tv Politics Public Policy Today CSPAN October 28, 2011 8:00pm-9:00pm EDT
>> gov. thomas e. dewey which is over california on his campaign around the nation. striking at communist elements in government, the gop leader draws big audiences. the next step is portland, oregon with mrs. dewey by his side. he makes another stirring bid -- he has at least one ardent supporter. those are some of the region's finest specimens. we will know soon. in november is just around the corner. president truman continues his swing around the circuit. the chief executive get a president. he writes to the home of his own -- his old friend cactus
-- aand it's a war record warm welcome on route to. he visits the alamo. the historic shrine of texas independence. in austin, a big crowd to greet the president as he continues his campaign for the lone star state's 23 electoral votes. on his tour, the president spoke and visited with sam rayburn, former soup -- former speaker of the house. in fort worth, to try to bring the southern vote back into line. >> "dewey defeats truman," the famous headline from the 1948 presidential campaign. as we know,. truman won the election. his rival, thomas e. dewey had to accept defeat.
we are live from the roosevelt hotel in nyc, which in november posted the republican headquarters and thomas dewey's campaign. he used this we whenever he was in new york during 12 years of governor. he and his family and the closest aides gathered in this room on election night. corning me is richard norton smith. it is november 2, 1948 at the roosevelt hotel. what happens here? >> well, the day began with a virtual unanimity in the nation's press corps that this election was over. it was thomas e. dewey's to lose. there were pollsters who had stopped polling after labor day. they were so convinced there was no contest.
gov. dewey and mrs. do we want to vote at midday not too far from here. he got out of his car and decided to walk back to the hotel. reporters thought it was a good sign. he was a new dewey,a warmer dewey that people have seen on the campaign trail. they had an election night tradition of having dinner with their friends, robert strauss who was a publisher. the family went there for an early dinner. while they were there, some disturbing returns came in from connecticut in particular. thomas dooley had relied along the accountants as much as anyone else, almost -- always
had a respect for the numbers. the numbers were a little out of sync with what the pollsters had predicted. that was at the beginning of the night long ordeal in this suite. the secret service had sent to their top agents here. they thought thomas dooley was going to be president like everyone else. it went on and on. it out to 3:00 in the morning, the agents began to slip away. that was their nonverbal way of communicating a truly historic upset was taking place. at one point before dawn, the governor of new york pulled his head through the door and said it to a friend, what do you know? the little son of a bitch won. his former -- his formal concession came later in the day. >> before we get to that point where he looks out of the sweet and sees a secret service is
gone, there is a confidence at the roosevelt hotel. describe that. >> the confidence was based upon, very understandably, based upon the fact there was a consensus among people on the right, people on the left, not only that thomas e. dewey was going to win. this is what is fascinating. when you see the iconic image come up thomas e. dewey is known as the man who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. if you go back and read the contemporary press, everybody from drew pearson to walt whitman, then not only expected him to win, they had praise for the campaign he had run. they thought it was high minded, and they had a lot of criticism for the campaign harry truman ran against him. it is an example of how a snapshot of history can be
superseded very quickly. >> we want to show our viewers from that night early on when the returns are starting to come and, thomas e. dewey's campaign manager and the confidence they had early on. take a look. >> champagne flows freely. victory is in the air. the first returns had truman in the lead, but republicans are not worried. and then he brings good news secured >> we now know that governor do we will carry new york state by 50,000 votes and he will be the next president of the united states. [applause] >> white were republicans are confident they could get the white house in 1948? >> by the way, carrying york state was no small feat.
it was the first time in 20 years of republican had managed to do it. new york was the cradle of the new deal. for him to announce that and it predicted based upon that that victory was in the air, that was perfectly understandable. 1948 -- what we did not know going into 1948, america had become a new deal country. the death of franklin roosevelt had ended one presidency. the approaching government, the expectation that government would be more involved in insuring prosperity, the government would be used to fight economic downturns as the new deal had in the 30's and 40's. whether or not he believed in the success of those efforts, the assumption was that when fdr
died, the new deal died with him. the set of expectations -- the relationship between the average american and his government which had been transformed by the new deal, that was not the case. on election day in 1948, a americans enjoyed record prosperity, record employment. the reasons the republicans in spite of that thought they could win was very simple -- here truman. we forget today that here a true man in his first term was a very unpopular president. there was talk about the little man from missouri. truman had a very difficult assignment. every president after a war has a process of readjusting economically, culturally, the agriculture sector. inflation, strikes -- all of
that came due on here trimming's watch. the consensus in 1946 and 1947 was he did not handle it very well. it was so bad the republicans to congress in 1946 which only fed their expectation that the presidency would fall into their lap two years later. >> how are republicans viewing the truman administration at this point? >> that is a great question. the problem as there was no such thing as the republicans. that was part of thomas e. dewey's problem. the party was evenly split between what is called the eastern establishment, the old teddy roosevelt wing of the party. charles hughes was in that tradition. thomas e. dewey represented that. opposed to that were the conservatives, but westerners,
many of them isolationists who rallied around bob rttaft. he had precipitated the split. that never really healed. when republicans took congress, it was the conservatives who became the face of the party. on the other hand, you had people like thomas e. dewey, many of the governors who were much less cost out to the new deal, much more willing to work with its promises. >> thomas e. dewey is our contender to night. he ran, he lost, but he changed history anyway. here he is launching his campaign in 1948 and the criticism he has of the truman administration. >> on january 20, we will enter in a new era.
there will begin in washington the biggest on raveling, on spiraling operation and our nation's history. >> what do you make of what he says there? >> that does to his strength and the perception after a's witness. thomas e. dewey had been governor of new york for several years. he had untangled it, on traveled a lot of bureaucratic cobwebs. he had taken what many people would see as a hybrid of conservative and liberal ideas to make government more responsive, in some ways to make it smaller. taxes were reduced to make it from the year to the private sector. when he had done in new york, he proposed to do on the national level.
one critical element that sets thomas e. dewey apart his civil rights. he is in the forefront on that issue. new york state is the first state in america to pass anti- discrimination legislation. thomas e. dewey took them very seriously. it did not meet with universal agreement, even with republicans in new york. >> we are talking about thomas e. dewey's campaign. we will be joined a little bit later by his son, thomas e. dewey, jr. we will be taking your phone calls this evening. you can start dialing in startrichard norton smith. we are working our way back. let's go to the fall campaign and the issues that are there. is hillary truman popular?
>> he is not popular at the beginning of the campaign. it is a reversal of what we see now. people were content with record high employment, but they did not attribute it to harry truman. also, global issues were eight huge factor here. one of the things that truman has been criticized in retrospect but at the time was widely praised was running a campaign of national unity in which he tried -- first of all, the idea of bipartisan foreign policy is part of thomas e. dewey's political allegis -- legacy. it is something that began in the 1944 campaign. he supported truman on the airlift to berlin. he supported truman on recognizing the state of israel. at the same time, he wanted to increase the defense budget by $5 billion. there is no doubt he would have
been -- he supported the marshall plan, but he would have asked more questions before just turning american tax dollars over two left-wing governments in europe. it was a campaign that in many ways is what we claim we want in a candidates. it was not hitting below the belt, there were not a lot of possible -- personalities, there were not a lot of name- calling. >> is that showing up in the polls? in a do we vs. truman hypothetical? >> the popular notion is that thomas e. dewey drowned in a sea of complacency. he was taken by surprise by what happened in the suite that night. the fact is, he knew. he was the first candidates to have a full-time polling unit as
part of his campaign. he listened to the pollsters. he had an appreciation of their art. he was well aware of the fact his lead was slipping. there were people who came to him in the last 10 days of the campaign and he acknowledged that the lead was slipping. to one of them, he said "never talk when you are a had a." >> what happens next then? are the democrats behind truman? are they solid behind -- >> i will tell you who was solid behind it true men. one of the factors behind the loss, they had organized labor which they saw as an attack on many of the rights and privileges that had developed under the new deal. it put thomas e. dewey in an awkward position. by and large, he agreed with much of the bill. at the same time, he is governor
of new york. this is a labor state. this is a liberal state. in some ways, he was walking on a fine line. what it did was organize labor has nothing ever did. 1948 was the single election in which organized labor played the biggest role throughout america. in race after race after race, the democratic ticket ran a head of here truman in part because of his relative unpopularity and also because organized labor turned out in record numbers and voted democratic. >> or the other players in the democratic party at this time? >> you have four candidates in the 1948 election. you have former vice president henry wallace who believes that truman has started the cold war. truman is a tune to the possibility of peace with the
soviet union. on the foot -- on the far right, you have thurman who walked out of the democratic convention because a young man introduced and passed a pro civil rights plank. so the conventional wisdom was, this would hurt truman. he would lose votes on the left, he would lose votes on the right. in fact what it did was, it made. trim and a man in the middle. neither thurman or wallace turned out to have anywhere near the impact it was believed it would have. >> the economy at the time, what is it like? >> the economy is truman's great strength. as i say, record employment. more than that, what he did very shortly in his campaign, he does to thomas e. dewey what he
did to the republican congress. the fact of the matter was, a democratic president riding the crest of prosperity in the fall of 1948 could point a finger at the republican congress and in the fact suggest people. truman was not bashful about doing it. if you return republicans to complete control of the white house and congress, you can expect to see a return to the economic policies that produced the great depression. it was not that long since the great depression. people to talk members were very sharp. that came into play without a doubt. >> what about the role of communism? >> it is fascinating. truman had taken some heat for introducing this charge that fdr had inadvertently allowed congress to take root in his administration. in 1948, i think we have a --
the first nationally broadcast presidential debate revolved around one issue. shall the communist party in america be outlawed? thomas e. dooley, takes the civil libertarian view that, no, it should not be outlawed for reasons he expounded. his opponent took the position that it should be outlawed. it was a turning point. that is also the same year that do we have to figure out how to handle the issue. >> we are going to get to that debate a little bit later coming up. first i want to show our viewers what tom dewey had to say about communists in 1948. >> some >jeer at the problem
calling it a red herring. some people get panicky about it. i do not belong to either of those groups. we must neither ignore or outlaw them. if we ignore them, we give them the of unity that they want. if we all love them, we give them the marty down that they want even more. we well in the government we get to last january -- we will keep the american people informed or there are, who they are, and what they are up to. >> that is classic dewey. that is very much what his approach was. it raises the fascinating prospect that had he been
elected in 1948, we would have never heard of joe mccarthy. mccarthyism would have never entered the language. senator mccarthy, who was in many ways a product of republican frustration over losing an election that they thought was a sure thing. tom dewey was a political boss, other things. he would have controlled the republican party nationally. i can tell you, he would have never allowed a joe mccarthy to rear his head. >> we talk some domestic issues -- we talked some international issues. >> we are well into the cold war. dweey is supportive of the marshall plan. he supports nato.
to some degree, he had put in america's economy on a cold war footing. dewey is supportive of all that. if anything, he thinks we need to spend more money on defenses. he thinks we have neglected conservative forces. for example, charles de gaulle who is out of power in preference -- in france. he thinks a creed of american diplomacy could put people like that to good use. >> how does he differ from the other prominent republicans in the party at that time? who are they? >> bob taft, mr. republican from ohio, is fair to say he was the champion of the isolationist
wing of the republican party. that is to say, the wind profoundly suspicious of international organizations like the u. n. suspicious of litter on the korean war. suspicious of projecting american military power around the world as opposed to building up a american defenses here at home. former president herbert hoover would have been in that camp as well. the thomas e. dewey is somebody who had morphed. from a young man, he had been an isolationist. one of the interesting things is to watch him become a committed internationalists and a champion of bipartisan foreign policy. >> given that, what is the impact of that attitude on all of his presidential bid? he runs in 1940, 1944, 1948.
>> i think it was safe to say it was statesmanlike. it did not win him any votes. in 1944 there was a significant conflict between thomas e. dewey and fdr. they disagreed over the united nations. specifically, would the united nations have an army that it could employ a without first securing the permission of member states at the united states? franklin d. roosevelt said, yes, he supported that. thomas e. dooley was not supportive of that. he said later on that history was proven i was right. >> to talk about the divide in the republican party over international issues. do they come back together in temper the 1948 campaign? taft and dewey winds come back
together? >> it was very shrewd on his part to see that as the achilles heel. to try to almost eliminate dewey and suggest if you vote for this man that we are right to get is the midwest conservative republican party. to be fact,dewey did very little. him and taft despise each other. their rivalry is one of the great intellectual contests in american history. it is about something. it is not just about personal ambition. it is about a different view of the world, different view of government at home, a different view of what the republican party stands for, a different view of what abraham lincoln's
legacy is. >> tonight we are coming to you live from the roosevelt hotel here in new york city to talk about thomas dewey. this is our 14th week series. our first phone call is brian in springfield, illinois. go ahead. >> thank you so much for the series. mr. smith, we still miss you here in springfield. i had a question about 1952. i remember reading about and illinois senator who was a taft supporter and a convention here in chicago. he went up to nominate taft and wag his finger at dewey who said you had led us down the wrong
path twice. of course he lost to eisenhower. what role did he play convincing people to play -- to select nixon, and what kind of role that he play in the campaign? >> he was instrumental in getting eisenhower into the race. i will tell you a story. at this point, eisenhower was over in paris as the commander of nato. he really did not want to leave. he did not want to sully himself by campaigning actively for the nomination. at one point,dewey wrote a letter. no copy exists. his secretary for years told me this story. he writes the letter, she mailed it. it in it, do we says that if you don't come home and actively seek the nomination, my fear is that the delegates will
nominate douglas macarthur. that was the ultimate hot button to push with eisenhower. three shortly after the letter was received, he heard the call of duty and came home. we talk about the split between taft and dewey, it was never more dramatic than that night when he whacked his finger at dewey and said you took us down the road of defeat twice. dewey had the evidence because the next night he was able to announce 87 delegates for eisenhower. finally, he was more responsible than anyone else for richard nixon been on the ticket. he spotted him as a young talent in 1948. he brought into new york to speak at the annual dinner of the republican party.
he sat down, he took the cigarette holder out of his mouth. he said, making a promise. don't get fat. don't be lazy trade some day you can be president. >> we will go back to those moments later on in the show. the will talk about his legacy and what he was able to accomplish even though he was not successful for the white house. first, let's hear from a shell from kansas city, missouri. >> giddy dewey campaign actually exploit his ties with the organization in kansas city? some of the things they did back then helped him get in the position he was at. thank you. >> that is a very good question. no, they did not. that was part of dewey's approach which was very consciously to stay away from personal attacks, to keep this thing on a very high plane.
some would say vapid, content free. bearing little resemblance to modern attack campaigns. >> let's go back to the primary. we worked our way back, fall campaign, general election. let's go to the primary. set the stage for us. who else is running? >> well, of course, bob taft is running and has a substantial following, not just in the midwest, but throughout the country. harold stasesson, who, before he became something of a comical figure, who ran every four years to various levels of disdain, was, in fact, a very formidable candidate. and then you had arthur from michigan who reminded a lot of people of the old fred allen character, senator foghorn. he was the quintessential sort of potbellied and pompous -- but
he'd become a statesman. arthur vandenberg had undergone this conversion from isolationist internationalist tom dewey was to emulate, so you had -- it was a pretty distinguished field and it was by no means a sure thing. other person who wanted to run although he never formally announced his candidacy, was douglas mcarthur who was in the jungles of asia but his agent in wisconsin saw to it that his name was on the ballot and of course, one other candidate, who went to wisconsin, and saw his campaign end there, was the 1940 nominee of the party, wendell wilke. >> let's talk about the impact of the oregon primary and the debate you touched on earlier. why is it important? >> it's important for a number of reasons. first of all, i'm sure it's on youtube, i'm sure it's easy to
get. anyone who is watching what passes for debates at the moment among the republican candidates, or, quite frankly, who has watched the fall "debates" in recent years between the opposing parties, i would just urge you, go and listen to the duey stassen debate. it is as close in a modern context to lincoln-douglas as anything could be. it is not a collection of sound bites. on the contrary, it is an opportunity -- i believe it was an hour -- for these two men to develop thoughtful, opposing viewpoints on a very critical and very polarizing issue in america, and to do it in a way that raised the public standard of discourse as opposed to lowering it. >> we have a little bit of that debate. let's listen in and we'll talk about it. >> there's no such thing as a constitutional right to destroy all constitutional rights.
there's no such thing as a freedom to destroy freedom. the right of man to liberty is inherent in the nature of man. to win it, and to maintain it requires courage and sacrifice and it also requires intelligence and realism and determination in the establishment of the laws and the systems of justice to serve mankind. i submit that the communist organization in america and in the freedom loving countries of the world should be outlawed. >> here's an issue of the height principle in practical application. people of this country are asked to outlaw communism. that means this, shall we in america, in order to defeat a
totalitarian system which we detest, voluntarily adopt the method of that system? i want the people of the united states to know exactly where i stand on this proposal, because it goes to the very heart of the qualification of any candidate for office and to the inner nature of the kind of a country we want to live in. i am unalterably, wholeheartedly, unswervingly against any scheme to write laws outlawing people because of their religious, political, social or economic ideas. i'm against it because it's a violation of the constitution of the united states and of the bill of rights, and clearly so. i'm against it because it's immoral and nothing but totalitarianism itself. i'm against it because i know, from a great many years experience in the enforcement of the law, that the proposal wouldn't work, and, instead, it would rapidly advance the cause of communism in the united
states and all over the world. >> richard norton smith, what's the impact of this debate on dewey's primary bid? >> in the immediate sense, it won him the victory in oregon which was absolutely critical. he had fallen behind. he had gone in as the pre-emptive favorite, having been the nominee in 1944, and then stassen had done well in the early primaries so it all came down to this extraordinarily dramatic confrontation over this one issue. that's dewey at his best. and there are a lot of people after the fact who thought, if he had only talked like that with that degree of specificity and conviction and credibility, until november of 1948, that maybe the result of the election would have been different. >> how many people are listening to this debate at the time? >>60 million -- 60 million
people it's estimated tuned into the dewey-stassen radio debate. >> and the role of radio at that time? radio was the chief medium by which the news was disseminated and of course this is another aspect of tom dewey. he had come to new york in the 1920's, not necessarily wanting to be a lawyer. he wanted to be an opera singer, which surprises people, and you heard his voice. it's a very cultured voice, a very trained voice. some people thought it lacked spontaneity, but it's also true that it was the one republican voice that, on the radio, was able to hold the magical franklin roosevelt to something of a draw. >> what if people could have seen that debate? would it have a different outcome? >> that's a great question. dewey liked television. dewey thought television was -- it was like the courtroom, you know, it was -- as a young man,
he had become famous as the man who broke up the rackets in new york, who was the gangbuster and inspired all of these hollywood movies and radio shows like "mr. district attorney" and if you think about it, a television studio is not terribly dissimilar from a courtroom. the strength he had in the courtroom, the ability to make his case, to connect, whether it was with a jury or with viewers, there are some early television kinescopes in his third race for governor, for example, where he is very effective in front of the camera and i think he probably wished, in retrospect, that he could have run the 1948 campaign in front of a television camera. >> let's go to the g.o.p. convention in philadelphia in 1948. how did he get the nomination? were there ballots? >> yeah, in fact there were several ballots. dewey is the last republican candidate who required more than one ballot to be nominated. even though he had turned the
tide, if you will, in oregon, there was still determined opposition led by, above all, senator taft, and to a lesser degree at that point harold made a name for himself as a so-called boy governor of minnesota in his early 30's, a real prodigy. of course, dewey was a real prodigy. anyway, it took, i believe, three ballots. and then of course you had to pick a vice president. and he wanted earl warren who was a very popular governor of california, and warren would not agree. four years later, he would, to his regret. but instead, to unify the party, dewey picked the governor of ohio, taft's friend, fellow conservative, a man named john bricker, and one of the slogans was, the war will end quicker with dewey and bricker. >> let's get to a phone call.
marvin in los angeles. go ahead. caller: thomas e. dewey was a reasonably young man in 1953 and he, of course, was very influential in general eisenhower running. was dewey offered a job by eisenhower after all his v.p. governor warren of california was offered the job of chief justice? >> that's a great question. there is some debate over it. i believe he was informally approached, shall we put it, you know, about the supreme court. when you stop to think about it, really nothing else made sense, except perhaps secretary of state and there he had the next best thing, maybe better, his long-time political ally and his kissinger, john foster dulles. one of the things about dewey that is often overlooked is the extent to which he brought into the american political process a whole generation of very
talented people. i mean, dwight eisenhower, richard nixon are the most obvious, but there's a whole host of people who would remain, some of them here in new york, but others, kim hagerty was the white house press secretary, to this day regarded as the best press secretary in white house history. he earned the job in new york under tom dewey. herbert brownell, the attorney general under eisenhower, was dewey's campaign manager, and the list is a very long one. >> richmond, virginia, you're next. caller: hello? >> you're on the air, go ahead. we can hear you >> caller: i'm sorry, can you hear me? >> we can. caller: it's an interesting subject. this was the first presidential election, my mother, a life-long republican, voted in and one of the things she told me was that she found dewey unattractive because of -- she mentioned his
greasy hair and mustache. my main interest was understanding the role a future major player in the democratic party, lyndon johnson, played in this election. >> well, l.b.j. tried to get elected himself to the senate in texas so he was not a significant factor in the national, in the presidential race. dewey's appearance is revealing in a number of ways. dewey was someone who, i think, today would be in despair of the handlers. dewey could not be handled. there were people throughout his career who said, you know, tom, you'd shave off that mustosh and get your teeth fixed. he had a couple of missing teeth from a high school football scrimmage. well, he kept the mustache and kept the teeth, or the non-teeth, for a simple reason, francis dewey liked him the way he was. but you're right, there are
times when people, in print, compared his appearance to charlie chaplin or adolph hitler, and in 1948 or 1944, little brown mustaches were probably not a terribly politically potent weapon. >> let me give you a look at the 1948 g.o.p. convention in philadelphia when thomas e. dewey accepts the nomination for president from his party. >> there's been honest contention, spirited disagreement, and i believe, considerable arguments. but don't let anybody be misled by that. you have given here, in this hall, a moving and dramatic hope of how americans, who honestly differ, close ranks and move forward for the nation's wellbeing, shoulder to shoulder.
[applause] let me assure you that, beginning next january 20, there will be team work in the government of the united states of america. when these rights are secure in this world of ours, the permanent ideals of the republican party shall have been realized. [applause] the ideals of the american people are the ideals of the republican party. we have, tonight, and in these days which preceded us, in philadelphia, lighted a beacon in this cradle of our own independence as a great america.
we've lighted a beacon to give eternal hope that men may live in liberty with human dignity and before god and, loving him, erect and free. [applause] >> thomas e. dewey, our contender this evening, accepting the g.o.p. nomination at the convention in philadelphia in 1948. we are coming to you live this evening from the roosevelt hotel, where thomas e. dewey, in 1948, was here with his family, with his closest aides to watch and listen for the election results to come in. joining us now is thomas e. dewey jr. sir, bring us back to the 1948 convention. were you there? >> no. >> you weren't there. >> no. >> what were your father -- what do you think it meant to him to
win that nomination both in 1944 and 1948? >> you know, i'm not going to be able to answer that because we didn't talk about who wanted what and who was going to do what. we were teenagers and we were in school and my parents, neither of them, was particularly forthcoming about, i really want that, or no, we won't do that. it's just, you went forward and did what you were supposed to do or what you thought you were supposed to do. >> and what were you supposed to do in 1948 during the campaign? what was your role? >> student at albany academy. >> did you participate at all? were you part of commercial ads or were you out on the campaign trail with your family posing for pictures? >> no, no and no. >> and why not?
was the dynamic there? >> we were in school. that was our job. his job was government and politics and we were, you know, the kids. what did you talk about around the dinner table, though? i mean -- >> not much memory there. i think maybe more of what we're doing. we didn't really talk about what was going on in the campaign and that kind of thing. >> it wasn't a household suffused with politics. >> no, it was not. >> even after he lost in 1948 and 1944, years later, did he ever talk to you about politics? what do you remember him saying? >> he was not very reflective about that. >> he wasn't? >> no. >> what about your mother? what do you remember her telling you about politics? >> no memory of that. >> do you have memories of the campaign in 1948?
>> not really, no. >> no. >> were you here on election night? >> yes, yes. >> what's your memory of that? >> watching returns, being sent to bed, and the next morning, i forget, it was relatively early in the morning, i do remember dad coming into the bedroom where john and i were, in his bathrobe and said, well, we lost. and that was that. >> didn't talk about it after that? >> no. >> just said, "we lost." >> right. >> do you think it was something he carried with him? i mean, as a ball and chain, the rest of his life? or did he, in fact -- i mean, there are people who move on and that's that. but -- >> well, ball and chain, no. i don't think he ever thought
very much like the biography you're currently writing. he never thought, oh, well, that was something i could have done differently. maybe he did, but we didn't hear that. he went on to do his job, which was being governor in new york, until -- and fully hoping to retire in 1950, which he, then, his sense of duty, when the koreans went to war, his sense of duty impelled him to, you know, take four more years out of what would have been a very good legal practice, and run for another term, to make sure that he could hold his republican coalition of mostly governors, many in the northeast, together to get a non-taft candidate in 1952, which he thought was necessary to get the presidency. >> it's consistent with what you say, that i think might surprise
people, is that your dad, in his early days, certainly never thought of himself as embarking upon a political career. that is to say, someone seeking office as a way of making a living. when he first came to new york, it was at columbia law school, and a friend asked, what do you want to do in life? and he said he wanted to lead a great law firm and he wanted to make a hell of a lot of money. and he did it, but there was this 20-year detour along the way called politics. >> 24 years. >> what kind of man was your father? >> in what respect? >> i mean, you know, what was his style like? how would you describe him? >> how might he surprise people? the images have come down, the man on the wedding cake and the stereotypes that have been produced by and large because of what happened in 1948. if he were to walk in that door,
what would it be like to be around thomas e. dewey? >> well, you know, it's a type that i think i'm not sure we see anymore. he came from a small town in michigan. his father had died, as you know, very early in life, and he had a very strong mother, and he emerged from michigan with what used to be called the proudest of ethic -- protestant ethic, and those ideals, and they never changed. >> he was a workaholic? >> he was that. he was that. i mean, he loved his golf game and he loved his farm, but he was taken on to do four or five different jobs and each one he did well enough so that the next
one came along. >> one thing, i guarantee you people don't know, in 1937, after his success with the gangbusting, breaking up the rackets in new york, getting luciano, for example, john foster dulles tried to hire him at sullivan and cromwell for $150,000 a year. >> 100 is the number i remember. >> ok. in any even, a lot of money. >> yes. >> and he was drafted, literally, drafted to run for district attorney for new york county for the grand sum of $20,000 a year. >> right. >> we're going to get to the rise of your father and how he came to national prominence, but, richard, given what thomas e. dewey jr. has said about his father, take that and describe for us his campaign style. >> it differed, frankly. it's interesting. for someone who has sort of been
often caricatured, he's actually a much more dynamic campaigner. when he ran for district attorney, for example, in new york county, new york county was one county and there were people all over the burroughs of new york city that day who wanted to vote for thomas dewey. thomas dewey wasn't on their ballot. he had electrified this city with his exploits taking on the rackets. and because new york, even more then than now, was the heart of american communications. you had the loose press. you had, obviously, the radio networks. i mean, to become a phenomenon in new york meant potentially a national phenomenon. tom dewey was the inspiration, i don't know if you ever saw the movies, but hollywood was cranking out a movie a week at one point in the late 1930's,
inspired by his exploits. in 1939, 37 years old, the district attorney of new york county, is leading franklin roosevelt in the gallup poll by 16 points in a mythical matchup. it's hard to imagine. it went beyond hero worship, but it's hard to imagine -- i can't think of anyone since. i mean, lindbergh, in his own way, in his own sphere, you know, at one point had that kind of universal appeal. but your dad is still, i think, i unique figure. some people compare rudy giuliani as a prosecutor to your dad. >> rudy does. >> i was going to ask you. what do you make of that comparison? >> let's leave it at that he does. >> ok. >> no, there was an ascetic
there and the good baritone voice and of course the courtroom theatrics, which was perhaps -- certainly was a revulsion against the excesses of the 1920's, which were still very much in memory at that point. >> sure. >> and against the continuing mob scene headquartered, in many respects, in new york. >> and the alliance between the mob and the political machine. that's what, i think, people often miss. there was a relationship of mutual dependence that maybe grew out of prohibition. jimmy walker, you know, had not been out of city hall all that long. as a boy, in michigan, your dad had it drummond in his head by
his father that tamine hall represents all that is evil and who could have predicted at that point, you know -- there's one other aspect, one quick thing about your dad which was clearly a limitation in an era of popular campaigning. what your godfather, arguably his best friend, elliott bell, an economics writer for the "new york times," would have been secretary of the treasury in a dewey administration, when he left the administration to make some money, governor dewey's counsel came to him, looked at the letters drawn up to mark the -- and he said, you know, these are all wrong. they're too formal, there's no intimacy here, there's no warmth here, and your dad said something to him i think is so revealing, he said, i'm not going to display my emotions in public. >> ok, i was not privy to that.
but that surprises me not at all. >> there's a kind of integrity to that but it's also a political limitation. >> we need to -- >> yes. >> we need to go ahead to election night, 1948, because we want to talk about his national prominence coming up here. so what happens? what are the results? >> well, the results, truman is re-elected by about two million votes. he has a rather healthy -- i think it's 303 to 189 in the electoral college. if you look at the electoral map in 1948, it would be of very little resemblance to today's. dewey swept the east. he did very well in the industrial midwest. he lost the farm belt and he always said, when people asked him to explain 1948, he said, you can analyze the results resm here to kingdom come, the farm
vote changed in the last 10 days. >> how did wallace and thurmond do? >> they brought up the rear. thurmond did carry several southern states, 39 electoral votes. wallace came in fourth and did not carry any states. >> what about the coverage of that night? the media's covering it? how long does it go? >> it's really the first election where television is a factor at all. it's a fairly minor factor but the nbc studios had cooked up this huge model of the white house and they had, they had aly enough, parade of donkeys all ready to go through and around the white house as soon as the formalities were observed and your dad was proclaimed the winner. no one had thought to weigh in a supply of democratic donkeys. they had republican elephants, rather. that, in a nutshell, is what the media expected that night.
>> richard norton smith and tom dewey jr. are our guests tonight. as we take your calls live from roosevelt hotel in new york city. our next discussion here is about his rise to power, his national prominence. and part of that is his role as a prosecutor. here's a little bit from his 1937 bid to become district attorney in new york. >> you've been given a most difficult task, but an opportunity to be of great help to the people of this city. what can we do for you? >> i need a small squad of detectives who will go to work on this job as they never have before, who will know that the mayor and the commissioner are behind them personally all the time. >> is everything set? >> he's got a full list.
every gangster in the mob is launched this minute. >> any sign of a leak? >> they don't suspect a thing. >> it's 10:00 tonight, pick up the 15 ring leaders first. here are the sealed orders for the men. >> with crack new york detectives, dewey's roundups were skillfully directed. mob after mob were taken by surprise. simultaneously all over the city, the underworld wases rounded up. >> we have made a real start on cleaning the gangsters out of new york. for 20 years, the underworld has preyed on our people and robbed them and then frightened them into silence. but now, the day of fear of the gangster is coming to an end. >> richard norton smith, how does he become a prosecutor? >> well, as tom said, went to university of michigan, law school, came to new york originally thinking -- he loved music, a life-long love.