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tv   The Presidency Rawn James The Truman Court - Law the Limits of Loyalty  CSPAN  October 20, 2022 9:14am-10:20am EDT

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public library. welcome to the special truman day a three day removed installment from a virtual signature event series. our guest today is ron james he is the author of the soon to be released the truman court: law and the limits of loyalty. james is a graduate of yale university. he went to duke university school of law. he has practiced law in washington d.c. for the last two decades. he is the author of two previous books. brute and branch, charles hamilton and they struggled and segregation. he also wrote about how harry truman segregated america's military. before i get started, i want to mention two things. if you have questions tonight, drop those into the chat on the youtube page. we'll get to as many of those as we can. if you are interested in purchasing the book, and i hope you will be, you can do so at that is if you use the code truman21 you get 40% off the list price. rawn james,
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thank you for joining us tonight. >> thank you for having me. >> thank you. i want to start by asking you about a few things. when the publisher reached out to me about this book, had a few questions, the truman court, wow. i was at a loss to name anybody else the truman appointed. reading the book, i quickly changed my tune. i was sort of wondering, well, why is nobody told a story before? can you share with us how you discovered the story? maybe more to this point, when did you discover there is a book to be written about the story? >> certainly. again, it is good to be with you. i have
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not been packed misery since my last book. i was excited to spend some time in kansas city and independent. without kansas city, nobody outside of missouri would have heard of harry truman. they provided his political base. he had a good time with the local npr affiliate when i was out there a few years ago. i hope to be back soon. the truman court, the idea of the book came to me when i was researching my last book. as you mentioned, it was about how war protests, and harry truman desegregated americas military. what we now known as the salute civil rights movement began with the effort to desegregate america's military. harry truman was the first president in the post civil rights era, that includes franklin roosevelt. he was the first president to openly express public sympathy to all white audiences. it was public empathy. he talked about the
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plight of their fellow american citizens who happen to be african american. they were being denied their rights as african americans. i delev in to the research on america's military. it is the largest and most diverse institution. i saw all this work on the side. it kind of begin with researching the first book. there was the work done on the judicial system. we talked about how harry truman became the first president to do what we now expect of our presidents. that is to use the judicial branch as offense as well as defense. we recall franklin roosevelt epic struggles with this report. it culminated in what became known as his court packing plan. he preferred to call it judicial reform. up
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until that time, presidents had used the judiciary as a bit of a goalie. presidents would enact their policies with congress, and act laws. they would hope that those laws and policies would pass the monster with a judicial brown branch. harry truman turned on his head. for the first time, we had a president who was using not just the supreme court, but the federal judiciary. he took full control of the door department of justice to push his policies. that is what we expect in both parties in the united states. that is what we expect from our presidents and presidential nominees. >> it seemed like it almost came out of necessity because of the state that the court wasn't at the time. can you set the stage for us? you know, go back to the end of the roosevelt administration. what was happening on the court that made this a special circumstance? >> franklin
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roosevelt, unlike truman's nominees to the court, franklin roosevelt's nominees are well known by many americans. certainly by anyone who has suffered their way through law school. there were these profound jurist's. they were giant pillars of the law. they did not like each other. perhaps that goes hand in hand. they did not get long. it was not just a matter of ideology, which it was. they agreed on new deal policy, but i did not agree on too much of it. there was a fact that they personally came to dislike each other in this insular environment. they had to work closely together
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without the phalanx of clerks that justices have now. they had a clerk, but it was not what we have today. they had to work more closely together. they had come to actively dislike each other. they suspected each other's ambitions. you end up with a situation that franklin roosevelt ended up with. a few justices think that justices appointed by the same president. they think that the same president but appointed them, that justice wants to be president himself. he is there for skewing his vote to position himself. i am speaking about robert h. jackson. he was possibly the finest writer ever on the supreme court. that is something to say. he was not corrupted by having to go to law school. he still had his
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writing ability intact. the justices came to expect that he wanted to be president. they expected that he wanted to be president. wait, robert h. jackson just wants to be the chief justice. there were all of these interesting battles happening. they came to suspect each other's votes. that became a very pernicious force. by the time harry truman became president, just weeks into his vice presidency in 1945, the supreme court had already made a mess of itself. >> truman, you know, you mentioned early in the book that it took four and a half years before fdr appointed a justice. truman matched that number in the first four and a half years. he appointed four. he starts with harold burton. the seemed like
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truman's approach is, you know, he is appointing friends or people that he knows. these are not people that will support him because their fans, even support him politically, but he has his eye on a step ahead. here are legal steps we need to take to do what i need to do. i need to find justices that support that legal theory. is that what he is trying to accomplish? >> he is, but not the time when he appoints burton. that is, you rightly noted, his first nomination to the court. this happens very early in truman's tenure. harold burton was a senator. most importantly, he was a republican senator. what americans understood back then, just to contextualize this for everyone, this was the beginning of the gallup poll being the goal standard of polling in the united states.
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the gallup poll, when the vacancy became available. one of the most important polls was to ask americans, do you think that president truman should nominate a republican or democrat to the supreme court? today, this question would be crazy. we would have leaks from the court about how upset the justices were with the framework of the question. we are supposed to believe that we are educated human beings here in america. an individual ceases to be a republican or democrat when they are confirmed in a supreme court. this is not to say that justices act as republicans or democrats. they don't call case, they don't meet, it'll attend. they don't go to fund-raisers or meetings with the party. however, they have ideas. at this point, it was 1945. for
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the average american, we were able to recognize that it is okay for these nominees to the court to have these ideas. overwhelmingly, republicans and democrats at some said that president roosevelt nominated republican to the court because we have had all of these nominations from franklin roosevelt. if i remember correctly, i believe it is 263 federal justices. four of them are republicans. americans paid attention to that. well, we should not balance. there should be political balance on the court. harry truman, who is trying to solidify his own position as a vice president who is suddenly swung into place a giant. it was the only president that many americans ever knew, he was a four term president. he is trying to solidify his political position. not with the congress, but with the american people. partly he can do this is by recognizing that maybe he should nominate someone from the opposing party. he nominated harold burton. that
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is someone that he knew. harold burton was a, for lack of a better term, a righteous figure. when he was mayor of cleveland, he was known as the boy scout mayor. one of his claim to fame says that he appointed elliott ness to run the police department in cleveland to clean things up. when he was elected mayor, cleveland was a disaster. he helped clean be crime. he also cleaned up the local government there. it was a very successful nomination for harry truman. truman and harold burton were friendly. they were not friends in the way that truman's later nominees were friends. this was a political master stroke by the new president. he was viewed by millions of americans as an accidental president. he was the senator from missouri. he was first sent by the machine up there. other senators, some other senators refuse to recognize him as a senator. some senior staffers
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said that he was sent over here by gangsters. he was elected in his own right. he was strongly reelected to be the senator from missouri. he was then chosen by franklin roosevelt. he was not franklin roosevelt's first, second, or even his third choice. harry truman has supported roosevelt's so-called court packing plan. that was the end of the day litmus test. roosevelt said, we'll, if everyone can get along with senator truman, he can be on the ticket. he did not oppose the judicial reform plan. truman became president so suddenly. he uses this first
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nomination is a chance to seek some political unity. not just in washington, but in america as a whole. americans were than allowed to openly say that there should be republican or democratic nominee. >> one of the things that i really like about the book is that the truman court story is great. there's also these little bits of history that are dropped in. sometimes relevant, sometimes they're sidebars. look at how much has changed, how much has not changed. one of the things it comes to mind with burton was that you are writing a book. truman and burton shared a belief that the government had threats. that was even at the expense of individual liberties. was that a common thing at the time? a democrat and republican agreed on something that profound. >> it became more common with the rise and perceived rise of communism in the 1930s. there were legitimate concerns in the 1930s and going forward about the, not necessarily communist infiltration of the federal government, but about communist
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activism in the united states. >> that was something that members of both parties were able to, not all members, but some members of both major parties were able to find common ground. they agreed that there would be some cost to suppressing this rising movement. they decided that they must suppress the communist movement. senator burton and truman found common ground. when truman was president, he understood how senator burton felt about those issues. it proved to be a good
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choice going forward into the 1940s from the standpoint of the truman administration. >> if i recall correctly, at the time, there is one republican left on the court. correct? >> yes, that is right. >> burton made it two. >> yes. it was 8 to 1. that was part of what americans think. we're talking what your average newspaper reading american citizen. they thought that franklin roosevelt was frustrated. we saw that frustration. there is the enormous deal. he wanted to enlarge the court. now we have eight votes of democratic nominees, one vote for republican nominee. they wanted a move towards restoring balance on the court. again, it was a good chance for a very new and unelected president. he took full advantage of it. it was a political master class for him. >> right out of the
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gate, truman sets the stage for his involvement with the court. burton is sworn in. truman is in the building, right? he is there in the room. this is the first time president has done this. >> that is right. for the first time ever, a sitting president walked into the supreme court when it was in session. there was then senator ceremonial swearing in. he had been sworn in officially. it was ceremonial. all the justices rose for the court. they called everyone to order. they rose. all the sudden, to everyones surprise, harry truman comes in through the side door. he sits down behind the counsel table. he is not sitting at the council. he sits down behind the bar. that is actually the bar. there is the bar. one sits behind the bar.
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he sits there and has a great time in the supreme court building. let me correct myself, the justices are not there yet. truman comes in before the justices. truman is shaking hands, there are all of the newspaper man. they were almost all men at that point. they were all taking pictures, everyone was buzzing. they could not believe the president of the united states was in the room. the clerk calls the court to order. the justice comes in. harry truman rises with everyone else. the justices come in. they have the ceremonial swearing in. that is when the clerk, for the third time, he stands up and calls it went to order. the justices rise. harry truman exits. he essentially leaves a building to the article three branch of government. it was an extraordinary moment. it was a
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bit of comedy for our government. it was a showing of respect among the branches for the government. i thought that was really something that i had not read a lot about. >> was that a calculated move by truman? was he thinking at that time that he was going to be there and show that he is not really pushed around? he had the chance to be an influence. was he just supporting a colleague? >> i would say, without being too much a cop out, i would say it was a bit of both. he wears an extraordinarily astute politician. one does not come from where he came from by having no job. he returned as an infantry army captain. he lived at his in laws house to become the president of the united states without being at an extraordinarily astute politician. he was good at the aircraft that he chose. in some
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ways, it chose him. secondly, part of why he was so good at it is because he had a good time doing it. he thoroughly enjoyed himself. by all accounts, he came into the supreme court room that day. he had a grand time. and we will discuss that later. he was sworn in. he had a grand time doing it. he enjoyed it. he enjoyed people. he enjoyed having an effect on what he saw was the better course for america. he wanted to be at the center of it all. >> i want to get strung up making this comparison. i'm living here in missouri, kansas city. i was reading some of what you wrote. it seemed to me that there were some comparisons that could be drawn to the most previous president. that is in terms of
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the personality, the perception of the bull in a china cabinet. he bullied his way through everything. there is the moment in the book where you talk about resignations. somebody asked him if he had asked for any resignations. remember what he said? >> yes. he said, i have asked for everybody's resignation. i will accept them all. i'll accept the ones i want to accept. these are resignations of franklin roosevelt appointees. it is what appears to america to be the sudden death of franklin roosevelt. they cannot believe he is dead. inside, they had the idea of how sick franklin roosevelt was. harry truman was flabbergasted. he saw how sick the man was. this is not
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something voters who cast a ballot for a fourth term for franklin roosevelt. they had no idea how sick he was. they were stunned by his death. you see it in the old footage. people of different races were crying in the streets, men and women were crying in the streets for the loss of this man. we then get this senator from missouri. he comes in. he comes later it has nothing to do with this. when in command, command. harry truman had that ethos from when he came in. he wanted everyone's resignation. he accepted those from who he wanted to accept them. >> if you are going to use the supreme court to advance your agenda, if you are hoping to use the supreme court, you have to back the supreme justice department. this is an appointment that is close to him. i'm talking about tom clark. can you talk a little
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bit about how he comes to head the justice department? >> yes, yes i can. i don't want to leave you hanging on your previous analogy. it is regarding the past president. i don't want you to get left out there on your own on that comparison. that is something i spent a better part of four years thinking about. there were many americans who simply believe that harry truman was on not up to the job. he simply was not spartan for the job. there's a certain type of person who should be president of the united states. that person, especially after electing franklin roosevelt to four terms as president, america had a certain pedigree. you have herbert hoover. they threw him out. nobody doubted
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the man's intelligence. you have harry truman, who is using curse words in press conferences. women were pulling their children away. kids were kicking and screaming. she says, we have to leave now, the president is talking. there was this idea that we have the crass boar suddenly in the white house. truman was aware of that. as our past presidents were aware of it as well. i think it is more of a stylistic comparison. there is the example of a shock to the system. if you take president obama, take franklin roosevelt.
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he has his harvard education. i think it is an excellent point. it was a shock to americans reading the newspapers or listening to their radio. who even is this guy? what is happening here? he is in charge. we are at war. it kind of came to a head in later times. part of why it came to a head was because of the supreme court nominees. he just began to nominate his friends. that brings us to tom clark. that is
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one of his friends. he nominated tom clark to be 80 attorney general of the united states. tom clark, at the time, he was a year older than i am right now. i am 44, tom clark was 45 of the time. clark had been an exceptional law student. franklin roosevelt had wanted to hire tom clark's older brother. he was an exceptional law student and big shot lawyer. by all accounts, he was on his way to doing grant things. no, he was doing very well in texas. the senator from texas said to the white house, we've got his younger brother, will you take him? they gave tom clark something of a lackey job in the department of justice. clark worked his way up. what he
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might have lacked in academic ability, he certainly made up for in work ethic. he became truman's attorney general. he became very successful in being in aggressive attorney general. it was in part because he recognized that he was not the best lawyer in the building. what he did was manage the department of justice. he said, what can we do to advance the administration's agenda? now, we expect out of our attorney general. the president certainly expects it of the attorney general. prior to that, the attorney general have generally been the solicitor general. you can get someone in there. trump had sessions in there for carrying out his agenda. president george w. bush had alberta gonzales.
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neither of them are these great, incredible legal minds. they were affected for the time in which they were there. they were hearing out the president agenda. i would contend that it began with tom clark. >> we are gonna come back to him. he becomes one of those supreme court appointees. is truman thinking that at the time? >> there is no indication that he is. >> you get some traction immediately with burton. the real moment for truman's vincent. this is the guy that was a truman appointee to has a legacy. that is probably him. >> yes. fred vincent, it is kind of strange. it is sadly ironic how little known he is today among americans. at the time of his nomination for the chief justice, he was one of, if not the biggest man in washington. let's not including the president. he always stands by himself. he had held so many jobs of monumental importance to the american economy. he had
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been the treasury secretary. at the time, it was the office of emergency management dealing with the war. it was a member of the house of representatives. he was a primitive authority. it's very difficult to recognize anyone in the house. he was recognized as the main authority on taxation. he was known as one of the finest quarters if you'd be elected to congress. when he was elected -- when he was nominated to the chief justice by president truman, there were great expectations for him. he was perhaps the one had great expectations on his shoulders in time of his nomination. fred vincent was truly a public servant. major league baseball tried to lure him away by allowing him to be the commissioner. he turned down
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the salary. he turned on the job. much to the chagrin of his beloved wife. that is more money than they had even thought of having. in one year, the salary for commissioner of baseball -- he was an excellent people play back in the day. here is a big baseball fan. he was excellent with numbers. major league baseball wanted him. he turned on the job because world war ii was happening at the time. he wanted to remain in service to his country. >> the baseball commission was gonna pay $100,000 a year. his government salary was 20. >> that is right. that was his highest
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government salary. that was his peak government salary at the time. >> even his fellow justices -- his fellow justices appreciated sacrifices that he had made. even william douglas, justice william douglas had very little nice things to say about fred vincent. there are other colleagues as well. he really appreciated the sacrifice that vincent had made. he did not have very much in the way of money, finances, or insurance as douglas put it at the time. >> vincent, if i recall correctly, he actually gets on the bench. he leads the bench. >> he was nominated for
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the supreme court. >> yeah. he is on the bench. this is seen as the second most important federal court in the united states. he serves on there. world war ii breaks out. franklin roosevelt says, i need you. frankly, vincent is eager to get off the bench and participate more actively in the war effort. and world war i, america's involvement in the war ended just as fred vincent
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finished basic training. he felt like he missed out on world war i. in his later years, he helped with the world war ii. he helped in a more direct manner. he left his lifetime appointment with tenure, a pension, everything that comes with it. he agreed to become a cabinet member for franklin roosevelt. he hopscotched two different jobs. he had so many jobs. the senate actually stop holding confirmation hearings for fred venson. they stop holding votes for fred vincent. the white house would send the nomination seat down. fred brinson is now wanted for this, the offensive emergency management. he was nominated for the treasury secretary. they said, we are going to do a voice vote. they stop having any debate. they all knew him. they voted on it so many times. they said that this was a matter of course for them. president truman, what was the job he loved. he loved that job. he left that job to become the chief justice. >> i hope the people wally read the book. if they don't, i hope they will do their own research on vincent. this guy is part of
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american history. he was a bit of a utility player in baseball. president plug-in to position. whatever job they would send him to, he was tremendously successful. right up to his stint as chief justice. right? >> yeah. he was unable to continue that success for too long as the chief justice. it was in part due to some fault of his own. in other parts, it was through no fault of his own. >> it is an extremely difficult job. frankly, we are seeing it right now. we see how difficult the job of chief justices. he was the first among equals. that is a very nice phrase. in pragmatic terms, in practice, it makes for a tough job. >> he was probably the guy that was needed. his predecessor, his chief justice, stone, he believed in debate and argument. vincent comes in
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today's environment where consensus believe had gone out the window. was he uniquely qualified to play that role? >> he was believed to be. he was not successful. he did placed chief justice stone, who was a superb legal analyst, he was a fantastic justice of the court. however, not a very successful chief justice of the court. as you noted, he loved debate. he was a former columbia law professor. he enjoyed debate. the debate we were all referencing happened at the conference. these were debates where the justices, they still do this to this day, they hammer out their ideas and thoughts. they sit in a different room with nobody else. when the justices there, the junior justice, which is
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justice coney barrett, when they ran out of water, she is to go philip picturing at the water. >> there is a new justice. that justice becomes a junior justice. he or she had to do that. nobody else is allowed in when they are having these debates. chief justice stone loved the conference. it would go on for hours. he did not recognize that it was rude in the court. justices were dying to get out of their. votes were not changing. they were having these academic discussions. chief justice vincent was a master manager -- under chief justice stone, they were never able to get out of
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conference. you are going to a meeting with your job, you can never leave. the boss never let you go home. the conferences were held on saturdays. this is after the work week. you can imagine the effect that this is having on morale. fred vincent was interested in getting results. what is the reason for your vote? let's move on. >> next person. what is your vote? what is your reasoning? they would have some sort of discipline. >> i don't want to shortchange -- we have a lot of questions. i have been moving slowly with followups here. we could kind of lump and two of them together. tom clark, here is where we really hit a tipping point with public and political pressure. there were these two guys. >> that is right. it begins with tom clark. he had least been an
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attorney general. this is justice sherman maintain. that is very good. sherman had served on the seventh circuit court of appeal for years. he had an outstanding record there. he was a former senator from indiana. he had been a hard-core new dealer. more hard-core than harry truman. he had been representing his state in the middle of america. he was a middle-of-the-road person who stuck with the president. this is a party he knew was doing things. they knew where his constituency was. sherman
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mantin, when he was a senator there, he was a rabid man. so much so that he only lasted one term in the senate. that is tough to do these days. very tough back then to do. he was so refer bunt for the roosevelt administration policy. that came back to haunt him. he had served for years in distinction. he was in the court of appeals. by the time president truman nominated sherman enten, he had cast him over to nominate tom clark. everyone was so certain that germany benton was going to be the third nominee when his vacancy became available. president truman actually called sherman to the white house to tell him in person that he was not nominating him. that is kind of like a bit of heartbreak. you can imagine going to the white house. well,
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i'm gonna be nominated. you get there to be told that you are not gonna be nominated. he was not nominated. tom park was. the fourth nomination, at that point, truman did not consult with anybody. he knew he was going to nominate chairman. he would have four nominations. there was certainly not another question for him. he nominated sherman mint into the court. she ornament and did not serve for a long. he does have a force on a court. he suffered from heart disease. he was kind of an explosive personality, particularly in the area of civil rights. he would literally pound on the table. he would tell the justices that they need to do the right thing here. the constitution forces them to do the right thing. they need to essentially have some gots and do the right thing. at one point, when you get to the brown case in 1952, the first argument from some of these fellow justices were worried. before that, this was
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back in 49 or 50, they were worried that he might have a heart attack during the conference. he was so exercised over this. he thought of why are we debating these issues that are so clear under the constitution? >> there is also a story, and i think it was with clark, but maybe it was with mint in. it made me retraced my steps. there are some pretty solid differences here as well. harry truman asked the chief to not be played at the swearing in for clark. he wanted it to be his day. >> no, that was for chief justice vincent. to put that in perspective for some folks very briefly, harry truman did not have an inauguration when he became president. he was sworn in by the chief justice. it was chief justice stone. he did not even have time to put on the robe. he was just wearing a suit. this is my own thought leaning into it, my conclusion was that truman decided he was going to give the chief justice the integration that he had not had. he had the swearing in at the white house. we saw that it was still controversial to this day when presidents do that. truman did it. he had a huge party. he invited members of
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the public. when is the public would just come on through to the white house. they had the band and everything. you are correct. he asked that hail to the chief not be played. it will be the chief justice day. where chief justice friend vincent, he could be sworn in. >> i want to get to a few audience questions here. somebody asked, how do we get back the balance of power among the free branches? that is interesting in this context. they wanted the power to get things done. >> how would you address that? how do we restore the balance of the three branches of government? >> i would not say that he was trying to change the balance of power. i would say that he is trying to bring in another player. the most ready player in our government. that is the article three branch. they are supposed to be the most ready player. i agree with the premise of the question. we are out of balance. we are deeply
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out of balance right now as a country. it is extremely problematic. the bottom line, as i see it, congress has to start doing other things. there is constant talk. we have these three coequal branches of government. no. congress is supposed to be the most important powerful branch of government. that is the way the constitution is written. that is article one. the congress has decided -- they began deciding this during the truman administration. their first duty is to declare war. we want the president to have what he calls a police action. that is part of why truman lost this steal seizure case. he had his attorney argued that they were at war. just to set back to him,
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the president had said last week that this is not a war. is this a war or not a war? the administration was tying itself into knots. that know was a result of congress not doing its job. since then, there was the passing of a budget. congress does not pass budgets. they get continuing resolutions. they go on and on. they get these government shutdowns that happened. there does need to be a restoration of the balance of power. it has to happen with congress. when we talk about congress, we are talking about the senate. a house still functions. whether or not you like what the house does, the house moves. the senate has just stopped functioning. they stopped fulfilling their basic responsibilities. i think it is a matter of individuals. i have been in washington for more than two decades now. in private practice, local government, and federal government, i think it is a matter of too many individuals enjoying a lifestyle not fulfilling the responsibilities they are supposed to do. they need to be making hard decisions. if you get thrown out, you get thrown out. that
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is what happened to sherman maintain. he withdrawn of office by the voters of indiana. he was thrown out and found something else to do. you can't have three players, one player just a size that it is not gonna show up. >> iran mentioned in a recent interview you did with goldman, you said that congress might be the weakest branch of government right now. what can the people the? we have seen it. we vote for different votes. things don't necessarily change. how do we effect change in a senate? >> it is difficult when we get corralled. i think that congress is certainly the weakest branch. not by design. you have the branches designed to be the strongest. they end up being the weakest. that is gonna be problematic. we get
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corralled into these districts that we have. the officials get to choose the voters rather than any voters choose any officials. again, the larger issue still exist statewide with the senate. we have to get votes. we just have to call these votes. i don't like the word. i think that is what the current senate majority leader has done. i think he has taken a time to run with it. he did that during the obama administration. i'm still flabbergasted by it. i stated that we are not going to meet with supreme court nominee. if you rewind the tape all the way back, we go back to senator chuck schumer. we had george w. bush's nominee for the court of appeals. we mentioned earlier
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that it is still the second most powerful court in the united states. everyone who pays attention to these things knew that if this person got onto the central court of appeals, they would end up on the supreme court unless something catastrophic happened. the darker wickets just decided that they were not going to vote. they said, well, what can they do to get a vote? the senator said at the microphone, nothing. we began to break down the process then. you just end up in a very bad place. >> what do you think about the composition of the court with these three trump appointees? are you fearful of an extreme right shift on the court? do you think it will be
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more reserved moved to the right? maybe not at all. >> i don't blame them. i think that president trump did his job. if there is a vacancy, you nominate someone. i would highly fault president for not fulfilling a vacancy on the court for any reason. here is my name, here is the name that i am putting forward. my big problem right now is with the description of the court. it incenses to me. there is the conservative justices and liberal justices. no. there might be too liberal justices on the court. chief justice roberts is a conservative on the court. justice thomas is not a conservative. he is a right-wing justice. he is trying to move the court. what
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i will give him is that he will own up to it. justice thomas owned up to what he is trying to do. he wants to overturn this. he said that the court just overturned a precedent and acted like it didn't. he is speaking with and honesty that i wish the others would. it is not a matter to overturn president that are six or seven years old. that is the opposite of conservative. if you're trying to move the court, to say that your try to move the court because you think it is wrong. whether someone agrees or disagrees with these positions, it is very clear. he is trying to move the court. he does not try to hide it. no, it is on a conservative position.
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i want to move this because i believe this was wrong when decided. i think that honesty is good. i also think that justices should try to write their opinion. make their opinion on the biggest issues accessible to the regular newspaper reading american. >> you see that a little bit on the topics that are important to him. there is the fourth amendment. he will signal that he wants to change this. correct. >> that is why i think it is lazy. they refer to their conservative wing of the court, the liberal ring. that is not the situation. that is not a situation. we should really justices opinion. we should read their opinion and take them out their word. they are trying to do something that they are telling you to do. >> i saw some questions. we are getting back to the topic of the book. trumans courts were
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strong supporters of church state separations. can you discuss the truman court position on the separation? >> it was controversial. there was largely new. we had the beginning of many of the jehovah's witness cases their objections to policy. one of the year with initial forays into what we have. it is called the culture wars. back then, the court was very reticent. for the court trying to do, a good way to put it would be dependent. that is always a way to put it. i would say that they try to restrict their ruling to the fact that we are presented. that we got larger ruling later. there were the
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cases that happened that were more important. many of those issues have been decided. that was during the truman times. there is the work on justice felix frankfurt. particularyly as the only one jewish member of the court. this was during a time of open prejudice. there was a large force on the court. there is the beginning of those issues. they became larger later. >> somebody else asks, what got you interested in truman to begin with? where would you rank him among president in the last 100 years? >> i became interested in president truman walls weiser jing. i saw how the struggle, the legal struggle for what we call the civil rights, it went through the courts. truman had
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a big effect on that. particularly with the -- that is the subject of a recent experience. it was a pbs documentary that had the privilege of being. and you get a chance to see it. watch that. i was intrigued by him in no small part because, and i can say this now after having been in 2021, i spent the last part of 12 years doing research on president truman. at the beginning, you know, 1948, i don't think i would've voted for him. i can say now that i have done the research. i don't think i would've voted for harry truman. i think i
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probably would've voted for his opponent. that allowed me to be removed and approach the subject. i could approach the man. not just politically as a political science major, not just as an attorney, but also as an american citizen going through life and getting older. when i started this, i was 28. i am 44 now. i still find him highly intriguing subject. this is where he ended up. it's cliché. you see it in the movies. you make your own luck. if there's anybody who made his own luck, it is harry s. truman. he was in the right place. he was putting in hard work. it was in the mud. he was
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in missouri getting some money for the roads. he was an army captain out in the mud in europe. he was a backbench senator. he was literally being ignored by members of his own party, the united states senate. he was still showing up to work. he was sending letters to the roosevelt white house and being ignored. he was still working and working. roosevelt literally writes, okay, fdr, -- he ends up president of the united states. >> we have one last audience question. i want to ask you a quick question. somebody asks how hands on truman was on picking his supreme court justices. he was very, right? >> he was not asking anybody else any questions. he had a list in his mind. when tom clark came to him, he had a list of catholic nominees. he had a catholic
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nominee to replace justice frank murphy. he did not even look at it. he had a list in his own mind he. he had a list in his own mind of who is gonna be the nominees. they were gonna be men. they were gonna be men who he knew and trusted. >> the court sided with no religion. >> that is right. his wife's catholic. it's incredible. >> through out the book, we have two great narratives about how to use the court. a couple of the cases were linked to unions. a couple of them create links to civil rights. we don't really have time to get too much into those. i encourage people to buy the book. deal with the library. whatever. it is a
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fantastic read. you will learn so mauve. i was wondering if you were just in closing -- summarize how truman used the supreme court to advance his civil rights. >> truman was the first president to address the naacp. he became convinced after the blinding of sergeant isaac woodward that something had to be done at the federal level to protect the rights of american citizens who happen in the african americans. he knew from his time in the senate that nothing would get through. he began to think of two things. one, what can i do by executive action? that is what he was able to do by desegregating americas military. secondly, he needed a good manager at the top. tom
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clark hired good people. they were all on the side of the administration. they were pushing forward. they were not defining what he had done, but they are pushing forward to move the country forward by common law. when judges decide things, it is common law. no coming on in those district courts. in order to bring that to true fruition, things needed to end up at the supreme court. again, we get back to it. the man got nothing. he got for nominations. in this respect, he ended up not just going to his administration, but they left their fellow justices. truman was not in office of the time. during the truman presidency, the court consistently nail them. that was without equivocation. there was a very clearly written opinion. any american can understand it. they argue to their federal fellow citizens that the constitution guaranteed the rights to all american citizens. that is regardless of race. again, if
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there is anyone who made his own lock, professionally or politically, it was harry truman. he ended up making his own look traditionally as well. he had his justice and chief justice in supreme court.. >> what is where preparation meets opportunity. >> absolutely. >> i want to close with something that i hope i'd give people a little bit of hope for the supreme court going forward. one of the things that you ride in the prologue, the president nominated them not for a sense of loyalty, but rather because they agreed with his administration for questions on constitutional law. i wonder, how two is not today? people worry too much about advancing the republican agenda. democrat appointees are advancing a democrat agenda. is that the
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case? are these administrations just building laws and arguments around a constitutional theory that they share the justices they're going to support them? >> no. i think that it is this the result of a fact of the major parties, particularly the republican party, they are last ideologically diverse. even as recently as the 1970s, you had republicans, you had rockefeller republicans with different kinds of republicans. you had democrats who were segregationists. you had democrats from the areas in chicago. they had different interests. it was not a matter of pushing forward with what might be seen as a democratic agenda. the so-called democratic agenda was so diverse back then. senator
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richard russell out of georgia had certainly had a different agenda. it then a democratic mayor of chicago. it is now so clearly drawn. it is now so clearly aligned with the party. it becomes easy. it seems a
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matter of common sense to misconstrue the justices's opinions with the audiology of the -- >> it's not a problem? >> i think it is an extraordinary problem. >> i think it is a primary problem for the chief justice. he is wrestling with it. he has wrestled with a quite publicly. i have been different opinions's. i don't think it is a matter of personal loyalty. i think that we are very far from that. the day that he gets confirmed, here she is thinking, okay, thank you very much. i am here. the fact that so many decisions seem to inform so much with party audiology is a problem. i know we have to wrap up, but i want to say that the judicial branch actually has to produce. that is the difference here. whether it agrees or disagrees with what the supreme court decides, they have decisions for you. you can read them for free. congress just
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comes in for two years. they talk about congressional leaders. this congress, that congress. i get very close to that. i could not tell you what members of congress we are on right now. i don't know. they come in, they come out, nothing happens. the judicial branch, the executive branch has to produce. someone has to run government. the judicial branch has to produce each year. they do. they produce each year. when you do that, you are going to upset some people. you're gonna make some people unhappy. the problem is that we have the most powerful branch. it is not producing. it is not doing its job. more than nature, politics needs backing. someone is going to fill that backing. >> want to have you back sunday to talk more about the current supreme court and how we can fix the problem that we are facing. >> i would love it. i'd love to talk to you about it. they're enjoying american
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