Skip to main content

tv   The Contenders  CSPAN  August 8, 2016 12:00pm-2:03pm EDT

12:00 pm
the c-span radio app makes it easier to follow the 2016 election wherever you are. it's free to download from the apple app store or google play. get audio coverage and up-to-the-minute information for c-span television plus broadcast times for our pub you already a p -- popular public affairs and history programs. c-span's radio app means you always have c-span on the go. and now the contenders, our 14-week series of people who ran for president and lost but nevertheless changed political history. we feature thomas dewey, former prosecutor who ran for president in the 1944 and 1948. this program was recorded at the roosevelt hotel in new york city. it's about two hours. this is american history tv only on c-span 3.
12:01 pm
>> governor thomas e. dewey of new york, republican nominee, reaches oakland, california, on his whirlwind campaign around the nomination. making a plea for world peace and striking at communist elements in government, the gop leader draws big audiences. next step is portland, oregon, with mrs. dewey by his side. in kelso he makes another stirring bid for the northwest ballots. well, it appears at least he has one ardent supporter. those are the reason for the specimens. we'll know soon november is just around the corner. >> president truman continues his swing around the circuit meeting former vice president garner in texas. the chief executive gets a present which he he said he's pasture on the white house lawn for the next four years. he rides to the home of his old friend cactus jack for a texas breakfast and gets a warm welcome on route. later in nearby san antonio he
12:02 pm
visits the alamo, historic shrine of texas independence. in austin, a big crowd greets the president as he continues his campaign for the lone star states 23 electoral votes. stressing civil right, the president struck at the republicans, saying they don't want public unity. on his tour, the president spoke and visited with sam rayburn, former speaker of the house. at fort worth, thousands turn out as he fight to bring the southern vote back into line. >> dewey defeats truman, the famous photo of that "chicago tribune" headline from the 1948 presidential campaign, of course we know, in fact, harry s. truman pictured here won that election and his rival new york governor thomas e. dewey had to accept defeat. this week on "the contenders" we are live from the roosevelt hotel in new york city which in november, 1948, hosted the
12:03 pm
republican party's headquarters and new york governor thomas dewey's presidential campaign. dewey used this suite, 1527, wherever he was in new york during his 12 years as governor and he and his family and closest aides gathered in these rooms on election night. joining thus evening is richard norton smith, historian, biographer of thomas e. dewey. so richard morton, it's november 2, 1948 at the roosevelt hotel. what happens here? >> well, the day began with virtual unanimity in the nation's press corps that this election was over, that it was thomas e. dewey's to lose. there were pollsters who stopped polling shortly after labor day governor and mrs. dewey went to
12:04 pm
vote at midday not too far from here were cheered all the way o on. the family went for an early dinner and while they were there some disturbing returns came in from connecticut in particular and dewey, of course, as gang buster had relied upon accountants as much as anyone else to convict the likes of luky luciano and dutch schultz, always had great respect for the numbers and the numbers were a little bit out of sink with what
12:05 pm
the pollsters predicted. that was the beginning of a night long ordeal in this sweet at one point before dawn the governor of new york poked his head through that door and said to a friend "what do you know? the little son of a bitch won." and his formal concession came later in the day. >> before we get to the point and he sees that secret service is gone, there's a confidence at the roosevelt hotel. describe that. >> well, the confidence was
12:06 pm
based upon, very understandably, based upon the fact that there was a consensus among people on the right, people on the left not only that dewey was going to win, this is what's fascinating. because when you see that iconic image the fact is dewey to a lot of people today is remembered primarily as the man who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. but if you go back and read the contemporary press, french drew peer son to walter whitman to the alsop brothers, they not only expected dewey to win, they had praise for the campaign he ran. they thought it was statesman like, they thought it was high minded and they had criticism for the campaign president truman ran against him and it's a fascinating example of how a snapshot of history often contained in journalism can be superseded very quickly. >> we want to show our viewers from that night early on when
12:07 pm
the returns are starting to come in thomas dewey's campaign manager in the confidence that he in the campaign had early on. take a look. >> at dewey's headquarters in new york, champagne flows freely. victory is in the air the first return for truman in the lead but the republicans aren't worried. and then republican campaign manager herbert brownel brings good news. >> we now know governor dewey will carry new york state by at least 50,000 votes and this he will be the next president of the united states. [ cheers and applause ] >> richard norton smith, why are republicans so confident that they can get the white house in 1948. >> well, by the way, carrying new york state is no small feat, it was the first time in 20 years that republicans managed to do it.
12:08 pm
new york was the cradle of the new deal, so for herbert brownell to announce that and announce that victory was in the air was perfectly understandable. 1948 -- what we didn't know going into 1948, what 1948 confirmed was that america had, in fact, become a new deal country. the death of franklin roosevelt ended one presidency but the approach to government, the expectation that government would be more involved, for example, in ensuring prosperity, that government would be used to fight economic downturns. whether or not you believe and dewey frankly has grave doubts about the success of those efforts that nevertheless the assumption was when fdr died the new deal died with him. and the relationship between the
12:09 pm
average american and his government which had been transformed by the new deal, turns out that wasn't the case. on election day, 1948, americans enjoyed record prosperity, record employment, the reason the republicans in spite of that thought they could win in 1948 is simple, harry truman. we forget today, but truman in his first term was a very unpopular president. the crack "to err is truman." there was talk about the little man from missouri someone dwarfed by the ghost of franklin roosevelt. truman had a very difficult assignment. every president after a war has the process of readjusting economically, culturally the agriculture sector. inflation, strikes, all of that came due on truman's watch and the consensus in '46 and '47 was
12:10 pm
he wasn't handling it very well. it was so bad that republicans took congress in 1946 which only fed their expectation that the presidency would fall into their lap two years later. >> how are republicans viewing the administration in 1948. >> there was no such thing as "the republicans" and that was part of dewey's problem. the republican party then much more than now was almost evenly split between what's called the eastern establishment, the old teddy roosevelt wing of the part y party can charles evans hughes was very much in that position. tom dewey represented that in the '30s and '40s and 50s and dwight eisenhower to whom he handed the baton. opposed to that were the conservative midwesterners many isolationists who rallied around bob taft, the son of former president, ironically president
12:11 pm
taft had precipitated the split in 1912, that never healed. so in 1946 when the republicans took congress it was the conservatives who became the face of the party and on the other hand you had people like dewey, many of the governors for example who were much less hostile to the new deal, much more willing to work with its premises. >> thomas e. dewey is our contender tonight. he ran, he lost, but he changed political history anyway. here is dewey launching his campaign in 1948. here is the criticism he had of the administration. >> we have the cam fine unite all americans. on january 20, a new era is january 20 there will begin in washington the biggest unraveling, unsnarling,
12:12 pm
untangling operation in our nation's history. [ cheers and applause ] >> richard norton smith, what do you make of that, unsnarling? >> that goes to the hard of dewey's strength and the perceptions of truman's weakness. dewey, after all, had been governor of new york now for several years and he had untangled, unsnarled and unravelled a lot of bureaucratic cobwebs, he had taken what many people would see as a hybrid of conservative and liberal ideas to make government more responsive, in some ways to make it smaller, taxes were reduced, so what he had done in new york he proposed to do on the national level. one critical element that sets dewey apart, and that, of
12:13 pm
course, is civil rights. dewey is in the forefront on that issue new york state is the first state in america to pass anti-discrimination legislation and dewey took that very seriously. it did not necessarily meet with universal agreement even among republicans in new york but it was something he cared about. >> we're talking about thomas dewey's campaign for president in 1948. we'll be joined later by thomas dewey's son, thomas e. dewey jr., he'll join us taking your questions and comments and we take your phone call so you can dial in for richard norton smith and tom dewey, jr. we're working our way back from election night so let's go to the fall campaign and the issues that are there. is truman popular? is. >> truman is not terribly popular at the beginning of the campaign. it's a curious reversal of what we've seen since then. the president was less popular
12:14 pm
than his policies. in other words people were perfectly content with record-high employment but they didn't attribute it to harry truman. also, of course, global issues were a huge factor one of the things dmr dewey has been criticized in retrospect but at the time was widely praised was running this campaign of national unity in which he tried -- first of all, the whole idea of bipartisan foreign policy is part of tom dewey's political legacy and something that began with he and john foster dulles in the 1944 campaign, he, for example, supported truman on the airlift to berlin. he supported truman on recognizing the state of israel. at the same time he wanted to increase the defense budget by $5 billion. there's no doubt that he would have been -- he supported the marshall plan but r but he would
12:15 pm
have asked more questions before turning over american tax dollars to left wing governments in europe. so it was a campaign in many ways that is what we claim we want in a candidate. there wasn't hitting below the belt, there wasn't a lot of personalities, there wasn't a lot of name calling and kr critics said even then it's dull, that it lacks specifics. >> and is that showing up in the polls? in a dewey versus truman hypothetical? >> the popular notion has always been that dewey drowned in a sea of some play seicomplacency, the bin surprise by what happened in his suite that night. the fact is he knew. he was the first national political candidate to have a full time political polling unit as part of his campaign. he listened to the pollsters. he had a very real appreciation
12:16 pm
of their art and he was well aware of the fact that his lead was slipping. there were people who came to him in the last 10 days of the campaign and he acknowledged that the lead was slipping. to one of them he said but remember, never talk when you're ahead. >> so what happens next, then? ? are the democrats behind truman? are they solid in their unanimity behind -- >> i'll tell you who was solid behind truman. one of the contributing factors to dewey's loss, the republicans passed something called the taft/hartly act which organized labor saw an attack on many of the rights and privileges developed from a new deal. it put dewey in an awkward position. by and large he agreed with much of the bill. at the same time, you know, he's in new york, this is a labor state, this is a liberal state
12:17 pm
so in some ways he was walking a fine line there but what the taft/heartily act did was energize hard labor. 1948 was probably the single election in which organized labor played the biggest role throughout america and in race after race after race the democratic ticket ran ahead of harry truman in part because of truman's relative unpopularity but also because organized labor to a man in record numbers and voted democratic. >> who are the other players in the democratic party at this time? >> well, you have, of course, four candidates in the 1948 election. you have on the left former vice president henry wallace who believes that truman has a started the cold war. that truman is insufficiently attune to the possibilities of peace with the soviet union and on the far right you have strom thurmond who walked out of the
12:18 pm
democratic convention because a young mayor from minneapolis named hubert humphrey introduced and subsequently passed a strong pro-civil rights plank. and so the conventional wisdom was that this would hurt truman. that he would lose votes on the left, he would lose votes on the right. in fact, what it did was make truman the man in the middle. and neither thurmond or wallace turned out to have anywhere near the impact that it was believed they would have. >> the economy at the time, what's it like? >> the economy is truman's great stay. as i said, record employment. and more that that, what truman did very shrewdly, he ran less against dewey than he did against the republican congress and the ghost of herbert hoover and the fact of the matter was that a democratic president riding the crest of prosperity in the fall of 1948 could point
12:19 pm
a finger at the republican congress and in effect suggest to people -- and truman was not bashful about doing it -- that if you return to republicans to complete control of the white house and congress you can expect to see a return to the economic policies that produced aggression. and, you know, it wasn't that long since the great depression. people's memories were very sharp and that came into play without a doubt. >> what about the role of communism in this campaign? >> it's fascinating because dewey had taken heat in 1944 from introducing this charge that fdr inadvertently allowed communist influence to take root to some degree in his administration. in 1948 -- i've got clip. >> let's show that. >> the first nationally
12:20 pm
broadcast presidential debate revolves around one issue -- shall the communist party in america be outlawed? and thomas dewey, the old prosecutor, takes the civil libertarian view that, no, it should not be outlawed for reasons he expounds. his opponents, who had taken the lead in that primary race, this is before the oregon primary, took the position that it should be outlawed. it was a turning point because, of course, that's also the same year that alger hiss is introduced to the american people. >> we're going to get to that debate coming up but i want to show viewers what tom dewey had to say on communists in 1948 and get your reaction to this. take a look. >> the communists here in our midst. some people syria jeer at the p, calling it a red herring.
12:21 pm
some people get panicky about it. i don't belong to either of those groups. we must neither ignore the communists, nor outlaw them. if we ignore them, we give them the cloak of immunity that they want. if we outlaw them, we give them the martyrdom that they want even more. we will in the government we get next january keep informed and we'll keep the american people informed where they are, who they are, and what they're up to. >> richard norton smith? >> that's classic dewey. some would say setting up the straw men of the left and right and carving out the middle of the road for himself but that's very much what his approach was. it raises the fascinating prospect, i think distinct possibility under the "what if" had dewey been elected in 1948 that among other things we would never have heard of joe
12:22 pm
mccarthy. mccarthyism would never have entered the language. senator mccarthy who was in many ways a product of republican frustration over losing an election that they thought was a sure thing tom dewey was a political boss, among other things. he controlled the republican party in the state, he would have controlled the republican party nationally and i can tell you he never would have allowed a joe mccarthy to rear his head. >> we touch on domestic issues, internationally, what's going on in '48. >> well, of course, we're well into the cold war. dewey is again supportive of the marshal plan. he supports nato. i mean, he supports -- he supports -- the overall truman -- truman, for example, had reorganized the war department, the department, created the central intelligence agency. to some degree had put america's
12:23 pm
economy on a cold war footing. dewey is supportive of all that, in fact, if anything he believes we need to spend more money on our defenses. he also, it's interesting, he thinks that we have neglected conservative forces, for example charles de gaulle in france who is out of power but who is seen as a bulwark against communism in france. dewey thinks that a creative american diplomacy could put people like that to good use. >> so how does he differ from the other prominent republicans in the party at the time? who are they? >> bob taft, mr. republican from ohio, it's fair to say was the champion of the isolationist wing of the republican party. that is to say the wing
12:24 pm
profoundly suspicious of international organizations like the u.n., suspicious of later on the korean war. suspicious of projecting american military power around the world as opposed to building up american defenses here at home. former president herbert hoover would certainly have been in that camp as well. dewey -- one of the things was to watch him become a committed internationalist and a champion of bipartisan foreign policy. >> given that, what is the impact of that attitude on all of his presidential bids? >> well, obviously he didn't win in the presidency. in 1944 there was a significant
12:25 pm
conflict between dewey and fdr even though they disagreed with the united nations and specifically would the united nations have an erm that it could -- employ without first securing the position of member states like united states. and roosevelt said yes he supported that. dewey was not supportive of that and dewey said later on roosevelt won the election and history has proven i was right. >> you talk about the divide in the republican party over international issues. do they come back together in time for the '48 campaign? do the taft and dewey wings come together? >> it was pained over. but in fact it was very shrewd
12:26 pm
on truman's part to see that as the achilles heel that republican unit was unit in name only and to try to almost eliminate dewey and to suggest that if you vote for this man, what you're going to get is bob taft and the midwest conservative republican party. and to be frank, dewey did very little. he and taft despised each other. their rivalry was one of the great intellectual and personal contests in american history. it's on the scale of jefferson and hamilton. it's about something. it's not just about personal ambition, it's about a different view of the world, a different view of government at home, a different view of what the republican party stands for, a different view of what abraham lincoln's legacy is. and a different view of the future. >> tonight we are coming to you live from the roosevelt hotel
12:27 pm
here in new york city to talk about thomas e. dewey, our eighth contender in our 14-week series looking at those folks who american history who ran, lost, but changed political history. we want to get to your phone calls here. first is brian in springfield, illinois. brian, go ahead. >> caller: hello, good evening, thank you so much for the series. mr. smith, we still miss you very much here in springfield. >> oh, that's very kind of you, thanks. >> caller: not a problem. i had a question about 1952. i remember reading about an illinois senator everett dirkson, a taft supporter and the convention here in chicago. he went up to nominate taft and kind of wagged his finger at dewey who was in the crowd saying something like "you led us twice down the path to defeat, don't do this to us again." and, of course, taft lost that nomination fight to eisenhower. my question is, what role did dewey play in getting eisenhower to run, convincing his people to picnic son, and what role did he
12:28 pm
play in eisenhower's fall campaign? >> that's a huge subject. let me handle it as quick as i can. he was instrumental in getting eisenhower into the race and i'll tell you a story. when eisenhower at this point was over in paris, commander of nato, and he really didn't want to leave. he didn't want to come home, he didn't want to sully himself by campaigning actively for the nominati nomination. and at one point dewey was a shrewd -- no copy exists, he writes the letter, she mailed it, it went to generalize hower in paris and in it dewey says to eisenhower if you don't come home and actively seek this nomination my fear is that the delegates will nominate douglas macarthur. well, that was the ultimate hot button to push with dwight eisenhower and shortly after
12:29 pm
that letter was received he heard the call of duty and he came home. you were absolutely right. you talk about the split between taft and dewey. it was never more apparent, more dramatic than that night when everett dirkson wagged his finger at dewey and said "you took us down the road of defeat twice." dewey had the revenge because the next night he was able to announce 87 of 92 new york delegates for eisenhower. and finally yes, he was more responsible than anyone else for richard nixon being on the ticket. he spot theed him as a talent in 1948. he brought him to new york to speak at the annual dinner of the republican party which was a tryout. when nixon finished, he sat down, dewey took the cigarette holder out of his mouth, he said "make me a promise, don't get
12:30 pm
fat, don't get lazy and someday you can be president." >> we'll go back to those moments later on in the show and we'll talk more about thomas e. dewey's legacy and his unsuccessful run for the white house but let's hear from michelle from kansas city, missouri. >> caller: did the dewey campaign exploit truman's ties to the pendergast organization in kansas city? because some of the things that pendergast did back then helped truman get in the position where he's at. thank you. >> that's a very good question. no, they did not. that was part of dewey's approach, particularly in '48, which was very consciously to stay away from personal attacks, to keep this thing on a very high plain, some would say
12:31 pm
vapid, content-free but certainly bearing little resemblance to modern attack campaigns. >> let's go back to the primary. we've sort of worked our way back, fall campaign, the general election, let's go to the primary. set the stage for us. who else is running? >> well, of course, bob taft is running and has a very substantial following, not just in the midwest but throughout the country. harold stassen who before he became something of a comical figure who ran every four years to various levels of disdain was, in fact, a very formidable candidate. then you had arthur van derberg from massachusetts who reminded people of senator foghorn. he was the quintessential pot bellied and rather pompous but he'd become a statesman. arthur vandenberg had undergone
12:32 pm
this conversion from isolationist internationalist that tom dewey was to emulate and so you had a -- it was a pretty distinguished field. and it was by no means a sure one who wanted to run but never announced his candidacy was douglas macarthur who was in the jungles of asia but his name was on the ballot. and one other candidate who went to wisconsin and saw his campaign end there was the 1940 nominee of the party, wendell will willke. >> let's talk about the impact of the oregon primary and the debate you touched on earlier. why is it important? >> it's on youtube, i'm sure it's easy to get. anyone who is watching what
12:33 pm
passes for debates at the moment among the republican candidates or, quite frankly, who has watched the fall "debates" in recent years between the opposing parties, i would just urge you, go and listen to the dewey stassen debate. it is as close in a modern context to lincoln/douglass as anything could. be it's not a collection of soundbites. douglass. it's an hour for these two men to talk about thoughtful view points on a very polarizing issue in america and to do in the a way that raised the public standard of discourse as opposed to lowering it. >> we have a little bit of that debate. let's listen in then we'll talk about it. >> there's no such thing as a constitutional right to destroy all constitutional rights.
12:34 pm
there's no such thing as a freedom to destroy freedom. the right of man to liberty is inherent in the nature of man. to win it and to maintain it requires courage and sacrifice and it also requires intelligence and realism and determination in the establishment of the laws and the systems of justice to serve mankind. i submit that the communist organization in america and in the freedom-loving countries of the world should be outlawed. >> here's an issue of the highest moral principle and practical application. people of this country are being asked to outlaw communism. that means this. shall we in america in order to defeat a totalitarian system which we detest voluntarily
12:35 pm
adopt the methods or that system? i want people of the united states to know exactly where i stand on this proposal because it goes to the very heart of the qualification of the candidate for office and the kind of country we want to live in. i am wholeheartedly unswirveingly against any scheme to write laws outlawing people because of their religious, political, social or economic ideas i'm against it because of the constitution of the united states and the bill of rights and clearly so. i'm against it because it's immoral and nothing but totalitarianism itself. i'm against it because i know from a great many years experience and the enforcement in a law that the proposal wouldn't work and instead it would rapidly advance the cause of communism in the united states and all over the world.
12:36 pm
>> richard norton smith, what's the impact of this debate on dewey's primary bid? >> in the immediate sense it won him the victory in oregon which was critical. he had fallen behind. he had gone in as the preemptive favorite having been the nominee in 1944 and then stassen did quite well in the early primaries so it all came down to this extraordinarily dramatic confrontation over this one issue. now that's dewey at his best and there are a lot of people i think after the fact that thought if he had only talked like that with that degree of specificity and conviction and credibility until november of 1948 that maybe the result of the election would have been different. >> how many people are listening to this debate at the time? >> 60 million. 60 million people. >> on the radio? >> i estimated tune into the dewey/stassen radio debate.
12:37 pm
just phenomenal. >> and the role of radio at that time? >> well, you know, radio was the chief medium by which the news was disseminated and this is another aspect of tom dewey. we had come to new york in the '20s not necessarily wanting to be a lawyer, he wanted to be an opera singer, which surprises people and you heard his voice, it's a very cultured voice. a very trained voice. some people thought it lacked spontaneity but it's also true that it was the one republican voice that on the radio was able to hold the magical franklin roosevelt to something of a draw. >> what if people could have seen that debate? would it have had a different outcome? >> that's a great question. dewey liked television. dewey thought television was -- it was like the courtroom. it was -- as a young man he became famous as the man who broke up the rackets in new york, who became the gang buster
12:38 pm
who inspired all of these hollywood movies and radio shows like mr. district attorney and if you stop to think about it a television studio is not terribly dissimilar from a courtroom. the strengths that he had in the courtroom, the ability to make his case, to connect whether it was with the jury or with viewers, there are some early television kinescopes in his third race for governor, for example, where he is very effective in front of the camera and i think he probably wished in retrospect that he could have run the '48 campaign in front of a television camera. >> let's go to the gop convention in philadelphia in 1948. how does he get the nomination? where there ballots? how did it work? >> there were several ballots. in fact, dewey is the last republican candidate who required more than one ballot to be nominated. even though he had turned the
12:39 pm
tide, if you will, in oregon, there was still determined opposition led by, above all, senator taft and to a lesser degree at that point harold sta stassen who, by the way, had made a name for himself as the so-called boy governor in minnesota in his early 30s, a real prodigy. of course dewey was a real prodigy. so any way it took i believe three ballots and then, of course, you had to pick a vice president and he wanted earl warren who was the very popular governor of california and warren would not agree. four years later he would, to his regret, but instead to unify the party dewey picked the governor of ohio, taft's friend, fellow conservative, a man named john bricker and one of the slogans was "war will end quick we are dewey and bricker." >> let's get to a phone call. marvin in los angeles. go ahead. >> caller: hello.
12:40 pm
thomas e. dewey was a reasonably young man in 1953 and he was very influential in general eisenhower running. was dewey offered a job by eisenhower after all his vp, governor warren of california, was offered the job of chief justice. >> that's a great question i believe he was informally approached, shall we put it, about the supreme court. when you stop to think about it, really nothing else made sense except perhaps secretary of state and there he had the next best thing, maybe better, his long-time political ally and his kissinger john foster dulles. one of the things about dewey that is often overlooked is the extent to which he brought into the american political process a whole generation of very talented people. i mean, dwight eisenhower,
12:41 pm
richard nixon are the most obvious but there's a whole host of people who would remain -- some of them here in new york but others, kim haggerty was the white house press secretary, to this day is regarded as the best press secretary in white house history. he earned the job in new york under tom dewey. herbert brownell, the attorney general under eisenhower was dewey's campaign manager and the list is a very long one. >> osmond in richmond, virginia, you're next. >> caller: this is a very interesting subject. hello? >> yeah, you're on the air, go ahead. >> caller: thank you, go ahead, this is a very interesting subject. >> i'm sorry, can you hear me? >> we can. >> caller: this is a very interesting subject. this was the first presidential election, my mother a life long republican, voted in. and one of the things she told me was that she found dewey unattractive because of his -- she mentioned his greasy hair and his mustache.
12:42 pm
if you can comment on that. but my main interest was understanding the role a future major player in the democratic party, lyndon johnson, played in this election. >> well, l. b.j. was trying to get elected himself to the senate in texas so he was not a significant factor in the national -- in the presidential race. dewey's appearance is revealing in a number of ways. dewey was someone who i think today would be in despair of the handlers. dewey could not be handled. there were people throughout his career who said, you know, tom, if you'd shave off that mustache and get your teeth fixed -- you know, he had a couple missing teeth from a high school football scrimmage. well, he kept the mustache and he kept the teeth -- or the non-teeth, for a very simple reason -- francis dewey liked him the way he was. but you're right. there are times when people in print compared his appearance to
12:43 pm
charlie chaplin or adolf hitler and in 1948 or 1944 little brown mustaches were probably not a terribly politically potent weapon. >> let me take -- let me give you a look at the 1948 gop convention in philadelphia when thomas e. dewey accepts the nomination for president from his party. >> it's an honest contention, spirited disagreement, and i believe considerable hot arguments. but don't let anybody be misled by that. you have given a moving and dramatic truth of how americans who honestly differ close ranks and move forward for the nation's well-being shoulder to shoulder.
12:44 pm
[ applause ] let me assure you that beginning next january 20 there will be team work in the government of the united states of america. when these rights are secure in this world of ours, the permanent ideals of the republican party shall have been realized. [ applause ] the ideals of the american people are the ideals of the republican party. we have tonight and in these day which is preceded us in philadelphia lighted a beacon in this cradle of our own independence as a great america. we've lighted the beacon to give eternal hope that men may live
12:45 pm
in liberty with human dignity and before god and loving him stand direct and free. [ applause ] >> thomas e. dewey, our contenders accepting the gop nomination at the convention in philadelphia in 1948 and we are coming to you live this evening from the roosevelt hotel where thomas e. dewey in 1948 was here with his family, with his closest aides, to watch and listen for the election results to come in. joining us now is thomas e. dewey, jr. sir, bring us back to the 1948 conventi convention. were you there? >> no. >> you weren't there? >> no. >> what were your fathers -- what do you think it meant to him to win that nomination, both in '44 and '48?
12:46 pm
>> did he want it in '44? >> you know, i'm not going to be able to answer that because we didn't talk about who wanted what and who was going to do what. we were teenagers and we were in school and my parents, neither of them was particularly forthcoming about i really want that or no we won't do that. it's just -- you went forward and did what you were supposed to do or what you thought you were supposed to do. >> and what were you supposed to do in '48 during the campaign? what was your role? >> student at albany academy. >> did you participate at all? i mean, were you part of commercial ads or were you out on the campaign trail with your family posing for pictures? >> no, no, and no. >> and why not? what was the dynamic then? >> we were in school. that was our job.
12:47 pm
his job was government and politics and we were, you know, the kids. >> what did you talk about around the dinner table, though? i mean -- >> not much memory there. he didn't really talk about what was going on in the campaign and that kind of thing. >> it wasn't a household filled with politics? >> no it was not. >> did he talk about politics? >> no, he did not. >> and what about your snore what did you remember after her talking to you about politics? >> no memory of that. >> do you have memories of the campaign in 1948?
12:48 pm
>> not really, no. >> but were you here on collection nighelection night? >> yes. >> what's your memory of that? >> watching returns, being sent to bed and the next morning, i forget, it was relatively early in the morning, i do remember dad coming into the bedroom where john and i were, in his bathrobe, and he said, well, we lost. and that was that. >> and didn't talk about it after that? >> nope. >> just said "we lost." >> right. >> do you think it was something he carried with him? i mean, as a ball and chain the rest of his life or did he, in fact -- i mean there are people who move on and and that's that. >> well, ball and chain, no. i don't think he ever thought --
12:49 pm
very much like the biography you're currently writing he never thought "oh, well, that was something i could have done differently." maybe he did but we didn't hear that. he went on to do his job, which was being governor of new york. and fully hoping to refire 1950 which he then -- his sense of duty when the koreans went to war, his sense of duty impelled him to take four more years out of whafb a very good legal practice and run for another term to make sure that he could hold his is republican coalition of mostly governors, many in the northeast, together, to get a non-taft candidate in 1952 which he thought was necessary to get the presidency. >> it's consistent with what you say that might surprise people is that your dad in his early
12:50 pm
days certainly never thought of himself as embarking upon a political career. that is to say someone seeking office as a way of making a living. when he first came and a friend asked, what do you want to do in life? he said he wanted to lead a great law firm and he wanted to make a hell of a lot of money. and he did it, but there was this 20-year detour along the way called politics. >> 24 years. >> what kind of man was your father? >> in what respect? >> well, you know, what was his style like? how would describe him to people? >> or how might he surprise people? the images have come down, the little man on the wedding cake and the stereotypes that have been produced because of what happened in '48. if he were to walk in that door, you know, what would it be like
12:51 pm
to be around thomas e. dewey? >> well, you know, it's a time that i'm not sure we see anymore. he came from a small town in michigan. his father had died, as you know, very early in life, and he had a very strong mother. and he emerged from michigan with what used to be called the protestant ethic and those ideals, and they never changed. >> he was a workaholic? >> he was that. he was that. loved his golf game and he loved his farm, but he was taken on to do four or five different jobs, and each one he did well enough so that the next one came along. >> one thing i guarantee you
12:52 pm
people don't know, in 1937 after his success with the gangbusting, breaking up the rackets in new york, getting lucky luciano, for example. john foster dulles tried to hire him on to cromwell for $150,000 a year. >> i remember that number. >> anyway, a lot of money. he was originally drafted to run for district attorney of new york county for the grand sum of $20,000 a year. >> right. >> we're going to get to the rise of your father and how he came to national prominence, but richard, given what thomas dewey jr. has said about his father, describe to us his campaign style. >> it differed, frankly. for someone who has been caricatured, he's actually a
12:53 pm
much more dynamic campaigner. when he ran for district attorney, for example, in new york county, new york county is one county. and there were people all over the burroughs of new york city that day who wanted to vote for tom dewey. well, tom dewey wasn't on their ballot. he had electrified this city with his exploits taking on the rackets. because new york, even more then than now, was the heart of american communications. you had the loose press, you had, obviously, the radio networks. i mean, to become a phenomenon in new york meant potentially a national phenomenon. tom dewey was the inspiration. i don't know if you ever saw the movies, but hollywood was cranking out a movie a week at one point in the late '30s inspired by his exploits. in 1939, 37 years old, the
12:54 pm
district attorney of new york county is leading franklin roosevelt in a gallup poll in a mythical match-up. it's hard to imagine -- i can't think of anyone since -- i mean, winberg in his own way, in his own sphere at one point, had that kind of universal appeal. but your dad is still, i think, a unique figure. some people compare rudy giuliani as a prosecutor to your dad. >> well, rudy does. >> i was going to ask you, what do you make of that comparison? >> let's leave it that he does. >> okay. >> there was an ascetic there
12:55 pm
and the good baritone voice, and of course, the courtroom theatrics certainly was a revulsion against the excesses of the '20s, which were still very much in memory at that point. >> sure. >> and against the continuing mob scene head quarter, in many respects, in new york. >> and the alliance between the mob and the political machine. that's what, i think, people often miss. there was a -- you know, a relationship of mutual dependence that maybe grew out of prohibition. jimmy walker, you know, had not been out of city hall all that long. as a boy in michigan, your dad had it drummed into his head by his father that tammany hall
12:56 pm
represents all that was evil, and who could have predicted it at that point. but one quick thing about your dad which was clearly a limitation in an era of popular campaigning. when your godfather, arguably his best friend, elliott bell, an economics writer for the "new york times," would have been secretary of the treasury in the dewey administration. when he left the administration to make some money, governor dewey's counsel came to him, looked at the letters drawn up, and he said, these are all wrong. they're too formal, there's no intimacy here, there's no warmth here. and your dad said something to him that i think is so revealing. he said, i'm not going to display my emotions in public.
12:57 pm
>> okay, well, i didn't -- yeah. i was not privy to that, but it surprises me not at all. >> there is a kind of integrity to that, but it's also a political limitation. >> we need to go ahead to election night 1948 because we want to talk about his national prominence coming up here. so what happens? what are the results? >> the results, truman is re-elected by about 2 million votes. i think it is 303 to 189 in the electoral college. if you looked at the electoral map of 1948, it would be very little resemblance to today's. dewey swept the east. he did very well in the industrial midwest. he lost the farm belt. and he always said when people asked him to explain '48, he said, you can analyze the results from here to kingdom come, but farm vote changed in the last ten days.
12:58 pm
>> how did wallace and thurman do? >> they brought up the rear. thurman did carry several southern states, 39 electoral votes, wallace came in fourth. did not carry any states. >> what about the coverage of the night? the media is covering it. how long does it go? >> it goes through the night. it's the first election where television is a factor. it's a fairly minor factor, but the nbc studios had cooked up this huge model of the white house and interestingly enough they had a parade of donkeys all ready to go through and around the white house as soon as the formalities were observed and your dad was proclaimed the winner. no one to thought to bring in donkeys. democratic donkeys. they had republican elephants rather. that in a nutshell is what the media expected that night. >> richard norton smith and tom dewey jr. are our guests
12:59 pm
this evening as we take your calls live. we're talking about tom dewey's bid for the presidency in 1944 and 1948. our next discussion here is about his rise to power, his national prominence. part of that is his role as a prosecutor. here is a little bit from his 1937 bid to become district attorney in new york. >> you've been given the most difficult task, an opportunity to be a great help to the people of this city. what can we do for you? >> i need a small squad of detectives who will go to work on this job as they never have before, who will know that the mayor and the commissioner are behind them personally all the time. >> is everything set? >> is that a full list? every gangster in the mob is being watched this minute. >> any signs of leaks? >> they don't suspect a thing. at 10:00 tonight, pick up the
1:00 pm
ringleaders first. here are the sealed orders for the men. with new york detectives, dewey's round-up was skillfully directed. mob after mob was taken by surprise. simultaneously all over the city, the underworld was rounded up. >> we have made a real start of cleaning up the gangsters of new york. for 20 years the underworld has preyed on our people and robbed them and then frightened them into silence. but now the day of fear of the gangster is coming to an end. >> richard norton smith, how did you become a prosecutor? >> well, as tom said, we went to the university of michigan, law school. we came to new york thinking he loved music, it was a life-long love. he was surrounded by music growing up. and actually, that's where he
1:01 pm
met mrs. dewey as well. they had a shared love of music. but eventually he settled on the law and wound up working as assistant u.s. attorney. a man named george mcdally his mentor, trained him above all in thoroughness. the dewey hallmark was -- we talk about him as a workaholic. in one of the early cases, he had his men go over -- they traced 100,000 telephone calls and 200,000 bank slips in order to get a bootlegger named waxy gordon for proprietor in a the eureka cereal beverage company, and the alliance between corrupt prohibition defying elements and the government, the local government.
1:02 pm
>> i want to get to a phone call here but i want to go through some names real quick in his fight against organized crime. dutch schultz. >> dutch schultz, on the food order, on the pecking order, you had waxey gordon on the bottom. dutch schultz came in and took his empire, which was largely based on alcohol. but not only alcohol, it was something called policy, the numbers game. and it was gambling for the masses. again, this helps to explain dewey's appeal across the demographic range because millions in harlem in particular, millions of poor people were being taken advantage of in this racket. the money was flowing to the underworld. dutch schultz was making $20,000 a day. >> lucky luciano. >> lucky luciano was the next significant step above.
1:03 pm
dutch schultz decided that he would assassinate tom's dad when the heat got too great, and the underworld decided that was a step too far. so before dutch could carry out his plan, mr. luciano and crew took care of dutch. >> tom dewey, jr., the impact of this on your family. were there threats to your family? >> oh, sure. >> what was it like? did you know about it? >> no. you're talking about -- i'm three years older than john. what's happening here in 1936, 1937 i'm four or maybe five. and they wouldn't -- being the people who they were, they would not share that with us. >> did they later tell you about that time? >> no. no. one had to find another way. there was an illusion to it, but
1:04 pm
one found out for one's self. >> what did you find out, tom? what were others doing to try to protect your dad and his family? >> he had 24/7 protection and a car and a detective and a driver. i think it was later that the only incident is that we did find out about was the missed opportunity to kill him. he went across the street, 96th street where we lived, to a diner there to have breakfast every morning, and dutch shultz arranged to have the boys there on a morning, and it would have been curtains, except that day he got up early and went to the office and they missed it. shortly thereafter, the boys took care of dutch shultz.
1:05 pm
>> do you think you weren't aware of it because your dad didn't let it bother him? he kept to his routine? >> yes. >> he just went forward? >> right. >> maybe it's an exaggeration, but when i was doing research for the book, that your dad had developed the habit at that point in his life that he maintained throughout his life, when he was in a restaurant, he would sit with his back to the wall. >> always. >> i don't go back to the '30s, but every time we went somewhere, you know, in later years, it was always back to the wall. >> let's get to a phone call here. august has been waiting for us patiently in parkland, florida. august, go ahead. >> caller: how are you? how are you doing today? amazing story because in 1948 my family moved up to duchess county in new york. during that time, i was going to
1:06 pm
school. and after school i used to work with governor dewey at his farm on reservoir road. it was amazing because his farm was probably one of the first farms that came out with automatic milking machines for the cattle. and mrs. dewey had her own beautiful garden she maintained for years. hi i-remember his own personal guard house in front of his mansion. in 1964, '65, their barn burned down. i worked for little thomas in new york. it was amazing that those farms were so large and so big. they raised crops of corn and we bailed hay and it was amazing. i was listening to this program
1:07 pm
and i couldn't believe it. i'm 68 years old and i worked on his farm bailing hay and farming. >> thanks, august. let's talk about the farm. your father runs in 1938 for governor. he loses and then buys the farm up there that the caller was talking about. he decides to run for governor. why? richard norton smith? >> i can only speculate that it was a throwback to his youth, to his childhood. he had come from a farming environment. in world war i, he was too young to enlist and he worked on a farm in the oaso area. my sense is, and you know much better, that he was just very happy being a dairy farmer. it was a side of him that would probably surprise the public, and i'm not sure your mother was wild about it, i'm not sure you were wild about living there.
1:08 pm
>> what about it like? >> we were given a choice, i guess to some extent, she wasn't either. i do remember he was very pleased, as the caller said, very pleased to have the early stage milking machines because i remember the period before that, i mean, in the very beginning when we first -- i think we rented in '37 and bought it in $38, people would be horrified today, but we were drinking unpasteurized milk because that's what one did on a farm. then when he became governor, that was by the police, but you have a very good memory of all of that. except i would not put ed lowell and larry thomas in the same categories of farmers. they were people who had some land, but they were basically
1:09 pm
broadcasters and they were there for weekends. >> the caller referred to a mansion. that house had a mortgage on it for a very long time. >> which one? >> appledeer. >> it wasn't a very big one but it did get paid off. >> why was it so important to your father? >> i have no idea. he liked farming. it was his number one hobby. >> what's the significance of this area, richard norton smith, where he buys the farm? >> it's just gorgeous. a little bit of historical footnote, trivia, 1944 was the only election in american history where both major candidates come from the same county. >> let's hear from john next in eugene, oregon. john, you're on the air. >> caller: hello? >> we're listening, john. go ahead. >> caller: thanks, this is a great series of c-span. i'm really enjoying it. quick comment and then a question. first of all, professor smith, i
1:10 pm
enjoy hearing you and i learn a lot whenever you're on. i did not know that oregon had played a role in tom dewey's political fortunes in the primary here. i must correct you on one thing. out here we pronounce it oregon and not oregon. >> i stand corrected. thank you. it's not the first time. >> caller: secondly, a question. could you comment on the republican race for the nomination in 1944? was there a race? and then in the campaign itself, particularly from the republican side. thank you. >> well, there was a race in '44, which is interesting because frankly, i'm not sure dewey thought the nomination was worth all that much. wendell wilkie wanted a second shot at the presidency. general mcarthur's admirers, and we have reason to believe, that
1:11 pm
the general himself would have liked to have been nominated. taft flirted with it for a while, but he went john bricker who we already mentioned sort of ran it instead. i suppose there was a halfhearted contest. governor dewey did not announce his candidacy, i think, until the last minute. it was a quasi-draft, and it's an unusual year because it's war time and the great -- -- anyone who won the republican nomination would have a challenge. it's not only that you're running against this formidable wartime commander in the middle of the war, but you don't know when the war is going to end. and the dewey appeal, if america
1:12 pm
was at peace in 1945, it was believed he'd have a much stronger electoral case than if the country was still at war. >> we'll go to naples, florida next. stewart? >> caller: good evening. thank you for having me. i just want to commend richard norton smith and ken burns for preserving the history which is so important to america. they both do a great job. and in regards to mr. dewey, his passion with music from michigan, richard dreyfuss said in mr. holland's opus, music is not about notes on a page. it's about passion. and that's what dewey had. i think we're losing that. and what mr. norton is doing, god bless him. i worked with governor rockefeller and i met him and being in politics and part of that. and also the history of the roosevelt hotel is important. i was fortunate enough to work
1:13 pm
with phil d'antoni and we shot a scene from the 7-ups in that hotel. when i was in that hotel, you felt a part of history. and the waldorf astoria had something they didn't want to photograph him so you're all doing a great job and god bless dewey for what he did because those are the times when people were close. it was an intimate working situation. today people are tweeting and it's very -- it's very distant. >> thanks, stuart. >> caller: we have a sense of stories. great stories. the next generation, they don't even know -- they can't even converse with you sometimes. >> we're going to leave it there. we're going off on another area here. >> music. how important was music in your
1:14 pm
parent's household? >> as you remarked earlier, dad came to new york to go to law school. my mother came to new york to study singing, having won a contest in oklahoma where she came from. they met at the studio where they both studied. dad also supplemented, whatever he didn't have any income, i guess, he supplemented what was sent by singing in synagogues and churches, et cetera, and of course, my mother, upon finishing the course, went on the stage singing actress kind of thing. i would say it was very important then and it diminished for both of them. >> really?
1:15 pm
>> well, they were great opera fans and they had a box at the metropolitan opera, which i still have, and they enjoyed the opera very much. i don't think they went to the symphony that much in their later years, and so while it was extremely important in getting them together -- >> yeah. >> -- i think it wasn't all-consuming later on. >> were they big theatre goers? >> fair. not terribly often. >> thomas e. dewey is our contender tonight. he's our eighth in a 14-week series. he ran in 1944 and 1948. he also ran in 1940. i want to show you his campaign announcement in 1939. >> i appreciate your confidence and that of my associates in the republican party in the state of new york. i appreciate your support. i shall be glad to lead the fight.
1:16 pm
>> that was tom e. dewey in his campaign announcement in 1939. goes on to run for governor again in 1942 and wins. why does he decide to run for governor? >> one thing that really should be mentioned in 1940, he made history in 1940. he had the first female campaign manager that year, a woman named ruth anna mccormick simms. her father was mark anna, by no means a political operative himself, but it's revealing -- you mentioned his singing in synagogues. one of the things that he did when he was certainly in his legal career, particularly the racket days, when he put out sort of a help wanted sign, 20% of the lawyers in new york applied. a disproportionate number who were hired were jewish at a time when the old law firms didn't
1:17 pm
necessarily hire jews. i mean, that's one revealing aspect of the man's character. >> let's talk a little more about his record. he runs for governor in 1942. what does he do with that position? >> oh, gosh. i would call governor dewey a thrifty liberal. and a liberal in the 19th century sense in a lot of ways. he used to say that before there was government, there was mayhem and government rose to meet man's needs. in the modern industrial society that we live in, that means as much economic security as is consistent with individual freedom. so it was that constant balance. in terms of the operations, he cleaned out the cobwebs in albany. albany had been run by one party for 20 years. there was waste and fraud and abuse, but in a more creative way, he cut taxes every year he was governor.
1:18 pm
>> his record on civil rights? >> he was out in front. new york state, because of governor dewey, passed the first antidiscrimination legislation at the state level in america, it was to ban discrimination for religious or racial reasons in employment. >> los angeles is next. joe. >> caller: just wanted to state that i really enjoyed mr. smith's books and commentary on history and when he speaks on tv. my question is about polling. i had heard during the 1948 election, and i don't know if dewey was the first to actually hire pollsters, but one of the reasons that the polls were wrong because they sampled from people that owned cars, people that had driver's licenses, and this led to a wrong result about what the actual election was going to be. i just wanted to get more information about that. thank you. >> that's a fascinating
1:19 pm
question. one of tom dewey's best friends was george gallow. it wasn't a professional friendship, it was a personal friendship, but no doubt dewey was fascinated by the science of polling, and that's how he regarded it. the big problem in 1948, i think, is they stopped polling. they stopped early. even the late polls, which by the way, showed. if you look at the polls at the end of the '48 race, they are anywhere from a five-point lead to a nine-point lead. that's substantial, but it's not the kind of overwhelming cut and dried that one would believe. but the demographic issue is legitimate. 1946, the famous literary digest poll went out of business. it alone predicted alfred landon would beat franklin roosevelt, because it turned out it was a telephone poll, and in america in 1936, the people who did not
1:20 pm
have telephones were likely to vote for fdr. >> david in sioux city, iowa. >> caller: first time caller for me. i'm a little bit nervous here. mr. dewey knew everything about law and had the farm so he knew about agriculture. when he ran for president, you have all these other issues like commerce, interior, helping the poor people and that kind of thing. what are his issues, what were his strengths and what issues was he lacking in which he needed a little bit of help? that's my question. thank you. >> what were his vulnerabilities? >> oh, i think curiously the flip side of his straights, there were a lot of republicans, conservative republicans that never forgave him to be a new yorker. new york has always been the city that some people like to hate, or at the very least, misrepresent.
1:21 pm
>> would your father consider himself a new yorker. >> he did, absolutely. that was back in the days, and i did get this from my parents, that so many of the people at the top in commerce and other areas in new york were transplants from somewhere else, as they both were, and they thought that did not bar them from being real new yorkers. >> richard norton smith. >> yeah, i think there's a cultural divide in many ways, which is still with us in some senses. i think in '44 he had a very difficult situation. he had two hands tied behind his back. the 800-pound gorilla was the issue of franklin roosevelt's health. we now know fdr was dying in the fall of 1944, but it was not something you could possibly
1:22 pm
touch. of course, the other issue was the war and in particular, the whole issue on pearl harbor and the speculation that still swirls around it as to what, if anything, the president might have known. and your dad had, i think, some fairly pronounced views on that subject. >> that's correct. well, we -- there was not ironclad, but presumptive proof that we had broken the japanese code before pearl harbor and did nothing about it, and that was widespread at the time, and, in fact, i think you've got a chapter on this in the book, roosevelt sent a colonel up from washington to see him during the campaign and said, you know, i trust you're not going to mention this, because they are still using the same code, which was an absolute lie, and you're going to cost a lot of our boys their lives by doing it.
1:23 pm
and dad sucked it up and never did mention it. >> i think it was general marshall who -- but it is a logical assumption general marshall would not have acted on his own. >> that's been my assumption. >> james in los angeles. >> caller: i was 20 in 1947 and top-secret cryptographic, what i'm commenting on is dewey was way ahead in the polls, and he ran the dumbest campaign i've ever seen. he didn't attack truman, and he ran as if he were already president. truman was broke and he'd started the korean war and he'd started the blockade and they had pearl harbor as suspected being set up by roosevelt in his cabinet and all that stuff. dewey just acted like he was
1:24 pm
going to win. he didn't attack, and truman was broke and he recognized israel in '47. they gave him $800,000 for his campaign and he squeaked out a victory, so dewey should have been a shoe-in, but he had the worst campaign in the history of american presidents. thought he did good in new york >> all right. richard norton smith. >> i've always said that tom dewey was one of those people who, i think, without a doubt would have been a better president than he was a candidate for president. >> why? >> well, if you look at his record of governor of new york, it is universally recognized today. he, along with maybe al smith -- >> recognized as what? >> as one of the absolute finest governors in a state that's had a history of distinguished gubernatorial leadership.
1:25 pm
it is interesting when your dad became governor, one of the people he invited up to new york was al smith. al smith had a falling out with fdr and all that, and the two that could not be more different, yet they absolutely clicked. afterwards, the reporters said to al smith, what do you think of that guy? he said there's only one thing wrong with that guy, he's a republican. and ironically, for all of their differences, they were great administrators who were, what i would call, practical liberals operating within a balanced budget with concern for the taxpayer and a productive private economy. >> and what does that do for the republican party at the time? >> well, it made new york one of the most republican states in the country. i mean, from being one of the most democratic states, the state that gave us fdr, gave us al smith, gave us the new deal. dewey had -- we haven't
1:26 pm
mentioned herbert lehman, the man he almost defeated in 1938, the man who had appointed him the gang buster several years earlier. herbert lehman was a very distinguished and very popular governor who was a huge favorite to win another term, and it's a tribute to the campaign, the excitement that dewey created that lehman won in the end by 1%, and four years later, there was no doubt that, you know, dewey would win. the first republican in 20 years, and he went on to build an organization. some might call it a machine, but it was an odd organization. it was a good government machine, if you can imagine such a thing. s >> john in -- go ahead. >> i'm not sure that i would -- organization, yes, machine, no, because it didn't outlive him. >> yeah.
1:27 pm
you're right. it didn't outlive him, but, you know, machines can be personal. rather than ideological or enduring for that matter. >> like the subject of your next book. >> he appreciates that plug. let's hear from john in crown point, indiana. >> caller: yes, during the 1944 campaign, tom dewey delivered, i think, one of his best speeches in his career in oklahoma city. he really took off the gloves and hit roosevelt. now, prior to that, he delivered what i call 1948-type of speeches whereas you talk about home and mother and god and the american flag, but after that oklahoma city speech, i think that convinced most republicans
1:28 pm
they really had a chance to beat roosevelt. i wonder if mr. norton is familiar with that speech in 1944 and the effect on the republican party. thank you. >> thank you for the call. that's fascinating. that speech, largely forgotten today, reverberated in ways that no one could imagine at the time. there had been, remember, the famous phallus speech, someone said later on there was a contest between dog and goat. dewey had been running this high-minded campaign, and he was, to some degree, goated into responding, and it was the prosecutor. he brought everything together, all of the allegations of new deal, incompetence, new deal, economic failure, on and on and on. >> you're talking at what point now? >> late september. about a month before the
1:29 pm
election, 1944. it is true, i think a lot of republicans at that point were close to despair. they thought, you know, they wondered how badly he wanted to win. he gave this speech. the campaign was broke. dewey and his friends raised $27,000 in order to put together a national radio network. he delivered this speech. it was galvanizing. 40 newspaper correspondents afterwards, 23 of them said he had come out ahead of roosevelt in the exchange. but the irony is, he later decided -- he said, and i think the importance of the speech is its impact down the road four years later. if you want one reason why he ran the campaign, he ran in '48. he told a friend that was the worst speech i ever gave. he was just terribly uncomfortable. he didn't want to be the prosecutor. there's some element that he didn't want to be elected as,
1:30 pm
you know, as the honest cop. he wanted to be more than that, and there was something about that speech. and i had been led to believe your mother also thought that it was a -- somehow a departure in terms of the dignity and respect to the office, et cetera, et cetera. did you feel that tension at all? >> first of all, i was not 12 yet. >> you were not consulted on this. >> no, never, so i have no personal knowledge, but that would have been her view. >> let's take a moment -- >> where did she come from, where did that view come from? >> i think she and dad's mother disagreed on practically everything, but they both had this strong sense of you have to be dignified in whatever you're
1:31 pm
doing, and you don't demean yourself by attacking the other guy. not necessarily smart in politics, but, you know, they were when they were. >> let's show a moment from tom dewey criticizing the new deal. >> the record of this administration at home is one long chapter of failure. but still, some people tell us we agreed that the new deal is a failure at home, but its foreign policies are very good. let me ask you, can an administration which is so disunited and unsuccessful at home be any better abroad? can an administration which is filled with back biting where we can see it be any better abroad where we cannot see it?
1:32 pm
these things we pledge to you, an administration in which you will not have to support three men to do one man's job. an administration which will root out waste and bring horder out of presence chaos, an administration which will give the people of this country value received for the taxes they all pay. an administration free from the influence of communists and the domination of corrupt big-city machines. an administration which will devote itself to the single-minded purpose of jobs and opportunity for all.
1:33 pm
>> richard norton smith, we're in the 1944 campaign, how does tom dewey position himself to take on fdr and truman? >> well, again, it's really a question of -- that he couldn't answer as to what the status of the war would be at the beginning of the next term. there's no doubt that he ran against fdr and what he called the tired old men, which was, i think probably as close as you could get to raising the health issue, but certainly, there was a sense of intellectual exhaustion after 12 years. and what dewey represented was youth and vigor and energy. i mean, in the way that john kennedy symbolically represented more than the turning of a page from the oldest president to the youngest president. tom dewey had that same quality in 1944. plus, he could point to his
1:34 pm
record in new york. he had not gutted the social programs that people had come to expect from government in new york, but he made them work better and he managed to cut taxes at the same time. >> who's his v.p. pick and why? >> john bricker of ohio, his fellow governor. not someone, i think, he regarded as a scintillating intellect, but on the other hand, he had bad luck with running mates. he wasn't a big fan of earl warren either after 1948. he referred to him as that big dumb swede. did he talk about warren at all in his later years? >> no. >> so what are the results of the '44 election? >> he came closer than anyone else, you know, the four people who ran against fdr, dewey came by a considerable margin closer.
1:35 pm
he won the 99 electoral votes, and someone did the math after and said the shift of 3,000 votes in the right states would have given dewey the majority. so it was the closest race since 1916. >> let me add bill to the conversation. >> caller: hi, you were talking about earl warren, who i think i right about this, he was the governor of california in '48 when dewey had his vice presidential running mate. if dewey had won california, which i think he lost maybe to truman by a few votes, would dewey have swung the election and would he have won? >> the answer is no. you are right. he came to something like 18,000 votes, very close in california. but you have to remember, california was much smaller in
1:36 pm
1948 than it is today. an alternate theory can be argued that the man who thought he was going to be governor dewey's running mate, a man named charlie halick from indiana, republican leader in the house, who later on served in that role until 1964, charlie halick was a representative of the farm belt, and it can be theorized that if there had been someone on the ticket who was sensitive as halick was to the blatant unhappiness to the farmers that fall, that perhaps some things might have been done differently, but who knows. >> let's go back to the '44 campaign. he loses. he makes a concession speech. i want to show our viewers a little bit of that and we'll come back and talk about it. >> it is clear that mr.
1:37 pm
roosevelt has been re-elected for a fourth term and every good american will wholeheartedly accept the will of the people. i extend to president roosevelt my hearty congratulations and my earnest hope that his next term will see speedy victory in the war, the establishment of lasting peace, and the restoration of tranquillity among our people. i am confident that all americans will join me in a devout hope that in the difficult years ahead, devine providence will guide and protect the president of the united states. >> richard norton smith, when does he make this speech? >> well, he made it the day after. there was some grumbling up at high park that, you know, that he had gotten the concession on
1:38 pm
election night, in fact, fdr, famous story, says to an aide, fdr had worked himself up into a lather over your dad. i'm sure everyone who runs for office, it was personal in this case. but the last words on election night before fdr goes to bed, i still think he's a son of a bitch. did your dad talk about roosevelt? >> no. >> never? >> no. >> that's fascinating. >> just another example of turning the page. >> yeah. >> he's not tomorrow's concern. >> it's just that practical outlook. it's not that it was a painful chapter, that he didn't want to revisit it. >> if there was pain, we didn't see it. >> or talk about it. >> or talk about it. you couldn't talk about it unless you saw it. and you're back to his mother and his wife, stiff upper lip.
1:39 pm
>> yeah. can i ask you one quick -- because i was told by someone who was at the law firm, and it sounds almost too cruel to be true, but it's a pretty good source, that one year he went to the christmas party -- went to the christmas party, i guess, regularly, but one year, for some reason, and the band played "hail to the chief," and the story is he turned around and didn't go back to another firm christmas party. does that sound possible? >> no, it sounds out of character and impossible. >> yeah. >> sounds out of character why? >> had the band -- remember, this was his law firm, very much capital h and capital l. had the band done that, they would not had the temerity to do that, and had they done that, i think he would have just gone on. he certainly wouldn't have walked out.
1:40 pm
but you forgot earlier his major walk out in the '56 convention after dirks had dissed him so vigorously in '52, where i was in that convention, and in '56, dirkson was introduced to make a speech, dad got up and walked all the way down the aisle, out of the auditorium, gone. take that, dirkson. >> i think he said afterwards, he'd been waiting four years to take that walk. >> he did say that. >> must have been very gratifying. >> tom dewey jr. is referring to the law firm his father was partner of after his political career was over. he was partner of a law firm here in new york, a successful law firm. what about his role in that? >> i think that was his great love. i think the law was what he
1:41 pm
wanted to do, and as we've said, politics was something of a detour. and so i think the idea of really creating or recreating a firm, i guess he didn't found it technically, but he remade it. >> it was an old white shoe law firm, which he joined and then it became dewey valentine. had about 90 lawyers when he joined in 1955, and he attracted many of the big companies in the united states, foreign governments, et cetera. when he died, prematurely in 1971, they had 300 lawyers. >> let's get to a phone call here. paul in demotte, indiana, is that right? >> caller: demotte, indiana. birth place of house leader charlie halick. mr. smith, talking to hank
1:42 pm
sheley, the biographer on charlie halick, he said charlie was under the belief if he threw support under dewey he'd be the running mate in '38. since that didn't happen, halick said the only regret he had was dewey in -- >> you know, paul, you're breaking up there a little bit. i think we lost paul. do you want to take what you heard there? >> i heard the same story. i mean, there's no doubt that charlie halick thought he was double crossed. charlie halick thought, and, you know, people hear what they want to hear, but there's no doubt that charlie halick believed, going into that convention, that he had an understanding with dewey forces that he would be on the ticket. >> duncan in rootstown, ohio. >> caller: hi. the disney character dewey was named after thomas dewey.
1:43 pm
how did thomas dewey feel about that? >> you know what, i didn't hear that. duncan, i apologize, didn't hear the question there. let's move on to cheryl in bakersfield, california. >> caller: yes, i've been following the series, and the one thing that comes to my mind was what was his relationship with the tammany hall people down in new york city during that time, because my mother comes from brooklyn and my father was a farm boy in california, was always amazing that they always split their votes during the '50s and '60s, when i was growing up. she being a committed democrat, while my father changed to republican when dewey ran in 1948. thank you. >> interesting. well, you might say tammany hall was the making of tom dewey in some ways. from a very early age, he had it drummed into his head that tammany hall was the epitome of
1:44 pm
political and civic evil, and as fate would have it, he would spend a significant part of his public career demonstrating the truth of that. >> adam, long island, new york. >> caller: hello, my name's adam. i'm actually a college student from new york. i actually read part of the book that mr. norton wrote about dewey, and i was just wondering what did dewey think of his chances of going into the 1948 campaign about winning the race? i mean, i know that dewey was supposed to win that race, maybe mr. smith could talk about that, about what were his prospects about winning the '48 campaign against roosevelt. >> now, the '48 campaign against truman. i think the '44 campaign against
1:45 pm
roosevelt, i'm not sure he ever really expected to win. i think he certainly expected to win four years later. but again, as we talked a little bit earlier, you may have missed it, he was not the complacent figure sitting unquestioningly upon his leave that you might think from some of the textbook accounts. he was very cognizant of the fact that public opinion was a dynamic thing. he sensed slippage in the last days of the campaign, and i think he felt in some ways trapped. he had a strategy, it had brought him this far. there was no reason to believe it wouldn't carry him across the finish line first. >> as tom dewey jr. has told us several times tonight, his father turned the page, he moves on. after he loses in 1944 and 1948, he goes on, though, to still play a role in party politics.
1:46 pm
what is it, what's his influence? >> first of all, imagine being an elder statesman in '46. that's something. >> and he continues to be governor of new york. >> he remains governor of new york for another six years. as tom said, in 1950, he wanted to retire, he wanted to get about that business of creating a great law firm, but the korean war came along and the party really had no one else. so he was nominated, ran again, and was re-elected. but he was very glad, i think, to leave four years later. in between, of course, you have this extraordinary show of political strength that i don't think anyone would have predicted the day after the '48 election, where he and his organization, his national organization, really puts dwight eisenhower over the top, writes a platform to the liking of the moderates in the republican party, brings richard nixon on to the national scene at the age
1:47 pm
of 39. i often thought your dad saw some of his younger self in young nixon. i mean, they had some temperamental similarities. >> they did. they did. i think it's easy to say that geography had a lot to do with it, just as it did with earl warren in '48, but it was also important that you mollify the taft wing of the party, and while they are not selecting somebody from the taft wing in the midwest, nixon was seen as the closest plausible guy. i was there the night that dad said, okay, there's your vice president, to eisenhower. >> where were you? where were you? >> i was at the convention. i wasn't in the room. >> okay, you weren't in the room. >> i was opening doors and carrying notes, as a college
1:48 pm
sophomore should do, but i know that's what happened. >> right. >> and i don't know whether it was temperamental likeness or it was getting the taft wing on board and everybody used to have to talk about geographical balance, it was a big thing back then. >> and age. you know, one thing about your dad, he used to say -- of course, burst on to the scene himself at an impossibly young age. at the end of his life, he said everything came too early for me, which is a pretty shrewd observation, but he always liked to surround himself with people who he said whose careers were ahead of them, and the fact that nixon was 39 years old was a way of not only mollifying the taft wing of the party, but in some ways projecting out into the future his vision of the republican party. >> and he was successful at
1:49 pm
keeping the taft wing of the party at bay. >> well, yeah. first of all, senator taft, unfortunately, died early in the eisenhower presidency. it's a very touching scene where dewey goes to the hospital without telling anyone. he goes in and slips in to visit taft, what must have been a somewhat surreal final meeting in the hospital, and i would have loved to have been a fly on the wall. >> do you know anything about that meeting? >> no. >> no. let's hear from bob next. west new york, new jersey. >> caller: good evening, what did governor dewey think of governor rockefeller as an inheriter of the eastern mantle of republicanism? >> well, i'll defer to tom who was there. >> you go first. >> i think he -- there is some debate over that, and in the book i'm working on that. i haven't quite made up my mind, but i tell you this, tom dewey
1:50 pm
was much more of a fiscal conservative than nelson rockefeller was, and there's a wonderful meeting toward the end of his life, where i think they are at a party of some sort, maybe a party event, and dewey says to rockefeller, nelson, i . and dewey says to rockefeller, he says, you know, nelson, i like you, but i'm not sure i can afford you. and dewey's approach to government was much more physically orthodox. he hated debt. he hated bonds. and nelson, of course, as we know, was a good deal less restricted in that regard. >> that's a very nice way of saying that. as far as the nixon v. rockefeller, dad did not attend the 1968 republican convention because the rockefellers, going way back, had been maybe his largest campaign contributors,
1:51 pm
worked hard for him. they were good friends. but my take from that was that he thought that the party should be nominating nixon in '68, and he wasn't going to get involved in it. >> and it's also been suggested that, quite frankly, his law firm -- i mean, he had reasons not to alienate nelson rockefeller. >> well, i don't know whether it had anything to do with the law firm. his law firm was never -- the rockefelle rockefellers' law firm. >> right. >> that was milbank tweed. so i don't think there were economic reasons. >> okay. >> but i think he, by that time, he felt uncomfortable with the amount of money that nelson had spent. >> let's hear from debbie in schenectady, new york. she's been waiting. go ahead. >> caller: yes, the only interesting subject to talk about -- i'm going into the kitchen so the tv doesn't bother you. sarah palin and todd palin and i
1:52 pm
have been conversing on sessions on the internet facebook. and the occupy wall street just started, you know, the same time her victory session started. i think sarah palin -- my pastor, on the obama -- [ inaudible ] >> debbie, can you relate this to our topic this night? you know what, debbie, what's your question about tom dewey? >> caller: my question is about why haven't the democrats put biden in office and sent obama back to africa where he was born? >> all right, we're going to move on. john, lafayetteville, pennsylvania. john, sorry, i butchered the name of your town, but go ahead. >> caller: lafayetteville, pennsylvania. >> there we go. >> caller: 1944. i'm a world war ii veteran. i'm 86 years old. i've still got a good brain and i still remember things. and i feel that 1944, it was
1:53 pm
roosevelt's time. i think dewey was a very, very smart person. but i think the people who for roosevelt and just wanted to keep him in office because we were at war. i think if we were not at war, i think dewey would have won hands down. what do you think? >> all right. richard norton smith. >> and that's exactly as i say earlier. that was the conundrum. you couldn't know. but it's interesting that that comment all these years later reflects what dewey himself believed. the strategy was that in a peacetime environment, people, grateful as they were to fdr -- remember what the british did to churchill -- you know, grateful as they were to fdr, would have been willing to turn a page and embark upon a different kind of domestic policy. >> let's go to bill in pawling, new york. bill. >> caller: yes, good evening. i'm residing in virginia now, but as a youngster about 13 or 14 years old, i grew up about
1:54 pm
three miles in governor dewey's farm. and i had an occasion on more than one time to caddie for the governor on quaker hill golf course. and one particular time i remember after the afternoon, it was getting late, and his golf partners, lowell thomas, let's see, there was a judge murphy from new york city, and edward r. murrell, they wanted to continue playing at mr. murrell's park, so they asked me to caddie, but it was getting late in the day, and i said, well, i need -- i'm about eight miles away and i need a ride when we're through. well, one gentleman spoke up and said, oh, don't worry, i'll take you. well to make a long story longer, when they finished, that man got in his car and left and i was stranded there.
1:55 pm
well, governor dewey saw to it that i had a ride back to the village, and i will never forget that. i was very grateful for him. that's all my comment. >> all right. that was bill in pawling, new york. mike, stanton island, new york. >> caller: yes. i'd like to ask mr. smith, if mr. dewey had won the 1944 election, what would his policy as far as ending the war? >> 1944 did you say? >> caller: yeah. >> mike? okay. >> i think, well, you know, it's a fair question, but i think if you look at the calendar and you see where the armies were in january of 1945, i think at that point, obviously, the nazi defeat was only a question of time. the larger question, of course, of for example, yalta, how dewey might have conducted diplomacy
1:56 pm
differently if it had been him meeting churchill and stalin. >> and what about the atomic bomb? do you think dewey would have done that? >> you know, it's hard for me to believe that any president, after we'd spent $2 million to do this thing, knowing that if he didn't use the bomb, and if the war were prolonged, quite frankly, he'd be subject to impeachme impeachment. i mean, what was the point of -- you know, i mean, i think this retrospective argument over truman and whether it was moral to use the bomb and so forth and so on, it's hard to believe any american president not taking advantage of the opportunity to end the war that the bomb represented. and i can't imagine tom dewey would have -- >> yes, to add on your earlier comment on yalta. dad was bitterly critical for
1:57 pm
years thereafter about giving away all those people in those eastern european countries into the slavery of soviet communism. he was consistent on that subject. >> i would love -- i would give anything to see your dad sitting across a table from joseph stalin. i mean, someone who had prosecuted gangsters all his life. >> yeah, that's right. >> let's try to get a couple more phone calls in here as we wrap up tonight's "contenders," taking a look at thomas e. dewey. charles is next in lexington, virginia. >> caller: well, first of all, thank you very much for this wonderful program, part of a wonderful series. and i'm glad that toward the end here we did get back to the question of foreign affairs. and my question has to do with professor smith's reference earlier on to john foster dulles, his role as an adviser to governor dewey in foreign policy and what the relation between the two was and what that had to do with dulles' becoming the secretary of state
1:58 pm
in eisenhower's cabinet. >> well, i think you're absolutely right. i mean, they all fit together. i mean, the relationship with dulles was a uniquely close one, intellectually substantive. actually, at one point, remember your dad appointed dulles to a united states senate seat, which he was unable to hold on to in an election. but there is no doubt that john foster dulles became dwight eisenhower's secretary of state as an outgrowth of the long record of association, creative foreign policy association that he had had with tom dewey. >> yeah, i would agree with that. he was maybe the most senior of a group of dad's advisers who went to washington. you mentioned jim haggerty, tom stevens who was appointment secretary, and there were quite
1:59 pm
a number of them. >> there was a guy -- one thing we don't ever mention is the thruway. one of governor dewey's great innovations was the new york state thruway which now bears his name. a road without a traffic light from new york city to buffalo, which probably did more for upstate new york's economic development than everything since. but the man who built the thruway was named bert talamy, and he is the man who went on to build the interstate highway system under dwight eisenhower. >> right. >> i want to throw out a couple names here as we finish here. hubert humphrey and tom dewey's relationship with him. >> it's one of the many spruz surprising aspects of a very surprising life. in 1964, tom dewey was at the white house, lbj wanted to get him to chair a national crime commission. and in any event, he begged off of that. but he pointed out to lbj, he said, have you looked at the schedule of your convention in
2:00 pm
atlantic city? and he was meeting with marvin watson, who was the president's top aide, chief of staff, in effect. and anyway, there was a day set aside as a tribute to president kennedy, and it was up front. and dewey pointed out that, you know, if this happens, jackie will be there, rose, bobby, teddy, the whole family, and people will cry and there will be this enormous, emotional, and before you know it, bobby kennedy will be your running mate, whether you like it or not. and the story is the president got on the phone and called barbara watson and said move kennedy day from day one to day four. the result is that hubert humphrey became the running mate instead. humphrey was in dewey's debt until the day he died. >> all right. >> and they were social friends. >> they were social friends. >> yep, both friends of dwayne andreas, and they spent parts of winter together. and i even went to the races with them, with the humphreys and the deweys once.
2:01 pm
>> well, we are all out of time, gentlemen. i want to thank the both of you for being our guests tonight and talking to our viewers, talking about tom dewey, 1948 campaign. our "contenders," our 14-week series. we want to thank all of you for watching tonight and calling in, and the staff of the roosevelt hotel here, who have been very helpful to our crew tonight. a big thanks to everyone. ♪ ♪
2:02 pm
at, you can watch our public affairs and political programming any time at your convenience on your desktop, laptop or mobile device. here's how. go to our home page,, and click on the video library search bar. here you can type in the name of the speaker, the sponsor of a bill or even the event topic. review the list of search results and click on the program you'd like to watch, or refine your search with our many search tools. if you're looking for our most current programs and you don't want to search the video library, our home page has many current programs ready for your immediate viewing, such as today's "washington journal" or the events we covered that day. is a public service of your cable or satellite provider. so, if you're a c-span watcher, check it out at each week, american history tv sits in on a lecture with one of the nation's college professors. and up next, liberty university pr


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on