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tv   The Presidency Most Hated Presidents in American History  CSPAN  October 13, 2021 10:29pm-12:02am EDT

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our weekly series the presidency highlights the policies of u.s. presidents and first ladies. up next, what do thomas jefferson, abraham lincoln, lyndon johnson and richard nixon have in common? they face not just political opponents but americans who actually hated them. what were the reasons? an american historical association panel discussed the answers to those questions.
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i'm the founder of history at southern methodist. >> -- you already know, because you signed up for this webinar, we are here to talk about presidents and hatred. two contextual points, i think that may be helpful from the start, i mentioned this to my daughter today, and her first question was, are you doing that because of president trump? and i said, well, i suspect that's why we wanted to do it in the first place, but we are not talking about president trump, we are talking about presidents in history. no doubt he will show up in the q&a but obviously we will try to keep focused on those for whom we have a greater historical perspective. then she asked another question. she's a sharp cookie. she said, well, all presidents are disliked. how do you decide which wants to focus on? and i said, well, we are exploring. obviously in the best of cases, almost half the country didn't
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vote for you, but that doesn't mean that we don't have the special cases, where we have particular elements of the country who are hating and despise more than simply dislike. and we are going to explore the difference between presidents who are opposed and presidents who are antithetical to the american way of life, according to their critics. without further ado, we will proceed in chronological order. we are discussing thomas jefferson, abraham lincoln, franklin d. roosevelt, lyndon b. johnson, and richard nixon. i think you can see why those were chosen. and we will begin with thomas jefferson by starting out with joanne b. freeman, history professor at yale university. she is the author of a series of honor, editor of wartime alexander
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hamilton. her most recent book, i highly recommend, is fields of blood: violence in congress and the road to civil war. without further ado, joanne b. freeman, tell us why we should hate jefferson. >> i always check when i do everything here. i hope everyone can hear me good in audio land. i will now discuss certainly why some people hated thomas jefferson. i want to begin by saying that in recent years when i have been asked what moments in american history share echoes with our polarized president, one of my responses typically is the late 1790s. as an early americanist, i am aware that these late 1790s do not have some of the pizzazz potential for polarization as say the 1850s in the civil war. but the intense polarization of
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federalists and republicans, the extreme othering, each of the other as an american, the press predictions on both sides of chaos, tyranny and anarchy. the violence that president john adams later described as terrorism, using actually that word -- the echoes of polarization and hate, between past and present are clearly real. but what can this kind of historical speech offer in the way of insight? part of what i'm going to be discussing in my brief comments this afternoon, is that they are different flavors of presidential hate. some more intense than others. some more personal than others. some more prone to weaponization than others. so i want to say there are different flavors of presidential hatred. and i use that word because there is something sensory about real hatred for a president. i'm curious to see how that does or
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doesn't make sense, as that continues with this round table. jefferson certainly was not new to hatred when he became president in 1801. as the supposed head of the republican party and a leader prone to speaking large, as a friend once said, meaning prone to making broad, sometimes extreme ideological pronouncements, people who disagreed with jefferson often hated him. but his ideas and for his likelihood that his ideas could lead to the collapse of the republic. generally speaking, federalists believe that republicans favored a dangerous degree of democracy. meaning, i'm going above and beyond elections, popular participation, protests and otherwise, in american politics. certainly among the many things that jefferson spoke large about, democracy
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was one of them. fear about ungovernable democracy intensified in the late 1790s with the explosion of the french revolution. the period that spawned adams remarks about terrorism. and he describes in this later letter, some people arming themselves at the presidential mansion, afraid of what was going on in the street. so for him that moment was very real. then came the presidential election of 1800, when the federalists versus republican polarization came to a peak. then, as now, selecting a president was seen as something of a referendum on what the nation wanted. during a time of extreme polarization, it felt like a turning point. so not surprisingly, he of jefferson shortly before and after the election of 1800 was emotional, even hysterical at times, premised on the conviction that jefferson,
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viewed by federalists as a french loving anarchist infidel radical, who took the nation down a path of destruction. given that jefferson was a soon to be president at the time we are talking about here, this hatred was largely grounded on predictions, symbolism, ideology and campaign rhetoric, rather than any actual actions that he had a chance to take as president. and you can see this kind of free floating us versus them hatred in some letter sent to jefferson, within his first year as president. like the one informing jefferson of an assassination plot supposedly brewing in new york. and as the author wrote, shocking to relate, shocking. nothing seems to have come of it, it may not be real, but jefferson saw that not long after becoming president. or the anonymous
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hate mail that jefferson got that referred to, among other things, quote, you and your tribe of foreign outcasts and, quote, jefferson's bosom friend, france. there we see france is kind of standing in as the ultimate other. jefferson, literally, through that letter being the others representative. one of those outcasts as well. however, it being a hatred being borne of, as i mentioned before, symbolism and ideology and campaign rhetoric, and that kind of fear -- kind of an extreme example of this that i can't resist mentioning, only because it shows you the degree to which, and there are some echoes of familiarity here, that that boils down to some pretty minute things that still felt as though they had broad
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political and cultural influence. one federalist focused on jefferson's shoes as being an indication of his ideology and the ways in which he was a threatening president. they mocked him, actually the statement they made is, a philosophical president prefers shoe strings when other folks prefers buckles. in one way or another, jefferson saying that buckles are superfluous an anti republican. shoelaces, apparently, are in style in france. that actually is another anti french statement. but again, othering jefferson. that kind of prevailing flavor of hatred changed dramatically during jefferson's second term, which included his much hated them 1807 embargo act, which attempted to punish french interference with american trade. not surprisingly, the act had a disastrous impact on the commerce in the north. you can really feel the impact of that hatred in jefferson's hate
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mail from this period. like the anonymous letter from boston, that read, i have agreed to pay four of my friends 400 dollars to shoot you if you don't take off the embargo, which i shall pay them, if i have to work on my hands and knees for it. you are one of the greatest tyrants in the whole world, worse than bonaparte, i wish you could feel as bad as i feel. with six children around you crying and have starved yourself. that's a profoundly personal kind of an insult there. less specific but clearly bursting with a sense of similar personal outrage and suffering, are two remarkably concise letters, and i'm going to read them. one, read in its entirety, quote, you are the damnedest fool that god put life into. god bleep you. period. that was it. go to bleep bleep. that was it. that's intense hate. and that's intense hate driven by the
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policy and it was driven in the north. people were so outraged, in what was going on, in a personal way, that they filled that out onto the paper. intense, real hatred. that kind of hate, it seems to me, is not as easy to weaponize. vague, fear driven, polarizing hatred in the 1800 election that had new england or's burying their bibles. that kind of hatred, particularly because it's not necessarily personal and not grounded necessarily in fact, that's very easy to weaponize. and thus it must have a great impact during and long after an election. and i will be very interested in seeing whether these, flavors of hate and weaponization of hate in more
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modern times, how that plays out in the comments of my colleagues here, particularly given the new forms of media that we are seeing. and that are increasingly effective in spreading that hate around. i will stop there, thank you very much, and i will turn things over, i think, to manisha.... >> the phrase of the year is, you are muted. thank you, joanne. think you especially for giving us those flavors, which as you said, i think will be helpful as we go ahead. let me remind everyone that this is a round table discussion, so we are generally interested in fielding questions, and you can go down to the question and answer function in your chat. and offer those questions. we are going to move chronologically to the civil
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war, to abraham lincoln. and we are going to manisha sinha, the slush and your fellow at the ratcliffe institute at harvard university, author of the history of abolition. a book remarkably easy to recommend. thank you manisha for joining us and please telling us about the annals of presidential history. >> thank you jeff for inviting me to be a part of this round table. and for that introduction. i am going to share my screen with you, so my presentation is enlivened by a
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few slides. to start off, i have a confession. for the last few weeks, i've been rather confused about my charge today. blame it on the pandemic. for some reason, i thought i was supposed to speak about andrew johnson. lincoln's successor, rather than abraham lincoln. but when one thinks of the most despised american presidents, one usually does not think of lincoln. but johnson is consistently placed at the bottom of historians ranking of american presidents. lincoln is usually in contention for number one or two. luckily, i read the description of the roundtable again, and the description i had sent. before preparing my remarks today. and i realized i was supposed to talk about lincoln. often one of the most beloved presidents,
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around the globe. this is not the case, as lincoln was elected president in 1860. he remains the only president in american history whose election caused nearly half the states in the republic to succeed and inaugurated a bloody civil war that ended 800,000 american lives. just that fact alone, i think, wins him the most despise category. abraham lincoln was not an abolitionist. that is, a person who believed in the immediate abolition of slavery and black citizenship before the war. i should say before i continue, there's a slide i'm showing right now, it's an extra that shows and announces that the union has been -- south carolina succeeded from the
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union a month after lincoln was elected, followed by other deep south states. so lincoln was not an abolitionist, though, he was a moderate anti slavery republican, elected on a platform of the non extension of slavery into the territories. that program, some historians have argued, could lead to abolition. but it was not abolition. throughout the 18 sixties, lincoln, a moderate anti slavery politician, and this is a picture of him from the 1850s which is the prelude to greatness, which i what i'd title that. this is a young lincoln lawyer. so he was a
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moderate anti slavery politician, he had adhered pretty tenaciously to the reform of the non expansion of slavery, a constitutionally defensible position. since the federal government had the constitutional power to end slavery in the territories but even certain states themselves. lincoln had balanced this competing loyalty to anti-slavery, the union, and the constitution, even though in his speeches, starting as early as the 18 thirties, he had expressed his opponents to slavery as raucously as any abolitionist. now his balancing act here was expressed in his qualified support for the draconian fugitive slave law of 1850. lincoln argued that protections for northern freed blacks must accompany the constitutionally mandated rendition. during the famous lincoln douglass editorial debate in 1868, which catapulted him to fame, lincoln feud political expediency and long held beliefs, and made clear his opposition to equal citizenship and voting rights for african americans and adhere the colonization of freed blacks back to africa, a position that both rabbit southern secessionists and
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abolitionists supposed. lincoln was waiting to compromise on abolition in the south, but not on the non extension platform of the republican party. abolitionists, nonetheless, hailed his election as a victory for their cause. certainly, most southerners viewed him as perhaps a step better than an abolitionist, and actually an abolitionist in the skies. remember, one of his most ardent critics argued, for the first time, the slave has chosen a president of the united states. unquote. and most slave holders and democrats agreed, they had regularly had anti slavery republicans for -- black republicans. there was a
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special hire for them. there was no difference between an abolitionist and an anti slavery republican like lincoln, who desired, as he put it, the ultimate extinction of slavery in the american republic. it was the 19th century version of woke politics. in the north, support for lincoln, democrats argue the racist elements, that this n-wordism, has as dark view as this or frederick douglass. the secessionists -- claimed that rankin's running mate was a mulatto and had african blood. the black abolitionist, who viewed like and personally, viewed, i am everything the south hates. since they had evidence of this dislike of mr. lincoln, i'm bound to love republicans with
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all your fault. with the sleigh folders rebellion, hatred of lincoln among northern copper heads, northerners who sympathize with the confederacy, northern's -- using states rights, state sovereignty arguments, that they had long used to legitimized federal laws and secession, copper heads off and berated lincoln for federal consolidation and for making war on the confederacy. lincoln came under criticism for suspension of civil liberties during the wartime emergency, including by the chief justice of the supreme court. the historian mark has pointed out, his record here compared favourably with most wartime presidents. in comparison to the confederacy, which executed and tortured slave people, chairman and southern unionist, union
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army soldiers, and confederate deserters with impunity, lincoln administration's record was noble. a more legitimate criticism of lincoln stems perhaps from the biggest blocked on his record. in 1862, after the uprising in minnesota, the governor condemned 300 of them to execution. lincoln commuted the sentences of most of them. but let 38 be executed. it constitutes the largest mass hanging in american history. lincoln was reviled by many of his contemporaries, not for his policies toward native americans, but for his adoption of emancipation and then black male citizenship during the war. and here is lincoln as we all know him, with the beard. and this is the picture that i am displaying right now. it shows three principles that
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guided him. usually always put as anti slavery versus union, but also anti-slavery versus the constitution, which lincoln as a lawyer was quite mindful of. lincoln aligned his commitment to the union and constitution with abolition. for lincoln, abolition, union, and constitution went from being competing to complimentary values. the slave holders rebellion settle this for him. the manner in which lincoln issued the emancipation proclamation as a military order and evoking his war powers, make sure that his constitutional bond fee days would not be challenged. this would not prevent copperheads, northern conservatives, or races, not to mention confederates, from accusing lincoln of approving the
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constitution and the union. it nearly cost him the presidency in the 1864 election. it is not clear whether this would further divide the nation, rather than have stayed united. lincoln found this the central act of his administration and the greatest act of the 19th century. his battle to secure the 13th amendment was a testament to his determination to embed abolition in the constitution and make it irreversible. lincoln's constitutionalism was a source of not just anti-slavery moderation before the war but it was also the manner in which he promulgated emancipation during it that showed his commitment to the constitution. it shaped his various proposals that compensated gradual emancipation, the form and content of the final emancipation, his advocacy of the 13th amendment and his advocacy of-limited black male
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citizenship. however, this made anti slavery the dominant principle of his politics and brought him ever-so closer to abolitionists ground. here is lincoln's signature but also a cartoon made by a pro confederate german cartoonist, not thomas nast, but another german who is pro confederacy. and you can see lincoln, it's a famous cartoon of him, with the white face, the cartoon of him as being fired by the devil, and his foot is on the bible. there is an image of nast on the chair behind him. and so talk about hate. that's one way of portraying an american
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president. and this was an image that was actually quite widely circulated in the confederacy. and found a lot of sympathy amongst them. lincoln's proclamation had allowed for the army of black men, and they are improvement into the movement army, -- to convert the civil war that paved the way for black male citizenship. there enlistment of black men and led by abolitionists, reassertion of racial equality, as black soldiers and radical allies fought for equal access to land. even though black soldiers fought in segregated units, the value that lincoln attached to the military service helped move him to the idea of black male citizenship. in 1863, he wrote, and this is a photograph of the famous --, one of the first black regiments during the war. in
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1863, lincoln wrote that black union soldiers could aspire to the ideal of american citizenship better than secessionists and copperheads. when peace arrived, he wrote, quote, there will be some black man who can remember that the steady eye and well-placed bayonet have helped mankind onto the strait consolation. i fear there are white ones unable to forget that the malignant heart and deceitful speech they have proved to hinder it. so they have a malignant heart. to exercise deceitful speech. lincoln made his last pronouncements on the subject of black citizenship just before his death. in a letter to louisiana military
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governor michael han, he suggested that, quote, the intelligent and those who have fought gallantly, be given the franchise. it would help, quote, in some trying time to come, to keep the jewel of liberty within the family of freedom. in a speech of reconstruction in louisiana, lincoln argued that he would prefer status to be conferred on the very intelligent and those who have service soldiers. he said the same in an informal speech from the balcony of the white house to a crowd gathered below the day before he was assassinated. he became the first american president to publicly endorse black male citizenship. the audience contained his assassin, john wilks booth, the confederate sympathizer, who pledged to kill him. that is the last speech he will ever
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make. it was really lincoln's championship of black citizenship that ultimately gets him killed. and he was talking about his vice president -- despised by some people. indeed, hatred of president lincoln reach dangerous levels after his adoption of the emancipation and on the eve of his assassination, his pronouncements in favor of blackmail citizenship. during the 1864 presidential election, race baiting reach new heights, with lincoln's opponents calling him abraham africanus the first and a general agent for the blacks. this is from harpers. i don't know if you can see them. lincoln during the tightrope walk with the constitution as his balancing
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beam, and an african american on his head. this is from 1860, the early election. the cartoons and the race baiting got even worse in 1864, after the emancipation became the official policy of the union army. this is a time when lincoln and the republican party were accused of racial intermixture. this american racist word, miscegenation, was coined during this election, in an anonymous pamphlet and became part of the american political lexicon, trumpeted out by whites in the south throughout the jim crow era. lincoln said, even as a majority in the north and african americans mourn the martyred president on friday, many of lincoln's opponents, openly celebrated. if you did a google mat of buildings and streets named after lincoln, you will find that it is predominantly and
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overwhelmingly they are north of the mason-dixon line. there are a few in black counties in mississippi. but that is the exception to the rule. it is an irony of american history that one of the most beloved presidents remains, to some people, certainly for neo-confederates, is most hated. and i apologize to jeff, but i must end with this bumper sticker that had become quite popular the last few years. it's an image of lincoln with this image saying, it's my party, and i'll cry if i want to. and so i will hand over the floor back to jeff. >> thank you, manisha, that was wonderful. i enjoy the bumper sticker at the end. i know all of us as historians enjoyed
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president trump's reminders that president lincoln was a republican, which he told us many times, most people don't know. but we do, because we are historians. so thank you for that. i'd like to turn now to fdr and matthew sutton, who will tell us about fdr, president longer than anyone else. matthew avery sutton is chair of the history department at washington state university. his latest book is double crossed, missionaries who spied for the united states in the second world war. he's the author of numerous other books, including ones on american populous, a book on jerry falwell, and he is a guggenheim fellow. i happen to know he is working on a new brilliant interpretation for a textbook for american history you should all expect to be purchasing in the next 18 months or so. so
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matt, i turn it over to you. >> thank you so much, jeff, and thank you to the panel for putting this together. it's been interesting hearing the first couple of papers. and how this is popped up. because this is a topic i will focus on. as we all know, religion can inspire great behavior and bad behavior. when i will be discussing is how religion can inspire presidential hatred. this is not a surprise to anybody in this room. we can see how groups of religious activists have hated barack obama, joe biden. i'm going to talk more about the roots of that. we are comes from but also specifically on franklin d. roosevelt. the reason this has not gotten as much attention as it should, is that there has been a real problem with historiography. there is a sense that when jerry falwell
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came on the scene, and organized the moral majority, that it was then that white evangelicals became mobilized. that's wrong. this myth has perpetuated itself and continue to spread. that evangelicals were apolitical until the last couple of generations. when i will show you is that how there was a new kind of evangelical activism inspired that fermented itself into real hatred for franklin d. roosevelt. so why did they hate roosevelt? what was the issue? the issue behind this was that they believed that franklin d. roosevelt was ultimately setting the stage for the rise of the anti christ. the diabolical world leader who is going to take power in the end
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times. they believed and convinced that we are living at the end of history, and that we are living at the end of history. in their minds, and their churches, they were continuously looking for signs that would tell us how close we were to what they described as the rapture, the rise of the anti christ, the second coming of jesus. and ultimately they came to believe that fdr was preparing the u.s. for those events. there was a debate as to whether he was doing it consciously or explicitly, purposely. if that's what he wanted to do. or if he was just not really aware of geopolitical spiritual events behind the decision. never the less, it was clear to them, that roosevelt was a problem.
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that new deal liberalism was a problem. so why? i will talk a bit about what was happening in the 19 twenties and 1930s. i will be careful with my language. i will use evangelical interchangeably -- they call themselves fundamentalists. today they call themselves evangelicals. but its the same people, many of them are the same if you trace them. but what they believe, they believe that you could see -- the bible had laid out events. we could know when we are living in the rise of the anti christ. some of them are harder to track. the rise of darwinian evolution. suffrage of women. and they
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worry that prohibition wasn't being enforced. more interesting to me, they were also closely watching global events. they were excellent students of foreign affairs, better than any other type of americans. they understood what was happening in asia, africa, elsewhere. they had laid out the number of expectations in the 1880s and 18 nineties, and you began to see some of these predictions fulfilled, for example in 1930s. one was a new restored roman empire. they believed one of the things that would show the end times was a revitalized rome. for mussolini spreading his power, for them this was a sign of the end times. they were also conscious
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of what hitler was doing, conscious of his antisemitism. some had read mein kampf in german. they believed that another sign of the end times would be the return of the jews to palestine. so they saw hitler facilitating that. they did not endorse it or cheer it. but they believed that god may have gotten hitler too moved and used to palestine. so all of this is going on in the background. they looked at fdr and they understood in the context of all the other things going on. there was no doubt that since the campaign in the 1932 election got off to an ominous start. on the first set of ballots, roosevelt received 666 votes. when i first heard that in a fundamental magazine, i thought it was too good to be true. i went to the records,
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and sure enough, that was the case. this already set fundamentalist on edge. that there was something weird going on here. linking roosevelt to the anti-christ. after the election, they begin to view roosevelt has become such a revered person in american history, but americans don't realize how much those who hated roosevelt in the 1930s really truly despised him, couldn't stand him. when i saw this in letters written to roosevelt, letters shared. they saw roosevelt consolidating power in the executive branch. if you add to that, the supreme court, this looks like something who is trying to do
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what's stalin and mussolini and hitler had done. so when he runs for a third term, you find american traditions have stepping down, which further reinforces their sense that roosevelt is not just another american president. but roosevelt is up to something far more sinister. so more broadly they deal with new deal liberalism. there is concern that those who are helping a prepare america for the end times. one is the national recovery act, for businesses that participated in the nra. they had to show a symbol. they believed that one of the things that would prepare us for the end times was the showing of the symbol, the mark of the beast. so they thought this symbol, an eagle, was the mark of the beast. possibly the anti christ. or at least preparing
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americans to understand you will have to show this mark. they the social security, telling roosevelt, that this was contrary to the word of god. they worried about his internationalist sensibilities. his efforts to join the world court disturbed them. anything that threatened americans'autonomy and sovereignty, for them, was a stepping stone to some kind of global confederation, which would be led by the anti christ. they opposed roosevelts internationalism in the 1930s and in the 1940s. but they were never indifferent. they never believed that they shouldn't act. so they got very involved in politics. they were very specific about this, because they believed that when jesus returned, he was going to hold
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them responsible. he was going to ask them if they had been good and faithful servants. part of being a good faithful servant is waging war against the anti christ, and the tools of the anti christ. people like franklin roosevelt. and so in 1940, 1944, they are very active, mobilizing. they are not partisan, though. many of them are southern conservative democrats. and in the north and west many are republican. their goal is to defeat a new deal liberalism. so a more limited government, anti statist conservatism. that becomes the political ideology that drives them as american political parties change. evangelicals change with their parties but they maintain core values of being anti government -- anti federal government, anti statist. and also believing in american action abroad. they
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want the u.s. acting unilaterally. they are afraid of using multilateral action as a way of compromising sovereignty. world war ii is the turning point. they begin to realize at that point that when jesus does return, he is not going to just judge individuals, but also nations. so with this event there is a new kind of christian nationalism. this increases the focus in world war ii, not just on the anti christ but also in trying to remake the state in their own image, believing that as we move toward the end times and the battle of armageddon that they can protect themselves and protect christians abroad with a strong united states that represents their ideals. as i said, it means that fdr it's a steppingstone that needs to be pushed out of the way. this
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will continue through every other new deal president through the present day. with that, i turn it back to jeff. >> thank you matt, that is helpful and insightful. i'm trying to get my mind around the idea that relief programs could be contrary to the word of god. let me remind everyone that there is the option of offering your questions at bottom. they therefore i will stop talking and handed over to mark lawrence. author and historian. he is -- oh. it's you next.
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comrade, sharon khan red, it's a fellow and her research done public history and the presidencies of john kennedy and lyndon johnson. and she is currently finishing up her first book, the trinity, john kennedy, lyndon johnson and their civil rights legacy in african american imagination. i should say it's really good. so sharron, the webinars yours. >> thank you so much, jeff, and thanks to all my fellow panelists. this has been riveting. my interest has been in african american civil rights and specifically the presidencies of john kennedy and lyndon johnson. and point of privilege, i'd like to use joanne's
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formulation, of how we want to talk about flavors and presidential hatred. i think that's a terrific way of narrowing our focus. just to know all these presidents have their flavors and they put come indifferent flavors. one of the things i want to do with my sentiment is talk about the way that lyndon johnson was hated in particular by african american voters. and to really focus in on that even though there will be lots of parallels and reasons why other constituencies hated johnson. i wanted to do this by just starting with the obvious point, about how johnson came to be president. before he became president, he's one of the presidents who emerged with the assassination of his predecessor, john
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kennedy. for african americans in particular, that way that lyndon johnson emerged as president is particularly problematic. and it's part of a long standing concern. going back to his time in congress. when johnson was selected, african americans were particularly concerned, having to do with johnson being someone who is willing to compromise. so while in the johnson was the senate majority leader he was
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trying to keep his coalition together. and he was making sure that civil rights legislation never passed or just doing the bare minimum. and so this was something that african americans watch with great concern. so that when john can be selected johnson as his running mate there was an outcry from the african american delegates. to the extent where the kennedy campaign had to put together to try to win over the black delegates that where there, that had to reassure them even though lyndon johnson had been a person of concern in terms of his adequacy of civil rights has come along with the
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platform of the party. that concern was there in 1960 and it didn't go away over the course of johnson's time as vice president, even though he was playing a role in the administration as head of the presidents opportunity committee, which was looking for ways and working with african american constituents to ensure the government employment sector was desegregated as possible. only those people who were kind of in the room with johnson were won over and you could see he was making a concerted effort. meanwhile, the populace didn't know lyndon johnson was making this effort. over the course of the administration, the concern black voters had about lyndon johnson never went away. by 1963, just as jon kennedy is
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making the case for why a new civil rights bill had to be passed, and that doesn't happen until june of 1963, that john kennedy finally makes a public plea based on the morality of the civil rights movement, that there should be a civil rights bill passed through congress. even at that point, lyndon johnson as seen as behind the scenes, that individual who had been thwarting civil rights legislation. by november of 1963, when john kennedy is assassinated in texas, african americans are incredibly concerned about this lyndon johnson emergence as the nation's new president. many black reporters and observers and letter writers are indignant that lyndon johnson is the person who is now in charge. there's a lot of concern about
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them. one point, many of them believe the fact john kennedy was killed in texas was not a coincidence, in the and the african americans blame lyndon johnson and founded theories as to why lyndon johnson was likely involved in president kennedy's assassination, he appeared to have the most gain. letters came into mrs. kennedy, stolen letters that would make this point. black letter writers, and telegram centers would say they believe lyndon johnson was involved and jon kennedy's death. this is the state of things when lyndon johnson becomes president. he does everything he can in order to try to reassure black voters. he realizes, he needs to win them over, because from the beginning, lyndon johnson is
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well aware the election is coming up one year from the sworn in as president. he is looking to build a coalition to reassure liberals and african american voters. he calls people like martin with the king, southern christian leadership council, he has called -- the naacp to try to reassure these folks, and go to congress five days after president kennedy's death, and he tells congress and the nation and the world left us -- on civil rights. he's trying to turn the page and trying to win over black constituents from the very beginning. there is a nagging concern this thing he just can't shake from black voters, that oncern he is conniving, and truly only doing this because he
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asked you, because he is desperately trying to win their vote, not because this is something that is innate in him, this is something he truly cares about. for black observers specifically, lyndon johnson is just an opportunist who is desperate to win elections. over the course of lyndon johnson's administration, he is trying to use a lot of the same techniques jon kennedy used, symbolic acts like hiring people, appointments. he is seen and photographs with african americans and civil rights leaders. lyndon johnson falls victim to a number of -- number one, he is seen as someone who made black observers believe was involved in kennedy's death. secondly, there's this sense
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that he is, again, this opportunist. but over the course of his administration, and this is something that is already happening in kennedy's administration. the movement itself is changing quite a bit, where as the belief in august 1963, nonviolent movement led by dr. king could actually make the changes. things are beginning to shift where a more militant young activist crowd in the movement is less and less patient with the legislative approach lyndon johnson is so comfortable with. there's a sense it's taking too long, it's not going to change peoples hearts. even though laws are being called, for that those laws aren't going to make real change in peoples lives. when lyndon johnson pushes for the civil rights act, which it
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does happen in july of 1964, there are people like john lewis who are saying, yes, you know, that's great, but down here on the front lines, it's not making a real difference. you know, we are still on the battlefront. there's a disconnect between what's happening in washington d.c. and what's happening on the front lines for many in the movement. by the time lyndon johnson is up for election, he is running against barry goldwater, a true conservative, and someone who is against the policies that progressives are interested in. african americans are terrified of this and they come out and vote for lyndon johnson by about 95%. he wins by 95% of the african american vote which is unprecedented. i want to read a vote that indicates the trouble for lyndon johnson. one of the things, he gets this
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incredible percentage of the black vote. there is a poll taken in 1965, a year after passage of the civil rights act, and this poll basically says, look, we don't regret the almost incredible support they gave lyndon johnson over barry over barry goldwater. there is a logical -- their hearts belong to john f. kennedy. black voters made a choice, a pragmatic choice to vote for lyndon johnson, but their hearts aren't in it. i want to correct myself, public in 1966. two years after the civil rights act. a year after the voting rights act supported and passed and signed by lyndon johnson, african americans still ask which of the last five presidents have done the most for civil rights? 69% of them say john kennedy.
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only 15% use lyndon johnson. there is a host of reasons as to why this plays out as a problem for lyndon johnson. certainly, you have the shifting nature of the civil rights moment where the legislation isn't seen as quite as important in some ways, when faced with things on the ground. but also, you have the vietnam war that is forcing more and more african americans into war, even though african americans, 11% of the population, they are being drafted at a higher percent, and they are being put into combat roles at a much higher percent of overall percentage of those folks in the war effort. the war effort is taking a toll,
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not only in the fact the young black soldiers are heading over there, but also the fact the war on poverty that is going to change everything, these kinds of social programs in the vein of fdr social program. war on poverty isn't being funded as a result of the vietnam war. we begin to see the promise of the great society program really isn't funded like the way we benefit a lot of african americans. i want to point to a couple of -- one being, a book on saigon which deals with the african american role in the vietnam war efforts. but also, the last point i want
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to make about why this doesn't play out for johnson in the way that he wants it to, as it's pointed out in elizabeth's book, dealing with the war on poverty, to the war on crime, it is the way the consequences of things such as programs that are funding not only social reform, but also policing reforms in ways the federal government is essentially funding the kind of local policing of behavior in the african-american community that ultimately would lead to some of those issues and difficulties with policing and expand problems with policing, but also the mass incarceration
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of african americans. so, african americans are looking at lyndon johnson and they immediately promise the war on poverty, but they have this memory of him as a congressional leader. they view a lot of the assassination as being left at lyndon johnson's door, being partially responsible. then you also have things like the vietnam war impact on the community, the policing in the black community that results from this war on poverty, johnson's were on crime. overtime, johnson's legacy is really quite problematic among african americans, to the extent that, in the end, as we all know, by 1968, lyndon johnson opens up his presidency with an almost 80% kind of approval rating, dropped to 35%
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by the time he is considering running for election again. to the extent he has to drop out of that race. ultimately, african americans still support lyndon johnson in some ways. at the same time, this kind of long history of concern about him and the sense he is not a true advocate for african american rights continue to play out and even today in scenes like the way johnson is seen depicted in things like selma for example. it's been very controversial in created by an african american director, presented in that way. i will leave it there, but hopefully that's enough to spark conversation about the way lyndon johnson has been perceived by african americans.
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thank you. sharron, you are reminder of what we learned from elizabeth higgins book. and one of the things you and i have done in the last year's co-host a podcast on presidents and race relations, going from abraham lincoln all the way up to joe biden, looking at every single one. and i encourage us to check that out. now we turn to mark, currently director of the lbj library in austin texas. he's an associate professor at the university of texas. he teaches on american international history and is the author of several books, assuming the burden, europe and the american commitment to war in vietnam. also he is the author of a
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marvelous short history of the vietnam war, which i use in my classrooms. i highly recommend to others. and now he is coming out with another book. so look for it on your shelves very soon, and titled the end of ambition, the united states is a third world in the era of vietnam. today he's going to tell us about our present era, one that has no reputation problems whatsoever. >> thank you. i'd like to -- everyone can hear me? i'd like to start and take us to the arena. probably not one that immediately comes to mind. subject is the relationship between the united states and brazil and the story begins on december 13th, 1968. that was the day when the
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brazilian military eliminated most remaining elements of brazilian democracy. and crackdown on just about every facet of civilian society. it was the start of a new era of economic austerity. economic inequality. and the beginning two of the widespread use of torture, and public obedience to the regime. the johnson administration defended to usaid. less so than the nixon administration. and nixon's answer came pretty quickly. in may of 1969, they were stored aid to the brazilian regime. this group partly, it seems to me, from the broader effort to lower american ambitions to reshape brazil. and for that matter lots of other developing countries in the world. nixon said, in a nationally televised speech, said the united states was entering a
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new era which it couldn't hope to do everything. and promote democracy and development all over the world. and his democratic predecessor as dumb. he also promised that the united states would point to deal realistically with latin american governments, no matter the character. made clear the united states has moved on to the era that have come before. nixon may have also had a genuine sympathy for the brazilian dictatorship, and perhaps dictatorship as a form of government. if brazil was a dictatorship, he said on one occasion, it should be in order to cope with its disorder internally. even as human rights grew increasingly seized on the situation in brazil.
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and nixon doubled down on his partnership. when the brazilian president visited washington a 1971, the administration praised brazil and welcomed his determination to fight communism in the hemisphere. documents the classified ten years ago revealed the extent to which nixon and his brazilian counterpart went to overthrow [inaudible] . and especially salvador allende in chile. -- operation condor, and a wide scheme of cooperation that went on to wage a second campaign of counter-terrorism. okay. so this is the kind of story that has long infuriated
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critics of richard nixon. and i hasten to add, his partner in foreign policy. again and again, sympathize with nixon focus on a moral approach to policy. his prioritization of above all with a concern for democracy. economic development. white accounted for nixon, in other words, was the extent to which a foreign nation served american interests. the nature of the government in their attitude to their own people magic hardly at all, amid the ascendancy of what i hasten to call a realist view of foreign policy, in which hardheaded notions of national interest trump allegedly soft headed notions of democracy. so this kind of thing is of course run one of many reasons
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why nixon has been the focus of hatred over the years. it's true that all this is i suppose not bad for nixon, and his legacy. recent polls of presidential accomplishments and standing reveal that it sometimes fell in the lowest court tile. usually he lands in that third court tile, with martin van buren or zachary taylor, herbert hoover. but clearly none of these names inspire the visceral passionate dislike or the sheer malevolence. and there is one quote, which comes from the political side of this and it sums it all up.
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it's the modern exemplar. of course at the heart of this, it's this dishonesty, epitomized by the watergate and cover-up. and richard nixon's long political career. the nixon cronies -- of course there is more to it than that. the antisemitism, the racism, that has been revealed. and a deeper kind of character problem that has fueled a lot liu. and then yay there is a third thing. there is a paranoid style of
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politics, an anti democratic instincts that he seems to have embodied. public opinion, was for nixon, often a force to be held in check or maybe even bypassing or to free himself and he wished. so my brazil story speak to some of this. this is something a little different about richard nixon. something that might ease the waters and the somewhat more complicated way. foreign policy, after all, it's the round where nixon would seem to be [inaudible] as many champions would point out, great accomplishments include the opening of china and détente with the soviet union. these are achievements that have consistently won praise not only for the wrist taking the body, but also for the
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dedication to peacemaking that they seem to imbibe. and it's nixon hating has also been set powerfully over the years by uglier developments in the national arena. in vietnam, for example, vietnam -- nixon is often claimed to have carried on the war for four years longer than he really had to add enormous human cost. and it's the same piecemeal achievable when he first came to office in 1969. it's an expansion of the war in cambodia that is often pointed out, often an entirely new theater of horrors. elsewhere, meanwhile, nixon through american support behind relationships with authoritarian's in places as diverse as brazil, iran, pakistan and on and on. as one can go. for many commentators it's the
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brutality of the turn away from democracy, providing a major if not always jermaine, a major reason to devise nixon. jimmy carter had one of his classic formulations in his famous 1977 speech at notre dame. he said, in part, for too many years we have been willing to applaud the erroneous principles of our adversaries, sometimes abandoning our values for theirs. vietnam, he said, was just an example of the intellectual and moral property of u.s. policy. but he blasted nixon's decision-making more generally as failing the tendency of what carter called an inordinate fear of communism and the embrace of any dictator who joined us. this kind of criticism perhaps
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in the early 20th century, was part of henry kissinger, no less than prosecution for the malevolent decision-making that -- these expressions of hostility to nixon's share in common, i think, is the sense that and seeking stability in the federal, nixon had departed from honored american tradition, so in the content of his policy, especially his lower guard for democracy as bold, and the cynicism that light at the heart of his political style. this is something that critics on both left and right seem to have agreed on. the criticism from the left is easy to see. it's worth pointing out, though, that nixon's record in the foreign policy realm lay pretty deeply in republican circles in
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1976. overtime he would move further and further away. and embrace a moralizing approach to foreign policy. with ronald reagan. but at the heart of it lay his since that nixon's amoral-ism light outside of american political tradition, outside, as jimmy carter may have put it, the enduring american values. the unfortunate outcome, as i think many moderate analysts of the president might say, it's to throw away any reason then international limit that might have served the united states well at any point across history, but especially during 1945. the real tragedy around nixon maybe the sheer difficulty ever since, maybe the sheer difficulty of resurrecting fundamentally
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sound policy ideas that sat at the floor of nixon's presidency. so impressive have those ideas become in the reputation of the president. i will stop there and turn it back over to you. >> thank you mark. always fascinating. we don't have as much time for discussion as we want, so i'm going to start out with a semi speed around. a last question so the group. feel free to answer if you think it is pertinent to your president. after that, i have some questions, where will ask each of you to comment. this first section is volunteer. one question. attacks were published in newspapers. do you have any idea how familiar -- i
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want to expand that a little. the question of, to professor freeman. but it speaks to the question of mass media. and the ways in which that broad assessment of character is developed within the political electorate. so for all of us, and especially -- how does the media, how does the public image of the president that alters people and their sense of -- likes and dislikes. >> i will say a couple of things. one thing about this early period, there is a concern in the early period, on a basic level. and that is public opinion governing the republic. but what does that mean? who is the public? what do they think? how do you figure out what they think? so there was kind of a hyper awareness in this period as to what the public was thinking.
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and also a hyper awareness as to who that public was. so people like jefferson would have been very aware of what's being said. and at some point, i think someone asked the question, whether he was criticized for his sexual life. and they were cartoons about his relationship with sally for example. so the public was aware of things being said. presidents and politicians were aware that this mattered. but that wasn't the meeting point as to what that meant. so for that reason, i think those early presidents were hyper-alert to it. what's interesting is listening to whatever one else is saying, people understand a pragmatic real-ism that the public, in what they think, has a dramatic impact.
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>> colleagues. would you jump in on the media question informing presidential hatred? >> they were successful at crafting their own media, so they were pioneers in radio. they develop their own magazines. and they had specific networks among different denominations. some of it was pretty esoteric, there was also cartoons. so they really ran the whole sector. >> [inaudible] >> by the nineties, i would say, this is informed by a large swath of the public. and this is not just white male citizens. and a few african americans who had the right to
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vote in the north. but it is worksites, newspapers, it is enormous. more than we would imagine today. a production of political cartoons and even racist ones. and they have their own culture. it's pretty vigorous. and so there is a mass consumption of these. and by the nineties, you have these voting rates, 80% of those who are eligible to vote, man, they vote at that time. and politics is mass entertainment. think about these iconic destructions of the lincoln debates. people are coming in. and people who are professors of rhetoric and speech, pay far more attention to speeches from that time. members of congress will send out thousands of letters to
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their constituents. so speech has evolved in a sense that, not until they really do, we social media, but it is far more than we see. >> i'd like to add to that, with lyndon johnson, everyone knows how aware johnson was, the role he played, and i had televisions everywhere and he was constantly commenting on what was written about him. and also the issues that he was dealing with. all of that is playing out on television. and when you have protesters outside the white house screaming, hey, hey, lbj, how many boys did you kill today. that makes a major difference. so i think for johnson in
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particular, that kind of give and take in how the media is influencing and impacting him, and also trying to control that message, it's something that continues to resonate. on nixon -- >> i would add that there is a hyper attentiveness to media, like lbj. and yet i think one could also say that again, there may be a fellow with a lbj here, there is a mishandling of media that ultimately we doubled their problems. and it's important
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think about these characters, in their early political careers, in the context of very different relationships with the media. and the middle parts of the 20th century, technologies, the vietnam war, lots of other reasons for the relationship that changes. these guys weren't very successful at adapting. >> again, jump in a few like. i'm going to abuse a question that was offered by one of our anonymous attendees and transform a bit to ask if any president, and certainly those on our list, have received a lot of hatred from within their own party. clearly we are seeing today, there is a split in the republican party. and are there other historical precedence not just without about within? >> quickly, on the emphasis, there were northern republicans, that were not really thrilled
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about the embargo. but i wouldn't say -- there were sort of politely internally -- and i think precisely because parties were not the norm in that period. there was no assumption about what was holding people together. probably for that reason, it wasn't as -- weren't is clear. so people were a little uneasy about that within a group of people being held together informally. >> as far as lincoln is concerned, he had the ability within his party -- the issue of emancipation. by the interesting way now, their relationship with him was pretty constructive. they saw him as part of an anti state alliance. there is official hatred of lincoln and some conservative starts backing off
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a little bit when i realized that lincoln was going to move ahead with emancipation. and there was recognition of black rights. so that was critical, and in 1864, there is a run force of abolitionists who floated the idea of replacing lincoln. but that went nowhere. because ardent abolitionist were so pro lincoln that in the end, all the abolitionist fell in line. the great black abolitionist said, lincoln is the only american president who has given any recognition to african americans and has met with them in the white house and has listened to us. so the idea of replacing him seems
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foolhardy. in the end, even those radicals who were critical of lincoln and ended up the notion that we are part of this grand anti slavery alliance, in which we are the vanguard and are going to drag lincoln with us. >> fundamentalist, many of them were militant, but there was a real discussion among the southern fundamentalists, about instructing their congregants, to vote in elections but not in the national elections. they can still be a good democrat like their father and not for fdr. there was an effort to break the alliance from the national party. >> like lincoln, i think johnson was certainly getting
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pushed from the left, from those who felt he wasn't acting quickly enough or responding soon enough to things that were happening. but he was catching it from the left, for sure, the progressives but also from the right. and this is largely [inaudible] because he is losing support on both ends. >> mark, on nixon? >> as i mentioned, quickly, in my -- he would certainly criticize from his own party. you can see that. in the watergate crisis that developed. but you can also see it in the broader sense. and a different brand of republicans that in many ways is quite critical of foreign policy. i think it's a fairly broad
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critique of a relatively moderate way outside of politics. by reagan. i wouldn't call it hatred, i think i would call it something more like indifference. but there certainly were individuals characterizes having hated goldwater, for instance, some of the most colorful language that anyone has given us. >> let me offer, if i may, a bonus president. bill clinton. bolton was despised by his enemies. so once he was impeached, i wouldn't go so far as to say they hated clinton for what he did. but they certainly were disgusted by it. and not unlike a recent impeachment, where the vote secret, and where the vote less
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prescriptive my party, i think we would have a much different vote in the end. this is our speed around, if you will. we don't have a lot of time. here is a question i will we formulate from david meng. was it his style of governing or the policies that he espouse that johnson could be so hated? we will go in reverse chronological order. so nixon. >> interesting question. i'm going to say mostly it's a person but it's always been under emphasized as a reason for [inaudible] >> i think it's a combination of both, for example if you
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look at something like the turner commission, where johnson commissions i look into the weeds in's for some of the riots that happened in american cities, with the best of intentions, it ultimately ignores the findings, the policy seems to do this and ultimately the personality gets in the way.,
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>> -- that india was a stakeholder. it was one of the masses. taking the opportunity to address this. the criticism of them was really racist and for radicals. when it comes to policy, lincoln very much identified it with the political government. but they called several consolidation in those days. the federal government intervening. they can't extend slavery. this connection between all of this a take space, it gets resurrected when it comes to johnson and nixon. >> i would offer a third option has policies, putting himself forward. i was democratic
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policies. >> well i want to thank our panelists for joining us roundtable. obviously, we would rather do this in person and we look forward to doing them again. it has been a wonderful conversation. my thanks as well for doing these virtual webinars over the last several months of the year. it has been a real joy for all of us. with
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debbie. >> i want to thank our generous sponsors, the history channel and oxford university prep. stee history channel and oxford university press. thanks to everyone who submitted questions today and finally a special thanks to our
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the private world of the presidential retreat. >> hello welcome to another episode of history live. i'm doctor colleen i'm a senior vice president at the white house historical association and the director of the david science center for white house history.


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