BRIAN LAMB, HOST: James Chace, author of "1912," I want to read a quote from your book from Woodrow Wilson, after Versailles, after World War I. "If I didn`t feel that I was a personal instrument of God, I couldn`t carry on." Sound at all like today?
JAMES CHACE, AUTHOR, "1912: WILSON, ROOSEVELT, TAFT AND DEBS -- THE ELECTION THAT CHANGED THE COUNTRY:" It sounds very much like today. In fact, I think what we`re seeing in the Bush administration, actually, is a -- what I would call neo-Wilsonianism, a latter-day Wilsonianism, in which the president, I think, also feels very much that he is doing what is -- it is his destiny that God has given him to fulfill, which is very similar to what Woodrow Wilson believed at Versailles.
LAMB: So is the Bush administration Wilsonian all through? And what does that mean?
CHACE: Well, it`s -- I think it`s certainly true in the White House and among the people around the president, known as the neoconservatives. They have a very strong belief that you should impose democracy in other parts of the world, which is very much a Wilsonian view. This time, however, it`s a military imposition of democracy, and it`s very questionable whether that would work, it seems to me.
LAMB: If Woodrow Wilson was here today, what party would he be in?
CHACE: That`s a good question. I think, probably, he might very well be in the Republican Party, in that sense, although his domestic policy was very different from the Republican Party today, which is basically a conservative party, and the conservative wing of the party very much has power. So Wilson would have to straddle, I guess, is what we say nowadays. He`d have to straddle.
LAMB: Now, if Theodore Roosevelt, anther subject in your book, was here today, what party would he be in?
CHACE: He`d be John McCain, basically. And McCain is a tremendous admirer of Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt was a -- again, very radical, domestic policy, quite amazingly so. His platform in 1912 was probably the most radical platform perhaps any major candidate for a major political party has ever run on. He was not only for having a graduated income tax and to have inheritance tax, but also to have women`s suffrage, which was not popular among politicians at that time, and even a national -- kind of national health care policy. It was quite an amazingly a radical platform, Wilson (SIC) was.
LAMB: Who was for the idea back then of electing presidents -- I mean, senators directly?
CHACE: Well, the Wilson administration -- the first Wilson administration, the election of senators directly rather than by the legislatures was passed. You see, what`s interesting is that in 1912, the spirit of reform was so strong in the United States that the Progressive Party, which was then Theodore Roosevelt`s, after he split the Republican Party to form his own party -- Roosevelt and Wilson had a -- were very, very strong reformers, both of them.
Wilson came rather late to reform, and someone said he was rather opportunistic, but nonetheless, it was reform. And in his first administration, Wilson passed a tremendous amounts of liberal legislation, some of the things I just mentioned. Also, however, the Federal Reserve Bank, which was a very important act, the Federal Reserve Act because up to that point, private bankers, notably J.P. Morgan, had really run the monetary policy of the United States, a private banker. And that changed dramatically, the way monetary policy should be run in this country, so you could smooth out those ups and downs of monetary policy by intervention by the Federal Reserve, rather than by a private banker bailing out the country, which, as I say, J.P. Morgan did very effectively in 1907.
LAMB: If Eugene Debs, another subject in your book, was here today, what party would he be in? Who would he be?
CHACE: Well, Gene Debs would not have a party he`d be very comfortable in. Some people might have suggest he`d be sort of a Ralph Nader, but I -- but again, the strong thing about Debs was his real strong belief in unionism. He`d be on the left wing, I think, of the Democratic Party today, I would think, the left wing of the Democratic Party.
LAMB: President William Howard Taft, your fourth subject.
CHACE: William Howard Taft was a moderate conservative. He wasn`t -- he wasn`t like the more extreme conservatives today in the Republican Party, who tend to be very moralistic, for example, among other things, and wanting to very much -- oftentimes it seems to be to turn back the clock to a pre-New Deal period. Taft was a moderate conservative. He believed that you should control big business when it was out of hand by judicial means. In other words, he didn`t like to have a lot of legislation.
But yet nonetheless, when he was president, he brought more anti-trust suits than his predecessor, Theodore Roosevelt, but always based on the notion that they were doing something illegal. In other words, he was a legal -- very much of a legalist. He always wanted to be a Supreme Court Justice. And in fact, in 1921, he became a Supreme Court Justice, which was what he always wanted to be and was very happy in that role.
LAMB: Which book is this for you? How many?
CHACE: I can`t remember. I think eight or nine, I guess.
LAMB: What was the last one?
CHACE: Last was a biography of Dean Acheson.
LAMB: How did that do?
CHACE: It did very -- it did -- I think it did quite well, as a matter of fact.
LAMB: And why "1912"? What -- do you remember when you got interested in this election?
CHACE: I got interested in it for backwards reasons. I spent my whole life, pretty much, writing about foreign policy, and most of the jobs I`ve held have been in the foreign policy field. At one point, I was managing editor of "Foreign Affairs" magazine, et cetera. And what began to interest me where the "what if`s" of history. What if Theodore Roosevelt had been elected president in 1912?
And then later on, I began to find out even more about it and saw that he might have been elected in 1916, and that he would have been elected in 1920, had he lived. Three things happened. In 1912, his chosen heir, William Howard Taft, who was a good friend of his and was a kind of lieutenant -- Taft was always a better lieutenant than a captain, in that sense. Roosevelt put him in, in 1908, after he finished his two terms as president. I mean, he was his anointed heir. And he expected that Taft would carry out his policies, which were reformist policies, not as extreme as he was in 1912, but still a reformist president.
Taft probably wanted to do that, but Taft was not a good politician and he didn`t know how to manage the arch-conservatives of the Republican Party, then under the control of Senator Nelson Aldridge of Rhode Island, who was considered to be the manager of the United States. What happened, in short, though, was that Roosevelt, feeling that he -- that Taft had betrayed his policies, decided to run against him for the Republican nomination. It was the very beginning of a primary system in this country, direct primaries, and Roosevelt ran in the primaries and got actually more delegates coming to the convention than William Howard Taft. But the machinery of the Republican Party disqualified many of Theodore Roosevelt`s -- 80 of Theodore Roosevelt`s delegates and basically handed the nomination to William Howard Taft.
So Roosevelt joined a new party and mobilized it, called the Progressive Party. Now, had Roosevelt won the Republican nomination and not formed a third party, he would almost surely have become president of the United States. He was enormously popular, and the United States was basically Republican, a majority of Republican, I`d say. But also, there was a spirit of reform in the air.
Now, had he become president in 1912 -- this is the "what if" of history that interested me -- it is almost very likely that the United States might have entered World War I in 1915, after the sinking of the steamship Lusitania, when a number of Americans lost their lives when it was sunk by the German submarines during World War I. Roosevelt would have liked to bring us into the war on the allies` side. Had that happened, the war probably would have been over a good deal earlier because the weight of the United States was decisive in 1918, and I think it would have been decisive earlier.
Now, he had two more shots at being president, ironically. Had he not run in 1912, supported Taft, even quietly and reluctantly, he almost surely would have gotten the nomination in 1916, at the end of Wilson`s first term, because the man who did get it, a man called Charles Evans Hughes, who had been governor of New York and Supreme Court Justice, all but won the election in 1916. In fact, when President Woodrow Wilson went to bed the night -- election night, he thought he was beaten and woke up the next morning to find that California trends came in and gave it to him, and therefore he edged out Charles Evans Hughes.
Finally -- and this I found perhaps most interesting of all -- Roosevelt, having split the Republican Party, managed to repair his relationship with it. He got rid of the Progressives, repaired relationship by campaigning for Charles Evans Hughes, and then later on, when things had started going less well for Wilson, he was a very strong critic of Woodrow Wilson`s policies in the latter part of the First World War -- almost all historians agree today that Theodore Roosevelt would have gotten the nomination in 1920, and in which case, he almost surely would have won. He died at the relatively early age of 60 years old in 1919.
Had Theodore Roosevelt become president in 1920, a number of things would have happened which might have changed the course of the 20th century. First of all, we would have had a League of Nations, which Wilson espoused, but which Roosevelt was not opposed to, except that it would have been a League of Nations with the reservations that Roosevelt`s good friend, Henry Cabot Lodge, the chairman of the -- Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wanted, which was basically very minor reservations, saying that the United States Congress should have the right to declare war, just asserting the power of the Congress. It would have passed with Roosevelt.
Then Roosevelt would have given the French guarantee to France and Britain, something which Wilson again had offered, but the Versailles treaty was voted down because Wilson would not compromise on these minor reservations. At one point, he said, The Senate must take its medicine, not a good way to get something passed by the United States Senate. So that means you might have had a League of Nations, a military (UNINTELLIGIBLE) France, and that might have actually prevented the Second World War.
LAMB: Let me ask you some more about these individuals. Who -- I know that Eugene Debs died at age 70, when he was -- in 1926. Who lived the longest of the four men?
CHACE: I think it was Taft. I`m not absolutely positive. I think it was Taft.
LAMB: And how long did Woodrow Wilson live?
CHACE: He lived to about 1924. I think it was 1924 when he died.
LAMB: Let me ask you about health.
LAMB: William Howard Taft, you say at one point, was how large?
CHACE: He was about 350 pounds. And there`s a -- and of course, you can`t get away, when you think about Taft, about his weight -- there`s two rather funny stories about Taft and the weight. One is, he had to once be pried out of a bathtub, literally. They had to make a special bathtub for him. And secondly, when he was serving under Theodore Roosevelt as governor general of the Philippines, he sent back a cable to the then secretary of state saying, Rode horseback for 25 miles up in the hills. Never felt better. And the secretary of state, then Elihu Root, sent back a brief cable to Taft in the Philippines, saying, How is the horse? So that was a very difficult thing with Taft. He couldn`t get the weight down.
LAMB: How was his health, even though he was heavy?
CHACE: Not bad. Despite that enormous weight, not bad at all.
LAMB: But you talk about his wife`s health.
CHACE: Yes, his wife`s health was another matter. And it`s a sad story in many ways. Mrs. Taft, first of all, was the person who most wanted William Howard Taft to be president. He, as I say, was a reluctant president. He didn`t want to be president. But his -- he wanted to go to the Supreme Court, and twice Theodore Roosevelt offered it to him when Roosevelt was president, and twice Taft turned it down, mainly because of his wife`s pressure. His wife thought he should become president. She didn`t like the Roosevelts. I think she was rather jealous of them, actually.
So finally, of course, she gets her wish. In 1908, he`s elected president, and 1909, she`s back -- she`s in the White House. She`s going to redecorate it. She`s going to give receptions. She`s going to -- it`s going to be her White House and her tone. Only a few months after Taft is in the White House, Mrs. Taft suffered a severe stroke. She could never really be the hostess that she wanted to be again. She did recover from the stroke. I mean, she was able to talk and carry on things, but she never had that -- the full force ever again. So it was a sad business for her.
LAMB: Her name?
CHACE: Helen Taft.
LAMB: I want to read the opening paragraph of chapter six. "Just before an early dinner at the White House, the president was handed a note from the Associated Press reporting Roosevelt`s letter to the governor saying that he would accept the nomination, if offered. Taft read the news without comment and then passed the piece of paper to others. No one spoke as they sat down to the table, until Mrs. Taft broke the silence. `I told you so four years ago, and you would not believe me.` The president laughed." Quote, "I know you did, my dear, and I think you are perfectly happy now. You would have preferred the colonel to come out against me than to have been wrong yourself."
What`s that all about?
CHACE: Well, Taft was -- maybe henpecked is the wrong word -- but she was -- his wife was a bossy woman, wasn`t an easy woman. Taft was very decent to her, and I have no sense that he had an affair, for example, or anything like that, but he was certainly -- had a tough time with her. And I think he saw -- she would really rather have been right than anything else. And for Taft, actually, it was exactly the opposite of what he wanted. He was a very jovial, decent man. As someone once said of Taft, he was a jovial man surrounded by men who knew exactly what they wanted. And he couldn`t really handle the conservative wing of the party.
LAMB: Back to health. Woodrow Wilson -- you list three strokes before the big one, 1896, 1904, 1906 -- and you say that was the grave one -- and then a massive stroke September the 18th, 1919. He`d been president and been re-elected.
LAMB: How much did the public know in 1912 when they went to the polls that he had had three strokes?
CHACE: I don`t think they knew it at all. I don`t think they knew it at all. There`s no evidence they would. And indeed, what`s shocking is that the massive stroke that he had when he was campaigning in the West in 1919 in favor of his Versailles treaty and his League of Nations -- the public was not informed what had happened. He was brought back on the train from Colorado and into Union Station here in Washington and then brought to the White House, and then in the bedroom, attended by his personal physician, a man called Dr. Cary Grayson (ph), and Mrs. Wilson, the second Mrs. Wilson, by the way. His first wife had died and he remarried.
And then a really extraordinary thing happened in this country. Here was the president in a bedroom, paralyzed on his left side, hardly able to speak. He did get somewhat better as time passed, but for the first couple of months, he was really hardly able to do much. He could speak a few words. And the country was being run by Mrs. Wilson. She didn`t tell anybody -- no one leveled with the public, nor with the Senate, nor with the cabinet. People suspected things, but they weren`t of told anything. When someone wanted to come in to see the president, eventually, this person would be brought into the bedroom, the president would be propped on the side that was not paralyzed, so he could raise his hand, and he could say a few words by then. But the -- if you wanted to have a bill signed, if -- she would be the person who would bring it in to him to have it signed, or say it couldn`t be done. She monitored the letters. We don`t know what he saw and what he didn`t see. He eventually got somewhat better, by the way. He was able to speak, eventually, more normally but never very much the same man.
LAMB: Go back to the 1906 stroke, though. Loss of the sight in one eye?
CHACE: Yes. Yes. Partially.
LAMB: And where did he have this? What was he doing then?
CHACE: I frankly can`t remember exactly. He was president of Princeton at the time. I don`t know the moment he had the stroke, offhand.
LAMB: And nobody knew it, though, when he ran.
CHACE: Nobody knew it when he ran, that I know of.
LAMB: Now, today could somebody run and have no eyesight in one eye?
CHACE: He had some eyesight. He wasn`t blind.
LAMB: He had some...
CHACE: It was impaired. Let`s put it that way. But he could see. Roosevelt himself didn`t have very good eyesight, either, for different reasons.
I think it`d be almost impossible today, and it would be impossible for a doctor, like his own doctor, to keep this. It seems to me that`s against any medical ethics. The vice president should have become at least the temporary president. He wasn`t a very interesting vice president. Thomas Marshall known mainly for saying, What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar. But nonetheless, he was the vice president, and he should have been president. It was shocking.
LAMB: Eugene Debs of Terre Haute, Indiana. His health?
CHACE: Debs was a man who was constantly overworking, one might say. He made speeches all the time for the Socialist Party and for his belief in -- that you need a broad-based industrial union to deal with the evils of industrial capitalism day and night. And so his health was never that good. He would exhaust himself too easily. He`d come down with, I don`t know, flus, colds, things of that nature, was often bedridden for a while. He`d go off to a sanatorium to recover from just exhaustion, as far as we know. He did live until 1924, so...
LAMB: How many times did he run for president?
CHACE: Let`s see. One, two -- I think it was four times for president.
LAMB: And his relationship with his wife?
CHACE: It was not a warm relationship. His wife was -- interesting enough, for a man who was a socialist and very much a man of the people, as Debs was -- she was from a well-to-do family in Terre Haute, Indiana. And in one sense, she was marrying someone who was, at the time, a rising young man. He was even doing a little -- in a business sense. But she had to go along with him in his leftist beliefs, eventually, and she did. She stuck with him, and he never spoke ill of her, but he spent an awful lot of time away from her, and one can`t really see that it was a close marriage. They had no children. She -- they ended up living in one of the largest houses in Terre Haute because she inherited a little money. She went to visit him in prison once, when he was imprisoned after leading the famous Pullman strike in the 1890s, and she was visiting him in prison with all her jewels around her neck and pearls.
And late on -- it doesn`t come in the book because I didn`t do that much after 1912 in detail on his personal life, but actually, he himself had kind of affair himself later, actually, in the -- around the -- during the Second -- during the First World War. So clearly, this was not a warm marriage. But he never did anything publicly to break the marriage or anything was ever said openly about anything.
He spent a lot of time with his brother, who -- and with someone running a newspaper, which was a major contributor. So it was not a warm marriage, but it was a Victorian marriage in a kind of way, I would say.
LAMB: When you go -- when you went back to that period of time to research it, did you -- how prominent was the Debs name in this country in 1912 and all through those years when he ran?
CHACE: Oh, very prominent. Debs was, I came to conclude, almost a kind of secular saint. You see, the point about Debs was, even if you disagreed with his socialist views of the -- having basic industries owned by the state, et cetera, Debs gave away all of his money when he traveled. And when he`d go somewhere and come back, he`d have no money left. He`d just give it to people who needed money. His concern for other people was profound. His identification with the working class was profound.
And above all, he managed to rise above these very, oh, scholastic kind of debates among the socialists at that time. Debs wasn`t interested in that stuff. He kept his mind on one thing, that you had to have a broad-based where skilled workers and unskilled workers could be in the same unit. In those days, the American Federation of Labor, which was the main union, allowed only skilled workers. Debs wanted everybody to be in the main union. And eventually, that came to be, after his death, with the CIO, which was a broad-based union.
But Debs`s reputation was very high in this country, even when people disagreed with him. There`s a -- I can`t resist this wonderful story. Debs -- sad and then wonderful, I think. Sad because he was imprisoned during the First World War by Woodrow Wilson`s administration because he spoke out against the First World War. And there was a thing called the Espionage Act had been passed, or the Sedition Act. And many prominent people who were not socialists said he should be pardoned. He should be released. And Wilson, who was a very hard man, said he was a traitor to the country. He`d never be part of my administration.
Interestingly enough, though he is in prison in Atlanta, Georgia, he runs, by the way, for president from Atlanta, Georgia, and gets almost -- he gets about the same number of votes he got in 1912, though not as high a percentage of votes. Then Warren G. Harding comes in, a Republican president.
LAMB: In `20.
CHACE: In 1920. And he decides that he`s going to bind up a lot of these wounds that were inflicted by the Wilson administration domestically, in this kind of red hunt, et cetera. And he doesn`t exactly pardon, but he commutes the sentence of Eugene Debs in Atlanta, and so he releases him in Atlanta, and he says to stop off at the White House on the way home. So Debs gets into a train in Atlanta, comes up to Union Station in Washington, D.C., goes over to the White House, brought into the president`s office, and Harding jumps up and says, Why, Mr. Debs, I`ve heard so much about you. I`m awfully glad to meet you. So later on, they asked Debs how things went, and he said, We understood each other perfectly. And I think they did understand each other perfectly.
LAMB: What`s the most amount of votes he ever got?
CHACE: Close to a million votes. Over 940,000, I believe it was.
LAMB: And the health of Theodore Roosevelt?
CHACE: Well, Theodore Roosevelt believed very strongly, as almost anybody who knows about his life realizes, in the strenuous life. As a boy, he was near-sighted. He was sickly, asthmatic, and very much a bookworm, too. But at about 12 years old, his father, whom he adored, said, Now, you`ve made your mind. You`ve got to make your body. And so he went into a regime of boxing and gymnastics and then later on went out to the West and was a rancher, almost like a cowboy. He formed a regiment during the Spanish-American War called the Rough Riders. So he always believed in the strenuous life, which is somehow he thought was morally the right thing to do, manly thing to do, as he put it.
And he -- after he was president -- he left the presidency, I should say, in 1909. In order not to cast a shadow on Taft, initially, he went off to Africa to shoot wild beasts. So all this was active. Also, after the defeat in 1912, he explored something called the "River of Doubt" in the Amazon River, an unexplored part of Brazil, where he all but died. I mean, it was a disastrous expedition. I mean, he thought he was going to die, at one point -- the insects, just the general disease. It was a miracle he lived and probably wouldn`t have, if his son, who was 21 at that time, wasn`t with him.
So he was not in great health, interestingly enough. The strenuous life was almost -- it was too strenuous. So he left the presidency at the age of 50, a very young man, after all, and in 1919, I say, he went in bad health. He was in bad health again, you know? Just -- people didn`t quite know what was wrong. They thought rheumatism. Maybe it was the heart. It was one thing or the other. And so he wasn`t in good health at all.
It`s interesting, though, you know, about Roosevelt. And he was -- just before he died -- and I think it was in January of 1919 -- some time in December, when he felt ..his health wasn’t good but he was getting a little better, it seemed, he got up and made the last public speech he ever made, which was in New York City, for a black radical called William E.B. Dubois, for the black veterans. And it`s quite remarkable because Roosevelt was a man who grew in office, in many, many respects. He started out as a kind of patrician reformer and really became a radical person. He came much more to espouse black voting, to make sure that the -- anti-lynching, et cetera. So he was a man who grew, I think, as a president.
LAMB: We have over 100 million people today that vote in our elections for president in the United States. How many people, roughly, voted in the elections of 1912, do you know?
CHACE: Gosh, I can`t remember, I must confess.
LAMB: Is it 10 million? I mean, women could not vote.
CHACE: No, women could not vote.
LAMB: Could blacks vote?
CHACE: Well, blacks could vote in the North. In the South, there were these Jim Crow laws which effectively prevented the blacks from voting. They would have these poll taxes, and a poll tax -- most poor blacks in the South many times couldn`t pay any poll tax. So the blacks and of course, women were not allowed to vote. And women`s suffrage, of course, was a major issue in this period. So as I say, I can`t remember the exact amount of votes, but certainly, in one sense, there was a great deal of -- many disenfranchised voters in the United States in 1912 and in this whole period.
LAMB: Trying to find -- I`m sure I wrote it down because I know you gave us the figures. Maybe I can find it before we`re finished. Go back to 1912. These four men...
LAMB: ... all ran for president. What was the No. 1 thing on people`s mind in 1912 in this country, do you think?
CHACE: I think in 1912, what was happening was this tremendous spirit of reform was splitting the country. And the thing that people were most troubled by, if I could say, the most, probably was trying to tame the great monopolies still, the monopoly capitalism. That was a major, major issue at that time. How do you deal with the great trusts, as they were called?
LAMB: Who were they?
CHACE: Well, there were things like -- there had been the Standard Oil trust, at one point. There was the American Harvester company. Many big companies formed holding companies within the thing, and they began to -- and they were so large that they could effectively, like any monopoly, control prices. And certainly, they could also decide pretty much -- if they wanted to pay workers badly, they could get away with that, too, because there wasn`t enough competition. So how did you deal with this growth of industrial capitalism?
Now, these four men had all grown up in the 19th century, and they were confronted in the early 20th century with the growth of industrial capitalism. And small businesses were not -- we`re being swallowed up, at that point. You had to really change -- and they didn`t necessarily know what to do. They each had to cope the best way they could.
For Taft, his way to cope with it was only through legalism because business was here to stay, and if they do something wrong, we`ll prosecute them. Theodore Roosevelt took a different view. He thought big business was indeed here to stay, but he believed it had to be regulated. He was all for regulation, and that was his strong thing. They`ve got to be regulated.
Wilson was against the big monopolies, but he wanted to try to break the monopolies, rather than regulate them simply regulate them. And to do that, he wanted to restore competition. His theory was, break them and thus restore competition, and that effectively do it. Of course, Debs, being a socialist, believed in state control of basic industry, and so he would, of course, have the state take over a lot of these large trusts. But that was the main issue.
But riding along with that issue were a host of these other problems which people were very concerned with in the United States at that time. There was, in fact, women`s suffrage, which was a very big issue. There were child labor -- you know, there needed to be new laws on child labor employed in these places. Factory conditions -- remember, I think it was -- I think was 1911 was the famous Triangle fire, where these shirtwaist -- women who made shirtwaists in a shirtwaist factory in New York were caught in a fire and couldn`t get out because they had been locked -- they were locked in until 5:00 o`clock each day or 6:00 o`clock, whatever -- whenever the shift ended. And they ended up by having to jump out the window and destroying themselves in this fire. It was a terrible, terrible business.
So factory conditions were appalling, child labor, women`s suffrage, all of these things were on people`s mind. And so the spirit of reform had swept through this country, and therefore, three of the four candidates were strongly reformist. Only Taft, and he was a moderate reformer, I would say, moderate reformer. But you just -- you couldn`t win if you weren`t on the progressive side. You had to be a progressive to get anywhere, to win an election in our country at this time.
LAMB: I have found the numbers, and we`ll put them on the screen...
CHACE: Good. Good.
LAMB: ... so people can see them, but I`ll read them.
LAMB: So people could see them, but I`ll read them.
LAMB: Woodrow Wilson in 1912 got 6,293,454 votes.
LAMB: Theodore Roosevelt ...
LAMB: ... running on the third party progressive ticket, Bull Moose Party, 4,119,538 votes. Taft, William Howard Taft, running on the Republican ticket, 3,484,980 and finally Eugene Debs, 901,873. But you also point out that Woodrow Wilson won 40 states, 435 electoral college votes to six states for William -- I mean for Theodore Roosevelt at 88 votes, and then only two states for William Howard Taft. What does that -- what does that say to you?
CHACE: Well, it`s a number of things. First of all, if you put the votes together for the Republicans and the progressives -- if you`re assuming that Theodore Roosevelt got the nomination, of which he was cheated out of, then you -- then you get a slightly different figure, at least in the popular vote. Then you get over seven million votes, you see, to Wilson.
Now, you can`t be this exact, because some people would cross over. But when you look at that, it is very hard not to believe that Roosevelt would have won that.
Of course, the electoral vote, as we know ourselves, doesn`t necessarily reflect the popular vote. After all, only four years ago Al Gore had, I think won by 540,000, 560,000 I think it was votes. Now, that is a fair amount. Yet he lost the electoral college. So electoral college votes are somewhat misleading. It was a much closer election on one level than the electoral vote shows.
LAMB: Before we go back to some of these characters in this book, let me ask you about James Chace. Where are you from originally?
CHACE: I`m from Fall River, Massachusetts.
LAMB: And how long have you lived there?
CHACE: My whole life. I was born there. My family came from that part of the world for, well, many generations.
LAMB: When did you get interested in history?
CHACE: Well, I`ll tell you a story about that. It was in high school -- in my high school American history class. And my grandfather had been president of the Massachusetts Senate about -- during this general period, around the turn of the century, for quite a number of years. And I had been told -- my grandfather died by the time I was born, but I had always been told more or less that William Howard Taft when he was president had stayed at my grandfather`s house, which probably was true, or could easily have been true.
So I wrote a high school paper on William Howard Taft -- believe it or not -- and never did I dream that so, 50 or more years later -- or whatever it was -- that I would ever write a book in which Taft would play a major role, but that -- in a funny -- but it`s something strange in life that I should write a high school paper on Taft and half a century later write a book in which he is a major character.
LAMB: Do you still have the paper?
CHACE: I do not have the paper, I wish I did.
LAMB: Do you remember your grade?
CHACE: I think I got a pretty good grade. I got a probably -- got a good grade. Probably got an A or something like that.
LAMB: Fall River, Massachusetts, to what college?
CHACE: Harvard College.
LAMB: How did you get in?
CHACE: Well, I did well.
LAMB: Is it all -- I mean, in those days was it all based on -- you didn`t have SATs. It was all...
CHACE: Yes, you did.
LAMB: You did have?
CHACE: We had SATs. Had SATs.
LAMB: What year did you go? What was your freshman ...
CHACE: I went in 1949. And they had SATs, sure. But you had to -- you had to pick colleges rather differently, because you had to list three colleges only, and they had to be in order. So if you listed the third college, you might not get in it, and ...
LAMB: What were your three?
CHACE: My first was Harvard, second was Colgate and third was Brown. I didn`t get in Brown, but -- and I had a really good time there, and I was ...
LAMB: What did you study at Harvard?
CHACE: Well, I -- interestingly enough, I didn`t study history and politics, as you might imagine. My life took a very different turn. I was very literary in that period. I was the editor of the literary magazine at Harvard called "The Harvard Advocate," and I majored in French and Italian literature.
And I`ll tell you how I came into politics, though, if you`d like to know. After I got out of college I got a -- I got a fellowship to go to Paris to study French literature, actually Baudelaire, the poet Baudelaire, and the painter Delacroix, I went there -- and this is 1954. And that year was the year in which the French lost Indochina. It was very hard to be an American boy in France and not become political. It was -- it would have been like a French boy in the United States in 1968 say, you got some problems here?
And then I went -- I was then drafted into the army the year after that. When I got back. And I was sent back to France in the army, just as a, you know, private. When I got -- and only because my name began with C, because the army -- they didn`t look at much else. But when I got there, to my base, which was Orleans, they looked and saw -- they saw that I actually knew French, so they sent me to the French army for two years as a kind of translator and interpreter. And I was sent to Verdon, which is a famous place in the First World War where the French held out against the Germans.
So, that was the period of the Algerian war. So by the time I`d come back, I was very, very politicized, interestingly enough. That really was a period. And I also began to see something, which was not fashionable in the United States. I saw the connection between what are called art and politics. It was a time when Albert Camus was -- was writing his -- his famous books, Sartre was writing -- Jean-Paul Sartre was writing plays, Simone de Beauvoir was -- it was a very active period in French literature and the theater, and it was about being what the French called engage -- to be engaged. And so when I came back I -- my life changed. I began studying here and I did some -- even in France I did some studies in politics, and my life -- my life took a completely different course, all because of those three years in France. I don`t know if it would have happened otherwise.
LAMB: So did you ever work in politics?
CHACE: Well, not per se, but I spent my life in -- not in politics, you see, but I spent my life in foreign policy, I got -- and worked on magazines, which were devoted to foreign policy my whole life, until about 10 years ago, when I started teaching at Bard College.
LAMB: Who owns "Foreign Affairs" magazine?
CHACE: The Council on Foreign Relations.
LAMB: And how long were you the managing editor?
CHACE: Fifteen years.
LAMB: So, that`s your -- that is the core of your profession.
CHACE: Yes, that`s the core of my profession. Before that I`d founded a magazine called "Interplay," which was on U.S.-European relations. Earlier than that, I`d worked for, I think, called "East Europe Magazine" about East European politics. And later on, after I left "Foreign Affairs," after being briefly at "The New York Times," as a national affairs editor and the book review, I then went -- I was then offered this job -- a chair -- a very nice chair of national relations at Bard College, and at the same time somehow I was offered the editorship of the magazine called "The World Policy Journal."
So between -- I was really my life has been as an editor primarily, and completely involved in foreign affairs, and all the -- almost all the books I`ve written mostly had to do with foreign affairs.
LAMB: Here is Paul W. Williams, professor of government and public law at Bard College.
CHACE: That`s right.
LAMB: Who was Paul Williams and what is Bard College?
CHACE: Well, Paul Williams was a well known alumnus who left a great deal of money for -- to endow a chair. And was interested obviously in such things as government.
Bard is a small liberal arts college on the Hudson -- on the Hudson River, up about two hours from New York, and it`s a wonderful school. It`s got a wonderful -- school of about maybe 1,200, 1,300 students in it, about the size of Swarthmore. And it`s always been known as a very much of an art school for a long time, but in the last 10, 15 years, under really quite a brilliant president called Leon Botstein, a very inventive man, a brilliant educator, Bard has been attracting students from all over the country who are interested in things like politics or something like foreign affairs.
In fact, it`s very interesting, but at the moment at Bard, the largest number of students studying in the what we call the social studies are in the Political Studies Department right now, which is quite a change for the old Bard, and -- and still a lot of art students, but there is a definite interest in politics there, and -- we have some very good people teaching there, it`s a very rewarding place to teach. I like it a lot, and I like teaching a lot.
LAMB: Just around the time we`re taping this, and I mentioned this to you when we started, there is a big story about E.L. Doctorow giving a speech at Hofstra University and accusing the president of the United States, I think, of lying and a number of other things around the Iraq war. And a big story was made out of it in "The New York Times," and everybody started writing it up. But I noticed when I got on the Web site, the same day at Bard College Robert Redford gave basically some of the same comments about it. He accused America of lying about Iraq, and nobody made anything out of it. What is the reason?
CHACE: Well, it`s -- it is -- probably the student body of Bard is a very liberal -- leftist, liberal student body, quite frankly. I didn`t -- I was unable to go to graduation this year, but I asked people about it and people who were at the graduation never mentioned that part at all. They said, well, he talked a lot about the environment, told us we should get out to vote. So -- so that didn`t have that kind of impact of horrifying people.
It doesn`t mean there aren`t people who are also -- some are more conservative at Bard. Some of the students -- and there are indeed.
LAMB: Well, the reason I ask is that if Bard is somewhat of a liberal school, Woodrow Wilson, William Howard Taft, Theodore Roosevelt, Eugene Debs, came there today and what you know, or maybe came there years ago, who would they like and why?
CHACE: Well, they certainly would like Debs for one thing. First of all, he is leftist. Another thing about Debs is, he is -- I may have to do the gesture -- I mean, he was just a tremendous, powerful speaker. And they probably would have liked Theodore Roosevelt next, who also was a powerful speaker. While it`s true that Wilson is an eloquent man, the energy that Debs and Roosevelt put in it was so powerful and so strong. And probably Wilson would be third, and I`m -- Taft would definitely be probably the least popular of the four. Also, the poor man was not a very good speaker either.
LAMB: So, we go back to 1912 ...
LAMB: ... or maybe 1911, or what.
LAMB: Let me go through the four -- although we know a lot more about Gene Debs, because he had been running a lot. In the 1912 election, when did Woodrow Wilson decide -- he had been governor of New Jersey, he had been president of Princeton, when did he decide?
CHACE: That is a very interesting question, what happened to Wilson. First of all, Wilson was -- had always been interested, I think, in his own heart of hearts as a boy, probably, as a young man, I`d love to be president some day. But the best way to become president is not usually going to a university after all.
So he -- anyway -- he ends up as a teacher and a successful scholar. He becomes president of Princeton. At Princeton, initially he is very, very popular and successful president. He wants to -- he instituted a system at Princeton where you had tutorials of students, and he wants to break up what he considered the sort of fraternity club system of Princeton.
But then he -- but he is unable to do that, and doesn`t handle it very well. He is a stubborn man, Wilson, doesn`t do very well at that. And then he also has a big fight about where the graduate center is going to go. The important thing about that only is again, Wilson was unable to compromise.
So after -- I found it at the beginning a rather successful presidency with these tutorials and things, he ends up now being rather unhappy at Princeton by 1910, 1911.
Now, let`s go to New Jersey politics. New Jersey politics was run by a bunch of bosses, and they were considered -- the Democrats, as well as Republicans, and bossism was rampant. That was another thing, by the way, I should mention, the people were very fed up with it and they wanted to break the bosses if they could. Anyway...
LAMB: Who were some of the bosses in 1919? Names?
CHACE: Oh, well, it was -- in New York the famous -- famous one -- was Charlie Murphy of Tammany Hall, which was a famous boss indeed, and a man called Nuget (ph) was over -- in New Jersey, Jim Smith -- a number of them.
What happened in any case was that the bosses were looking around for somebody that they could run for governor. And they -- their reputation was fairly shady because of payoffs and things were also going on with these people. They -- they came upon Woodrow Wilson, and thought, well, he`s an honorable man, he is honest, and he is a conservative Democrat, which they were. They were -- you know -- they were -- they were -- to a certain degree, they did a lot of things, good things for poor people, but they also didn`t want the unions to be too powerful, either. And they -- because they were often working very closely with big businesses, to keep everything quiet.
So they go for Wilson, and he is a conservative Democrat. He`s a Southerner. He was frankly a white supremacist. He had also written in a history of the American people published in the early -- in early 20th century a number of things which he said, hostile to the new immigration, and the new immigration of that period was a lot coming from Central Europe and Italy. So he was seen as a conservative man and they thought he`d be -- he would be safe and -- because he was honest.
So they put him in -- they get him the nomination. And then much to their astonishment, that he turns on them. Even in fact before he got the nomination. Once they picked him to be the nominee, he campaigned on much more liberal, much more progressive -- it`s like overnight he becomes a progressive.
Because Wilson realized whatever he may have personally thought initially, that you couldn`t really win that easily if you weren`t a progressive this period. The bosses were behind the times. They were fighting these -- a lot of the reforms.
So Wilson ran as a reformer, and then when he was elected governor, the bosses thought that he was just using a lot of rhetoric and that really he would play ball again, he turns on the bosses, and through various machinations gets rid of them as well.
So he -- he is now a full-fledged reformer and progressive type. He adapts a lot of the policies, in other words, that Roosevelt had been talking about in 1910 and 1911. He can no longer be considered, quote, "a conservative Democrat," though he still remains, frankly, a white supremacist.
But the Democratic Party, therefore, sees in Wilson how this man has been successful in New Jersey, he was a very successful governor, passed good, progressive legislation. And so, when the candidates, they`re looking at candidates in 1912 -- 1911 really of course -- it comes down to really the three people are important in the party. One, of course, is this new governor of New Jersey who has a good reputation; the second is William Jennings Bryan, who also ran for president a couple of times for the Democratic Party. He was a populist, an old-fashioned populist, a liberal man, but not really as much in touch with the current mood of reform, probably. He was -- his voters had come from small towns, from a lot of farmers. Not as much from the urban working class, which was becoming a much bigger factor, and will become a big factor for the Democratic Party to get. But -- so -- but Bryan would love to see the nomination go to him yet again, having had it twice before.
And then a man called Champ Clark, who was the speaker -- in 1910, he`d become the Democratic speaker of the House. And he was a moderate reformer and a good party man. So it was by no means a given that Wilson was going to get this nomination.
And then came this famous convention in Baltimore, which went for 46 ballots, and Wilson was not leading for a very long time. And at one point during the midst of the convention, he thought he was going to lose, and on the phone -- he was in his house in Princeton, and called his campaign manager and said, look, look. Withdraw my name. I`m not going to get this thing.
And then the -- another -- another -- another one of the other managers got on the phone and said, listen, Governor, don`t withdraw. It`s not over yet.
And part of the reason that he got things, because William Jennings Bryan was maneuvering between Champ Clark and Woodrow Wilson, saying -- because he still was a powerful figure in the party, and secretly, of course, Bryan wanted to get the nomination again, thought if he could sort of deadlock the party that would happen, but it turned out that finally through some machinations Wilson got it.
LAMB: I want to read you back what you wrote about a man named William McCombs. Remember him?
LAMB: "McCombs, moody, and hypersensitive, reacted to Wilson`s response to Bryan by escaping to a friend`s house in Baltimore. Tumulty learned afterwards where, quote, "he was found in a room, lying across the bed crying miserably," unquote. To his friends, who asked what was the matter, McCombs replied, weeping, that the governor had spoiled everything by his telegram to Bryan, that had the governor followed his, McCombs` advice, he could have been nominated." I read it only ...
LAMB: ... but I`ve heard of many grown men involved in political campaigns crying over something like this.
CHACE: Well, and McCombs was a weepy man and a very nervous person, not a very strong figure, and what he was doing is that he -- Wilson refused to play ball with the bosses of New York. McCombs was trying to make a deal with Charlie Murphy of the Tammany people to get this nomination, and Wilson would not do this, you see, and so, that is a little behind that statement. But he was a very ineffective person, indeed. The other person, a man called McAdoo, was much stronger and later -- and he was the person who really stiffened Wilson`s fight.
LAMB: Let`s go to Theodore Roosevelt for a moment, and a kind of the same thing. When he had been president after the assassination of William McKinley in 1901.
LAMB: He then was elected in 1904. 1908, as you said earlier, he passed it to William Howard Taft. This is 1912 election. When did he decide to go against his friend William Howard Taft?
CHACE: It`s a very good question, and it`s an interesting one. First of all, in 1904, Roosevelt made a really fatal error. In the campaign -- he didn`t have to do this, in the campaign he said, I`m not going to run for a third term. Because in those days, as we all know, you could run for -- there was no term limitation. Franklin Roosevelt, after all, ran for four terms and won them all.
He could know man who could regret it more, that remark that he made later. But he also -- but Roosevelt was a great man of honor, and he felt he couldn`t go back on that. At least that`s what he believed.
So he couldn`t run for the third term, and he`s going to put in his -- his friend Taft, who would carry things out. And he goes off, as I think, early to Africa to shoot wild beasts, and also not to pass his shadow on Taft.
But while he`s in Africa, he begins to get letters from his old cronies saying that Taft is not carrying out his policies very effectively, particularly issues of conservation, since Roosevelt more than any other president took -- you know, saved millions and millions of acres in the United States from being, you know, destroyed by large companies. The park system is really -- the large park in Yellowstone, all those big parks are really due to Theodore Roosevelt.
In any case, so he gets -- he is very disturbed by this. He comes back -- back to the United States. He feels -- and Taft is a good friend, and he is disturbed by what`s happening.
So -- so -- but he`s not prepared when he gets back to run for president or to do anything but actually campaign for Taft, even if rather quietly. You can`t put your finger on it exactly, what was going on in his mind, but some time by 1911, a combination of two things, I think. First of all, his genuine disenchantment with Taft`s ability to -- character. Taft being in the hands of what he calls the archconservatives of the party, which he was.
And then secondly, I think there was power. Roosevelt missed power, and he wanted that power back again. And the interesting thing about power in his case, power for Theodore Roosevelt tended to be a disciplinary thing. What I mean by that is when Roosevelt was out of power, he would often say outrageous things. When in power, he was much more moderate. He was a rabid imperialist before he became president, but when he was president, except for the Panama Canal, which one could consider an imperialist move, if one wants to, he really moved away from that, got the Nobel Peace Prize. I think it was in 1906, the Nobel Peace Prize for mediating the Russo-Japanese War.
So there was this -- so that as a foreign policy person, he wanted the United States to play a great role in the world, but he had moved away from the imperialist thing. He wanted power. So in short, I think a combination of his disenchantment with Taft and then his desire to -- he could do it better. You know what I mean? He just missed that, and I think that`s what happened.
LAMB: We don`t have a lot of time, so I don`t want you to go into great deal on this, because I have got a lot of other things I want to ask you about, but at the Republican Convention in 1912, where was it held?
CHACE: It was held in -- Republican? In Chicago.
LAMB: And who won and...
CHACE: Well, it was Taft. Taft got the nomination away from Roosevelt, because these delegates that Roosevelt had gotten in the primaries were disqualified by the chairman of the convention, who had been Roosevelt`s secretary of state, by the way, Elihu Root. But Roosevelt -- they were determined to keep the party machine. They were not going to let Roosevelt take it away from them.
LAMB: Where did they have the Progressive Party convention and what happened there?
CHACE: Well, that also happened in Chicago very shortly afterwards.
LAMB: Right at the same place?
CHACE: Well, at the same time -- it was kind of a -- they didn`t have the convention a few weeks later, but there was a mass meeting after Roosevelt had lost this -- was marched out, wasn`t going to get the nomination -- of progressives, to get Roosevelt to run for president. And he said famously at that time, we stand at Armageddon to do battle for the Lord. It was a very, very fervent -- a lot of fervor party. Jane Addams, the famous reformer, women`s suffragette, seconded Roosevelt`s nomination at the actual convention, which came a few weeks later. So.
LAMB: I don`t have my hands on a quote, but is it safe to assume that Theodore Roosevelt said things about William Howard Taft that were stronger and more outspoken than anything we hear today about any of these candidates in any of these parties?
CHACE: Oh, absolutely. I mean, absolutely. Called him a puzzle-wit, he called him all sorts of things, you know.
LAMB: And he was his friend.
CHACE: And he had been his friend. He had been his friend. Of course, they became very, very apart.
Although I want to mention, tell you that later on, you know, by -- during the First World War, they had one person at the time they were against, which was Wilson, and they became friends again. And I want to say one thing, it was very touching to me. They became friends. In a hotel room in Chicago, they saw each other and...
LAMB: In the dining room.
CHACE: Dining room. Sorry. The dining room. And then Roosevelt said to Taft, Will, you`ve got to come see me now at Sagamore Hill, which was Roosevelt`s home in Long Island, in a few weeks. And Taft was very pleased. But they both were glad they could be friends again.
And Roosevelt died before he could have him over. And at the funeral, Taft of course went to the funeral, and afterwards at the graveside and after the graveside people left, and the last person to leave the graveside was William Howard Taft, weeping.
LAMB: There is another story that you did, we`ve talked about it on this program before, but you go into more detail than I`ve seen before, and I`d be interested where you got it, on the famous John Schrank attempted assassination...
CHACE: Of Theodore Roosevelt.
LAMB: ... of Theodore Roosevelt in Milwaukee.
CHACE: It was just amazing. It`s one of the most extraordinary stories of Roosevelt`s strength and determination. Roosevelt, as we all know, in those days particularly there was a lot of stem-winding speeches and whistle-stopping across the country. Roosevelt is in Milwaukee, and he`s going to the hotel. He`s supposed to give his speech downtown. He`s coming out of the hotel lobby, walks into an open car. And gets in the automobile, and at that point a man comes out of the crowd and shoots him. And wounds him.
LAMB: Did you say he was standing in the car? Was he standing up?
CHACE: I think he was standing -- he was standing in the car. He fell over back like that. And it goes right -- and it goes right into his chest.
The reason he lived at all was because he had a 50-page speech in his inside pocket. Because it was not uncommon to give long, long speeches in those days. Well, of course, his doctor and other people, security people apprehend -- first, they apprehend immediately the attempted assassin.
But Roosevelt, he says, I`m going to go and make that speech. Which they were sort of horrified, and he just insists, I`m going to go. And so they looked, and so he -- they do what they can with the little wound. He goes down to this hall, filled with about 10,000 people, gets up on the stage, opens his shirt to show his -- the blood all on the inside of the shirt, and says, "it takes more than a bullet to kill a Bull Moose," because the progressives at that time were known as the Bull Moose campaign. And he goes on for 50 minutes, for 50 minutes with a bullet lodged in his ribs, to make this extraordinary speech. And then after that he goes to the hospital for two weeks, during which time everybody, all the other candidates cease campaigning, except for Wilson, who gives a few speeches.
LAMB: Did they ever take the bullet out?
CHACE: No, I don`t think they did.
LAMB: There was another -- oh, I know, because we just have a minute or two.
LAMB: You wrote the book on -- a book on Dean Acheson, but in the book, this is a small matter, Louis Brandeis, who turned out to go, he went -- Wilson put him on the...
CHACE: Supreme Court.
LAMB: ... Supreme Court, but you talk about Acheson clerking for Brandeis, but more interesting about how Brandeis anonymously wrote articles in support of Wilson in "Colliers" magazine. Explain that.
CHACE: That`s right.
LAMB: And what happened.
CHACE: Yeah. Louis Brandeis, first of all, was at the time of 1912 was a very successfully brilliant lawyer in Boston. Wilson didn`t know him. But he was introduced to Brandeis, and Wilson didn`t quite have an idea of how to counter Roosevelt`s theories of regulating the monopoly. So how -- what was he going to come up with? He didn`t really know, he didn`t have a good idea.
But Brandeis gave him this idea, and he said, look, it`s all about competition. Small business, we`ve got to -- and this is what -- you must talk about competition, you must talk about this kind of new freedom. He began writing these articles and ghost-wrote speeches and things like that. So Wilson was indebted to Brandeis as his core ideas of competitiveness in the so-called -- what he called the new freedom.
When he became president, he appointed Brandeis, and he was the first Jew who was appointed to the Supreme Court, which was something to do in those days, as you know. And Brandeis became, of course, one of the most distinguished jurists in the history of the Supreme Court.
LAMB: Again, though, reading what Brandeis stood for back then, what would he be today, do you think?
CHACE: Well, you know, Brandeis was a person who believed, as did Oliver Wendell Holmes, those who were dissenters at that time, that it was important to go along with what the Congress wanted. And if, in other words, if the Congress wants to have the kind of things that Wilson wants to pass, that`s what the court should support, in other words they are very leery of overruling what they felt...
LAMB: So he would be on Antonin Scalia`s side?
CHACE: Well, I think that`s an extreme remark. I don`t think he would have been quite as conservative as Scalia. We talk about conservatives and liberals in very odd ways. I wouldn`t say he`d be a Scalia, no.
LAMB: But wasn`t he for competition?
CHACE: Well, very much for competition, at that time, but at that time, that would have been a very liberal point of view, because of the fact that you had monopolies, so you were trying to break monopolies. So things change in that way.
LAMB: Here is the cover of the book. Our guest has been James Chace. He is a professor at Bard College. Here is "1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft and Debs -- the Election That Changed the Country." Thank you very much.
CHACE: Thank you.