New York Now; Caption Master #48
You mentioned Team of Rivals. Probably your most famous book.
Have you been given credit by the Obama administration for his some of his cabinet picks that seem to kind of a take on the same feel as Abraham Lincoln's plex Obama's been so gracious actually in saying that having read that book it helped him to think of doing that at one point you know OK racial I met Hillary Clinton in a party and she came right up to me with this huge grin on my face and said You are responsible for my did Secretary of State. But of course the list allied itself if it had any influence at all I think it was part of his temperament beforehand but it's pretty exciting right history to think it might have had some impact on today not just in the past.
We're off to the Oval Office to talk about the president's with Pulitzer Prize winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin's next on New York now.
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This is New York now.
Hello everyone I'm Matt Ryan. Just over 40 years ago a young woman in her 20s landed the job as an aide to then President Lyndon B Johnson and her interest in the Oval Office never waned. Doris Kearns Goodwin has written books on the most famous men to occupy the White House. Lincoln FDR JFK and her newest subject former New York state governor and of course President Teddy Roosevelt recently in New York now sat down with the famed author to talk about America's commanders in chief both past and present.
Doris before we start in on some of the presidents from New York State Let's take a look at the early presidential career of Barack Obama. Can you put into context some of the challenges that he's faced in relation to some of his predecessors as their commander in chief that jumps right out at you as someone who faced similar circumstances.
Well it's interesting because Obama certainly has a huge respect and affection for Abraham Lincoln. And I suppose if anyone had to face more difficult challenge than Obama has it was Lincoln. And I think what he shares with Lincoln is certain temperamental qualities that willingness to surround himself with people who can question his assumptions put rivals by his side. Take his time deliberating to make sure he's making the right decision and not feel compelled to have grudges against past people. So I think in that sense there's a sense of Lincoln. Clearly the one person you don't want him to have to resemble in a certain sense is what happened to LBJ because LBJ came in at a time when domestic priorities were doing so well when there was a real progressive movement as Obama seemed to be bringing in with him too. And then unfortunately the war in Vietnam bugged him down and I think that it's clear that the Obama administration is very aware of not simply listening to the military as to what to do in Afghanistan but having political advisers there figuring out will the country stand behind a long war. Do we have the resources to do this what is the endgame there. What is the exit. All the questions that sadly were not asked in Vietnam leaving LBJ a sad man when he could have been one of the great presidents of our history and still is in some ways domestically.
You mentioned Team of Rivals. One of your probably your most famous book.
Have you been given credit by the Obama administration for his some of his cabinet picks that seem to kind of take on the same feel as Abraham Lincoln's books Obama's been so gracious actually in saying that having read that book it helped him to think of doing that at one point at the inauguration I met Hillary Clinton in a party and she came right up to me with this huge grin on my face and said You are responsible for my being secretary of state. But of course she was delighted so if it had any influence at all I think it was part of his temperament beforehand. But it's pretty exciting when you write history to think it might have had some impact on today not just the past.
OK let's shift our attention back to the Empire State here starting off with the president who you're currently writing a book on and that's Teddy Roosevelt's first off what can you tell us about the book and how is it shaping up.
Well you know after finishing Lincoln you have to find somebody who will be equally interesting because Lincoln was so fascinating to live with for 10 years. And there's something about Theodore Roosevelt that is a force of nature I mean somebody said about him that when they came here to America that they saw two forces of nature the Niagara Falls and Theodore Roosevelt.
But there's been so many good books written about him that I had to figure out an angle just as I did with Abraham Lincoln about whom there'd been 15000 books written. So I'm writing about two things really it's about Roosevelt and Taft and they were great friends before they broke apart and ran against each other in one thousand twelve. One was meant to be a judge the other was a consummate politician. So I'm writing about the contrast and temperaments of the two why it was that Roosevelt chose him why they fell apart ran against each other and destroyed the progressive wing of the Republican Party. But it's also a time the progressive era when you've got the Muckraker journalists who have set the climate of reform Ida Tarbell Lincoln Steffens Ray Baker William Allen White Jacob Reese and all of them together somehow create that mobilized active citizenry that allows Roosevelt to bring in new new ideas about what government should do.
One of the little nuggets of history I find interesting about Roosevelt is that he ended up leaving the Republican Party formed his own party. But in the election was won by Woodrow Wilson. Why was that a man who was so highly regarded by so many Americans not able to make that comeback.
You know he did say that he wished he had never made that written statement in 1988 saying that he was not. Or 19 0 4 actually when he won that election he said that very night I will not run again thinking that he almost had two terms and it would be against tradition. He later said he would have cut off his hand to have not made that because he loved being president but he thought maybe he had been in there long enough that people might see him as a dictator. But then I think what happened when he was away he missed it so much he missed being in the center of action doing things and he thought he could come back. And had he been able to persuade Taft not to run again and Taft really was not happy being president. But Taft felt in a certain sense it was a dignified thing it would be against his person to not get the nomination. So Teddy Roosevelt was able to get the primaries they the people loved him they voted for him. But Taft had the party machinery behind him so he had more delegates. There was a big fight at the convention. And then when Roosevelt lost he runs on a third party ticket. And it was still it's always hard to have made more votes as a third party candidate than anyone. But not enough to break it so Woodrow Wilson won.
When did the relationship start to cool with Taft comes into office in 1989. What is a start to cool.
Well what happens is Roosevelt decides right after he gives up the office to tap to go to Africa for a year wanting to give Taft room because he knows everybody looking over his shoulder what are you thinking. And while he's in Africa and when he comes out he keeps getting word from his progressive friends that Taft has not been as progressive as they thought he would be. So he comes back with some suspicion on his mind when he comes back to New York he is greeted by a million people. They're so excited to see him and I think that stirs up in him again. Hey this is fun I'm missing this. And he meets with Taft and it's a pretty cool thing even then because Taft no cities questioning him and then they start campaigning against each other finally in one thousand twelve and really bitter things are said about each other there's a moment when Taft gives a speech where he talks about Roosevelt negatively and then cries after delivering the speech because he feels so bad about it. So then they don't speak for years after that 912 incident. Finally however and it's makes you happy as a biographer to know this. In 1918 a year before Roosevelt died it happened that Roosevelt was in Chicago at a hotel the Blackstone Hotel I believe it was. And Taft comes into the dining room and Roosevelt sitting over there alone. He goes over to him hugs him. They both stand up and the entire restaurant applauds knowing that they've come together. And Taft later said he could not have lived if he had thought they had not somehow had a reconciliation.
Sounds like a nice ending to a book does IT WAS PERFECT.
You know when you're writing these things you always know where you want to and so that's hopefully where I can just decide where are you with the book right now.
When do you think you might be completed Well hopefully it's supposed to be out in the fall of 11. So I've got to write a lot between now and then but I'm hoping to keep that deadline.
All right 19 0 1 President William McKinley shot and killed by Libyan child gosh in the great city of Buffalo. Teddy Roosevelt becomes president at age 42. What can you tell us about Roseville at that age. Because there were a lot of people Republicans included who were not big fans of his.
Well Roosevelt had always been an independent politician he had bucked the the Republican machine often times. He was considered a wild man he did what he wanted to do he spoke the way he wanted to speak. So the public Republican bosses were still worried. There's that famous saying you know that when he was made vice president there's only one life between this mad man and the presidency. But in the first six months or a year or so he walked pretty delicately and he didn't do anything outrageous and he kept his cool and he kept going with the bosses. It was only as he got under the presidency under his belt that he began to move in a much more reformist way. And then he overtook them.
Most Americans can tell you a little something about Teddy Roosevelt. He's on Mt. Rushmore he's considered one of the five greatest presidents of all time. But as a historian what is about his presidency it that made him so great.
I think the most important thing you can say is that he brought government to bear on the side of the people in and in countless numbers of ways. Number one he brought antitrust suits to try and break up some of those big monopolies. He passed food and drug legislation for the first time to really be able to look at the consumer's need for proper food and drug. He passed railroad legislation to get at the abuses of the railroads this was a time when he first came in. That laissez faire was the rule of the day. There was a thought that you should have government doing anything. So he brought government as a lever to help people at a time when the gap between the rich and the poor was enormous. When people were living in tenements and of course the conservation and what he did for the national parks will be forever for the generations that are coming after us. That he understood the importance of preserving them for children's children.
Upon coming into office in 2007 Eliot Spitzer was asked what portrait he wanted hanging in the red room the place where the governor said all their important meetings and they meet the press. And Spitzer chose to keep the painting of Teddy Roosevelt in there the same one the Republican governor George Pataki had hanging. Roosevelt is the figure that's universally admired by both Democrats and Republicans Why is that.
I think he's one of those people that can cross party lines because he was a progressive figure. The Democrats going to embrace him because he was a Republican. Republicans going to brace him but probably more importantly it's his temperament. The fact that he was so straight speaking that he captured the love of the American people I mean he's probably the most loved president we've ever had. I mean certainly FDR had enormous respect for him. But there were people who hated him and there were certainly people who didn't like Roosevelt but most people it was something about his personality that they felt they knew him. You know they would call him Teddy even though he hated that they felt that connection to him somehow that very few presidents are able to establish So I think later people looking back at this cowboy who was able to bridge the gap between being an Eastern dude and a cowboy in the West make the whole country feel connected to him. I can see why any politician would want to say I want that guy's picture on my wall.
Let's turn now to Roosevelt's distant cousin Franklin. You want a Pulitzer Prize for your book no ordinary time Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. The whole difference in World War Two. Again a president who is considered by many to be one of the top five ten of all time. What are some of the most compelling elements about Roosevelt that you found in your research.
You know if I had to choose one quality that made Franklin Roosevelt such a great leader it would be his enormous self-confidence. There was something about him that people said when you were with him he was so confident not only of himself but of you that he made you feel when you left his room you could do your job better than you thought you could. And he then was contagious with that confidence to the country at large. I mean think of his first inaugural address in the depths of the Depression one out of four out of work people on bread lines people without homes. And somehow that very speech of his. It's not simply that he said there's nothing to fear but fear itself it was more the whole mood he projected. We will get through this country together we can get through this. And suddenly confidence sprang up in the country people brought their their savings back to the banks from which they had taken them away. And people rode in thousands of letters saying now we're OK because you were there. That's a mystery of leadership somehow and then of course with imagination he used government programs far more than Theodore Roosevelt ever did to help people in need restructuring relationships between business and the economy with Social Security and with labor relations as well as putting people to work during the Depression. And then of course on top of that you get the other huge crisis World War Two. And he's the commander in chief par excellence he brought the right generals in. He knew when to give them leeway to do what they did. And again he mobilized the spirit of the home front behind the war to build the ships the tanks the weapons and the planes that were used by our allies all over the world.
He's pretty great. And it says a lot about him for a man who obviously had so much self-confidence stuck in a wheelchair since since 1921 I mean I guess that's really got to be in the what he had in them.
I think in some ways that the polio really did make him a deeper man people who knew him before so that sometimes that self-confidence could become arrogance. I had had such an easy life up until that point growing up wealthy the adored child in his family everybody catering to him a handsome man and then suddenly he gets told after polio you will never walk again tries to do it for several years cannot really do it. And people said that it made him more concentrated more able to look at other people for whom Fate had also dealt an unkind hand more able to be sensitive to other people and deep in him as a leader. It probably did when people go through adversity. It can somehow either undo them or make them a better person and in his case it did.
FDR faced similar problems to Obama that he had to try to revitalize a struggling economy. And as Obama has faced that doesn't happen.
Right away now it took a while for that obviously it took until the war actually for the full economy to rebound itself during FDR time. But the important thing to remember is that people live in the short term. So all those people who had government jobs even though they may not have been a real private jobs they were able to have a job to go to work to support their family. And I think that's part of what the stimulus was supposedly all about if it does kick in even though it may take longer for the economy to produce its own jobs.
The stimulus jobs are hopefully going to be that bridge 60 plus years now after his death what is yours legacy.
Well the legacy I think has to be the man who led the allied forces that won the war over Hitler who was the greatest the greatest threat to Western civilization I think we've ever had. I mean that's primary but then carrying the country through the Depression so that we had people who were ready to fight that war both on the war front and on the home front that they had the strength and the backbone to do it is it is the other piece of that of that extraordinary legacy that he died in April of 45 a few months before the war officially came to an end.
But he had a sense the allies were winning right and it was close to the end.
And one of the things that so saddened me was that Winston Churchill was preparing this huge victory celebration for Roosevelt to come to Europe when Europe finally would have won the war which would have been in May so much only weeks after he died. And he said it would be the biggest celebration that England had ever had. And when he finally heard that Roosevelt had died that day that's all that was in his mind he cannot be here to share this with me today. And then when he was lionized on that day his mind went back to FDR. But yes FDR did know that the war was coming to an end so at least you know he had that in his mind similar to me when I was finishing the book on Lincoln it was so sad to me that his happiest days where those weeks before he died because finally the North was winning that war and he didn't have time to just relish what he had done so to for FDR just finishing off of the Roosevelt so I know Teddy died in 1919 when Roosevelt was 30 in his 30s what was the relationship with them what were their interactions that they have many. Well there were quite a few when they were young I mean in fact I think that FDR sort of patterned himself after T.R.. Remember that he had seen him as a young man. He was married of course to nice Eleanor Roosevelt. In fact Theodore Roosevelt was the best man at the wedding. You know he gave them he gave not the best man he gave the bride away and they said had hardly anyone looked at either Franklin or Eleanor you know looking at the ad or Roosevelt he wanted to be the bride of the wedding the corpse at the funeral and the baby at the christening. He just sucked all the attention. But when when when FDR became assistant secretary of the Navy and then Governor a lot of people thought he was following exactly in tiaras tradition so he idolized T.R. when he was younger. And so they had had a sense of knowing one another and they were distant relations except in addition to Eleanor.
So it's an incredible complex the thing this family relation your biographies have been about some of the most famous men period. FDR JFK now Teddy Roosevelt and of course Lincoln who knew once that his second biography wise only to Jesus Christ in the number of books written about him. Why do you choose to tackle a topic that has been researched and written about so often.
Well it's scary to be honest to attack all men about whom so much is written but the reason so much has been written about these people is because they're the most interesting and it takes me so long to write these books that I couldn't possibly wake up in the morning thinking about Millard Fillmore or Franklin for five years. And it took me longer to write the book about Franklin Roosevelt on the home front than it took the war to be fought. To me 10 years to write the book about Lincoln. But I wanted to wake up thinking about Lincoln or FDR wanted to wake up and go to bed at night thinking about them. So that means you take the risk that you're going to come up hopefully after some research with a different angle so that it won't be the same I couldn't simply write another biography about T.R. I could've written another biography had FDR there were too many good ones written. So that's why it became the home front that's why it became the team of rivals and that's why with T.R. it's TR Taft in the muckrakers So hopefully that brings a fresh approach.
We have time for one more questions let me ask you this it takes you so long. So much research to write a book. You talked about 10 years for FDR Teddy Roosevelt it's going to take you many years. Do you have any more topics that you want to disavow that any more any more brilliant man or woman that you want to tackle.
You know I get so caught up in whoever I'm with at the moment that it feels like I'd be betraying them almost as if I'd be having an affair if I started thinking about the next person. So I've never really been able to figure out who the next person was until I get close to ending. So I don't really have anybody yet in mind. And if Winston Churchill hadn't been done so well by Manchester God I'd love to have studied him he's so amazing. But that would mean living in England I don't see that happening. Sometimes I think maybe what I might want to do is to write a book about presidential leadership and then use the people that I've studied to illustrate the traits of leadership that made them good. And that would require tons of research as I'm getting older I can't be planning 20 more years of research into more books.
I think that's what might come next. Well Doris Kearns Goodwin thanks for being one of the welcome. Thank you that was fun.
As we wait for Doris his new book on Teddy Roosevelt here's something to hold you over. It's a segment from the WME original documentary presidents in our backyard telling the story of how T.R. became our twenty sixth president the Parrott American exposition was what would really become the world's fair later it was a chance to show off new technology.
There was a lot of inventions there and people flocked to see all these X displays and exhibits.
In September of 99 one President William McKinley was on top of the world fresh off an easy re-election. He began to see America slowly come out of the depression encounter the decade before a trip to Buffalo for the Pan-American exposition was a good opportunity to showcase the country's comeback.
McKinley want to celebrate American technological prowess. The theme of the exhibition and also to demonstrate to underline that manufacturing was central to the country's economic strength.
We hope that all who are represented here may be moved to a higher nobler effort for their own and for the world's good. And then out of this city may come not only greater commerce and trade for the song and more sensual in these relations of mutual respect confidence and friendship. It will deepen and.
President William McKinley September 5th McKinley's uniting speech on that September day was full of hope something that was ripped away.
The very next day an anarchist came up in line there was a long receiving line he had a gun concealed under a handkerchief and shot him at point blank range.
That name was Leon childish. He fired two shots into McKinley from this pistol before being wrestled to the ground. The wounded president was rushed away.
They took him to area right near the Pan-American exposition in Buffalo and some surgeons began working on him. The bullet in his abdomen was considered too far and lodged in a place where they couldn't remove it remove it so they left it in.
Upon hearing the shocking news the vice president Teddy Roosevelt immediately came to Buffalo. Shortly after he arrived McKinley started to improve.
Teddy Roosevelt had been there a few days he said. McKinley seems to be out of the woods. It would look better for me and be better for the country if I left and didn't seem to be hovering as the next in line to succeed him.
And so the former New York State governor left Buffalo and headed to the Adirondacks where his family was already vacationing.
The very second day he was back he decided he was going to climb Mt. Marcy. So his family divided his wife Hi Taff way in with him with the children and then he went on to the top of the mountain. It was a terrible day cloudy and he couldn't see anything but as he arrived at the top of the mountain it cleared and they could see all the other mountains.
Back in western New York the optimism over McKinley's help was quickly fading. Six days after the shooting the president went into shock.
It was on a busy street in Buffalo where he was kind of recovering where the doctors were they spread straw on the road so that the way horses would be muffled and they kept people away they didn't. They wanted their president to recover.
I mean he was a beloved leader who had been shot by this anarchist you know in a public exposition it was a horrific event.
Meanwhile back in the Adirondacks the vice president was descending New York's highest peak came back to Lake Clare ate their lunch in the rain.
They all of a sudden saw this guy come running through the woods and Don that was a message for him so he said you must be true. To the clubhouse immediately that the president was dying.
What started Next was a dramatic 40 mile trek to the north Creek railroad station put him on the first relay and which was a buckboard in an old horse and they came down from the to HA's climbed down as far as the Newcomb area. Another guy another team came misfires in the air and was very uneventful. It was late at night and when he got to in the lair there was another message from his secretary who was here and said You must come to me when the president is dead.
The president arrived in Western New York.
Later that day he decided against some of his handlers and political strategists were thinking maybe be sworn in in Washington D.C. maybe wait a few days. But instead he was sworn in here at the home of a local lawyer in Buffalo.
There were people from the cabinet already there who were there to to you know pay their respects to McKinley.
And so he gathered them and did it.
Pretty simple ceremony a monument stands tall today in downtown Buffalo honoring William McKinley whose assassin was given the electric chair just six weeks after the shooting.
It is a draw. Full thing to come into the presidency but it would be a far worse thing to be sure.
Here's the tests I have to do it. That's the bill and that is there is a president Teddy Roosevelt that is all the time we have.
Thanks for joining us we'll return next week same time with the week's headlines and of course the reporter roundtable. Well you can join us until then on behalf of the entire crew here at New York on that Ryan. Have a great week.
This transcript is machine-generated and has not been corrected. It is likely there will be errors.
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