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tv   QA Hendrik Meijer  CSPAN  January 8, 2018 5:59am-6:59am EST

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summers. posted by the brookings institution, it is lied at 1:00 p.m. eastern on c-span 3, live on c-span.org, and on the free c-span radio app. c-span. where history unfolds daily. a 1979, c-span was created as public service by america's cable television companies and is brought to you today by your cable or satellite provider. ♪ >> this week on "q&a," hendrik meyer. he talks about his book "arthur vandenberg: the man in the middle of the american century." hen -- hank meijer, one was a
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first time you ever thought about writing a book about this man? 1989, i was contemplating a subject for a biography. i am a field fiction writer and poet. i could not create, but i could explore and explain. i was talking with a friend of mine who said i keep running across his name. some professor back in 1970 published the first of what was supposed to be a two-volume of arthur vandenberg. the world does not need to w o -- two biographies of vandenberg. my friend said i have to thought
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my agenda. why don't you come and talk about some episode in arthur vandenberg's life. i gave a little lecture on the debate over the repeal of the arms embargo in 18 -- in 1939, before world war ii. eight weeks later, i get a call from the daughter of this professor who is said to be working on the second volume of his biography. turns out he had a difficult life, had been very ill, and had died. his adult daughter was responsible for selling his house. he was teaching in chicago. she did not know what to do with all of his research for arthur vandenberg. it had no monetary value. this is back in 1990. there are xerox copies of things. she hated to cast her father's
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life's work research out on the street. so she called on the historical society of michigan. she said is there anyone who has an interest in arthur vandenberg. the only person they knew was me because i had spoken at their conference eight weeks before. i ended up bringing a van load of papers back from chicago to my home in grand rapids. i went from thinking the world doesn't need to biographies to have a sense -- to having a sense of mission. if you don't do it, who will? hendrik: why did it take so long -- brian: why did it take so long? hendrik: people say where did you find the time with your day job? it only took me 26 years. maybe i wasn't an efficient writer. i know i had the biographer's weakness for research and spent a lot of time interviewing people working in the vandenberg papers at the university of michigan, anding up with a 1000-page manuscript that would not be publishable, spend years taking it down to 900, 800,
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taking out a paragraph here and a sentence there, and finally getting some editorial advice saying, no, take out chapter three, combined chapter seven and chapter eight. then i had a publishable manuscript. brian: the next -- the last i read was 7200 employees in the meijer company. you are ceo briefly. hendrik: yes. brian: what is the meijer name? hendrik: my father was a dutch immigrant who opened a grocery store in the great depression. with my dad's leadership, what became a small chain of supermarkets evolved into what became supercenters. we called them the self-service center with a hometown touch. it was a supermarket and they
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discussed apartment sure -- depart -- and a disco department star. brian: that may put an auditor -- a photograph of arthur vandenberg. hendrik: arthur vandenberg was the senator from michigan. he was publisher of the local republican paper in the grand rapids herald. he had come from a background of what we call isolationism. he was of that generation that came out of world war i very disillusioned with the american experience there and the peace conference at versailles that ended up being to the victor go the spoils, settlements of that so did the seeds of discontent that would lead to world war ii. after world war ii, he recognized that that position of
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america isolating itself, retreating from the world was no longer tenable. we were the most powerful nation honors earth and we had to assume responsibility for global leadership. brian: i wrote down some of the words to describe him. one of them was pompous. he had a vest on. spats, did he were spats all the time? hendrik: in his early days. brian: pink earring. how many cigars to be smoke? hendrik: forever cigars. he smote cigars throughout his life and he was notorious in the newspaper for the ashes that would heap behind the radiator in his editor's office, and a tory's for never carrying a match and needing someone to light his cigars. but he has a cigar and virtually ever picture -- every picture you see. brian: cockiness, bluster.
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anything else? hendrik: i think it was james reston or maybe walter lippman who described him as the only senator who could struck sitting down. he was a big figure. he was over six feet tall and large with a big head and penetrating eyes. the way he carried himself also suggested someone a little larger than life. brian: let's listen to him and look at him on video. this is from 1936. [audio file] >> while, i think that sums it up. this is the most important campaign since the civil war. it is the campaign against various brands of socialism, fascism, communism, bureaucracy,
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and bankruptcy. it is a campaign to save the republic. that's what it is. brian: 1936. hendrik: this is in the middle of the new deal. this is after franklin roosevelt was elected in 1932. than denver, coming from michigan, wishing -- understanding how dire conditions had become in the depression, joined with franklin roosevelt, supported several of his early new deal measures. and fact, against roosevelt's resistance, push through legislation to create the fdic, the federal depart the -- the fdic. one of the most important new deal reforms. but in 1936, things are beginning to turn. this is election year rhetoric. but we also see roosevelt becoming more aggressive with
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the national recovery act and some of his measures that republicans, conservatives like vandenberg viewed as a centralization of power and the growth of federalism that was a step on the road to the station he always made, that it was important to be social minded, but not socialistic. this snap to hammock moving down that road. right after that election is when roosevelt proposed the pork packing measure on the supreme court that lit up vandenberg and all the conservatives like crazy with fear of where roosevelt was taking the country. brian: he was in the senate from 1928 to 1951. did that cigar smoking affect his health in the end? hendrik: he died of lung cancer. so to the extent that we can attribute a connection there, it's really didn't help him. brian: you list everything us he was involved in. household words. tell us what they are.
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things like the u.n. and all that. what did he play a role in? hendrik: after world war ii, first of all, frank when roosevelt, coming from that post-world war i generation of leaders, recognized -- he and vandenberg had a rather bitter relationship. vandenberg was such a critic of the later new deal measures that he called it the new ordeal. roosevelt hated to do it, but he recognized that as vandenberg emerged as the leading republican voice on foreign policy, he would have to name vandenberg to the american delegation to the founding of the u.n., to write the charter in san francisco in 1945. then roosevelt dies. harry truman becomes president. of course, he had famously had lunch with roosevelt once in their few months in office together. so he came in as a decisive figure, but unschooled in foreign policy.
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roosevelt had always been his own secretary of state and effect and used harry to carry out a light of his foreign policy plans. with roosevelt dead and a week secretary of state, vandenberg osa san francisco as the strongest american delegate at the founding of the u.n. he is facing off with the russian foreign secretary molotov across the table at the fairmont hotel in san francisco, setting the groundwork for the united nations. soon after that, trim and asks vandenberg and his democratic counterpart, senator tom, leo taxis -- senator tom connolly of texas . the postwar peace conferences where the ministers were meeting in paris at luxembourg palace to
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settle peace agreements with italy, with romania, with all the countries that have fought on the side of germany. vandenberg spent the year 1946 in a diplomatic role that was unprecedented and still is for the united states senator. then he is chairman of the foreign relations committee when george marshall proposes a very ambitious campaign to help rebuild europe, becomes the marshall plan. vandenberg is the legislative engineer who puts that through the congress. and then economic security isn't enough to rebuild europe. there is also the increasing threat of the red army occupying central europe, building a new society behind "the iron curtain." the western european democracies come to the u.s. and say we need a military alliance.
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vandenberg road the vandenberg resolution that enables legislation for the u.s. to join nato. he dropped out of the university he was a bit of a wonder can in in 1907,n journalism. he dealt a house sending grand rapids where he lived the rest of his life. brian: how often was he married? hendrik: he was married to his high school sweetheart who died
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of a brain tumor quite young in her early 30's, in 1918, left him with three small children. the following year, he remarried. an acquaintance he became reacquainted with at the university michigan, he remarried, married her and was married until her death in 1950. so he was twice widowed. brian: here's some video showing his wife hazel and the daughter. [video clip] >> these headlines certainly sound like more war in europe. hope america has sense enough to mind her own business and stay out of these foreign troubles. if we create a strong neutrality policy and if we make it mandatory and if we decline all entangling alliances, we ought to the able to keep america in honorable peace.
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that is what our people want. and in so far as i am concerned, that is what they are going to get. brian: he did a documentary back in 2011. why? hendrik: i had a friend who is a videographer who said you have all this material, working on a book -- he did a documentary on president ford. he said let's were together on vandenberg. it helped energize me. it was a great opportunity to do interviews and take advantage of some of the work that i had done to do something that would be a little more immediate than the book. at that time, i still have used to go to edit the book. brian: going back to the scene where you saw the wife and the daughter, what was the relationship between senator vandenberg and his wife? hendrik: i call them boon
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companions. they were very good friends. i think there was an element when he remarried of wanting a mother for his three small children. but they were also very good friends. i want to say that it was close. at the same time, i would read -- i would be remiss not to point out that he had a high-profile affair in 1938, 1930 9, 1940 with a woman named betsy sims. she was the danish-born wife of someone at the danish of a sea. it was controversial because walter winchell went on and and referred to the senator from michigan. and mitzie's husband, harold sims, was reputed to run the code word at the u.s. embassy.
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they were neighbors at the premier residence hotel on connecticut avenue. that provoke a crisis in their marriage. in fact, the daughter elizabeth, betsy who you saw there, i think she married and divorced soon after, but it was almost in reaction to the crisis in the household, where she talked about her father having to decide whether to stay or to go. and hazel never quite feeling the same, of course, after that traumatic situation. brian: how public was the mitzie sends a fair back in those days? hendrik: when you have someone like walter winchell talking about it, it was quite public. there were rumors that she had been planted on him -- i think it was a chicago tribune
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correspondent who said, well, they planted mitzie sends on -- mitzie sims on vandenberg like they did on ike. the love was sincere, but i think it would have been logical if the british, since vandenberg was plotted with fellow republicans and democratic isolationists to keep us out of world war ii, in 1939, to keep us from aiding britain, that they would want to know what was going on among these opponents of their future. brian: hazel in the senator died close to each other? hendrik: yes. she died in 1950 in georgetown hospital here in washington. he died in 1951. they were side by side rooms for a while here in washington when he returned. he had half of his left lung removed in 1949 in ann arbor at
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the university of michigan. then he came back to washington briefly in 1950, but was never -- and hazel that as well -- but she died here and he was never strong enough to resume his seat in the senate. brian: here's some video from 1945. i want to ask you about the famous speech in january of that year. that was the big year when the day, bj day. this is from detroit. how far is grand rapids from detroit? hendrik:hendrik: about 160 miles. brian: he is talking about the importance of collective security here. [video clip] >> no nation hereafter can immunize itself from exclusive action. only elective security can stop the next great war before it starts. i propose that no other nation shall have any chance to use our silence as an alibi for all
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terrier designs, if such there be. i propose action instead of words. i propose action now before it is too late. i propose it for the sake of a better world, but i say again and again and again that i propose it for our own american self-interest. [applause] brian: you point out that the january 10 speech, 1945, same year as this, in the united states senate, 59 senators were present on the floor at the time. what was the point of the speech? hendrik: the point of the speech was franklin roosevelt had just won the 1944 election. he is about to be sworn in once again. and he is about to leave a few weeks later for his summit conference at yalta with winston churchill and josef stalin. their earlier conferences had been about wartime strategy. but now the war is almost over
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in january 1945. the germans are on the run. we are approaching the rhine, island hopping against the japanese. so this conference at yalta is to talk about what is going to happen with the piece -- peace and to create something called the united nations. vandenberg, and fellow republicans, but a lot of democrats as well, know that roosevelt himself is weak. nobody knows how weak. he dies a couple of months later. but they don't know what the americans will be negotiating. so he stands up in the senate -- and you saw that speech where he talks about working together -- he had been known throughout his career in the senate as an advocate of american neutrality,
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talking in that earlier speech about no entangling alliances -- that is a line that alexander hamilton road for george washington in george washington's farewell address. now vandenberg stands up and says the time has come for collective action. and he proposes a postwar treaty between the allies, the british, the russians, the u.s., to guarantee that germany and japan will never again become military threats as they had been twice in the previous 30 years. so here we have the advocate of no entangling ali guidances -- entangling alliances returning the field. vandenberg was always sharing drafts of his speech with some of his friends in the newspaper business.
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brian: who was reston? hendrik: james reston was the new york times washington correspondent, later bureau chief. here is vandenberg proposing a peacetime alliance. that marked his reversal of field, he is coming out in public now for an american role that he had always shied away from. roosevelt was a little dismissive of his rival. just before he left for you all talk, the white house called and asked for 50 copies of the speech to take a long. brian: you mentioned reston in the book and quoted others. have any of those people did you talk to about vandenberg? hendrik: i didn't get a chance -- i corresponded with alan drury with reston, but i did not get a chance to talk with them. i was fortunate enough to catch a lot of people who are still alive who had known vandenberg, william fulbright to former senator -- to welter tro hand, the chicago tribune bureau chief
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-- to a number of newspaper reporters. this copper do -- lose carpenter -- liz carpenter had been a young reporter win vandenberg at the republicans to agree on support for an international organization back during the war. harold stassen, who had been a delegate to the founding of the united nations and later became a perennial presidential candidate, but at the time was a rising young republican. brian: you also mentioned to james tobin. what role did he play? hendrik: jim tobin was the consultant. he was the one who said take out chapter three, combined chapters seven and eight. he really gave me a direction on making major cuts to the book to
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jim is a wonderful writer. he did an auto burg -- he did a biography of arthur pile. he said you need to chop this section. you need to condense this section. he really helped me go from taking out sentences and paragraphs to taking out pages and chapters to get that manuscript down from a thousand pages to a manageable size. brian: how did you get your hands around who vandenberg was? and at what point in this process over the last almost 30 years did you say i got it? hendrik: i don't know if you ever feel you've got it. i don't want to speak with that degree of confidence. but i live with him so long that i found myself internalizing. i probably bore my friends and family. every time someone has a nanny note, i have a vandenberg-related and it no. his and her daughter elizabeth, who you saw in the video, she was still alive in her 80's in connecticut. and we became close in her last
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years. talking with her, you could see her father. i certainly watching those old newsreels, reading his editorials -- he wrote 20 years worth of editorials for "the grand rapids herald," where he is not only influencing the league of nations debate, he's also writing about the way his first wife dies. and he's writing about some very personal experiences in his papers. if that accretion of exposure helps you internalize the character. brian: the video with his wife and his daughter, how much of that was available? hendrik: there's probably more than i looked at. you could go to the national archives to the passe newsreels
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and the other old newsreels and keep hunting for him and see him here and there for these brief clips. brian: that looked like he had done that himself. hendrik: yes, i'm not sure how that originated. i don't know. brian: so that speech in january, what impact did that have on the senate, the country, the press? what difference did it make? hendrik: there was a great line by one of his senate colleagues. he said van changes his mind about as often as the average american, just a little earlier. i think that meant he was understanding the need for the united states to change for him to change from his earlier positions. he had a little bit of the credibility of a sinner who becomes a sink in the eyes of some, where he is carrying public opinion with him. people say, well, if vandenberg is comfortable with us joining
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the united nations, and i know where he stood before -- he was very wary of these foreign entitlements -- it must be the right direction for us. he had that kind of credibility. brian: his 1947 video of him talking about the united nations. before we run that, would you have been surprised back in those days if he had come out for the united nations? hendrik: depends on how close you are. for some of the newspaper columnists, they weren't so surprised because they saw his evolution from pearl harbor and through the war. if you had been a kid growing up in grand rapids, you would have been raised on the speeches that called for no entangling alliances and then, boom, in 1945, you have this isolationist's editor saying, no, we need a postwar treaty and our future is in collective security.
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brian: watch this 1947 video. [video clip] >> it took five years to take their world apart then it would not be surprising if it took at least that long to put it together again. the remarkable thing is that the united nations has done so well so soon. brian: why was he -- i noticed all the quotes -- why was he right when he flipped to being internationalist than when he was in isolationist? hendrik: why was he right? brian: he flipped. the media is constantly criticizing people who change their minds. hendrik: there is a wonderful quote that i use from emerson. he was a fan of rough although emerson. he said "speak in hard words what you believe today and, tomorrow, speak in hard words what you believe tomorrow, even if it contradicts everything you say today." conditions change.
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the u.s. retreated to isolation after world war i. it had clearly not helped secure the world against the rise of totalitarians in germany and italy and japan. who knows what would have happened if the league of nations had been functioning. otherwise, there's no guarantees. but clearly, it had not worked. something you had to be tried. in that intervening time after the war, the u.s. was so clearly the dominant global power that, even from an economic standpoint, and our trading relationships were too important. vandenberg liked to say that -- he would say that he was always a nationalist, that he had gone from isolationist to injure nationalism sure, but he had always been looking for america's enlightened self-interest. that means we needed other democracies. it was quickly becoming apparent
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after the war that thenazi -- the nazi and fascist threat that created world war ii was being replaced by a threat from the soviet union. historians can disagree on how imminent and dire that threat was, but there is no disagreement that the iron curtain had descended across central europe and suddenly there was only one european power and it was the soviet union. and its aspirations appeared to be in direct conflict with hours. we could not afford to see democracies fail in western europe. brian: i want to put on the screen the makeup of the united states senate from the time he came in, 1928 -- we showed 1929 on the screen. if you look under the democrats, that is the number, 96 members in the senate during these
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years. hawaii and alaska did not come in yet. you can see on the screen that the numbers -- in 1939, 8 was 69 democrats. before that, it was 75. -- it was six to nine democrats. before that, it was 75. what impact did that have on him as a republican in the senate? hendrik: he had come of age in a city, in a state, even in a country that was generally voting republican. woodrow wilson became president when there was a three-way split with the bowman's party. he goes to the senate looking forward to working with uber hoover. -- with herbert hoover. hoover lacked finesse, to say the least. the stock market crashes in the second year, lay in his first
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year, and dooms his presidency. vandenberg finds himself in opposition when fdr is elected and the democrats, in the road to 30's, take majority of the senate. he is in opposition for the next dozen years. that means that, to get anything done, which often meant resisting a lot of frank when roosevelt's initiatives, there needed to be a coalition. he needed to reach across the aisle. he really came of age in such a minority that, to be effective, whether creating a neutrality act or resisting a ship canal going across the peninsula of florida, he needs republican votes and democratic votes. that gave him an early experience in compromise and coalition building to get anything done. brian: here is some video of a senate hearing.
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we have covered a lot of it over the last four years. this is a viewpoint behind vandenberg looking at the natchez and, who at the time was secretary of state, 1949. he would have been a democrat. hendrik: yes. brian: let's watch this and see if there is anything that we see today. [video clip] >> the first place, no nation is the target of this treaty, unless it nominates itself as an armed aggressor by its own armed aggressor. is that right? >> yes, that is right. >> second, it is effective only so long as the security council fails to take measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. >> that is made repeatedly clear in the treaty itself. >> therefore, if the general membership of the united nations is faithful to its obligations
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to the treaty of the united nations, this treaty never becomes operative in action at all. >> that is entirely true. brian: how close were they offscreen? hendrik: they worked together over many years. they were not close. vandenberg forged very close relationship with george marshall, who was at sisson's predecessor as secretary of state -- atchison's predecessor as secretary of state. after the democrats have retaken the majority in senate and
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congress. a sense on the administration's part that we do not need vandenberg. where marshall and love it had worked with him and needed his support, when it came to the treaty. vandenberg.eeded baskets and never deserve -- developed that warm. love it had stopped by the park hotel for a martini after work as they inked on the nato treaty. 1949, vandenberg writes to his wife hazel and said d neches send -- dean acheson dropped by as if he were trying to rekindle some of that same old spirit. but it wasn't there. these were very large egos. i interviewed clarke liver,
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harry truman's longtime aide. he said president truman's genius was be willing to stand aside and let these two big egos hash things out and set policy. they were forced by circumstance to work together, but they never had the warmth. brian: you are to the university of michigan. when you got out, what did you do? hendrik: i spent five years in the newspaper business. i was a reporter and then a newspaper -- and then editor of a newspaper in michigan. brian: you've been active ever since? hendrik: yes. we don't have a sabbatical in our business. i have had the freedom in some earlier stages to do some historical research, both when i did a biography of my grandfather and when i was working in the vandenberg papers. brian: how did you get somebody
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to publish this book? hendrik: i operated during all those years with the confidence that it was a story that had to be told, and that it would likely and up in the university press. it's commercial appeal would be limited, but people would recognize the value of it. i had some preliminary discussions with university presses over the years. then i became acquainted with an agent here in washington who submitted it to some other presses, including the university of chicago. brian: and how anxious were they to buy the book? what year did you have the contract? hendrik: i had the contract in 2016. how do we measure how eager it publisher is to publish a book? i think they recognized merit in it.
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they understood, as a university press, that they publish a lot of things they hope will reach a general audience. chicago probably does more titles for general audiences than most university presses. but they recognized that there would be some market for it, and if i could do my part to help promote that, we might have something that would work. brian: how much of the research did you do yourself? hendrik: oh, gosh. i didn't have any research assistants or anything. i had these papers that i inherited that would have saved me weeks. i visited the truman library, but i did not have to go there for a weeks worth of research. this is all in an age before digitalization. i had that base of materials to work with and then did the work and all of vandenberg's primary papers and all the interviews
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myself. hendrik: have you -- brian: have you collected vandenberg things? hendrik: i have his binder. it has nothing in it, but his binder marked "confidential" from the united nations conference. i have the odd ashtray and campaign button and things like that. one that i really chairs, i was interviewing one of his grandsons who had retired and was raising flowers in maui. he and his wife are both deceased now. he was interested in talking with me about his grandfather, with whom he had lived briefly when his mother went through a divorce and they were in washington. as the grandson and i are talking, his dad excuses herself -- excuses himself. i'm not sure he has gone. but when we conclude our
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interview an hour later, i find that paper bag on the seat of my rental car and, in it -- car and in it is a bronze plaque that had sat on vandenberg's desk about his time in the senate that said "this too shall pass." if you went to grand rapids, are there public opportunities to see a statue since you have been involved in this? hendrik: a friend approached me a few years ago and we raised the money to put a statute in uptown grand rapids. the healthy little bit with visibility. the general ford presidential museum has had temporary exhibits where they used the vandenberg material.
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but there's still no home for some of these things. brian: let me show you a photograph that we have that is in your book. two people, vandenberg and a young man named -- hendrik: jerry ford. brian: how old would he have been? hendrik: he would have been 30 years old. brian: you are on the board of the four foundation in grand rapids. you are currently vice-chairman. hendrik: correct. brian: were you chairman? hendrik: i was not. now the chairman is red cabinet, the person here in washington. brian: how impactful is that vandenberg is from grand rapids? hendrik: we grew up with jerry ford as our congressman. he went to congress before i was
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born and then became president in 1974. so he is one of these figures that we almost risk taking for granted until he became president and we realized how momentous his brief administration was as a point of american history. he got his start through the offices of arthur vandenberg. brian: a historian we have had here a lot moved a grand avenue -- to grand rapids to do a biography of gerald ford. hendrik: we have occasion to get together occasionally. he tantalizes me with some of the research he is uncovering. i have been privileged to be privy of some of that and it promises to be a terrific book. brian: how much does gerald berg and vandenberg represent your
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own feelings and politics? hendrik: i grew up in an age where my political awareness i trace back to 1966 because that was the year i had a student teacher interested in politics and we went down to the local tv station as the election results were coming in. and it was a big thrill for a 14-year-old junior high school student. that would have been the peak year for what we would call today liberal republicans. there was grant him pennsylvania, george romney, all these names that people may or may not remember were all -- most of them were elected or were all in office that year. that i think was part of my conditioning as an adolescent to come from a republican part of the world, but admire people, be aware of people who have really
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broad ranging and generally moderate outlooks on public interest. brian: i want to go down the list of things you say vandenberg had been involved in. how much did he impact? brian: the federal department -- the fdic? hendrik: the idea has such simple merit that he proposed it -- there was a banking crisis in detroit right after the stock market crash. so detroit was ground zero for bank holding companies facing collapse. so vandenberg, as a senator from michigan, was working with andrew mellon in the hoover administration, trying to keep those banks from collapsing. that meant avoiding a run on the
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banks. how do you avoid the run on the banks? you ensure the deposits of people don't worry that the money is in jeopardy. he pushed that. hoover and melon resisted it. then roosevelt resisted it. it would not have happened when it did in 1933 without vandenberg pushing it. i think it would have happened eventually, but vandenberg was the catalyst that sparked an overcoming roosevelts resistance at that time. brian: how about nato? hendrik: nato, i think, would have happened. again, these are also positions. but there were two parts to nato. one agreeing to participation. with vandenberg, we have to back up a little bit. when the united nations was formed, vandenberg was protective of a pan-american union, dissenting from --
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descending from the monroe doctrine. they went to a conference where they created that treaty that became a template a couple of years later for the nato treaty. so vandenberg set the stage for it, even though i think it probably would have come. but his stamp of approval was crucial. the second part of nato was getting the appropriation of funds to help the europeans rebuild their militaries. as you can have a security alliance, but these were countries who had been occupied or, in the case of britain, devastated during world war ii. and their militaries were in dire straits. vandenberg not only got nato approval, but the last thing he did before, as he was facing surgery in 1949, was to push
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through the military appropriations plan for nato. that would not have been as effective had the -- had he not been there. brian: in the senate, 1928 to 1951. what about the marshall plan? what kind of impacted he have on the marshall plan? would it have still happened? hendrik: something would have happened. there was a general recognition that the united states had to be -- that it was in our interest to be helpful in rebuilding the european economies. the vandenberg took a state department proposal that called for many more billions of dollars in appropriations and scaled it down enough to make it salable to the congress and the american people. and it might have floundered for some time had he not had the skills to set the stage for it. the marshall plan hearings may still have been the longest, most extensive in the history of
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the senate. his idea was you get people on board by listening to everybody, wearing down the opposition. he was tinkering all the way through with the particulars of the bill. he made it more digestible. i think these things probably would have happened, but in a watered-down way that may not have been as effective as it was with his leadership. brian: did you try to translate the $17 billion of the marshall plan that was spent? hendrik: i did and i forgot what that looks like. it was a staggering -- it was a significant portion of our -- it was a noticeable portion of our gdp at the time. brian: you have a quote in the book. a lot of presidents have said things like this. this is 1936. "your boys aren't going to be sent into any foreign war." why do presidents say that so often and then violate it?
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hendrik: they say it because, when we are anxious as an american people about our future, we want to make sure we will elect some but he will keep us at peace. brian: that was in 1936, during the election. hendrik: that's right. hiller and mussolini were already in power. -- hitler and mussolini were already in power. the japanese have invaded china, manchuria, set up a puppet regime. heckler was threatening -- hitler was threatening his neighbors. there was war in the air. everyone is conscious of world war i and what a difficult experience that was. so roosevelt is already beginning to angle for a repeal
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of the neutrality act. he is the president. he doesn't want his arms tied should something happen. so vandenberg wants to resist that, which forces roosevelt into a quarter and says oh, no, no. we may come to the aid at some point of some allies, but we will not send our boys over to a foreign war. brian: here is more video from your 2011 documentary. can people buy it? hendrik: that's a great question. we will make sure it is available. [laughter] brian: let's go to a clip from "america's center" as you call this. [video clip] >> i want the republican party to be liberal enough to march with the times, to dare new answers, and give it the power and strength and initiative of government that help citizens to help themselves when they have problems beyond their own
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resources and their own control. i want the old to stand, but i want the branches to grow. brian: what do you think you would have thought of him as a person if you had to deal with him on a day-to-day business living in grand rapids? hendrik:hendrik: that's a great question. if i were a young man in the street, i would come to that conclusion we started out with -- this pompous character does not want to give me the time of day. an elderly gentleman who had become the editor of the grand rapids herald said that vandenberg would put his feet on the desk and pontificate about what was going on in the world. he didn't suffer fools gladly and he might not have given me the time of day. yet, if i were old enough to
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develop an acquaintance, i would get past that the near -- that veneer. he was almost beloved in a sense because he was one of them. it would almost be a matter of perspective. i cut that even interviewing journalists, the ones who had gotten to know him almost revered him. the others who had had more glancing contact thing, geez, he wouldn't tell me anything. he wouldn't given me the time of day. so i don't know where i would have fit in in that relationship. brian: you did not know this was coming and i want to run it for the fun of it. it is only 30 seconds. [video clip] ♪
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[barking] ♪ >> with more selection and savings, puppies are even more lovable at meijer. hendrik: i do not take any creative credit. brian: how ready we see a ceo and executive chairman write a book. how did you figure out how to do it? hendrik: it took me 26 years. [laughter] and a very tolerant family and colleagues at work who understood that this was a part of my life. i don't play golf.
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i've had more than a few vacations that involves side trips to talk to somebody who knew vandenberg. but literally, it's also a reflection of how unproductive i've been as an author. brian: where did you set up your operation and how did you catalog everything? hendrik: that's a great question. i work at both a home office and then my vandenberg papers in a burgeoning library of foreign policy in the 21st century is in a windowless storage room at a corporate office. because i started at an age before digitization, before google, most of my research was on index cards and recipe boxes. so i can't wait to write another book where it's not going to be such a primitive method.
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brian: your own family, have any kids? where did you meet your wife? hendrik: i have five children. they range in age from 32 to 10. my wife is -- second marriage -- my wife is a fiction writer. we met at western michigan university where she was reading from her collection of short stories that was published about 16 years ago. hendrik: what's the most and -- brian: what's the most important thing we need to know about arthur vandenberg? hendrik: two things. we want our politicians to change as circumstances change. he was capable of doing that. and two, how critical it is to a democracy that we compromise. and for him, compromise was almost an art form. he saw that is fundamental to the kind of government we need.
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brian: anybody that you met in your research that you want to write a book about? hendrik: it would be a lot of people that i won't write a book about, but i would love to. william fulbright. brian: why? hendrik: he was, very early as a congressman and senator, coming-of-age after world war ii in public office and helping try to define america's role in the world and, famously my own you, became the most important critic of the war in vietnam and really saw the consequences of the building blocks that he and vandenberg had been a part of, being in a sense perhaps misimpression says -- sense perhaps misinterpreted in getting us into a quagmire. brian: our guest hendrik meijer, the man in the middle of the
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american century. thank you very much for joining us. hendrik: thank you. it has been a pleasure. ♪ >> for free transcripts or to give us your comments about this program, visit us at q&a.org. q&a programs are also available as c-span podcasts. ♪ [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] >> if you enjoyed this week's q&a interview, here are some others you might like. chuck hagel on his political career and foreign policy. omni harwich horowitz on his documentary on the united nations. and that he co-it about her work at key moments in senate history. watch these anytime or search
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our video library at www.c-span.org. 10:00 a.m. a discussion on north korea's nuclear program. communicators. we are on location at bell labs for the first of a two-part interview series. bell labs is one of the premier research facilities providing lasers.radio astronomy, marcus weldon discusses new communications technology and research. >> we have a ton of data but not a ton of knowledge.

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