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tv   QA with Scott Greenberger  CSPAN  October 1, 2017 8:00pm-9:01pm EDT

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a with scott greenberger. takeslcolm turnbull questions from the australian parliament. atn, jeremy corbyn speaks his party pot fall conference. erence.y's fall conf this week on two and day. scott greenberger -- on q and a. scott greenberger discusses his book, "the unexpected president: the life and times of chester a. arthur." brian: your book, "the unexpected president: the life and times of chester a. arthur.". who is the most interesting character? scott: chester. his father was a rigid
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abolitionist preacher. he grew up in a very religious environment. college, he was a teacher and became a lawyer. he was involved in a very important case, the decentralization of new york city stre -- desegreatio -- desegregation of new york city street bars. he was a quartermaster in the union army. a bona fide opportunities for lining his own pockets. which he did not do as many as others did. but he became involved in the machine politics of that era. thebecame close to flamboyant new york box. -- new york boss.
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he is an extremely interesting character. he served as president from 1881, when garfield was shot. until the end of his term in 1885. brian: who was present before and after? scott: garfield before. grover cleveland was president after. brian: why did you want to write a book about chester a arthur? scott: every president has an interesting story. arthur, het chester is one of the most obscure studentss college sometimes are given a list of names and asked to identify presidents.
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he consistently ranks among the lesser-known. the only thing most people remember about him is his distinctive mutton chop sideburns. a few reasons why it is interesting to focus on. it was in the area right after leading up to, teddy roosevelt and the progressives. time a lot of people give short shrift to in american history. we studied the civil war in school, and a little bit on reconstruction. then a quick fast-forward to teddy roosevelt and world war i. we think of as modern america really starts to time.hape in this americans for the first time heard the term "millionaire." the country was formed from an
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agrarian country to an industrial countries with large corporations that were beginning to exert their power. brian: i want to jump to a page of your book. 10th, roscoe's long affair with kate sprague finally came to an end." what is that? roscoe conkling attracted a lot of female attention. before of he spoke on the senate, the gallery was filled with ladies. his wife preferred to stay home
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and doing a lot of gardening and charity work. he was free to roam in washington. and he did. belle ofas the washington. two of them were an item. the worst kept secret in washington. husband, a senator, had had enough. kling was also a senator. daughter ofwas the the former secretary of the treasury? scott: right. sprague had become a kate -- widower
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when kate was a teenager. she had helped him when kate --s governor. she was a valuable advisor to conkling. brian: reading more from your book. scott: conkling was incredibly arrogant. very confident in himself. very physically imposing and handsome. a very effective speaker. he rose quickly through the ranks in the senate and did not defer to his seniors. he was not the type to run away,
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even when someone was threatening him with bodily harm. brian: some more. scott: it is a great story. front page of many newspapers that summer. attentiontracted the
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of the president of the time, president rutherford b. hayes. he took some satisfaction in conkling's comeuppance. brian: where was arthur when garfield was shot? albany,e was up in trying to help conkling win back his senate seat. hayes was trying to institute reforms fighting back against machine politicians like conkling. conkling bylted putting someone in the new york customhouse without consulting him, he and the other senator from new york resigned in protest, thinking that the new york legislature would quickly restore him to his seat.
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this was before the direct election of senators. the legislature had had enough of conkling's antics. it was a tougher job than he'd anticipated. chester a. arthur, who was james garfield's vice president, went ng getany to help conkli back his seat, in direct opposition to what james garfield was trying to do, institute reforms. control tried to take of this massive patronage system. it was widely noted that chester a. arthur was in new york, doing opposings bidding and james garfield at the time when he was shot.
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the tension between the reform wing of the republicans and the stalwart wing of the party was so great that when garfield was a shot, many people suspected that chester a. arthur and conkling had something to do with it. brian: what can you tell us about the person who shot james garfield, gateau? scott: he was probably mentally ill. bears a motto for some lengths to some of the other characters throughout american history who ended up doing the same kinds of things that he did. modern medicine today would have judged him to be mentally ill. the direct instigator of his acts was the fact he thought he was owed in office for the work he had done for the garfield-arthur campaign.
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he was rejected, he decided the problem was james garfield. thee removed garfield, split and the republican party would be amended, and the republic saved. noted the immediate that heor his act was had been denied in office his due. brian: he was a shot, down the street here. sixth an constitution? scott: b street. brian: in a train station. afterappened to guiteau he shot garfield? what happened to garfield? how much did garfield and arthur see each other before he died? the whole reason that arthur ended up as vice
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president was an effort by the republicans to placate conkling and make sure that new york would throw it support behind garfield. arthur was an accidental vice president, who had no relationship at all with garfield. presidents didn't have close relationships with presidents. he was much closer to conkling then garfield. immediately after the shooting took place, police seized guiteau. stalwart.id, i am a and arthur will be president. that statement only added to the suspicion that arthur had something to do with the assassination. brian: stalwart. the name. scott: it referred to the fact that when conkling's wing of the
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party wanted former president to serve a third term, which would have been unprecedented, the republicans who stood together at the convention and stuck with grant became known as the stalwarts. hayes,you had grant, garfield, arthur, cleveland, harrison, cleveland. that timetalks about as a blur. the screen a on series of pictures to show the similarities. blaine, and what he looked like back in the late 1800s. what was his role? l.ott: he was conkling's riva to same age, both fighting
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be the leader of the republican party and the president. they had a well-publicized sap congress over an army reauthorization bill. thoughts that conkling had insulted him. leveled and attack at him that was remembered for years afterward. a "turkery -- turkey gobbler strut." brian: what offices did he have? laine was garfield's secretary of state and had offices in the senate. that caused tension between the garfield's reformer wing and the conkling wing.
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wing. when blaine was named secretary of state, it became clear where garfield's loyalties were. brian: what are other words -- i know you said he didn't like people? bit of a drum of folk. -- of a germophoe. a m germophobe. he hated people smoking. he liked to cover the law books on his desk with paper so his opponents wouldn't know the authority he was siding. -- he was citing. case,he finished making a he would open a newspaper and start reading, as if what he had said was enough to sway the jury.
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physical characteristics often noticed was that curl in the middle of his four head. cartoons of the time are always emphasizing that curl. he fluffed it out to emphasize it. brian: as long as we're talking conkling, you -- tell about how he died. scott: during the great snowstorm that each new york in 1888. he was supposed to argue a case that day. the judge canceled it. he stated downtown and tried to walk uptown. he didn't want to pay the exorbitant fees of the taxi drivers. fees,ere charging high given the weather. he thought he was going to die. he was stuck in a snow drift. he almost gave up.
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to shelter. he was ok. soon after, he got pneumonia and never recovered. brian: james garfield. what did you learn about him? they all were kind of a like back then. because of the beard. scott: he is a fascinating figure. he served in the civil war. was self-made. but was veryor, academically inclined. he ended up graduating from williams. he rose pretty quickly threw the ranks, while he was still serving in the civil war, he was
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elected to congress. once he was in congress, he managed to straddle both sides of the aisle. a formula for success. thereas at a time when was a lot of corruption in congress. there was only a bit of that to him. he was considered to be clean by the standards of the time. a surprise choice for president in 1880. there was this dramatic convention, which i describe. he was the dark horse candidate when the convention was deadlocked and couldn't decide. they chose garfield and someone who would appeal to everyone. he didn't get the nomination and when. garfield.was ohio, scott: and they needed conkling's helped to win that
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election. brian: six months into his term? scott: less than that. brian: they were nominated in march. scott: right. brian: what was the feeling about garfield? thought heperformers was on the right track. he appointed someone to the customhouse was considered to be clean. they thought that was a good sign. he was just getting started when he was shot. brian: you say at one point, arthur wasr a. making -- he was making a million dollars in today's money? scott: arthur there was no inco. 70% of the revenues came through that customhouse. duties onorters paid
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goods. there was a system, under which the collector was assigned an incentive for officials to find malfeasance. if someone was found to be shirking their responsibilities in terms of paying duties, they had to pay a fine. arthur got a cut. let's look at you lefties grants. a two-term -- ulysses grant. there was his beard. did you do your research as to where the beard came from? scott: it was a popular fashion. brian: what impact did he have on chester a arthur being vice president and president? he was appointed to the
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customhouse. he got arthur started. term, during his second he personally wasn't tied to any corrupt activities, many members of the administration were. by that in his second term. forleared the way rutherford b. hayes. he was a reformer. brian: how would you describe grant? there's another biography coming out in november. why do people write so much about him? his service during the civil war -- he was a man who saved the union. lincoln went through numerous generals before he landed on grant. he was a middling student at
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west point. served in the mexican-american war. he failed in business after work. it looked like he was on the fast track to know where. nowhere.rack to he distinguished himself in the war. and became the savior of the union. he was the great hero of the civil war. have sohy did conkling much clout with grant to get arthur appointed to be the collector in new york city? scott: he was the boss of the republican machine in new york, which was the most populous state. had tremendous political power. he pointed out to grant, that if they had their own man in the customhouse, it would be very viable to them. -- very valuable to them.
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they would control the patronage. there were hundreds of jobs that could be given out to party loyalists. it was very valuable. you have talked about rutherford b. hayes. and another man who looks like the rest. an ohioan. grant and garfield were born in ohio. what was it about the state that was sotime attractive to the country? scott: i am not sure. it is now known as a vital state politically. if there was something appealing about those men, or the state. hayes was in the civil war. he pledged to one term. reform the civil service, the gigantic issue of
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the time. why would the civil service need to be reformed? what was that connection to conk ling? time, this was populated by people who were political loyalists. there was no thought given to whom might be able to do the job, who had the proper qualifications. was a way for the party to perpetuate its power. hadequired people who gotten jobs because of their party service to contribute to the party. mandatorys were contributions that had to be made. if you worked for the government. brian: what percentage of their
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salary? scott: it depended on what the salary was. workers ateet -- the the customhouse used to collect street.l it hand-over they had to sign their checks over the to the republican party there. we talked about teddy roosevelt. later presidents wanted to instill the federal government with more power. and have it take a more active role in everything, from safeguarding the safety of food to the national parks. needed to be overseen by people who know what they were doing the. civil service reform played in the groundwork for the more expansive role the federal government played. people that have watched
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this network might have seen your face, and a familiar name. your father is a former wall street journal reporter. of him.a video i will ask you about what impact he had. pakistan's apparent bid to go nuclear is unlikely to spur u.s. retaliation. pakistani native was arrested for conspiring to illegally ship some material to pakistan to be used in its nuclear bomb program. we have specific laws of saying we cut off aid to any country caught doing such things. ally,an is a pivotal mainly as a funneling point for against theghting
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soviet-backed regime in afghanistan. it poses a foreign policy dilemma for congress. brian: that was 30 years ago. dad have ondid your you? scott: that footage is the beard again. it was the fashion. he had a tremendous influence. he was a journalist. behindthe driving force my decision to go into journalism. he loved what he was doing. he had such a great time working for "the journal. " it was easy to see he enjoyed what he was doing. he went into my grandfather's business, and he died shortly after my father graduated from college.
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he ran a newspaper business. he was fulfilling his obligation as the oldest son of. but he loved journalism and writing. he got to fulfill his dreams and traveled all over the world. kinds ofabout all interesting issues. that inspired me to do something similar. brian: is he still with us? scott: yes. he lives in washington. there are three boys in my family. brian: are the others in journalism daca -- in jour nalism? where did you get your education? scott: off -- on different paths. i went to yale and george washington university. brian: where has your career taken you since you left school? worked for the austin-american-statesman for
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five years. "the boston globe." a charitable trust where i run pew's journalism project. who conceived that? away the content to everyone and everyone. let us go back. tell us about the time when you were trying to figure out what to write about, and why did you want to do a book? i had been looking for something to write about. i have been always fascinated by american history.
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i wanted to do something other people haven't done it. on somethingork and see someone who did the same thing. for something that hadn't been done in a long time. arthur was a very interesting figure during an interesting time. most people really had no idea about this story. the book, "destiny of the republic," was about the garfield shooting and the shoddy care he got from the doctor. there is a short mention their of arthur and about how he was a machine politician. he surprised everybody as
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president. another thing she mentioned briefly that intrigued me was that there were letters from a woman named julia sand, and her early 30's who was confined to her home in new york city. she did not know arthur. arthur did not know her. wheng that long summer garfield was lingering on his deathbed, she started writing letters to arthur, encouraging him to return to his better self. the person he had been as a younger man. even though she had never met him, she seems to have a sense of where he was psychologically. he had already been deeply affected by the shooting of garfield and the intense criticism that he faced in the wake of the shooting, and the suspicions that he had somehow been involved in the assassination attempt. at this point, he began to think
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about his political career up to that point and the kind of politician he had been and if he were to become president, what sorts of responsibilities would be on his shoulders and what he had to do to meet those responsibilities. in 1881 when he became president after garfield died, what was his -- was his wife alive? scott: no. she had been dead for a short time. when he became vice president, she had died already of pneumonia. when she died, he had been in albany doing the usual wheeling and dealing. brian: he died shortly after he left the presidency. but when did he get bryce disease and did he die of it? scott: he did die of it. quiet.naged to keep it he died in 1886, a year after he left office.
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he had a medical episode that i where ast in the book, president in savannah, he had gone to florida on vacation. a reporter was traveling with him and he had an attack of some sort while on board a ship outside of savanna. at the time, there were some early reports that somehow he might be seriously ill, but they were quickly denied by the white house and people around him. a big not want to make deal of it. he kept it secret. -- there was this the taurean cents that a man did not -- there was this victorian sense that a man did not talk about his weaknesses. brian: julia sand came a family of eight children. arthur came from a family of nine children? scott: i think it is fewer than
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that. you say she wrote 23 letters. scott: 23 that we have. they are at the library of congress. we saved the letters. shortly before his death, he ordered almost all of his papers to be burned. he was ashamed of what he had done before his time in the white house. he made very explicit instructions that the letters from julia sand had been saved. brian: you were able to see the letters in person. what impact did they have on you? were you able to look through them all? scott: yes. you can look through them on microfilm. the library and there let me look to the actual letters. people who write
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history are also struck by this, it can be moving to read somebody's personal letters, to think about the person who wrote it and the person who is reading it. the ink on the page, to see if words are crossed out or emphasized. futurender how generations will write about the public figures of our times without that resource. you lose something in an email or phone call. .ou do not get much at all unless you are president and the phone call is being recorded. brian: you talk about arthur having a house on lexington onnue but julia sand leaving 40 sort -- 44th street.
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have you been to her house? scott: i do not know if that is the same house. chester arthur's house is the same house. it is there and there is a middle eastern spice store their. very little that he would tell people that it is the only existing site in new york city where president took the oath of office. brian: digitally ever marry? deed julia ever marry? why did she call herself the little door? was thehe court jester one person who could speak truth to the king. she saw herself as the one person who could speak truth to chester arthur. ever marry.
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she spoke her mind and was very bold with a guy, considering he as the president of the u.s. it is hard to tell how sick she era.his was the victorian she refers to. the time where she could not do much more than lie on the couch. it is not clear what her medical problems were. there were times where she was doing much better, writes him from saratoga, goes out writing for the first time in some time. -- it would be incorrect to say she was invalid, but she did have some health problems. reed's.ou reference tom this is an old program that we do with tom reeves. i want to hear what he said.
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>> this is the only modern book on a president. i do not know if any research has been done since 1975. brian: do you know if there is been any research in a book about garfield? scott: just a few short books about arthur. in 1975 is thete most extensive. he did a lot of research. because arthur burned his papers, there is not a lot left. everything that was there. there are some letters to juliet, some family papers, and reeves also donated his own papers to the library of congress, so that future writers could consult that.
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his book is a different kind of a book. of the chapters are more thematic rather than a narrative. i wanted to tell the story in a way that would be accessible to people who are coming to the story without knowing much about chester arthur, but are interested in american history and want to read a good story. brian: his grandson sold these letters to the library of congress in 1958. do you know how much they paid? scott: i do not know. they were buried in a trunk for a long time. kept thesehur's son letters in a trunk in denver, in someone's basement for long time. they were discovered many years later. a newspaper found out about this and published a query asking if anybody knew julia sandor what
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happened to her. the 1930's her in said, yes that was might catch. i remember -- yes it that was my aunt. became more comfortable with him, she invited him to visit. noting they were both new said we could go for a ride in the park. he did stop by and pay her a visit. herne nephew was there. he was president. he showed up unannounced. it was extraordinary. it was that visit, combined with shebits of political advice gave him, convinced people that julius stand did have -- that
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julius stand did have an impact on him. she writes i am a poor little woman who has always been the youngest of her family, who consequently, if she lives to be 50, will always be treated like a child who would have no comfort in life if she could not occasionally scold some very big man. that was written in 1881. the letters are extraordinary. i quoted long passages in the book because they are so interesting. not only did she give him political advice, but she advised him on his health. she teased him about his weight. she joked that writing is good
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exercise, but be conscious of the fact that it is not fair to the horse is it has to carry too much weight. brian: before i read more, the hour that he spent in her home sounds a little strange. did you get any information on how she hated behind a trait -- drape? hid behind a she did not have any time alone with him. her whole family was there. if he had come at any other time, she would have been alone. but all of her nieces and nephews were there, her brother and sister. arthur did not address this meeting between the two of them in any of his
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letters, and it is not addressed by anybody else, we have to rely theulia's recounting of visit in her letters. nervous, herwas family was there, she felt like she could not speak freely. .t seems like she was very shy you might be when the president of the united states shows up on your doorstep. it seems like, judging from her recounting of the episode, that arthur teased her a little bit and suggested, you expect me to be better than the angels. i think that is the phrase he used. and i am just a human being, and if you understood the pressures a president faces, you would understand my decisions better. let me go back to what
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she said, and give you a chance to complete the story. this is her first letter. lifeouse of garfield's were numbered. before this meets your eye, you might be president. the people are about in grief but do you realize it? not so much because he is dying, but because you are his successor. that is from the first letter, i think. it is amazing because she really seems to have some insight into his psychology. we have other reports of how distraught he was that summer. charges in the newspapers that somehow he had something to do it -- do with it were deeply
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wounding. he had sort of ended up on the ticket by accident. he never imagined that he would be president. then all of a sudden, he is on the threshold of office. there are reports that right after he got the news that our field had died, his doorkeeper says a reporter comes to the door and he says, he can't come to the door right now, he is in his office, sobbing. julia really gets him. saved thesehe letters. brian: more from the first letter. your opponents will say, arthur will try to do right, he will not succeed though. president can't change him. but it can change them, she writes.
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andt emergencies awake generous traits which have laned dormant half a life. if there is a spark of chernobyl it he and you, now is the occasion to let it shine. faith in your better nature forces me to write to you, but not to beg you to resign. reform. what? why to form civil service reformers are holding meetings in major american cities. they write songs about the cause. the amount of emotional attachment is a hard to understand. she is asking him to do that. to return to the idealistic lawyer that would help desegregate new york city streetcars. as he takes office and starts to do some of the things she wanted
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him to do, to push civil-service reform, she sends him letters encouraging him to carry on. people say this is just window dressing, your surprising people, but i am not surprised. i know who you really are. brian: if you do not have these letters, what would your book like?ke -- be point into myy book had to do with learning about these letters. i felt i could build the whole book on the letters. people who wrote books like this it made more sense to tell the whole arthur story. to write a narrative, but also one that was more of a traditional ion graffiti.
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i think that was the right approach. -- one that was more of a traditional biography. i think that was the right approach. career as aut his teacher and a young lawyer and the civil war. who started down a certain path, and feared off -- path to oneff the of power and wealth and fame. brian: before we run out of time, at what point did arthur do something about civil-service, and what impact did it have? we talked about the stall words -- the stalwarts.
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go back to this scenario. when did arthur do what she wanted him to do? scott: he put it in his first message. did not go before congress and deliver this address. writing.livered in he called for civil-service. it did not go anywhere. no one in congress had an interest in pushing this. it was only after the election got882 when the republicans beaten pretty badly that there was a general sense among the politicos of the day that this had been a reaction against machine politics and against the status quo. this momentum had now gone to a point where was time for congress to do some ink.
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they passed a piece of legislation that had been lingering for some time. it, which was nice, but people noted that as the executive he is going to have the ability to --rt-circuit us they short-circuit this if he wants to. vigorously pursued these reforms and really laid the groundwork for future reforms and an extensive role for the federal government. ordoes not remember at all gets credit for that. how many people into madison square park in new york city where you say there is the statue of him? how many people who walk by that statue have any idea what he did? scott: very few. i was there not too long ago, it
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was deserted. the statue is a terrific bit of color. there is a statue on the opposite side of cop lane. he has this layer. it looks like he has -- he has glare. it looks like he is glaring at arthur. how much education did didjuliad have -- sand have? scott: i'm not sure. she had a brother who died in the civil war. when she mentioned that families were used to morning, she had experience. brian: here is one she wrote
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near the elections in 1882. go back to washington. forget new york. president.at you are work only for the good of the comp tree. bear in mind that a free country and bear in mind that in a free bulwark ofe only power worth trusting is the affection of the people. scott: people thought he was meddling as president in the local and state campaigns. that sparked a backlash. people think many voters acted out in protest. after the election, there is a consensus that the voters had said loud and clear, we want reform. she noticed arthur looked
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ill when he visited. not to keepou ought your malaria a secret. did not have malaria. i think she was seeing the symptoms of brace disease. advice that het was a giant air mark vehicle for members of congress. it started out as a way to fund improvements in the waterways. hill, it, in capitol became a christmas tree and everybody hung their personal pet projects on it. bill, saying it had gone out of control. the new york times praised him
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for that decision and said it is a terrific thing that he did. of 1882, sheil said do you feel flattered how surprised people are when you do anything good? go on surprising them. i am never surprised because i expected of you. why did he pay any it attention to her letters? she touched something in him. she seems to have insight into his character and psychology that struck him. ,fter he got the first letter researchlittle bit of and found out her brother was
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theodore sand, he found out where he was and jotted it on a card. he was immediately struck by her boldness.ght, it would have been wonderful to , i diary,ome evidence something where he could tell us in his own words what these met -- what these letters meant to him. he followed a lot of the advice. he visited her to think her out of nowhere. thathen he died and asked everything to be burned, he said he wanted these letters saved. -- thesely conclude he had meaning for him. brian: what was the hardest part of doing this book? scott: i think the hardest part
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was that because he burned his with the exception of the letters he wrote as a younger man, there is not a lot of written material that gives you insight into what he was thinking. you have to rely on the memories of the people around him. you have to rely on the newspapers of the time, which fortunately had visited idscriptions of him -- vivd descriptions of him. we talk about my love of journalism. it were so many papers in new york that did such a wonderful job describing scenes, people, the way people felt. this was a time before interviewing.
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to paint portraits that are invaluable for someone coming 150 years later. any other characters you saw at the time that you might want to write a book on? scott: blaine is a great character. co. playing is a larger than life character. it is hard to imagine someone like that in today's washington. brian: civil-service would not be like it is today without chester a. arthur? don't think it would be. he also started the rebuilding of the navy. lastingink that is his legacy. he was a preacher. is n: the name of this book
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"the unexpected president: the life and times of chester a. arthur." our guest is been scott greenberger. we thank you very much. ♪ announcer: to give us your comments about this program, visit us on q&a.org. our programs are also available as c-span podcasts. --you enjoyed this queuing k
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q&a, here are some other programs you might like. , thece miller on her book rise of winston churchill. ronald feynman discusses his assassinations, threats, and the american presidency. c-span.orglibrary on . prime minister malcolm turnbull takes questions in the australian parliament. then jeremy corbyn speaks at his conference. 11:00at 11: 30 -- and at eastern, another chance to see q&a. tonight we show you australian president malcolm turnbull and members of his cabinet answering questions in the australian house and senate. topics include terrorism and
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climate change. tom: a lot of action happening in the high court. welcome. people asked the prime minister if you would be campaigning strongly. before i go to my question, --

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