment to the constitution that would have hugely restricted the president's ability to conclude treaties. and that was something that eisenhower and nixon spent a lot
2:10 pm
of time on. so so this is a theme that runs through american history. >> host: dean allison tweets in to you, michael beschloss, do you believe we need to evaluate wartime presidents less severely than non-wartime presidents? >> guest: i don't. i think if anything more severely because the most serious thing a president can do is to send americans into harm's way and, therefore, that decision should be done with a sense of awe as something that is really sacred. so if anything, i think we should scrutinize the decisions to send american men and women to war carefully and also how that war was conducted. >> host: frank sayles jr. twiets in -- tweets in, as a journalist, he writes, i interviewed carter and reagan and thought reagan had simplistic answers, wasn't a deep thinker. was that an error? >> guest: a lot of people felt that was true partially because reagan was expert at talking to
2:11 pm
large groups of americans and felt you don't do that by speaking in an elaborate way that people do not understand. something that really belies that is that reagan, one of the last presidents to do this, wrote a lot of letters. and they've been largely releaseed, and they are letters that go all the way back to the '30s and '0s of considerable -- '40s of considerable sophistication about political issues. he was thinking about these things for a very long time. so it's another case in which, you know, this is what historians love, a president in private turns out to have been very different than the view at the time. >> host: mary, chicago, illinois. please, go ahead with your question or comment for our quest, michael beschloss. >> caller: well, my question is in regard to the question a former caller asked about romney not releasing his tax records. but isn't it true that president obama had sealed all his records from occidental college on down
2:12 pm
through many of those areas where he expressed his views in essays, has written his views? to my knowledge, those are all sealed. is that true? >> guest: i don't believe we have had access yet to his college and university records. i think that is true. i think something that you see through the history of presidential politics, and i'm against it, is that presidential candidates, surprisingly, try to conceal what might be embarrassing to them and disseminate what might be helpful to them. and the cases in which important information is concealed that would help us to choose a president wisely, i wish that wouldn't happen. >> host: michael beschloss, george w. bush is well known for saying or for being quoted as saying let history judge his presidency, and he's really stepped out of the spotlight. first of all, stepping out of the spotlight the way he has, is that unusual or normal, and,
2:13 pm
number two, his being judged by history. get your thoughts on that. >> guest: i think it's more unusual in recent years because presidents have tended to be more out there. so i think that is unusual. but i think he's absolutely right. you know, sometimes in american history we've seen presidents who have tried to sort of campaign to influence historians after they're president. and sometimes it works, i think more often it doesn't really work because, as i've suggested, a good historian just does it on the merits not because a president was charming to him or was able to spin him or not. i think he recognizes that, and without being self-referential in president bush's memoir that just came out, he actually cites my book "presidential courage" and the fact i was writing about george washington, he says that i was telling laura, well, it took 200 years to figure out george washington, so i guess it's going to be a lot of time until there's a historical judgment on me. and i think he was right.
2:14 pm
>> host: without naming names, or feel free to name names if you want, but have you ever felt spun by a former president or a president? >> guest: not in so many words. i guess what i really mean to say is that, um, i think probably the closest to that would be probably nixon. nixon felt that in his later years after he was president that one thing that would help him in terms of his reputation in the his time and also later on would be to talk to historians and marley journalists. -- particularly journalists. and he did this, and one rule was the journalist or historian apparently had to be too young to have been around with views during watergate. so i once got to go up and have lunch with nixon which i did with strobe talbott when we were writing our book, and can it was absolutely fascinating. this is the president who had run through my childhood. i had read everything on him. and the experience of that, you know, was just really something. i had a little bit of a problem,
2:15 pm
i'll tell you the story and make it sort of quick. when my first pretty -- one of my first political experiences was at the age of 4 i was held up in the air at the site of a nixon motorcade in the fall campaign of 1960 and never figured out why that was. i don't remember it, but i've been told about it. that was the fall that local republicans were saying vice president nixon is saying your children will not grow up under communism, we want theater props in the air showing us the kids who won't grow up as communists. so i was one of those, one of the theater props. and i didn't want grow up a communist -- i didn't grow up a communist, so that was a campaign promise kept. i thought this might be a nice time what i hoped he might find a charming story of seeing him in the motorcade. and i told -- i said, mr. president, you may not remember me, but we have met before. i told the story, and he fell dead silent. this was in his house in new
2:16 pm
jersey, and he turned the story to something like what do you think about yeltsin. so when i left, i thought i'd done something offensive, and i called a friend and said what did i do wrong? he called me back and said, well, number one, nixon doesn't like to talk about the past, number two, he sure doesn't like to talk about 1960. number three, if he liked to talk about the past and 1960 somehow, he sure would not want to hear about cook county, illinois. i don't think that was necessarily the reason, but that's what he said. >> host: from presidential courage, you mentioned george washington a while back. with washington's passage from politics into history, americans were turning against the general's old party. they were sick of high federalist taxes, contempt for civil liberties, snobbish patricians who boasted that their party was the wise, the rich and the good. that's from george washington's era. >> guest: right. this was the backlash against the federalists as you come into 1800. and jefferson won with, and the
2:17 pm
federalists never recovered to a great extent because of the things that you just read about. >> host: michael beschloss is our guest, 45 minutes left in this month's "in depth," and brian from sag gnaw, michigan, thanks for shoulding. you're on the -- holding u you're on the air. >> caller: thank you for taking my call. my question is somewhat hold inside the sense it gives my opinion, but how important do you think it was that a person with eisenhower's temperament, strength and his core beliefs was to lead us during a particularly dangerous period in the cold war as opposed to any other, any of the other presidential candidates at the time? in other words, was there a difference either short term or long term with regard to cold war policy? >> guest: eisenhower held down the defense budget, was able to balance the national budget and also tried to negotiate with the soviets in a serious way.
2:18 pm
and that was a time of mccarthy and just afterwards, i think, anyone else who might have been present during those years could not have done that in that way, so i agree with you. >> guest: michael beschloss, during the '50s and early '60s, did people actually feel threatened? looking back now, i guess i can use the word "actually," but did people feel actually threatened a -- that a nuclear bomb could be coming? >> guest: absolutely. when i was in school we had air raid drills, duck and cover, we crouched under our desks. if it was going to be a larger nuclear attack, we were supposed to put our heads in the lockers. in retrospect, all this was absurd and ridiculous because the building would have been swept away, but i think this was a measure to give people little bit of confidence. we were told not to eat the snow was the russians -- because the russians had put radioactivity in it. now, that is not just a folk
2:19 pm
tale. what it really referred to was atmospheric nuclear tests going into the atmosphere and settling in the snow where children would eat it. so that had a little bit of a basis in fact, and president kennedy was able to do the partial nuclear test ban treaty. one good result of that was no more chemicals going into the snow in illinois. >> host: curtis in evanston, illinois, please, go ahead with your question. >> caller: hi, thank you for taking my call. perhaps this reflects on "presidential courage. "two things that always portered me about -- bothered me about eisenhower. when he was run anything '52, he was on the same reviewing -- >> guest: george marshall? >> caller: yeah. this is a george marshall question. that he let joe mccarthy bad mouth george marshall without
2:20 pm
interrupting him or anything like that. the other question related to courage was when he lied to khrushchev, and i believe khrushchev really respected ike. and he lied to khrushchev about the u2 pilot, gary francis power or francis gary power and then was caught in that lie. and i think that was very instrumental in postponing perestroika for many years. >> guest: yes. i agree with you on number one. it was certainly not eisenhower's best moment. i think it was in milwaukee that he gave that speech is, and people heard about it. and eisenhower was a modest person but not self-critical with others. i don't think he ever told someone i'm ashamed of what i did, but there are certain things he did that suggest that he wished that he had not failed to praise marshall in a speech where joe mccarthy was sitting nearby. and the second one -- >> host: the second one was
2:21 pm
marshall, mccarthy, i wrote that one down thinking you'd get the second one. >> guest: sorry about that. got swept up in the -- >> host: um, but going back to the mccarthy hearings, what years did those take place, and did they take place while eisenhower was president? >> guest: yes, they did. and i think the three greatest raps against eisenhower, number one, he didn't do enough for civil rights which i've suggested earlier. number two, it was a prosperous economy in the 1950s, but not if you were poor or from an ethnic group that did not have access to opportunity in this country. but the third one, and historians argue about this, is joe mccarthy. eisenhower never gave a speech that frontally said joe mccarthy is, essentially, a work of the devil, and all people who think that i'm a good person should realize that this is not a good person and not follow him. he came close. he gave a speech at the dartmouth commencement in 1953
2:22 pm
urging the graduates not to join the book burners. but that was pretty vague. eisenhower's defenders nowadays will say he work to undermine mccarthy in all sorts of ways. all true, but there are certain moments where just as i was saying on civil rights a president really has to exercise moral leadership and tell people to do the right thing, and that's something that eisenhower never really did on mccarthyism, and i wish he had. >> host: what was the relationship between joe mccarthy and bobby kennedy? >> guest: bobby kennedy was employed by joe mccarthy in the senate. his senate staff and later on kennedy quit because he did not get along with roy cohn who was a famous anti-communist lieutenant of joe mccarthy. but bobby kennedy had a very tribal sense of loyalty. joe mccarthy was a friend of joe kennedy, his father, had even dated eunice, his sister --
2:23 pm
not very seriously -- and so when mccarthy was laid to risk in appleton, wisconsin, 1957, bobby kennedy was there at the grave site even though it would cost him something politically. >> host: this is an e-mail from martha in maine. when the president was killed, jfk, i mailed a sympathy card to the white house, something like your experience. i did not expect a response. what i received was a black-rimmed card written by the secretary of jackie. how can i find out where my letter is located? you said you had found your letter in the archives. >> guest: yes. was it too mrs. kennedy? >> host: i presume it was to mrs. kennedy, yes. >> guest: they have a huge amount of letters that were sent to her in condolence that a historian named alan fitzpatrick published some excerpts from them a couple years ago, but i would write to the kennedy library and see if they could do it. in fact, my first visit to the johnson library was when i was
2:24 pm
writing my senior thesis in the fall of 1977. and there was a research assistant in the room named nancy smith, and i said, look, you know, i wrote president johnson this letter when i was a kid about honoring president kennedy. i'm sure you can't find it. i got the reply, but i'd love it if you can possibly find the original. five minutes later, she pulled up my original letter, so i have copies of it, have had it ever since. it's amazing what the letter -- >> host: wasn't it almost creepy to see that letter from a 7-year-old kid? >> guest: yeah. and wonderfully preserved. i can happily say nancy smith is still at the archives in a very senior position dealing with presidential libraries all these years later. >> host: lenny in prescott, arizona, please go ahead with your question or comment for michael beschloss. >> caller: hello, sir. i'm a late comer to the conversation, but i'm glad i got on. i just want to push a little bit back, if i may.
2:25 pm
>> guest: sure. >> caller: i'm going to make two statements, i'll be brief. i would love your full-throated comments. >> guest: i promise. >> caller: my parents and grand parents were collectors of newspapers and magazines going way far back. >> guest: good. >> caller: now, i have in front of me november 24th from my city, two days after the president was killed. and literally the headline was: jfk assassinated, lone wolf assassin killed also. now, this is two days after this lone wolf supposedly. and i'll just break it down very quickly. there are chapters about the mafia connection, the cuban connection, the soviet connection. it's hard for me to believe that that could have just been good, you know, shoe leather reporting after simply two days. i just find that hard to believe. i would like your comment on that. >> guest: well, another thing that is different where we've made progress nowadays, the dallas police chief was a man
2:26 pm
named jesse curry. and in the tumult after the kennedy assassination, curry was called oswald's rifle in the air, we've got the man, we're sure this is it. nowadays, that wouldn't happen in a million years because it would prejudice the case, fortunately. so the press coverage at the time doesn't say alleged assassin, it just says assassin or, as you saw, lone wolf. >> host: this tweet for you and, of course, i just put be it away, but it's -- i just put it away, but this is from bill. do you enjoy visiting historical places for enjoyment? >> guest: i'm glad you asked me that question. i love almost nothing better. spent a lot of time at a lot of historic sites, especially as i think was suggested earlier by the video we were watching, if i'm writing a book about a president or presidents, i try to go to the actual historic site because i think there are
2:27 pm
just certain things that you learn about a president. for instance, one example among many was i was down on the lbj ranch more than once as i was saying earlier. you see all sorts of things that tell you things about the president. for instance, when i was down with brian williams years ago, we saw behind the house something called the anticar, looks like a sort of convertible studebaker which was built in your home state but, actually, was amphibious. and the way that johnson used this thing, went on land, went on sea. if you were a new member of the johnson staff, johnson would say go for a ride in my car, you wouldn't say no. you'd start driving, and you'd be driving straight toward the lake at which point he'd say, the brakes are failing, we're all going to die! so the car would go in and given to sink. and you think what is the point of all this, but in johnson's case he wanted to see when the car began to sink if this is a new aide in the passenger's seat, will he try to save his
2:28 pm
president, or will he try to save himself? and peter and i are here in washington, it would not surprise either of us to know that by my count about 100% of the new aides all tried to save themselves, sort of letting johnson grown. so later on he could go back to say to washington and say there's old joe, pretends he's low call to me, but when the crunch came, guess who he was trying to save? those are the kinds of clues you get into what a president was really like behind the scenes. sometimes that comes out through documents and other sources, but it really helps to see his setting in three dimensions. >> host: how important was robert taft in the '0s and '50s as a senator? >> guest: he was a possible future president, he was most important in that after world war ii he tried to make sure that the republican party was isolationist, did not try to be -- it remained involved in the u.n. and helped to oppose the soviet union and nato.
2:29 pm
and he was important to the eisenhower presidency in one particular way, and that was this: eisenhower went to taft in 1941 -- 1951, and taft was his chief opponent at that point for the nomination and said if you publicly will announce that you're in favor of an internationalist future for the united states, i will not run against you. and had taft done that,ize b hour would not -- eisenhower would not have run, taft would have gotten the nomination and might well have become president with all sorts of consequences. >> host: and this quote from your book: eisenhower. a centennial life." eisenhower never made a thorough-going effort while president to turn the republican party into a permanent force for moderation in his own image. he always overestimated the capacity and willingness of the right wing to hurt him and, thus, never enlisted his vast popularity to take on the old guard once and for all. >> guest: think that's right. eisenhower's on record many
2:30 pm
times in private saying that he not only wanted the republican party to be more moderate and progressive, even at times he even talked about starting a new third party if it was necessary to do that. but i think from his point of view there were only so many hours in the day, party politics was something he wasn't good at, and it pained him because 1964 he was alive and still very well when barry goldwater was nominated who had called the eisenhower administration a dimestore new deal, who felt that we should use nuclear weapons against the soviet union, who was, essentially, stepping on all sorts of eisenhower tenets, and eisenhower was con fronted with the evidence of what he had done. >> host: how well did they know each other? >> guest: they knee each other
2:31 pm
as old pros. they were on either side of the aisle, obviously, democrat and republican, but, for instance, when johnson came back from accepting the vice presidential nomination with kennedy in 1960, goldwater sent him a note saying i'm nauseated. in other words, he thought that lyndon was more conservative and why would he run with a liberal like kennedy? by 1964 the relations between them were poisoned, and it went beyond just the antagonism between two candidates running against reach -- each other. johnson detested goldwater. you see him telling his aides to put out information that goldwater had had nervous breakdowns and psychiatric treatment. it was pretty bitter. and i don't know that the two men ever met after 1964. they may have, but if they did, i don't know about it. >> host: were those lies that he was telling about barry goldwater's breakdowns? >> guest: goldwater -- well, you never know what is a breakdown
2:32 pm
and what that means, it's a pretty loose term. but goldwater did have some emotional problems that may have been connected to the fact that he fought in world war ii. michael beschloss is our guest. one-half hour left in this month's "in depth" program, and jerry in west jordan, utah, thanks for holding. you're on the air. >> caller: sure, thanks for taking my call. i was wondering if you could give insight into the relationship between general macarthur and eisenhower? >> guest: eisenhower was his aide famously in the 1930s. my guess is it would not have been too much fun to be douglas macarthur's aide because i don't think he treated his people especially well, and eisenhower was a person of great pride. and so to be treated by macarthur as sort of a pratt boy, i'm sure it galled him. 1952 macarthur spoke at the republican convention, hoped there would be a draft movement p to make him president.
2:33 pm
didn't happen. you imagine that didn't do much for the relations between the two men. interestingly enough, it was john kennedy who had a fairly good relationship with douglas macarthur through his father who was, you know, quite conservative. they met at the waldorf-astoria hotel in the spring of 1961, kennedy and macarthur, and macarthur gave kennedy very good advice saying that anybody who gets involved in a land war in asia should have his head examined. i wish he had told that to lyndon johnson. >> host: there was a movie on one of the movie channels yesterday, the gregory peck macarthur movie, rather sympathetic to douglas macarthur. was there there a real movemento have macarthur run for president? was that a serious -- >> guest: it was more 1951. when truman fired macarthur, macarthur famously gave this emotional speech, soldiers never die.
2:34 pm
and people were very affected by this, democrats were. in fact, it was said by someone that when macarthur spoke on the republican side of the house there was not a dry eye, on the democratic side of the house there was not a dry seat because they were all worried that he would run against truman and win. but in 1951 he looked like a real threat for 1952. but it fizzled out for various reasons. >> host: colleen, newton, massachusetts. you on the air. -- you're on the air. >> caller: hello. thank you for being here and talking about history. >> guest: oh, thank you. >> caller: i just finished reading a book, "jfk and the unspeakable" written by james douglas. and in it he outlines -- >> guest: is this about the assassination? >> caller: yes, but it's about other things as well. it's about the background for jfk when he was trying to negotiate with, um, russia and
2:35 pm
trying to find ways to quickly end the cold war. and i was very interested in what was written about henry cabot lodge. he was chosen by jfk to be the -- >> guest: ambassador to saigon. >> caller: yeah, the ambassador to vietnam, and he rather than following the instructions that jfk gave to him to try and work to try to get vietnam to be neutral like laos, henry cabot lodge seemed to do everything possible to make sure that he did not stay as leader of vietnam. and i'm very curious if jfk had his own vision and his own understanding of trying to end the cold war and not send troops
2:36 pm
to vietnam and at the same time the elements within the government who opposed his policies were actually undermined everything he tried to do? >> host: tell you what, colleen, let's get an answer from michael beschloss. >> guest: well, you remember i was saying earlier we need solid evidence, in this one we do have. kennedy dictated a memo on the coup that killed the president of south vietnam and his brother, and he criticizes himself for having not given enough attention to the process that led to this general's coup into that assassination. as far as appointing henry cabot lodge who had run against him for senator for massachusetts in 1952, kennedy once said -- and i think this is a little cavalier, this wasn't all of it, but said south vietnam is going to be a mess, and better to have a republican ambassador there.
2:37 pm
>> host: so had jfk lived, where would the war have gone -- >> guest: it's one of the -- >> host: i know. >> guest: it's like lincoln, did lincoln die at a moment that saved his reputation? if lincoln had survived april of 1865, would he have had, ultimately, the fate of andrew johnson, had to make various decisions that would have impugned him with later historians? kennedy the same with vietnam, you can argue that one round or flat. >> host: would eisenhower have won a third term? >> guest: easily. and kennedy was certain of that, and eisenhower occasionally regretted he had not run. he liked being president. but eisenhower saw himself to a great extent as in the spirit of george washington, and i think he never would have violated that two-term tradition. and also, as a matter of fact, forgive me, there was an amendment by then that would have prohibited that in any case, the anti-franklin roosevelt amendment of 1947. >> host: lbj, if he had not
2:38 pm
pushed civil rights, would he have run in '68? >> guest: i think the reason why lbj did not run in '68 was two things. i mean, everyone is motivated by 90 different things, but two things currently. number one, he was very aware that men in the johnson family tended to die before 65. he was, at that point, 59 years old in the spring of 1968, number one. number two, he had become disillusioned with any more escalation. he thought that the only way to end the vietnam war and save his reputation was to negotiate, and he felt he couldn't do that while being a political candidate in 1968. and he was back and forth, and you hear this on these tapes. just before he gives a speech saying that he will not serve another term as president, he's calling up terry sanford, the former governor of north carolina, asking him to be the chairman of the johnson in 1968 campaign.
2:39 pm
so to the last moment he was ambivalent. >> host: michael beschloss, the relationship between harry truman and dwight eisenhower. >> guest: that was sad and maybe the moment that really shows it is that when dwight eisenhower came up to the front portico of the white house on inauguration day 1953, the trumans had put out on quite a spread, you know, the traditional thing. the new president comes in, and they all have coffee together and perhaps a few things to eat. and eisenhower sent word in he budget getting out of his car -- he wasn't getting out of his car and the trumans should get in the two cars with ike and mamie and ride up to the capitol. and that was because eisenhower, who was pretty thin-skinned, he had not had a political background, felt that truman had said things against him in public that he should not have said. until the previous year, they'd had a terrific relationship. i mean, truman is the one who sent eisenhower back to europe,
2:40 pm
1950. truman, his diary that was just discovered lately shows us that truman just after the war, just after he became president said to eisenhower, i think you should run as the democratic candidate, and i'll even run for vice president with you. truman later on denied that, and in the way that sometimes happens with history, his own diary entry that shows that he actually did say that turned up, was in a book that had been mislaid at the truman library just discovered a few years later. the happy end to all this was after john kennedy's assassination and funeral, president truman was there as were the eisenhowers, and they had a drink together at blair house afterwards, and they rode together in the car, and they didn't entirely make up their own differences, but they had their first civil conversation since 1952. >> host: as you probably may know or may not know, c-span is starting a new series on first
2:41 pm
ladies. >> guest: i know. two parts. >> host: right. and that begins in february of next year. but as far as first ladies go, who are the really influential ones in your opinion, and let's start with modern history. >> guest: so maybe the last century? >> host: great. >> guest: this is not in order, and this is not all inclusive. certainly mrs. wilson, certainly eleanor roosevelt. bess truman in a different way was seen by historians and many at the time as a cipher beginning at christmas '45. he talked to her about just about everything, and she gave a lot of views especially about personalities. jacqueline kennedy as demonstrated, i think, in the new book that i was a part of certainly ladybird johnson. betty ford, nancy reagan, barbara bush, laura bush, hillary clinton, certainly. i think michelle obama in all
2:42 pm
sorts of ways. so i think what the trend here is that as we get closer and closer to the current time, first ladies have a big influence on their husbands. >> host: what was mamie eisenhower's role? >> guest: she said, she used to say i was invited -- in eight years i was in to value office, four times, all four times i was invited. one way their marriage worked was they really did not discuss, you know, nuclear weapons policy or, you know, she felt there was a division of labor, and they actually had quite a good marriage, but it did not rest on being political partners. >> host: did bess truman hate being first lady as much as it seems? >> guest: i don't think it -- i think she protested too much a little bit. although at the very beginning she went right back to independence and did not come back for a long time, and it was very upsetting to her husband. she did not give press conferences. she was very private. one source of this was when
2:43 pm
harry truman was about to be named vice president,1944 in chicago, she was at first against it and the reason was that her father had die canned, turned out he had committed suicide which almost no one knew, and she was worried that if he ran for vice president, the glare of attention and this would come out. and so he was able to get her to agree to let him run, and when that became known, no one really cared about it very much. in a way, i think it's sort of a lesson often times that if someone is worried about something like that, it often times turns out that it winds up a lot more important to you than it does anyone else. >> host: james in bellevue, washington, thanks for holding. you're on with michael beschloss on booktv on c-span2. >> caller: thank you very much, gentlemen, an excellent program. michael, you're an american blessing. >> guest: oh, thank you, sir. >> caller: my -- i'll try to do this, i'll try to do this very quickly.
2:44 pm
i'm an independent, and i'm very concerned about the situation in our country on something that you talked about earlier, term limits. and the power of the parties, one to block the other and not getting legislation passed. the national debt. did the founding fathers and down through history, anything happen concerning the subject of term limits? and, also, the gerrymandering of districts to keep parties if power with no real congressional competition in the elections. >> guest: yeah. gerrymandering began very early in american history. as far as term limits, the founders were essentially of two minds. they fill of softically thought that -- philosophically thought it would be a good thing if you served in the senate and then
2:45 pm
went back to your plow, that you were not a lifetime, professional politician. on the other hand, they discussed the possibility of putting term limits in the constitution, and they did not do it. so go figure. >> host: we've been getting some e-mails from -- [inaudible] and i don't know if this is something you're involved in or know anything about, but since he sent a couple, i thought i would ask. these are tweets, actually. are you involved in the efforts to save the united states, the ocean liner in philadelphia? >> guest: i'm not, but one of my son's classmates in school, his mother is the granddaughter of the architect, and i think it's a very good thing, the ss united states, the enormous ship that is, essentially, now rotting on the docks of philadelphia. i hope it can be saved. >> host: dr. beschloss, do you have any advice for authors writing history? this is from marshall. >> guest: and by the way, thank you for everyone calling me doctor which i think rests on honorary degrees, but thank you
2:46 pm
all the same. advice on -- >> host: writing history. >> guest: advice on writing history? >> host: writing history. >> guest: or on how one should start a career, perhaps, on writing history? >> host: you can see that right up there, and i'll let you take that any way you want. do you have any advice for authors writing history. >> guest: i think two pieces of advice. one is, if you're writing history, realize you can't do it three minutes after the event concerned. it's not history. it's something else, but it's not history. and the other thing is that at least the kind of history i practice, don't put your private agendas or emotional agendas into your work, and if you must do this or political agendas, make sure that they're clearly labeled. sometimes that doesn't p happen. >> host: here is terry feinberg's e-mail from freeport, illinois. it -- >> guest: kind of a lincoln/douglass debate. >> guest: it seems we rarely get a chance to know a presidential challenger and so, basically,
2:47 pm
take all things on chance with one glaring exception, herbert hoover. what decembersons do we -- lessons do we take from the tide of adoration to almost hatred? was hoover a horrible political administrator or just in the wrong place at the wrong time if. >> guest: well, there's one school of thought that has been gaining steam for years which is that, actually, hoover was remarkably progressive for his time and was miscast and that a lot of the things that led to the depression were more from the harding and coolidge period, and the chickens came home to roost. so i'm not starting a hoover revisionist movement, but one thing that's interesting, franklin roosevelt who was in many ways a large-minded man detested herbert hoover, banned him from the white house, famously required the hoover dam to be called the boulder dam, did not want to lend to herbert
2:48 pm
hoover's legacy, and that was true throughout the presidency. i just think in retrospect it makes him seem a little bit small. one of the first things harry truman did was to invite hoover back to the white house. >> host: michael beschloss, if you were to recommend one of your books, if people wanted to read one of your books, which one would you recommend? >> guest: that is so hard. i know that that's a question that you have asked of others on this, and others have as well. it really is like your children. each has a different purpose, different length, different subject matter. i mean, i've got two sons, i can't choose between them. i can tell you their strengths and weaknesses -- no weaknesses, just strengths, but, please, don't ask me. >> host: all right. and we'll show you a list of all of michael beschloss' books. do you have a web site? >> guest: i don't. maybe i should. >> host: no web site? >> guest: no web site. >> host: do you tweet? >> guest: i don't tweet. i have no facebook page.
2:49 pm
i guess i'm 18th century. >> host: what's the matter with you? >> guest: i've got to write books, and these things take an awful lot of time. [laughter] >> host: this e-mail from valerie martin in madison, wisconsin: love your writing, what is your guess about the possible contents and circumstances related to the famous 18-minute gap in the nixon tapes? >> guest: i think not much. for those who perhaps don't remember, the watergate tapes, nixon's tapes of his private conversations, there's an important one in the summer of '72 which he's talking about what wound up being an obstruction of justice we found. holdman kept pretty careful notes as did ehrlichman of those meetings, and we do have the notes, so those tell us pretty much what happened during the gap, and it's not as important as a lot of the other sections of tape that we have. but it would be nice to have it. the national archives has tried
2:50 pm
for years to use new technology to find out what was on this accidentally-erased tape. some people thought president nixon erased it deliberately. no solid evidence of that, although he might have. but the technology is just not there yet. >> host: jan in wilmington, north carolina, please, go ahead with your question for historian michael beschloss. >> caller: hi, good afternoon, and thank you for taking my call. >> guest: you're in the hometown of david brinkley, right? >> caller: um, i believe so. [laughter] i've been here six years, i haven't learned all about it. >> guest: he wasn't there during your time. >> caller: pardon? >> guest: he was not there during your time. >> caller: no. my question is what thought, basically, did all the presidents go into, put into taking their choice of vice president? was it their knowledge of things the president didn't know, that they would sit back and never say a word or that they really could take over the presidency if there was a problem? did they write these thoughts down about who they finally
2:51 pm
chose? >> guest: usually for most of american history these choices were made for geographical balance, ideological balance within the party, and often times, sadly, made at the last minute and very hastily. as we were talking about with lbj, that happened at the last moment. this all changed in 1972. george mcgovern at the last moment after he was nominated chose thomas eagleton, senator from missouri, cursory vetting which was, basically, an aide saying to eagleton, tom, do you have any skeletons rattling around in your closet, and eagleton said, no, so he was nominated. soon it became known that eagleton had been more than once hospitalized with electroshock treatments, and mcgovern felt compelled to throw him off the ticket. there's a very good book on this called, i think, the 18-day candidate that came out not long ago. but presidential nominees since then have been so chastened by that, that there's now an elaborate vetting process, discussions with potential
2:52 pm
candidates. you saw this with mitt romney and paul ryan this year. the republic is much better served. >>st what are some of the more altruistic vice presidential picks that you can think of just -- >> guest: that were not for political reasons? >> host: the more altruistic. >> guest: it is very hard to think of them. one might be roosevelt choosing truman, oddly enough. there's some evidence that roosevelt chose truman knowing that he would not last his entire next term whether he died or had to resign for reasons of health, and he did tell someone truman is more moderate than i am, from the midwest, you know, different experience. and if we want to get the u.n. through the senate and certain other elements of a post-world order, he might be able to do that better than i would. so if that's true, that would be an example. >> host: our next call is from dallas. please, go ahead with your question or comment. >> caller: thanks for taking my
2:53 pm
call. >> guest: sure. >> caller: my question has to do with timing. for example, martin luther king jr. was killed on march the 4th, 19 -- >> guest: april 4th. >> caller: april 4th, 1967 -- >> guest: '68. >> caller: he gave a speech in new york condemning the country with respect to the vietnam war -- >> guest: right. >> caller: and he was killed on the same date, april the 4th, 1968. and that was several days after lyndon johnson made the claim that he would not -- >> guest: four days. >> host: so are you seeing a conspiracy here? is this where you're going? >> caller: no, i'm raising a question. one biographer of lyndon johnson talks about the way lyndon johnson turned his back on sam rayburn -- >> guest: in 1940? >> caller: i don't remember the date. >> guest: yeah. early in time.
2:54 pm
the relations between martin luther king and lyndon johnson were excellent at the beginning and went immediately south the second that martin luther king came out against the vietnam war. and that's sad because the two men had so many aims in common. >> host: mr. beschloss, this is from josie in the new york city. please elaborate on the relationship between roosevelt, stalin and churchill during world war ii and how their alliance conquered hitler's war machine. >> guest: have we got three more hours, peter? [laughter] >> host: 60 seconds. >> guest: yeah, exactly. one sound bite. it's a happy circumstance of history that they were able to work together, especially with stalin given the huge gulf between the two western leaders and stalin in all sorts of ways. and more and more in retrospect i think world war ii looks absolutely crucial in recent
2:55 pm
human history, and one problem with history is that when you look back at events, they always seem inevitable. believe me, the victory of the free world against hitler and company in 1945 was not in any way fore ordained and might very easily have gone the other way. >> host: what was the trust factor, how much did churchill and roosevelt trust stalin? >> guest: less than it seemed because they were all making an illusion, a suggestion to stalin that they were all on the same side as they at least were formally. but, you know, you're dealing with roosevelt and churchill. do these strike you as innocent, trusting people? these are very suspicious, tough politicians who assume that even their allies are going to betray them, their political allies. so i can't imagine that was suddenly suspended with, at that moment for an angelic view of stalin. >> host: terry in greg, colorado, you're on with michael beschloss. >> caller: thank you very much.
2:56 pm
i have a question, mr. beschloss, about a battle in the pacific war during world war ii. it's a very significant battle that's not often mentioned, but it was the battle that made the guadalcanal effort such a slog for the or marine corps. and as i understand it, it was the information and the story about the battle was suppressed for many, many years. and i was just wondering if you would have knowledge about how far up the line that whole effort to suppress the story went. did it come, did it come from the top, would you say. >> >> guest: i don't know enough, and i would like to know. i will look into it, thank you. >> host: well, albert looking ahead to your next book, why not include jefferson and the war of 1805 in your book on wartime presidents? >> guest: i think that one will find that if you're dealing with the war of 1812, the name of thomas jefferson does not go unmentioned. thank you, sir.
2:57 pm
>> host: and our last call for you comes from woodland park, colorado. bob, please, go ahead with your question or comment for historian michael beschloss. >> guest: yes, professor beschloss, i've read several of your book, and i find them not only very informative, but also very intertaping, and that's not -- entertaining, and that's not an easy thing to accomplish. so you're to be congratulated on that. my question concerns the dred scott decision. i know that it drove a great deal of radical politicallism caused in the country. my question to you is, do you believe that the decision -- which i've read -- was constitutionally correct? and that's what i need to know. thank you, sir. >> guest: well, to the ec tent that it was a majority vote -- extent that it was a majority vote of the supreme court, i guess it was. it was a horrible decision. and just because the supreme court finds a verdict does not mean that we in retrospect have to say that this was the word of god. it sure wasn't. and fortunately, belatedly, the supreme court made up for that.
2:58 pm
>> host: michael beschloss, your next book is on and coming out when? be. >> guest: it's on presidents in wartime, should be in about two years or so. >> host: and the lbj tapes trilogy, the third in the trilogy, when is that? >> guest: i'm hoping that will be done in the next two or three years. >> host: and do you work on them simultaneously? >> guest: yeah, they're different. to go between fort sumter and lbj, two different parts of the brain. >> host: for the last three hours, we've been talking with historian michael beschloss. very quickly, here are a list of his books. kennedy and roosevelt: the uneasy alliance. may day can, eisenhower, khrushchev and the u-2 affair. 1960 and 1963 came out in '91. the conquerors, roosevelt, truman and the destruction of hitler's germany came out in 2002.
2:59 pm
presidential courage: brave leaders and how they changed america, 1789-1989, came out in 2007. and some of his other co-written and edited books include "at the highest level: the inside story of the end of the cold war." and then the two johnson books, and finally his most recent, jacqueline kennedy: historic conversations on life with jfk, interviews with arthur m. schlessinger jr., 1964. this has been in depth for the past three hours. now booktv continues all day long, and to let you know that booktv during the democratic convention, just like we did during the republican convention, will be on the air 24/7, so we're an alternate universe if you are not a political junkie necessarily and don't want to watch any of the conventions. come to c-span2, and you


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on