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tv   Ted Widmer Lincoln on the Verge  CSPAN  May 31, 2020 12:00pm-1:06pm EDT

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we are using this time to reach out to our senior phallus, friends and constituents to talk about the important issues and ethics in public life that are at the heart of the council's work. so thank you all for joining us. today's topic is democracy on the verge, leadership in times of crisis. this title is a play on the title of the new book, lincoln on the verge, 13 days to washington, written by our good friend and carnegie fellow ted widmer. great to see you ted. >> thank you it's good to be here. >> i'm going to let ted described the book i will set the outset it is really a thriller. the book is cinematic, it's philosophical, it is a great story. and for me it is inspirational. like all of ted's work, lincoln on the verge, uses the path to enlightenment future and suggest a better future.
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this is not a bad formula for an entrant understanding the intersection of ethics and public policy for this and many other reasons i'm grateful to ted for his own leadership in our field. in addition to his career as a writer, author and teacher he has been a white house speech writer and a state department historian. he has witnessed the messy real-time compromises of democracy in action. and as max put it politics is a strong and slow boring. it takes both passion and perspective. in this way, ted, along with lincoln reminds us that ethics is not merely about dreams, but also about making hard choices. we've asked ted to relate some of the lessons of his new book and personal experiences. specifically we have asked him how should we be thinking
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about the health and well-being of democracy these days, especially as it is challenged by the urgencies of the pandemic and the deeper faultlines of polarization. now before turning it over to ted, just a word about our format. we have asked ted to kick things off with a short presentation, after that ted and i will have a bit of a dialogue and in the back half the program will be interactive so please use your chat function to pose questions as we go. our moderator, alex will read the questions on your behalf. so over to you ted congratulations on the book and perhaps you could kick us off with some brief reflection on the book. so thank you so much joel what a lovely introduction. i want to thank you enough carnegie council for being such good friends for now quite a few years. i think i met joel about 20 years ago. we are both friends with a
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great historian who was also a careful student of current events and foreign policy that was james chase who was a very good friend of both of us. he knew you can't really study the current political environment without a sense of history. and also knowing where we are as a nation now, paradoxically can inform the writing of history and present was on my mind as i did this deep immersion in a two-week period in february 1861. we are a divided country now as everyone knows, we are divided in many ways not just republicans and democrats. the lincoln moment i chose to write about, i think is the only time the division was even worse. so with that problem think
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again in the 13 day train trip that lincoln was on, i did not know when i began the project, now almost ten years ago, that our problems would be as deep as they are. that we have international problems i hope we can talk about them i'm very worried about the standing of the u.s. in the world as i know you are. and what it means to be an ethical leader in the world community. which is so important for the united states to fulfill that role. and i am also very troubled about how deep the political divide is mainly between democrats and republicans. but even within the two parties, its restive it is not settled, people are not happy for a lot of reasons. we are racially divided you saw that terrible shooting in georgia that got into the news over the last couple days.
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we're still trying after all of these decades, more than 200 years, to figure out what it means to be american. joel and i have talked about that many, many times. so this book project has helped me a lot to reflect on that larger question. it began in a pretty ordinary way. i was writing a series of almost blog post i would not even call them quite articles. but short essays in the "new york times" beginning around 2010, going up to about 2015 all around the 150th anniversary of our civil war. the idea was that we could find younger historians who were comfortable in the digital environment could put up more articles about history in the online "new york times" than they would have been able to put in the printed paper.
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when it started the online "new york times" was kind of a backyard no one cared about. it was fine to let a bunch of civil war historians right there. since then, the online has become the main deal. it is fascinating to see now how things have changed and not that many years with the online environment is basically everything. but i was part of a kind of digital experiment to see if history could be done well and we found it really could be that in some ways it's a much better environment to write history. you can put up beautiful photographs all kinds of graphics you get instant requests and questions and from readers like we can do in this conversation today. it was thrilling. way back then i was thinking what is a kind of story i could tell wellin a format that wants me to it write one post a day.
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that was basically my job for them is what happened 150 years ago? i saw that lincoln had this 13 day train trip. i thought that is a perfect kind of story for submitting a daily blog. i could do here is what lincoln did on day one of the trip appears on day two, and we can put some photographs up of the cities he's passing through. it turned out to be a much better story and deeper story. for me it ended up literally consuming ten years of my life. because it was so deep it was basically bottomless. goes into the endlessly fascinating question of who is abraham lincoln? he is still elusive to a biographer even more than 15000 books have been written about him. why did his speeches become so good? he had given a few important
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speeches, not too many, a few. the lincoln douglas debates are important the cooper union address in new york is very important, he steps it up to an even higher level while traveling under very difficult conditions. under rapidly moving a railroad through all these different cities of the upper midwest in the north. and then how did he deal with some of the worst political problems any incoming president has had to deal with? he was elected with a very, very weak plurality it was not a mandate it was less than 40% of the vote he had the second lowest of votes of a winning presidential candidate and our history. which is amazing if you think about how famous lincoln has become, to look at the bad hand he was dealt when he won the election.
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after john quincy adam he is the second weakest victor of a presidential race. seven states succeed after he is elected so he is only the president-elect of half a country. then as i develop in the book, it was not at all certain he could even make it to washington to become the president of a country called the united states. believe me, i have spent many years studying this. i was shocked by how much new information i was able to find by really digging into journal accounts from the winter of 1860 and 61, private correspondence between important players like william henry stewart, new york senator and future secretary of state. basically the democracy was hanging by a thread in the idea of a country called the united states of america was also hanging by a thread. because washington was not
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very sympathetic capital to the presidential hoax of abraham lincoln and this very new, unformed party called the republican party which was not a grand old party. it was not grand and it was not old it was apparently one party and if you are a new england republican you are very different than an illinois republican or wisconsin republican they all had different goals and jungles. they are barely coherent as a party and lincoln is not much of a party leader. he's an accidental nominee of party bosses and that's good for him. he's not really dictating party policy. and then the situation in washington is terrible. the republicans are unpopular there is a nether president, a democrat, james buchanan who is sullen and uncooperative with lincoln and it's coming very close to recognizing the
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new confederate government which does not even really have a name yet. the states have seceded away from the u.s. they just have not quite formed in their new government. foreign powers are on the verge phrase i use a lot on the verge of recognizing this new slave -based country without a clear name yet. what i was shocked to discover was how close the south came to sending a pretty small set of militia soldiers, it would not have been organized troops but a couple hundred men with guns from virginia and maryland into the city of washington d.c. which was barely defended at all and just taking over the u.s. government, taking over the u.s. capitol that included the library of congress and the senate and supreme court in the house. they would have had all of the treaties of american history they would've had the patents
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that dictated so much commerce, and they would have been able -- vectors papal records they would've been able to call themselves the night is states of america. and lincoln would have been a rogue president elect of something else who probably would've only been able to make it to philadelphia. he is the one who would've had to rename his country. no one quite knows what would have happened. but through incorruptible, moral leadership which gathered huge numbers of americans behind him including people who had not even voted for him, and physical courage. i talk a lot about how brave he was to stand out on that train platform day after day and night after night were anyone could get very close to him. that was the whole point. he's defending democracy.
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and one really wild ride the last night of the trip when he went all night in an ordinary passenger car of an ordinary commuter chain train that went from philadelphia through wilmington and baltimore there is a very serious assassination conspiracy to take his life and arrived at dawn in washington on february 23, 1861, walked up capitol hill and by arriving safely i argue he made everything possible. not just four years of his presidency, which we now know very well is historic. the civil war is one of the most important episodes in american history. in my epilogue i argue that so many episodes of america's moral leadership in the world, and america's greatness as a country, including our late but important entry into world war i, and our transformative
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role on us as well as on the world and world war ii, when we along with our allies crushed fascism, not just a few countries but an ideology that was very powerful and reasserted the importance of democracy, race blind democracy by the way. and within economic component is fdr always articulated it as the primary organizing idea of the world from 1945 on. fdr dies in 1945 but we know very well what he says and i argue if lincoln does not survive his train trip, and then when the civil war and in the process revitalize all of those ideas about democracy specifically soaring language of the declaration of
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independence which is a document about human rights in addition to declaring the right to form a new country. it's also asserting the right to all human beings for foundational human rights. if lincoln does not get off the train live, i am not sure how world war ii turns out for the united states or the world. we are fighting that war with an equally powerful southern version of ourselves, that still has either real slavery or some modernized version of a wage slavery we are not able to inspire the world's people to fight in world war ii the way we sit successfully did. and very aware we've often fallen short of our own standards and we have since them in vietnam, iraq, and i'm very aware that other countries often hold that up against us. but still, the fact that we
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won a civil war to reassert a better version of ourselves and lincoln's language is still important in learning how we did that. and that we stood up to fight fascism and then build the international architecture that this community of listeners know so well, the un. so many agencies including in a time of pandemic the world health organization. all of that is because people can work together and they should work together. we solve problems more effectively and we are united, internationally as well as nationally the least top attacking people for all of the well-known problems we have. it is a civil war book comments even more specific than that it's about 13 days only in the life of lincoln. but it argued that by surviving those 13 days in developing the big concepts
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that he does develop on that trip, he gave us all the rhetoric to use and every future predicament, we are certainly in one now. >> host: ted, thank you that's terrific not only summary that brings us forward to today and the future about how our principles relate to the formation of not only public policy but as you're saying our role in the world. there are so many dramatic moments in the book. i want to come back to one of them. it's really at the core of what you were just saying. washington earth day 1861 it's when lincoln's train arrives in philadelphia and is called to speak at the independence hall. at that moment, maybe you
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could help the audience understand what actually comes together for lincoln at that moment and compare it to what was happening to his counterpart it was also having a journey of his own through the south, jefferson davis. what i took away from that was actually what inspired the solidarity you're talking about, was the point that lincoln came to and that famous speech in 1861. that in philadelphia became the rally points, the true north if you will. that was for lincoln, for the union, for what the country should be. >> guest: thank you for that question. that is the pivot of the entire book. it's a very short speech she gives insight independence hall on the morning of
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february 22, 1861. it's loaded with drama. as you say jefferson davis has been racing on a train of his own across the south and he has arrived. lincoln is still trying to get to washington and the night before, he is heard from a really into female spy in baltimore, that there is an extremely serious conspiracy involving as many as a thousand people who will stab and shoot him when he comes through baltimore and the transfer between two train stations when he has to write a horse and carriage. so he has taken in that information the night before, pretty dark information. he's got to go out and talk about democracy and trust between people. so it's a very heavy moment for lincoln.
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but, brilliantly they have scheduled the talk for the morning of washington's birthday. i argue that was a triumph of something we don't always think of an 19th century history. but then, as now, they're thinking about the equivalent of photo ops and how to position the president-elect and his tractive light as possible. argue that southern leaders including davis, just as good a claim to george washington. george washington is a southerner and jefferson davis had close personal ties, relatives of his and his wife's hood fought in the american revolution more than lincoln did. but lincoln was smarter and the way he thought about washington's birthday. and to talk in independence hall on washington birthday that's a second both important
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day of the year after fourth of july. to talk in independence hall gave him a chance to talk about the declaration of independence which is for lincoln a core document. he has been talking about it for years. he hasn't almost a mystical attachment to that document and specifically the second paragraph with the great soaring language we hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal either god their creator with certain unalienable rights and among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. that is a lot of lincoln's political program just in those sentences. in fact, affirmation of the declaration of independence was written into the republican platform of 1860. it's unusual the declaration goes into a political platform but it was really under attack in the 1850s as southerners were saying and more and more
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aggressive language, that was a mistake, that was some boilerplate 1776 obviously does not apply to african-americans who aren't really people in the full sense of the word and they are definitely not citizens in any sense. they cannot get married, they don't have last nays, they don't have any civil rights. that was a strong southern position in 1870 and jefferson davis himself goes on record and including in his farewell speech of the u.s. senate he goes out of his way to say by the way the declaration of independence is not apply to black people. lincoln comes in, and is always calming and unified language says there's not a political thought i have ever had it is not stem in some way from the declaration of independence. it is a powerful moment.
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he has been traveling in his mind through some of the darkest days of the american revolution the days talked about washington at valley forge, he is saying why are we all here? why did they fight a very difficult war and go through a lot of hardship to create a country to hand off to us? he said it was not merely to be separate. that was easy. it was to establish a new kind of model for the world. it was a better kind of government in which people run things for themselves. and the adversary to the continental soldiers. but in lincoln's mind, i was still going on most of europe
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was run by monarchies. but any system which the wealthy have all of the power and the poor have almost no political power that is not with the founders were fighting for. lincoln, having grown up as poor as he did felt a real sympathy for the plight of the slave. there's a lot of complicated ways to get at his complicated racial thinking. but basically he is in my opinion the greatest abolitionist in american history. he would not have called himself that word in 1860 and 61 when he couldn't use that word to be elected. he is taking big steps towards racial equality, even in this train trip. and as we know he does the emancipation proclamation at the end of the war he calls for black citizenship than all of those amendments come through in the black citizenship becomes a reality. if he hadn't made it on that trip, i don't think any of those things would have happened. i also argue he has purged independence hall, one of the most sacred historical shrines of its own sinfulness in this story because in the 1850s it
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had become a holding cell for african-americans who were rounded up in philadelphia, often incorrectly. free people of color were rounded up by u.s. marshals and held in a holding pen on the second floor of independence hall before being sent into the south and back into slavery. in a way, lincoln is giving them building back its integrity as well as the country. >> host: one of the parts of the book i enjoy so much it comes from that scene but it permeates through the lincoln felt he was somehow communicating with the founders. that he was somehow -- they are live in some way and he summons them and was sort of speaking with them and working things out. i presume the way you are thinking to is others then -- than lincoln joins ed becomes a source for leadership i want
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to press you on one particular theme we were talking about leadership. my simple way of understanding the how the american dna in terms of how we think about leadership, the founders had two concerns they certainly had great concern about a king. the whole point of the experiment was to be democracy. so they feared the king but they feared the masses. they feared both. to the whole idea of the founding documents was to somehow work that out. i'm just curious how lincoln -- lincoln was probably seen as many as -- and then later we see other american leaders seem that way, fdr is seen as to
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radical. so how do you think about this sort of american dna, if you will, anti- king idea and how that is playing out today. i see it playing out now is sort of our polarized environment we are in. it seems distinctly american in a way that we are not going to be taking our direction from the central authority. >> guest: i agree with you, lincoln felt an unusual degree that he was communicating with the founders. and i mean that in the strangest sense as it may sound pretty think he was almost having private séances with them. there is a fair amount of evidence, i write about this, he really tried to talk to dead people. he could hear them and he could hear him in some way we fully do not understand it he wrote poems as a young man
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about trying to communicate with the dead. he loved edgar allan poe. in his law partner asked him why he likes poe so much and he said because he so gloomy. there is kind of a dark side to lincoln i was very intrigued by. because the light side of lincoln's greatest sense of humor and his clear understanding of our best qualities prayed that is all good. there are these strange aspects of lincoln two. so, he is trying to correct the kind of gyroscope the founders created and set spinning. but it gets out of whack every generation or two. one way it was getting out of whack in 1860 in 1861 was that slavery was supposed to fade away. the founders themselves express the hope it would fade away it was kind of a
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temporary inconvenience for country talking a lot about freedom and democracy in 1776. but it got a lot stronger and lincoln says that in the cooper union address how to get so strong when the founders wanted to go away? : : :
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some of those worries were, had reason to touch to them. he suspends the writ of habeas corpus. arrests newspaper editors working in sensitive parts of the country . and he runs roughshod over his political opponents but he never loses sight of the big picture i would argue he submits to a very difficult reelection campaign in 1864. there are moments when it looks like that's not going to go hisway . he does some slightly funky things to help it go his way including he sends soldiers back to their home districts to help in a state like pennsylvania that could go either way but he never suspends the election itself and on that note, i might say
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parenthetically, that's a specific democratic fear that i feel in 2020 that the 20/20 election is very fragile and it could be suspended or postponed or the results contested and it's pretty easy to contest a result afterwards so i hope all of us from both parties will keep an eye on the november election and just keep it as honest as it can be and if we have to mail in our ballots, that's fine. there's very little need to worry about a male only election if it comes to that although i hope we can vote in person but you know, the best thing lincoln does is not just submitting to a second reelection campaign, but he talks so beautifully about what democracy is and he gives strength to democracy through his words
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and his first inaugural does that beautifully. gettysburg probably does it better than any speech in american history although it does subtle things to kind of change that gyroscope of what has gary wills wrote in the lincoln at gettysburg, lincoln substitutes a version of democracy that he likes better over the one that the founders had written. and then in his second inaugural address and in a few other minor speeches, i found interesting some speeches to ohio regiments in which he talks a lot about the 20th century. he talks about the grandchildren of these young men and how what they're doing will make democracy for americans of the 20th century. >> that's a great transition into one other point but at this point i want to alert the people who are watching are going to have some time for some q and a so if you
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have questions you'd like to pose for ted,please use the chat function and we will be moving to that . thank you for raising this point about the future. to what extent was lincoln thinking about democracy as an experiment? a universal experiment that might go beyond just a union but for the future of the human race and that sense, did he have that vision for it? and related to that i'm curious as you mentioned the election. today we're thinking so much about our democratic institution so it's not just the president but how is our society functioning? are we moving in a progressive way in the sense of inclusivity, genuine participation, making the system work for the people.
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so that is you know, and institutional question. again, lincoln had a lot on his plate. there was the leadership. there was the vision, all of that but that he also connected to the idea of the institutions of democracy. >> thanks again joel. i think lincoln absolutely is thinking about democracy for all people and for all time. and he says that in fact in the philadelphia speech you asked me to talk about. it's a short speech but i argue that it's the data version of the gettysburg address. he didn't have a piece of paper in his hand, he's just talking but he says there that they were working out, he says is not something in my own doesn't stem from the declaration of independence
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and then he says they were working out a new form of government for all people, for all time which is essentially what he says at gettysburg in the same state 2 and a half years later. so i don't think those two speeches are unrelated . why lincoln who is also a very canny and practical politician who knows the defects of democracy very well, why he has this kind of philosophical and nearly spiritual way of talking about democracy is kind of a mystery because not everyone had that. if you go through the ritual of saying a few words about democracy, it's not quite as elevated as it obviously was for abraham lincoln and where that comes from.
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i'm still wrestling to figure out and other people have been wrestling with that for a long time but of his contemporaries noticed that there was something unusually intense about his feelings about what is democracy, the right and the ability, do different things, of the people to govern themselves, relevance of the system so all people are nurse including people of different religions and the relevance of what we are doing at any given moment towards the future and in all those legs was unusual. william henry seward was a fellow can and his closest ally in the white house, they cowrote the final paragraph of the first inaugural better angels of our nature. he said this fascinating point and he said there's something very unusual about abraham lincoln.
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he actually appears to believe all the things he's saying and i love that quote. and another person who said something similar, fascinating figure on the other side, alexander stevens is the vice president of the confederacy. he is from georgia. he knows lincoln very well and they served in the house together in the 1840s and they correspond in a very meaningful way during this crisis of the south seceding and lincoln not yet president . he said their friends but there on opposite sides and he says the same thing. lincoln actually believes all that stuff he saying aboutthe declaration of independence . he really believes this and danger are, 90 two i think democracy will naturally settle on and their lives will be ameliorated forever and language, i love eleanor
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roosevelt eleanor and adlai stevenson in exciting years following the creation of the un were well into the early 60s when adlai stevenson is our ambassador to the un. we now know that we have to combine idealism with pragmatism. it's very important for anyone who defends democracy i believe anyone in the community of the carnegie council wants to do. but for that end i find really fascinating the steps lincoln was taking at the end of his life to get over the really big stumbling one of how democracy real for african-americans which was a work in progress to put it mildly yesterday, we got the news that the 1619 project of the new york times of pulitzer for its very good
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and emotional writing of american history but i objected to the way a distraction abraham lincoln because i thought in a kind of on methodical way, not looking at the full picture, they dismissed lincoln as a racist and yet another guy on the side of the patriarchy and the oppressive system delayed democracy for african-americans. and if you look really carefully at his life, he did an extraordinary amount to maneuver the argument into a place where after only four years it was so much further than it was when he comes in very weak on this train in 1861 and he's right on the eve of announcing forms of black citizenship in 1865 and it's almost certainly for that reason he announces it in his final speech that these murder because of how brave he is on that score.
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i would like people to understand how fast it was moving on the most to the question in our history. >> that's really awesome and i'm going to turn it to alex woodson. i see there are a lot of questions that have come in. alex, youcould share them with us . >> so the first question i'll read is from davidspeedy , the former engagement director at carnegie council. david writes your book includes some lesser-known figures who are quite heroic in their role. such as lynnfield scott, a virginian, a washington insider of sorts but a unionist. as we know lincoln is president at his arrival but how lincoln inspired against all odds it would seem, a diverse group of people
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seeing him brought to office, any even many who had not voted for him . >> what a great question. i tried to complicate the story at every point. i tried to show how many pros southern people were in the northern cities that he was obligated to travel through including nyc which was filled with pro-southern agitators, politicians, businessmen but then i tried to equally show how many brave southerners showed up to defend lincoln and the united states and lynnfield scott is a virginian. sam houston in texas is prounion and those guys were really important at a time when it could go either way and i think one crucial thing they did is, scott does a lot. he keeps washington dc from falling into the hands of thissouthern country that doesn't even have a name yet . so he keeps washington as the capital of the united states of america, a country that is waiting for its president to come in.
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crucially, virginia stays in the us. this is always remembered but virginia is still in the us at the time lincoln takes his inaugural address and that was really important for keeping maryland and kentucky and missouri, virginia does go out but it was really important stay in during the time of lincoln train for. so those southerners who stood up for the union are crucial and how lincoln does it, it's largely through his words. and he did something remarkable then and even more remarkable in 2020. he didn't talk about himself too much. it's a radical thing to hear about in 20/20 but as president-elect things saying the cause is biggerthan me . i just a temporary occupant of this office and i'm going
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to do the best i can be our country and the ideals together and if you don't like my policies you can vote might me out, he's already saying that on the train trip in an appeal to the large numbers of americans who had not voted for him so he's got only 39 percent of the vote but he saying i'm just holding this office temporarily. where in this for a much bigger cause. where in it for the cause of internal democracy for all people. though by not talking about himself and by including other people who are politically opposed to him as part of hisconstituency , i think he made a smart, idealistic argument but also a shrewd politics because he helped people to think we want this guy to have a chance and just having a chance was all he needed to do what he did. >> thank you ted. question is the hillard.
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he writes head, thank you for your wonderful remarks. you've commented on how strong lincoln became as an executive including when he ran roughshod components but leaders of the party are reluctant to question the president's actions, if so why ? >> yes, my personal feeling is i regret the absence of a strong principled republican party standing up for its historic values against a president who doesn't even remember what those values once were and is really a party of his own, i would say. he was a kind of democrat for a long time in his earlier career and then became a republican for some reasons i
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understand and some i don't but i miss what used to be called a liberal republican and i'm from new england and we had a lot of them and they werewonderful people . in my home state of rhode island we had a great senator called john casey who i used to vote for and i also listen message and you will all remember elliot richardson, your watergate era who ran for senator and the very first vote i cast was for elliot richardson and i remember often in the writing of this book i had republican grandparents who were liberal new england republicans and i just wish more peoplelike that were around . they're good in both parties, the centers are good in both parties. we have been in the democratic party but they are not in the republican party . so yes, i was thinking
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about the current moment but i also made a decision early on. i wasn't going to talk about 20/20. i wantedreaders to draw their own conclusions for a lot of reasons . i hoped a diverse community of readers will read the book . and also, i was so focused on my moment. i didn't want to get off topic there's a brief epilogueabout 1855 . but i think lincoln himself was a republican party without any memory of american history or any set of ethical principles that have it believes in accept the right to make money and this will be environment and to always be thinking about short-term gain over long-term benefits and always be thinking about individual game over community benefits, that's not an ethical party
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and it's not a party that has anything to do with the republican party that abraham lincoln helped to create. >> another question, this one we got in by email last week. so it is from john d sure caucus. he writes we seem to be an another one of those freedom versus security moments throughout us history from the sedition act, lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus, wilson's espionage act, roosevelt japanese internment and the patriot act, our leaders have often suspended individual rights. how does the ethical reader strike the right balance to mark he believes the risk to the nation justifies a temporary suspension. >> great question, these are also good. we are in such a moment area and we democrats, i'm not a
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democrat. and basically i have been my entire life except for a couple of those votes for republicans. we have to be careful that whatever we think now the current moment, we hold true to a democrat is elected president. at the important principle for all americans is to stand up for the same ethical standards no matter who is president. so to give president trump the benefit of the doubt, these are hard questions how to save people right now means removing certain protections and one way we might be safer is if we let google and apple follow everywhere we go on our phones all day long. i understand why they would want to do it, so they can
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track anyone who has the disease but it's obviously troubling or anyone who cares about civil liberties so it's not just that we need to keep an eye on the federal government, we need very much to keep an eye on the private sector and on foreign actors who mean us great harm and who are very skillful at working in the digital environment so we have to be careful all of the above and one way i think we do a better job, here we are falling down on the job is if our president asks these questions in a reasonable way , then helped us to answer them in a reasonable way and instead we get this crazy pattern of on-again off-again attacks, recriminations , bizarre self justifications, rewriting of history. one minute the governor has to do everything and the next minute the president is in
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charge of all the governors and theyhave not no right to do anything . it's really confusing. that actually is an interesting question and lincoln wrestled with two area what do the governors do ? what does the president do and that was one of the maze lincoln worked out how the executive could function more efficiently . it turned out governors were not very good at raising armies and so the executive needed to step two of more. it was an emergency so he did . and to give donald trump the benefit of the doubt, that is a reasonable question to ask but he doesn't then answer in a reasonable way. it is all over the map saying i have no responsibility, i have total responsibility and it's confusing and there are ways to answer better and i would love to see a presidential commission appointed with former democratic presidents and america's best minds from the health sector and university
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presidents and ceos and i head of a labor union. you know, the best of america . and we know we have those strengths and instead, it's always easy depressing lobbyists and former dog leaders who are given very exultant titles in the trump white house and we barely know their name, their removed from the white house maybe because they were doing their job well so it's just also confusing . >> thank you ted. we have a lot more questions, i'm not sure we can get all of them. corsi hurley has two pretty quick once. >> i'll try to be faster in my answers. >> she writes the thoughts on what role lincoln would have played in a post-presidency and someone connected, given the seriousness of our current situation, should rx presidents be seeking out
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more ? >> that's a great question. first one is part of it is easy to read i don't think he would have messed up as badly as andrew johnson, his vice president did quickly got into trouble with a very powerful congress and didn't like the pace at which reconstruction was happening and tried to slow it down and then was impeached but not removed it was a big mess. i think lincoln would have handled reconstruction much more skillfully. he might not have been as fast pace as i was saying a few minutes ago, but he would make sure it happened in a way that all americans could have agreed or i shouldn't say all but i think it would have been more consensus that it was at the time and i also think he would have brought in the south in a much gentler, more careful way so he would have handled those two, the relationship with
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congress and the way that the southcame back into the country. i think he would have handled more skillfully and answer johnson did . and i'm sorry,what was the second question mark . >>. >> the second question was an ex-president speaking outmore about the current situation . >> i have to say yes. i think they should be. i understand their great respect for the office. but i think we're a little lost as a country right now and we need their expertise and there is a precedent. presidents hoover and truman as i recall now and then a remarks critical of democratic presidents and i think former democratic president of the same so there always can do it in a thoughtful manner i just saw this morning that barack obama's given online address 2000 graduating high school seniors so it will be
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something. and but it has felt a little bit one-sided that barack obama is a kind of punchingbag every day for donald trump and he never answers and it would be nice to hear himanswer back . >> anytime for one more question. this is something that i'm interested in as well, so i'm sorry that we can't get all of them but this is from joe fewer. he writes music word about how leadership was displayed president wilson and others are in the spanish flu pandemic of 1918 1919. >> second, i think my email. if you didn't get your question in the carnegie council has my email even tell you it's tedówidmer and i'm happy to answer emails this afternoon if that helps. but well, wilson is a
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complicated guy. we at the carnegie council in a series of podcasts last year was really fun talking about all the events of 1919, sort of the wrapping of the war which ends in a nike and then the ways in expected and unexpected ways the world adjusted the piece and wilson isn't that strong of up on the pandemic and america isn't that strong on the pandemic and it's really a missing story from that time. the big story in the history books and i have to admit in our series last year is the attempt to rebuild the world order read the treaty of bursae, something that were goodabout it . a lot of ideas then go into the united nation, generations later something that were bad about failed to get through the us. and allowed a lot of european
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bad behavior in colonized parts of the world and it really sets unattainable rates of reparations for the germans and doomed the world to another war generations later we alluded in a few moments to the pandemic didn't really take it head on. a little because the pandemic peace in the fall of 1918 and our series was about 1919. but also, the history books and i am guilty of the same thing generally told the story of international foreign policy without a mystery of the pandemic. and i think we should, we all needed to do a better job and the american history textbook barely mentioned pandemic and a lot of people died, 50 million people so that was
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itself a form of foreign policy and domestic policy but largely, my sense is that governors then as now were trying to establish quarantines and getting camps available for people to go stay at. if they had the disease and putting of public information but it was not a federal activity in 19. wilson by the way is beginning to suffer from his physical impairments will really badly in the fall of 1919 so he's just so distracted by bursae and the work of diplomacy he is really available for pandemic work i think that was a historic failing of his area and we need to maybe rewrite what we think of as foreign policy because health policy should be part of that. >> coming to the top of the hour so i have to wrap things up.
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thank you very much. just a couple of points to wrap things up, one thing we didn't get to but it's such a wonderful sort of frame is this some of america aspects of it. the idea that it's exerted. not only 13 days but also the broader journey and when i really took away from the book was just the journey of not only lincoln but democracy itself where another thing that i've taken away from my conversations with you is that it's always the show, we can sometimes feel bad about our polarization or political difficulties we may have. and it really may seem like a dark hour but one of the things that i've appreciated from all of your work in american history is portraying that realism, genuine struggle. people overcoming things but also maintaining some sense of optimism that optimism is
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based on a set of principles and that those principles really do matter and i was thinkingtoo about lincoln . the sort of endless thinking about lincoln how this leader could wage war in such a blood he wore and such a difficult war and then end it in a way that was hopeful for a magnanimous piece. >> .. >> .. acceptable you can share with friends, and go to our website
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we will reconvene next wednesday at noon. going to have another conversation about leadership in times of crisis with another carnegie fellow. i didn't know if you want to say a word before rapid up customer so i just want to thank you in the council and all of the people who support the council for keeping the idealistic part of this message and close focus. including what we do wrong. we do things wrong a lot that part gets forgotten in washington d.c. i'm grateful for the council for setting up for ethics that are so important. and the homeric quotation zone is a little embarrassed i thought it might be too pretentious but he also thought it said something i'm glad if you liked it. it was about going home in two senses. one is going home to our best ideas of the people by getting
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to washington, he gets home innocence he allows the american idea that stays intact. the end of the book he's brought home, he's no longer live but he is brought home for burial in springfield. but still, very live as a marketer and the best example are up our ideas in history. so thank you. >> thanks a much thank you to everyone who watched, have a great week. >> having lived there eight loss of constant attention are constitutional wave of cynicism is left us unable what we to trust by anyone who calls himself an expert it becomes very difficult for us to rise to a challenge like this. our first reaction is as they know they're lying to us they're all in it for themselves. a lot of our national institutions have got to take on the challenge of persuading people again that they exist for us, they're here for the country.
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>> sunday june 7 at noon eastern on in-depth. a live conversation with author and american enterprise institute scholar. his most recent book is "a time to build". other titles include the great debate. join the conversation with your phone calls, tweets texan facebook messages watch in-depth on book tv on cspan2. >> at an event at tufts university, cyntonia brown long talked about her journey from prison. >> there were several adults i was around put in the position of being adults. i was a child. so, i had grown women teaching me my body was a commodity. it was a means to get things from men and it was completely accessible to expect things in return for my companionship for and things of that nature.
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i was told my entire existence revolves around pleasing a man in some form. i was 13 when they started teaching me these things. that is really what started me on the trajectory to being more vulnerable to being exploited. i was told these things were normal. so my world had been reshaped to think this is how relationships work. this is how relationships between men and girls, i was a silly girl i was not a woman, that's how this goes some of the time i met a man who convinced me that we were in a relationship and part of this relationship meant i would gotta have with other men and bring the money back to my thought was normal. the society i was in at that point did not call me a trafficking victim is called the teen prostitute i was made to believe these are my choices they were made of my own volition. and there is never any conversation about the adult
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who taught me these things the world that had been skewed to convince me to it do these things not from the people i was around not from the court system. >> to hear the rest of her story, visit our website, but type her name or the title of her book, free cyntonia at the search box at the top of the page. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ >> welcome to a new program sponsored by and i am jeff president of the institute were going to talk about all the 18th century writings behind me are current important books by many of the prize-winning historians in our country.


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