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Harold Stassen
Harold Stassen
Eisenhower: Turning the World Toward Peace
ISBN: 187792704X
Eisenhower: Turning the World Toward Peace
Harold Stassen, former adviser to President Dwight E. Eisenhower, discussed the book he co-authored with Marshall Houts, "Eisenhower: Turning the World Toward Peace." The authors used their personal experiences to chronicle President Eisenhower's two terms in the White House, from 1953-1961. Mr. Stassen, who assisted Dwight Eisenhower in his victory over Robert Taft in the first ballot in 1952, describes the president as an intelligent, effective communicator with great leadership qualities that played an integral role in his productiveness in office.
Mr. Stassen spoke of the state of America when the World War II hero took office, and how decisions that President Eisenhower applied to the Cold War in the early 1950s moved the world "to the hopes of enduring peace, with devotion to freedom, justice, and human rights."
The book praises President Eisenhower's leadership and highlights his accomplishments, such as ending the Korean War, building the interstate highway system, and holding the first televised press conference. The authors suggest, though, that the president has been undervalued by history.
The other author is Marshall Houts, former FBI special agent and author of general interest books.
Eisenhower: Turning the World Toward Peace
Program Air Date: October 14, 1990

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Harold Stassen, there is a book that you wrote out on the market called, "Eisenhower, Turning the World Toward Peace."
LAMB: Why now?
STASSEN: Because they started about two years ago saying I ought to write a book for his centennial of his birth. He was born October 14, 1890, so this is the centennial year, and I had been delaying and thinking about it and then finally Marshall Houts, a law-school fraternity brother, said he'd help me -- and he has quite a bit of writing experience and so forth. So then I went down to the Abilene Library, and I was pleased to find that in the last four years they have declassified a great amount of the National Security Council's secret minutes. I knew, of course, all the big decisions revolved around the National Security Council, and those minutes used to come out top secret, each page, and then we'd turn them in as soon as we reviewed them, but now, after over 30 years, they've extensively declassified them, so that meant I really could write about those things. So putting that together, I got busy about two years ago and the book just came off the press recently, and with Marshall Houts' assistance, and other people, in research, and so forth, and the library.
LAMB: How well did you know General Eisenhower?
STASSEN: Very well, of course, for many years. You see, I first got to know him very well when he was President of Columbia, and I was President of the University of Pennsylvania. Then, you remember, he was called back in by President Truman. He had, of course, been the General commanding our victorious forces, as you know, and then had come out to be President of Columbia, and then, when he was in Paris, sort of pulling NATO together, is the time when the movement really got going, that he ought to be President. So I knew him at Columbia, and then I worked with him through the campaign, and then, of course, when he was getting to start the administration, he said I should come down with him, so I worked very closely with him.
LAMB: I want to talk about President Eisenhower in just a moment, but first, Harold Stassen. Do you ever run into anybody today that doesn't know who you are or who hasn't heard the name?
STASSEN: Oh yes. All the younger people, you know. Of course, usually anybody that listens to Johnny Carson tends to know who I am.
LAMB: Why is that?
STASSEN: Well, he usually makes a few jokes, you know about it.
LAMB: Does it ever hurt?
STASSEN: Well, no. I knew when I decided to try to be active in politics, that you have got to be willing to take the slings and arrows along with everything else, and you have to enjoy it. I should tell you one of the most interesting introductions I had in Texas, in an audience, and the moderator got up and said, "Believe it or not, he is still alive and here he is." (laughter) That was my introduction.
LAMB: How many times have you run for President?
STASSEN: Well, literally, of course, I never ran for President, it was only for the Republican nomination. You see, I never really have been what they call an establishment Republican. I've been a Republican, but not one in the usual establishment, so I've been really usually, on certain issues, battling for the nomination in order to battle that up. The only real major campaign was back in '48. We had a lot of delegates and we were serious, that's the one that Dewey then won and went on to be defeated. In '52, it was the Stassen delegates who clinched Eisenhower's first ballot nomination, at Chicago, and that was a part of our whole plan, and the key man in all that was a young lawyer in Minnesota who was my chairman, called Warren Burger.
LAMB: We've got a picture of him that you've got in the book here. I'll try to find it in just a second. On the question of running for President,you know that some of the jokes that I'm sure Johnny Carson has come up with is that you have -- we've seen that name out there. I think the last you and I were together, in 1984 in New Hampshire, when you were running ...
STASSEN: In the snows of New Hampshire, as you -- where we used to meet, yes.
LAMB: How many times have you at least announced that you were running?
STASSEN: Well, there have been nine different times, with a long span of years, in which my name was up in some primary, some Republican primary somewhere.
LAMB: Looking back on your life, would you advise anybody to do that that many times? I mean, has it worked for -- it kept your name out there?
STASSEN: Well, that's hard to tell. You can hear those who say that I never should have left the farm -- that kind of political comment. Others who realize that really those key issues that I have been battling for, that that was one of the ways to bring them forward, and when I'd get slapped down on them one year, four years later, they'd start to adopt them. And I think along through the years, I've battled for things that really counted, and of course, it was being in the forefront that led to me being picked by President Roosevelt to be part of drafting the U.N. charter and then Harry Truman reappointed me for that.
LAMB: Are you going to run again?
STASSEN: No. I'm not gonna run any more. I'm just walking now for world peace.
LAMB: I don't know if this is a fair question, but do you ever give your age?
LAMB: Have you slowed down at all?
STASSEN: No. Some people say I've speeded up, but, no, I've been very active. As a matter of fact, along with writing this book, I have brought my suggestions for bringing the United Nations charter up to date to think of the next generation and having a better United Nations organization emerge from the original during these years. This is a very good time to really concentrate on what ought to be done for the future, and we have to think in long terms for that.
LAMB: You were Governor of Minnesota when you were 31 years old ...
STASSEN: Over 50 years ago. It doesn't seem possible.
LAMB: Are you still the youngest ever to have been elected governor?
STASSEN: The youngest ever elected of any state, and then also now, the senior former Governor of Minnesota.
LAMB: Did you ever, over your lifetime, think that you might have started it all too soon?
STASSEN: Oh, that's always been one of the speculations, surely.
LAMB: Do you feel that way, or would you advise somebody to run for governor when they're 31?
STASSEN: No, well, Brian, with this kind of an active life, I really do not go back and try to rethink things. I'm thinking about the future, and you cannot, obviously, change it -- so don't rethink it. Just try to analyze the next decision.
LAMB: Where do you live now?
STASSEN: In Minnesota, actually in the old home county where I was born, which is Dakota County, immediately adjacent to the Twin Cities, adjacent to the Mississippi River -- and 11 years ago, when we moved back from Pennsylvania, we found a beautiful home in those old rolling hills that we knew as a boy.
LAMB: That picture we were talking about, I want to show the audience, there are two of them on this page. We'll start with this one first, and it's a picture of the former Chief Justice of the United States ...
STASSEN: Who then was a leading lawyer, Warren Burger, young lawyer.
LAMB: And he was very political at that time?
STASSEN: Oh yes, he was one of my key supporters as a young -- we were young lawyers together, and those are pictures that show when the Minnesota delegation, the Stassen delegation, clinched Eisenhower's first ballot nomination. You see, I'm conferring and then asking for recognition, and then announcing the change, and then the convention literally exploded. It's in all the official minutes. That's historically recorded.
LAMB: What kind of a guy was Warren Burger and how well did you know him?
STASSEN: Oh, I knew him very well, and I think that as years go by, they will really appreciate more and more -- because he served, of course, 17 years as Chief Justice. Probably took hand in more constitutional questions than anybody in history, and you'll find his decisions always had what I call layman's language in part of them, so they'd understand it. I think very highly of Warren Burger and I think people -- of course, he's now working on the Bicentennial. He's still working on that.
LAMB: Here's a picture of John Foster Dallas -- Dulles, excuse the pronunciation -- sitting right next to him is former President Dwight Eisenhower, and then sitting next to Dwight Eisenhower is you.
LAMB: How old were you in this picture?
STASSEN: In that picture? That would have been in '53, I think, or '54, I would then have been 45.
LAMB: And what's the situation in this picture?
STASSEN: Well, we were, you see, I was, for President Eisenhower, what was called his director of foreign operations. At that time, all foreign assistance, all defense assistance, all educational assistance, all operations of a foreign nature, were under my special organization, called Foreign Operation Administration, and Dulles was Secretary of State, so we were very often together. As a matter of fact, we traveled many countries together.
LAMB: What kind of a guy was Secretary of State Dulles?
STASSEN: Well, brilliant, unique -- his family had been in foreign policy, you know, from Lansing way back and so forth, his uncle -- so he was, but also very strong opinions.
LAMB: You two had differences?
STASSEN: Very different policies, that's right. Matter of fact, for President Eisenhower to decide that he would have a summit and would propose his "Open Skies" to the Soviet Union, he had to overrule Secretary Dulles, and that was a very tense thing. So, while I worked very much with Secretary Dulles and appreciated his brilliance, there were clashes. There were difficult issues, but always, I respected him, but when he, when President Eisenhower appointed me as the head of the special studies, to work out the policies of America in the nuclear weapons age, in the space age, at that time, I, as secretary, somebody in the media said, "What should we call his new assignment" about me, and somebody in the media said, "Should we call him a secretary for peace," and Eisenhower said, "Well, that would be a good label," and then Secretary Dulles didn't like that label at all. He said, "That's wrong to have that kind of a label." And it was in his own memoirs, in the library.
LAMB: Here's the cover of your book on President Eisenhower. Who's the gentleman he's talking to?
STASSEN: That's Chairman Bulganin of the Soviet Union. See, Stalin died three months into Eisenhower's administration, in March of 1953, and then there were a number of changes in the leadership of the Soviet Union, and then Bulganin and Khrushchev came up to the fore, and at that time Eisenhower decided it would be good to have a summit, and Senator Walter George and all the controversy, should you or should you not have a summit. And that was the first peacetime summit. Senator Walter George, the Democrat of Georgia, was a great leader in the Senate, and his advice to Eisenhower that he should meet him was very crucial and it was very substantial in line with what I had been urging in the National Security Council, as it shows in the minutes and so forth.

So then Eisenhower decided, and he, in fact, at one meeting said to Secretary Dulles, "I'm going to instruct you to prepare for a summit." And he very rarely used that kind of language. That's Senator George right in the middle of that photograph in the book, and that's Lyndon Johnson, who of course then was a Senate leader and later became President.
LAMB: Let's look at also this gentleman right here.
STASSEN: Oh, that's also Russell, who was Senator Russell of -- another one of the leading Senate men of those years. That's the media closing in on them as they came out of one of the conferences with President Eisenhower on foreign policy.
LAMB: Back to what you said earlier about "Open Skies." You write a lot about that in this book.
STASSEN: General Jimmy Doolittle should get the major credit for that. You see, when the President asked me to work on this special assignment -- what do we do in the space atomic age for policy? I pulled together the best people I could think of and one of them of course was General Jimmy Doolittle. Another one was Ed Teller, the father of the H-bomb and Doctor Ernest Lawrence, the head of the -- Nobel prize winning physicist, and Harold Motin, the head of Brookings Institute. I called that kind of a group together to study, and Jimmy Doolittle spoke up about the importance of opening up so that nations would not fear a surprise attack. He said, "That's a crucial thing." So that became a very important part. There, that shows him first during the war, talking to General Eisenhower, and then it shows him talking to President Eisenhower. Of course, he's the one who lead the famous bomber raid over Tokyo, when he took off from the carriers and then flew over Tokyo to give them a scare and give America a psychological lift, and landed over in mainland China, in order to then come back -- that's Jimmy Doolittle.
LAMB: Let's go back to that time again. This was early in the first Eisenhower term?
STASSEN: That's right. Well, the appointment, yes, it's in the middle of the term. You see, at the beginning of the term, I was Director of Foreign Operations, that would be in January, beginning right away in January of '53, and then in March of '55, is when President Eisenhower to take on, in effect, the additional duty of leading studies about the nuclear age and about arms limitation and all that sort of thing.
LAMB: And what was Jimmy Doolittle doing then?
STASSEN: Jimmy Doolittle was then a retired Air Force General, and he came back to Washington, he did for various things, but he came back to sit in on those studies, along with about 20 very outstanding people that we pulled together to think ahead, think what the space age meant, think what nuclear weapons meant, and what policies we ought to have and how we ought to relate to other countries.
LAMB: In '55, how many people in the world had the bomb?
STASSEN: Well, just the Soviet Union and us, at that time. The British were just beginning to get toward it.
LAMB: What was the attitude in the world, what was the feeling you had during those years?
STASSEN: Well, you see, in that early period, that is from '50 -- in '50 is when the Korean War was going on and the Chinese Communists came down with great strength across the Yalu, and in hundreds of thousands of them, the Chinese Communist Armies, backed by the Soviet Union military supply, and hit the MacArthur forces and drove them back in the middle of Korea, in the middle of that war, and then from that time on, there was great tension, great concern, that's the period of time, Brian, when school teachers were teaching their children how to get under desks if there was an air alarm, and things like that. A great amount of tension in the world. That was '52, and it was in the middle of that period, you see, when Eisenhower said, "Well, if I'm elected President, I will go to Korea." And then they'd try to question him, "Well then, what will you do?" He said, "I'll go and find out what I ought to do, then I'll tell you about it."

That's interesting, it leads me off -- one of the fantastic things is, I don't believe that Eisenhower ever said to the media in a press conference, "No comment." He used to say, "If I say no comment, they'll dig all over this town for leaks and they'll get the wrong kind of information, so if it's a sensitive subject, instead of saying no comment, I'll talk all around it. I won't say anything and give them any real information, but I'll cover the answer that way." Now they used to think he was bumbling around, that he was using a lot of syntax, but that was his unique technique of how to respond to the media with a question when he didn't want to talk about the subject.
LAMB: You suggest in your book that the President didn't care a whole lot for the media.
STASSEN: No I don't suggest that. I suggest that he felt that, on the one hand, he needed to inform then, but on the other hand, that you could not depend that they would hold secrets or things of that except in time of war.
LAMB: Did he like them?
STASSEN: Yes, he liked many of them. I think some he didn't like very well. It's a natural thing, but he didn't show it.
LAMB: His press secretary, James Hagerty...
STASSEN: James Hagerty was a brilliant man. He was for years with the New York Times, and Jim Hagerty actually kept a very remarkable diary for awhile, and nobody knows why he didn't keep it all the time, or whether he lost part of it, or the family lost part of it.
LAMB: Was he the first presidential secretary?
STASSEN: No, I think FDR had Steve Early and, way back, I think Truman ...
LAMB: There was something about that, that Jim Hagerty either had the daily briefings or he ...
STASSEN: He probably opened the daily -- well, also, Eisenhower had the very first direct TV press conference. It was the first time, and this is what, really Jim Hagerty worked it out with him, that he would go in and have a press conference and let the TV cameras cover it and report it directly. Eisenhower started that. You see, up to that time, they used to have a press conference with the President, and then they'd have to clear whether or not they could report what he said. That was a much more restricted thing about press conferences in the earlier years, but Eisenhower who opened up the press conference, first of all to TV cameras, and then to say, "They can put it out right away. They don't need to wait for clearance."
LAMB: Back to the "Open Skies" again. How long did it take to develop that policy and were there several different camps that were for and against the idea?
STASSEN: Yes. Of course the President gave me the assignment to study these questions in March of '55, and in flying -- you see, his request that I do it came to me way over in Pakistan -- and so flying back, I thought of this matter, pulling together the best people I could think of to really get at this subject, and we then met in early May and May 26 of '55 we made a very extensive, what we called progress report to the President at the National Security Council, which at that time was held very much top secret. Then out of that he began to decide, so it was then, in July of 1955, in other words, it was just four months after my appointment, when he made the "Open Skies" his proposal.

That's an interesting page. I don't think it's ever been done before. It shows his expressive face, that's just clipped out of a number of different ones. He had a great sense of humor which he really wasn't given credit for usually, but sometimes he had what we called his command view, you know. You could tell when he really meant something should be done, period. Other times when he would be more relaxed. Really, I find the historians are beginning, as they get into these secret files, to lift their appraisal. They tended to say, well when he got such marvelous results, he was just lucky. That tended to be the media reaction, but actually they now learn that he had real policies, and of course, in handling crisis situations, nobody had his kind of a record.

First of all, bringing the Korean War to a close in six months, that they hadn't been able to close, and then from that time on, Brian, just think of it, a series of crises, the number of times he showed force, but never a single American soldier being killed or killing anybody else. In other words, this matter -- then he enunciated a very important thing. He said, "At the end of a war, if you're a complete victor, you can impose an unconditional surrender." He said, "You never can expect that in a negotiation without war, that you can have an unconditional surrender -- it's just not realistic, because if you're gonna get a settlement diplomatically, you've got to work on it and have in mind that each side's gotta be flexible."
LAMB: If he were here today and in the presidency, would he do what George Bush has done, over in the Middle East?
STASSEN: He'd do some of it, and of course, this question, that naturally brings the question between the day we're preparing this show and when it shows by, but the key thing that he would be emphasizing, from the early stages, he said, he would say in effect, that President Bush did a brilliant job of getting our force in place to stop any threat of aggression without going in shooting. He always said, "Try to get in position without shooting." But then he would put people to work immediately to work out the kind of flexibility, the kind of compromises, that would resolve it then, and let history work out competition and not start shooting. You have to have in mind that, you know, he went through things like when people were saying, "You must force the unification of Germany, you've got to go in there with force, and unless you force that unification, there's gonna be a terrible war out of the division of Germany." And he'd say, "The history, the forces of history have to decide that one." Or they, sometimes they would were saying, "Well, you've just got to fight Communist China sometime, it's better we start bombing them now while we're strong, so you gotta let us go in and bomb them." And he'd say, "No, let the forces of history and competition between forces" -- like in Korea, when some wanted to drive north with all our weapons and so on, and he studied that, but he said, "No, let the systems compete, you've gotta go through history, we don't want to start expanding the shooting."
LAMB: Did he like General MacArthur?
STASSEN: He respected him as a great general and as he called him, also one of the most brilliant theatrical generals we ever had, but they did not really have good personal relations, although actually he asked me to be liaison to General MacArthur during the campaign because I had served with Admiral Halsey who in turn had served right with MacArthur, so I knew MacArthur from the Pacific war, so one of his special assignments to me, he said, "You go over and talk to General MacArthur at the Waldorf and try to see to it that he doesn't disrupt our campaign."
LAMB: What year was that?
STASSEN: 1952.
LAMB: And you met with him in the Waldorf?
STASSEN: At the Waldorf, had a long talk.
LAMB: I think I remember reading that you said that General MacArthur had a hard time sitting still, when he was talking ...
STASSEN: He got up, he walked up and down, that's right, that was typical of him, and he was naturally theatrical, brilliant. And of course, I knew him also during the war conferences, but he'd walk up and down and he'd wheel, and with the stem of his pipe, he'd point to a map and it was a remarkable, and that was not just a performance, that was him. That was the way in which he reacted, and of course, very brilliant in his -- matter of fact, in one of my early conferences with him, I told him with my background of having served with Admiral Halsey, with him in the Pacific, that his Inchon landing in Korea was absolutely brilliant, and it is recognized as one of the most brilliant operations in military history, the way he went up in Inchon in Korea and brought in forces behind the opposition.
LAMB: Was that meeting at the Waldorf successful?
STASSEN: Yes, it was successful in the sense that he became convinced that, I said, "President Truman is going to be trying hard before we are through to defeat Eisenhower, so I don't think you want to join President Truman." And he says, "That's one thing I will not do."
LAMB: Did he campaign?
STASSEN: No, we didn't ask him to campaign, because that was too, you see, if he had campaigned, then it would increase the issue to General Eisenhower, "If you're President, will you do what MacArthur said you should do in Korea?" -- and he didn't want to be in that box. He wanted to leave himself complete flexibility, and what he finally did in Korea, you see, was not what anybody urged. He didn't let Truman tie him in to the Truman policy. He didn't let MacArthur tie him in to the MacArthur views. He didn't let any of the media put him in a corner. He said, "If I'm elected, I'm going to Korea personally and then when I'm inaugurated, I'll start telling you what I'm gonna do in Korea."
LAMB: Some place in the book I remember reading, again I may be wrong about this too, but it seems like you say somewhere here that you think this may be the most important President of the century?
STASSEN: For working for peace, you see, I think as they review him, and historians are beginning to say that -- as a matter of fact, they're changing, when they get these secret papers -- in fact, I'm saying that anyone who wrote a book about President Eisenhower more than five years ago, ought to go back now and see the open files, that have opened up, previously were closed, were secret, and then reappraise what they criticized about Eisenhower.
LAMB: Let me ask you about that directly. You went back and went to the archives and got this material. What facts became public as a result of that, new facts that we didn't know before?
STASSEN: Well, exactly how he would move on these crisis situations, and then all those minutes, in the National Security Council meetings, which of course I knew because I was on the National Security Council, but before they were declassified and opened up, I couldn't write about them, because if I wrote anything about them, the book would have to be cleared in Washington, and then you'd never get it out, so it was only when they opened that up. And in the book, another interesting thing about handling a crisis, after one of the very intense periods with China about whether the war was going to start, and so on, and some people were saying the war is gonna start, Chou En-Lai was gonna say that they were gonna attack and so forth, he, President Eisenhower then, when that crisis was sort of solved, and the situation eased down, he sent a personal letter to General Al Grunther, who was a great friend of his, and this is the last item in the agenda, and I think it's a gem, if anybody wants to review how a President went through a crisis situation and how they analyzed the different psychological forces and the congressional matter and all that.
LAMB: Did he have many personal friends?
STASSEN: Eisenhower? Yes, especially -- well General Al Grunther was a very close friend. Matter of fact, they were great bridge-playing partners. And then he had some other bridge-playing partners in those years. Then he had other personal friends. One interesting one was when he was born in Denniston, Texas in 1890, and at the age of two moved to Abilene, Kansas, then at the age of 20 came up to West Point. A boyhood pal in Abilene, Kansas went to Annapolis at the same time, the two young fellows left together. Then it was a life long friendship with Swede Hasslet, who was a naval officer and they corresponded and now there's a whole volume, a book about his correspondence with Swede Hasslet, so he had a lot of good personal friends, but he also had a very strong rule that he would not let a personal friend try to use that to get a special privilege out of the government. He gave Charlie Wilson -- who was Secretary of Defense, and I was handling foreign operations -- very strict lectures including especially how we must not -- we must be very careful about greed, that to have a great free system operate, we must have in mind that greed is one of the things that you have to safeguard against, and that -- you have now there the picture of the Cabinet before the Cabinet met. That was up at the hotel in New York before we went down for the inaugural and Charlie Wilson is there.
LAMB: Let's go up here. I want to ask James, our fellow on camera, to go up here. First of all, this is a picture of you in the corner?
STASSEN: That's me in the corner, next to Cabot Lodge.
LAMB: This is Cabot Lodge?
LAMB: Who was he?
STASSEN: He had been a Senator from Massachusetts, and then he became our Ambassador to the United Nations. That was the importance -- Eisenhower put great importance to the United Nations, and getting it well represented, so Cabot Lodge had very good standing.
LAMB: Let's go down here in the front and right here with the President ...
STASSEN: That's Eisenhower. Picture of Nixon.
LAMB: What was relationship with this man?
STASSEN: Well, basically quite good.
LAMB: Did you know Richard Nixon?
STASSEN: Oh, very well.
LAMB: What did you think of him?
STASSEN: Well, I had reservations that are historic, but this book doesn't go into that, because this book only goes up to the summit of 1955.
LAMB: Who's the gentleman sitting next to Richard Nixon, on the other side?
STASSEN: George Humphrey, was the Secretary of the Treasury, and then Herbert Bronnell, a very brilliant lawyer who is still alive, one of the few still alive, Attorney General. A brilliant Attorney General.
LAMB: Many others on this page who are still alive?
STASSEN: Oveta Culp Hobby is still alive. She was the first woman in that cabinet, who was Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, and, no -- not many others are still living.
LAMB: You tell an interesting story about the first, I believe, he was Secretary of Labor ....
STASSEN: Matt Durkin.
LAMB: Where is the picture?
STASSEN: He was a labor leader. He's up there on the, on the left side.
LAMB: Over here?
STASSEN: Yes, and he was ...
LAMB: That's him right here?
STASSEN: That's, yes. He, he was the head of the plumbers' union and a member of the AFL/CIO executive council, and of course he had worked for Adlai Stevenson against Eisenhower, but Eisenhower accepted the view that labor ought to be represented by a leader from organized labor, and so he invited Matt Durkin, and there's a special chapter in the book about that. Tragically, he got brain tumor and became very ill and a series of operations, so he didn't live very long, but it was really a significant chapter and it's also one -- we tried to aid the development of independent labor unions in other countries of the world, really kind of a forerunner of solidarity of Poland and so forth, way back at that time. But Matt Durkin was a marvelous fellow, but that illness, the brain tumor, was a very sad business.
LAMB: You say for the first eight months or so, he was very congenial in the cabinet meetings, very friendly, and then all of a sudden he turned very sour?
STASSEN: That's right, and it was sort of a puzzle, you know, what was happening to Matt. I couldn't figure it out until the diagnosis came that he had brain cancer, cancer of the brain, and it had begun to affect his whole personality, and nobody at first knew what it was.
LAMB: We're talking with Harold Stassen, and for those of you who don't know Harold Stassen, he has been in the American political, on the scene for many years, since he was Governor of the state of Minnesota at age 31. Here is his book, "Eisenhower, Turning the World Toward Peace". Marshall Houts, the gentlemen's name there at the bottom with you ...
LAMB: What role did he play?
STASSEN: He, well he did a great job in helping me. He is one of the great authors of medical/legal books and books on trauma, and he worked with Earle Stanley Gardner in the early days, and so he had the knowledge and the facilities to help in preparing the book. And he was a great help.
LAMB: And you say you went to law school with him?
STASSEN: No, no, he was much later, he is much younger than I am, but we were fraternity brothers in the law school. He came into the same, Gamma, law fraternity, but many years after I had been there.
LAMB: How did you divvy up the responsibility in this book?
STASSEN: Well, we divided it and worked alone together, and ...
LAMB: I mean, is he the writer and you supplied all the information?
STASSEN: No, no. We both wrote. He wrote about me to some degree, then he would rewrite things, and I would rewrite them, so we went down through the whole thing together.
LAMB: As a matter of fact, there is a chapter here called ...
STASSEN: That's right. He said that I had to be introduced in the book, because a lot of people younger than 40 wouldn't know me, so ...
LAMB: What was it like, being the President of the University of Pennsylvania?
STASSEN: Oh, that was a great experience. I never would have gone, left it as soon as I did, I was only there five years, but, as you know, that's that great institution founded by Benjamin Franklin. Those were marvelous years, and our children enjoyed the schools there and everything, but when Eisenhower asked me to come down, after I'd urged him to run, and my wife Esther and I thought we just should do it. Of course she had some great years because she is also an amateur artist, so, matter of fact, our first session over in Paris, why General Eisenhower and my wife, Esther, were off discussing painting Eisenhower's paintings of the Bavarian Alps on the wall, before I knew what happened. From that time on, they had a wonderful artistic relationship.
LAMB: Do you ever think about going back to academia?
STASSEN: No, I think that for whatever energy I do have in my remaining years, I'm going to concentrate on working for peace, especially on the matter of getting the United Nations organized in better shape to serve for the future. I think people are more and more realizing we do need a United Nations, and I think we need a better one when you think in terms of what the next 40 or 50 years might bring.
LAMB: There's an interesting short two paragraphs I want to read in the introduction because it's about a Washington institution. I want you to discuss it more. The headline is, "The Gridiron Dinner Speech," and it reads like this: "Stassen's accomplishments as boy governor attracted the nation's attention, especially when the Minnesota electorate gave him an 80% approval rating after his first legislative session. This lead to his invitation to represent the Republicans at the annual gridiron dinner given by the Washington Press in December 1939. Stassen first met Franklin Delano Roosevelt at this dinner." Explain that.
STASSEN: Well, it was just ... most gridiron dinners the President attends. He doesn't always, but the Washington media -- leading media -- run the gridiron dinner, and each year they have a dinner, usually in December, and they invite one speaker for the Democratic Party and one speaker for the Republican Party, and it's up to them who they invite. Usually the President and leaders of the Supreme Court of both political parties, leaders in industry and labor, are there, and in this instance, in 1939, December, they invited me to come and be the Republican speaker.

And my speech, I think -- well, they reported in their own records -- was rather exceptionally received, and I closed it, you know, by saying that, "Isolationism is dead, I hope the senior leaders of my party realize it before it's too late for my party and my country,", and I said, "Furthermore, they must realize that we can only have one president at a time." I said, "I campaigned against President Roosevelt, but now he is our President, so we have to recognize that and therefore we should cooperate."

Then I turned to him at the head table, and I said, "Mr. President, if the leaders of the Republican Party and the Congress do cooperative with you, you should make them co-pilots on the foreign policy take-offs, as well as on the crash landings," and the crowd just sort of exploded and stood and applauded, and when he appointed me five years later, after the war, to go to the United Nations, he said he'd never forgotten that moment in that speech. He told me that in the oval room, when he called me back from the Navy and told me he wanted to go out to draft the charter of the United Nations.
LAMB: And the next section then says: "The 1940 Republican Convention," then it reads this way: "Stassen's record as governor and his successful gridiron dinner speech, lead to his invitation to keynote the Republican convention in Philadelphia in July 1940." I guess I want to ask you, this gridiron dinner speech in Washington can be that powerful and that important?
STASSEN: I think it could under those circumstances. You know, first you start out, any western governor, you kind of start out as an unknown person in Washington, so in some way or other, something happens and you get to be known in Washington, and unless you're known in Washington, you're not likely to be elected, asked to keynote a convention speech in either party. So, those sort of things happened to kind of fit together.
LAMB: What did you say in the keynote that was so special, do you remember?
STASSEN: Yes, of course, the things that last -- that was the time, of course, when I said, "The lights of freedom are going out in Europe." In other words Hitler was beginning to move in Europe, and there was a real question of, see, this then was 1940, and President Roosevelt had appointed Frank Knox and [Henry Lewis] Stimson as Secretary of the Navy and Secretary of War, to unite the party because of the growing tensions and potential of war, and I said that our party should look upon that as a compliment to our leaders -- that they were asked to come in, and they should not be criticized for going and serving their country. So the keynote attracted quite a bit of attention because that was a kind of a controversial stand to take at that time, but I really believed that, of course, very deeply. Still do.
LAMB: What year in your political year were you most unhappy with the Republican Party?
STASSEN: (laughter) Brian, you're putting me on a strange spot. I think probably my most unhappy moment was when they nominated Barry Goldwater, but I still respected him -- but I disagreed so strongly with his, you see, I've never been a right-wing conservative, never have, through the years, and I do not believe in the liberal bashing that's done. I call myself a creative central person, or as Eisenhower use to say, middle way or moderate, so when the party took such an extreme turn to the right at that time, while I stayed with the party, I believed also in staying in the party and working for your views, that turn for Goldwater to me was a, a tragic shift of our party. I think in a way it, it prepared the way for the tragedy of the war in Vietnam.
LAMB: Where did you grow up?
STASSEN: On a farm in Minnesota, southern Minnesota, just where the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers come together, and just south of St. Paul-Minneapolis.
LAMB: How many kids in the family?
STASSEN: There were five of us, four boys and none girl.
LAMB: What were your parents like?
STASSEN: Marvelous people. They were pioneers. My father was a local leader. He was -- they both had very limited education, fifth or sixth grade, but they had an awful lot of good common sense. One of his instructions, I'll give, when we boys started to school, to the city school, my father said to us, "I don't want any of you ever starting a fight, you just should not start a fight, because you're going to new schools and everything, but also I don't want you ever to get hit first." Now we had to think about that, of course. Then we went out in the backyard to practice ducking real quick, you know, because you couldn't start the fight, but you had to duck if the other fellow swung on you.
LAMB: Did anybody influence you early in your life to get into politics?
STASSEN: Well, my father was an active leader. He was mayor of that rural community and so forth, that undoubtedly influenced me.
LAMB: Where did you go to school?
STASSEN: The University of Minnesota and studied economics first, and then law.
LAMB: What was you first job?
STASSEN: My first job? As a pullman conductor on a railroad, to earn my way through law school.
LAMB: What was that like?
STASSEN: Oh that was interesting. I ran, what they do then, they call running wild all over the country, on the extra board in summer. You go to Chicago, and from Chicago, you're sent all over according to when, where they need an extra conductor, and that was a terrific experience.
LAMB: You were big in the union work. Were you a union man?
STASSEN: No, my brothers were though. Two brother were members of organized labor, and of course, as you know, my third re-election for Governor, I was actually endorsed by the AFL and the CIO. And in a way, I think a lot of businessmen held that against me. They couldn't understand how a man could really be fair to business and yet get endorsed by labor.
LAMB: You had three terms as Governor of Minnesota?
STASSEN: Elected three terms. During the third term, you see Pearl Harbor had hit, and I was not only a young Governor, I was a young reserve officer in the Navy, so I said, "Inside of me, I have to go on duty." So I told the people I was going resign as Governor and go on duty.
LAMB: Where did you go on duty?
STASSEN: With Admiral Halsey in the Pacific. I didn't know this either at the time, but they knew that Admiral Halsey had a tough administrative problem because he was next to MacArthur's command and he had Australia and New Zealand, and I think, well the records indicate Secretary Knox and Secretary Stimson and the Joint Chiefs said, "Well, this young fellow doesn't know much about the Navy, but he must know something about administration." So they sent me down to report to Admiral Halsey, and then I became his Assistant Chief of Staff for Administration. That's the way that happened. I didn't know at the time, but I know that -- there's another humorous thing. I reported to Admiral Halsey down in the South Pacific when things were really tough, of course, at that stage of the war. He looked up at me and I reported formally as a Naval Lieutenant Commander, he says, "Are you here to work?" I said, "Yes Admiral." "That's all I want to know." That ended my first interview with Halsey.
LAMB: Why would he have asked you that question?
STASSEN: I don't know. He just, it was just his way, and he was a very blunt man.
LAMB: He knew you were, had been Governor?
STASSEN: That's right. He knew I'd been Governor, and here I was coming down to report to his command. And, well, matter of fact, he was a very stern leader, and literally a brilliant leader, a very tough combat leader, but he wouldn't put up with anybody who would, you know, have alibis or who had, wasn't ready to really turn to ...
LAMB: How long did you work ...
STASSEN: So I think he, you know, he was looking at me closely and he said that, "Are you here to work?"
LAMB: How long did you work for him?
STASSEN: Right up to Tokyo Bay. I went into Tokyo Bay with him. You see, I went to draw the charter of the United Nations and when he, the message came to Admiral Halsey, from President Roosevelt on his way back from Yalta, asking Halsey whether he would send me back to be one of the eight to draw the United Nations charter, and Admiral Halsey called me in and said, "Harold, do you want to do this thing?" I almost passed out, because working for peace, I thought, you know, was gone until the war was over. I said, "Admiral Halsey, I'd like to do it very much." He said, "Well, and what about your part of the staff?" I said, "Well, you always told us, 'have two men ready, two officers ready in case you get hit,'" and I said, "I've done that, so I'd recommend Lieutenant Commander Herbert Carroll to take my place." He said, "The Joint Chiefs, the Chief of Staff says the same thing, so I'll use Herb Carroll." Then he said, "When you get through with this business for President Roosevelt, do you want to come back?" I said, "Yes, I do." He says, "Well, that will be your orders." So, I went and drafted the charter and then flew back out and joined Admiral Halsey and went into Tokyo Bay with him.
LAMB: I've got to read this paragraph, under the United Nations founding conference in San Francisco, because it goes back to the earlier experience you had when you gave a speech. In February ...
STASSEN: We're turning away too much from Eisenhower, Brian. This is a book about Eisenhower, but Marshall Houts wrote some of those things saying that young people might not know who I was.
LAMB: I might be turning away from that, but there is a great opportunity for the public to buy this book if they want to buy it, and we won't get a chance to talk to you very often about your own career. "In February, 1945, President Roosevelt, remembering Stassen's stirring gridiron dinner speech ..." -- the reason I keep bringing this up, I want to ask you about the art of speech making or the importance of speech making. Have you found in your career that speech making has been beneficial to you and important to you?
STASSEN: Yes, very important. Of course back in the earliest days, that was your main way of communicating with people. Then of course, radio began to take more and more a part of communication, but also has a certain change of technique, and then television now, of course, is so tremendously important and crucial, and of course, you've done such a great thing in C-SPAN and in your own leadership, in the media or television. But speaking is one part of communicating with people. You have to communicate according to what are the methods that are available, and television now is the most important of all. But writing still is important. Speaking. But that whole matter of how you convince people, analyze your ideas and move them, you see, that's the key thing of a free society.
LAMB: Over the years, have you written your speeches, or ad-libbed them?
STASSEN: Both, both. Sometimes written formally. You know, like the keynote at the Republican Convention, that was a written speech, so that when they're formal and need to watch carefully every word, then you write them, but you also have to be able to speak them.
LAMB: When do you know that you are being effective when you're speaking?
STASSEN: By the audience. If it's a physical audience, of course, you can read their faces and their attention, and of course, you can also tell if they're ... I spoke about this book down in Wichita, Kansas, at the Rotary Club. It was a fantastic experience because they have about 400 business leaders of Wichita, Kansas in that club, and that whole group out in the front of you when you're speaking, then when you get all those faces turned up and attentive, you know, not looking at each other, and so on, but listening as you're talking about Eisenhower. And then, of course, when they give you a standing ovation when you finish your speech, and you know you really moved a lot of business men, because it's a little hard to get them up on their feet when, at a luncheon ...
LAMB: What do people most like to hear about President Eisenhower?
STASSEN: The exact instances about things that he did. I find that they are more ready to feel that he was a great President than the academic people or the media people were. And, that's a little hard to understand, except as I said, one thing, I think there's the way in which he would not say, "No comment" but would kind of ramble around in order to mislead them, and then also, he was so results oriented, he wasn't what you call image building oriented. He had a different ... he did have a very strong results organization in his mind and everything, and I think people sensed that, whereas I think, on the other hand, there is a lot of this business of how you build a certain kind of image.
LAMB: We've got more pictures. We showed this picture earlier, it's the one down here I want to show.
STASSEN: In the bottom one, you see the sort of skepticism in his expression, something that Dulles is there proposing to him and he is very skeptical about it.
LAMB: What did he think of John Foster Dulles?
STASSEN: Well, he had a high regard for him, but he also knew that you had to overrule him if you were really going to do the things that really counted.
LAMB: One other thing...
STASSEN: But, he didn't, you see, Brian, it's important to realize, he was very sensitive, having been a life long military man, and he felt therefore, in anything about diplomacy or anything about politics, he had to listen to those who knew that field, and then be very deliberate about overruling them when he was working in either diplomacy or politics. That's him at NATO at the time I went over to see him, when he pulled the nations of Europe together, and that, of course, is one of his pleasant attitudes, but also one of his great personality portraits.
LAMB: Of all the jobs you've had, and experiences, which was the most fun, interesting, memorable, important, in all these you write about?
STASSEN: I think drafting the United Nations charter was a tremendous experience. You see, then the 50 countries, and then the cynics were saying, "You'll never get the 50 to agree, and even if you do, there'll be another world war in 15 or 20 years." This was in 1945. The war was still going on and so forth. So, I think maybe that, but it's hard to pick any one thing. Certainly being with Eisenhower and working with him at the Geneva Summit in '55, and, and the period leading up to that, that's very meaningful, so it's.....
LAMB: Did you...
STASSEN: It's hard to pick certain events.
LAMB: Did you ever think you'd be President at any point?
STASSEN: No, I wouldn't say that I expected to be. I think, I felt that I could be and could do a job of it, but I knew that I had different convictions of policy than were predominant in the Republican Party. You see, just like with Eisenhower, we had such a hard time nominating him. I had a great respect for Senator Taft, you see, but the Taft policies were very different than the Eisenhower policies. That was a very close squeaker. For a long time it looked like Taft would be the nominee, and of course we felt then that while we respected him, first of all his policies would be wrong, and secondly that he wouldn't be elected.
LAMB: Your favorite President in history is General Eisenhower?
STASSEN: Well, one of them. I think in all of history, I had a very high regard for President Roosevelt, even though I had stayed with my party across the line, but he did great things.
LAMB: Could General Eisenhower just as easily have been a Democrat?
STASSEN: They wanted him to, you know. As a matter of fact, that was one of the reasons I went to see him, to urge him that he should run as a Republican.
LAMB: Were you ever a Democrat?
STASSEN: No, no. Some Republicans have said I oughta be (laughter).
LAMB: This book is $22.95 and it's published by Merrill Magnus. Who's the publisher?
STASSEN: The publisher is a small publishing company out in Minnesota, so I could work right with them there. They are a subsidiary of a big printing company, there's a Merrill Printing Company. It's not connected with Merrill Lynch, but you spell the name the same. But, they're a big printing company of financial documents and many things like that. They are just sort of getting introduced into the publishing field. That does get some problems on distribution of the book, I find.
LAMB: What if somebody wants this book and it's not in their book stores?
STASSEN: Well, there is a toll free number, the book stores can order it, some of them are reluctant to order it, but the toll free number that they have is 800, hope I can find it, that's kind of you to ask for it.
LAMB: Well, why don't you ... I want to read something that General Eisenhower said, you alluded to it earlier, while you're looking for it, and because we're running out of time, and ask you how strongly he felt about this. This is on page 201. Did you find the number?
STASSEN: I found the number. 800, it's a toll free call, and the publisher's number is 533-4461, and you can call them and order the book from them, and they will ship it to you.
LAMB: OK, we'll put that number on the screen so the audience can see it.
STASSEN: 1-800-533-4461. But also you can press any book store, the book distributors have it and it's moving out. Matter of fact, one person at the Rotary meeting was from Edmondton, Canada, now orders are coming in from Edmondton, so that's the way goes.
LAMB: A couple minutes, and I want to ask you about this, page 201, quote, "`Greed, greed, greed' Eisenhower told me after a cabinet meeting in which Durkin and I discussed our efforts to improve the conditions in the foreign unions, that's the real plague of mankind, think of it, if you could change man's greed, all the rest of his problems would go away.'" Did he say that to you often, and did...
LAMB: And did you agree with it?
STASSEN: Yes, he kept re emphysizing and, try, if you look, you know, back at the records too. Charlie Wilson and I ran clean organizations. There were no scandals in defense or in foreign operations in those years, and of course part of it was this kind of backup from Eisenhower. It -- "Don't let anybody impose on you and watch out for greed." And actually, if you really come to think about it, the whole savings and loan scandal in this country right now, is greed. They overused those funds that they could get with those guarantees.
LAMB: Why did he feel that strongly about it? What experience did he have that made him...?
STASSEN: Well, he came up right through the ranks, you know, and he'd seen Congress, and he'd seen local governments, and he'd seen governments in other countries, but he had a very strong conviction that the one thing of a free society that could undermine it and make it go wrong, would be the greed of human beings, and you had to always safeguard against greed. He'd grill that into Charlie Wilson and myself, and the record will show that we established systems that nobody could, on a single signature, could go wrong anywhere.
LAMB: We're just about out of time. What do you want the world to remember you for?
STASSEN: Working for peace. I think if they say I was a man who knew war very deeply, but worked for peace very consistently.
LAMB: Our guest for the last hour has been Harold Stassen, former Governor of the state of Minnesota, nine times a candidate for the Republican Party nomination for President. He's just written a book called, "Eisenhower, Turning the World Toward Peace." Thank you, sir.
STASSEN: Thank you, Brian. It's a great privilege to be with you.
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