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tv   Marc Peyser on Hissing Cousins  CSPAN  May 24, 2015 5:00am-6:01am EDT

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the series and the topics list on the upper right side of the
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page. hispanic from politics and prose bookstore in dc mark and timothy xm and the tall choice relationship between the first lady eleanor roosevelt and her first cousin alice who was theodore roosevelt's daughter. the report is that the two women born eight months and 20 blocks apart in new york city were social and political opposites who publicly debated the issues of the day. >> first thank you all of you for being here this evening. we are delighted to be here in a very big thank you to the crew at politics and prose for making us feel so welcome. i want to give a big thank you to the publisher.
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in answering the most common question that weekend which is who was alice roosevelt and i realize in this crowd a lot of you were her neighbors. nonetheless, what i am going to do is try to set a little bit of the context for the reading is going to do in a few minutes. make sure they cover up some of these details. what we do you will see behind me a family tree. it's a simplified version of the actual one because we start out with the american founder. he quite literally has tens of
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thousands at this point so we are here to highlight the story and we have provided you with the two branches, the hyde park branch and oyster bay they become symbolically very important in the story. they have a very big influence on the remarkable children.
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and theodore had his daughter alice and two days after alex was born his wife died from complications and in that same day his mother also died so theodore had a different psychological blow, and the impact of that played throughout her life and it's one of those remarkable things in the complicated relationship ended a relationship that in many ways she had to compete for his attention and as we discussed in the book even when she was in her 90s and she was talking a lot about how complicated relationship with her father was. but the short story is that she adored him and very much wanted to protect the legacy. her uncle elliot had a daughter
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who was born the same year. one of them was was any in a sense or friend because her father gave her over to the grace of being a widow and pretty much disappeared from her life for the first three and a half years or so. eleanor was famous by the time she was ten she had a tragic and very sad childhood and she lost in the space of a little over two years she lost her brother and her mother and her father who she adored and unfortunately drink himself to death. alcoholism imo one of the challenges that runs through
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both sides of the family tree. and her father was a tragic and very public example of that. so eleanor was left in the care of her grandmother who lived upstate new york and coincidentally just a few miles from the hyde park state where the distant cousins lived and really the only happy times in her childhood was in the summertime when she would get the opportunity to spend time with uncle teddy and he has since remarried and started another family and alice was brought back at that point. that always to talk about how she felt a little bit like the odd man out.
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they were raised like sisters at least for the time they were together. the more important holiday event is when they were 14-years-old at a dance in new jersey and alice was dancing away. they were standing in the corner trying to be ignored and it's when there were 14 that alice was dancing with one of her cousins and then whispered something in his ear and of course the distant cousin was franklin so one of the things was to introduce them as teenagers.
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but they didn't have a strong connection. in fact her name was eleanor roosevelt and a little bit like european royalty. but in fact, the relationship as you see from this family tree coming from this side they were fifth cousins and this is a simplified tree. there were thousands of people more closely related to each of them than franklin and eleanor so it's not quite the european royalty concept of the second cousin. in fact i'm on the people more closely related to eleanor roosevelt so his third cousin was actually ulysses s. grant so
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that just gives you an idea. it was extraordinary. they are not the only examples of cousins marrying each other in the family. he had a daughter that married in as well and i think my example of the remarkable coincidence. they were traveling over to europe and asked him to be the godfather of their child so eleanor's father was the godfather of her future husband.
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[laughter] so the interconnections are kind of over the place and that is just the short version. i'm not going to recap the presidency other than to say analysts took full advantage of being on center stage and became famous for tobacco in the white house and when being challenged about her behavior i can either run the country or control analyst terry i can't do both. [laughter] and she liked to do things like being told she wasn't allowed to smoke under his roof so she would go to the white house and smoke their so she had early signs of being someone who didn't like the color between the lines.
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he would eventually become the speaker of the house and they had a very. of us to the point when her daughter who now is widely understood wasn't fathered by nicholas roosevelt but by a senator from idaho and alice once again illustrates her sense of humor when she suggested that the child would be named in and her family prevailed upon her not to do that but she continued to be a real celebrity. she made the cover of the magazine in 1927 long before anyone had heard of eleanor so she had a long time brewing the social circuit in washington. at the same time she became increasingly politically active and during the wilson
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administration or husband wanted to imitate so he lobbied to become the secretary of the navy and to a large extent, the oyster bay branch and take them too seriously. they thought it was a little pathetic that this guy was trying to pretend to be like the famous gigantic roosevelt then he suddenly died in january of 1919 and everyone had been expecting him to run for president again said there was a void in the american political spectrum and what happens in 1920 the democrats reach out to the assistant secretary of the navy and nominate him. this horrifies the branch his family because they thought the political legacy of their father belonged to teddy junior who was
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a war hero just coming back from france. they campaigned very vigorously and very nasty against franklin in 1920 election and this starts up the cousins because now you have a competition for his crown if you will and so 1920 the oyster bay branch campaigned against franklin. 1924 theodore is running for governor in new york state which was another one of the stepping stones that he'd taken to the white house. franklin is now followed by polio so eleanor steps in and organizes looking back on its it now a wonderfully dirty trick of creating the singing a teapot. theodore had been assistant secretary during the teapot scandal so when running for the
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governorship the democrats decided to target with oil so eleanor had a large papier-mâché teapot on top of the car that had steam and it went through new york state and so she was very proud of the fact giving herself as being the architect campaigning for truth and had a bunch of suffragettes and the press loved the idea that one cousin was campaigning against another so looking back she admitted this was a rough start and apologized for it by the the oyster bay branch never did forget her. then we jump ahead and franklin now is running for the white house in 1932 and once again they come out very vigorously campaigning against him. even the famous edith who
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believes that a woman's job to appear in the paper was just when you're born, when you marry and when you die and even she came out and started to take public appearances including one at madison square garden at the republican rallies. she was so desperate to keep roosevelt out of the white house so that brings us to the reading end and the reading that you are going to hear is from march of 1933 and this is the evening he franklin has been inaugurated and they are facing their first day in the white house that to a large extent alice very much believes belongs to her and her family. with that i will turn over to my co-author who will give you a bit of fun of her chapters.
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>> i don't read out of the actual book because i'm an editor by heart and i've edited my own book. [laughter] >> we are on the evening of the inauguration. the president might have insisted that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself but he forgot to check with his wife first. eleanor was a nervous wreck on her first inauguration day as the first lady. she stood shivering as he leaned on their son's shoulder from the east capital to the center of the moderation platform 146 feet away. while his landmark speech took only 15 minutes, they stretched for 6 miles and several hours. the crowds were so tremendous she felt they would do were to do anything if only someone told them what to do.
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it was very solemn and a little terrifying. the president would end by john tell the marching bands had went by that but she had to leave early to get back to the white house to greet the guests invited over for afternoon tea and sandwiches although 3,000 showed up. later that night to the woman that had the dreaded dances all her life would slip on her silver down and leave franklin behind to attend the inaugural ball. that was the easy part of the day. a few hours earlier she had extended the roosevelt family to arrive to celebrate the white house triumph. there were 75 and all for the dinner and not a drop to drink. prohibition wasn't appealed until the december. the invitation list was drawn up by fdr's mother who sat near franklin in the small dining room is full of pride and expensive jewelry waiting to welcome the guests.
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eleanor discarded the usual first lady protocol and greeted the visitors herself at the door. among them cousins and archie roosevelt from her side cousin laura uncle and then came cousin alice. at first no one knew exactly how to react. after all this was a party for a victory she tried to snuff out the gate kitchen fire. they chatted and alice had the good sense to limit her conversation to praise the current president roosevelt as opposed to the previous one. then she walked over to eleanor. alice thought her cousin could use a few pointers. he will be able you will be able to learn after a while how to handle this. i will hope you if you like. mother expressed her say and
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nervousness mounting under her cousin's patronage. almost two years had done nothing to curb her style or compulsion. her lifetime claim on the white house was as strong as ever. she didn't only drop by on the first day that she'd been there the day before. she said she wanted to take her 8-year-old daughter over to say goodbye to her old friend but there was a dose of curiosity in her motivation. they look like figures they look so i'm alive. that was the third of march. the next night dinner at the white house. it couldn't have been a more incredible contrast. they showed up to see the
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extended family wasn't shocking though given the support of the republican ticket was a little like a player from the losing super bowl team dropping by the locker room. paste in the reality of being out she had two options for dealing with the rise of her high park relatives. or take a bow of ice cold hostility. naturally she chose both options. she cursed every one of the policies and mocked eleanor all the while accepting every invitation they offered. the more belligerent members were disgusted by her willingness to associate with the white house.
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i couldn't help thinking that it was like behaving that alice is the devoted brother ted. for her part she was expected to speak softly like the previous first ladies. i knew what should lie before me. i've watched mrs. theodore roosevelt and have seen what it meant to be the wife of the president and i cannot say that i was pleased by the prospect. the bow lasted exactly for two days. on the monday after the moderation, eleanor conducted a press conference in the red room eleanor added a twist in the mail of female reporters to attend. it was her form of affirmative action in a way to underscore the disadvantages women face in more professions including the media. the first conference attracted 35 female reporters some of whom had to sit on the floor because
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there were not enough chairs. eleanor arrived carrying fruit and passed around as it around as if she were hosting a neighborhood bridge party. she focused on topics she felt with interest women which she insisted with the president's realm. when she seemed to stray too close to an issue it was the women themselves with caution by yelling out you better put that off the record. it's no wonder that his old friend and the editor of the home journal soon got her to enter the press corps herself. he commissioned her to write an article called the ideal both occasions of the president's wife. who all would be better to break it to them the girl that smoked on top of the white house roof. she took a poke or two at her
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cousin wrote in a sort of invisible ink focusing on her means an obsession with saving the world rather than what her actual policy choices. if eleanor was overstepping her boundaries as the president's wife alice wasn't going to say so directly even as she reminded them that the first lady was still fair game. there's always a possibility there is always a possibility that people will say we didn't elect her. what is she here for. that hardly stop her. in 1933 she made the cover of "time" magazine more than six years after alice earned the honor. the time cover had been published to coincide the book of essays called it's up to the women and audit backs of platitude. for every normal human being fresh air is a sensual. and an impassioned argument in the country and the world. yet again she was on her
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cousin's coattails. the same week that the book was released alice published her autobiography the arrived in large part alice had written for the ladies home journal and it was a bloodless political memoir. still the book sold well in large part because alice said so little in the record. crowded hours was at the top of the nonfiction bestseller list for every city east of the mississippi on november 3, 1933 area that was the week eleanor's book hit the stands. it's up to the one and only made the top of the list in washington where it beat crowded hours of the top spot. as it turned out to the books were on the introduction to what became the long meeting. the next round was touched off by will rogers the famous actor writer. he was a handful of prominent people who was a friend to alice and eleanor equally. in august 1945 to 55-year-old
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was touring alaska when his plane crashed upon takeoff telling him. his column had been a fixture by 40 million people a day. they needed another informed phil rogers space. ..
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of wpa funds on the same day emnor right recount her trip to the strict of columbia training school for delinquent girls. does that place exist anymore? alice wag a cynic to eleanor the same roles they played since they were teenagers. i'm trying terribly hard to be impartial and mall lent left e lent. she said when her columnday buieed. when i think of frank and eleanor in the white house could grind my teeth to powder and blow them out my nose. alice was perhaps the only
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person on the planet who referred to the president as frank. naturally she was more formal to his face. i called him franklin, she said. he would wince as if he preferred to have me call him mr. president. that would annoy him but we had very good time together. she certainly rarely pulled her punches. for instance, she attacked the administration relentlessly over the plan to take the united states off the gold standard. she saw it as yet another example of franklin's power mongering, in her columns she took to referring to him as an economic royalist. alice lost that argument. president roosevelt signed the gold reserve act into law in january 1934. had the pleasure of sitting by mrs. alice longworth in the senate gallery when the bill passed will rogers wrote to a friend. alice tooking right on the chin and smiled. but she also had the last laugh once again. a few days later on he next
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visit to a former white house function she showed up wearing a blue velvet gown, and well-chosen alaska see his-the paper reported from their ear to her shoulders dangled gold earrings shaped lining horn's plenty. about her neck was a hey gold chain from which dangled a cherokee indian frog in green gold. her watch bracelet was white gold. she even wore amber gold side cones in her hair. eleanor found herself caught in her cousin's web as well thangs to her cousin's genius for mimickry. with her teeth jutted out and her voice ratcheted up. alice am spooned eleanor as something like a talking horse just out of a proper finishing school. he act started as a cocktail party student but soon payment infamous enough that washington
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gossip columnists reported when alice add knew feature. one woman recalled being at a white house luncheon won eleanor herself asked alice why don't you give one of your imperson nations of me right now? dicker moen recalled the always self-assured alice seem briefly up easy before performing the routine that had been generating guffaws at parties across the capital. eleanor laughed obilgely. i she was hurt she didn't give alice the satisfaction of responding. in fact she later wrote the most helpful criticism i ever received -- it's hard not to break into the eleanor voice -- was a takeoff of me on the radio done by in cows skin alice. she did it for me one joon and i could not help being amused and realizing it was a truthful picture and i had many things to correct. not surprisingly, the washington chattering class start predicting alice's compile from the white house once and for
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all. the story became such a hot topic the reporters at one of eleanor's all-female weekly press conferences asked if it were true. elmore denied it. but alice herself told a different story. years later she insisted eleanor dropped a series of hints. when eleanor came to the white house, she said to me you are always welcome here, but you must never feel you have to come. [laughter] >> so i went with great eye lack credit and enthusism and had a lovely, malicious time. then a little while later i had not communication from eleanor. i'm told you are bored at coming to the white house and i never want you to be that. so so i wrote her a very cheerful reply saying how disagreeable people, trying to make more trouble than there already is between us. i've always enjoyed myself immensely, et cetera, et cetera, needless to say alice says, eleanor never asked me the again. it was true that alice could
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test the limits of her cousin's toll ran when eleanor and photographer frank's son james suggest that alice be named to a government commission, fdr's replay in eleanor's words wases i control censor it somewhat. i don't want anything to do with that woman. but the invitation to the white house kempt coming. several newspapers report that franklin and eleanor invited alice to white house on february 12, 1934. that was alice's 50th birthday the warm feelings to run in the other direction too. on the day they sat together in the senate gallery to see the gold standard bill passed, will rogers noticed a considerably mow empathetic alice. she sincerely believes no president ever carried the faith of as many people as this distant relative. it was as if the roosevelt women were playing the role of hissing cousins much more than they felt it.
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[applause] >> thank you. so now what we'd like to do, if there i any questions we have microphone over here and be happy to entertain in. so we have one. >> as someone who lived in washington for 35 odd years this has a very inside the beltway flavor. the depression was full steam ahead in the 30s. were people really following this or wasis just sort of inside the beltway stuff like lincoln -- there was some woman the n history who kept -- maybe mrs. jackson -- out of the white house, wouldn't let anyone talk to her. >> so, how much was the story really followed outside the -- >> exactly. >> interestingly enough it actually was very closely
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followed. we -- a lot of our sources for our research were the original newspaper articles that came from all over the country. i think what happened was with the roosevelt family in particular you have the rise of theodore roosevelt also sort of coincides with the beginning of a real communications revolution and so you now have the ability of stories to be sent across the country very quickly, and not long after that you have the beginning of radio and so increasingly this was something that was followed thought the whole country. there was -- and alice in particular. it's tough to understate just how much of a celebrity she was really for the first half of the 20th century. everywhere she went, including hollywood, the l.a. papers were agog and hollywood and all the
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1930s starlets whetten alice shows up they make the front page. >> blanch cook in her biography of eleanor seems to indicate that the rivalry between alice and eleanor increased rather sharply in 1917-18 when both their marriages were failing shall we say and that alice's gelosis reflected in part because of the unhappiness when -- with her marriage and it's also when alice sort of encouraged fdr to be seeing more of lucy mercer, and invited actually i think several times lucy and fdr to her own house for dinner. >> right. >> as a sort of getting back at eleanorment i wonder if you want to comment on all of that. >> sure, sure.
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in alice's case, her marriage took place in 1906, and was within just a few years troubled. they had a very tempes toss match, alice and nick longworth from the start and one of the complicating factors is when teddy roosevelt ran as an independent, the bull moose or progressive party in 1912 and essentially split the republican vote. it's the only time that you had a third party candidate actually get more electoral and popular votes than one of the major party nominees so it was wilson, roosevelt, and then poor william howard taft at the bottom, and nick longworth felt obligated to stay loyal republican, and alice, of course, was siding with her father and that brought a lot of tension to the marriage and when a -- a lot of
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public attention and was probably the beginning of the time when people start to talk about alice threatening divorce and so they sort of had a seesaw marriage for years. in the franklin roosevelt case, you're correct it was the fall of 1918, i believe -- that -- when eleanor discovers the letters, the lucy mercer letters in franklin's luggage and that sort of a real blow to eleanor and really sort of changed -- under fingerprint yale changed the marriage and changed eleanor, and yes before then, ali was as part of her malicious activities, when eleanor would take the children up to camp abelia the roosevelt summer home, alice would invite lucy mercer to dinner, and franklin to dinner, and she said famously to -- remarked when someone took her to task for
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that she said i feel sorry for franklin after all he's married to eleanor. >> no. she said he deserves a good time. he is married to eleanor. which is a little bit less nice than the way you -- >> but yes at the end of the day, it is -- i think it's entirely likely that alice was sort of enjoyed seeing eleanor go through this if for nothing else, a little bit of -- she was really so -- desperately unhappy. and her affair with senator bora starts to take off in the late teenies and early '20s so alice is 40 years old when she gives birth to her first and only child and it was an open secret in washington that paulineow was not nick longworth's child. if didn't know it, he was the only person who didn't know it.
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and yet he was to his credit a very devoted father, unfortunately he died when paulinea was seven years old but for the first seven years of her life he was really remarkably devote dad which was also sort of amazing because he was quite a partyer and laid's man and not one for domestic life but that changed him a little bit. thank you for the question. >> just want to -- just thinking about something. i think blanc is probably right there was tension bus both however marriages fell apart but the rivalry between the two cousins predated that considerably. eleanor was always the perfect girl. she was teddy roosevelt's favorite niece because she always did everything just as we saw her do for her entire life. alice quickly learned she could never compete in a family like that. so the became the bad girl, the smoker the gambler et cetera.
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so it became her goal to sort of goad eleanor a little but to get her father's attention. why can't you be more like your cousin eleanor is what was said to alice. so in a way it's not surprising that throughout life, as these women developed into two completely different people, that when alice had an opportunity to accentuate her strength which is to be malicious, she did. she also genuinely i think cared for eleanor throughout her life and she felt that alice -- she felt that eleanor needed to lighten up. she felt she was never happy which i think is in fact true. she was only happy when he was being a do-gooder. she wasn't a happy mother or wife and the she thought eleanor should enjoy life more so that was her way of spicing it up. not necessarily to be recommend it but that was her ware.
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>> she was active with her open friends, male and female. >> eleanor. >> yes another life for her. those were also people she was helping shep was always happiest when she felt she could be of service, whether the female reporters or the people who became her biographers she was helping. so she wasn't a miserable sit in the dark all day long kind of person obviously but i think alice was right when she felt that eleanor didn't have a lot of joy in life, and alice was very much a carpe diem person, hi mother and grandmother died essentially two days after she was born. she saw that if you waste time, life goes by and you don't have nothing show for it. so they had completely different philosophies which inflammed the way they reacted to each other quite a bit. >> watch out for him. >> that's an easy one. did alice come to admire eleanor
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for any of her good works? they seem in some ways like -- though they would have been hissing at each other that secretly alice wouldn't have been against the kind of good works eleanor was doing. >> it's a great question. i guess there are two parts to that answer. so one is that there almost are two different alices. there's the alice before eleanor's death and the one after. and after eleanor's death it was almost like the game was over and when you look at the interviews with alice after 1962 she is much more generous, both to franklin and eleanor and in a way that she really couldn't be during their lifetimes, i speculate. she did on occasion, sort of grudgingly give credit to both franklin and eleanor for their accomplishments, but it was usually a little bit of a side note rather than the headline.
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part of what makes this so -- to me so fascinating is that the -- if we back all the way up to the theodore roosevelt presidency, and you look at what he referred to as the square deal, and this was essentially very progressive republican politics, and he endorse it con sents which later became social security, labor protections, prevention of child labor, increased rights for women, including the right to vote. environmentalism. a number of incredibly progressive things that he endorsed. and then it was cousin franklin who essentially picks up that progressive mantle with ill nor at his side, and you have the new deal, and many of the policies of the new deal -- there's a direct line, very easy line to be drawn from one administration to the other
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these two roosevelts' administrations, even though one was republican and one was democrat. if you will, the party's sort of flipped largely as a result of franklin and eleanor being in the white house that you had the democrats become the progressive party. the irony is that alice and her brother, ted start essentially opposing these progressive politics for family reasons. there's no other rational reason when you really dig into it when you see why wouldn't she have been delighted to see an incredibly capable politician take her father's legacy and carry it on and actually put so much of it into effect? and i can only conclude that a huge amount of this was not -- it wasn't that -- franklin and eleanor, wasn't what they were doing, it was who they were and
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that us what really brought out the tigress in alice when they were alive. >> any evidence that eleanor wished she could be a little bit more the bad girl and have a little fun? >> um, i would say that the one example you have there the really good example is that the teapot story and -- >> 1924. >> 1924, and part of what we love about that story is that it is -- it goes so much against the grain of what people understand about eleanor roosevelt. she has a justly earned reputation as this incredibly ethical fair-minded decent person who tried to do good for everyone and then this was really just a karl rove-union
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dirty trick. cousin theodore had been exonerated in the teapot dome scandal, and so he really was clean, and he was a remarkable -- probably one of the most underappreciated people of our political history. really remarkable man who deserves a lot of credit, and who knows what he might have done in his political career, but eleanor slapped a lot of oil all over him and he was done, and never had -- never ran in another competitive race after that. >> i have read, although i can't cite the place now that franklin became a democrat as a way of distinguishing himself from the teddy roosevelt part of the family and the oyster bay roosevelts rather than because of any political philosophy or anything of that sort and felt
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it would be a way he could better achieve his political objectives although, as you point out herb also very much wanted to follow in theodore's footsteps, beginning with becoming an assistant secretary of the navy, and then running although unsuccessfully for vice president, and then of course governor of new york, which teddy had done. number one i'm wondering whether you know how much of that story is true about why franklin was a democrat in new york rather than following in the roosevelt republican footsteps, and also -- this is perhaps more probing psychologically -- whether you see any parallel or any similarity in the attempts to distinguish themselves that franklin may haven't -- may have
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had with theodore and that alice and eleanor had had with each other. >> thanks. so to your first question, i am not aware of any facts around that story that franklin might have become a democrat in order to distinguish himself which is not to say that there's something out there that might not say that. i haven't seen that. >> i mean, you have to remember the whole family thing. so the hyde parks were democrats. and the oyster bayers were republicans. >> were the hyde park room -- roosevelt democrats even before teddy became president? >> yes yes. >> when he was governor the various other things? >> but going even back a little bit in time, what becomes -- what differentiates them --
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wasn't franklin -- he was born a democrat -- this side of the family enter married with southerners, so franklin's father married a southerner -- theodore's father married a woman from georgia whose brothers in fact fought nor confederacy and left the country. so the relationship of the two sides to slavery and therefore their relationship to the democratic party and the republican party was different for the oyster bay side than it was for the hyde park side. so they were really sort of died in the wool democrats -- dyed in the wool democrats as time went on. there was never a switching there. i mean, quite the opposite. franklin did everything he could possibly think of to imitate theodore even to the point where he insisted very young in life he wanted to have six children because teddy had six children. he wore the same glasses. he went around saying, bully. i mean, --
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>> everything except becoming a republican. >> i don't know why -- it's interesting because even before the assistant secretary of the navy teddy was in the state legislature in new york, and so of course franklin ran for the state legislature from upstate new york, but he was a democrat, and there would discussion whether he should actually switch parties to republican because democrats never won from up there. but his name and his mother -- or his mother's money want the election for him. so i think it's actually the opposite. i would say there's evidence strongly that he resisted any urges to switch parties. >> thank you. i think the only other thing i want to add to that is that i would say in terms of franklin's attitude his imitation of theodore it was seen by many observers prior to 1921, in his polio, he was seen as being sort of a very shallow on
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opportunityist he imitated theodore a little too eagerly to the point where people sort of rolled their eyes and laughed are but you then have in rapid succession the death of theodore 1919 and then franklin getting polio in 1921 and the experience for franklin, that extraordinarily difficult life-changing experience, really sort of shifted in a lot of ways his behavior, and gave him much -- i would call it more -- gravitas and certain lay greater appreciation for hardship. and he game off a more grounded serious politician and not just one trying to act like his famous uncle-in-law. >> thank you. >> tim congratulations. we grew up together in long island. mark congratulations on a
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wonderful book. >> thank you. >> i had question about disability primarily generated from president roosevelt -- franklin roosevelt -- that maybe a little far afield from the tenor of the book but i wondered in your research if you came across any conversations between alice and eleanor as to how they really felt about franklin's disability, the splendid deception, and how the press and how the public treated that issue, and whether you uncovered anything behind the scenes that you might have gotten your attention, i might not have known or read anywhere else. >> sure. a great question. so yeah, i guess interestingly enough one of the things that is really interesting about going back and plowing through old microfilm of newspapers at the time, is you really get a sense of the voice and discourse, and one thing i had always understood prior to
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starting this project was that franklin's disability was something that was very much hidden and unknown by the public and interestingly enough when the "new york times" was talking about leading candidates for the 1932 election they very openly -- franklin roosevelt was on a short list because he was a successful governor of new york state. they very openly talk about his disability. of course, using the terminology of the time, you know, refer to his being a cripple and so it kind of makes is wince a little today but that was normal at the time. so it was striking how very much it was in the public discourse, if you took the time to actually read the newspapers. that being said, franklin certainly did undertake an extraordinary campaign and his handlers around him an extraordinary campaign to
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control the image and so it was everything from locking up this braces so that he would be seen to walk, when he would make public appearances. and this was incredibly painful for him and there are several famous occasions that only became known about afterwardses where one time in philadelphia, at a rally where just moments before speaking, he tumbled into the mud and his speech went scattering and his aides had to run around, scoop him up and clean him off and then get him up to the podium, and he went on to deliver an extraordinary speech. eleanor played an amazing role in supporting him really from the very first day of the onset of his polio and she was probably wouldn't surprise any of you to know, just an amazing source of emotional support for him as well as, quite frankly physical support.
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learning how to work a catheter and enemas when he was in his initial disability. and really just kind of stuck with him through that whole entire process. now, unfortunately while alice was very fond of franklin and eleanor on a personal and social level, alice often times let her wit get the bert of her and there were a few times when she was not very disguised in referring to franklin's disability. one time -- i'll paraphrase here because i don't have the quote in front of me -- she said something to the effect of franklin in his -- what she referred to his very socialist policies -- was trying to essentially cause the entire country to be disabled to be in a wheelchair, conflicted -- cob stricted like he was.
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a crippled mentality was the way she referred to it. there was another point where she in her column referred to the government struggling to respond to a particular issue and she referred to them as being in a palsy over it. so she used words which were not particularly good code words to remind people of this guy in the wheelchair and again it was this -- alice on many levels was someone who was fun and you could admire a lot but she also -- there were definitely times when you read quotes and you wince a little bit and think, gee she probably wished she didn't say that. -...
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and oyster bay. how much of this was then and how much is it because of how the society accepted who they were? >> it's a complicated question
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of course and it could take a long time to read i think the way that i would answer that is to say what makes the leading roosevelt's remarkable is that yes despite the fact that all of them had a great deal of money and they were not at the vanderbilt levels that they were not so far behind one of them had to worry at any stage in their lives about paying rent or when james and sarah roosevelt went on their honeymoon it was a year-long trip to europe that is what you do after you got married he took off with your servants and your bags and did the european tour and you didn't worry about who was paying the taxes back home. but what was remarkable is despite they faced a great many
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obstacles. certainly looking at the case of her childhood and her alcoholic father and distant mother died very young, just incredibly tragic and so one of the things you see is that despite her privileged position she still had a great deal to overcome and what makes her so remarkable is that she was able to take that and translate that into action and have the empathy part so that she could say it's not just enough that i overcame all this stuff. she could have easily said having overcome all of this i have learned a lifetime of ease and now i'm going to enjoy it but instead she did just the opposite and jumped into every imaginable challenge and i'm not going to recap her career. we touch on it here just as a backdrop to her relationship
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with alice but it was a an incredible life. so hopefully that answers the question a little bit. both eleanor and alice walker brothers died from the results of alcoholism in ways that were to just under the surface of the principles of different era so it could keep them out of the gossip pages but that was incredibly painful for both of them to have their brothers to whom they were very close go through multiple marriages and very unhappy dysfunctional children so they struggled emotionally a great deal. with that i think that we will close things up. [applause]
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