Karl Rove’s recent book, The Triumph of William McKinley, deals with the election of 1896 and its consequences. His lecture will expand on the results of the 1898 war with Spain: the annexation of the Philippines and Hawaii in the Pacific and Puerto Rico in the Caribbean as well as Cuba as a protectorate of sorts. To what extent did American political leaders take into account the reaction of the other European powers, above all the British, to these moves toward acquiring an empire? Karl Rove was Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff during the George W. Bush administration. He is usually credited with the 1994 and 1998 Texas gubernatorial victories of Bush as well as the presidential wins in 2000 and 2004. Bush has referred to Rove as the “architect.” After the publication of The Triumph of William McKinley, the UT historian H.W. Brands referred to it as “political history at its most engaging.” Rove lives in Austin.
We are very glad to have Karl Rove with us this afternoon. A few people ask
me. Karl Rove speaking to British studies, isn’t that a line? These
are people who haven’t read this excellent book. I’m familiar with it.
And as a consequence of 1898, there were a lot of international responses,
not least were the British. We can pursue this. So I will introduce
Mr. Rove and George Scott. Christian will then introduce the speaker
and we’ll go from there. My pleasure. It’s a really great
pleasure to be in this kind of distinguished company today. And I was
thinking about last night. What am I how how do I introduce Karl Rove? Because he’s so well-known, not
only in the Austin community, but all over the world, really.
And I think the way I’m going to do it is to just
let you know something about him. He and my father, George Christian, and also my mother,
Joanne Christian, were very fond of Karl. And I think they were very close
friends. And I thought what would bring together kind of a sort
of old conservative Democrat who’d been in Texas politics for 30 or some odd years
and and work for governors and for President Johnson, you know, together with a kind of young rising
star in the GOP. Political consulting world who really came
down here to build the Republican Party, which really had not existed
around here since Reconstruction. And Karl, I think in some ways is the
architect, you know, of the two party system in Texas, certainly in my
experience. And I think what brought them together was they both
were voracious and. Ah. Karl is still a voracious reader
of history. And they both looked at things from an historical perspective.
And I think they had a deep mutual regard and respect for each other
based on, you know, how much it meant to them to be
able to kind of bridge their political gap and and really discuss
the future of our country and our state in constructive
boys and found ways certainly to work across
party lines. And I think, you know, one of my dad’s blast,
I think memories was that was what kind of friendship he was able to have with with Karl
and certainly with President Bush. And I will never forget you for that
and appreciate that. And with that, I will introduce Karl Rove.
Thanks, George Scott. There’s a simpler explanation, I loved your man. Oh, man, I loved him.
He knew when I came to Austin, they hunted. Republicans were dogs and
I was the only Republican political consultant in Austin. And in nineteen eighty seven,
your dad was working on a constitutional amendment campaign, having to do with federal
reimbursement of highway funds, being dedicated to highways rather than being stolen by the legislature
for other purposes. And your dad said to Tom
Johnson, who just retired after 52 years as the head of the highway contractors, said to Tom,
we need this a bipartisan effort. We need to get a Republican political consultant. There’s a young one here in Austin.
I think you do a good job. And that’s our friendship began. But I loved your old man, and
I went to pay my respects as he was in his final days to his office and expected to be
there maybe 10 or 15 minutes and left two hours later after laughing harder than I’ve left
almost any other time in my life. Because your dad got off telling stories, particularly about
Lyndon Johnson, and some of you may remember Ed Clark.
So tiny little guy wore those old fashioned collars, had the stick pin,
and your dad told me a story about Johnson and Ed Clark and a group of
Johnson’s cronies went on a campaign trip. I think in 52 and they drove over to CALDWELL,
actually, they drove it over over to someplace near Bryan College Station on the way back. Johnson said, we’re gonna stop.
And CALDWELL. I know a great place. It has the best chili in Texas. So they drove to the wrong
side of town and went of this Dungy dirty little hole in the wall. And Johnson
ordered up around the chili. And all of his aides and lieutenants started to
eat the chili. And it was the god awful hot stuff they had ever tasted in their life. Johnson
was eating it with great relish. And when he finished eating Hizbollah, Chili looked around at his compatriots, all of whom were sweating
and bright faced and struggling to finish their bowls. Chili and Johnson ordered up another round
of bowls of chili for everybody. And Mr. Clark, as you remember, had a high squeaky
voice. Is it? And your dad your dad had a fantastic imitation of Bestor,
Clark said. Lynn. I have traveled the dusty highways of Texas with you.
I have led my tears fall on the faces of dead men. I did not know. I have danced with ugly
women for you. But I’ll be damned if I’m having another bowl of that jelly.
OK. So the triumph of William McKinley
had to tell you. But there’s not much Britain in here. Of course, over the course
of the Gilded Age, one of the big issues is protection. And with Britain being a
the leading free trade country in the world, the Republican Party tended to make
Britain and John Bull a campaign theme.
But it was frankly secondary to the real purpose, which was to attract the Irish vote in the battleground
state of New York. Back in that era, there were some
familiar battleground states. Ohio was a battleground there. That’s why virtually every Republican ticket
had a or Ohio and for president or vise president on it in Indiana.
But the big the big the big bloc of battleground states, the ones that were up for
grabs and each and every election were Connecticut, New Jersey, to a lesser extent, Pennsylvania
and New York, the biggest state in the union. So the Republicans would beat up on
John Bull not only for the value of demonstrated, they were in favor of protecting the
paychecks of American working people, but also in order to attract the Irish vote.
There is the issue of protection becomes a less dominant issue
in the 1896 campaign now because McKinley wants it to be. He wants the entire election to be fought
over it. But he very early on in the campaign loses control of the issue agenda
to a 36 year old punk from Nebraska, failed two term
congressman who is in his own mind thinks he’s gonna be a presidential
candidate, but nobody else thinks he’s going to be a presidential candidate. In fact, he becomes the nominee of the Democratic Party
only after giving a speech that is itself the result of seven accidents,
seven accidents. Bring William Jennings Bryan into the moment to stand up in front of 20000 people
and give the cross of gold speech at the end of a two hour long debate on the currency plank of the Democratic
platform. People are literally bored and leaving when he stands up to speak, but he speaks
and energizes the crowd. And the next day is nominated the Democratic nominee for president,
even though at the time of him speaking, nobody thinks he’s a candidate. In fact, the night before
he speaks, he has dinner and arrest. In downtown Chicago, with his wife and his
close adviser, a Texan named Rosser, who is the superintendent of the state
insane asylum and and there are men
parading up and down in front of the doors of the restaurant. The windows of the restaurant chanting
the names of the front runners. Governor boys of Iowa and
the real front runner, Richard Park Bland of missoura. And Brian leans over and says to his
wife and his close friend. These men don’t know it. But tomorrow night they’ll be chanting
my name. And she says, Well, Mr.
Rosser, do you think. Mr. Mr Bryan has a real chance of winning. And before Rosser
can answer. Brian says basically, take
it to the bank. You can sleep soundly tonight, tomorrow by by this time, the day after tomorrow,
I will be the nominee of the Democratic Party. And literally, Rosser thinks that he’s got another patient for the state and says
there is a minor reference in and I didn’t get to put it to editors. Damn them.
They cut out one of the fun little stories in the book. There is this failed
politician, desperate, ambitious young man. He ran for mayor of
New York City and came in third. And he
is. He’s opposed by the by the Republican machine in New York.
This is an era of great political machines in the Republican machines are led by the easy
boss, Senator Thomas. Call your plan of New York and he hates
this young man. And is God never gonna allow him D.B. slated for office? And
incidentally, the easy boss, just everybody needs to have a nickname in this area. Everybody has a nickname.
His one of his chief lieutenants is the is the blonde boss. Congressman William
J. Larmer is a 34 year old congressman, 32 year old congressman in Illinois
who who controls the Cook County Republican machine with 10000 patronage jobs
at his disposal. Anyway, there there’s this failed politician and he’s desperate to resurrect
his political career. And he decides the only way to do so is to attach himself to a political candidate
who’s gonna get elected president and then accompany him to Washington. And so this young man
supports the Republican frontrunner. Thomas Brackett Reed of Maine, the speaker of the House
who’s about six foot three tall, inches tall, 300 pounds, who looks like a bowling pin with a walrus
mustache painted on it. And the young man works hard on behalf of
his candidate, but his candidate comes up short. And afterwards, he writes a letter
to his sister in which he says, we’ve got a good platform and saying
Lewis and McKinley is a good man, but he is weak. And I worry about him in a
moment of crisis for our country. Two days later, he’s riding one of McKinley’s closest personal friends, saying
we must do everything we can to elect McKinley. And when he gets elected, you must be
the secretary of the treasury, or at least the minister of France. And my ambitions, such as they
are, can go by the wayside, which was his way of saying, I need your help. And he spends the
next five months weaseling his way into the campaign, shows up his could,
taken a vacation. So he shows up at the Chicago headquarters on his way to his vacation and
counsels with the 32 year old campaign manager of the McKinley campaign, a man you’ve never heard
of but should have, and writes letters to all of his friends about what he’s hearing
and what advice he’s giving when Mark Hanna, McKinley’s close personal friend and money raiser,
shows up in New York. He has dinner with him the first night, arranges to have dinner and says, here’s
how you can upload approach. Boss Platt, he doesn’t like you and he doesn’t like me. But here’s how to handle
the man. And you need to handle him because otherwise you’re gonna lose this battleground state.
A friend of his is invited to go on a campaign speaking tour in upstate New York. A U.S. senator.
And he writes his friend and says the young man and says, you need to join me on a campaign swing.
And don’t give me all these excuses. This is really important not knowing that his friend is
desperately looking for a chance to shine on the campaign trail. So the two men go on a five
day speaking tour through upstate New York and.
The U.S. senator doesn’t grab the headlines because he gets up and gives a thoughtful speech about the necessity
of sound protection laws and sound money currency. And here are the deep differences between
the two parties in his colleague. The failed politician gets up and beats the crap out of William Jennings
Bryan, saying the most vicious and nasty and ugly things you can ever imagine. And of course, the newspapers
write him up as the headline at the end of their five day tour. We’re gonna go visit
the major, Major McKinley in Canton, Ohio. And one of their friends, John Hay, writes
a mutual friend, Henry Adams, and says H and T have gone to Canton to bare their tummies
and commit Harry Carey in front of the major. McKinley invited me to join the crowd. But it
did to watch the spectacle. But I didn’t want to join the crowd ruining his lawn.
So the young man goes to Canton, pays his respects to McKinley,
who doesn’t like him. And but something happens in McKinley’s. People say, well, you
go on a speaking tour through Illinois, a battleground state, and Michigan, a battleground
state, and trail William Jennings Bryan during the course of your of his tour there. And do
what you did in upstate New York. So the young man goes to Chicago and gives a speech
in front of twenty three thousand college students. The College Republican Assembly
back then, the college and virtually every college campus was dominated by Republicans. Yale
voted 96 percent for McKinley in the in the student straw poll that year.
In fact, the the Prohibition Party almost got as many votes on the Yale campus
as did the silver Democrats. But going to show that college campuses really have changed, the drunks
would carry the vote today. But it gets up and gives a speech called
called the Age of the demagog and proceeds to kick the holy
crap out of William Jennings Bryan in front of these college kids. But he’s interrupted by a
Brit. There is a fat, fanatical British silver money man
named Morgan Freeman. And it gets up and proceeds to heckle
the Republican speaker during the course of his speech. And afterwards, the speaker writes a letter
to his friend, he says.
Just a line to tell you about my Western trip first and least important as to myself.
I made a success of it and got in good form and spoke to immense audiences who always listened attentively
and sometimes in Chicago, in Detroit were mad with enthusiasm. The only serious
interruption I had was, funnily enough, by Morton Frequent in Chicago. After a little sparring,
I used him up so that he left the hall. Theodore Roosevelt.
So the two men had been friends in Morton, had taken his inheritance,
and bought a bunch of North Dakota cattle land. And, like Roosevelt, lost virtually all of those investment in the
cattle and cattle country during a terrible winter in which the herds on the North Plains were
decimated. So he was a bye medalist and spent the campaign in them in America trying to
encourage the election of William Jennings Bryan. But the but the young man who is his friend,
Theodore Roosevelt, used him up and made him so angry, left the hall. Actually,
the news reports differ, but one Chicago newspaper said it was the police that removed him
from the audience, not himself. Anyway, I don’t know what else you want me to say about this. Maybe Bill
has some questions or you might have some questions. I can give you a hell of a stemwinder on the book. It’s
a damn good read. It’s got sex and violence
and backstabbing and betrayal and really cool nicknames and
twists and turns worthy of a cooked up Hollywood screenwriter. And it’s an important election.
We might have some political science majors here who studied the election. It’s one of the considered
by V.O. Key one. Yep. Have you studied it? Yeah. There we go.
Excellent. Go ahead. I’m curious, though, when during the election
it seems that he didn’t really have a lot to say about or when you asked about it.
Considering my options like that, Cleveland seemed pretty optimistic.
That’s the worst
position. Well, McKinley is chairman, and we can tell
by looking at McKinley’s past, McKinley is twice the chairman of the Resolutions Committee at the Republican
National Convention, and ironically enough, led in part by the son of of
Ulysses S. Grant, Frederick Dent Grant. The Republican Party in the 1870s and 80s
becomes huge enthusiasts of Cuban liberation, a free Cuba. In fact, that the 1880
of other states and then of the of the country, major countries around the world.
And the most prominent place over the podium is given to the flag of a free Cuba.
So my sense is that he was he viewed he was not an imperialist.
He didn’t. He didn’t. He was. He was reelected. In fact, he gives a incredible speech.
I read a lot of his speeches and they’re very formulaic. But there’s one speech in particular that is deeply
spoken from the heart, which is a speech he gives on October 9th to a group of 2000 Confederate
veterans. And he says, if we were ever forced to fight again and God forbid that we shall,
we shall do so under we shall do so as brothers under a common flag. So he
this guy spent four years in war, in the civil war. He begins as a private. He ends as a major.
He survives three. He has three battlefield promotions for unbelievable
valor. He survives two suicide missions. He says many of his friends and comrades
shot and killed. And he isn’t. And he is forever after a gentle soul who wants to avoid
war. So he was not a war monger looking for a confrontation with Cuba. The sense
as it was, is forced upon him. My book doesn’t deal with this as much. But Robert Mary has a wonderful
new biography of McKinley well-worth reading that deals with his. Could you go ahead and say a few more words
about the war in 1898 against Spain and the consequences of our Pacific? Well,
I mean, do you see them today? We take Cuba, we take the Philippines.
We take Puerto Rico. We have previously annexed Hawaii. We give
up Cuba as quickly as possible. The goal was to give up the Philippines
as soon as possible as well. McKinley doesn’t live long enough. My sense is McKinley would have found a way
to give up the Philippines a lot longer, a lot earlier than subsequent presidents did.
But because McKinley’s view is we got plenty to say grace over, we want we want Puerto Rico
because Puerto Rico is important for our for our naval power in the Caribbean and
the windward. Remember, at this point, they’re still thinking a lot about the age of sail
and why Haiti and Puerto Rico were important was because the currents and
the wind brought sailing vessels naturally into the Caribbean close to those two islands. So
to protect our interests and the. Libyan Americans had for 20 or 30 years
thought about having a major coaling station some place in the in the Caribbean
and then and then Hawaii was like the Gibralter of the Pacific.
And there had been an attempt to annex it under Cleveland, which had come to naught.
But McKinley was receptive to it, and the island had been in turmoil for a
number of years because of the disagreement between the those that wanted annexation to the United States
and those that wanted to maintain their independence. Any controversy over taking Guantanamo
in Cuba? Well, Guantanamo comes later after after McKinley because we we
take Cuba and then its subsequent presidents who decide we want to have a major installation on the south
side of Cuba. Was there much of a political controversy over that? We did
not much. I mean, in fact, there’s there’s more. Remember, the South has had
and I’d be interested in Bill’s reaction to this. My theory is the South. I mean, from the early
part of the eighteen hundreds to filibuster’s wanted to take Cuba because they saw Cuba as a natural extension of
the slave power. And so their attitude was, we want Cuba because that will be a fertile place for us to have
sugar plantations, cotton plantations and so forth. So there again was a sort of an inbred attitude
of expansionism. Cuba naturally belongs to America and Cuba ought to be in the American orbit.
But but McKinley was not of that mindset. His mindset was
it ought to be independent, free. Let’s ask Bill Burns to say a few words at this point was on
that subject. I mean, I’d like Karl to address this. You’ve shown the cooperation
amid a certain kind of friction between McKinley and Roosevelt. Did McKinley have any idea
when he offered Roosevelt the position of assistant Navy secretary that he was basically handing
over the Republican Party to this new generation because he’s the last of the civil war officers is
present. They’ve all presidents of all been in commanding positions in civil war until then. And now here’s this.
This guy who was born two years before the beginning of the civil war. So was there a feeling that the
torch is being passed, especially when he is brought onto the ticket in nineteen hundred? Yeah,
my theory is yes, that this is deliberate. One of the I stumbled on to McKinley because I was
interested in Roosevelt. I was interested in how Roosevelt went from 1895 when his political
career is at an end. He’s done. He’s finished. He is he is a young man,
but he is on the outs. He’s lost the mayorship. He has his reputation
is shattered. He’s not going to be slighted by the party. It’s at an end. So how does he end up
in 1897 as the assistant secretary of the Navy? I mentioned
the letter to Bamby Roosevelt’s sister. The letter that he followed with was a letter
to Charles Bellamy. I’m sorry, Bellamy Steuer, who is a congressman from
Cincinnati, a Catholic and a friend of McKinley’s. Very rare to
have a Catholic Republican congressman in the 1880s and 1890s, McKinley is the first Republican
presidential candidate to be endorsed by a member of the Catholic hierarchy. After he takes on the largest
pressure group in America in the 1880s, in the 1890s called the American Protective Association,
which is a Verilli anti-Catholic group, when he runs for reelection, he’s won election.
Ohio is a very competitive state, just like it was just like it is today. He wins election as
governor of Ohio by twenty one thousand votes. And when it goes to run for reelection,
the the AP, which has something like 80 thousand members in Ohio,
tells him that he must fire Catholic prison workers and he refuses. And they and
they oppose his reelection and he wins by eighty thousand votes. So
he’s a modernizer, though, and he sees that the Republican Party, that his generation
is reaching their end and he doesn’t like the generation that immediately followed them. The generation
of the 18, 70s and the early 1880s, which had come to dominance because these were machine
men. These were men who were boodle men. Then graft that he thought that the politics of that
era is was corrupt. So in the 1896 campaign, his campaign
is run by a thirty two year old kid. McKinley meets him in
school in Cincinnati and then lit out for the plains to make his living as a frontier lawyer in Lincoln,
Nebraska. The kid offices in the same small office building as
another young lawyer. In fact, the two men are members of a of a men’s debate club
and the young lawyers a couple years older than four or five years older him. His name is William Jennings Bryan.
And the young kid is a reform minded Republican. And he shows up in McKinley’s office in
Columbus and says, if you run for president, I’m going to be for you. McKinley shows up in Nebraska,
was a battleground state in the fall of 1870 of 1894. And the kid reports
to him that he’s organized Nebraska on his behalf and the Dakotas and is working on some contacts
in Montana. McKinley’s impressed with the kid. So he says to him, says to himself, I want the kid involved.
The kid says, I made some money in a bank deal and some real estate and has decided
he’s gonna leave Lincoln and go to Chicago and become an entrepreneur. His idea is he’s going to buy
gas, utilities and knit them together. Back then, gas utilities served a very small area
and there were a lot of them. And his idea was, I’m going to buy these, knit them together, get economies
of scale and make a bunch of money. And so he moves to Illinois in January of eighteen ninety five.
And in Illinois is going to be the critical battleground in the Republican presidential nomination sweepstakes.
Fact one of McKinley’s lieutenants calls it the Gettysburg of the contest. So what is McKinley
do? He picks the kid who has just moved to Chicago and says, you’re the commander of my campaign
in Illinois. The kid has two lieutenants who are civil war generals
who are 20 or 30 years his his his superiors. And they take they they fall in
love with the kid and take to calling him the general because he’s so well-organized and so meticulous.
And they they’re so respectable is leadership. They become quite fond of him. And he has another lieutenant who’s
a street car conductor and a leader of the young Republicans. And the four of them organize
the state of Illinois and in and in spring of 1896, deal a devastating
blow to the machine, to the blonde boss and his lieutenants
and win the state Republican get mentioned by better than 2 to 1 and end the Republican election sweepstakes
to the nomination sweepstakes. The kid is at this point thirty one years old. And McKinley
says to him, I want you to run my fall campaign. And so Charles G. Dawes goes
to Chicago and runs the fall campaign. When McKinley gets elected,
Dawes has made the Comptroller of the Currency at the age of 32 and commanded the nation’s entire banking
system. He becomes the first director of the very first bureau, the budget under
Warren G. Harding Vise President, the United States under Calvin Coolidge, ambassador to Great
Britain, first head of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, and the second American to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
But when McKinley sees him, he’s a 30 year old kid who’s shown up in his office saying, if you run, I want to
be for McKinley, had an eye for talent. And the reason he goes with with Roosevelt.
Roosevelt writes a letter after he writes a sister, writes that letter to Steuer
and then gets story or more importantly, Mrs. Storya to lobby their close friend William
McKinley on his behalf. He invites them to to Oyster Bay and takes Mrs.
Storya out of Long Island Sound and Roeser around it, pouring out his heart. My career
is at an end. The only way that I can resurrected is if McKinley gives me a Gwynn’s
and gives me a post. But he doesn’t like me, but he loves you. She later wrote that he he rode
like he spoke spasmodically. So she’s scared to death. Azeez Reutter
around Long Island Sound pouring out his heart at the end of the campaign. They go to they go to
McKinley and say, you know, he gave you a good service. He did
what you wanted on the campaign trail. He gave Hannah good advice. He gave you good advice, played a big role
in getting you to get the right message on the monetary question, the currency question, which he did
give him a chance. He doesn’t want to be in the cabinet. He wants a new job that’s never been created. He wants
to be the assistant secretary of Navy. Nobody’s ever had the job. It’s really not that important to resurrect his
career. You owe it to him. He’s a kind of young man you want to want to do. And McKinley says, OK, I’ll give
it to him. But I do not trust your young man, Roosevelt. He’s too pugnacious. But
I think it’s deliberate. I think he is literally going. There is one guy. There is a guy from named Pratt from
from Wisconsin. He is the he is the influence peddler par excellence
in Wisconsin. He represents the railroads and the timber companies. He represents
the big food purchasers of the commodity companies. He literally is
he owns the street car company in Milwaukee. He’s made so much money as a lobbyist.
And at the end of the campaign, he goes to any devotes the entire campaign fall at the spring and fall
to help him. McKinley’s has got a smart nose. He says that guy’s going to win. Attach myself to him.
He spends the entire fall, the entire summer, the entire fall, working full time for McKinley, doing
everything that what could be asked as a member of the Republican Executive Committee at the end of the campaign, he goes
to McKinley and we don’t know what he asked for, but he asked for something in the cabinet and McKinley
passed him over. Why? Because he didn’t want that kind of influence peddler and butler in his cabinet.
And so, yeah, I think it was deliberate. I’d like to ask a question about the international
dimension of all this, especially in 1998, when it comes to a surprise to the
British that the Americans have taken over the Philippines especially and territories
in the Caribbean. But to the British. This is okay for one reason. It
prevents further German expansion in the Pacific. But there’s
another dimension to it, because a few years later, the British and Japanese concluded an
alliance with the Anglo Japanese alliance, the
Americans. This is my question. To what extent were they kind of anticipating that this might lead
into vast, complex international complications? Well, I think I think they knew that, but then I think
they knew that they were in a changing world. I mean, particularly the
foreign policy men, if you will, around McKinley, including Roosevelt as a junior guy.
But they knew the world was changing. This is one of McKinley’s McKinley’s. McKinley is seen as an
arch protectionist, for example. But he is that he is shot in Buffalo in nineteen 01 September
of nineteen one after giving a speech that basically says the world has changed and we must
embrace reciprocity if you lower your tariffs to the sale and importation of American goods in
your country. We should lower our tariffs and obstacles to trade with you
because you realize as the world is changing. So I think particularly since you look, he is the guy,
not Roosevelt. It’s it’s it’s McKinley with long the secretary of Navy
and Roosevelt, the assistant secretary of Navy who begin building the great American white fleet. They begin
building the modern American Navy. And why not? Because he would just felt we need to have a nice navy. He was thinking
in international terms, we live now in a global world. And our our sorry economic success
as a country depends upon our ability to sell things around the world. In order to do that, we must protect our
trade routes and make our influence known. Which is why I think he took away, even though complicated
lives for everybody who had to deal with one of the most pressing questions of trade in the eighteen
take the action and take Puerto Rico, because the question was, what do you do to keep
American influence in in our neighborhood? Michael Brewer
through here among the three speaking Texan.
So I hope you and mine
begin in Havana. Where is the end
of the main the United States
military action aggression, which punctuated
the extended tradition that began with Pogue’s deceptive?
Which leaves the base as politically for the invasion of Mexico.
One could argue, looking at consequences like the other events.
Shaped, didn’t shape but influenced and gave emphasis
to an American aptitude which also manifest itself in the 20th century.
In the 21st century, the Tonkin Gulf resolution and also
the deception and misrepresentations that led us to invade
Iraq. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. These events. Well, first of
all. First of all, let’s let the act of deception. You said that you
said that once already. So I’ve got him. So first of all, I’d say that to Trent. It goes back
further than that, because I’m I’m doing some work on a third book and
I’m looking at the Louisiana Purchase. One of the reasons we get Louisiana is because we threatened the French
that if you don’t sell it to us, we may just take it. In fact,
in fact, literally the on the on the 10th of April, 18 0 3,
Napoleon meets with his navy, his Navy secretary and his treasury secretary
and says, should should we take possession Louisiana or give it up? Because he has just gotten
word of a debate in Congress in which Senator Ross of Pennsylvania has basically said
let’s let’s here’s a resolution authorizing the president, take fifty thousand people and fifty thousand
volunteers and mobilize them. And he’s also gotten word from the
French charge d’affaires in in in Washington that that
there’s that by the time that they take possession of Louisiana, it may actually be in the hands of men
from Kentucky. So this this is this America is an expansionist
country. And so, yeah, there’ve been some moments now. I will take umbrage
at one thing. I do not think it was appropriate for you to launch such a vicious personal attack
on Senator Ted Kennedy. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Senator John Kerry,
Senator Reid of Nevada, and others who voted in favor of the authorization
for the use of force after looking at the intelligence and concluding that Saddam Hussein had weapons
of mass destruction. You were not guilty of deception. They made a good faith effort to
look at the same intelligence that President George W. Bush looked at. And they came to the same conclusion.
You may remember, for example, Senator Kennedy giving a speech at Georgetown University saying, of
course, I’ve looked at intelligence and Saddam has WMD, but I believe we ought to use diplomacy,
not force, in order to remove it. You may remember the speech given by John Kerry in which he used
language regarding the presence of nuclear materials and nuclear weapons programs
in Iraq. That was far beyond anything that the Bush administration said. You may remember the speech given
by Al Gore at the Commonwealth Club in the fall of 90 of 2002,
saying that Saddam had WMD and represented a serious threat biological, chemical and nuclear
weapons that represented a threat to the stability of the region and unite in the interests of the United States. So
I would not accuse these people of making a good faith effort to look at the existing intelligence and saying that they were
guilty of deception and. Through that intelligence. And you will know.
No, it wasn’t. No, it wasn’t. Go read. Go read, go read, if you will,
the read the report. Good. Well, finish. People that you referred to
did not read. Well then, then that’s good. That’s really condemning them.
Well, yes, that’s really condemning him. Speaking as a Democrat. The way you speak
as we speak. So am I. Sir, I served my country for seven
years. So don’t give me that line. We’re here to talk about McKinley. If you won’t have a political
argument and rehash Iraq. You and I can stay here afterwards and spend hours talking about it. But
but you’ve made your point. You think it was deception and misrepresentation? I say that’s absolute bunk.
A-Day. Vineberg. Nice save.
I ask you to compare maternally with his predecessor, Cleveland.
I have the impression from reading Philip’s book about
McKinley that if you had to oversimplify and put them on a
spectrum from left to right, that McKinley would be to the left of Cleveland.
Could you comment on that? Well, that’s not uncommon during the Gilded Age for the for the Republican to be,
in our modern terms to the left of a Democrat, because the Democratic Party
during the Gilded Age is the party of limited government, low taxes, free trade.
So the boats and well. And he’s in the minority of the Democratic Party.
But by the end of his term, this is the one this we’re going through a populist moment where the Democratic
Party is basically changed from being the hard money party of Jackson
to being a soft money party. And this happens it happens during Cleveland in large part because
of the of of the crisis on the plains and the economic disruption the
country goes through. But yeah, look, things didn’t think about this. For example, McKinley is an
ardent proponent in the 1880s of federal protections for black rights in the South, for civil
rights in the South. He’s a he is a protectionist. He’s in favor of funding the government
not by high taxes, but by high tariffs. And when do we get to the
end? When we get to 1892 and 1888. Grover
Cleveland is a hard money man. Realistically, until the 1896
campaign, McKinley has a very mixed record on currency. He comes from a very competitive
state with a lot of soft money, inflationary views going back to the civil war. And so he
is like he votes and he votes for soft money measures
throughout the 1870s and 80s. Though he is fundamentally you know, he is instinct is
I got to do politically cover my flank. I’m in a district that is highly competitive
and where the opinion is split. But when push comes to shove, he’s a hard
money man. What one other thing, move quickly? Well, I think the biggest
difference between the two men, it is their political skills.
Cleveland, there’s a brittleness to him. There’s a if you’re really into the era, read,
read the letter, read his letters. Alan Evans did did a collection of his extensive pleasure.
He is look, this guy is. Thank God they didn’t have Twitter back then because he is raging in private
in the White House about being stabbed in the back by his fellow Democrats. And he’s angry.
McKinley is a genial figure. Fact Reid once complained, he said, My enemies
always feel compelled to apologize to William before they call him names. And
McKinley was an adroit manager of people. And he had a he had a
very affable personality, but smart as hell and knew how to maneuver people. And
Cleveland, bless his soul. Twice elected president nonconsecutive terms
was not that was not that able a politician.
The bill will be back there next Friday,
said Matthew. I thought that was really
amusing. Graduate. You know, I don’t know much about
it. You think he sells cars to
Puzzled by McKinley, he’s known for the McKinley tariff, as you said, a hybrid Texas man.
And then with sugar, he had this khabab meat, fat and sugar for a long time. So this
aside, we know that it was a huge supporter of McKinley. But there’s also the white issue, as
can say a little bit more about what explains this kind of carve out an exception that sugar was well oiled
on the day to realize Meserve was trained well. Well. Remember, though, McKinley is
is not the highest protectionist around. He believes in relatively high
tariffs in order to protect that, what they call the home market. American producers
and American working people. But he votes against measures that he thinks are too punitive.
His his mentor is Pig Iron Kelly William Kelly, the chairman of the House Ways and Means
Committee. When he comes into Congress and pig iron takes a a tariff
bill and blows it up and McKinley votes against it.
Now what? Why, sugar? Because McKinley’s view was we shouldn’t have tariffs
on things that we don’t produce or make in this country. And second of all,
we ought not to have tariffs on things that the ordinary working man or working woman depend upon. So he was
put for putting coffee and sugar and several other items like that on what was called
the free list. So there’d be no tariff paid on it. He has a much more nuanced view.
I’m a free trader. So, I mean, any protection sounds sort of goofy to me. But
but he has a very nuanced view. He he would preside over these committee hearings. And when he thought that
that industries were asking for more than they deserved to have, he say he would say, I’m not interested
in what you want to have. I’m interested in what you and what the whole market must have.
So he is a he’s got a nuanced view on it, which I think made him open to the idea of
of we’re a global economy and reciprocity when he comes into politics.
The advocate for reciprocity is James G. Blaine, the monumental liar from the state of Maine. He’s the
he’s the guy who sort of is considered by Republican high tariff men as being as being untrustworthy
because he’s he’s in favor of reciprocity starting in the hemisphere
here. And then David Edwards and then Tom Hatfield
talked about McKinley in terms of continuity and change. It seems to be that
there’s any discernible tipping point between the two and certainly a generational shift. Yeah,
yeah, it’s a shift because of the events that
I wanted to know. What sort of 1981?
Well, we wouldn’t have been as heavily entertained
for the next seven years. But Mary makes a very good case,
I think, in his new book that the seeds of what we attribute to Roosevelt
trust busting, for example, laws to protect
food and so forth. Those have those start to happen under McKinley because again, McKinley is a reformer.
So remember, when McKinley dies, it’s hard for us to get this today because he’s an obscure
the 25th president United States. Who knows who he is when he dies. It is a moment
of national grief like the country has not seen since since Lincoln.
And we’ll not see again until Kennedy, because remember, he comes into office and the country is in
a deep depression. And almost immediately springs out of the depression. So when he runs for reelection
in nineteen hundred, he wins reelection by the largest number since Ulysses
S. Grant’s reelection in 1872 against the hapless
Greeley. And the country is at peace and prosperity and we’ve won
this short and popular war. And McKinley is a unifying force.
And so when he is shot in by a terrorist, incidentally, he was shot by an anarchist.
And when he when his body is conveyed to Washington, D.C., five hundred thousand
people lined the railroad tracks from Buffalo to Washington. When when the station
when the train comes into the station in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, two to to re water
there. Thirty thousand people there jammed into in and around the station. So many people, the governor
of Pennsylvania cannot force his way through the crowd in order to pay his respects to Mrs. McKinley. And when
the train begins pulling out of the station, the entire crowd begins spontaneously singing patriotic
songs and hymns. He rolls into the buffalo. He rose and rolls into the Baltimore
train station. And for the last mile or two into the train station, people have
heaped floral tributes on the railroad tracks so that by the time the train pulls
into, the station is literally covered with flowers. A reporter writes, that is
when they pull out of Baltimore, the sun is setting any any. And he says that all along the tracks
from Baltimore to Washington, the entire way is lit by bonfires by the
farmers, most of them black, who are standing there soundlessly as the
train comes by. There are so many people who want to see him lie in state
in Washington that literally they extend the hours. But even then, when he is taken to the station,
his body is taken to the station, returned again. There are something like twenty or thirty thousand people still standing in line.
And the moment he’s late, he is taken home in an open car glass
car. So you can see the the coffin. And as he and 8E,
he’s taken overnight and literally, the reporters talk about how they pass
smelter and mine front and factory all along the way back to Kent,
Ohio. And all of the men, the working men are standing there saluting their fallen chief.
He’s conveyed to the to the receiving vault in the Canton Cemetery
in the schoolchildren of Nashville, Tennessee, have have raised enough money to send a
train car load of sweetpea flowers to strew on the path into the into
the into the cemetery. So you have this picture of grizzled civil war veterans openly weeping
and stopping to pick up a a flower to put it into their into their lapel. The entire cabinet
is there. And the receiving vault is in front of a small ridge about 50
feet tall and about 400 or 500 yards long, and the entire ridge is
covered with floral tributes. The czar of Russia and the president of Chile, but most
of them are from like the miners of Lackawanna County. Sloot, our chief.
You know, the Croatian American, you know, steel
society. I mean, it is just in me. I’ve got pictures of these. And you just can’t believe
how personal this all is. There’s one man who’s standing apart from the cabinet.
Because the cabinet, many of them are openly weeping, but Theodore Roosevelt doesn’t want to sit or stand
with the cabinet because he’s afraid his emotions will be overcome. His first pledges I will retain
the Cabinet and fulfill the policies of William McKinley.
I remember reading that in Kennedy’s election worker
a day before the election workers. Lots of places found slips
in their pay envelope saying don’t bother to report for work unless
McKinley was there. There were not widespread, but there were very
clear statements by. But look, there’s there was a real fear among the working among among business
owners that suddenly they would be anarchy. I mean, remember,
you take these two campaigns. One is a unified McKinley says we’re all in this together.
The prosperity of the country depends upon labor and capital together. And he refused to
pit them against each other. Brian is running around the country in something the country has never seen
this of. He runs the first. He looks like a modern candidate. Well, he’s doing it on the train rather
than flying around. But he is giving some days 12 and 13 speeches.
And they are nasty. You know, he excoriates the bloodsuckers
of Wall Street, a Lombard Street and the money changers of the Rothschilds.
And you know anybody? I mean, he stands up in Lincoln, Nebraska.
At the train station, he’s on his way to New York City to give a speech at Madison Square Garden to accept
formally the Democratic nomination. And he says, I go into the enemy’s country.
The entire campaign is still down. In that one phrase, it’s us versus them.
And he is constantly harping about how it’s those that don’t have versus
those that have. And as a result, you had business people who literally feared and remember,
until September, it looks like he’s going to win. You have you have people who basically are
saying we lose this election. I’m going to take what I got and get the heck out of here, you know?
You know, hole up as best I can and try and survive. Tom Hatfield,
I admit I took the quiz after the the Normandy trip with Hatfield and
I think I passed. But he’s never given me my paper back.
Yes, I did. Because of your column in review. Well, that’s right.
I did that. Yes, you did. I never got in there. Well,
as I said, those them got versus those who don’t know who you
are. I’m captivated by how captivated you are by
this area, given how you are so identified
with America, with the politics of our country in the early 21st century.
What was it that captured your imagination so much about the late 19th century?
Well, I say there is a stupid story behind that. I
was teaching at the. I was teaching at the LBJ School. And
the only Republican member of the family and I had a half, which is true.
And I had I was teaching an undergraduate class and a joint appointment with the government department in the journalism
department, and it had done so for a couple of years. And the head of the government department, Jim
Fishkin, said, hey, you’re 40 something. We’ll put you in the p._h._d
program and fast track you because you got a lot of practical experience and we’ll do this
for you. There’s only one minor thing, which is you’ve got to get your B.A. first.
So. So I took the astronomy course.
I took my dad was a geologist, so I took the geology thing and I took the math course.
But I had to demonstrate and fulfill the upper division writing requirement. And after running
a public affairs business for 18 years, there was no evidence whatsoever that I could string together
two sentences. Now, I was a little bit busy cause this is nineteen ninety six and
sort of it’s becoming clear that Bush might if we don’t win the election, which he doesn’t look like we will,
that there might be something going on in the future. So I’m getting a little busy at this point. So I look in the course catalog
to find out is there something that I can do without having to take a class? And I’m looking through the
history and it was at 350 a seminar on historical source writing. Yeah,
three feet three or 3:51 a way. I had no idea. This has never granted, but it sure sounded good. Find
it. Professor, do some research in the original source material, write a paper, get three hours
checklist for upper division writing requirement. So I walk into the department not knowing this is never
done and the woman behind the desk sort of looks at me suspiciously and I say,
here’s what I’m here to do. And she says, Well, you have to get a professor to agree to take you on. And so
I said, Well, who’s here? And she said, Well, there’s only one professor
here right now. Lewis Gould. I said, Well, can I see him? And she said,
let me see. So she goes and talks to Gould, who had sort of vague knowledge of who I was. So he
sort of intrigues, says, what do you want? What are you interested in writing? But I said, I’m interested in theater. Roseville, 1895.
How does this guy pull it off? Little do I know Gould is a leading historian of the Gilded Age.
This is this is like his like his alley. So he says, I’ll take you on.
He says, but you got to do one thing. You’ve gotta read the McKinley papers because history gets McKinley
wrong. So I’m investigating Theodore Roosevelt, but I’m reading the McKinley
papers. And by God, there is an amazingly smart operator right there, adroit.
Different, unusual. And now I can. You know, I sort of fell in love with him
and. But all because I wanted to get the upper division writing requirement, which
I did get, incidentally, but now without the normal U.T. So
at the end of the semester, I didn’t have it done because I was a little occupied in the fall of 90 of 96.
So Gould says, don’t worry. Turn it into the spring. So I turn it in the spring, by which time
it has now been removed from the catalog. So I’m like, [INAUDIBLE]. I got three
hours, but I didn’t fulfill the upper division ready requirement. So the next fall
they put it back in the catalog. So I go to the undergraduate student advising office and
say, I did this. Can I please get the checkmark? No, no. You have to take it over again.
This guy knew who I was. He was very pointed in his comments about who I was.
So he wasn’t going to give me any. So I went back and did it again and did
a seminar, a story of sorts. Right. I am the world’s leading expert on the 1940
Willkie presidential campaign for the convention. Convention plans. So right
here, I’d be happy to give you all of that, too. But it took me two times to
get to get the upper division writing requirement. Fortunately, you could take 3:51 twice. Yeah.
It’s your opinion at both. As a student of the Gilded Age and as a modern strategist,
what do you people compared our own age to the first Gilded Age? And as you see
revelations about Facebook, you see that groundswell of
movement against concentrated forms of economic power, particularly in Asia.
And I guess my question to you is a modern political strategist is seen that most of that rhetoric is
from the left side of the Democratic Party. Is there a middle ground that
involves much to see? Middle ground? Yeah, well,
not to get this. Now we’re getting out into wacky ville. We’re going through a populist moment,
just like they were going through a populist moment back then. But populism is not a
populism is more a method of of acting, that it is a concrete
philosophy. And there is a both there economic. There is a left
form of populism and a right form of populism, both of whom share something in common. And that is that the
relationship between the state and the individual has gotten seriously warped and needs to be revisited.
And the economic populism of the left is that the little man is getting screwed. The big man’s get it all.
And you’ve got to redo the relationship between the state and the individual in order to let the little man get his fair share.
But there’s also a cultural form of populism, which is to say things are
changing so fast that the things that you hold dear and true, the values that you hold
are are being just are being attacked or even disappearing. And we saw that
in the 2016 presidential campaign where clearly Trump
was making an appeal towards the forgotten man, towards the values, your values, respect
for law and order, respect for the military, respect for law enforcement, respect for hard work. These
things were being undervalued. What’s interesting is in 1896, we see in Bryan’s
campaign a healthy dose of that cultural populism in the form
of agrarianism. He is he is opposed to the modern to the modern industrial
economy. In fact, when he gives his famous cross a gold speech, this pops out.
But there’s a cultural element to his populism in in
in it as well as economic. Well, let me right here.
Give me just a second here. He identified free silver
as rural and small town America, saying the populated east favorite gold, but those great cities
rest upon these broad and fertile plains burned down your cities and leave our farms
and your cities will spring up again as if by magic, but destroy our farms and the grass will grow
in the streets of every city in the country. So there’s a cultural populism that’s evident in 1896
as well. We’ve come to the end of the hour. Could we have a couple of concluding questions?
Presence, he was doing something along the lines of why do you think he’s so
culturally for? And, you
know, nobody can compete on this for attention like Theodore. He needed it. He wanted
it. He got it. McKinley isn’t that kind of a person. Think about this.
He is recommended for the Congressional Medal of Honor and refuses to have the application
press. I was only doing my duty. He’s a very modest
person and a modest personality, but it made him a very capable leader. He is enormously
respected when he is in Congress and achieves things that were not thought to be
achievable by dint of strategy and personal demeanor and so forth. But
look who can who can stand on that stage and not be outshined by Theodore Roosevelt.
And remember, when we win the 20 years or 30 years after he died, the progressive historians
dominated the 1920s and 30s when it came to writing history. And their goal was the
you know, they were captivated by the bombastic, pugilistic Mr. Roosevelt.
McKinley was, you know. Not as hot in
that recent biography of McCain.
You only want to be called major. You said it by the title, he said.
The other titles were thrust on him, but he earned it. Yeah, I said, I don’t know about those others, but I know I
earned that one. And he did. Enters the war as a private 18 years old. He
and the men and men of the PLO, the teenagers of the Polan, Ohio militia show up at Camp Jackson
outside of Columbus in April of 1861 and are told, boys, we’ve
got to do. We got the Vologda volunteer. Great. I mean, the link is called over. I think a seventy
five thousand volunteers are our quota of volunteers has been filled. You have two
choices. Go home or sign up for three years or the duration,
whichever is longer and almost to a man. The teenagers of the of
the polar militia joined up. McKinley gets his first battlefield
promotion on the bloodiest day of the Civil War, the Battle of Antietam. A very meticulous,
well organized guy with a lot of integrity. So he’s made a commissary, sergeant. So he is comfortably behind
the front lines when at 2 a.m. the 23rd, Ohio goes into battle and with orders to take
the Burnside Bridge. Some of your civil war buffs may remember the great Stone Bridge.
He’s watching comfortably behind the lines when they go into battle at 2 p.m., they finally
taken the bridge, which were terrific casualties and are now sheltered underneath a bluff from the
Confederate troops. And McKinley McKinley’s worried about his comrades because they have not had anything to eat or drink
since the night before. So he finds a wagon, gets a involved it gets a straggler
to help him load tins of coffee and boiled meat, whatever that is, and hardtack
and fills up the wagon and begins riding towards the front lines through a wooded area. And Officer comics’
comes upon him and says, What are you doing? He says, I’m going to replant supply the men of the 23rd. The officer says,
no, you’re not. He said, in order to do that, you’ll have to ride across five hundred yards of open
field. And the only thing in that open field are dead men. Turn the wagon around.
McKinley says, I will, but I need to go forward a little bit further because it’s not wide enough for me to turn the wagon around.
Satisfied the officer rides off. McKinley has no intention to turn around, rides further to the front
lines, comes to the edge of the force. An officer with several of his aides comes rattling up
and the same conversation takes place. And he orders McKinley directly. Turn around and go back.
Do not proceed any further. McKinley Wright waits until he rides off, and when he does whips
the mules or horses. There’s a big debate on whether it’s horses or mules. I’m a horse man, but
whips the mules, comes roaring out of the tree line and the Confederates can’t believe it.
Who is the idiot in the wagon rolling across five hundred yards of open turf and they open up
the entire ridge line, opens up artillery. Musket, fire. Bullets are flying.
A cannon shell takes off the back of the wagon. But somehow or another McKinley makes it through this
firestorm, rolls across the bridge and is a close friend and later is a tent mate.
Russell Hastings. Later, a general, said the men of the twenty third stood as one and cheered,
and McKinley makes his way through the crowd, giving out coffee. One one man says to him,
God bless you, lad, when he gets probably the last cup of coffee you had on this earth. And McKinley says
it was the greatest thanks you could ever receive. He’s made a lieutenant, second lieutenant as a result of this.
At the battle occurrence town in 1864, he’s turned into a bright young aide to
the brigade commander. And early in the morning, Jubal, early troops break out of the trees
in a surprise attack on the union left and begin to crumple the front line of the union left. And the brigade
commander orders the five regiments under his control to withdraw and before it’s too late. He wants to get him out
of there while he could still retreat in good order. And the word gets to three to four
of the units. But it doesn’t get to the 13th. West Virginia on the extreme right of the union line.
And they’re in an orchard. They can’t see the advancing confederates. They’re bout ready to be cut off and shot to
pieces. And the brigade commander doesn’t want know what to do. He looks around spots. McKinley says, ride
to the men of the 13th and get them out of there. This requires as the union line is collapsing,
for McKinley to ride in on an active battlefield in front of the union line ever closer to the Confederates
in order to get to the 13th. Hastings said We thought it was a suicide
mission and they watched as he mounted his horse and began to ride. And the battlefield is like
a battlefield, and they are waiting for him to fall and
a shell goes off right next to his horse. Big blast. And Hastings
said, we thought he was gone, but he wrote later, out of the crowd of gray smoke came the small brown
horse with the erect horseman. Some air, another McKinley makes it through to the 13th West Virginia. The commander
of the 13th, West Virginia. Sort of startled that this is all happening, he says. Can we at least give him a round?
They form up, walk out of the orchard, and lay a barrage into
the advancing confederates, decimating their ranks and retire in good order. McKinley rides behind the union lines,
walks into his brigade commander’s tent. The brigade commander turns around, takes one look at him, turns white.
And Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes says, My God, I never expected to see you in this life
again. The twenty third Ohio had two future presidents and one future Supreme Court justice
in its ranks.