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tv   Q A  CSPAN  December 21, 2009 6:00am-7:00am EST

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my members that 1984, the senate adopted a resolution. s 480 to acquire senators vote from the desk being. i know we don't do this all the time but i ask tonight we do vote from our desks and follow this rule. senators vote from their desks. . .
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>> this week on q&a, a new look at the 11th president. robert mary has written a new book about him. -- robert merry. >> of mary, in your book, -- bob merry, you talk about a senator named tibetan. -- named benton.
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why? >> he was a big man at the time. he was so representing in missouri in the senate forced 30 years. he was a powerful figure. he wrote a massive memoir after that, which historians have been using for a century and a half. he was very powerful during that time. ñr>> the story about the dual audience and do jackson never ceases to amaze me. what was the story? >> they were very close. there were a lot of tools and tennessee in those days when jackson was relatively young girl. he consented to be the second of a friend of his. jesse took a bullet to the buttocks, which proved
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embarrassing. as a result of that, they were trashing jackson's name all over national. jackson did not like that. he took himself quite seriously. he went after the two of them with a riding with. jackson was wounded in the soldier. he was lying in the street of national bleeding profusely. and realize that given the fact that jackson was the hero of tennessee, that he better get out of dodge. he left national and went to missouri and rose up to beat missouri stop politician for 30 years. >> is this that incident that resulted in him walking around with a bullet in his shoulder for the rest of his life? >> that was one of the incidents. i will say that jackson and benton became allies.
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they sought to eye on most things, and they were buried together on most of the big issues of the day. >> another senator that you write about duffy was a senator. >> correct. he was a protege of john c. calhoun. he had flirted with the idea that states should succeed in from the union. states could nullify a federal law as they did not like. jackson said that is panama to succession. he said he is sending troops down to hang any traders.
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he quashed the nullification movement. those centers, especially from south carolina, where very wary of the federal government. make up the -- mcduffy never came to heal. the democratic party was much closer to the republican party today. i happen to believe that the 20th-century president that was most like jackson was ronald reagan. and the 20th century president who was most like jackson's rival, henry clay, was franklin roosevelt. they were both great patriots. they hated each other, but loved america. they had nothing but the greatest designs for america's
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future. clay believes in the concentration of power in washington. whereas jackson believes the power should beñi spread out amg the people as much as possible. in those days they would talk about strict construction. all the democrats were in favor of strict constitution. that is a republican phrase today. small government is a government phrase. >> we should really throw out the labels. what was the moment that led you to write a book about james polk? >> i love that question because it gives me an opportunity to note that this was not my idea. the idea came from my editorçó o is legendary in publishing circles as someone who loves and narrative history and his passion for american history.
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he asked me during a discussion i was having comment she said we will come up something -- what do you know about this mexican war? i said i love politics. give me a couple of weeks to figure out how i would shake it. i did. that is how it got started. >> i think i have seen alice mayhew once. she will not sit for an interview. what is she like? t coh>> she is so smart and passionate. she is very opinionated and direct. she is a wonderful character. she has been in publishing for i don't know how many decades. it is wonderful working for her. >> " was her reaction when you
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went back to her with your suggestion? a lot of tough questions. she wanted to make sure i had it shaped right. so i went back and wrote the memo. then she seemed to like it. then she seemed to leave me on my own. i was nervous because in my previous books that editors had read them are roum along the wa. >> what did she want to change? >> i think there was a question of making sure the narrative had enough to drive in the characters were coming in -- i do not remember the exact details. >> how did you come about this? >> ha i had to shake my effort
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carefully. i read a lot of newspapers. i read the "daily globe." i read the papers pretty much like i would read "the new york times." >> at your computer? >> it is not convenient at the computer because of the print out requirement. ñii go to a flurry of congress - i go to the library of congress and read it there. i put them in files and tried to figure out how the narrative goes. and of course letters.
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they were published in multiple volumes. he kept a diary during the presidency. i pretty much had to memorize the diary. he poured his heart into the diary. he was feeling beset by his political opponents a lot of the time. i was able to get a little bit of a light into it that way. >> paint a picture of him physically as a person. >> not an imposing man particularly. she was a relatively medium height. he was about 5 feet 8 inches. henry clay was a lanky and tall. he did not have that. i would describe him as a small in stature. he did not like people very
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much. she was somewhat who self righteous. -- she was somewhat self righteous. people did not gravitate toward him. what he had that led people to underestimate him was an amazing will and determination to bring about what ever called or a piece set for himself. he was driven. he was always working in conniving and thinking and they carried out how to move things forward towards the democratic aim. he succeeded john tyler. john tyler succeeded the president william henry. she was a young president.
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he became a lake. he was elected vice president and succeeded the presidency. -- he became a whig. -- he was a young president. what he did that was remarkable and did was he initiated negotiations with texasxdxd thad declared the independence from mexico 10 years earlier to bring taxes into the united states. that, in my view really led to the kind of explosion of expansion of sentiment in america. >> who was right after him? >> zachary taylor. pulte had been his commander in chief. --çó polk had been his commander
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in chief. my own view of taylor was that she strategically was limited. he got himself in a lot of scrapes. technically brilliant. therefore manage to get his armies out of the scrapes and unfortunate circumstances. >> he was ofa whig. ñr>> that was another reason why he did not like him. he did not trust them. >> in those days, ahwhat did a whig stand for? pico they were more in favor of concentration and power in washington. -- >> they were more in favor of
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concentration and power in washington. while was emerging was an increasing consciousness and concern about the slavery issue. the big party was really -- the whig party was more of the vanguard on pushing on the slave issue. if you go to massachusetts, those evolutionist were largely whigs. >> how many slaves did he owns? >> that is a great question. i did not go into that. ñii did not get into him as a slave owner or personal life to the extent he would have liked.
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i think it is a fair criticism. >> what is donald cram writing a review on your book? >> i wrote a book and we talked about that. ñrhe was like his uncle. he was the godfather. he liked that book a lot. he took an interest in the fact that i was writing this book in seem to like the book of lot. he decided to review it. i was very pleased to have him do it. >> i have a clip from the interview you and i had. >> does bill clinton have relationship with any news person? >> i do not know that he does. i do not believe he does.
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what did you take what you found all the letters -- what did you think when you found all the letters? >> it should not go on. i think that most journalists and most other people who read this book will say there are a lot of transgressions. this guy is purporting to be a detached analytical newsman and his release snuggling up to a lot of his sources. he was a columnist. he was not an objective reporter giving facts. he was a columnist, so that would be part of his defense no doubt. almost from the very beginning, she got very close to his sources, and probably most people would say to close. >> here we are many years later, donald graham runs the washington post. is there any way to relate him
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back to the dais at jameys of j? >> those were the days of the partisan press. they had to have a newspaper that was the spokesperson, his mouthpiece. he had a real problem when he became president because the daily globe, which had been the main democratic newspaper since jackson did not really like him much. it was run by a francis blare of the famous player stanley. >> is that the blair house? >> a lincolnñi had player in his cabinet. -- her lincoln had a blair and his cabinet. -- lincoln had a blair in his
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cabinet. the problem was his great mentor, and derrick jackson, lovrew jackson, loved balir. what is the difference between donald graham danand blair? >> there is set lisa significant pretense and desire to reach for opt activity in the newspapers. we do not always live up to that successfully, but that is the rule that we try to follow. donald gramm is of that tradition. >> you went to the university of
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washington and the university of columbia. you grope for something called -- you wrote for something called "the national observer." it was a weekly newspaper. >> most people thought the writing was sparkling. i loved working for it. on the last date of june, 1977, the chairman of dow jones took a helicopter down from new york to tell us they were closing it down. >> what did you do after that? >> i ended up congressional quarterly as managing editor. i spent 2.5 years at that job and seven years as executive
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editor in 12 years as ceo and president and turned cheap at congressional quarterly. >> it was owned by the newspaper. it was sold recently to what organization? >> the economist group of london. they focus on congress. the economist emerge tod and hao ceo's for one news organization i was the one standing when the v-6 stopped. on august 4, at 4:15 my dad came to an end -- my job came to an end. >> polk promise somewhere
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she would be only there for one term. >>-- promised he would ñionly be there for one term. >> he did not believe an entrenched power in washington. honda one terms did in to that philosophy. i think that is frivolous because his great mentor served two terms and no one raised questions about that. more significantly, she emerged in a party -- he emerged in a party. this was at the time of the party was populated by eight ambitious eight years. -- figures.
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john c tell him and one of the democratic nomination. his fear was if they thought he was going to be in the presidency for eight years there was no way they would get behind him in the election of 1844. >> how many political jobs did he have before he became president? >> elected to congress at age 25. he rose up to be the chairman of the ways and means committee. i covered tax policy. i never thought about him during those years. served as speaker for two terms. then he went back to tennessee and ran for governor. he did not want to do it.
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the democrats were losing power and force in tennessee hospira. he goes back and becomes governor. he runs up against a young at 30 year-old upstart from the backwoods of tennessee. he went by the names of lean jimmie jones. he did not take things seriously. he prided himself on mastery of all the issues that the state faced and here is jimmy prancing around him and the debates. at one point, he thinks his brand of politics is more suited to a circus.
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lean jimmy knocks them out. now his career is really stunted. he had been on the side of history and injured jackson. two years later he ran again hoping to get the government back. lean jimmy one again. at which point, he looks finished. his only hope to resurrect his career was to catch the vice- presidential nomination. so he tries to get the vice- presidential nomination. that did not go very well. i note that tyler began the annexation of texas. three things happened. the country galvanized behind that idea and the idea that the
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expansion to the specifipacific. henry clay came out against it, and it really destroyed the presidential prospects of the yen. and clay. -- it really destroyed presidential prospects for a van buren and clay. >> van buren had been president what years? >> he was elected in 1936. he was defeated in 1940. >> you wanted to run again. he was a democrat. you mentioned terex earlier. any party today want to put tariffs into the mix? >> they are a big issue today as
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a free trader position versus people who are called protectionist. that continues with us today, but there in mind that was the primary source of revenue for our country in those days. we did not have an income tax. this was a little bit like the income tax issue today with regard to rates. the republicans are always in favor of reducing the rates. the wigs are largely wanted higher tariff rates and democrats not so much. like a lot of these issues, there was any geographical component. in pennsylvania where there was a lot of industrialization they wanted high tariffs to protect themselves against imports. in the south if you wanted lower tariffs because she did not want the complications in trade regarding sending agricultural goods overseas.
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>> , a lot of the people to talk about in the book today you see their names everywhere. did dallas do anything in history? >> he was elected vice president. >> how did that happen? >> he was from the north. in those days you had to of both. he did not antagonize anyone. he was kind of a non-entity. he had a serious career but not a hugely distinguished career prior to that. i have no idea what happened to him afterwards. >> if you point out he was the dundas history and president until that time. theyou point at that he was the
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youngest in history at that time. -->> the mexican war, which he maneuvered the country into and presided over for two years, he thought it would be a brief war. is that his political standing -- it zapped his political standing. she died most likely of cholera. -- he that most likely of cholera. >> what did he do? >> he was on his way back to tennessee. he bought a beautiful home in nashville that had been
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previously owned by philip condi, a very prominent lead tl. he was sickly towards the end of his presidency and all the way on his journey back to tennessee. he then began to revive a little bit. he was refurbishing this house and then he took a turn for the worse. very quickly he died. >> where was he born? >> born in north carolina. moved at age of 11 to tennessee with his family. that was a real pioneer place in those times. it was dangerous. a man or woman or child of the caucasian race was killed. it was very dangerous.
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his family had become quite prominent and lands. they speculated in plant in north carolina and made a fair amount of money. they went to tennessee with what they earn their. they were quite prominent. they were very friendly with andrew jackson and all of the high-and society at national and tennessee during that time. >> how did he meet sarah? >> her brother had been a classmate of polk's. she met her at a reception or party -- he met her at a reception or party and saw her reflection in the mirror and was immediately smitten with that in the cheese sauce. he made his way to find her but through the crowd he lost her.
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when he finally found her he was wishe was with her brother. they were together ever since. >> he graduated from the university of north carolina. did he have a law degree? >> he became a lawyer. he studied liberal arts and sciences and was graduated no. 1 in both, but in those days i do not think you believe majored in anything in particular. you studied the curriculum of liberal arts. >> you took three years to do this book. when did you change your mind about anything you thought you believed about him? >> i knew very little about him. that was not a big thing. i think what struck me was my
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friend ken bacon read my manuscript as it was being produced to give me guidance and counsel along the way and he describes him as a smaller than ambitions. i love that phrase. i think what struck me about him is that i did not really understand who he was in terms of his temperament and personality. adman so limited in so many ways could be so successful as a president. >> you have a pretty good reviews. -- you have gotten some pretty good reviews. >> i knew david. uighur competitors. > -- we were competitors. >> did you know shaun williams?
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>> i never met him. i knew his reputation. i was very pleased to get good words from him. >> key said this is a refreshing challenge to the new conventional wisdom. he was an impressionisn ambition is. >> i believe that worldthe dream really exploded on the american scene. there had never really been a country that dominated and the entire continent and positioned itself to dominate to oceanwo o. houlihan at the louisiana purchase. now texas moving towards the
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pacific. we had an opportunity to get an exception gephar significant pi. and i think that what he is saying is that he was the instrument of the sentiment that emerged. he emerged very powerful league in america, largely as a result of the annexation of texas. >> ñiyou said you were reading e diary. did you read it and printed form or in long yen form? >> i get frustrated reading the handwriting of people from the 19th century. it was published by the chicago
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public library. i went over it very carefully. >> i access it on google. did you read it all? >> yes. i read it all multiple times. i came very close to memorizing it. >> of sick was a? >> each one was 500 pages. -- how thick was it? >> he got very upset with the secretary of state. the interesting thing about him in his controversies with buchanan was his ability -- inability to fire the man.
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he was called cowardly face to face. i think that was not an unfair characterization. nevertheless, -- > >> talk about the diary itself. how much did he do everyday? did you get any senseñi on the time of day she wrote in the? >> he started the diary because he was upset because of the confrontation with the cannon. he goes home and writes the whole thing out. he says now that i have done this i think i will continue to do it. sometimes it would be brief and other whatimes it would be fourr
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five pages. it was a tremendous undertaking because obviously she was a very busy man, but he was a workaholic. she would -- he when right these entries late into the night. >> how many people in history have read the entire diary? >> mostly historians. you see evidence of it in any historian who is writing about that time. it has been picked over pretty thoroughly. >> , at what point in your research did you read the diary? >> i tend to do this in stages. the first year i took him up until the point when he was elected. i researched and wrote that.
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he then next year i researched the remainder of the presidency, which was the main central part of the book. then i got into the diary at that point. >> what did you start 2 cents in reading the diary about him as a person in a brighteand writer? >> she was a sanctimonious man. he had a certain self pity and qualiing quality. -- he was a sanctimonious man. that was the theme that ran through the diary. sometimes not in very appetizing ways. the interesting thing about him
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it was he never seemed -- he tended to abhosee alternative motives in his opponents. he always thought there was an unfortunate motive and these people. most of the sanctimonious presidents have been failures. john quincy adams was one. george w. bush, in my view, it was a sanctimonious man. woodrow wilson was a a sanctimonious man. sanctimony at that level of politics tends to be a trait that causes problems. he was probably the most successful. people argue about woodrow while
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seilson. >> you talk about people that i wanted to expand on -- gadahjohn quincy adams approached. what did he do when james was inaugurated president? >> he had a chance to be in the inaugural procession, which she had no intention of doing because he was very upset about the election. he despised andrew jackson. now we had jackson's protege, who was not a giant of his time. it was a rainy day that day. quincy adams watched from a distance and then made comments
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in his diary. t coh>> he has the tiny writing. where did they keep the diary? >> at the library of congress. >> how did henry clay relate to him? the scene in the oval office or whatever office at the time where she came to visit him and why did he visit? >> i do not think i know. it is a touching scene to me. i think it is the most touching scene in the book. henry clay had been a great opponent of jackson democracy, the jackson democrats, all of his life. he had sought the presidency three times. three times supported. -- thrarawted.
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he had a young son killed in the war. you think that would be enough that henry clay would never want to go near james polk. he stops by on a courtesy call. polk goes down to the parlor and says i was not sure you would be pleased to receive me, mr. president, but my friends have told me i should come to see you. they had this beautiful byplay. then polk has a dinner for clay a few days later. it is a really lovely scene. >> where did you find the
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details on this? >> in the diary. i mix a couple of things. allan nevins has this episode, but he has a in a different setting, a dinner in which clay and his very elaborate manner lays a lovely complement among mrs. polk. nevin says this at a dinner. he has a more robust description of what was actually said so i combine that. why could have taken -- i could
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have taken a more clipped rendition of the play so i put the two together with a note that explains how i did that. >> and other journalists of note was here five years ago. >> he would have been right at home in today's acidic washington political environment. i think he would have been up to the needles and digs and knives that are real did. -- that are weilded. he was a man for his time. there is very critica little thu could say he left.
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both of the administration's, harrison and the taylor administration, were interrupted by the deaths of the president said. he did a great deal. >> what do yo(/ñr think? do you agree? >> one interesting highlight, the book that he wrote was part of the american president series that was put together. he told me when we talked about this that the only thing that was to be changed was that he thought he slighted the idea of the mexican warñi.
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sessa injured a lead that was a more serious movement -- sussenger believe that was a more serious movement. my research indicates it was this the better get byplay during ahcmrtain point of the mexican war. -john has an exactly right. i think john has it exactly right. he was very good at attempting to alpha maneuver his rivals on the scene. >> or does that say that today's politics are a lot more difficult and uncivil, what do you say to them? >> there are various times in the history where politics have
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been just as nasty and better as we are experiencing today. many americans are a little uncomfortable with a brand of politics that we're waiting through, at we have gone through that. the early part of the republic when people were writing pamphlets were very nasty and bitter. every single lead the up to the civil war. -- everything that leading edge to the civil war. -- everything leading up to teh he civil war. there is only one constant and that is human nature. >> on the administration did give him credit for making decisions and having
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accomplishments. acquire california from mexico, acquired organ from britain, reduced tariff rates in create an independent treasury to ensure currency stability. >> during the jackson era there was a big issue at the bank of the united states, which was a bank that was created by the government to be the repository of federal money and attempt to ensure currency stability. jackson killed the bank. >> they would hate what is going on right now. >> in many ways. at the same time, everyone understood there had to be some sort of agency for currency stability. jackson basically put it into
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serious state banks ahvarious s. the independent treasury was an effort to create stoca governmet entity that would take care of those things. john notes in his book that lasted until the creation of the federal reserve. it was not a trivial accomplishment. tariff rates were a natural democratic position that was not surprising. getting oregon territory was a natural thing. for 26 years the united states and britain had been negotiating where to draw the line. >> how many states would have been involved? >> corrigan territory went up
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and to british columbia and other parts of canada. polk said that we basically stake out our claim to all of oregon. the british went crazy. they said it would be too bored. a lot of americans were worried that we would go to war. at the last minute he offered a compromise that brought the border crossing at the 49 parallel and down around vancouver island so the british could have all of into islands. -- could have all of vancouver island. mostly midwesterners.
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people from around the great lakes who wanted all of oregon because they saw a natural trading relationship between that part of the country and their own and they wanted all of oregon territory, which went up to 5440. polk disappointed them. to get the congress was controlled by what party at that time? -->> the congress was controlled by what party? >> it was controlled by democrats at the beginning of the presidency. >> the one thing we have not talked about is we acquired california from mexico, but what does that mean? >> california was part of mexico.
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i believe that as soon as -- he never said this publicly, but as soon as he said he wanted to acquire california, that is a tipoff that he intended, if necessary, to have a war with mexico in order to get california. other presidents have tried and the mexicans were not interested. i think that tips of the astute pursuer of the events that he was prepared for an even willing to maneuver the united states into war with mexico in order to bring about the expansion. >> used 32 bring up that abraham lincoln's speech after the war was over. i want to read the last line. -- you spurred me to bring up
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that abraham lincoln speech after the war was over. he may be able to show there is not something about his conscious more painful than all of his mental complexity. a little hard to understand. what was he getting at? >> in any war you have very emotional sentiments and very emotional debates, and begin was sirhlincoln was a whig. in looking at lincoln in his t!biography, it is a little bit ironic that he would be so of course to the war on moral grounds when he became of for president -- became a war
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president. in a review of my book it is suggested that the lincoln speech and other speeches along the same lines could be contributing ball more to lead- in's partisanship -- more to lincoln's partisanship. it was assumed that a group of people in illinois in the district would trade off of the district but he wanted to remain in washington. even if his colleagues in illinois had wanted him to, his opposition to polk had destroyed his prospect of having another term. >> very little time to get into
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the mexican war. what did he have to do with that and what was the end result? >> when we end next -- and nexn texas, mexico thought of that as war. now we have texas and mexico withdraws the ambassador. this leads to huge tensions between the united states and mexico. he sends an army to the rio grande. a skirmish breaks out. 11 americans are killed. he goes to congress and said they us build american blood among the american soil.
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american blood among the american soil. the mexicans were are proud people and would not negotiate. they never won a battle but did not negotiate until the very end. the war dragged on for two years and became a major issue. do you remember how much it costs this country? >> i have it in the fall. -- book. i think it might be in the neighborhood of 17,000 lives, many through disease. >> " was the population in the country? >> i believe the population in the united states would have been somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 million, but again, i am not very good with figures anymore. >> anymore? >> i used to be better. >> what is your plan now?
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>> i have been looking for another horse to ride. i think within a week or two i will be in position to announce that i will become an executive of another publishing company. >> what about writing books? if you had to choose a character that you learned about in this book to write another book on, was there anyone big enough for you and who would it be? >> no one struck by 50 in terms of the next book. i have a bigger idea. -- no one struck my fancy in terms of the next book. i think it will be something related to the run up of the civil war. >> millipore personality and james -- knowing your
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personality and james personality, how would you have gotten along at a dinner? >> he just was not much fun. as a reporter, i probably would have gotten along with him because he would have been a good source. sanctimonious people are generally not good sources to reporters. i am not sure i would have liked a lot, but i think i would have admired him in many ways. >> the book is about james polk. thank you very much. >> for a dvd copy of the program, call the number on your
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screen. for a three transcripts or to give us your comments about this program, visit us on the web. q&a programs are also available at c-span3 podcast podcasts. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2009] but >> coming up, we will take your questions and comments. at 10:00 come at last night's senate debate on health care. >> this morning steve forbes talks about his latest book. bruce frieeed with his efforts o


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