tv The Presidency Most Hated Presidents in American History CSPAN November 8, 2021 8:00am-9:32am EST
and hatred. to conceptual points that might be helpful from the start. i mentioned this to my daughter today or her first question was are you doing that because of president trump? i suspect that's why you want to do and the first place but we are talk about presidents in history. and then have a greater historical perspective. that to say all presidents are disliked what we want to focus on? that is what we are exploring obviously even in the best of cases almost half the country probably didn't vote for you but that doesn't mean we have special cases with particular elements of the country that
hate and despise more than simply disliking we will explore the difference between a president who is simply opposed and presidents who are empathetic all to the american way of life according to their critics so without further ado we will proceed in chronological order. talk about jefferson and lincoln and lyndon johnson and roosevelt and nixon you can see immediately why those were chosen and then we will begin with thomas jefferson by starting with joanne freeman who is the class of professor of american studies at yale university and the author of affairs honor. she is the editor of hamilton and the most recent book that i highly recommend is violence in congress and the road to civil war. so join please tell us why we
should hate jefferson. [laughter] >> okay. i always check when i do anything that everyone can hear me? so now i will discuss why certainly some people hated thomas jefferson. i want to begin by saying in recent years when i have been asked what moments in american history echoes this president want my responses is the late 17 nineties as an early american as i am aware the late 17 nineties does not have some of the pizzazz as the 18 fifties in the civil war but the intense polarization of federalist and republicans , the extreme of the ring as an american the press predictions on both sides of chaos and tyranny and anarchy with a burst violence as john
adams later described as terrorism actually using that word, the echoes of polarization and hate between past and present are very real so what kind of historical feet offer in the way of insight? >> part of what i was discussing my brief comments some are more intense than others so i'm were more personal than others somewhere more prone to weaponization. there are different flavors of presidential hatred and i use that word because there is something sensory. i am curious to see how that does or doesn't make sense with this roundtable jefferson was not new when he became
president as the hothead of the republican party and prone to speaking large prone to making pride extremely ideological pronouncements people i disagreed with him often hated him for his ideas and the likelihood they often were extreme leading to a collapse. generally speaking federalist believed republicans favor a dangerous degree of democracy. meaning on going above and beyond elections popular participation protest and otherwise in american politics. and certainly among them anything that jefferson that jefferson spoke about democracy was one of them and with the explosion of the french revolution.
and then with the presidential mansion so that moment was very real. and then came the presidential election of 1800. with the polarization came to a peak. then with a time of extreme polarization effort like a turning point. before and after the election of 1800 on the conviction that jefferson described by federalist as a french loving infidel radical way take the nation at this key moment of decision down a path of
destruction. this was grounded on predictions and symbolism and ideology and campaign rhetoric rather than any actual actions he had a chance to take as president and you can see the free-floating us versus them hatred within the first year as president like the one informing jefferson of the assassination plot brewing in new york and as he often wrote shocking nothing seems to have come of it but jefferson sees that not long after becoming president but then a little bit after that that referred to among other things you and your tribe are foreign
outcasts and tommy jefferson's friend. so jefferson literally throughout that was the other representative was the outcast as well. looking at hatred through predictions and symbolism and ideology and campaign rhetoric. and that kind of fear mentioning only shows the degree to which the echoes of familiarity that boils down to some pretty minor things that felt as though they had brought political and cultural influence one focused on jefferson's shoes as an indication of his ideology. they the statement that they made was a period it president for shoestrings when other presidents where buckles so
jefferson is saying buckles are antirepublican that shoelaces apparently were favorable and in style in france so actually that is another anti- french statement that again other ring jefferson. so that flavor of hatred changed dramatically during the second term with that embargo act which cut off shipping exports in the attempt to punish french and english interference with american trade and then with the disastrous impact and you can feel the impact of that hatred in jefferson's hate mail from this period like the anonymous letter from boston that read i've agreed to pay four of my friends $400 to shoot you with you if you don't take off the embargo if i have to work on my hands and
knees for you are one of the greatest tyrants in the whole world worse bonaparte i wish you could feel as bad as i feel with six children around you asking for vittles and starving yourself that is profoundly personal insult. less specific but bursting with a similar sense of personal outrage and suffering are two remarkably concise letters i will be done in their entirety and one red you are the damnedest full plant life and to guide damn you. that is it. [laughter] and one red go to hell. go to hell. that is intensity driven by a policy and the impact in the north. these are people that were so outraged and in a personal way that they spill that out onto
paper that is intensity driven by real personal circumstances. that kind of hate is not as easy to weaponize as the hatred of us versus them symbolism. may have fair fear driven polarizing hatred in 1800 elections had new englanders burying their bibles so the infidel jefferson would not steal that but particularly because it's not personal and not grounded necessarily in fact, that is easy to weaponize long after an election i'll be very interested in seeing whatever they want to call them in the weaponization of hate in the more modern times how that also plays out in my colleagues given the new forms of media and we will see
introduce. and spreading that heat around. i will stop there thank you very much. >> thank you for giving us the concept of flavors as we go forward so this is a roundtable discussion we are generally interested to feel questions go down to the q&a session and we will go now to the civil war with abraham lincoln now we have the chair of american history and then
the sauce and your fellow at the radcliffe institute of advanced study and then quickly and 2016 the slave cause a history of abolition. remarkably easy to recognize so thank you for joining us and please tell us about the annals of presidential history. >> thank you for allowing me to be a part of that introduction. i will share my screen with you. just to start i have the confession and for the last few weeks i have been confused about my charge with the meetings in the pandemic it is
team hate and for some reason to speak about andrew johnson through abraham lincoln and the most despised american president but then we consistently pay for the historian rankings is at the bottom lincoln is usually number one or two now luckily i read the description from the one that i have sent before preparing my remarks today and i realized i was supposed to talk about lincoln when the most beloved presidents around the globe not just the united states. of course this was not the case when they hit president
in 1860 he remains the only president in american history that has half the states in the republic to secede and inaugurated that blood he civil war claiming lives but just that fact alone wins the most despised category of us president. but abraham lincoln was not an abolitionist to believe in the immediate abolition of said line of slavery and i should say before i continue slight i am showing right now is an excerpt from south carolina that shows or announces the union has been dissolved south carolina and seeded from the union one month after lincoln was elected followed by other deep south states so he was not an abolitionist but a republican elected on a
platform. and that as some have recently argued could lead to abolition but it was not. throughout the 18 fifties lincoln a moderate politician this is the young lincoln lawyer he was antislavery politician and then to the platform of the non- expansion of slavery the constitution the defensive position since the federal government has a target to end slavery. and competing loyalties in the constitution and as early as
the 1930s and expresses that is any abolitionist. so the balancing act was expressed in qualified support from 1850 lincoln argued for actions must accompany the constitutionally mandated rendition and during the lincoln douglas debates 1858 which catapulted him to national fame that was the long-held belief to hold it to equal citizenship and in here to colonization of the blacks back to africa so after the secession on his election lincoln was willing to compromise on abolition in the south but not on the non- extension platform of the
republican party. healing the election as a victory and certainly more southerners viewed him as a step better than an abolitionist and an abolitionist in disguise. one of the most ardent critics argued for the first time in history the slave has chosen the president of the united states. and most slaveholders and democrats agree regularly race faded republicans calling them black republicans to have a special fire i or for lincoln there was no republican mike lincoln who desired the ultimate extinction of slavery in the republic so that 19th century version of work politics in the north to create the support for lincoln
and democrats argued with a racist elegance they were known for quote word on —- "the n-word is that of william lloyd garrison or frederick douglass those that claimed to meet the hamlin of maine was called aim a lot of african blood the abolitionist that concluded i love everything the south hates and since they have evidence of the dislike i am bound to love republicans with all your support. with a slaveholders rebellion he can oppress lincoln on more than copperheads the northerners who sympathized with the confederacy democrats using states rights and those arguments long used to
legitimize federal law and secession rather than the copier heads berated lincoln for the federal consolidation to make war upon the confederacy coming among fair amount of criticism during the wartime emergency including the chief justice of the supreme court and then to point out that is favorably with most wartime personnel. and then with enslaved people german and southern unionist and confederate deserters with impunity the lincoln administration's track record was a more legitimate criticism of lincoln tends to have the biggest block on the
presidential record and then in minnesota and states governor condemn 300 of them to execution he commuted the sentences of most of them to let eight to be executed still constitutes the largest mass hanging in american history. he was reviled by many contemporaries not for his policy for native american but from the adoption of emancipation and then black citizenship during the war. here is lincoln as we all know him with a beard and this is the picture that i think was pre- prince of —- the three principles that guided him but it was really anti- slavery union and the constitution that was quite mindful of. so the civil war allows
lincoln to the union and constitution with abolition. for lincoln it went from being competing two complementary values the slaveholders rebellion in the manner in which lincoln issued the emancipation proclamation to invoke the war powers to make sure the constitutional thoughts would not be challenged in this did not permit on —- prevent copperheads racist or slaveholders or confederates from accusing lincoln of treason to the constitution and the union at nearly cost him the presidency in the 1864 election it is not clear whether emancipation would further divide the nation it was called the central active my administration and to create events of the 19th
century the battle to secure the passage was to that determination for the abolition of the constitution make it irreversible lincoln's constitutionalism not just the anti- slavery moderation before the war but also the manner in which he promulgated to show the commitment to the constitution and that shaped the various proposals with the content of the final proclamation the advocacy of the 13th amendment finally has support for limited blackmail citizenship every step he took however made antislavery the dominant principle of politics and brought him ever so closer to abolitionist ground and here
is an illustration of lincoln's hand written version of the proclamation but also a cartoon made by a pro- confederate. and that wears this cartoon of him and then the devils flight is on the bible. so if you talk about hate that is one way to portray an american president and this was an image that was quite widely circulated and found a lot of sympathy among them. >> and lincoln's proclamation had allowed the army black men and the recruitment into the
army. this provision more than anything else help to convert the civil war into a revolutionary war that pave the way for blackmail citizenship the black man supported and led by abolitionist brings racial equality as the allies successfully have access even of black soldiers segregated units and helps to move toward the idea of citizenship and one of the first black regiments and in 1863 that black union soldiers could aspire to the idea of american citizenship better than
copperheads there will be some black men who could remember the silent tongue and teeth have helped mankind onto the great but there will be some that cannot forget that malignant card heart and that speech that they have strove so they hated lincoln saying they have malignant hearts. lincoln made the last 20 announcement on citizenship just before his death and he suggested that very intelligent especially those who fought gallantly with the franchise it would help and in
louisiana. lincoln argued it would prefer and those who have served as soldiers. in the informal space of the balcony of the white house to a crowd gathered the day before he was assassinated he became the first to publicly endorse citizenship and then john wilkes booth a sympathizer and an activator on —- activist for the championship of the citizenship that is a last speech he will ever make. so really it is not only the emancipation by a black citizenship that ultimately gets him killed and talk about the vice president but if you
are assassinated you are despised by some people and then reaching dangerous levels of emancipation and on the eve of the assassination the pronouncements of black males citizenship and then race baiting with lincoln's opponents calling him a general agent for the negro if you can see it right here lincoln does the type of walk with the constitution with his balancing of an african-american man this is actually from 1860 the early election the cartoons in the race baiting got worse and with the union army.
this is the time when lincoln and the republican party of misogyny should so this word was coined during these elections during the anonymous pamphlet making part of the lexicon talked about white supremacist in the south route the jim crow era on weekends that and african-americans warned on good friday many of the opponents and confederates and then open the celebrated so if you did a google map search you will find is still a predominantly the over on —- the majority of them so one intricate researcher but the
black county in millis mississippi is the exception to the rule so than one of the most beloved with the neo- confederate the most hated and i apologize but i must and with the bumper sticker that it's my party and i will cry 512. and then now i will hand the floor back over to you thank you for that.
let's turn to matthew sutton is going to tell us about that presidential of course was longer than anyone else. matthew avery sets in his edward art myers distinguished professor chair the history department at washington state university. his latest book is doublecross that missionaries just buy for the united states during the second world war. he is the author of numerous other books including once on the american apocalypse, a book on jerry falwell and another on amy simple mcpherson. he's been a fellow and i happen to know he's working on a new, brilliant interpretation for a textbook for american history you should all expect to be purchasing in the next 18 months or so. without further due, matt i turn things over to you. >> thank you so much jeff. thank you to the panelists for putting this together. it is been interesting in the first couple of papers here
and how it popped up. it's a topic i'm going to be focusing on in my paper today. as we all know, religion can inspire a lot of great behavior can also inspire lots of bad behavior. in fact but i will be discussing today how it inspires presidential hatred. this is not a surprise to anyone in this room i am sure. we can see how particular groups of religious activists who favored hillary clinton, barack obama, joe biden, i'm going to talk a little bit more of the roots of that, or some of that hatred comes freud five focusing on franklin tilda roosevelt. one of the reasons it's not gone this much attention from historians as i think it probably should, as there has been a real problem in history augur for you, there has been a sense that when jerry falwell came on the scene in the late 1970s and organize the moral majority it was at that point that white evangelicals began to critically mobilize it. that is just wrong.
anyone has read the literature knows that is wrong. but it perpetuates itself continues to spread that evangelicals are apolitical until the last couple of generations. what is going to show you today's how the rise of new deal liberalism inspired a new evangelical political activism which organized itself into real hatred for president franklin delano roosevelt. why did they hate roosevelt what was the issue? the real issue behind this is they believed franklin roosevelt was ultimately setting the stage for the rise of the antichrist. diabolical world leader who's going to take power to the ends of times. they were convinced we are living at the end of history. so in their minds and their
magazines and on the radio stations they were continuously looking for signs that would tell us how close we were to what the bible describes as the rapture, the armageddon the rise of the antichrist and the second coming of jesus. ultimately they felt fdr was preparing the 9 cents for those events where there is some debate among them whether or not he was doing it consciously and explicitly like was he purposely working for the devil because that's what he wanted to do or was he naïve just not really aware behind the decisions he was making. roosevelt was a problem so let's talk a little bit might even general goals were growing and power all try to
watch my language, i confuse the terms they use for themselves at 20s and 30s they called themselves fundamentalist to the 1940s today they tend to call themselves evangelical same group, same people many of them are exactly the same just trade them from the 1930s to the 1950s. what they believed is the way they were reading their bibles they thought you could see signs the bible had laid out, especially in the old testament but also the new testament a series of events that would tell us when we were living near the rise of the anti- christ. it's kind of hard to track. it's kind of like loose morals the rise of the evolution of about women's suffrage and not in the rights until the 20s they word prohibition was not being enforced. but far more important and much more interesting to me, they were also closely watching global events.
they were excellent students of foreign affairs better than almost any other group in america they understand what's happening in europe and africa and around the world. they laid out a number of expectations in the 1880s and 90s their preaching and preaching and then in the 19 tens, 20s, 30s they began to see some of these predictions fulfilled. one of the important ones was eight rise of a new restored roman empire. they believed one of the things was a revitalized rome. and so when they sought mussolini consolidating power, taking power and standing influence for them this was a huge sign there at the end of times. they also looked at what hitler was doing for their very conscious of hitler's anti-semitism men punch up many have read, they believed another sign of the ends of
times but they saw hitler as facilitating that. did not necessarily support it, endorse it or cheer it but they believe god was using him for the armageddon which would literally happen in palestine for it all the stuff is going on in the background which then takes us to franklin roosevelt. they looked at him and they understood him then and the context of all these other things going on. there is no doubt his campaign and 1932 cut off to an ominous start. on the first set of a belt at the democratic national convention roosevelt received 666, 666 votes. when i first read that the fundamentalist magazine if it is too good to be true that could not be true. i went to the records and sure enough that was absolute the case. this already set fundamentalist on edge believing there's something weird going on here that's roosevelt with the antichrist. after the election they began
to view roosevelt as other totalitarian leaders. and i've talked to my students about this roosevelt because such a weird person both because of world war ii but americans don't realize how much those who hated roosevelt in the 30s really truly despised him, could not stand him. when i saw letters written to roosevelt and letters shared among various american citizens. what they saw was a cell roosevelt consolidating power office in the executive branch. they also saw a controlling congress. if you add to that his efforts to pack the supreme court this looks like someone who is a fascist, trying to do exactly what solon, franco, mussolini and hitler had all done. then in 1940 runs for a third term defying american traditions of stepping down after two terms is further reinforced that hitler is not a regular american present i'm sorry, roosevelt is not just a
regular american president but that roosevelt was up to something far more sinister. and so this it framed the way they understood what he was doing and the more broadly new deal liberalism. they looked at specific programs and became particularly concerned those were helping prepare americans for the end of times. one was a national recovery act participate in the nra they had to show the symbol the blue eagle. they believed one of the things that would prepares for the end of times they thought it was possibly the mark of the beast the mark of the antichrist. or perhaps not that it was preparing americans to understand if you show this to do business. you look at social security their horribly critical of it. that's roosevelt with a socialist and communist program that it was contrary to the teachings of the word of god. they're very worried to join
the report to serve them. that was a steppingstone to the antichrist. he opposed internationalism there never indifferent. they're moving towards the cataclysmic events they should act. the very conscious very explicit about this prayer they believed when jesus returned with the second coming does happen he was going to hold them responsible for their actions were is going to ask them officially fed been good and faithful servants. part of being a good and faithful servant is waging organs the antichrist and the tools of the antichrist people
like franklin roosevelt. until 1936 -- 1940 covid 1944 they were very active, mobilizing, getting people provoked. they are not partisan though. in the north and the west and many are republicans. the goal was to defeat a liberalism to go back to some more limited government conservatism. that becomes a political ideology that drives them as a political parties change evangelical change with their parties. but they maintain these core values of being anti- government and also in foreign policy believing in the importance of american action abroad because they want the missionaries to have access but they went the u.s. acting unilaterally because they are afraid any unilateral action is going to compromise american sovereignty. world war ii and i'll end with
this. a bit of a turning point for them. they begin to realize at that point they argue when jesus does return is not going to just judge individuals but he's going to judge missions. one is political activism with the christian nationalism something they had not done in previous decades of previous generations. they became increasingly focused and world war ii. not distant fighting the antichrist but also trying to remake the united states in their own image, believing as they move for the end of times in the battle of armageddon they can protect themselves and protect our fellow christians abroad with a strong united states that represents their ideals. fdr is a steppingstone's continues to every nuclear president always present day without a metal tunnel turned back to jeff.
so to get my mind around the idea that it could be contrary to the word of god. hopefully we'll get to that perhaps not in this panel but you and i another. let me just remind everybody there is the option of offering your questions at the bottom of your screen for there's also a function on their feud never seen it before you can give a thumbs up to other people's questions. let us know what you find really fascinating for the questions it got so far been great. can't wait to get to them. therefore i'll stop talking and handed over too mark moran's fellow author and historian. i'm sorry no sharon you are next, sit tight market. as a post- actual fellow here at the center for presidential history at southern methodist university her research interest include civil rights movement, public history, and the presidencies of jon
kennedy and lyndon johnson. she's currently finishing up lyndon johnson and the civil rights legacies and african-american imagination. let me say it's really good. so without further ado, the webinar is yours. clicks thank you so much jeff. thanks to all of my fellow panelists this has been so riveting so far. as jeff said my interest has been an african-american civil rights. specifically the presidencies of john kennedy and lyndon johnson. point of privilege i would like to swipe joanne's formulation of how she wanted to talk about presidential hatred that's a really terrific way of narrowing our
focus, just to note all of these presidents have their haters. they come in different flavors. one of the things i wanted to do with my session today was to talk a little bit about the way lyndon johnson was hated in particular by african-american voters. and to really focus in on that. even though there will be lots of parallels and reasons why other constituencies hated lyndon johnson. but it wanted to do this by just starting with the obvious points of how lyndon johnson came to be president. of course he became president he's one of the accidental presidents. he emerged and ascended into the presidency with the assassination of his predecessor john kennedy. for african-americans in particular that way that lyndon johnson emerges as
president is particularly problematic. it spanned a certain long-standing concerns that the african-american community had about lyndon johnson going back to his time in congress when jon candidate selected lyndon johnson as his running mate in 1960 at the democratic convention, average americans were particularly concerned and upset by that choice. it has to do with the lyndon johnson long history as being seen as someone who was willing to compromise with his fellow democrats in the south to thwart progress on civil rights. while lyndon johnson was on the senate majority leader, he made it clear that he was trying to keep his coalition together. and in order to do that, he was willing to make sure that
important civil rights legislation either never passed or what was ultimately passed was watered down so is doing the bare minimum. this was something african-americans washed with great concern while he was a senate majority leader so that when john kennedy selected as his running mate there's an outcry from the african-american delegates to the extent the candidate campaign had to put together a special breakfast in order to try to win over the black delegates that were there to kind of reassure them even though it lyndon johnson had been a person of concern in terms of its advocate of rights he had come along with the platform of the party. so that concern was there in 1960. it did not go away over his time as vice president.
even though he was playing a role in the kennedy as ministration as head of that presidency employment opportunity which was looking for ways in working with african-american constituents to ensure the government employment sectors was as desegregated as possible. only those people who were kind of in the room with johnson were won over and could see he was making a concerted effort. meanwhile the populace did not know lyndon johnson was making these efforts. over the course of the administration, the concern that black voters had over lyndon johnson never went away. so by 1963 justice john kennedy is making the case for why a new civil rights bill had to be passed, that does not happen until june of 1963,
john kennedy finally makes a public plea based on the morality of the civil rights movement there should be a civil rights bill passed in congress. even at that point, lyndon johnson is seen behind the scenes that same individual that had been thwarting civil rights legislation. by november of 1963 when john kennedy is assassinated in texas, african-americans are incredibly concerned about lyndon johnson are emerging as the nation's new president. many black reporters and observers are indignant there's a lot of concern about krowl, fact that since john kennedy was killed in texas was not a coincidence.
many african-americans blamed lyndon johnson and founded theories as to why lyndon johnson was likely involved in president kennedy's assassination because he appeared to have the most to gain. letters came into mrs. kennedy condolence letters that would make this point from black letterwriters and telegram senders would essentially say they believed lyndon johnson was involved in john kennedy's death. this is the state of things when lyndon johnson becomes president. now he does everything he can in order to try to reassure black voters. he realizes he needs to win them over because from the very beginning, lyndon johnson is well aware the election is coming up one year from just under one year from the moment he is sworn in as president.
test. test. test. eople like martin luther king, the southern christian leadership council conference he calls young of the urban league he calls roy wilson of the naacp to try to reassure these folks pretty goes to congress five days after present case ssa tells congress and the world, let us continue john kennedy's policy on civil rights for he's trying to turn the page and trying to went over black constituents from the very beginning. there is this nagging concern this thing he cannot shake from black voters that he is conniving and he's truly only doing this because he has to and he is desperately trying to win their votes. not because this is something innate in him but this is
something he truly cares about. for black observers of the newly sworn in president, lyndon johnson is an opportunist who is desperate to win election. so over the course of lyndon johnson's administration he's trying to use a lot of the same techniques john kennedy has used symbolic acts like hiring people, appointments, he is seen in photographs with african-american civil rights leaders. but lyndon johnson falls victim to a number of issues. number one, he is seen as many black observers believe was involved in kennedy's death. and secondly, there is a sense that he is again this opportunist. but, over the course of his administration something
already happening in kennedy's administration, the movement itself is changing quite a bit. whereas there is a belief in august of 1963 the nonviolent movement led by doctor king could actually make the changes, things are beginning to shift for a more militant, younger activists crowd is less and less patient with the legislative approach that lyndon johnson is so comfortable with. there is a sense it is taking too long, it's not going to change people's hearts. even though laws are being called for, those laws are not going to make real change in people's lives. and so when lyndon johnson pushes for passage of the civil rights act which it doesn't pass in july of 1964, there are people like john lewis saying yes that's great. but down here on the front
lines is not making a real difference. we are still on the battlefront. there is a disconnect between what's happening in washington d.c. what's happening on the front line. a true conservative they're terrified of this they vote for lyndon johnson by about 95%. he went about 95% of the african vote which is unprecedented. but i want to read a quote that kind of indicates the problems for lyndon johnson. one of the things, even a make this incredible percentage of the black vote is april 2, 1965's are just a year after the passage of the civil rights act, this poll
basically says look they cannot regret the almost incredible support they gave lyndon johnson over barry goldwater. their support is cool, logical and loveless in their hearts still belong to jon f. kennedy present black voters have made a choice a pragmatic choice to vote for lyndon johnson but their hearts really are not into it. so this harris poll which i want to correct myself was published in 19662 years after the civil rights act and just a year after the voting rights act is supported, passed and signed by lyndon johnson, african americans still went and asked which of the last five presidents has done the most for nickel rights 9% of them choose john kennedy. only 15% choose lyndon johnson. and so there's a whole host of reasons why this is the case. this will continue to play out
as a problem for lyndon johnson. certainly you have the shifting nature of the civil rights movement or the legislative victories are not deemed quite as poor important in some ways when faced with things on the ground. but also you have the vietnam war, that is forcing more and more african-american, men into war. even though african americans about 11% of the population, they are being drafted at a higher percent. and they are being pushed into combat roles at a much higher% overall percentage of those folks in the war effort. so the war effort is taking a toll, not only in the fact the young black soldiers are heading over there, also the fact the war on poverty that
lyndon johnson believes is going to change everything these kind of social programs kind of in the vein of fdr social program, the war on poverty is not being funded as a result of this war. so you begin to see the promise of the great society program really is not funded in quite the way benefits a lot of african-americans. i want to point to a couple one being a book on selma to saigon which deals with the african-american role in the vietnam war efforts. but also the last point i want to make about why this doesn't play out for johnson in quite the way he wants to, is elizabeth points out in her
book dealing with the way the war on poverty moves from the war on poverty to the war on crime is the way the unintended consequences of things such as these programs that are funding not only social reforms but also policing reforms in ways that the federal government is essentially funding the kind of local policing of behavior and african-american communities that ultimately leads to some of the issues and difficulties with policing and expands the problems with policing. also the mass incarceration of african-americans. african-americans are looking at lyndon johnson and they see the promise of the war on poverty. but they have this in memory of him as a congressional
leader and they view a lot of the assassination is less at lyndon johnson's adore and he is partially responsible. he also began to see things like the vietnam war's impact on the black community and the increased policing in the black community that results from this war on poverty in johnson's war on crime. and so over time, johnson's legacy is really quite problematic among african americans to the extent that in the end as we all know by 1968 lyndon johnson who opens up his presidency with almost 80% kind of approval rating, drops to 35% by the time he is considering a run for election again and 68 to the extent
have to drop out of that race. but ultimately, african americans still support lyndon johnson in some ways. but at the same time this long history of concern about him in the sense he's not a true advocate for african-american advocate for african-american rights continues to captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2008 seen as having very confrontational and being created by african american director and presented in that way. so i will leave it there. but hopefully that's enough to spark some conversation about the ways that lyndon johnson has been perceived by african americans and the long history behind that. thank you. >> thank you sharron. and you are a reminder of what e we
learned from elizabeth hinton's book and our conversations with her reminds me one of the most important things you and i have done this past year is co-host a podcast on presidents and race relations from the abraham lincoln all the way up to joe biden and an amazing learning us. so i encourage others to check that out if they like. and finally, to mark lawrence, currently director of the lbj library and museum in austin, texas. associate professor of history at the university of texas. teaches on american and international history and is author among several books of "assuming the burden,," europe and american commitment to war in vietnam. and also author of the marvelous short history of the vietnam war which i use in my classes and i highly recommend to others.
and now he's coming out with another book, just finishing the proofs on that. so look for it on your shelves soon. entitled "the end of ambition. the united states and the third world in the era of vietnam." and to today he's going to tell us about a president from era of vietnam, one who has no reputational problems whatsoever, richard nixon. >> thanks, jeff. this will be a very short talk. you're right. i'd like to, umm, everybody can hear me -- yes. i'd like to start with a story that takes us into the arena of -- an arena of the nixon presidency that may not be terribly familiar. probably not one that immediately springs to mind. the subject is relationship between the united states and brazil, and the story begins december 13, 1968. that was the day the brazilian military junta eliminated most remaining elements of brazilian democracy and cracked down on just about every facet of brazilian society. it was the start, as it turned out, the new era of economic
austerity, and the beginning of the widespread use of torture to ensure public obedience to the regime. the johnson administration suspended u.s. aid and left it up to the nixon administration on how to proceed. nixon's answer came pretty quickly. may of 1969 his administration restored aid to the regime. the decision grew partly seems to me from the newer administration's broader efforts, sort of lower american ambitions to reshape brazil the for that matter lots of other developing countries in the world. nixon said in a nationally televised speech that the united states was entering a new era which it couldn't hope to do everything, couldn't hope to promote democracy and development all over the world as his democratic predecessor had done.
and not only that, but he promised that the united states was going to, as he put it, deal realistically with latin american governments no matter their character. he made clear to say the united states moved on from the pay-any-price, bear-any-burden era that had come only a small number of years before. nixon's decision also may well have flowed from genuine --. if brazil was a dictatorship he said on one occasion captured on the taping system, it should be, he said, in order to cope with disorders internally and throughout latin america. even as human rights groups increasingly seized on the situation in brazil and congress opens investigations into u.s. support for the regime, nixon doubled down on his partnership with the generals. when the brazilian president visited washington in 1971, the administration praised brazil as a staunch ally and welcomed the country's determination to fight
communism both at home and throughout the hemisphere. documents declassified about ten years ago reveal the full extent to which nixon and his brazilian counterpart went in affirming their determination to overthrow fidel castro, but especially salvador in chile. and formed some of the backdrop of the ultimately successful coup against ayende. and from this relationship sprang operation condor, the cooperation among security services that went on to wage a strikingly bloody campaign of counterterrorism for years to come. well, okay, so this is the kind of story that has long, it seems to me, infuriated critics of richard nixon and i hasten to add his partner in foreign policy making, henry kissinger. again and again antipathy to nixon focused on the president's
amoral approach to foreign policy. his approach to stability above all at the expense of a concern with democracy or human rights or even economic development. what counted for nixon, in other words, was the extend to which a foreign nation served american geostrategic interests. the nature of those governments in their attitude towards their own people mattered hardly at all amid the ascendancy of what political scientists of course have taken to calling a realist school of foreign policy in which hard-headed notions of national interests trump allegedly soft-headed notions of democracy or social justice. so this kind of thing is of course one of many reasons why richard nixon has been the focus of so much disdain if not in fact hatred over the years. it's strew that all the news is, i suppose, not bad for richard nixon and his legacy.
recent polls of presidential accomplishments and presidential standings reveal that nixon sometimes falls in the lowest quartile, but usually lands somewhere in that third quartile in the company of, say, martin van buren, zachary taylor, herbert hoover, jimmy carter. but clearly none of these men i just named aspire the visceral dispassion for sheer malevolence, for dishonesty and self-serving cunning that's long been around richard nixon. i'll cite just one quote which comes from the political strategist rick wilson who sums it all up in saying that nixon is certainly the modern exemplar of a dark and vindictive president. well, of course at the heart of this judgment stands the sheer dishonesty, the illegality, indeed, epitomized by the
watergate break-in and coverup but running through any number of episodes from richard nixon's political career. the prison terms kneeded out to nixon's cronies and advisors of course speaks to this line of criticism. the anti-semitism, the racism revealed on tape recordings from the nixon white house attest to a deeper kind of character problem that has fueled a lot of nixon dislike or perhaps hatred. and then there is also, it seems to me, a third piece of this. there is nixon's distinctly paranoid style of politics. and the -- indeed the anti-democratic instincts that he seems to have embodied. public opinion was for nixon often a force to be held in check or maybe even bypassed in order to free himself to proceed
as he wished. so my brazil story speaks to some of this, but but speaks to something a little bit different about richard nixon. something that i think that muddies the waters a bit and enables us to see the phenomenon of nixon hating in a somewhat more complicated light. the realm of foreign policy after all is the realm where nixon would seem to be on his strongest footing. it is here that as his many champions would point out he achieved great accomplishments, including of course the opening to china and the super power detente with the soviet union. these are achievements that have consistently won praise not only for the boldness of vision and risk-taking that they embodied, but also for the dedication to peacemaking that they seemed to imply. and yet nixon hating has also been fed powerfully over the years by uglier developments in the international arena.
in vietnam, for example, nixon is often claimed to have carried on the war for four years longer than it really had to be carried on at enormous human cost, only to achieve basically the same peace deal that was achievable when he first came to office in 1969. nixon's expansion of the war into cambodia, it is often pointed out, opened an entirely new theater of horrors on a scale that the world has rarely seen before. elsewhere, meanwhile, nixon threw american support behind or doubled down on american relationships with authoritarians in places as diverse as brazil, chile, iran, indonesia, south africa, pakistan, and on and on one could go. for many commentators, his tolerance for brutality, this turn away from democracy, provides a major if not always the main, certainly a major reason to despise nixon.
jimmy carter gave this view in one of its classic formulations in his famous 1977 speech at notre dame university. he said in part, for too many years we've been willing to adopt the flawed and erroneous principles and tactics of our adversaries, sometimes abandoning our values for theirs. vietnam, he said, is just the best example of the intellectual and moral poverty of u.s. policy choices. but he blasted nixon's decision make more generally, assailing his tendency to indulge in what carter called an inordinate sphere of communism and the embrace of any dictator who joined us in that sphere. this kind of criticism perhaps peaked in the early 21st century with the publication of christopher hitchens' book about malevolent decisionmaking during
the nixon presidency. what these expressions of hostility to nixon share in common, i think, is the sense that in seeking stability in the third world, nixon had departed from honored american tradition, both in the content of his policies, especially his low regard for democracy as either a practice or a goal, and the cynicism that lay at the heart of his political style. this was something that critics on both left and right seem to have agreed on. the criticism from the left is certainly easy to see. but it's worth pointing out that nixon's record, particularly in the foreign policy realm, lay in pretty deep disrepute in some republican circles as early as 1976, and over time the gop would move further and further away from nixon's realism and embrace a moralizing approach to foreign policy of course that became closely associated with ronald reagan. but at the heart of this lay
this sense that nixon's amoralism lay outside of american political traditions, outside, as jimmy carter might have put it, the enduring american values. the unfortunate outcome, as i think many moderate analysts of nixon's presidency might say, was to throw into very deep disrepute any reasoned sense of national limits and interests that might have served the united states well at many points across american history, but especially during the era since 1945. the real tragedy, to put it differently, of the hate surrounding nixon may be the sheer difficulty ever since of resurrecting fundamentally sound policy ideas that sat at the core of nixon's presidency, so encrusted have those ideas become in the reputation of the 37th president. i will stop there, jeff, and turn it back over you to.
>> thank you, mark, always fascinating, needless to say. we never have enough time for discussion as we want. so i'm going to start us out with what i call a semi speed round. i'll ask a question to the group, and feel free to answer if you think it's pertinent to your president. after that, i have a couple of questions for speed rounds where i'll ask each of you to comment on your president. the first section is volunteered, if you will. dan deans, actually, asked a fascinating question about an hour ago. he said, attacks on these presidents were published in newspapers and gazettes. do you have an idea of how familiar americans, both literal and illiterate, were with this negative information? i want to expand that a little. obviously the question was directed at professor freeman. but i think it really speaks to the question of mass media and the ways in which broad assessments of character are developed within the political
electorate. so for all of us, and especially joanne, since it was directed you to, how did the media, how did the public image of the president alter people's sense of like and dislike? >> that's a great question. i will say a couple of things. one of the factors that they were worrying about in this early period that is i guess i would say a concern forever but in the early period they're confronting it on a basic level, and that is, public opinion governs a republic. like, that was a truism. but what does that mean? who is the public? what do they think? how do you figure out what they think? there was kind of a hyperawareness in this early period as to what the public was thinking and also a hyperawareness as to an ability to define who that public was. so people like jefferson would have been very aware of what was being said. the public would have known.
i mean, there were -- someone i saw at some point asked a question whether jefferson was criticized for his sexual life. and there were cartoons about his relationship with sally hemings, for example. so the public was aware of things that were being said. presidents and politicians were aware that it mattered. but there wasn't a meeting point as to what that meant yet. so, you know, for that reason, i think those early presidents were hyperalert to it and not sure what to do with it yet. what's interesting about listening to what everyone else is saying, in later time, as the media becomes more sophisticated, these presidents understand with a sort of pragmatic realism, that the public and what they think has a very dramatic and pollable impact that in my early period was hard for them to judge. >> colleagues? anybody else want to jump in on
the media question forming presidents' hatred santa ana matt? anybody else want to join? matt? >> they were really crafting their own media, that's part of what gave the movement their own shape and life. there were pioneers in radio, they developed their own magazines, and they had extensive networks among their denominations where they could communicate back and forth. some of it was esoteric theology but some of it was biting cartoons. >> manisha? >> yes, so by the 19th century, i would say print culture is become absorbed by large factions of the public. this is not just white male citizens and the few african-americans who had the right to vote in the north, but it is broadsides, it's newspapers, the printing press. you know, it's an enormous --
more than we would imagine today, production of political cartoons and even racist ones. and african-americans and other disenfranchised groups had their own print culture, which was pretty rigorous. so there is a mass consumption of these. and by the 19th century, you have these, you know, voting rates, 70, 80% of those who are eligible to vote, men, vote at that time. and politics is mass entertainment. i mean, you think about all those iconic descriptions of the lincoln/douglas debates. people are just coming -- there are professors of rhetoric and speech have started paying far more attention to speeches. members of congress who use
their privileges to send out thousands of pamphlets to their constituents. not the way we do, with social media, twitter, et cetera, but far more than i think most people are aware of. >> i would only just add to that, when it comes up to the 1960s in lyndon johnson, i think that, you know, everyone knows how aware johnson was of the media and the role that it played, and he had televisions everywhere, and he was constantly commenting on what was written about him. but, you know, also these issues that he was dealing with, civil rights or vietnam, all that have is playing out on television. and when you have protesters outside of the white house screaming "hey, hey, lbj, how many boys did you kill today," that's going to make a difference. so that i think for lyndon johnson in particular, that kind of -- the give and take with what he's seeing on tv and how it's influencing him and impacting him, and then him also trying to control that message,
it's really something that, you know, continues to resonate, i think, today. >> nixon, i would just add that it was clearly a hyperattentiveness to media coverage, i think very much like lbj. and yet one i think one could also say -- and again, there may be a close parallel with lbj here, there was kind of a mishandling of the media in a way that ultimately redoubled their problems of reputation and image. and it's interesting, maybe, to think about these two characters as people whose early political career took place at a -- in the context of a very different relationship between political elites in the media, through the middle parts of the 20th industry. of course new technologies, the vietnam war for lots of other reasons, the relationship changes and it seems like these guys weren't very successful at adapting to a new media environment. >> interesting.
semi-speed round, jump in you like. i'm going to abuse a question that was offered by one of our anonymous attendees and transform it a little bit to ask if any presidents, and certainly those on our list, have received a lot of hatred from within their own party. clearly we're seeing today, there's a split in the republican party at the very least. and i'm curious if you have other historical precedents for presidents being so despised from not so much without but within. >> if i could pipe in really quickly just on jefferson, there were northern republicans of his party that were not really thrilled about the idea of that embargo. but i wouldn't say they were venting hate in the same way. they were sort of politely internally trying to tamp that down.
i think precisely because parties were not the norm in that period, so there was no assumption about what was holding people together or not, partly for that very reason, it wasn't as -- the lines, boundaries weren't as clear. so people were a little less easy about that kind of within a party or within a group of people being held together kind of informally, tossing around that kind of hate. >> as far as lincoln is concerned, you know, he had his critics within his party too, especially amongst the radicals and the abolitionists who thought he wasn't going fast enough, both on the issue of emancipation and black rights. but interestingly enough, their relationship with him was pretty constructive. they saw him as part of an antislavery alliance. very few of them, you know, had that kind of visceral hatred of
lincoln that his opponents did. and then later on some conservatives started sort of backing off a little bit when they realized that lincoln was going to move ahead with emancipation and that he was going to move ahead with recognition of black rights. so radicals were critical, and in 1864 there was a kind of a rump group of abolitionists who floated the idea of replacing lincoln with a more radical person on the ticket. but that went nowhere, because ardent abolitionists like garrison were so pro-lincoln that in the end all the abolitionists fell in line. as the great black abolitionist pennington put it, lincoln is the only american president who has given any recognition to african-americans and has met with them in the white house and has listened to us. so the idea of replacing him seems foolhardy. so in the end, even those radicals who where critical of lincoln ended up sort of buying
into garrison's notion that we're part of a grand antislavery alliance, so that we're the vanguard to drag lincoln with us. >> fundamentalists, there was a real discussion among the southern fundamentalists, they were instructing their congregates to vote the democratic ticket in the state and local election, but not in the national election. there was a real effort to broke their local alliance from the national party. >> like lincoln, i think that lyndon johnson certainly was getting pushed from the left, from those who felt he wasn't acting quickly enough or, you know, responding soon enough to to issues that were happening in civil rights. but i think that just across the
board, you know, he was catching it from the left for sure, from progressives, but also from the right. and this is partly, largely why, you know, his poll numbers just sink over the course of his administration, just because he is losing support on both ends, which is, you know, ultimately unsustainable. >> mark, anything on nixon? >> yeah, as i mentioned quickly in my presentation, nixon was certainly criticized from within his own party. you can see that in the -- as the watergate crisis develops. but you can also see it in a broader sense as the 1970s advances and a different brand of republicanism really comes powerfully to the fore that is in ways is -- i think it's a broad critique in the relatively
moderate real politic style that goes in another direction. i wouldn't call it hatred, i would call it something more like indifference or a desire to distance himself from what had come before. but there certainly were individuals who might be characterized as having hated nixon. barry goldwater, for example, gives us some of the most colorful language that anyone has given us in criticizing richard nixon. >> let me offer a bonus president, bill clinton during the era of impeachment, obviously he was despised by his enemies throughout his presidency but once he was impeached, i think the senate democrats in particular, i wouldn't say they we want so far as to say they hated clinton for what he did, but they certainly were disgusted by it. it's one of the those cases, not unlike our recent impeachments, that were the vote secret and were the vote, you know, less prescriptive by party, i think
we would have gotten a much different vote in the end. this is our speed round, if you will. everybody has to answer this one but we don't have a lot of time. this is a question from david mond. i love this question. in the final analysis was it primary the person and his style of governing or the policies that the president espoused that led them to be so hated? we'll go in reverse chronological order, just to spin things up. so, nixon. >> really interesting question. in the interest of the speed round i'm going to say mostly it's the person. but i think the policies have been underemphasized as a reason for the hatred over time. >> johnson. >> i think it's a combination of both. for example, if you look at something like the kernor commission where johnson
commissions this group to look into the reasons for some of the riots that happened in american cities, you know, with the best of intentions, but ultimately ignores the findings. so it's like, the policy seems to be there, but then ultimately the personality gets in the way. >> roosevelt. >> i would say it was both. he smoked and he drank and his kids divorced their spouses, and all those things caused problems. it was also the policies. without mussolini, franco, i don't think there would have been as much fear and hatred of roosevelt. >> lincoln. >> a lot of people made fun of lincoln about chopping wood. i would say it was far more policy. the opportunity to address one of the questions about race, was lincoln hated because -- a lot of the criticism of him was really racist, the way it was
for abolitionists early on and for radicals. i think those were sort of interconnected because when it came to policy, lincoln was very much identified with the politics of big government, of what they called federal consolidation in those days, the federal government intervening in the affairs of the states. but the states' rights to do what? to perpetuate and extend slavery. so i think the connection between conservativism, racism, big government, and racially liberal policies, it takes place exactly during the lincoln administration, kind of reaches its apogee during reconstruction and gets resurrected i think in the 20th century when it comes to people like johnson and nixon. >> jefferson. >> i would say -- i'm going to offer a third option.
jefferson very much in his person portrayed his politics, not necessarily policies, but politics. he put himself forward as kind of embodying his sort of more small "d" democratic politics. so i think he was hated in a sense for that combo, person in politics. >> interesting. as is always the case, there's so much more to say, which is why we always keep studying. i want to thank our panelists for joining this roundtable. obviously we would have much rather done this in person. we look forward to doing them again in person. this has been a wonderful conversation. my thanks to the aha for doing these virtual webinars after the last several months and year. they've been a real joy for all of us. and with that, i will turn it back over to debbie. >> thank you. i wanted to thank again our generous sponsors, the national endowment for the humanities, the stanton foundation, the
history channel and oxford university press. thanks to everyone who submitted questions today. and finally, a special thanks to our panelists. have a great afternoon. thank you. every saturday "american history tv" documents america's story. on sunday "book tv" brings you the latest in non-fiction books and authors. funding comes from these television companies and more, including sparklight. >> sparklight is working around the clock to keep you connected. we're doing our part so it's a little easier to do yours. >> sparklight along with these television companies support c-span2 as a public service. our weekly series,
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