BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Alfred J. Zacher, author of "Trial and Triumph: Presidential Power in
the Second Term." Of all the presidents that have had two terms, which one's
Mr. ALFRED J. ZACHER, AUTHOR, "TRIAL AND TRIUMPH: PRESIDENTIAL POWER IN THE SECOND TERM": Well, I probably do like George Washington awfully well. My
memory, of course, goes back to Franklin Roosevelt, and he stands out for that
reason. I think that the combination of all qualities in a
president--I--and--and having survived the full eight years, I would have to
say that--George Washington.
LAMB: What do you think George Washington would be like if he had to deal
with television today?
Mr. ZACHER: Oh, I think he'd cope with it. He disliked the press, which
was beginning at the time that he was in office, but he understood the
necessity for communicating. He spoke well. He was comfortable with himself.
And I think he would have handled television in the same sense that, possibly,
LAMB: Who had the worst second term?
Mr. ZACHER: Well, it's always said that Grant did, and I'm sort of troubled
by Grant. There's no question that he failed to administer the
office. As I mention in the book, the office simply overshadowed him. He
needed the adulation and praise of office--could not risk. But it was a time
of terribly difficult leadership. There was no constituency out there for
those causes that he might have supported. The war was over; people wanted to
retreat, go back into their own world. There were real problems out there
that he recognized probably as well as anyone living, but--but he had no
constituency and simply backed off.
LAMB: Have you ever met an American president?
Mr. ZACHER: I was standing in the lower level of the Palmer House one day
Mr. ZACHER: Yes. And I think there were three of us in this little corridor
and suddenly, doors burst open and Harry Truman walked in and said,
`Hello,' and so forth, but it was hardly a conversation. But it was--is still
an interesting moment.
LAMB: When did you first get interested in presidents?
Mr. ZACHER: Well, I have probably been intrigued by the presidency since I
was a small child. I can remember Franklin Roosevelt vividly as though it
were yesterday. And I think lots of us, of course, at that time, became
enveloped with the presidency--he was such an all-encompassing person--and
just watched all kinds of activities of the president, knew when he was going
fishing, observed all of his travels. And, by the way, there's all these
comments about not knowing that he was an invalid. Everyone knew he was an
invalid. At Christmastime, they had the fund-raising for March of Dimes, and
it was--we all knew it was because he was an invalid. And that was something
that intrigued everyone. He didn't appear to be an invalid, but we knew he
was an invalid. And--but the presidency has interested me from that time I
was a small child.
LAMB: What is the Presidential Press of Ft. Wayne, Indiana?
Mr. ZACHER: Well, that's my company. I published the book myself. This
e--these are times when small, unknown authors cannot find a publisher,
and I did this myself with the help of an excellent firm in--up in
northern Michigan, Jenkins Group, that packaged it for me. But
it's there are many, many books being self-published these days.
LAMB: You going to make your money on this?
Mr. ZACHER: As Richard Reeves said to me I happened to talk to him
about--about publishing it all, and he says, `You don't do these things to
make money.' So that's not an issue. It was a great, fun avocation for me and
I've enjoyed it. It's been an exciting experience, and I wouldn't give that
up at all, and the money aspect is not an issue.
LAMB: What do you do for a living?
Mr. ZACHER: I'm in the general practice of industrial and commercial real
Mr. ZACHER: Ft. Wayne, Indiana.
LAMB: How long have you lived there?
Mr. ZACHER: About 43 years.
LAMB: And when did you first start the work on this book?
Mr. ZACHER: About 1986. I had looked over Henry Adams' "The
Administrations of Jefferson" and discovered, to my great surprise, that
Jefferson had a difficult second term. We had just gone through Nixon and
Johnson, and I say I'm old enough to remember--and I do remember that
Roosevelt had a difficult second term. It wasn't something I read; I remember
it very clearly, vividly. And I thought, `Well, what's going on here? Is
there something about the second term that we ought to know about?' So
I began a study, not knowing at all where it'd take me, examining each of 17
presidents elected to a second term. There were actually 18. I didn't do
McKinley--he died so soon after being elected that I didn't feel his second
term was relevant. I cheated, however, and included Lincoln. He had two
major goals, visions for his terms in office, and he fulfilled those in his
very brief second term, so I included Lincoln.
LAMB: So how did you start this whole process?
Mr. ZACHER: I began a bibliography of each president, taking each one
separately and beginning the study with George Washington. And it was certainly
was a labor of love. The objective and the necessity was to
sort of creep into the world of each president and not leave that world until
I felt I understood not only who that president was, but what the
environment was like, what the culture was like, so as to place the president
in that era, and then move on to the next one when I felt I had
understood that president and then had written about him.
LAMB: And how long did you do research before you started writing the first
Mr. ZACHER: Oh, I spent six, seven years writing. I--each one took a
different amount of time. I would really not be certain how long it was
simply related to the necessity of each one. And, of course, the body of
information--as I got into someone like Cleveland, for example, there was less
information; Jefferson, there's endless information, material. So each
president had their own time.
LAMB: In general, how do presidents do in their second term?
Mr. ZACHER: Well, I, with some guts, I guess, ranked the presidents. And I
also--but more important than that, I list them by success, troubled
second--success in their first term--second term, troubled second terms,
failed second terms, and then I have a special category for Lincoln and
LAMB: Let me just show the audience down at the bottom of this page in the
back the ranking by total score. It just so happens that over the weekend,
The New York Times published Arthur Schlesinger survey that shows that
Lincoln, Washington and FDR are considered the great presidents, and your
ranking is one, two, three.
Mr. ZACHER: Yes. And they also have Teddy Roosevelt and Jackson as the
near-greats, so I felt in fairly decent company. We conflicted on a couple of
them. Ronald Reagan was one, and Eisenhower--I happen to think that
Eisenhow--I placed Eisenhower very high on my list.
LAMB: Number six.
Mr. ZACHER: Yes, and I continue to feel that way. It takes some
courage to argue with people who are truly professionals in the
field, and yet I defend my research and feel that I'm willing to back my
position with the arguments that I have. But I do feel Eisenhower was
an extremely capable and competent and knowledgeable president.
LAMB: In general, though, second terms?
Mr. ZACHER: OK, now those who--I f--I listed the following who succeeded in
their second terms. I say Washington, Madison--and Madison was listed as a
below-average success in--in The New York Times magazine article you
mentioned, and I really disagree. I thought Madison was a marvelous
president. He's a near-favorite of mine. Then going on to Teddy Roosevelt,
Eisenhower and Reagan.
LAMB: Andrew Jackson?
Mr. ZACHER: Oh, of course, Andrew Jackson. Thank you. Yeah.
LAMB: You put troubled second terms: Jefferson, Monroe, Wilson, Franklin
Roosevelt and Truman.
Mr. ZACHER: Yes.
LAMB: Which of those was the most interesting to you: Jefferson, Monroe,
Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt or Truman?
Mr. ZACHER: They're--I would have to say that they're absolutely all--I'll go
out on a limb and say equally interesting. Each one has a--a dramatic story
to tell. Wilson probably was the most tragic one of the group.
And truly, Wilson is one of the, obviously, most brilliant presidents
we've had, able to communicate not to individuals but to the public. Came
into office as a really relatively conservative individual--and by the way,
Franklin Roosevelt did, too--and found the tenor of the times led him to
initiate all kinds of legislation for change, for resolving what were then
thought of as the populace problems: the direct election of senators, Federal
Reserve, greater control, Clayton Antitrust laws. And yet he was rigid; he
would not compromise.
And his second term was characterized most significantly by his having
personally negotiated the Versailles Treaty to the shock of the leaders of
Europe. They didn't want to--they wanted to send in their emissaries to do
this. Well, he came over himself with his typewriter and spent hours typing
the Versailles Treaty himself and negotiating it. He could have had a just
peace, which was his principal goal in the Fourteen Points earlier and when he
came to Versailles, a peace that did not damage Germany particularly. He also
wanted the League of Nations. He could have had both. He was the only person
on the scene who had the ability, the power, the authority, the
persuasiveness, the--the arguments to induce a just peace for Germany and
also--and that would be no reparations or not excessive, not taking away the
colonial empire of Germany. And he didn't negotiate for that because he
thought he needed the League, which he got, at a very unjust peace.
Comes back to America, and Henry Cabot Lodge decides he's going to get this
fellow, an enemy. And he he does a very simple thing; he says, `Let's
change just one paragraph.' And the paragraph had to do with whether or not
the League could call out our troops, which was a reasonable
objective--regional--reasonable problem. Well, Wilson was intransigent.
He would not compromise. And Lodge knew that, so he
simply said, `Well, all we want is this compromise.' Wilson wouldn't. It
failed in attempting to persuade the American people. He went out on
speeches, gave speeches to 50,000 or more people. And, of course, what were
they going to do? It was complicated, difficult. They weren't going to
persuade their senators to vote. And the League failed, the peace failed. We
know what happened. And in my book--and I say this--that in a way, Wilson
triggered the--the rise of Hitler and Second World War--not intentionally.
And it's one of the--one of the side things about the book, the--the law of
unintended consequences. And that's certainly one of the most significant.
LAMB: Do you have a political point of view yourself?
Mr. ZACHER: It's not identifiable in the book.
LAMB: Do you...
Mr. ZACHER: And I take a very neutral and very long-term position on things.
LAMB: Were you ever political?
Mr. ZACHER: No.
LAMB: You've never run for an office?
Mr. ZACHER: Oh, no, no, no, no. No, I have no interest in that at all.
LAMB: Now what do your friends think of, I mean, this whole project?
Mr. ZACHER: Well, they've been very--very encouraging, very complimentary.
It's been sort of a--a fun enterprise with the president having mentioned the
book in--in his press conference and on CNN and on CNBC and so forth.
And it's--here I am, this fellow back in Ft. Wayne who is known in the
business community, and suddenly here I am talking with you and on
television and so forth. And it's a different world, and it's been a
lot of fun.
LAMB: Let's show the clip of the president, the November news conference, so
that those who can't remember what he said will know why we ha--asked you to
(Excerpt from C-SPAN, November 8, 1996)
President BILL CLINTON: There's a book that's just been written on
second-term presidencies, and I was a little nervous about reading it before
the election. I was--but along toward the end, I read it and I got to
thinking in my own mind about the second terms of--you know, President
Truman's second term, President Eisenhower's second term and President
Reagan's second term.
What the record shows is that the things which derail a second term are
basically three. One is some external event intervenes and the president
can't fulfill his dreams or hopes or his agenda.
The second thing that happens is sometimes a president thinks he has more of a
mandate than he does and tries to do too much in the absence of cooperation.
And the third is that sometimes a president essentially just runs out of
(End of excerpt)
LAMB: Did you happen to be watching it at that time?
Mr. ZACHER: No. In fact, I was at a conference in San Francisco, and I
walked into a bar at the St. Francis, and a group of friends were sitting
there and said, `You know, the president just mentioned your book on
television?' I thought he was joking. I had--and I walked back to our room
and checked some messages, and here are some people were are calling from
Chicago and elsewhere saying, `You know, the president's mentioned your
So I didn't see it, but I've since seen it. In fact, we called our kids in
Indianapolis and said, `Will you please tape this on C-SPAN?' so they did.
LAMB: Well, how'd he get it?
Mr. ZACHER: Our mayor is a personal friend of his, having gone--they were in
Yale Law School together. I sent the book to our mayor and said, `Would
you'--with a cover letter to the president; I said, `Will you be willing to
forward this?' This was months ago, back in April or May or whatever it was,
and--or maybe June. And I forgot about it completely. And I would say a
month and a half ago or so, I got a letter from the president thanking me for
the book, saying that he was not going to read it now, and that he
would, and Hillary and he sent regards or whatever. And I hate to say this,
but I thought it was some secretary, you know, doing some routine thing.
Well, it's corroborated. I mean, he said he wouldn't read it then, which
is what he said in the letter, so it was a surprise. There's no question
LAMB: In the book, when was the last word you wrote, actually, before
this went to the press?
Mr. ZACHER: I was writing the conclusion as it was going to press. One of
my real deep problems with the book was to draw a conclusion. You know, I
all these chapters on the presidents. `What do I have? What's there?
What is the meaning of it all?' And I hate to say this, but just as I
was coming into Washington for this interview, I'm still formulating my
LAMB: So what was the date, though, the last word was written?
Mr. ZACHER: I--it would have been January of--of...
Mr. ZACHER: Yes.
LAMB: The reason why--because I want to read to you back what you said
about President Clinton. You said, `In many respects, Bill Clinton's
performance as president is baffling. He is intelligent, educated, can be a
capable communicator, and is an experienced public administrator. Clinton has
failed in the test of a president on several very essential measures. First
and foremost, he failed to understand the conservative tendency in America.'
He got re-elected.
Mr. ZACHER: Well, of course, Morris said the same thing effectively. But
I'm saying the same thing exactly that Morris said, which did intrigue me a
little bit. Word for- and said that--that his health-care plan was
evidence of a spirit of invincibility, which was one of my criteria for
failure, and he mentions it in his press conference. And I think he learned a
great deal from that. I really do. I think it was a very effective lesson.
I think one of the true qualities of Bill Clinton is his ability to be
flexible, to learn, to observe the horizons and follow along with it.
And--and I do say that as I follow up, in order for him to be successful and
succeed, he has to understand- you know, you didn't finish the quote, and I
say exactly that he could well win, but he has to acknowledge the--what I
claim is a conservative bent in America.
LAMB: How many copies did you have printed?
Mr. ZACHER: Three thousand.
LAMB: Did you sell them all?
Mr. ZACHER: No. No, no.
LAMB: The price on it is $24.95.
Mr. ZACHER: Yes.
LAMB: Can you ... would you mind telling the audience what the whole project
Mr. ZACHER: Well, I probably could have bought a Mercedes or something
LAMB: I mean, would it have been under $20,000, or did...
Mr. ZACHER: Oh, no, no. It was more like $35,000 or $40,000.
LAMB: And then what happened after the book came out when?
Mr. ZACHER: It came out in March, early in March.
LAMB: And how did you get it distributed?
Mr. ZACHER: You sign up with distributors, midpoint distributors, and then
they send it off to people like Ingram Books, and they have it now, and it's
in all their warehouses. And--and it is now available in most of the Barnes &
Nobles and Border's and so forth. And it is--it's beginning to sell.
LAMB: So you had the mayor of Ft. Wayne, Indiana...
Mr. ZACHER: Yes.
LAMB: ...send a copy to the president?
Mr. ZACHER: Yes.
LAMB: Now did he ever get back to you, by the way, on this, the mayor?
Mr. ZACHER: Oh, we see each other--yes. I--we belong to a club. He
just gave a paper the other day on avant garde, and our--our Quest Club in Ft.
Wayne--we're very proud of that--it's been on, oh, about 85 years now, and
once we be--give papers on--on all kinds of topics, and I gave some of my
papers on the presidents there. And I see--I just saw the mayor the
other day, and we talked about the president and the fact that this had
LAMB: So the book came out and then the president--did anything happen on
sales before the president acknowledged it in the news conference?
Mr. ZACHER: Well, I was on CNN's World Wide Web the night of the
LAMB: How'd that work?
Mr. ZACHER: That was fun. I was out in San Francisco by coincidence, and we
had over a million hits.
LAMB: How did you get asked to be on the Web?
Mr. ZACHER: I have a marketing firm that--that put me on that. And then the
next day, because it went so well, I was on CNN--"Ask CNN."
LAMB: So you were--where were you in San Francisco physically, I mean?
Mr. ZACHER: Oh, at CNN headquarters.
LAMB: In San Francisco?
Mr. ZACHER: Yes. Yes.
LAMB: And people were transmitting their questions to you?
Mr. ZACHER: Yes. Mm-hmm.
LAMB: And you would answer them?
Mr. ZACHER: Yes.
LAMB: And you had over a million hits?
Mr. ZACHER: Yes. It was fun. Yes. And then--then we had an interview,
about a three-minute interview on the Web and politics, which went on--on the
worldwide CNN network. In fact, someone called me sitting in a hotel room in
Tel Aviv, and he says, `There's--there's Al Zacher.' I mean, it just really
was--when he got back, he called me. And so it's--it's getting some
LAMB: So the next day you went on CNN network?
Mr. ZACHER: Yes.
LAMB: To do what?
Mr. ZACHER: Well, it's called "Ask CNN," and we had a call-in show. We
talked with the interviewer about the pre--about the second term and then
interweaved it with some questions that came in.
LAMB: Then what happened next to you to get visibility?
Mr. ZACHER: Well--and then I was on "Politics with Chris Matthews" for a
half-hour, and--and that was a lot of fun, also. That was very interesting.
LAMB: Now as you're going through all this, what's your--what's your feeling
about it? What's your feeling about the process? Is this a hard--I mean,
kind of talk to others that might be interested in doing the self-publishing
of a book. Do you--are you--first of all, let me ask you this. Are you
surprised how--how much attention this got?
Mr. ZACHER: Well, I felt that it was a topical subject, and I worked very
hard toward the end of--of last year to finish the book. I--I didn't--I
didn't have Nixon done at all a year ago, and I started out last--or the
beginning of last summer to write Nixon. And that--that really pressured me.
And then I didn't have my conclusion done, so that there was a lot of pressure
to get this out, but I did it intentionally for the--for the--for the
election. In fact, I almost thought of trying to get it done for--for Bush's
potential second term and that didn't, of course, work out.
But I think the most important issue is--is the dedication to writing the
book. That's first. I think the self-publishing aspect is interesting,
and--and going on more and more. I think--What?--there are 25,000 or 30,000
books being self-published now. It's some large number. I could even be
understating that. But the important ingredient is to have a book you care
about. And that's one of the elements of this. I was devoted to the
subject from the very beginning. It's excited me. It was something
that I found totally absorbing.
LAMB: How did you go about making sure that you didn't make a historical
Mr. ZACHER: Oh, of course, I'm sort of a nut about that. I had an
excellent tutorial at our local Indiana Purdue campus and worked with
Professor Bartky over all the years of writing. And he checked--he worked
with me on accuracies. He's quite knowledgeable about the presidency. And
then I had six others editing, and I had someone who's expert in grammar and
syntax. And I thought I was good at that, but I found out I wasn't. I
had--this was written and rewritten over and over again to make sure that all
aspects were covered. And I have--I've only found one or two obvious
mistakes. I think some experts out there might find some glaring errors. I
had Calvin Coolidge giving a presidential address in 1921, but other than
that, I haven't found any. I reread the book for this session, and I
found just a couple of things I didn't like, but...
LAMB: I found one tiny error in the list of the ages of people when they
Mr. ZACHER: Oh.
LAMB: The--and you might correct me if I'm wrong, but you have Theodore
Roosevelt being 43, and I think he was 42, because...
Mr. ZACHER: OK. Yeah.
LAMB: Did you do that chart yourself?
Mr. ZACHER: I put it together from another source, and I'll have to
double-check that. That's interesting.
LAMB: Because people are always asking who the youngest president in history
Mr. ZACHER: Oh, yes.
LAMB: If my calculations are right, that--Bill Clinton will be the
youngest president to--by a few months, only after U.S. Grant--to have served
two terms if everything works out right?
Mr. ZACHER: Yes, yes, yes.
LAMB: Does youth have anything to do with whether he will be successful or
Mr. ZACHER: Oh, I think it will be totally irrelevant, absolutely irrelevant.
I think it would have no factor whatsoever. I do think the times in which you
serve make a difference--some difference, and that was referenced in the
Schlesinger article. There's no question that if you have a great war to
fight, that you can be far more momentous a leader than if you don't. And
Teddy Roosevelt always regretted the fact that he didn't have some war. But I
think he used the White House quite effectively.
Eisenhower would probably be an example of a president who--who had such
times that--I think that's one reason he isn't judged to be more effective.
And the other is, of course, his whole hidden-hand approach, which a historian
presented--Greenstein presented. And--and, of course, I totally agree with
that. He had a legislative agenda, and he allowed Lyndon Johnson to take full
credit for most of his programs. And he also acted the sort of--oh, loving,
grandfatherly type, little bumbling, playing golf, great chief of state, but
certainly not a dramatic leader. The fact is behind the scenes he was
brilliant; he wrote many of his own legislative proposals, understood all the
agendas that were there, and had complete involvement with the government,
including foreign and domestic affairs, but never, never cared to have this as
a public aspect of his career. And it was hard to judge him for that reason.
LAMB: What about--because you talk some about this through your book. What
impact do you think the continuing discussion about scandal will have in the
second administration of Bill Clinton, based on what you know from past
Mr. ZACHER: Well, there's been very little American presidential
history on the subject. Grant--never accused of being involved in any of the
scandals, but it severely diminished his second term. There was one flare-up
in the first term … but he was completely separated from
that. But in a second one, major people--major members of his administration
were involved in graft and stealing, in diverting funds; lost their jobs, went
to jail. And he simply--it--it diverted attention from his administration, an
administration that was not heading anywhere anyway. So it's unclear what
effect a graft or whatever, dishonesty, morality would have on the president
who had an agenda. The only other one we have with any relevance is Harding,
and Harding died--it was his first term, and he died. And, of course, Richard
Nixon, where there was a smoking gun near--near impeachment, and I don't hear
any such rumors as that. I hear--we hear all more stories similar to those
of--of the Grant administration. And it'll be interesting to see. I think we
just have to wait and find out whether there--there's evidence. And if there
is, then will it impact an activist president? The other experience we have
is Grant, who was not involved in--in--in promoting those programs which
he--in which he actually did have some belief.
LAMB: On the back of your book, you have this endorsement from this Elliot
Mr. ZACHER: Yes.
LAMB: ...who you worked with. He says, `"Trial and--and Triumph" is a
testimony to the endurance and possibility of democratic leadership.
Zacher brings a fresh perspective that the experts have long ignored.' What's
the fresh ex--perspective?
Mr. ZACHER: I suppose, number one--and this is my own view and I'm not
quite sure what he meant--and that is my--I have three conclusions. And the
first one is that the presidency, the qualifications--the
qualities of success have not changed. And I also feel--and this is kind of a
new perception, but I think it does--that the --I claim the American
people haven't changed. Going back to what I consider the--really the
prevailing document that--the controlling document, and that's the Declaration
of Independence, all men are created equal. They have certain inalienable
rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Well, I define-- I think the founders define the pursuit of
happiness as economic security. And it didn't say, `happiness,' it said `the
pursuit of.' So I believe that the Founding Fathers were arguing for
equal opportunity, equality and equal opportunity. And I think that theme has
been carried throughout the American history. I think those presidents who
understood this and who applied reasonable solutions to achieving equal
opportunity for Americans, starting with Jefferson, who felt that Hamilton was
going to overrun the average farmer in this case, that what was
needed was getting Hamilton out of the way and too much government out of the
way, and then you'd have equal opportunity, less government and so forth.
Well, by the time Teddy Roosevelt came along and industry had such great
and wealth had such great power and the common man did not, equality
again and equality of opportunity, not equality, but
equality of opportunity. That--Teddy Roosevelt used government to try to
implement that, Woodrow Wilson did the same thing, all with the same original
Founding Fathers' objectives, but using different tools.
LAMB: Have you had equality of opportunity in your life?
Mr. ZACHER: Yes, I certainly think so.
LAMB: Where were you born?
Mr. ZACHER: Bay City, Michigan.
LAMB: How long did you live there?
Mr. ZACHER: I left for college when I was 18--yes-- and really never
returned. I went to Antioch College, where they sent us out on jobs, then I
was in Korea, serving in the Corps of Engineers near the front lines during
the war, then came back to Michigan, got a master's degree in economics.
LAMB: And Antioch College is located where?
Mr. ZACHER: Yellow Springs, Ohio.
LAMB: What'd you study there?
Mr. ZACHER: Economics.
LAMB: What got you interested in economics and then going on and getting a
Mr. ZACHER: Oh, I think it was a practical side of history. I always--in
my world today, I sort of live in a practical world and a dream world, I
guess, a little bit of both. And that fitted it. It's both worlds.
LAMB: What took you to Ft. Wayne?
Mr. ZACHER: Well, I had a family activity business there that I was
LAMB: What did you start out doing in your business?
Mr. ZACHER: It was a retail activity.
LAMB: What kind?
Mr. ZACHER: It was women's haberdasher--women's hats.
LAMB: How long did you do that?
Mr. ZACHER: About four years.
LAMB: Then what?
Mr. ZACHER: Sold that and went into real estate.
LAMB: Now I--were you that--were you interested in the presidency that early
in your life?
Mr. ZACHER: Oh, I've always been interested in it. And--and I--and you asked
me before if I was involved in politics, but I've always been
interested--deeply interested in politics so that, yes, I...
LAMB: Over the years, have you done anything special about following
presidents in any way? I mean, did you keep track of them in any kind of
research material up until the time you started working on the book?
Mr. ZACHER: No, not at all, just--I suppose I read everything. And I
would read of the lives of presidents and look into biographies and that sort
LAMB: Do you have a favorite president in history?
Mr. ZACHER: Well, I mentioned before that...
LAMB: Mentioned George Washington.
Mr. ZACHER: Yes. But--but I'm very intrigued by James Madison. And I
say--the Schlesinger article there--they played him down. But Franklin
Roosevelt's certainly somebody that--who was very intriguing, and I--and I
like my chapter on Franklin Roosevelt. He had a lot of faults, but
he- --there's no question that he saved the American economy, he
saved the way of life, certainly in a halting and--the New Deal was not a
success by the time the second term was over. And by the way, one
disagreement I had with the article was that he was responsible for some major
legislation at the end of his second term. It was Congress who took over, and
one of my conclusions is that getting along with Congress--really the
principal conclusion I have--is essential for a president to succeed. And if
the president does not control a Congress, Congress will control him. And
by--near the end of the second term, Congress had taken over the New Deal
legislation that was- the Hours Acts and those changes which occurred at
the end of the second term were initiated by people like Wagner in Congress.
Roosevelt was, of all things, more of a follower than a leader at that time.
LAMB: At the end of each of your chapters, you have a reader's score of the
particular president you've just written about. This one is Grover Cleveland.
Defense, economic--I can't even see from here--communications, vision...
Mr. ZACHER: Leading--the ability to lead Congress.
LAMB: What--what do you want people to do with this?
Mr. ZACHER: Oh, I think that was something that I discussed with one of the
people I worked with the book. And I'm--you see, I'm a citizen
historian, and I think there are a whole bunch of history buffs and
presidential junkies out there, and they all have their own opinions after
reading the chapter. And I thought, well, there's a slight chance that they
might want to argue with me, and I encourage that, so that I've asked people
to send in their opinions. I don't think that's a principal aspect of the
LAMB: Well, then in the back you have a chart that people can fill in.
Mr. ZACHER: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: And what do you want them to do with it?
Mr. ZACHER: If they want to, they send it in.
LAMB: Has anybody done that to you?
Mr. ZACHER: I've had some, yes.
LAMB: Do they agree or disagree with your rankings?
Mr. ZACHER: Well, I've had some disagreement. It's interesting. In one
review, I was absolutely trashed for my chapter on Andrew Jackson, and I don't
know the press at all that did that. It must--I say so--it must be very, very
liberal because they--they criticized my favoring Jackson. Keep in mind again
that the Schlesinger article and that survey still place Jackson among the
near-great. But Andrew Jackson co--violated Supreme Court directive--would
not implement a Supreme Court directive to assist the Indians--the
Amer--Native Americans in Georgia, and he forced their removal, the death of
tens and tens of thousands of Indians. Well, by today's standards, looking at
the perspective from today, he was a cruel, vicious reactionary. But in his
time, that's what the majority of Americans wanted. He was fulfilling
the wishes of the majority of Americans and it was the common man, not
large industry. He wasn't defending great wealth. He was defending the
ordinary American citizen who wanted that land that the Indians had. And by
standards of his day, he was their leader.
LAMB: How much--did you ever total up the number of books you read to get
ready to write this book of your own?
Mr. ZACHER: No. I'm sure there are an awful lot of them. I bought a
lot of them, but I read a lot of them in the library and so forth. But I read
a lot of books.
LAMB: And having read all those books, did you find some that just stuck
out as being ones that you'd recommend to your friends and that are
Mr. ZACHER: Well, the--there's such a variety of them. Of course, the
David Donald book on Lincoln--you have to mention that-and I was
kind--I'm kind of proud of the fact that my perspective on Lincoln is the same
that he had, and his book, of course, came out way after my chapter on
Lincoln. And it has a slight variation--and David Donald's book
does also--on those perspectives of many historians prior to that on Lincoln.
And that's one thing--it took a lot of courage on my part to take strong
positions on each and every president, and I do that. There's no beating
around the bush in what I think of each president, I don't think. It's very
clear where I stand on each one.
LAMB: Well, let's go over some of these presidents. You give us your
capsule feeling about them. In your chart in the back, you have special
situations, Lincoln and Coolidge.
Mr. ZACHER: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: Let's start with Abraham Lincoln. Everybody, it seems, rates him
number one as the greatest president in our history. Do you agree with that?
Mr. ZACHER: Of course.
LAMB: And what's the reason?
Mr. ZACHER: He--one thing--he had huge ego, but he set that aside as
president, which is a remarkable quality. He understood--he--to quote Dave
Donald, "He directed the ship of state from point to point," he
said, where he did not necessarily know which direction he was going and he
accepted that, despite all the criticism against what he knew to be the only
course he could take, which was to study situations and follow--and learn from
them and be-- to be as creative as, of course, he was able to be. He had
two visions for America, and it's rare, of course, for any president to have
strong visions. One, of course, was to save the Union. No other
president--I'm sorry--no other candidate, no other individual around, I argue,
would have attempted to save the Union. They would have allowed slavery to go
off, the country to separate, and Lincoln was determined to preserve the
Union. And secondly, of course, going back to life, liberty and the pursuit
of happiness, the Declaration, all men are created equal--he wanted to end
slavery. He fulfilled those two great visions. He had tremendous opposition
in the country. He was hated in many parts of the country, took authority
that no other president in history has taken, and he did this with
LAMB: Then you also have another special situation. I'll read what you say.
`Coolidge --was highly popular during his second term, yet history
judges him to have been a failed president.'
Mr. ZACHER: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: What do you think of him?
Mr. ZACHER: He, a frugal man, believed in honesty, frugality, would not
stand up to the rising speculation in the country. And he knew clearly that
the country was headed in the wrong direction--speculation--and would not
allow his Federal Reserve board to speak out as, in fact, Greenspan did just
recently about speculation, and the country was headed toward a terrible
crisis. The farmers had no--their incomes had collapsed. Legislation came
before Congress, and Congress approved legislation to help the farmer, and he
voted against it, because he said, `They ought to be independent.' There's a
godlike force--really God-- whose guiding hand will direct
capitalism to function successfully, and he would not allow Congress to help
the farmers. He would not speak out against the excesses on Wall Street. And
I claim he implemented the final crash in the Depression.
LAMB: Have you ever done other things in public life at all
besides write books and be in business? I mean, are you involved in any other
Mr. ZACHER: Oh, yes, I'm very active in our public radio station. I'm past
chairman of--of our psychiatric organization. And through the I've been on
United Way and Chamber of Commerce. I'm University of Michigan Alumni
Association. I was on the board. I was first chairman of their
scholarship committee. And I'm always very active.
LAMB: So I get back to what I asked earlier. I mean, are people
surprised that you did the book or they say, `There goes old Al Zacher again.
He's finally got that book done'?
Mr. ZACHER: I didn't tell anybody about the book for years. I just
absolutely would not mention it, could not imagine anybody--anyone believing
that I'd be writing a book. And it came as a complete surprise to everyone.
It was just literally this year that I got up courage enough to tell people
I'd written a book.
LAMB: Why did it take courage to tell them?
Mr. ZACHER: Well, because, you know, who am I to write a book on the--on
presidents? Here are all these people with these lifetime credentials
and I--and no one's written a book on the subject before. It's the first
book written on the second term.
LAMB: Where did you get the title "Trial and Triumph"?
Mr. ZACHER: It came out of my original introduction. It's just something
that hit me as being what actually happens in the second term. It is a trial
LAMB: Now on the back you have a Small Press magazine comment that says,
`Jackpot. A wonderful guide for what is in store in this year's fascinating,
riveting, continuous election. Clinton's shadow is on every page of Zacher's
engrossing and suggestive book.' What's Small Press magazine?
Mr. ZACHER: It's a publication for those who self-publish.
LAMB: Sum up your experience of the self-publishing thing. Has
this worked out the way you thought it would?
Mr. ZACHER: I'm extremely pleased with the Jenkins Group, who put the book
together. I think it has professional look to it. It could have been put out
by any of the big houses.
LAMB: And what is the Jenkins Group?
Mr. ZACHER: They provide the full packaging service for people like me.
They take the manuscript and they put it together in terms
of type size, and they came up with the design for the cover, and I do like
the cover design. I said it was one case I hope people judge book by its
cover. I think it is attractive. And they make sure that I do my
bibliography and that the index is done and it's all put together, and
they package it completely.
LAMB: Where's the Jenkins Group located?
Mr. ZACHER: They're up in Traverse City, Michigan.
LAMB: And so no matter who the author is, if you go to the Jenkins Group,
they'll do this for the price?
Mr. ZACHER: Yes. Mm-hmm.
LAMB: And do they also have it--the book distributed?
Mr. ZACHER: No. They recommend distributors. And I have
somebody--distributor for libraries, and then, of course, midpoint is my
distributor for the general trade book--all the, you know, bookstores, that
sort of thing.
LAMB: Did you go on a book tour?
Mr. ZACHER: No, no. I think book tours, you have to have a name like
Hillary or Colin Powell or Bork or whatever. Book signings you have
to have a name.
LAMB: Now looking back, would you do anything differently on a second
Mr. ZACHER: I would not put in the rankings. But, no, I would not do
anything--I mean, this same book, and...
LAMB: Why wouldn't you put the rankings in?
Mr. ZACHER: Oh, in fact, I talked with one agent who said, `No one's going to
bother,' and I do think so. People will read, but they don't want to
LAMB: In other words, you wouldn't put the rankings in of p...
Mr. ZACHER: I might rank it, but I wouldn't ask them to...
LAMB: You wouldn't ask the...
Mr. ZACHER: The public to rank.
LAMB: ...the readers to rank.
Mr. ZACHER: No.
LAMB: Now have you got another book in mind that you're thinking about
And would you self-publish again?
Mr. ZACHER: Well, I would like to think that because of the effectiveness of
this one, a publisher might take it, but it depends of the book. People who
have started out in their first or second book with publishers have gone to
self-publishing. Frankly, if the book sells very, very well, then you get to
keep a greater--greater amount of the profits, significantly greater. But
I would try to have it published. I don't want to spend my
time--and I spent a lot of time getting this self-published. It takes a lot
LAMB: What would your second book be about?
Mr. ZACHER: I have two or three topics, one that is kind of rare and I
probably wouldn't mention that. My grandson--one of my grandsons suggested I
do a children's book on the presidency, and I like that idea. And then also
I'm intrigued about the whole issue of: What is conservative and what is
LAMB: What do you think it is?
Mr. ZACHER: I say it isn't clear. I think of Andrew Jackson, who's
considered so--one of the liberal presidents, Democrat, fighting for the
common man. I've already mentioned what he did to the American Indian by
today's standards, but in those days, was that liberal or not? But he felt,
as Calvin Coolidge did not, that there was excess. He never he
broke-- he eliminated the bank of the United States, opened up a
whole bunch of state banks, very successful. The little --the small
entrepreneur, the farmer could borrow money endlessly, and there was huge
speculation, great growth of wealth, very successful, just exactly what he
And one day he decided that this was too much. So it's as though the Federal
Reserve today raised interest by 5 percent or whatever, and suddenly, cut credit
and demanded the--the exchange of gold for--backing of gold
for loans rather than paper money. Well, overnight, it all shut down. All
the real estate speculation, all the farmer speculation. and a
tremendous Depression occurred. Well, I think you have to say that this
was not something that was very favorable to the mass of Americans. And what
is liberal and what is conservative?
LAMB: You list four presidents that you consider had failed second
terms. We've talked a little bit about a couple of them. It's Grant,
Cleveland, Johnson and Nixon. Why did Cleveland--Grover Cleveland had a
separation of--you know, between...
Mr. ZACHER: Yes.
LAMB: ...Benjamin Harrison he wasn't a successive term. Why did his
second term fail?
Mr. ZACHER: And let me just--we'll maybe come back to it. But
I'm--probably might shift Lyndon Johnson over to troubled rather than failed.
LAMB: I mean, you have four columns: successful second terms, troubled
second terms, failed second terms and then the special situations.
Mr. ZACHER: Yes. And Grover Cleveland is listed--he's sort of the darling of
some people, and I definitely consider that he had a failed second term.
He came off--he's a very rigid, very determined individual. And the--there
was an economic downturn, and there again, he tightened money, he would not
respond to the demand for a freer supply of funds. And he was a Democrat,
keep in mind, and he had the allegiance of labor and the average citizen, the
middle class, and they're the ones who asked him for help and he wouldn't give
it. And I think his inability to relate to his own constituency is an
issue. And then there was this famous Pullman strike. The strikers walk out
on the Pullman industry in Illinois and he sends the troops in. He doesn't
consult a Democratic governor in Illinois, doesn't talk to him. He's simply
arbitrary about this rather than trying to figure out how to settle the
strike, how to work locally, and the public just turned on him.
Now--and he did not solve--he did not step in to solve problems that he
had. And it struck me, `Well'-- and I say this--`did he have the tools?
Did he have the insights? Were they not there yet? Was it premature?' But
you look back on earlier presidents going back to Madison's day.
Presidents grappled with problems in a way that--that Cleveland didn't. And
I I put him as a failed president.
LAMB: Why would you move Lyndon Johnson from failed to just troubled, the
Mr. ZACHER: And I struggled with why I put him in as a completely failed
president because he was so successful in the first part of his second term.
And--and I guess I'd have to say part of the reason is that he himself saw
his second term as--as a failure. He was devastated by it. And I
probably was influenced by that. The fact that he really lied to the
American people about the number of troops and the costs of the war. I find
that objectionable and strong evidence of failure on his part. I also
probably have to say--and I mentioned--that his fight on--his--his war on
poverty and his tremendous success in legislation for the poor and for the
average individual is so tainted by a self-need that I'm probably a
little biased in that sense.
In other words, when there's great crisis, when there's civil war or
depression or even Teddy Roosevelt's time--the threat to the American economy
from potential uprisings--it was the beginning of Bolshevism and that sort of
thing--he felt he was saving the country from a threat, a real
threat. Johnson didn't have any of that. So I find his programs, whatever
their merits--and that's another issue--that there is a certain falseness
about it. But really, that aside, he was effective legislator, he did
have great success with Congress, certainly riding on the back of the
death of Kennedy. But his first two years were successful in terms of his own
program, and then, of course, it all went downhill.
LAMB: How have the reviews been on your book?
Mr. ZACHER: There haven't been many.
LAMB: Why's that?
Mr. ZACHER: Those that I've had--National Journal here gave me a very
favorable review. American History magazine gave me a very favorable review.
LAMB: And why do you think there haven't been many reviews?
Mr. ZACHER: Simply there's so many books out, and the publishers go to the
press and they-- their lobbyist floor review, and I have none of that.
LAMB: Did you get the kind of attention you thought you'd get from CNN and
CNBC or is it more than you thought?
Mr. ZACHER: It's a Walter Mitty kind of a fantasy realization.
It's-- not anything at all that could have been imagined. There was
no time. Well, first of all, when I wrote the book, I paid no attention
whatsoever to the public--that is, to the response. That was never an issue
in writing the book. But then once it came out, you have to sort to think
about a little bit, and at that time, it would never, ever--I never would have
allowed it to enter my thought that--that the response and acknowledgment
would be there.
LAMB: So--but you would do this again?
Mr. ZACHER: Only if I had a topic that--that...
LAMB: No, no. I mean, but you would do this book again? In other words,
after you had this experience, it was worth it?
Mr. ZACHER: Oh, would I do--yes. Oh, of course. But I would have done it
without because I believed in the book and I--and I've--and it was a great
adventure writing it.
LAMB: This is the cover of the book. It sells for $24.95, self-published,
Presidential Press of Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Alfred Zacher, the author. Thank
you very much for joining us.
Mr. ZACHER: Thank you.
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