tv Brian Lamb Susan Swain Jeffrey Rosen Michael Gerhardt Robert Strauss... CSPAN May 10, 2020 7:45pm-9:03pm EDT
the pain of victory. host: let's go back to calls and hear from lawrence in minnesota. caller: thank you. i will be quick. two comments. i always admired eisenhower for having to pull in citizens from the town near the concentration camps so that they could witness what the nazis did, but that is not my question. my question is, studying world war ii is so impactful for understanding where we are today from a political, military, and social perspective. you can comment on that particularly as it relates to the politics involved in making the atomic and hydrogen bombs. thank you for the opportunity and i look forward to hearing your comments. guest: thanks for the call. the consequences of world war ii are extraordinary -- socially,
politically, militarily. country, ourhis views on gender and racial equality are shaped by the experiences in world war ii. there were black americans, hundreds of thousands of them, who served in the war mostly in all-black units. it was a segregated military. many of them had a double v campaign. victory against fascist opponents overseas and victory against racism at home. and the dignity, the empowerment, the sense of service, the sense of cohesion that that experience brought to black america was a propulsion system for the civil rights movement after the war. the same for gender equality. we had 19 million american women working outside of the home
during world war ii. many of them went back to the homemakers after the war. but you don't put that genie back in the model for long. it showed women that they had an opportunity to do whatever men could do, that they could do things that men could do as well, if not better. whether it was riveting together a ship, working in a science lab, teaching in college, whatever. so these very large social imprints that come out of the war are with us to this day and shape the culture and the society, the economy in extraordinarily profound ways that we still see 75 years later. host: we will put our viewers and listeners to rick atkinson's -e inn-day reflections on v the washing -- in the wall street journal -- v-e day, a world worth defending.
a soldier wounded in belgium standing near grand central station on may 7, 1945. holly springs, north carolina is next. linda, good morning. caller: thank you for taking my call. i have great aunts and uncles from northern italy who told stories about resistance by many italians and how elated they were on liberation day. our current family and friends week, aprilat this 25, was their liberation day and how sad they are that many of their elder survivors passed away due to covid-19. they feel like they are in battle again. my question is what were the italian terms of liberation and were there still germans in italy fighting at that time? guest: yes, there were germans in italy until may of 1945.
the italians in 1943 had decided after making an alliance with the germans, the pact of steel had mussolini and hitler put together. in 1943, there were secret negotiations between the americans, british, and italians. in 1943, the italians basically switched sides. not all of them switched sides. there was a rough state that prevailed in northern italy , supported by the germans. the fighting in italy which had begun with our invasion would -- invasion of sicily in 1943 would continue right to the very end of the war. it lasted almost until this day 75 years ago. the italians eventually surrendered after the germans
had agreed to surrender. it was the germans occupying italy, fighting in italy, propping up that state of the italian pseudo-government who had to throw in the towel. that occurred may 2, 1945. the war was awful in italy until the very end also. host: next in illinois, you are on. caller: good morning. i hope the fellow from new mexico is still listening. we had a navajo code talker on our local radio station being interviewed and that fellow sang the marine corps hymn in navajo. the hairs on the back of my neck were standing up. i stood up at attention. my dad was a marine at eog yuma -- iwo jima and i was a marine in vietnam. the question i have is if franklin roosevelt still lived in august, would eleanor have
let him use the bombs? and semper fidelis for america. guest: thank you for that. roosevelt wasnor not directing war policy for after franklin's death in april. he was interested in the manhattan project. he saw it as a way to shorten the war and save lives. both americans and allies, and to save japanese lives also. had franklin roosevelt lived beyond april 12, 1945, i don't have any doubt that he would have made the same decision that harry truman did, which was to go ahead and use this terrible weapon in hopes of bringing the
total war to a complete and final end, which happens with the japanese surrender in tokyo on tokyo bay on the uss missouri on september 2, 1945. that is v-j day. host: we touched on this at the beginning. bob asked, who are the germans signing for the german country? i guess he is referring to the allied signing and not the russian signing. guest: the operations chief for the german military, he had been designated and given the authority by the residual german government. he had an appointment after that signing with the hangmen. he was one of those executed for war crimes. host: you probably get this question a lot.
your liberation trilogy is about theater,n the european you are working on another trilogy about the revolution with your first book coming out on that last year. have you considered a book about the pacific theater in world war ii? guest: i have thought about it. it was obvious to pivot to the pacific and try to do for that theater what i have done for the mediterranean and western europe. i decided not to. 2013 is when the final volume of the liberation trilogy came out. i decided not to in part because i am a europeanist. i lived in europe, i was born in europe. more important, just out of fascination and even fixation with that earlier war, the war of our independence that gave us the republic that we have to this day. i am working on volume two of the american revolution trilogy.
it will take me a while. i do not anticipate being around to take up the pacific. in berlin,sus illinois. good morning. caller: good morning. i have a question for mr. atkinson. i wonder what he thinks about mexican americans and latino contributions in american wars. more than 500 mexican americans in the war. guest: thank you for the question. as with the other ethnic contributions that we talked about earlier, native americans, blacks, and others, the hispanic contribution, take the texas national guard, 36th infantry as it became after it was federalized, or the 45th division, which had been the
oklahoma and new mexico national guard. you go down the roster of the names of the soldiers of those units and you see lots of hernandez's and gonzales's. there are many hispanic names , mexican and otherwise. their contribution is significant. their role in making those units into fine fighting units. the 36th and 45th both fought in italy, and some of the worst fighting in italy. know, hispanic americans have every reason to be proud of their role and their contribution to that 16.1 million men and women force that made the united states military in world war ii. host: there was a photograph in the bbc today, queen elizabeth to lead the 75th anniversary event speaking to the nation on
television. there is an army jeep driver. what was the role of the royal family back during war? guest: their role was to keep the british in the fight and to keep them focused on the ambitions of the entire british nation, which was basically to prevail and withstand the pressures from hitler and his fascist thugs. when v-e day occurred, there were huge crowds in trafalgar square and elsewhere in london and crowds that gathered outside buckingham palace. they sang patriotic songs, they sang hope and glory, people weeping. they chanted, we want the king. the king came out. he a. on the balcony of
buckingham palace six times during the day. he brought within him the queen and he brought with him the princesses including elizabeth , who was still a young girl. she has been queen for a long time and there is no one better equipped to speak on behalf of britain and what they accomplished during the war. host: rick atkinson, we appreciate you joining us and we always appreciate your appearances on book tv as well . good luck on the continuation of your series on the american revolution. guest: thank you so much for having me this morning and remembering today. [birds chirping] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2020] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] this is american history tv, featuring events, interviews, archival films and visits to college classrooms, museums and historic places. exploring our nation's past
every weekend on c-span3. "the president's" is available now in paperback and e-book. it presents biographies of every president, organized by the ranking by noted historians from best to worst, and features perspectives into the lives of our nation's chief executives and their leadership styles. sidents-span.org/thepre to learn more and order your copy today, wherever books and e-books are sold. on book tv, on after words, growing up with survivalist parents. >> i think my mother did a decent job of homeschooling.
by the time i came along, she had seven kids, was a midlife -- midwife and herbalist. there was never anything like a lecture. then, the former u.s. surgeon general with his book on the impact of loneliness on health. >> talking to friends on the phone, but i find myself mindlessly scrolling through feed,or a social media and i don't need to do that, i just fall into it. but it does dilute the quality of our conversation. we cannot multitask. when we think we are multitasking, we are task switching between one thing and another very rapidly. this is why i think it is so important for us to ask the question, how do we strengthen not only the quality of conversations with people but
>> welcome to the national constitution center. this is such a happy day to celebrate the great collaboration between national constitution center and c-span! [applause] c-span has an inspiring, nonpartisan mission to bring unfiltered information about the u.s. government to american citizens, and that coincides with the national constitution center mission, which i want you all to recite along with me to inspire our guests and c-span viewers. [laughter] the national constitution center is the only institution in america chartered by congress to disseminate information about the u.s. constitution on a nonpartisan basis! beautiful, that was so well done. [applause] i was thrilled when my friend and colleague, susan swain, head of c-span, came a few weeks ago, about three weeks ago, and said
we have this great book on the presidents, less launch it at the national constitution center. we are here to do it and it is an honor to welcome back to the national constitution center, the great founder of c-span, brian lamb. [applause] he is america's greatest interviewer. i was honored to be interviewed by him by a piece of this book , as were my colleagues, and welcoming him back to the center is so meaningful. and now to introduce this program, it is a pleasure to welcome back to the center, because susan has been here many times, susan swain. among her many other virtues, she is philadelphia born and bred. please welcome susan swain. susan: thank you. it is a delight to be back at the constitution center. we are delighted to be here again.
and to welcome you all here. as you heard, this is my hometown, and in addition to our wonderful partnership with the constitution center -- and we have a shared mission of informing you about the government, although we do it in different ways -- i'm delighted to have my family members here today. thank you for coming today. guess what? it is c-span's 40th anniversary. television industry, private industry, created a service called c-span to bring congress into your living room 40 years ago. it is a not-for-profit company and our mission, as jeff said, is to give you unfiltered access to you can decide for yourself what is happening in washington. since we are in comcast home territory, i want to tell you the comcast folks are our largest cable affiliate and they have been on our board of directors since our founding and they are an important part of
what c-span is today. many thanks to them. when we talked about the 40th anniversary, we said what will we do to celebrate this in a meaningful way? we decided to do this book, ,alled include the presidents and the subtitle is noted historians rank america's chief executives. it allows us to showcase two very important aspects of the we have done -- of our work over the years. the first is a survey of presidential historians and a real treasure trove of interviews we have collected over the 40 years. many of them done by brian, of presidential historians. here is a look at some of the names of people included in the book that are part of our collection. you will see some familiar names. chernow,ord, ron douglas brinkley, robert caro
and others who are well-known contemporary presidential historians. the three panels today, the idea was to bring together three of the presidential biographers featured in the book to talk about something other than the pantheon of presidents that are on mount rushmore. jeffrey rosen has written a bow graffiti on william howard taft and was interviewed by brian. as you know, in addition to his work here, he is a professor at gw law school, which made him particularly interested in the work of taft, who went on to become the chief justice of the supreme court. we know him as a journalist in his heart and soul, and author of six books. michael gerhardt wrote a book called "the forgotten presidents and brian will talk to him about a number of them. in our book, he has a chapter on jimmy carter. an area journalist in
kentucky, and authored a presidential biography titled .worst.president.ever." more from robert strauss about why he is the worst president ever. the organizing principle for the book was the second resource i mentioned, a survey we have done of presidential historians three times. we did the first one in 2000 when phil clinton was leaving office. the second one when george w. bush was leaving office, and the third in 2017 as barack obama was leaving office. we worked with three well-known historians, edna medford, douglas brickley, and richard norton smith. he was 20 years ago. to put together the survey with
10 leadership qualities. we sent it out to 100 historians and we worked very hard for geographical and ideological diversity and gender diversity over the years so we can represent different points of view as they judge them. here are the qualities the presidents are judged on. so you might think about them as the conversation unfolds. public persuasion, crisis leadership, economic management, moral authority, international relations, administrative skills , relations with congress, vision and setting an agenda -- i always think of george w. bush when the vision thing comes up -- and pursued equal justice for all. and because the office of the presidency has changed so much, performance within the context of the times in which they serve. why do we do these surveys?
we do them because -- i will tell you a story. i was standing at the register where the books are being sold i and i heard a woman say why is he on the cover of this book? i don't think that was such a great president. that's exactly why we do these surveys. we want people to get involved , interested and passionate about our history. ourive in a society where email is filled every day with the top 10 of this or autumn five of that. , even though it is academic based, it provides a basis for you to get involved and have conversations around your dinner table about whether or not you think the historians did a good job of writing president you know and are just learning about. who is up or down over the course of time we've done this? andrew jackson has secured his place on the $20 bill for the next several years but he has gone down in the survey over
from 13 in 2000 to 18. woodrow wilson from six down at 11. this boggles my mind because i like rutherford b hayes. 26 down at 32. grover cleveland, 17 to 33. i am sure historians will have some perspective on how society has changed and what historians are looking at them more critically. who is up? dwight eisenhower. when we first of the survey, he was in ninth place and now he is sixth. bill clinton, when we first did the survey, just after impeachment, he was 21st place and now he has settled in 15th position. finally, from 30 third place to 22nd, ulysses s grant. one of the things we have found over the course of time is those big biographies that become big best center -- best sellers influence the views historians
and society have here grant has had some of those in recent years. the top five overall, no big surprises. dwight eisenhower, theodore ,oosevelt, franklin roosevelt george washington, and guess who is number one? abraham lincoln. of course. the bottom five. tidewater virginia's favorite son who went on to join the confederate congress after the white house. the man without a party in the white house, he was also buried with the confederate flag on his grave. 39th spot, but not the bottom. warren harding. we are learning more about him as the years go by and his active active love life. he is in the 40th spot. franklin pierce, new hampshire's only president, 41st position. he had a difficult time with
sectionalism and came into office with an incredible tragedy, which i will tell you very briefly. they had three sons. two of them died before he was elected to the presidency. the third, an 11-year-old, was riding on the train with his parents in new hampshire as they made their way to washington. the train had a tremendous accident and he was thrown out of the train and was killed. the president carried his son's lifeless body back to his wife on the train, and that is how they started the presidency. of course, he had a hard time assembling his cabinet. his wife spent much of the first years in the white house in widow's weeds writing letters to her departed son. a very difficult time in our nations history. 42nd place, andrew johnson, the first president to be impeached. and there is good old james buchanan, worst president ever.
modern on the presidents, ronald reagan is the only one in the top 10 in ninth position. george h w bush at the 20th spot, in between the two adams es. i think it will be fascinating at the end of the trump presidency when we survey again, because we just went through three days of national scene setting of his presidency. presidential funerals are a very important tool presidents use to put their image into public mind for posterity. we've witnessed a lot of themes repeated during his funeral about his integrity, war hero, decent man, etc. bill clinton we mentioned at 15th. george w. bush is in the 33rd spot. the last survey, his first time, he was one spot lower. he was in the bottom 10 and he moved out of the bottom 10 by virtue of adding another president in the mix, i am afraid.
he has some difficult things for the assessment of time. it will be interesting over the course of time to see what happens to his rating. and finally, barack obama in his debut in the 12th position, a good start to his assessment. idea with this is to get you interested and showcase the work of wonderful historians. we have incredibly rich website attached to this book to peru's at -- peruse at your will. referenceschapter are there. if there is a reference to sectionalism or a certain war, we have linked all of them so you don't have to do the work. you can go through history as you are interested and learn more about that time. three presidents featured with our three historians today. how did they do? william howard taft, his highest score was in administrative skills.
lowest score, public persuasion. it rings true. of 1000.re, 528 out jimmy carter, his highest score, equal justice for all. lowest score, crisis leadership. there we go. total score, 506 out of 1000. and james buchanan, he was in the seller for all of them -- cellar for all of them. [laughter] he was so low, he was there the points below andrew johnson. sorry about that. 41stighest score was position, administrative skill, was thelowest score number 43 spot. 245 out of 1000. i can't wait for you to tell us stories about this man. i'm gonna sit down and enjoy this wonderful panel along with you. take you for your attention. [applause]
cards will be passed out for you to ask questions, which we will do the last 15 minutes. also, all of the books will be available afterward if you're interested in learning more. i want to tell you about our book, because c-span does not make any money off of the sales of this book. the small amount of royalties we get go to the c-span education fund, which makes free teaching materials for high school and middle school teachers. if you buy a book, you support teachers and schools. thank you for your attention. [applause] i only have one quarrel with you, you referred to ronald reagan as the only modern president in the title x, and for someone -- in the top 10, in for someone like me, eisenhower and fdr are still modern. [laughter] book you, susan, and the not be here without your
editing, which has been tremendous. let me start without historians. just start off telling us about why you even got into writing history. journalist who worked at the daily news. i was always interested in it. statuettesought me of the presidents when i was a little boy and they were my guide. of facts me a book about the president, it tells you when munroe's mother died in those sort of things. i was always involved with that. contrarian, as my wife could tell you. to write about the worst president was more fun than figuring out who the best one was. >> a good question.
i'm still trying to figure out the answer. a couple of different reasons. the first is that i am a constitutional law professor. in my field and my classes, everybody is totally absorbed by the supreme court and focuses all the time on the supreme court. i am fascinated by other institutions that are intertwined with constitutional law. the presidency, congress. i have been particularly interested in how the president impacts the understanding of the constitution and its development over time. reason, i think of myself sometimes as a child of watergate. i grew up in the shadow of watergate, and it shaped a lot of my understanding of constitutional law, particularly the conflict between presidents and congress. out of that shadow we get jimmy
carter. but we also get nixon and ford. i think it changes how we view constitutional law these days. jeffrey: i am a journalist at heart, so i only write on deadline and two assignments. to assignment. the first biography i wrote with -- wrote was on taft. it was part of the series. i didn't know much about taft and i was excited to share him with the world. when i was a kid, reading presidential biographies was the most inspiring thing i did. i read a lot. i remember going to the library of congress for the first time, the adams building, and being filled with wonder to think that all of the books in the world were in that building.
learning more about adams and jefferson and reading , theaphies of truman biography about the bookish kid with the glasses who read and learned leadership through reading. by amazing fdr biographies doris kearns goodwin. i resonated so much with these heroic stories and that's why find writing biographies to be such an inspiring experience. brian: i want to go back to robert's book on james buchanan. all of you can jump in on this. he waffled about everything. i picked this right out. why did you say that? robert: at some point, the buck does stop. the president is the point where it has to stop. presidents great made the decision. they were not all great decisions.
i would say the japanese internment was not a wonderful decision. but sometimes it comes to a head. buchanan was the ultimate diplomat. first of all, he was the best party giver of the middle of the 19th century. [laughter] there are positive things they did [laughter] -- positive things. [laughter] he was always trying to please people. he was a diplomat. he was ambassador to russia and england. , you know,ly good at having the czar over for lunch. like i said, there were certain things they were good about. but he did waffle. burke, the carter chapter came out of your book.
any of the other 12 other than jimmy carter, were they wafflers? >> they were wafflers, and i think the president to get rated lowly, it's because they were not, they were stubborn in destructive ways. i would not say carter was stubborn in a destructive way. carter was not a wafflers. hehad a strong sense of what wanted to do and part of his problem is he did not listen to other people. he felt he was morally right about issues. it turned out sometimes that was good and sometimes it was bad, sometimes it was popular, sometimes unpopular. that was the story of his presidency. some of the other folks, william
henry harrison, he died 30 days after becoming president. in those 30 days, he was stubborn. he had to be stubborn in some respects. he had to put against henry clay, who wanted to be the power behind the throne. harrison didn't want that to happen. it turned out to be the defining moment in his short presidency. a lot of presidents end up becoming unpopular or ranked low precisely because they will stake out of position, not listen to other people, not react to the context or events at the time, and end up losing the presidency and the historical judgment of the presidency. brian: do you think he is right about william howard taft being among the list of the 12? sure, as a presidential leader, and the c-span survey is right, taft is low, but on administrative skills he is
incredibly high. but the power of michael's book which i learned a lot from -- [laughter] aboutf you want a book presidential legacy read , michael's book. as michael said, taft is among the 12, presidents who are not great leaders but have a strong constitutional vision. case, he was trying to defend that madisonian constraint at the time of the new populace presidency. the question of waffling was interesting. of yourre too sure constitutional vision, you refuse to engage in the art of public persuasion. apartaid i will not lay for popularity. if people don't like my vision, so be it. congress. lobbying
i was trying to think about the difference between waffling and deliberating. took aat presidents while to make up their mind. if you think about harry truman and the bomb, he did a lot of reading, including literature, before he made up his mind. or roosevelt waiting so long before he felt the american public was ready for world war ii, seizing the moment. lincoln changing the purpose of the world from preserving the renewed -- the union to eradicating slavery. so a lack of deliberation and waffling is not the only way to avoid deliberation. suren be because you are of your principles in advance. that was the case with taft. brian: in the book jeffrey rosen wrote about william howard taft, there was a quote, summary called him -- somebody called
him a great hater. did you see that in him? michael: he had his moments. and in his moments he could be not just angry but hateful. brian: did it work? michael: not for him. hafer louiss louisis -- hate for brandeis. i think it worked more for brandeis than taft. negative toreacted brandeis and part because he was jewish. a presidentnt, when becomes that way, somebody who hates somebody -- notice lincoln tried really hard not to hate the enemy. even right before he died at his
great second inaugural address. he is still trying to hand out a hand to the other side, to find a way to bring people together. great presidents do that. awful presidents do not. robert, or any of the presidents you studied haters? buchanan did not seem to be a hater. he did not get along with one guy in particular, stephen douglas, and that was one guy. it doesn't seem that there were that many haters. even when you go way back to philadelphia, adams and jefferson politically were against each other, but they had history before and history after get pastwere able to
political difficulties. it also seems to me that that is part of being a politician. trying to bridge your hatred in order to get things done. about thel the story charles evans hughes appointment, william howard taft , and who ended up on the court instead of charles evans hughes when taft was president and why. taftel: william howard find to be chief justice of the u.s., his father told him chief justice is more than being president. he unwillingly becomes president because his wife and theodore roosevelt make him do it. he is still planning to be on the supreme court. jeffrey: a moment arrives and the chief justice has to be replaced. taft desperately wants to take the seat himself. he says, i cannot.
of appointing someone to the job i want. he nominates charles evans hughes, former governor of new york. taft cancels his interview and in his place, taft points and overweight, southern macaque whose only qualification is that taft hopes he will die in time for him to take his place. [laughter] so white becomes chief justice and he serves about 10 years, and taft stops by every couple of years, how are you doing, do you want more cheesecake? [laughter] tostratingly, white refuses expire. happily, without any warning, white drops dead. taft lobbies hard and has done mobilize all of his forces and
persuades harding to appoint him and he achieves his lifelong goal. he heated up perfectly. -- teed it up perfectly. sincecond greatest chief john marshall. a lot of forward planning. appointed in one term six members of the supreme court. jimmy carter, zero. about theof you, talk importance of or lack of significance when you cannot appoint someone to the court. >> making court appointments is something residents all want to do because they can shape the court and it becomes part of their legacy. i should hasten to add, and i know jeffrey will agree, taft did not kill white. [laughter] i want to bury that right now.
that is something that is important because it is not just a joke. they cannot make people grow older. i can imagine the current president hopes that something happens to justice ginsburg. there are many of us who hope nothing happens to justice ginsburg. state or whatever word you want to use for it, ends up present in presidents with some opportunities. taft got his. maybe sooner than he expected. course, got a different opportunity. he had to decide, what do we do? the south oaks like it is going to secede. -- the south looks like it is going to secede. i cannot say that carter was
pining a way to make an appointment. every president who had served a full term got that chance. carter got none. i think it is another reason why he gets downgraded as president because he does not get to make that important appointment. influentialot of appointments including two circuit court judges. stephen breyer and justice ginsburg were both appointed to the appellate court by jimmy carter. fdr, nine. william howard taft, six. go to dred scott. how that all happened during james buchanan. there is a theory that probably is true that buchanan wanted the dred scott decision to happen. what he definitely wanted was he
came into office saying he was going to solve the problem of slavery. i do not know that he had a particular solution, but here was this case winding around. dred scott, the former slave, had gone up to minnesota with his master, comes back to st. louis. the master dies. because heis free was living in the territories that were not supposed to have slavery. the court case comes. -- roger tawny is the supreme court justice. these guys are all related. split 5-4.s not conservative and liberal as today, but southern and northern.
had the apparently discussion with tawney before he was elected and said, what are we going to do about this? cannot have a 5-4 major decision. no one is going to buy into that. if you can convince somebody to well, his mind, -- anybody here go to dickinson college? well, you are responsible for the civil war. [laughter] there was a third supreme court justice that went to dickinson. went to him and changed his mind. 7-2 by 6-3 with the current opinion. most vile of the supreme court cases came to be because of
dickinson college. [laughter] brian: jeffrey rosen in michael gerhardt's book, he talks about jimmy carter. he makes this statement. he was a tremendously good man. do often -- first of all, you agree with that? and how often do you say that about the 44 men who have been president? i amfore answering that, to put in a plug for our new civil war exhibit, which i want you all to see downstairs. freedoms dred scott's petition. the original petition that dred scott filed. it is that story as you say so war that set off the civil by requiring three constitutional amendments to overturn the dred scott decision. was carter a good man? i cannot look into his heart about he famously characterized his own heart during the 1976
presidential campaign. man, butto be a good are most presidents good men? is there a correlation between private virtue and public virtue? brian: let me add. >> that is an easy question, brian. thanks a lot. brian: michael gerhardt also said this about jimmy carter. that he had integrity. he was demanding. he was an outsider. he brings up the fact that he gave amnesty to all those who died -- who dodged in the draft. and the moste good integrity written president. >> let me start with my guide. taft was a very good man. we talk about him being a hater. that is because he had a strong
sense of personal loyalty. when he felt it was affronted, he would lash out. he wanted to be appointed to the supreme court. he had this fantasy that woodrow wilson what a port him over brandeis. the thing about taft is he made up with brandeis. would join brandeis's deci sions. they would set aside their disagreements to converge. they ended up working together well. necessary there is no correlation between virtue. he was an incredibly devoted husband. taft lovingly nursing his wife back to health after she had a stroke and taking hours to teach her to speak again. his daughter, helen taft who became a distinguished history professor and president of bryn mawr.
none of that means you are a leader because leadership requires things like deliberation, flexibility and the willingness to listen to your opponents who may not correlate with public virtue. i remember reading one anti-nixon historian who said that nixon was the only truly wicked president we had had. i do not think that is true. i would love -- as a recent biography shows, there was such a human side to nixon. he was so vulnerable. he did a great deal of good in foreign policy. even his failed attempt to connect with his wife and kids, you cannot help but empathize with the humanity of it. brian: can i interrupt and say that evan thomas said nixon was, weird. >> he was weird, but that should not disqualify any of us. brian: you agree that he was
weird? weird. he was definitely asking fred malik to count the jews was weird. calling william rehnquist renchberg was weird. he did not like to be touched. there is the sign of him -- the teeth marks on the aspirin bottle. he was awkward, so he could not open the aspirin. for me, that weirdness -- it was the awkwardness which stemmed from his mom and dad. we are here on our comfy chairs. you have to go back to relationships with the mom and dad to understand anyone's character. his weirdness came from that demanding mother. reagan's inaccessibility with his alcoholic father. each of us is complex in his own
way. i have not really answered your question about whether you need to be a good person to be a good president. my instinct is no. i guess i would like to know -- brian: the other presidents that michael gerhardt writes about, martin van buren, millard fillmore, franklin pierce, chester arthur, grover cleveland, jimmy carter, benjamin harrison, how about this whole business of being tremendously good and decent? >> we had this -- if you studied in high you probably school went from jackson to lincoln, right? there are other guys in between, several of whom he mentioned. period of the presidency -- i do not know that historians would only say that, but it is pretty much that congress ruled. we had great congressman.
even if you did not agree with jefferson davis or john calhoun's politics, they were prominent men. of course, henry clay and daniel webster. if they were fellows well met. and not made for the presidency. the presidency as we view it now as a roosevelt or a reagan or somebody like that. >> it is a great question. i think that residents do not have to be good, but they have to recognize good in other people. they have to achieve something good. that is a commonality in the presidents we have rated highly. lincoln was a complex guy. he was a complex character.
the guy that has been rated the highest president of all time. was also something else, which i think is another characteristic of the great presidents. he was extremely good at reading other people. douglas, who you wrote --ut and of course, lincoln had to go up against douglas a couple times. what is really interesting is douglas was a hater. he did not hate lincoln. in fact, when douglas learned that he would face lincoln, he said, -- i am paraphrasing -- i like lincoln. he has a good guide. which is extraordinary coming from douglas p he would not say that about anyone else. -- from douglas. he would not say that about anyone else.
people who ended up working with lincoln would tell you he is difficult. he would go back on what he said. he was very pragmatic. he had a lot on his plate. presidents have to deal with that. at the end of the day, president xi think have to -- presidents i think have to think about goodness because they have to achieve something that is good because that is what is going to be lasting. brian: in a few minutes, we will go to questions. i do not know where the little cards are. no car? ok. -- no cards? ok. all right. what are the chances we talk about and think about the presidency too much? high.l, they are the framers thought that congress would be the most
powerful branch, a vortex sucking all else into its jaws. the chief magistrate was supposed to be a constrained office that would take care that the laws were faithfully executed and that the commander in chief exercising the will of congress, but not a popular leader. this was taft's whole point. year,that he marked the 1912, that the presidency was transformed from a constrained and constitutional into a populist office when you have both wilson and roosevelt saying the president as a steward of the people who directly channeled their will. different bit -- a vision of the presidency. taft thought it was a threat that could lead to demagogues and the mob and president scurrying favor with factions by making demagogic appeals.
therefore, threatening liberty. today, we are seeing the fulfillment not only because of the current incumbent but because of social media, it allows presidents to communicate directly with the people in a way that madison would have found a nightmare. this danger of demagoguery. the president is so salient. he occupies so much airtime to we can personalize the government in her that he will distract us through his tweets -- for treesnd from paying attention to look at the questions of public policy and constitutional law that require a lot more time and attention then click takes. we are absolutely -- than click takes. thee also started with greatest american, george washington.
we started out with a strong president or a least a person who was publicized to be a strong president and a significant man nonetheless no matter what you would have said about his presidency whether you agreed with his politics or not. he was a general. he was a guy on the white horse. i do not know that his horses were white, but he is the single guy. if our first president was martin van buren, we might not have said that. i do not know that the first presidents of other european countries, but i would bet that go, -- them, charles to charles de gaulle, and strongman. maybe that is the point of why we discussed. why peopleone reason think about the presidency a lot thing that gets
left out of the equation a lot thinking about great leaders is they need followers. they need the people. they need the people not just to vote for them but to support them. and they need to enjoy interacting with people. taft hated it. lincoln actually liked it. the great storyteller. lincoln would stop almost anybody and say, let me tell you a story. this is part of the brilliance of spielberg's movie. there is more real in that than not. the other thing about presidents is to some extent, they reflect something else the american people sometimes want. that is a king. they go back and forth on it. they like to look up to
somebody. they want to look up to somebody. ae presidency can occupy position no other leader can occupy, which is key or at least orfar he, as always -- is he at least so far he, is always need a camera. people are always telling stories about them. we have days dedicated to them. not to supreme court justices. but we do have president's day. of a a little bit reflection of how to some extent, we threw off the king. there is a little bit in the american people that want there to be good in the president so they can revere them and honor them to some extent like a king. trying tould we be raid them? is it a good idea? let me tell you a quick story
and see what your reaction is to this. at c-span, we get a lot of students. for some reason, i get a lot of ohio students. school remains in my head, not yours. they are great kids. what have youm, read -- what have you done since you have been in washington? they get around to, we have been at arlington national cemetery. these are ohio students. i said, what did you see? they said the john f. kennedy gravesite. i will ask them, who else is buried in arlington national cemetery? they have no idea. it is a president that served for four years. nine years as the chief justice of the supreme court. his obelisk is within walking distance. they have no idea. they do not even know who liam howard taft is. is that state -- who william
howard taft is. what does that say about history or civic classes? fill in the blanks on all of that. raid everything. colleges and law schools and museums. ratings arec-span helpful. we learned so much about history from susan's introduction of why the presidents were good and bad. the fact that c-span's historians identify taft's greatest strengths and weakness, public persuasion, i think that for all of the presidents helps atevaluate leadership shared helps us have heroes and put that in a perspective. it makes as have a conversation like we are having now. i am learning a lot. your question, which i'm still pondering over, you asked, can
you be good and be president, i thought, where the top presidents good? you think about roosevelt, number three. such a complex person. of theat least affairs heart if not more with his secretary and spent a lot of time with his distant cousin, waldo from his children who thought they did not know him. an unusual marriage with eleanor. it is precisely that compartmentalization that allowed him in some ways that allowed him to give up all of the empathy. gave him a feeling of empathy with the most downtrodden. he was not able to lavish on his intimate but the world. thinking about that is interesting. it is important as citizens. what the consultation center and
c-span are trying to do is inspire people to be good citizens. that is making judgments on leadership and what you think the constitution means. that is why -- i said we were paying too much to the president on a day-to-day basis, but presidents are the way into history because you need to tell stories. you have to personalize it. you have to connect. you have to be a kid and be inspired to learn more to read those books. in that sense, i think writing them is fine. rating them is fine. >> i think we rate pretty much everything. i do not know when this became true, but maybe it was always true, that the president is the most well-known person in america. maybe muhammad ali was more well known. they had babe ruth and herbert hoover.
general, he is the one who represents america in some way. both internally and externally. i do not see how you cannot say that donald trump is not the most well-known person in america. -- that makes it different even from the english system, which is parliamentary. theresa may is not prime minister. who is the next guy? he might last for a few months. most -- the president is a celebrity. i know there are a lot of people who must read ashton kutcher's many as donaldas trump's. >> it is not just because
america likes to write things. -- two rate things. presidents care about something else. they care about being remembered. stories help that. think, intensely want to be remembered. even not the great presidents. one of the defining things for presidents is how they are constantly comparing themselves to other presidents. aten if we do not r them, they will rate themselves. lincoln right before his second term is saying, what are you guys thinking? i think i am doing pretty well against the others. that is paraphrased. he was much more eloquent. he was thinking about it. donerating effort is being
not just by americans but i think by presidents. they are thinking, how do i compare against the others? brian: i'm going to ask susan to come up. this is such a trite question, but i love it anyway. if each of you could invite three former president to the table for a dinner, for a conversation, which three would you invite? >> of course i would want to have you cannon -- have buchanan. you should have seen the list of food and liquor at his inaugural ball. cauldrons of that. him, it i have studied would want him there. but then i would want him to be compared to somebody wonderful. i think washington in a certain
way, even though he was so popular, he was enigmatic. i would like to hustle him down. brian: he had that horrible teeth problem. he could probably do ads in between football games. i would like to talk to nexen too. nixon too. brian: who would you have? >> i do not think it would be any of the president at the beginning of the 20th century partly because they are covered so much. we know them better than all of the other ones. a lot of them are on tv as well. that allows them to be remembered better. i would cast farther back. of course i would think of lincoln. who would not want to sit down with lincoln, hear those stories and talk to him? andll mention another one
that is william henry harrison. let's give him a chance to speak. i would invite him as another one saying, what would you have done in those four years? the other one might be someone like james madison because he was there. and involved with so much not just with the founding but with the birth and development of america. he would have been my third. madison.you have taken we need him back. there is an amazing moment in the civil war exhibit when lincoln in 1840 and frederick douglass discover madison's notes being published. those are so important that they convince lincoln that we the people of the united states as a whole are sovereign and secession as constitutional. they persuade frederick douglass to change his conception of
himself as a citizen. thrill andamazing necessity it would be for all of us to talk to madison and find out exactly what went on. you have to invite jefferson to see if you can have a better dinner party. also to talk about music and science with him. just channel his genius and conversation, which was supposed to be so incredibly sparkling. question. there are so many. i would like so much to meet harry truman who just seemed so authentic, staying up nights reading. burning a hole in the pillow because he was determined to teach himself about the ancient greeks and rome. learning about the american strong, proud,is
humble, brilliant leader. brian: susan. susan: you were talking about haters before. in our book, we tell three your interview the rift between theodore roosevelt and taft and how just like adams and jefferson, they came together late. would you briefly tell that story? jeffrey: of course, roosevelt was taft's mentor. he persuaded him to run for president. he said he would be the greatest resident since washington. they have this painful falling out precipitated over a series of misunderstandings and political differences including taft's decision to bring antitrust suit that roosevelt refused to bring. then, roosevelt breaks his promise not to run again. taft is persuaded that roosevelt is a demagogue threatening the constitution. he runs for president unwillingly to defend the constitution against roosevelt's
demagoguery. reporters see him on the campaign trail after he has denounced to roosevelt. he said roosevelt was my closest friend. he convulses in tears. it was an incredible drama. they do make up soon before roosevelt dies. they run into each other by accident in hotel dining room. they approach each other. they start talking and clasping each others hands. the whole dining room sees them and breaks out in applause. roosevelt dies soon after. taft is happy they made up. susan: i love the room applauding because they knew their leaders had come back together again. to the questions from the audience. how has the availability of universal and instant information impacted our -- which would be different from their predecessors? think -- ofl, i
course and other great question. all leaders care about information. all presidentsst want more information. they want to get informed. why not? you will better understand something if you get informed. ding able to gather information more quickly and better and the developments that have occurred with technology would be something that all presidents would want. and everything about it is you would not want them to abuse it. how they deal with that information is often times the defining thing about their presidency. susan: if either of you have thoughts, please jump in. is there any correlation between good and bad presidents and legislative experience coming into office? >> well, -- in the last
election, a lot was made of hillary clinton's resume. there is no one with a better than jamesensibly, buchanan. he was a legislator in pennsylvania. he was a member of the u.s. senate. he was ambassador to russia. he was ambassador to england. he had been up for a supreme court justice ship a couple times. it sort of came to nothing. he had no great legislative triumphs. lefts sort of a last man to be nominated. he was not exactly nominated for his power. they were not going to have franklin pierce back. he was a disaster. filling some time with the relief pitch. bring somebody else in.
was a plotter to the top. i thought that perhaps abraham lincoln did not have a big bar to jump over to become a great president. maybe you are comparing before and after. hard to say that about lincoln. susan: do you have a thought on that? michael: i think legislation is critical, especially a presidency that will be remembered. presidencies are remembered in part because of their speech, there sometimes remembered because of the awful things they have done or affairs they had to, but they are also remembered for achievements with legislation. in other president often forgotten is -- and other president often forgotten is john quincy adams who achieved no legislative success. thee we rate lincoln
highest and while legislation is part of what he achieves, of course, he creates the possibility for there to be legislation done in the future. >> a possible counter. passing legislation as president white be important, but think of how few of the greatest presidents did have legislative experience including roosevelt. a minor legislator in albany. johnson may be the only serious legislator who had legislative agreements. -- do you have a constitutional vision? not just, do you pass laws? there are three republics in american history. the founding republic. republic, the reconstruction republic. lincoln is the anchoring figure. then, the new deal republic. that one. when you ask, what is the