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tv   The Presidency The Presidents  CSPAN  May 22, 2020 9:29pm-10:48pm EDT

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good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the night tv studio, another edition of our program. as the 2020 presidential election, starts to invade our daily news feed, and with joe biden feeling the fire this week. what better time to look back at the history of the presidency, and looking at the character and dignity of the man holding the office.
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the title tells it all of our book, you'll be hearing from susan's wayne soon, who will discuss how her book came together, based on the historian survey of presidential leadership. following the presentation, i have the distinct privilege of speaking with brian lam, the chairman of c-span, who over the course of many years conducted the interviews, with presidential historians that make up the content of the book, and we are also joined today by historians can ackerman, and david stewart who have both contributed to the book. at this time please welcome susan's wayne. >> hello nice to see you, we
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have a long long friendship and relationship with the journalist and the freedom forum, it's almost as oldest c-span. it's a delight to be here with them and you this afternoon. to talk about a project that c-span took on about a year and a half ago. this year, is he spends 40th anniversary. we started in 1979 with coverage of the house of representatives. >> thank you. about a year and a half ago i went down to bryan lam's office and said i have a great idea for our project for a project for our 40th anniversary. we have done nine books of interviews, and collected works and the most recent one was in 2015, a collection of biographies of the first ladies. it felt like if you're going to do anything special for a 40 thunderously, we ought to add the presidents to our bookshelf. and our collection. but the idea was to actually use to resources and we are
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putting this together. we took the idea to our longtime publishers, a public affairs press in new york. who specialize in nonfiction books, started by a journalist from the washington post. the idea was to merge too significant resources. first one collection, of brian lambs 30 years of interviews, for his sunday night program and among those hundreds and hundreds of hours for some of the top presidential historians that are a lot today, and the work they have done spending often years of their lives. that was one idea. to use the basis of the interview for the collection. the second was to merge that with the work that we've been doing for the last 20 years, and that is a historian survey of presidential leadership. back in 1999 we spent a year on the road visiting historic sites associated with every single president. it was an enormous project.
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we are live on vacation on location, almost 39 sites at that point. doing a big production sometimes indoors sometimes in houses that were 200 years old. to tell the stories of the presidents. these three historians, have become dear friends of our network over the year. douglas brinkley you might see him often on television. richard norton smith, often on c-span. he has started five presidential libraries. he is currently working on the biography of gerald are flowed. gerald ford. and edna green met furred. . new it would be nice to put a
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cap around all this was something scientific and we devised the idea of doing the survey of presidential historians but then the question was how would we measure them. lots of interesting intellectual debate pursued, and then we decided on ten qualities of presidential leadership. that would be the metrics for the president's. okay here they are. >> public persuasion, crisis leadership, economic management management, moral authority international relations, administrative skills. which would include the running of the departments your cabinet etc. the next is relations with congress, vision setting an agenda, pursued equal justice
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for all. the final performance within the context of their times. the idea is that it is very difficult for us to take our 24 century eyes and judged back but we are asking the historians to say take into account the circumstances of the society of that time, and try to give them some credit for doing the best they might have been able to do in the circumstances surrounding them. so the ten metrics went out to 100 historians and professional observers of the presidency. we try to mix demographically, and politically. of the people who took the survey. so it could be as broad as possible. and as i mentioned, what we did the first one in 2000, it was such a success that that was at the time that bill clinton was leaving. so when george w. bush left we did it again, and then again in
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2017 when barack obama left office. we now have three extensive surveys of historians. over the course of that time, who is up and who is down. this is over the 20 years. first and george action, guess what he is down. maybe our historians can tell us why. woodrow wilson also down. from six to 11th place. referred to be haze another one who's down. i would like to hear more about why the historians are bringing him down as years go by. grover cleveland, elected three times, and the popular vote, one from 17th place to the 23rd place. dwight eisenhower top five. started out in ninth place 20
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years ago. bill clinton, he started out a 21st place. remember it was in 2000. right after the impeachment. then by the time we did the survey, eight years later he had moved to 15th, and he stated 15th in this last survey as well. okay ulysses us grant. an interesting. one 33rd place to 22nd. 11 points he's moved up. i'm sure that we will learn a little bit more from our historians perspectives, as to why he is raising up in their estimation. you may also remember, there's been a grant biography recently, and it's an interesting implant, on the view that we have an impact on the view we have in society. so now we will go to the 2017
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survey, which is the organizing principle for a group of interviews. we arrange them chronologically, we put them in order of how they fared in our survey so let's look at the top five. one force the modern presidents was he had a good. ronald reagan is the only one that made it into the top ten. next up george w. bush, 20th spot it will be interesting when we do the next survey at the end of the trump presidency, whether george h. w. bush moves up not or not. he's passed away. that has an impact, because historians are people too. it will be interesting to see if it affects his ratings. bill clinton we just talked about. 15th place. george w. bush, 33rd. the first time we had him, which is after he left office, he was one point lower, we have
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another president he moved up one, he is pretty close to the bottom ten, and certainly, the reaction to 9/11 is important part but the economic crisis, the wars ensued after 9/11, and his response to hurricane katrina, are things over time will see how historians rate his presidency. finally, barack obama his debut in the survey, he came in 12th place. not a bad place to start. just a couple more of these. here are the top five in 2017. dwight eisenhower has we talked about before making into the top five the first time. theodore roosevelt, in fourth place. in the survey. that is fairly common throughout not only ours, but other surveys that were done. you won't be surprised to know that the next one in line is franklin roosevelt, who's frequently in the number one two or three. fdr biography, which we chose to highlight in our book, is no
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ordinary time. anybody read that? it's a terrific one. the one on theodore roosevelt, is called wilderness warriors. it's about his role as a conservation president. for george washington, he won the pulitzer prize for this. george washington came in second place. his low score, and i referenced this before, is 13th place among the presidents. as he pursued equal justice for. all i'm sure many of you have been down to mount vernon. they have been doing a great job over the last couple of decades of how the slaves have that have contributed to mount vernon. the and finally, number one in our service survey, no surprise, he seems to be number one in every survey, is abraham lincoln.
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he received 907 points, at a possible thousand. he's ranked one two in almost all of them, his lowest score is fourth place. and that is on relations with congress. harold hoser, is our featured biography. he's written 53 books about our 16th president. the one that we chose is a snapshot in time. it's chapter which you will find about what abraham lincoln did between election day and march when he was sworn in how he organized himself to get to washington which had only been in for a short time. as a one term congressman and there is a wonderful human story in this book. we did nothing to help presidents financially, so he had to finance his way to washington he had a yard sale in springfield illinois to sell his belongings. he could not bear to sell the family dog, so he gave it away.
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so let's do the fun ones, bottom five. 39th place, john tyler. they say his contribution, that he declared himself president. and it was not establish yet in the constitution. he got some low scores. his high score was 28 in international relations. next one warren hearting. we heard a lot about warren hearting in the last few years. he was quite an ardent letter writer nudge john dean who knows a few things about presidential scandals. he got a hold of harding's paper, his papers and he had a
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second look at him. the historians in the survey gave him only 360 points out of 1000. his highest, 33 was an equal justice for all. that at a category keeps coming back. we are having an important conversation in this country about race relations, and demographics and disappears in these and this appears in these ratings. okay next one oh i skipped this one yeah 41 franklin pierce. he got 315 points. and a terrific story in there, about the difficulty of him coming to washington. if you never heard it, they had lost two of their three sons and a very young age. their third son was on the train with them, as they were
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making their way, after winning the election to washington. the train had a horrific accident, and the sun was thrown from the train and killed. the president elect, carried his dead son's body back to the train. his wife barely ever recovered from it, and spent most of the administration on the main floor, writing letters to her dead son. he had a difficult time organizing his cabinet, plus we are on the march to war. challenging time for him. ok andrew johnson, 42nd at the 43 we've measured. his highest point, was 37th plate it's in economic management. 275 points out of a possible thousand. here we go dead last, guess what is yet james buchanan. i'm a pennsylvanian so this one pains me a little bit.
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he is so bad, that his 30 points below andrew johnson, and all of these folks, are below harrison who died after one month in office, so think about that. it is a bit of a negative presidency if you think about it. the buchanan biography, i love the name of it. worst period, president period ever. so there's lots left, for all of these ratings on our side that we created, which is c-span .org slash the presidents. you will find a complete video, and interviews. that we use for chapters of the book. lots more about their individual ratings and categories. we also have links to historic facts. so if you're reading the book, and you don't know about a particular war, or economic panic. we have a link and if you want to learn more you have an easy opportunity to do that. one last note, we did not rate
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the incumbent. we hope that all of you, will be thinking about what we want out of a leader, who are put to these ten attributes. judging the democrats who are vying for it, and the person in office. so what do i suspect that the person who leads this country. with that i will turn over to this terrific panel here are the two presidents that are being feature today, andrew johnson who i mentioned before. his highest category, sorry his lowest, relations with congress. he is in 43rd spot. as i mentioned 275 out of 1000. james garfield, this is so interesting because he was an officer six and a half months, yes he writes high by comparison. his highest category is pursuit of equal justice for all, 20th place amongst the presidents, and lows category international
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relations. he came into the office with no experience. he's in 36 there. score 481 out of the thousand. double what andrew johnson got. again he was only an officer six and a half months. lots to talk about. why these ratings have happened. with that thank you for learning more about our book learning about the presidents and i will turn over to the panel. can >> great presentation thank you i just want to get the conversation going i want to hear from all of you. we have to microphone set up. when i go to questions i will ask you to please stand. let me introduce our panel again. to my right can ackerman. we as a writer can has altered five major books. including dark horse. the surprise election and
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political murder. of james a garfield. garfield is 29th on the survey. david stewart to his right, spent many years as a trial and appellate lawyer, the u.s. senate and u.s. supreme court. before becoming a best-selling writer and historical fiction. his writings have explored the constitution, and the treason trial of aaron burr. the fight for lincoln's legacy. and finally we are joined by brian lamb. ceo and chairman of c-span. his interviews have been the basis of nine books. brian has visited, every presidential grave site, as
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well as every vice presidential grave site in the country, and we will have to ask him about that in the course of this interview. please join me in welcoming our panel. first question for historians you've also written about abraham lincoln and garfield, you have a day job as a practicing low lawyer, what this pushes you to write about presidents in general. >> i have been writing history since the 19 eighties, what truman and james garfield, when i was a young lawyer in washington i was working for the senate governmental affairs committee. as a junior lawyer i was assigned to work on a bill that became a civil service reform act, that was the project that was put on my my desk.
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after working on that bill every speech, every memo every report started with almost the exact same sentence. this is the most important update, since president james garfield was shot by a disappointed officer, in 1881. i must have written that sentence over hundred times. and i seemed it was true. since some years later, i started researching and i had an idea for a book, trait about a political and convention. back when it was the super bowl of politics. that's when the parties came together, all the factions they picked it out and had picked a nominee from their. we haven't had a solid one since the 18 fifties. but these a one point were the great events.
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james garfield was not a nominee he was not a candidate he came to the convention as the campaign manager of somebody else he ends up getting nominated. in order to get him elected, to soothe this reach within the party a deal was made at that convention where he would be the nominee who is nominated
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with the support of james blamed and his faction. he was a follower of the opposite faction. somebody named chester allen arthur. that deal created a chain of events, the stalemate from the convention carried over into his presidency. and resulted in him being shot in the back. and that connection to me made a good story. and that's what got me started. >> great now alaska another question but david i want to ask you the same question, you are not a practicing lawyer anymore but what was your push to historian and what you've written about you've written about thomas jefferson and madison. >> my first book is about the constitution and i always loved history because the best stories are there. fiction writers come up with great stories are a fiction and
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try to do that but we really can't be real life for its saintliness. and i will allude to our current situation. and after running about the constitution, i was looking for another occasion where the constitution mattered. where it made a difference and i thought the impeachment trial of johnson after the civil war, the nations what it would stay together whether we would have a second civil war, and it would turn on how the constitution was applied in the impeachment proceeding. it was an event that riveted the nation for a long time. it was a hard look at some level because of entry johnson. he is not a very sweet guy was not a sweet guy, a difficult person to live with us a historian and he has earned his spot in the number 42. so i had to find other people
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to root for. but it has proved to be and enduring interest. >> i will ask you both this question and please feel free to weigh in here brian. what do you think a survey of the presidents, in this book what do you think it's valuable? >> well to me reading the survey over very quickly over the last few days, and preparing to be here today, i thought it was very striking when it tells you about the country and our history and the pattern that jumped at me when i saw it was the way the modern presidents are treated the 12 presidents who served since world war ii. 12 out of 43. that is barely one in four. those are representative very heavily at the top tier. five out of the top ten, our modern presidents. seven out of the top 15, our
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modern presidents. with that in our country were so lucky, that we had such great people last few years. but there they were. but when i first saw, that i wondered whether it was just a biased built-in that we teach you are overestimate, or exaggerate the good no bad about people from a lifetime, people you get to know by seeing them on tv every day, but thinking about it it really represents something more. it represented how the presidency has changed. that modern presidents are in fact more consequential than earlier presidents in the sense. none of the 32 presidents, who served before the post world war era, ever had to deal with thermal nuclear war, and the prospect of millions of people be killed by a nuclear exchange in a couple of hours. none of them had to deal with
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the united states as a global power, and having to deal with international relations, at the level we do now. yes there have always been newspapers, and publicity and often negative publicity going back to the time of john adams, but the modern presidents have had to deal with the television areas, which means that their faces are in our households every single day. it has got to know them become to knowing them in a very different way. and they really are more consequential. how someone like james garfield, or teddy roosevelt, or referred hayes would stack up, if they were challenged in the way that the modern presidents are, it's something we don't know. it's an interesting thing to think about but they weren't. it was a different era. and that really jumped out of me myself list. >> david on the importance. >> i think it'll always, these surveys are mayor of our times as much as they are a
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reflection of what went before. so you see a lot of sensitivity towards issues heat for his actions as a slave holder and slave trader, but his actions towards the indian tribes where he was really quite ferocious. as a military figure than sending them off to the west.
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and taking their lands. so it tells us a lot about who we are, and who we think we are or who we want to be. and i think it runs the risk, and ken is created a nice story as to why we have so many modern presidents, and i'm not so sure it's right. i think it reflects that we are pretty self obsessed and that presidents like andrew jackson, who are incredibly important and change the country, as for being forgotten. and they're going away. that is a problem we have, that our memories are not as good as they should be. and it is a reminder to those of us who right the, that we need to preach the sermon a bit, and helped keep the stories alive. >> brian you've conducted all
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the interviews that appear in this book, and i'm wondering of seeing them altogether, did anything surprise you or stand out as you kind of read it as one book? >> yes i would say the most important thing, putting them all together, is how much i'd forgotten in the time since the interview. and the beauty of this is that, you can go back and read what they had to say some of what they have to say, and as susan said, archives allow you to go on and listen to the interviews. i listen to both of the interviews that i've done, with these gentlemen in preparation for this and they were fantastic. not because of me but because of them. some people will look at this book, as a book of presidents, i look at it as a book of presidents but just as important glee as historians, also because that we don't give enough credit to. because they spend weeks and years going over all the little
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details. and if we didn't have historians, we would have this kind of information. so frankly sitting here, me talking is drugmakers here right now, i'd soon listen to these two guys, because they have stories to tell. >> so let's get back to this, your chapter is on tom garfield, from the book notes interview that you did we said his assassination was one of the more misunderstood event in american history. tell us why. a couple of things. >> first this. what, the man who shot james garfield, he was arguably killed by the doctors. one bullet hit his arm in the other in the back. there were a lot of people, particularly in that area, just after the civil war, a lot of people had gunshot wounds and lift. lived to tell the story. but garfield in fact died of
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infection and blood poisoning caused by his doctors examining his wounds without washing their hands and without cleaning their instruments. the germ theory existed but it was still a new idea from france. it had not been totally adopted. but most doctors on the western frontier. civil war doctors who dealt with gunshot wounds knew you did not touch wounds with unwashed hands. there was testimony of that time. even by the standards of that time it should not have happened. the other thing i will briefly mention is that the garfield is fascination was different than the others in the purpose of the assassination. john will booth shot abraham lincoln in order to kill abraham lincoln. lee harvey oswald shot jon kennedy in order to kill jon
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kennedy. what charles cato was trying to do, he had nothing personal against james garfield. he liked the man, he met the man, met his wife, what he was trying to do was reverse the election of 1880. he was not so much trying to get garfield out of office as to put someone else in office. he was trying to make chester allen arthur and his circle of friends the president and the willing circle in the united states. it was a regime change. that is a very scary thought when you think about it. >> getting back to andrew johnson. i will steal a question that susan asked at an earlier event amount burden to other historians. abraham lincoln is of course ranked number one president. james buchanan who preceded him and andrew johnson who came after him or consistently ranked the last two. how do you explain that?
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>> lincoln is sort of historical kryptonite. you do not want to be close to him. he had the greatest challenges of any president i think and it's such a wonderful job. it is hard to look good next to that. but both buchanan and johnson were cosmic lee unsuccessful. you can slip into war and almost did nothing to stop it. it was tragic. and johnson remade the nation after the war. historical reputation is a fascinating thing. the first half of the 20th century, he was celebrated for having brought the south successfully back into the union and knitting the wounds of war back together and healing the country. then finally around the 19 fifties, people started saying well actually there was a part of the country he did not heal very well.
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that awareness has grown and caused him to decline. it is worth noting and i think it's not the sort of thing a survey can correct for but it was a very difficult set of problems these guys had to deal with. civil war is tough. we had 700,000 americans killed during the war. comparable casualties today would be 7 million. people hated, andrew johnson had a hard job but he did it poorly. it was a really hard job though. >> as susan explained there are ten leadership qualities that the survey is based on. i am wondering as we sit here in the museum if there was a category of relations with the press. who would rank near the top and
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near the bottom? i would love to get your thoughts ryan. you have interviewed some of the historians. >> i'll be very quick. there are historians about each president and how they related to the medium. one of my favorites is calvin coolidge. during his time radio came into being and he did 22 speeches into the radio microphone and for people who remember his image, it would not have been terrific for television but it was okay for radio. it was during the time that he was on radio, the audience built and grew. since c-span started out with 3 million homes and went up to 100 million. he started out with very few radio stations and went up to several hundred more. those stories exist with each president. >> any thoughts on press relations concerning presidents
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you know? >> i think kennedy was brilliant at it. he turned everyone but charmed the press as well. i do think of franklin roosevelt as well because he would have the whole white house press corps in his office once a week. he would just sit at his desk and field questions and duck questions. he knew the ones not to answer. when you spend that much face time with the president, it is very effective at getting them to pull their punches. >> this is where i will be very curious to see how our current president fairness, when the next c-span poll comes around. i agree that kennedy and fdr certainly stuck out on the positive side of the equation. nixon would stick out on the negative side of the equation. but the current president has made this a signature issue. it will be very interested to see how that works out. >> is it too early to think about where president trump
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might fall on the survey? >> i hope president johnson bumps up a little. >> (laughs) >> i will let that stand. david you touched on and susan showed, tell us some more surprises. i know grant went up 11 points. any others you want to touch on? >> a couple and i'm picking on them be but i don't mean to. some record presidents who just seemed to me higher than i would have expected. one is jon kennedy. he's number eight and was president for two and a half years. you would be a little hard-pressed to point at a lot of achievements and some problems. he did not do a great job on civil rights. lyndon johnson clean that up.
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as you mentioned eisenhower is number five. again it is hard to point at some massively wonderful thing that happened that makes us delighted that he was president. it seems a surprise to me. >> with eisenhower here's the massively terrible thing that did not tap him. eisenhower faced the toughest period of the cold war when we were at loggerheads with russia. nuclear weapons were proliferating. russia was at its most assertive. stalin was still in power when eisenhower became president. the fact that eisenhower kept the peace so effectively, it resisted the temptation and the recommendations of his generals to intervene in vietnam. the fact that he kept the peace in a very quiet way. a very calm way during that eight years. to me that justifies that one.
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if i may i have a problem with one of the top and one of the bottom. with the one at the bottom, i always felt that warren hearting gets a raw deal in these polls. yes worn carding brought us the teapot dome scandal which was a very bad scandal. but the teapot dome itself which was -- almost pales to the scandals to the scandals going on in the justice department. so yes that is bad but on the other side, warren hearting became president in 1921. he stabilized the national economy, he calmed the country down from an anti read anti immigrant period. he is the one who lit eugene depths out of prison as an important effort towards goodwill. he did not get the country into any war at all.
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and the actual teapot dome scandals generally affected other people. it did not directly reflect on him. i would not argue he belongs in the top two thirds but however, compared to some of the others at the bottom i would quibble with that. on the upside, i have a problem with lyndon johnson. the reason is this. yes his record on civil rights and domestic policy and the creation of great society are all extremely positive things that would put him in the upper tier. however this perhaps is where a president in our lifetime and the way we react to him might be fact. my first involvement in politics when i was a junior in high school was working as a volunteer for the campaign of eugene mccarthy. vietnam is something that hung over the country for many
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years. and of the five presidents arguably who had five -- fingerprints on the vietnam war going back to eisenhower, through nixon, lyndon johnson was the one most directly responsible for getting the country involved in the military quagmire on a very large scale. to me, that is not a small thing. i note in the c-span survey, i note that lyndon johnson got very high marks for bringing equal justice to people and so on. but on foreign affairs he is one of the bottom couple. the disparity is very stark. to me because of that, i was very surprised to see him in the top ten. >> john if i might flag one issue for the next survey. we have had this cycle of realizing that racial issues
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should be part of this. looking at the treatment of the indian tribes. i wonder if now it is going to be a focus on presidential womanizing. there are in fact some pretty tawdry stories. will we make distinctions between presidents who had stable extramarital relationships or serial abuse of extramarital relationships? because we have them both. >> there is a difference. >> it is going to be interesting. question number 11. >> (laughs) >> i would love to hear from the audience. we have mics on both sides of the studio so begin lining up. you will be on c-span asking your question. as people line up for questions, ryan and susan both mentioned
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that harold hoser has written liii books about a lincoln. are there presidents that people need to know about and any that you want to tackle about? >> i'm writing one about george washington, and we want to hear about him. i'm focusing on his earlier years which i think are not well understood. with all of these characters. my friend uses the phrase that so much information is hiding in plain sight, that is known to the people who know this stuff but most people do not know it. that is one -- part of the job is to help people understand that. >> just briefly i have been straying far afield since my garfield book. my last book was called trotsky in new york, 1917. it was about leon trotsky and the three months he spent a new york just before the russian revolution. i would say on a rating of the
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commons sars, i would certainly rate trotsky in the top three. >> brian any queue and aides that you would welcome from presidents you would like to learn more about? >> of course. these two men have already written so much that we could just continue this until 5:00 this afternoon. i would love to hear, you tell again the story of lafayette park, and the fact that garfield was shot half a block from here. and the story from about gun lafayette park i can't get at my head. >> what brian is alluding to, james garfield was shot, in july of 1981 he had made the decision to remove garfield. again it was a change instead
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of a vindictive assassination. one of the things he would do he would read in the newspaper what, was going on with the president present schedule. the secret service existed, but it was still in the james west period. it would not protect the president. what he would do he would go to lafayette park, he would sit down on the bench, where he could get a good look at things. and he would watch all the comings and goings. he could see who is coming, who is going who is leaving, and he has gone with him. at that point james garfield he thought nothing of going outside alone at night, and walking a few blocks on its own. james blane his friend and secretary of state, lived at 15th an eye street, just a free few blocks away, one night
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before the murder james garfield wanted to talk plane. so he went outside he cross the street it was at night, he was alone. he saw him and he followed him with his gun, and he thought he might very well shooting that night. he followed guard teal garfield all the way to james blane's house, he saw him go inside the house, he thought he would wait outside until garfield left. and then he kept from going back to the white house and shooting. they're lucky for garfield, blane was a very good friend of his decided that he would join garfield for the walk back to the white house. just as there if you think they want to talk about that night. when he saw blane with garfield, he decided to put it put it off and not from that night. so he waited about a week or two later, and the shooting took place, literally across the street from where we are
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sitting. when you go outside the front door at the museum building, you will see in front of you the national museum of art across constitution avenue, at that point in 1881, the potomac and baltimore railroad station, sat in the middle of what is now the street. the shooting took place in the front foyer, the front reception area of the train station in today what would literally be in the middle of constitution avenue. we've been trying for several years to get a marker on that spot, and they put up a marker about 100 yards away, and the bureaucracy of putting the marker in the middle of the street in washington d.c., is prodigious. >> we've got a lot of questions, i'm going to ask you guys to keep it quick so let's start on the side. >> you mentioned maybe the
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implicit weight that we give to modern presidents, but i wonder about the point system itself because i see reagan in the top ten, and i think particularly of the failure to respond in the aids crisis in the eighties, as something that i seem falls within an equal justice for all. and i wonder if that's a category that off you have more than ten points for instance. as compared to others. so i'm curious about whether how that type of calculation comes in for the people who organized the book and the people who participated in the survey. >> i would say that any of these categories, in any of the point systems you can find yourself running around and chasing your tail forever, and never have a perfect survey and we don't think this is a perfect survey at all. this is just the way, frankly to talk about this kind of stuff. and we had nothing to do with how it came out, we did try to
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balance out the kind of people, that we invited unlike some of the other surveys, where they only picked left-of-center political scientists, from major universities. and that's the way arthur smudger did it. and you can find out who did this and funding the host and the whole story on the president, and you can find out who these people are. but it's a good question but i don't have an answer and that would really satisfy you on that, because this stuff is not perfect. >> we'll go to that side of the. room >> i have a question about chester a arthur. in regards to civil rights, i thought that so much of chester a arthur, moving forward with reform, having a change of heart, and morality and that's why car field was assassinated.
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i'm wondering what your ideas on that research. >> we were talking about that before coming here today, you should have been. there it was a great conversation. and the food was good to. chester allen arthur, was and underappreciated president, in my mind. i think that david would agree with that. as i mentioned, justin allen arthur, was chose to be president he represented the rival group in the party. he was traditionally under the thumb, of a new york political boss. and when car field was shot by ghetto, he said publicly in writing several times, he said i am a stall word and arthur will be president. right after the shooting, at the fifth avenue hotel in new
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york city, there were death threats about him against him. chester allen arthur, did a lot of soul searching, on the weeks between the shootings and when he became president. to give him credit words, do he recognized the problem created by the harsh partisanship, and when he became president, he refused to go along with this. they asked him to follow through on reversing some of your fields positions, and arthur refused to do it. and he signed the civil service reform act. he was his factions, stood for
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patronage. it he was the one who signed the civil service reform act. and he ran one of the, notably less corrupt presidencies of that era. so good shout out for him. >> i recommend the biography, of him. >> i heard that there was a plaque to garfield, and the when it was shut down the train station in the plot came down it was offered but nobody wanted it. >> there is that category of moral authority, what is in that category and how does that handle thing that david was concerned about. >> it's again, an opportunity for these people, that were asked to do the survey, to put
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a face on it, that they believe in. on what moral authority is. again to not try to make this a perfect survey. and if i can jump in very quickly, i want to ask a question. mr. stewart, when it gets to the impeachment of andrew johnson, should he have been convicted. you said of course, but should he have been convicted after he was impeached? >> i thought he deserved to be impeached and removed from office. yes. he was a catastrophic president, and i think it would've been excellent thing for the political system to introduce the notion, you know that he could get thrown out of office. presidents now seemed to survive impeachments. we start talking about impeaching the message they take office. so if somebody had actually no
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got him tossed it would've been really good. >> we visited philadelphia in the last week, in the constitution museum that's their. i wonder if there was some examples in your research about the contention between the president and congress, would inform us in terms of what's going to be happening over the next couple of years let's say. >> you know, impeachment is an ultimate ultimate comfort for nation between congress and the president. you know it's like congress is trying to decapitate the executive branch. it raises the stakes, and it is a compelling drama. it is also, a massive distraction from anything the political system or the government might do. my do for the people actually. i think that is something that needs to weigh more heavily, than it does. there is an obsession today,
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with how pulverized we are. it is a polarized time, and there are all these mechanisms, and gerrymandering and what have you, and it is exacerbated. but we've had a lot of pulverize times. i am researching right now in the 17 90s, and there were riots in the streets. people opposed to president washington. the civil war, while people were killing each other. that was pretty bad. and, the civil rights era and the vietnam era, that can referred to, and a lot of us that remember that, was terribly pulverized. the system has survived all of these, and it does require people observing some basic rules. and that is something that it feels like right now, that's up
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for grabs a little bit. it would be a shame. it has been a couple centuries now. so some rules actually help. >> i want to add one thing to david's point, we've had a number of periods in our country, when relations between a president and congress have been very poor. but there's one way in which this period is different. the book we're talking about, is rating the presidents. it would be interesting if there was a parallel the book called rating the congress is. congress today, both the senate and the house have reached a point on the word dysfunction is thrown out quite a lot, but it is something very real behind it. the fact that our congress, is no longer able to manage the basic functions of
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appropriating money to run the government, on a regular basis, year in year out. the fact that process doesn't work. the fact that congress, no longer views itself as a power to declare war. our country has has has had troops overseas for almost 20 years steady now, and congress has not issued anything since 20 after 9/11. the demise of congress, to be used as part of that equation, it's something that is different from these prior periods. >> everybody ought to know, that can work for patrick lady, and this man, clerk for three different judges, in also was
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justice powell, and also for walter nixon, a federal judge, so we have a lot of talent right here. >> my question relates to the survey and lyndon johnson, primary relations with congress. i wonder if any significance, was given to the fact that he served both houses, and he had been the majority leader of the senate. and what impact that had on the survey. >> i think it had an important impact on it. the fact that he served as majority leader, gave him the understanding of how the sun operated. it gave him an understanding of how to get a difficult bill through congress. arguably there would not have been any civil rights bills in 1964, had johnson had not had an idea of how you get around the filibuster, how you lean on
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members, how you forced people to turn the other way. reach out to leaders on the other side. all of those mechanical political things, he knew how to do because he had experience on capitol hill. where it broke down was later when vietnam came to dominate his presidency and he had to deal with growing resistance among senators, even in his own party, william full bright comes to mind, over vietnam. his inability to bridge that gap. i think it had an important impact. >> john i must say i have to recommend to you, since our radio station has been in business for 20 years we have run thousands of oval office conversations of lyndon johnson that were recorded by him that could -- it is the greatest civics lessons you could ever imagine. you can see clearly why he had
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this top relationship with congress. he can talk to everyone in congress about everything. about their family, i will go that far, but it is fantastic if you have never listened to the johnson tapes. >> highly entertaining at times. >> yes. >> go ahead. >> how did you decide where to rank william henri harrison? was he not in office about 30 days? what criteria? >> it's hard on the presidents below him. >> how do you rank things like relations with congress and foreign affairs? he was in bed. >> that is a question that must remained unanswered. i have no idea why these hundred people would put him where he put him. it's probably because of their dislike for the once below him. >> fair enough. >> it's a good question though because there are a lot of
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other questions they could be asked and not answered if you study the survey closely. >> it was a lot easier to think through the top five and bottom five, at least to me, then to try to figure out who ranked 37th or 38. the middle one's really required some research and thinking to figure out who would go with whom with someone like william henry harrison, he has no track record at all. you know a little bit about his wife and his leanings. yes it is conjecture. >> as someone who was born and raised in indiana, i suppose it might be because he was governor of the territories of indiana. >> with that factor into presidential ranking? >> (laughs) >> in his chapter,
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historian ronald schaffer, really great chapter in his book. >> we have to questions, we will go over. there >> hi. can you hear? me >> yes. >> first of all i am a c-span junkie and brian is my hero. secondly, i want to know can we perhaps look back in history through the lens of our modern-day and rank presidents of the past through skewed perspective? we are talking nowadays a lot about social justice and how we treat each other which is fine, but it seems like you have to take the presidents within the context of their times. is that something that we could have a broader discussion about? >> i think that is an important
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point everyone who participated in the poll had to wrestle with that. how do you rank someone? take andrew jackson for instance. andrew jackson for many years after he lived, up until the arthur schlesinger period, was considered an important progressive. that was under andrew jackson that the franchise, the right to vote was expanded dramatically. he established the power of the presidency through his veto of the national bank. he established the democratic party as the party against big business. he established a number of things which for many years were considered very progressive and that was the way he was ranked until the last 20 or 30 years. but, you cannot overlook the other side of the coin. i do not think it is a bad thing that modern historians and modern analysts are more sensitive to that bad side of the coin. the fact that his record on
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race was so poor. the fact that his treatment of indians and native americans was not just poor by our standards but even by the standards of the time. it was extremely cruel. it is something we must struggle with but it is certainly there. certainly something they cannot be ignored. >> there's a book called the summer of 1777. i recommend it because there's interesting statistics. i would ask him if the crowd came back today what would they think of all of this? >> they would be amazed that it lasted this long. some of them thought it would be great if the country lasted another 50 years. they would be delirious about that. they would not be able to recognize the government. it is so gigantic. they play such a large role and
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we expected to do so much. when washington took office there were about 500 soldiers and maybe 30 clerks. that was the whole thing. it will largely be unrecognizable in a lot of ways. i think they would be tickled that it is still here. they knew it would have to change. they put the amendment process in there for a reason. >> before we get to our last question i want to remind everyone we are selling copies of the book outside the studio here. i am short historians and brian would be happy to sign copies. go ahead sir. >> i would add to the ten items in terms of ranking presidents, what do you think of this? i would have ability to learn from mistakes. and actually ability to grow in office. what i read, for example
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talking about kennedy and his position on civil rights, i think when kennedy assumed office he saw civil rights as a thorny political issue. having to navigate between northern liberals and southern conservatives. two and a half years later, i think kennedy sought civil rights as a moral imperative. i think that is what he learned in office. i think the bay of pigs fiasco greatly helped kennedy in dealing with the cuban missile crisis. one more thing, i have a history professor at brooklyn college who would take issue with any higher rank you would give to warren harding. he said warren harding looked like a president and from that point on that is where the resemblance ended. sorry to interrupt you. >> are you ... are you down? >> yes. >> i just wanted to suggest
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that although i admire the effort of having ten categories and have people think and not react reflectively. something gets lost in that process in terms of overall impact of the president. we start slicing and dicing these different categories. for example, i was glad to hear what administrative skills was supposed to mean but i was not sure when i read it. i think that is something we all need to bring to this. to think about what we can figure out about the significance of the presidents and the times they had to live with and figure out how to deal with. >> you're talking about where presidents are ranked. historians do have a great deal of impact. we are talking about eisenhower and the stephen ambrose book. i read a book by evan thomas
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that came out recently that gave ike great credit. the course of his leadership during the cold war that was greatly underrated. but i did not really know that, i learned that from reading that book. that elevated my opinion. some author wrote a book about kelvin coolidge, i forgot her name, >> emily slice, she will be with us in our next event of new york. >> my opinion of calculates rose also. that same history professor at brooklyn college had said that calvin coolidge, the reason he was known as silent count was because he had nothing to say. he said a lot of other politicians and nothing to say and never shut up. >> you had one last point can? >> first i think i would've flunked the course with that professor.
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i recognize my view on warren harding is a minority view but i would recommend the john dean book to you on the series of harding who speaks to his defense. very briefly, we talked about the ten standards, the ten categories used to judge presidents. one thing that has always struck me about it -- one is a book i wrote called boss tweed of tammy hall. i learned about a lot of the old machine politics. the expression 100 years ago or 150 years ago among political bosses was the number one way you judge a politician is are they loyal to their friends? loyalty to your friends is the number one trait. right up to the gates of state prison, loyalty to your friends. that used to be the standard among political professionals.
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it is not one of the ten anymore. arguably it should not be but i have always wondered if we perhaps lose something as not -- by not having that as one of the standards. >> john let me just say in our audience today, you should know that he wrote a book on richard nixon and is working on one about ted kennedy. there is an enormous amount of talent in this room. >> i want to ask you this question. it's the 40th anniversary of c-span. it has expanded in terms of networks and digital space. what would you attribute its insurance and success to over the last 40 years? >> i would say two things. one in industry that financed this. they spent over a billion dollars in the last 40 years on this public service that has no advertising or stars or rating. and to, the public.
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if we did not have a public that reacts and calls our shows stimulating and somewhat balanced, we hope, we would not be here today. those two things. >> excellent. the book is the presidents. i want to thank kevin ackerman -- kenneth ackerman brian lamb john maynard david stewart and susan swain. selling books outside and you can join us for a book signing thank you.
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history professors say a lot of this 19th century presidents had to -- face for radio. you know that? (laughs) the presidents, a book
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that ranks all presidents from best to worst. also provides insight about their lives. visit our website to learn more about each president and his tone featured. or your copy today also wherever books and he books are sold.
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ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the national constitution center. (applause) i am jeffrey rosen, the president of this wonderful institution. this is such a happy day,


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