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tv   The Presidency Herbert Hoover FDR Transition  CSPAN  August 23, 2020 5:28pm-5:59pm EDT

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from overwhelming the river rock -- riverwalk itself. to get a sense of being at a very different environment. the part of the river we are on is twoow, the riverwalk miles. this was originally a loop that headed east and then south and then west again. it was collected by a flood control channel. this is the historic part of the river rock in the 1930's. about 10 years ago, the riverwalk was expanded. there are several museums along there at that -- and there has been significant commercial involvement. the length of the riverwalk now is 15 miles. the advantage to all of these starts and stops we have had along the way is that the
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buildings have evolved, the surroundings have evolved in almost a haphazard way, which does not give the appearance of a place that was suddenly created to be what it is. it gives a sense of the passage of time and a variety this and otherh programs on the history of communities across the country at cities tour. this is american history tv, only on c-span3. >> you're watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook at c-span history. >> up next on "the presidency." two programs from the franklin
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roosevelt presidential library series at home with the roosevelts, designed to keep connected with the public during the coronavirus pandemic. first, the directors of the hoover and roosevelt presidential libraries talk about the 1932 campaign for the white house in the midst of the great depression and the transition that followed from a hoover to fdr administration. we will hear a conversation about relationships between the members of the roosevelt and kennedy's political dynasties. the franklin roosevelt presidential library provided this video. >> welcome to at home with the roosevelts. i am director of the roosevelt presidential library and museum and joined by the director of the herbert hoover presidential library museum. schwartz, i am the director of the herbert hoover presidential library and museum in iowa. paul: we are here today to talk about one of the most remarkable transitions in american history, the presidential election of
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1932, and hoover and roosevelt, their long relationship before and after their presidencies. this was a period of incredible trauma for the united states, with the great depression. the two of them had known each other for quite some time. during world war i, franklin roosevelt was the assistant secretary of the navy under woodrow wilson. tom, do you want to talk about what hoover did during world war i? thomas: sure. herbert hoover was the head of the u.s. food administration. the food administration had to essentially provide food to the soldiers going to europe and hoover was able to provide the necessary food by getting americans to voluntarily reduce consumption by 15%. he did this by appealing to american housewives to sign
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pledge cards where they would hooverize, which meant every day of the week, you gave up a certain essential component. meat, wheat, sugar, fats. you had meatless mondays and wheatless wednesdays. hoover was able to use that as a stopgap before farmers could increase their production in growing the necessary foodstuffs that the war acquired. paul: fdr was a fan of hoover during this period. he was impressed with the work he had done. franklin roosevelt was trying to convince hoover to become a democrat. there was some sense of maybe we can get him as part of our party, but hoover had other ideas. can you talk about why he decided to become a republican? thomas: he grew up in a quaker community, which had supported lincoln because of their abolitionist sentiments.
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john brown visited west branch. hoover actually had registered as a republican, but because he had lived abroad for most of his adult life with his mining career, people did not know his political affiliation. so he had to write to roosevelt to indicate that he was, his tribe was the republican tribe, and he considered himself, theodore roosevelt, a progressive republican. paul: in the 1920 presidential race, roosevelt was the vice presidential candidate on the democrat side. and of course democrats lost and harding became president and hoover was part of the harding and coolidge administrations while fdr ended up getting polio and disappeared for many years. during that period he was
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secretary of commerce and was big on government regulation. talk about his role as a commerce secretary and how it influenced his political philosophy. thomas: he transformed kind of a sleepy government agency into a powerhouse. standardization was one of his main achievements and where he got industries to set industrial standards which he believed would lower the cost of goods to consumers. and many of the things we take for granted today, sized lumber, the thread count on nuts and bolts, the sized brick used in construction. paul: the size of tires. thomas: that's right. probably the greatest example, 42 different sized milk containers and he got it down to pint, quart, half-gallon, and gallon. hoover was a very aggressive
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secretary of commerce. he took that agency and really made it one that was very meaningful to a majority of americans. paul: 1928 is the year where roosevelt's political career and hoover's political career come into parallel. in the 1928 presidential election, hoover is the republican candidate. the democratic candidate was a friend of roosevelt. roosevelt runs for governor of new york, his return to politics after his isolation as he tried to recover from polio. we are still in the roaring 1920's. the economy is great and everybody thinks the world is wonderful. when hoover becomes president, he has a specific set of agendas in mind, which don't last very long. what was it like in the hoover administration, in 1929 when the
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stock market collapsed? thomas: hoover was aware there were certain systemic problems with the economy even before the market crashed. agriculture produced too much, which depressed prices. it had its own depression during the 1920's. thinking -- banking. 25% of the banks failed before the crash. it was a condition of too many banks with too few capital assets. when the market crashed, people need to realize, only 10% of americans actually owned stock. however, banks were heavily invested in the market, over 90% of the banks had stock. so the crash really impacted already one of the main institutions for liquidity that made the loans that kept the economy alive.
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and so hoover immediately calls industrial heads and leaders together november 19 and gets them to agree to voluntarily continue to maintain full staff levels, to keep pay at the same level, in order to keep liquidity and the economy, the federal reserve helps out a little bit. it reduces the prime rate by half a point. but it is still incredibly high for the needs. most economists claim that what took what should've been a normal downturn in the economy, a depression, into the great depression was that, again, the fed did not early enough and at the level required infuse the economy with enough liquidity and capital. however, by 1930, economic
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indicators started to point up, and then, of course, there were other things that happened abroad that takes the depression into the great depression. the irony is that typically when we refer to economic downturns, they are referred to as panic and hoover wanted to avoid that language. he is the one who embraced the term depression. paul: some of the things he did exacerbate it, the implementations of tariffs created chaos and made the situation much worse. the division between the way roosevelt responded in new york state, he believed that government should be involved in helping unemployed people and hoover was adamantly opposed to that. roosevelt strongly believed you had to have a massive government investment in creating jobs and creating opportunities and
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hoover was insistent that the federal government not go down that path. the divergence that happened later on becomes evident fairly quickly, certainly by 1931, it is obvious they have radically different philosophies about how to approach an economic crisis. at that point, they did not realize this would go on for a decade. when they started the campaign, hoover and his advisers hoped roosevelt would be the candidate they would run against because they thought he was a weak candidate and thought they would beat him. thomas: hoover was not interested in campaigning. it was only when he saw that there was not this groundswell of support for him that he reluctantly got on the campaign trail.
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by the end, it almost did him in. the demands of the crises every day wore him physically, mentally. he did give an important speech in madison square garden in late october, right before voting. this, i think, is what is significant -- he indicated that the 1932 contest was not really about personalities, it was about two different philosophies of government. hoover had always maintained that he was a supporter of small government, even though what we have been talking about, he was not afraid to use government to advance what he thought was important programs to protect public interest. i think what hoover objected to
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was he was a 19th-century liberal in that he believed that protection of individual freedom and liberty was the main function of government, and as he liked to quote, the purpose of government is to remove obstacles from the individual to provide an open field and fair chance to everybody to be able to achieve whatever their talents and ambitions take them. this idea of the right to rise. paul: hoover wanted to use the power of government to help big business, he did not want to use the power of government to help the american people. i think that was the difference. when roosevelt came out in the democratic convention in 1932 with the concept of a new deal for the american people, what he was saying is he wanted to shift that role of the federal government, that it should have a role in helping individual people. toward the end of the campaign,
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he had eight speeches laying out specific policies for bank regulation and mortgages, a specific set of ideas, but the new deal was more of a framework. how do you approach solving these problems? do you approach them that the government can help in the balance between big is this in -- between big business and labor, or should the government stay out of the way? hoover got very hostile and nasty. he called fdr a fascist and socialist and claimed it would be the end of america as we know it if roosevelt was elected. it became a very personal and nasty campaign. thomas: it did. i think it is a mischaracterization to say that hoover was only a friend of big business. in the 1920's, he practiced socially theism, the business labor government worked to create voluntary codes.
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hoover wanted things to be done in a voluntary and cooperative way rather than by government fiat. it is not so much that he wasn't interested in labor. that he wasn't interested in the common man. he was. i think clearly his humanitarian efforts are evidence of that. hoover had to deal with kind of the logical extension of some of the ideas he began with progressivism. so he begins developing this conservative philosophy which is constantly warning against the dangers of big government. paul: the election itself was pretty one-sided. fdr won with a large majority. then you enter into this -- one of the strangest periods of american history. roosevelt's first term starts march 4.
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he was the last president inaugurated on march 4 even though he was elected in november. the congress changed in january, so you had this period where hoover is trying to convince roosevelt to give up on the new deal and stick with hoover's plan. roosevelt is trying to negotiate with him. a number of bank closures continue to increase in the crisis gets worse and worse. congress is sort of paralyzed. hoover has absolutely no respect for roosevelt during this period, and in their meetings, hoover treats him like an idiot. i think it's built a lot of antipathy between the two of them. you may have a different take, but it was one of the most contentious transitions in american history. thomas: i think hoover had unrealistic expectations about there being a cooperative and
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joint position on dealing with the crisis. and, you know, roosevelt, from strictly a political standpoint, even if he agreed with some of the things hoover wanted to get done, no reason to expose himself and tie himself to someone who had just lost in a big way and hoover sends a memo talking about the crisis to roosevelt, he reads 11 days before he responds. -- he waits 11 days before he responds. he also misspelled roosevelt's name on the envelope. it gets down into these petty fights that get blown up. roosevelt, of course, when he becomes president, it is an incredible period of legislative accomplishment, the first 100
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days. it was a unique period. he had this overwhelming majority in congress, he could get that legislation done. he was never given that same ability in any of his reelections, so the 100 days is very unique, historic moment and i don't think that you will see any president soon to be able to match it. paul: i don't think you will ever see it again. they had this long four-month period to prepare for the first 100 days and he has these huge majorities in both houses of congress and the american public was demanding action. there was a very famous photograph of roosevelt and
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hoover in the back of the car on the way to the inauguration and it sort of sums up everything that can be said about their relationship. the story is they get in the car, roosevelt is trying to have small talk with hoover and roosevelt was famous for his charming personality and ability to engage with people. and hoover is equally famous for his nature, and so hoover does not respond at all and roosevelt turns to the crowd and waves to the cheering crowd and hoover sits there with that mug on his face and it is the last time they see each other. thomas: there is a great cover of the new yorker that was never ran which kind of sums it up perfectly. hoover has this scowl and roosevelt has his usual smile. their personalities really were night and day. hoover felt he did not need to
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communicate what he was doing to the american public, that the results of what he was doing would speak volumes. he would either be successful or he would not be. whereas roosevelt really understood, you've got to communicate. he was a wonderful communicator, the fireside chats. he also had some great speechwriters, pulitzer prize-winning playwright robert sherwood and others to help him. he also had a natural ability. that is the difference. roosevelt grew up understanding the labors of politics and the needs of the voting public, but hoover had always been outside of politics. paul: when he became president, it was the first time he had held elected office. he also spends the rest of his life trying to convince himself
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-- trying to convince people that he was right and roosevelt was wrong. thomas: hoover wrote a book in 1934 called "the challenge to liberty," a screed against the new deal. up until 1940, he thought he would get the nomination to run again and it never happened. he wrote a major attack on fdr's foreign policy that was never published until maybe about five years ago, edited by george nash called "freedom betrayed." you can see there is a theme here about freedom and liberty. it is not that hoover hasn't made arguments that other historians have in criticizing roosevelt's foreign policy, it
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is that no one can gainsay roosevelt's leadership during the second world war. i think the war, more than necessarily the new deal, which was kind of rocky and never really got america out of the depression, shows his leadership at its finest. and saving democracy not only in america but in europe. paul: that's one of the things i find most confusing about hoover, when you read about him. his life is very much based on a set of principles both in terms of his extraordinary intellect, a successful businessman, and the bedrock conservative principles he had throughout his life, and yet even though he saw the terrible suffering the germans imposed on the belgians during world war i, in the mid-1930's, he supports hitler.
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he starts supporting the nazi regime and one of his criticisms of roosevelt was that roosevelt had antipathy toward them. i've never been able to understand why hoover took that point of view, particularly if he is proposing that freedom is the most important thing, this was the least free, the most oppressive society in the world. thomas: so hoover had been over in europe to visit poland. he was very important in feeding the poles after world war i, and he was actually asked by the american ambassador if he would come to germany to have an audience with hitler. hoover did not seek it. in notes that he made in memorandum afterwards, he
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indicated that american media, which made hitler out to be a clown, could not be more wrong. that hitler meant what he said, and what he said was sheer evil. he thought that the germans and russians would be involved in this very prolonged bloodletting that would protect western interests, similar to what happened in iraq and iran. it is a rather cynical view, but hoover thought that america should become fortress america and, you know, let the nazis and the soviets fight it out. paul: it isn't until pearl harbor that hoover comes on board supporting the american military effort.
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he is supportive of roosevelt during the war but at that point he did not have much option. i think it is interesting that that america first group with lindbergh and taft and other people who had the idea -- william randolph hearst -- who had the idea that america could stay out of the war and let them fight it out over there, hoover was very much in that camp, whereas roosevelt was more about we need to support democracy, we need to be partners. the neutrality act was handcuffing -- roosevelt would have gone much further if he could have. he did not break the law, he came as close to breaking it as you can, the way he did the destroyer deals and that sort of stuff.
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most of which hoover opposed. there is an interesting postscript to the war. of course, roosevelt died and hoover had not visited the white house for 12 years at that point. he had a different relationship with fdr's successor. do you want to talk about that? thomas: throughout roosevelt's administration, a number of his advisors, specifically some of the conservative democrats, kept pushing roosevelt to bring hoover in on certain policy issues and roosevelt exploded and said, i am not jesus christ, i will not raise hoover from the dead. when he dies, harry truman reaches out to him and asks him for a meeting.
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a 71-year-old man on a global pathfinding mission, postwar food and humanitarian aid. it is used by george marshall in formulating the marshall plan. and so hoover, under truman, i think, gets rehabilitated. he is brought back into service. and in fairness, the only person who had really dealt with feeding millions of people and dealing with that kind of relief effort was hoover. plus, he also still had a network within the leadership of europe that remembered him from world war i and especially in germany, really the only american they trusted after world war ii was hoover.
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because at a time when the allies did not want food to go into post world war i germany, hoover fought to get it in. paul: i see it as one of roosevelt's great failings that he did not brief hoover on anything, not on the bomb, strategies, so truman had to take over with very little understanding what was going on. from 1933, hoover was the only surviving ex-president and the only person who understood what the job was. i will let you wrap this up because i think it is one of hoover's great quotes, he lived until the mid-1960's and saw a lot of different things, his philosophy essentially laid the groundwork for the conservative republicans like goldwater and reagan that went for decades. near the time of his death, he
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was asked about his critics. do you want to talk about that? end with the famous quote? thomas: i think you are referring to his quote that he outlived the bastards, which allowed him the last word. there are two kind of quotes that sum up hoover's understanding of what happened. the first, where he said that a foolish individual only hurts themselves, whereas a foolish government hurts both the wise and the foolish. and the other is, blessed are the children, for they shall inherit the national debt. paul: you do a fantastic job at the hoover presidential library in iowa.
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you do a fantastic job preserving and protecting the legacy and records. we may have presidents who have different political philosophies but we support each other and our efforts. thank you for joining us today. thomas: thank you. >> you are watching american history tv, 48 hours of american history every weekend on c-span3. follow us on twitter at c-span history for information on our schedule and to keep up with the latest history news. >> you're watching american history tv, covering history c-span style. with event coverage, eyewitness accounts, archival films, lectures in college classrooms and visits to museums and historic places. all wnd


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