tv Q A CSPAN December 20, 2009 8:00pm-9:00pm EST
about a senator named denton. -- denton. -- benton. >> he was a big man. he was the most -- was called the most grating political maniac i ever knew. he was a powerful figure, and rode on massive memoir which historians have been using for a century and a half. and he was very powerful during that time. >> the story about the deal will and andrew jackson never ceases to amaze me when i read it. >> benton had met him in the war of 1812. there were very close. but there were a lot of tools in tennessee in those days. jackson consented to be the
second abduat a duel. jesse took that bill would -- took a bullet to the buttocks which was somewhat of an embarrassment. people began trashing jackson's name. jackson took that very seriously. jackson was wounded in this older, bleeding profusely, and almost died. benton realize that jackson was the hero of tennessee, and he needed to get out of dodge. so he left tennessee and went to missouri. he rose up to beat missouri lost a top politician for 30 years. >> to this injured -- did this injury in up with and to jackson -- end up with andrew
jackson walking around with a bullet in his shoulder? >> the in jackson saw what i on most things and they were very much together on most of the issues of the day. >> another senator you write about -- and i bring this up to set the mood of that time period. benton was a democrat, polk was a democrat, and about the was a democrat. -- mcduffy was a democrat. >> he was a protege of calhoun. very early during the jackson presidency, toyed with the idea that straights -- that states could secede from the union. jackson said, that is
tantamount to secession. jackson said, i am sending troops down and hang any traders who try to rent this hallowed union. he quashed the nullification movement. but those southerners, especially from south carolina, were very wary of the federal government. mcduffy never really came to heal to regards to jackson or pole. >> what is the difference between the democratic party in that day and the democratic party today? >> it is closer to the republican party of today. the 20th century president mots like president was ronald reagan. the 20th century president most like jackson's main rival was franklin roosevelt.
both great patriots -- clay and jackson. they hated each other and loved america. they had nothing but the greatest designs for america's future. clay believe in the concentration of power in washington. whereas jackson believes that power should be diffuse and spread out among the people as much as possible. that would talk about street construction -- all the democrats were in favor of strict construction of the constitution does the republican race today. or small government, that is a to republican -- that is a republican phrase today. >> what was the moment that led you to write a book about james polk? >> it is an opportunity to note that this was not my idea. the idea came from my editor, simon and schuster, legendary
publishing circles as someone who loves american history. she asked me during the discussion we were having, what i was coming up with some ideas for books which she was not particularly enamored of, she says, we will come up with something. what do you know about the mexican war? i said that i was not a military historian but it was a period of very intense politics. give me a couple of weeks to figure out how i would shake it. i did, i sent your memo, and that is how i got started. -- i sent her a memo and that is how life has started. >> we have had her on this network on some panels. she will not sit for an interview. what is she like? >> she is so smart and so passionate about these things. she is very opinionated and she is very direct.
she is a wonderful character -- a publisher for i do not know how many decades. it is wonderful working for her. >> what is your -- what was her reaction? >> a lot of tough questions. she wanted to make sure that i had shaped right. i went back and wrote the memo, then she seemed to like it. then she sent me on my own greed for three years we have almost no conversation until she got the full manuscript. -- she sat me on my own. for three years we had almost no conversation until she got the full manuscript. it turned out was on the right track. >> what did she want to do that you had not done before? >> i think it was a question of making sure that the narrative have enough drive and that the characters were coming in. i don't remember the exact details that she made suggestions on. >> how did you go about this?
>> i have a job. i was running congressional quarterly. that was a demanding job. i had to shape my efforts. i read a lot of newspapers. in fact, i read the "daily globe" and the "daily union." and the national intelligencer. i read those papers pretty much like that would be reading the new york times and the washington post today. i read them day by day by day, calling it. >> at your computer? >> is not convenient to do it on the computer because of the print out requirement. it is difficult to read up broadsheet newspaper. you have to print out portions of the page and you cannot put them together. i went to the library of congress and read it there, printed out columns, put them in order. and then read them again, and magic marker them, and put them
into piles and figure out how the narrative goes. and then of course letters. all polk's letters are being published. and polk kept a diary during his presidency. he poured his heart into the diary. he told his diary of what he was really thinking and feeling. he was feeling beset by his political opponents a lot of the time. i was able to get all light on it that way. >> i want to come back to that. pay the picture of him physically as a person. >> not an imposing man, particularly. he was not an unattractive man. medium height, 5 ft. 8, relatively small compared to the giants of the time. and jackson was big. clay was lanky and tall.
pope did not have that. small stature and drab of temperament i called him. a standoffish kind of guy. he did not like people very much. he was self righteous, a bit of sanctimony, a bit of a parade in many ways. on first meeting, people denied gravitate to him. but what he had that led people to underestimate him, looking at these other traits, was an amazing ironclad will and determination to bring about whatever goal or a piece set for himself. and he was driven -- he was always working, always conniving, always thinking, always figuring out how to move things forward toward the democratic games. >> he was our 11th president. who was before and after him? >> he succeeded john tyler. he had been a democrat, turned
whig. the democrats had been very good to him. i'm talking about tyler. then he became a wig and was selected by a president and succeeded the presidency. but he was the release a wig and the whigs were very upset. -- he was not really a whig and the whigs were very upset. what he did that was remarkable and big was that he initiated the negotiations with texas -- the independent nation of texas that had declared its independence from mexico 10 years earlier, to bring taxes into the united states by annexation. that led to the kind of explosion of expansionist sentiment in america. >> who was right after james polk? >> zachary taylor, who was a general in the mexican war.
polk had been his commander-in- chief. paul never really liked zachary taylor and did not think very much of him. a stolid, on imaginative guide. my own view as a military man was that he strategically was limited. he got himself into a lot of scrapes. he got into unfortunate situation, but technically brilliant. and therefore managed to get his armies out of those unfortunate circumstances. >> of wade? >> he was, and that is why it polk never really liked him. -- a whig? >> he was, and that is why polk never really liked him. >> where would save whig -- a whig stand today, and what party?
>> it would focus on concentration of power -- they were more in favor of concentration of power in washington that would be along the liberal side. but what was emerging was an increasing consciousness and concern about the slavery issue th. the whig party was more of the vanguard of pushing on the slavery issue. many were raising serious questions about slavery, but the attempt missouri, and those abolitionist were largely whigs. >> how many slaves did james polk owned? >> we do not know the answer to that. i got a laudatory rebuke from
"newsweek", but he notes that i did not get into the polk the slave owner or his personal life, to the extent that he would have liked. i think that is a fair criticism. >> and what is he doing writing a review on the book? i've never seen it before. >> i have never seen it before. >> do you have any idea why? >> i talked to and subsequently. joe alsop was sort of his uncle and he liked that book a lot. he took interest in the fact that i was writing a book on pulp and seemed to like the book a lot. he decided to review it, and i was very pleased to have him do so. >> we've got a clip from a 1996 interview you and i had about joseph alsop. let's see it. >> does bill clinton have a relationship with any newsperson
like joe alsop did with the presidents lyndon johnson and jack kennedy? >> i do not know that he does. i do not believe that he does. >> what you think about all the letters of him writing to president kennedy saying that he was the greatest. >> it should not the one and i think that most people -- most journalists and most other people who read this book will say, there is a lot of transgressions year. this guy's purporting to be attached analytical news man and his release snuggling up to a lot of resources. but he was a columnist. he was not an objective reporter. that would be part of his defense, no doubt. but from almost the very beginning, joe got very close to his sources. and probably most people would
say to close. >> here we are many years later. is there any way to relate dollar ran back to the days of james polk? >> that is fascinating. those were the days of the partisan press. james polk or any president had to have a newspaper that was his spokesperson, his mouthpiece. polk had a real problem with the president because the "daily globe", the main democratic newspaper since jackson, did not really like polka very much. it was run by france's blair -- francis blair. there blares from missouri, actually. polk was afraid that if the cat will air in their, blair was
more in favor of benton and martin van buren than polk. that was going to be a disaster for him. he had to maneuver to get the "global" out of there so he could create the "daily union." but a man that he revered, and you jackson, love the blair. jackson could not understand why his two great proteges and friends and people that he loved so much could not get along. the poll pulled off and got blair added there to create his own newspaper, "the daily union." >> what is the difference between the editor of the post today and the blairs? >> it is different because there's a significant pretense and desire to reach for object to it -- objectivity and our newspapers. we do not always live up to that
successfully, but that is the rule that we try to follow. don graham is up that tradition, not a partisan press. >> you went to the university of washington and also columbia, that master's degree. you wrote for the "national observer," which a lot of people do not remember. and then the "wall street journal quoted >> dow jones started "the desert -- all the good the observer" in 1962. most people thought the writing was particularly sparkly. i loved working for them. the last day of june, 1977, the chairman of the dow jones took a helicopter down to tell us that there were closing as them. at that point i went to the washington bureau of the "wall street journal quoted >> what did you do after that?
>> i ended up at congressional quarterly as managing editor. i spent 2.5 years in that job, and seven years as executive editor, and 12 years as ceo and chief of congressional quarterly. >> it was sold recently to what organization? >> the economist group, which also owns "roll call." ruckuses on congress at did "congressional quarterly quality -- as did "congressional quarterly qu." i was the one standing when the music stopped. my job came to an end and at 6:00 the next morning, i was on an airplane to seattle to decompress.
>> polk promised some where he would be a one-termer. >> as soon as he got the nomination, he wrote a letter saying that it collected he would always serve one term. two reasons -- one was somewhat frivolous and the other more serious. he believed in diffuse powers. he did not believe an entrenched power in washington. the power that remains becomes entrenched. one-term fit into that philosophy. that is frivolous, because it's great mentor, and jackson, sir two terms and nobody raised a fuss about that. but as i said, he was not an imposing figure, and yet he emerged as the nominee at a time when the party was popular by barry ambitions figures.
-- populated by a very ambitious figures. benton, silas wright of new york, we do not know about him but he was the giant of his time. calhoun, and paul's view was that these people thought he was going to be in the presidency for eight years, they could not get behind him in the election and he needed them. he knew he would have a very close election. which he did. >> how many political jobs did the half before he became president? >> congress at age 25, he rose up to be the chairman of the ways and means committee, which i covered during my "wall street journal" days. he served as speaker for two
terms. then he was going back to tennessee and ran for governor. he did not want to do it, but the democrats were losing power and force in tennessee, largely again because of the panic of 1837. he went back and became governor. two years later, he is running for reelection and he runs across a 30-year-old upstart by the names of james jones. you live by the name of lean jimmie jones. it was a bit of adjuster who did not take things very seriously. -- of a gejester who did not think -- take things very seriously. jimmy prancing around him in debates. at one point, polk suggested that his brand of politics was
more suited to a circus. and then he says, you are right, we both belong in the circus. i would be the clown and you would be that little guy and a red suit, riding around on a pony. wing jimmy knocks him out. now his career is released all. he had been on the side of history and enter jackson, and he ran again hoping to get the governorship that. lean jimmy and wins again. he feels washed up. the only hope to resurrect his career was to catch the vice- presidential nomination. people actually ran for the vice presidency in those days. so he tries to get the vice- presidential nomination. things are not going very well. and then i note that tyler began the annexation of texas.
two things happen. three things, really. the country really galvanized behind that idea, the idea of on with expansion to the pacific. no. 2, martin van buren came out against it. he said at the time was not right. and then click came out against it. and it really destroyed the presidential prospects of both van buren and clay. polk became the compromise candidate at the democratic convention in baltimore in 1844. >> what ballot did he win on? >> ninth. >> van buren had been president. >> after jackson, elected in 19 -- 1836. he wants to get the presidency back. >> he was not for the annexation for taxes. any party today wanting to put
tariffs into the mix? >> not so much. they are a big issue today. free trade bs died those who are called protectionist. they do not like that term. rigid free-trade versus those recall protectionist. they do not like that term. republicans are always in favor in reducing their rates, democrats are less in favor that. in those days away largely wanted higher tariff rates. the democrats, not so much. there was a geographical component, so in pennsylvania, a lot of industrialization, that one of high tariffs to protect themselves against imports. and the south, it did not matter whether you are a quick or
democrat, you wanted low tariffs because you did not want the complications and trade regarding sending agricultural goods overseas. >> a lot of people talk about -- you can see their names everywhere, including his vice- president. >> george dallas. >> they named dallas, texas after him. >> he was elected vice president. that is the only thing he ever did. >> how did he get to be vice- president? >> he was from the north and pole was from the south. in those days you had to have both. he was not used much by poll. he was a nonentity as vice president. he had a largely and distinguishable career and i do not know what happened to him after that.
>> the most interesting thing is that that it drops off. he is out of the white house and a few months later he is dead. >> polk was a very serious minded guy. he was a micromanage our. he worked himself very hard. and i believe that he worked himself to death, literally. and the mexican war which he maneuvered the country into, in which he presided over for two years, he thought it would be a brief war. it was a long war and it sapped his banding and brought huge concerns and greets to him. as a result of that, i think he lost her resistance. he was not a particularly healthy man anyway. the most likely died of cholera. >> on march 4? >> march 4 was a sunday.
>> what it do after the presidency? >> he was on his way back to tennessee. he bought a home in nashville previously owned by a prominent lawyer and the legislature. it was looking for to his retirement. but he was sickly toward the end of his presidency, and on his way back to tennessee, which began the day after inauguration, and many began to revive a little bit and was refurbishing his house. and then he took a turn for the worse and very quickly died. >> where was he born? >> born in north carolina. he moved at age 11 to tennessee with his family. that was a real pioneer in front year period, a place in those days. it was dangerous. when jackson went to tennessee,
a man, woman, and out of the caucasian race was killed by indians attack every 10 days or so. it was a very dangerous place, but his family had become prominent in land. they speculated and land in north carolina. they went to tennessee with what they have earned their. they did it again on a bigger scale. they were quite prominent, very friendly with enter jackson and all his coterie. all that high and society of the nashville, tennessee. >> how did he meet sarah? >> sarah childress, her brother had been a class make a poll. she was quite a bit younger. he may have known her when she was 11 and 12, and met her at a reception or party for a prominent tennessee and who later became governor.
he saw her in the mirror, a reflection in the mirror, and was immediately smitten with the visage that he saw. he made his way to find her, but through the crowd he lost her. by the time he found her, she was with her brother, who he had known from school. there were pretty much together ever since. >> he graduated from the university of north carolina, studying? he got a lot agree? >> it became a lawyer but you did not get a law degree in those days. he studied liberal arts and sciences. it was gradual did no. 1 in both. -- he was graduated no. 1 in both. the study the curriculum of liberal arts. >> youtube two years to do this. when did you change your mind on anything about whole? >> i knew very little about
polk. that was a good thing. what struck me was -- might late friend, the pentagon spokesman, read my manuscript as it was being produced to give me some guidance and counsel on the way. he described poult as a smaller than life figure with larger- than-life ambitions. what struck me about polk, i did not understand who we was in terms of his temperament and personality -- a man so limited in so many ways could be so successful was the president. -- as president. >> you have got some good reviews. you got good reviews at pittsburgh, but did not work together at the "wall street journal?"
>> we were colleagues at the wall street journal, yes. >> the major one in the "york times" book review is shaun williams. did you know him? >> no, i knew that he was one of the prodigious >> in that era. >> he said that this is a refreshing challenge to the new conventional wisdom. polk was certainly an expansionist, but in this he merely reflected the passionate desire to push the country ever westward. >> when word filtered through the country that texas annexation was a possibility, that this expansion this dream really exploded on america. think about this, brian. there had never been a country that dominated an entire continent and positioned itself to dominate two and oceans.
and the idea of texas -- we had the louisiana purchase, and now texas moving us toward the pacific, and there was the oregon territory of bear, occupied by the briton and americans -- the territory of oregon up there, occupied by the british and the americans. and if we could get california and those four states, utah, arizona, nevada, and mexico -- that would be a country of vast designs. and i think that what john is saying is that polk is the instrument of the sentiment that emerge. and i make the point that he emerged very powerfully in america, largely from the annexation of texas. >> go back to the diary. did you read it in credit or
longhand form? >> i get to frustrated trying to read the handwriting of the 19th century. i read the version published by the chicago public library. i went over it very carefully. >> google has got it. you can watch it on your computer. did you read it all? >> oh, yes, i read it all. multiple times. i took notes from it. i came very close to memorizing it. >> if you had the four volumes, how big was it? >> each was 500 pages. >> you that 2000 pages of typed diary. >> >> james buchanan was considered our worst president.
very disloyal to polk. and he had an inability to fire the man. he cannot abide face-to-face confrontation. he was almost cowardly face-to- face, and i do not think that was an unfair characterization. i do not recall what we were -- >> let me go to the point -- diary itself. the four years of his presidency, how much did he do every day? did you get any sense of when he wrote this? >> he broke this late at night. he was upset with a confrontation he had in a cabinet meeting with buchanan. he goes back to his office that night and he writes the whole thing out. and then he says, well, now that i had done this, i will continue to do this.
sometimes he could be very brief, and other times type pages, including extensive depictions of conversations that he had with various members of congress and others, diplomats and others. it was a tremendous undertaking, because he was a very busy man. as i say, he was a workaholic. they did not have those -- that word in those days but that is what he was. he would work late into the night writing these injuries. it is a marvelous record of the time. >> how many people in history have read the entire diary? >> mostly historians. you see that evidence in that of history -- of historians writing about that period of time. >> at what point in your research did you read the diary? >> i read the first part -- the first year, i tend to do it in
stages. the first year i took polk up to the point where he was elected. i researched and wrote that. and in the next year, i researched the remainder four years of the polk presidency. the main part of the book. and then i got into the diary at that point. >> what did you start to sense in reading the diary, about him as a person, as a writer? >> a good writer, clear headed. very clear evidence of his sanctimoniousness three he had so pitying quality that was not attractive. -- he had a self-pitying quality that was not attractive. all of these people trying to thwart me in what i am trying to
do for the american people. that is the theme that ran through and not a very appetizing way. the interesting about him is that he never seemed -- and this is not a good trade for politicians. he tended to see ulterior motives in his opponents. he did not really give them credit for being honorable people with a different point of view. there was always a secondary, altar area -- ulterior motive in these people. john quincy adams was a sanctimonious man. jimmy carter was a sanctimonious man. george w. bush, in my view, was a sanctimonious man. maybe we can debate that. woodrow wilson was sanctimonious. sanctimony at that level of politics tends to be a trade that causes problems -- a trait
that causes problems. polk was probably the most successful of the sanctimonious presidents. people could argue about woodrow wilson. he interjected himself in the world wars i, but that is a huge historical debate that we get out on another show. >> you talk about a couple of people that i wanted to expand on. john quincy adams -- he was the president, and the one on into the house of representatives. what did he do when james polk was inaugurated president? >> he had a chance to be in the inaugural procession. he had no intention of doing, because it was very upset about the election. he despised and jackson, but jackson was a giant of the time. now we have jackson's protege who was not a giant, and it was a rainy day that day. it rained all day during the
inauguration. quincy adams watched from a distance, and then put right comments, many of them quite pointed, in his diary about polk and the proceedings. >> did you look up his diary? >> yes. >> he had that tiny writing. where did they get the pole diary? >> that is at the library of congress. >> and talking about henry clay, how did henry clay relate to him? they had run against each other. and that seen in the oval office, or what ever the office was, why did he visit him? >> i do not think i know. it is a touching scene to make, maybe the most touching scene in the book. henry clay had been a great opponent of jacksonism, jacksonian democracy, but jackson democrats, all of his
life. he had sought the presidency three times, three times thwarted, the last time by james polk who he had not expected. polk it's as into the mexican war. henry clay has a son, a wonderful young man, killed in the war. you would think that that would be enough where henry clay would never want to go near james polk. and yet he stops by on a courtesy call when he is visiting in washington. polk immediately goes downstairs to the caller from his upstairs office, and clay basically says, i was not sure that you would be pleased to receive me, mr. president, but my friends to tell me that i should come and see. so i am pleased that he did. polecats his wife summoned and they have this beautiful talk. -- polk has his wife summoned
and have this beautiful tall. polk has a dinner for him later. a beautiful scene. >> where did you find the details on this? >> the diary. and i mixed a couple of things. in the magisterial book about the lead up to the civil war, this episode is there, but it is in a different setting. clay in his very elaborate manner -- his orotund it an elaborate manner -- he lays a complement among mrs. polk. everywhere i go, and nothing but good about how you're doing. not so much about this guy -- and they'll laugh. nevins has this at a dinner, but he has a more robust description of what was actually said. i combine that. my concern was that this was in
polk's diary. it happened that day. it must happen in the parlor of the white house or polk would never have written it. i could have taken polk's more clipped rendition arenevisn or -- or nevins'. >> johnson and all are john -- john sieganthaler also wrote about this. >> i think he would of waded right into this and firemen and then right at home. he was a man for his time.
there is very little that you can say that he left. his administration was sandwiched between the all lead two way the administration and our history. and both of those administrations, harrison and the tail or administration, were interrupted by the deaths of those two presidents. those two administrations did very little. in his administration is between those. and he did a great deal. >> do you agree? >> i certainly agree with john on that. that book he wrote was part of the american presidents series, and he told me when we talk about this that the only thing that/center wanted him to change -- schlessinger 1
interchange was when we had gone to mexico city but they would not negotiate. we could just take over the whole country. he believed that that was a more serious movement at that time that was in the book. john went back and put it in. my research indicates that it was of byplay of the mexican war. but john has polk exactly right. he would have gotten right into the city politics of today. although not so much in terms of face-to-face confrontation, because paul was not that it that. but he was could outmanoeuvring his rivals behind the scenes. >> for those who say that today's politics are a lot more
acidic and difficult, a lot more uncivilized -- what do you say to them? >> no, there are various period in our history where politics had just been is raucous and nasty and better as we -- and better as we are experiencing today. we have gone through that. early part of the republic, the people who are writing the pamphlets, very nasty and bitter. everything leading up to the civil war, we had a caning on the floor of the senate. the distinguished senator of massachusetts was caned by a congressman from south carolina. it took him three years to recover and get back to the senate. it is all part of human nature. there is only one -- 1 constants in politics, and that is human nature. everything else is a variable.
>> a lot of historians give him credit for making decisions and having four accomplishments. that is what he set out to do and he did it. of all listed four of them. acquire california from mexico. and you can explain what that means. a choir of oregon from britain. reduced tariff rates. and create an independent treasury to ensure currency stability. >> let's talk about that one briefly. during jackson state, there was the bank of the united states -- the bank of the united states which was built to ensure currency stability. jackson, with all the populism, he hated that bank and he killed it. >> he would hate what is going on right now. >> in many ways. but everyone understood that
there had to be some kind agency for stability, and for repository of federal money. jackson basically put it in the state banks, promptly labeled jackson's pet banks. this was an attempt to create government entity that would take care of those two things. john notes that that lasted until the creation of the fed. it was not a trivial accomplishment. tariff rates were read natural democratic position. that was not surprising. gaining the oregon territory as much as possible was a natural thing. for 26 years, the united states and britain had been trying to negotiate where to draw the line
spirit >> how many states -- where to draw the line. the oregon territory when up to what is now alaska. polk boldly said in his inaugural address that we basically stake our claim to all of oregon. the british went crazy. in london, they were saying that it would lead to war. and a lot of americans were worried that poehl would get us into a war. but at the last minute, he had an iron nerve and a lot of ways and at the last minute he offered a compromise to draw the border at the 49th parallel, and then down around vancouver island, so that the british could have all of vancouver island. and that broke the logjam -- a 26-year log jam.
>> who came up with the slogan? >> most of the midwesterners. the people from around the great lakes, who won it all or again, because they saw a natural trading relationship between that part of the country in their own. they wanted all of the oregon territory, which went up to 54- 40. so they wanted it all. 54-40 or fight. it was very deft diplomacy. >> that congress was controlled by what party? >> it was controlled by the democrats for the first part of his presidency. because of the hostilities that emerged with the mexican war, he lost the house -- not the senate, but lost the house. >> the one thing we have not talked about on monday four is
acquiring california. what does that mean? >> it was part of mexico as was the southwestern territory. i believe that as soon as polk -- he never said this publicly. snc said privately that he wanted to acquire california, that is a tipoff that polk intended, if necessary, and he probably thought it would be necessary, to have a war with mexico. other presidents had tried to purchase california and the mexicans were not interested. i think that that sort of tipped off the astute pursuer of these events that polk was prepared for and willing to maneuver the united states into a war with mexico in order to bring about this expansion. >> use spurred me on the look up the july 12, 1840 speech by abraham lincoln. i want to read the last line.
explain how that would fit into day, what kind of figure was abraham lincoln at the time. he said, he knows not where he is. meaning polk. he is a bewildered, confounded, and miserably perplexed man. god grant he may be able to show there is not something about his conscience more painful than all his mental perplexity. a little hard to understand. what was abraham lincoln getting out and how does that fit today? it would make that speech today? >> in any war, if you have a very emotional sentiments and very emotional debates. lincoln was a quick. -- whig. it was natural that he would despise james polk and his corporate but looking at his biography in historical terms,
it is ironic that he would be so opposed to this war on moral grounds, when in fact he became a war president, more significant scale than any president in our history. and sean, in the review of my book, suggests -- i've never seen this noted before come but this lincoln speech and some other speeches along the same lines could be attributable more to lincoln's partisanship that to any fundamental will socle ground. >> and lincoln was a one-term congressman. >> it was assumed that this group of people in illinois, district would trade off, but lincoln wanted to remain in washington. even if his colleagues in illinois had wanted him to, his
opposition to polk and the nature of his opposition had thrown away his prospect of having another term. the boilers on the mexican war, what did polk have to do with that? what was the end result? >> one week and next taxes, mexico considered that to be an act of war. mexico had not been able to get texas back. but they had never recognize that texas independence. now we have texas and mexico which draws its ambassador. they threatened to declare war on the united states agree that leads to huge tensions between the united states and mexico. polk sent an army to the rio grande in disputed territory. a skirmish breaks out. 11 americans are killed. polk immediately goes to congress and says they have spilled american blood on american soil. one could argue that that was
not exactly accurate. but he believed that it was american soil. and that led to the mexican war. he thought it would last four months. it would send sack retailer and an army into mexico for a couple of hundred miles. that would succeed and negotiate for peace. but the mexicans were a proud people. they've never won a battle but that would not give up until the very end. and the war dragged on for two years and became a major issue. >> do you remember how much it costs this country and how many lives? >> i have in the book. i think it might been somewhere in the neighborhood of 17,000 lives, many of them from disease. >> what was the population of the country then? >> that is in the book, also. i believed it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 million? i'm not that it remembering
figures anymore. >> anymore? >> i used to be better. >> now you are now working at congressional quarterly anymore, what are your plans? >> i am looking for another horse to ride three parties and within a week for two, i can be in a position to announce that i will be becoming an executive of another publishing company. >> what about writing books? and let me ask it this way. if you had to choose a character that you learn about in this book to write another book on, was there in the body big enough and who will it be? -- any one big enough, and it would it be? >> no one struck a fancy in terms of my next book. i have a bigger idea. i seem to navigate very well to the 19th century, so my next book could be keeping me there. it will be something related to the run-up to the civil war.
>> knowing your personality and james paul, how would you have got along at dinner? >> i tell people that if you and i were at a bar having a drink and we notice jimmy polk and the corner, and the question comes up to invite him over to join us, the answer would be no. he just was not much fun. as a reporter, i would have got along with him because he would have been a good source. sanctimonious people are not good sources to reporters. i think i would have admired him in many ways. >> the book is called "a country of vast designs." the author is robert merry. thank you very much.
>> for a dvd copy of this program, call 1-877-662-7726. for free transcripts or to give us your comments about this program, visit us at q-and- a.org. "q&a" programs are also available as c-span podcasts. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2009] >> to not on c-span, the prime minister's questions with the deputy labour leader. a little bit later, another chance to say robert merry talk about his latest biography on the 11th president, james polk.
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