tv Michael Beschloss Presidents of War CSPAN November 22, 2018 8:51am-9:38am EST
especially for those people like josé who can't do it, you do it then. you have to take charge and stop taking your vote for granted. it matters so go do it. [applause] >> unfortunately we have run out of time but i want to remind everybody that 11:00 these authors will be signing their books just around the corner and please join me giving a round of applause to reyna and josé. [applause] [applause] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
>> welcome to this section of the texas book festival featuring one of our nation's preeminent historians and authors, michael beschloss who will talk about his latest book -- wow. [applause] >> who will talk about his latest book "presidents of war," and judging by the size of this crowd no surprise this book sits at -- at the wrong book. that's my book, sorry. this book is now number three on the bestsellers list. [applause] >> clearly michael needs to introduction but i would for sure when in way. michael is the author of speeders i'd be very disappointed if he didn't have an introduction. i've been waiting for this. [laughing] >> i don't want to disappoint the author with the number three book on the bestsellers list.
michael is the author of nine acclaimed books on the presidency, including his most recent book. past books have a clue to presidential courage and the conquerors turkeys also the editor of jacqueline kennedy, historic conversations on life with john f. kennedy. michael is a president of storing for nbc news and is a frequent guest on n "the pbs newshour" and it speaks to his notoriety that is also been portrayed on saturday night live. [laughing] [applause] >> is or anything in history to remind you president trump? no. [laughing] >> michael is a very good friend of this festival. is a good friend of mine and it's my pleasure to welcome michael beschloss. [applause] >> thank you all very much. >> for those levers of us, levers of presidential history,
those of us in this tent, we've been waiting a long time for another book from michael beschloss. this has been a decade in the making, and michael, my first question is, why did you write this book and why did it take you ten years to write it? >> my publisher also asks why this took ten years to write. my wife does, too. the idea of this book is i wanted to get into the heads of the eight or nine presidents who got american vote in major wars during the first two centuries you can the idea is that only eight or nine presidents have had this experience of sending large numbers n of americans to risk their lives and what you have in common, what was different? for instance, a surprising number of them had emotional breakdowns under the strain. a lot of them became more religious. abraham lincoln said to a friend
who knew him when he was younger when lincoln was an agnostic or perhaps even an atheist, , the friends that i can't believe you are reading the bible. lincoln said, i can't imagine anyone who would go through the traumas of a major war like this and not turn to the bible for comfort. lyndon johnson in the j last use of vietnam, lady bird johnson who i got to know, wonderful person, late in her life said late in the vietnam war i wouldn't have been a bit surprised if lincoln had become aom catholic. [laughing] and what happened was that it gone to mass with his daughter lucy it was converted to catholicism when she was 16. he got such comfort at the time that is getting all the support of all these casualties in vietnam. all ohe these presidents benefid from marriages to strong women. one great example -- [applause]
>> franklin roosevelt's in 1942 was debating do i send japanese americans the concentration camps? eleanor roosevelt to her undying credit said no, even j. edgar hoover at the fbi says it's not necessary. don't do it. and one day in february in 1942, infamously fdr weekend the japanese american internment. and eleanor was furious that the people who knew her felt this marriage was never the same after that. and if you look at her during world war ii, she spent an awful lot of time traveling away from her husband. she felt that maybe they didn't share the same political ideals which she felt that she had. another thing you really look for in all these war president is empathy. you want a president withhe empathy, it's very important in the office especially in wartime. and for instant abraham lincoln,
there were so many casualties in the civil war that lincoln's people came to them and said we have to build a new national cemetery. there are so many people being buried. and lincoln said you're right, build the cemetery near my summer home, which is now known as lincoln's cottage. it's been restored in washington, d.c. he said it's going to be severely painful to me but i would see the graves being dug. i do want to be distant from the decisions that are being made that result in all these people dying. he said to another friend, lincoln said, can you imagine i can't even stand to watch a chicken being slaughtered, and all these decisions i'm making are leading to oceans of blood, so many men being killed. if you go to the presidential library and hope you do, we remodeled that several years ago and michael was an enormous help in that endeavor. one of the things you'll see and there is a small -- lbj's
spiritual life. michael said it was so important spirituality was so important for lyndon johnson during that time, , as it was for his predecessors who had been commanders in chief during times of war. michael, let me read a passage from the introduction which really lays the premise for this book. you write, to risk the abuses of power by an american president, the framers in 1787 created a constitution that gave congress the sole power to declare war. then you point out that the last time a president as congress to approve a war was 1942. >> good thing we haven't had any worse since 1942. [laughing] >> and you continue, and this volume demonstrates during the past two centuries president step-by-step have come to disrupt the founders design. with the founders to come back it would be astonished and
chagrined to discover that in spite of their ardent striving, life or death of much of the human race has now come to depend on the character of a single man who happens to be the president of the united states. howte has this -- >> did everyone who that? life or death of tens of millions of people depend on the character of the the president. have a nice day, everyone.ni [laughing] >> i want to talk about the commanders, the character of her commanders in chief, but how has this trend towards presidential unilateralism toward our nation going to war come to be? >> the founders were always worried that president would become like kings, and the new the fastest way for for a prest to become somewhat like a king with absolute power was wartime. because in europe and spatial in england, if the king became an
unpopular, the quickest way to become more popular and take on more power would be to fabricate a reason for war. the work takes place. everyone is united behind the king, and the king says in the time before i could take on all sorts of powers that i might not have done at peacetime. .. he can do is almost overnight. there could be an incident, god forbid there could be a terror attack or a cyber attack. so the point is we've come to invest an awful lot of power in
the president of the united states and presidents who are waging war, they can abuse power very easily because they can do things and say, i have to do this because i'm protecting the men and women who are fighting for us in the field. presidents in wartime can decla declare martial law and woodrow wilson had the espionage act, still in force, that modern presidents including president trump have been using it to harass journalists who write things against the president. i'm one who worries about presidents having too much power and really worried about a president abusing that power and if you're worried about both of those the time you should worry about that, should be the time of war. >> it seems like congress has
willingly subordinated itself. if so, why so? >> congress has behaved like lap dogs. lyndon johnson when he was waging the vietnam war, people sometimes forget thisment he was getting almost hourly criticism of mansfield who hated the war. from william fullbrite and turned out from documents i found, fullbright were so angry about the war, they saud maybe we should think about impeachment. presidents in wartime, in general you have the best leadership when you have a congress that will tell him what he's doing with wrong. in england, the problem with the king, he never gets
criticism and things don't get better. and we want congress to be critical of the president, even in the united states. american citizens are at their most patriotic when they're criticizing and protesting those in power. that's true in 1887 and that's now true. . [applause] >> generally speaking how do you see a president's character manifest itself during a time of war? >> james polk, who is pretty important to the state of texas, anybody agree with na? polk was a liar, a cheat, a scoundrel, in other words, a wonderful leader. [laughter] >> and being a liar and a cheat and a scoundrel, he lied us into a war with mexico that had very good final ends, secured the state of texas, i
think we're all glad about that. [applause] >> acquired nearly a million square miles of new territory for the united states, allowed us to become a country from the atlantic to the pacific, that's a good thing, but he did it by a total lie and fakery. what he did was many of you who know texas history will know this, he staged a fake incident at the rio grande. he sent american troops down there to provoke the mexicans into firing at them, which they did, a little tiny squirmish. so polk goes to congress and says we have been attacked by mexico. we need a major war against mexico and march all the way to mexico city. that's what he's saying in public. in private he says i'm scheming to try to get almost a million square miles out of the mexicans. the point is that that is not the way it's supposed to happen and there was one young congressman who rose on the
house floor, late 1947 to say, polk has done a bad thing. presidents should not lie to congress, should not get us involved in war under false pretences and the name of that congressman was abraham lincoln. >> the book covers wars that have transpired from the war of 1812 to vietnam and you touch on 9/11 at the end of the book. of the commanders in chief you covered, who did it best? >> lincoln. anyone else from illinois like me. [laughter] >> that may have been a rhetorical question. >> we've got to defend the home boy, but lincoln was an unbelievably great war president. not just because he won, but because he waged the civil war on a moral plane and it's a lovely story. you know. i mean, i wrote about it very carefully because early in the civil war, lincoln was
legalistically trying to say-- trying to keep everyone on the tab, the reason we're waging this for the southern insurrection is because i took an oath of the constitution and i'm executing my oath. even he knew he wasn't expressing what was in his heart. in his heart was slavery was evil and we've got to extinguish the evil and slavery was the reason for this war. after about a year and a half that rhetoric wasn't working and he started-- it's a good lesson for all of us in almost everything we do in life, he started saying what he really thought which was slavery was an evil and desecration of the original american idea and that's when lincoln began speaking in the way we remember him as one of the greatest orators and writers.
the lincoln who spoke the gettysburg address you wouldn't have heard those things in the beginning of the war. >> you write about lincoln list strength amid trial by fire was all the more admirable, despite depression. >> he was better angels and he was battling his own demons. >> he was battling his own demons, always. he had a terrible tendency to depression. for somebody who had a tendency to depression, he lost a son during the civil war and he knew he was responsible for all of these people being killed. and if you choose a war president, richard nixon is quoted as once saying, i can't get myself being emotionally involved with the field, you have to think of chess pieces.
that's what you don't want in a war president. and lincoln causing fewer young people to die. >> lincoln is pretty war torn as a presidential historian. >> am i allowed to tell that? truth in packaging here. anyone been in the lincoln sites in springfield, illinois? what? this is unbelievable! this is an audience of more distinction than i was expecting. [laughter] >> and for illinois tourism, i'm glad about that, too. i was taken there by my family when i was about eight years old and i went to the lincoln house on 8th and jackson streets in springfield and the guy said, this is where lincoln sat in this chair and read to his children and i was eight years old, i wish i could tell you, what did lincoln think about civil liberties or something like that, but i was eight so i said when lincoln's
boys misbehaved, did he spank them? and the guide said with a disgusted loose, lincoln didn't believe in discipline and can you believe he let those brats run wild through this house. and with that lincoln became my man and in texastown, rayburn has the added advantage of being true, and i began finding everything i could find on lincoln, golden books and children's books and other presidents which led to this line of work. >> what did you find out about lincoln you didn't know before, writing this book? >> this was someone who was a huge politician and not always in a pleasing way. for instance, at the beginning of 1861, the battle of fort sumpter, the northern forces were led by major robert anderson, withstood the
confederacy for a while and they surrendered and the flag came down. so anderson and his troops went to new york by boat, and lincoln, you know, was urged to welcome them for their valiant struggle at the white house, why didn't lincoln send them an invitation? well, lincoln was a politician, worried that a lot of northerners might think that the reason why the battle was lost was that anderson, who was a southerner maybe this secret confederate sympathies and maybe an outcast not a hero. so anderson is celebrated in new york city, union square, 100,000 people, one of the largest gatherings in north america at that time. his face was said to be on every lamp post and hay wagon, anderson is a great hero and three minutes later up comes the invitation from president lincoln at the white house,
i've been meaning to write. the lovely end of the story, anded goes to the white house, i tell this story, and sees lincoln and lincoln says, major anderson do you ever remember meeting me? no, mr. president, i'm sorry i don't. and lincoln said, well, i'm sorry you don't remember, but the only time i've ever fought in a war was in 1832 in illinois in the blackhawk war and you were the man who mustered me into service and from that point on, anderson was a lincoln mantill his death. >> lincoln is the president's president. there isn't a single president that didn't look first and foremost to abraham lincoln. >> are you sure that applies to everyone, mark? those who have full ratings who claim his polls are better than lincoln's? [laughter] >> so to continue my question, for almost every president-- >> have a good time.
>> but they look to him because he faces adversity with such grace. what -- we talked about him battling demons. what keeps lincoln going during the worst days of his presidency? >> the fact that he knew he was in the right and fighting for a moral cause. he said, i think that i will go down in history not as the successful leader of the north in this war between north and south, but as the liberator of 100,000 african-americans. and when he was running for reelection, 1864, lincoln was suffering from one of his depressions and he actually wrote a little letter saying he expected to be defeated in 1864 by general mcclellen whom he had fired. and his aides told him the reason why he was unpopular with the voters was the emancipation proclamation and they said do you want to get reelected, mr. lincoln, cancel
the emancipation because a lot of these voters are saying this war has gone on too long and you've changed the goal and now you're saying it's not a war to reunite north and south, now you're saying it's a war against slavery and to help african-americans. and lincoln to his great credit said, i could do that, but i can't do that in good conscious because that's not the way i want to be remembered in history. and he explained to northern voters and the other thing you want, especially in a war president, is a president, a leader who can persuade. that's true in all areas of leadership. someone who can say i've made a decision that makes you angry and let me see if i can explain it to you. and he said to northern americans, when i unveiled the emancipation proclamation, about 100,000 african-americans came from the north to the south and the war effort. if i cancel it, maybe they
would go back and help the south. and look at this as something that may help us win the war and that was part of lincoln's brilliance and shared by franklin roosevelt. >> among the pantheon of greats is franklin roosevelt. you wrote of fdr, the president deserved what they rendered after his death. men will thank god on their knees a hundred years from now that franklin roosevelt was president. it's difficult to imagine any other leader of that generation guiding with such success a resistant nation toward intervention and ultimate victory in the most momentous of all wars. >> yeah, i think that's truth. roosevelt called world war ii, the survival war and hoped that other americans would, too. he didn't want it to be called
world war ii because that would remind people of world war i which most people considered to be a failure, but i would qualify it and i do in the work, of course, i think that roosevelt could have done a lot more to thwart the holocaust in 1944 which he'd known about for years and secondly, the japanese-american internment, that will be a blot on his memory. and all of these leaders are a mixture of both good and bad. >> but you always talk about his communicative availability in rallying the nation. >> roosevelt, if we were here in 1942, especially when the war was going badly, he'd have these fire side chats. he would be talking to us americans sometimes almost weekly saying,er woo we're going to entour setbac-- endure setbacks, and he was
straight forward how many americans might die in the war. that's what you want from a president. and he benefitted from the fact that he had been through it all before and so experience helps as well. he had been assistant secretary of the navy during the time woodrow wilson was waging world war i, are there any wilson descendents in the audience? what i have to say is unpleasant. no members of the wilson anti-defamation league? maybe some watching at home. woodrow wilson is an example how not to be a president of war, and i gave some of my wilson chapters as i did other chapters to a noted wilson scholar who thought i was harsh on wilson. one of his comments in the
margins, you would at least consider deleting the words conceited and messiahnic? [laughter] >> if you want one thing from woodrow wilson, to explain the war and why we're fighting it. world 1 was the first time we were fighting away-- and he had isolation, stayed in the white house, didn't talk much. and finally at the end he says, surprise, this is a war to end all wars and to make the world safe for democracy, plus i want a league of nations. worthy aim, how do you achieve it? he left for europe for months at a time. left the discussion of the league of nation to his
enemies, like henry cabot lodge, making it impossible for the league of nations to be approved by the senate, leading to adolf hitler and leading to world war ii. the other thing at that sticks in my craw, 1916 wilson won this hair-breadth reelection and almost lost largely because of california, guess who allowed him to win according to the analysis accord to go numbers. the women who would vote in 1916 and voted for him because wilson had a campaign slogan in 1916, he kept us out of war, total lie because it's implying you're going to keep us out of war in the second term as well. women who idealistically, poignantly wanted peace, they were the ones that allowed wilson to become a war president a couple of months later. >> clearly, wilson falls short as a commander-in-chief.
>> i do believe that. [laughter] >> who most disappoints you as a commander-in-chief of those? >> i was surprised by harry truman, whom i love in so many ways. 1950 he did the right thing, north korea invaded the south, he sent macarthur, american soldiers, great so far and then he says-- his aides say when are you going to congress for your war declaration. and truman by 1950, we've forgotten had gotten full of himself. and i don't have to go to congress. >> why not? >> because you saw the way that they were with james polk. so he did not bother going to congress for a war declaration and we got involved in this war and americans did not understand it and his aides said, why don't you want to ask for war declaration and truman
says, so help me this is true, if i go to congress for a war declaration, there be an acrimonious debate and damaging to me and five months from now i have to deal with midterm elections. political reasons, bad thing for politics and war to mix and it was a very good example because since the time of truman, no other president has ever asked for a war declaration which i think has been a bad they think for the country. >> and yet it's paradoxical because as you pointed out last night at the texas professional gala, there's no bigger student than harry truman. he said there's nothing new in the world except the history you don't know. why didn't he learn his lesson? why was harry truman dinner in 1950 than when he came into office in 1945. >> i think he didn't know enough history because one reason to go to congress is that so if they're in on the takeoff, they're there on the crash landing. if you do anything less than a war declaration, you remember
iraq, for instance. the number of members of the house and senate who voted for this much lesser resolution for the president to use armed force. well, when the iraq war turned unpopular, they could say i never thought of a war, do you use armed force, if they're voting for a war, they're voting for a war and a president can rely on the support of the congress. that's the way it should be and it also-- anyone here who hates war. one of the ways to do that is to demand in the future, the president wants a war, he's going to go to congress and make the case and get a war declaration and make sure if a war is waged, all segments of society share the sacrifice equally not just -- [applaus [applause] >> i will ask michael two more questions and then we'll ask for your questions for the balance of the session. michael to that end we'll talk about lbj in a moment and the
vietnam war. where do you stand, since vietnam, the wars we have fought have included soldiers, just from a voluntary force. >> right, no, i think if there's going to be a war, one form of sacrifice is addressed so that everyone is exposed to the risk. i guarantee there will be fewer wars. [applause] >> and you were asking about lyndon johnson, to his great credit in 1967, he realized that too much of the vietnam war was born by people who were especially african-american and poor. he changed the draft laws and that's when you began to see huge demonstrations against vietnam march on the pentagon, larger demonstrations on the campuses. that's something else, too. that should be a constraint on future presidents to want to gingerly get into war. >> you write of lbj, with perfect hindsight it's clear
whatever johnson gained for the united states in vietnam wasn't worth the cost in lives, treasure, or what thomas jefferson called the good option of mankind. why did lyndon johnson feel it was important to fight the war in vietnam? >> there was a treaty committing us to the defense of south vietnam, and also johnson was told by his secretary of defense, robert mcnamara, who i feel is one of the great villains in american history, i don't use word like that lightly, i've been studying this for 20 years, he told it was necessary to fight the war in vietnam in order to win the cold war and told him had john kennedy been president this is what he would have done and mcnamara late in life tried to deny he had ever given johnson that advice.
and for history lbj kept at that tape recording running and mcnamara did a bad thing which i think he should be condemned by history. >> there's a little known chapter which the new york times wrote about as this book was breaking. talk about that chapter in thewoman war as relates to the possibility of a nuclear war. >> you know, lyndon johnson made serious mistakes in vietnam and i write about them. 1964 and privately he's saying what does vietnam mean to me? he's talking to his friend richard russell of georgia, i would say that you ought to get out of here, if you don't, it will last ten years, kill 50,000 americans and will not win. perfect advice. i wish johnson had taken that advice, instead of the advice of robert mcnamara. but despite the serious mistakes that johnson made in
vietnam, which i write about, there's one moment i think just shows johnson's largeness and that is the beginning of 1968, he got advice from his commander in vietnam, william westmoreland, who said to averted a fee that maybe turned the stalemate around, maybe we should move tactical nuclear weapons to south vietnam and consider using them and johnson takes one listen to that and says absolutely not. i've been fighting this war for years to keep it from going nuclear. it's not-- i think it's an important war to wage, but i don't want the ru russians and chinas coming in-- anyone else who would have been president, let's turn wars over to the generals, they know more. it shows they don't always know more you need a president with experience and wisdom and
largeness that johnson showed at that moment to stop us from a nuclear catastrophe. >> one more question and then we'll go to your questions in the audience. this is a hypothetical, michael. if we had a president in office who read history. >> i remember what that used to be like. >> and he or she were to read your book, as commander-in-chief, what central lesson would you want them to derive? >> if you're waging a war, the war must be overwhelmingly understood and supported by the american people, almost unanimously supported by congress and absolutely essential for our national security. that's what the founders demanded. [applaus [applause] >> thank you for your patience. yes, ma'am. >> rachel maddow's east bay and i --. >> rachel maddow walks on water
in my opinion. >> she does. [applause]. >> guest: i hail from the southern joaquin valley if you're talking about the japanese-american internment act. about your book, i thought it would be too euro centric, it's not. you cover the philippines, lbn in north vietnam and north america's polk's war with mexico, and the civil war. the wars you cover have specific endings and beginnings. >> i'm covering traditional wars with a large number of casualties. as i say, i did not talk about the struggles with native americans which cover decades. >> that's my question. >> it's on page one. >> darn, i opened it and perused it. >> maybe a sequel if you invite me back. >> i am inviting you back because it's a 250 year war of
genocide, tommy orange-- or tommy orange who is there, it's a chilling tajdy of a -- tragedy of a war. and i invite you back, it's a drip, drip, drip of war over centuries. >> thank you for saying so, thank you for being here. [applause] >> rob, if you could give us a short and relevant question i would be grateful. >> well, michael. mark, you know i ask a lot of zingers for get ready. >> you do? i think ma, is saying as long as they're short it's okay. >> a short zinger. >> really short. >> don't quake so much in your shoes, michael beschloss. >> why? >> the questions i have for you relates to three different things. >> we've only got a couple of minutes. >> robert, quick question or
i'll go back to michael. >> two days ago in the dallas morning news, greg jones wrote an article-- >> are you going to read it. >> from the out set lbj was determined not to lose caisson and that westmoreland had everything he needed to old the american outpost and put the nuclear weapons on the table almost immediately. on february 1 at the behest-- >> no, no, no, rob. >> two more sentences. we've got the gist of it. read the article. >> michael. >> february 1-- one more sentence. >> rob, i'll be glad to reply. >> the point is that-- >> rob, thank you. >> lyndon johnson put tactical nuclear welcomes-- >> what is your response to the article. >> what is your response it wasn't johnson it was the prime ministers of canada and britain and went on face the nation and said you will not use the nuclear weapon. >> thank you for taking time
for other people. >> what's your response, what's your response? >> can i speak? >> yes. >> i give the credit to lbj. there's planning all the time. if he had not shut that down, that kind of planning would not have shut down and could have gotten out of control and what this is based on is interviews that i did and also david sanger of the new york times with tom johnson who was l bj's very close assistant to took the notes was in the room and saw johnson's display of temper when he thought there was this pressure coming on him for vietnam to go nuclear. thanks very much for the question, yes, ma'am. >> tom johnson-- >> yes, ma'am. >> thank you. >> rob, please, let's give some other people-- >> so i'm curious because we've talked a lot about modern wars, but how did our first president who had to wage the first-- the first major war of our country, how did he stack up and where did-- >> i open the book with james
madison. >> right. >> and madison, the scene i open it with is that madison is running through the northern-- the dark forest of northern virginia in the rain fleeing washington because the british wanted to hang him. >> right. they were burning the capital, they were burning the white house and dolly madison was running through the same forest and they were looking for each other and madison keeps getting off his galloping horse even though it's dangerous to stand and turn around and look at washington d.c. disappearing into a swirl of fire. and that's his essentially committing the original sin of taking america into the first war of this kind and going to congress, a war that was unsupported by a large number of americans, and not very understood, i mean, for instance, i would ask the question, what was the first war-- what was the most unpopular war in american history? it wasn't vietnam, it was the
war of 1812. and what was the first war in american history that we lost? i say in this book, it wasn't vietnam, it was the war of 1812 because madison said our war aims were, number one, to stop the brits from harassing our ships. number two, to conquer con canada and look at those aims, they're as distant fighting a war for our national security as they could possibly be. it's so poignant and painful because madison was this wonderful brilliant founder, wonderful leader. he gets to be president and he basically breaks the lock and opens the door for later presidents to get us involved in wars that we never should have been involved in. thank you so much. >> yes, sir. >> good morning, i'm doug lovette from san antonio. a quick question, you mentioned l lbj, as a fan of the volumes you've put out, when do we see
the rest. >> i've been through two books, thank you for mentioning them. 1963 to 1965 and these are 700 hours nearly, i've listened to every single minute, many more than once. if my language gets raunchy it's because i've been listening to lbj. i'll clean this up, if you hear me saying that someone never mark, can't find his rear end with both hands it's because i've listened to the johnson tapes not because i'd talk that way in private. but i hope to have a book based on those tapes before too long. >> thank you for asking. >> i think we have time for one last question, yes, sir. >> do you see any parallels from the 1850's with the cultural tribalism leading to the caning in the senate in
terms of what we're experiencing now? and which may lead to a slippery slope? >> i think one thing is positive, the good news is that anyone asked the question have we ever been more divided than we are in 2018? well, the good news is, 1859, slavery. and maybe even 1932 when many americans were saying we should do something radical to solve the great depression with an unemployment rate that was up, you know, somewhere 25% or higher, or 1940, a time that it seemed every american household was divided over the question of do we go to war with adolf hitler. you reelect franklin roosevelt, you will plow under-- horrible way of saying that, you will plow under every american force boy.
as much as we have problems now days that divide us, it's not as bad as that. and anyone who would bet against our american democratic system would be making a severe mistake. whatever problems, they will be overcome. [applause] >> michael, you write so eloquently about the importance of character in leadership, particularly for a commander-in-chief. can you ever fully prepare for the duties of president of the united states? >> you can't, especially in war time and always remember that the president that you get at the beginning of a war is going to be very different from the president that you get at the end. abraham lincoln was devastated and see him before the assassination, he was 56, looked 80, 85. president johnson had courageously been president after having a massive heart
attack in 1955 so he had health challenges that people didn't know about, but he was extremely troubled, very suspicious, very angry at his enemies and lived a very unhappy retirement during the next four years. jack, his very close friend and former aide and a close friend of mine said, at times he thought lbj, he says, slow motion suicide because the doctors had told johnson, you know, no smoking, no drinking, no overeating and he did all of those things and i think hastened his death. there's a scene where he was called on by commander haig, who by then was working for richard nixon and lady bird brings in his heart pills and lbj after she leaves throws the heart pills into a bush and says i'm dying and i want to get it over with. that's how much he was sent by the experience of being a war president during vietnam.
>> the book is "presidents of war", 750 pages, a tribute to its own michael beschloss that you'll wish it was longer. thank you very much, michael. >> it's been a pleasure. >> thank you. [applaus [applause]. [inaudible conversations] >> good afternoon. we're going to begin. i am professor of cultural education university of texas at austin and i'm excited to be with you today and to have the opportunity to moderate what i know will be an exciting and provocative panel. i'm thrilled and honored to