Marvin Kitman
Marvin Kitman
The Making of the President 1789
ISBN: 0802137350
The Making of the President 1789
George Washington was said to be "First in War, First in Peace." In The Making of the President 1789, humorist Marvin Kitman argues that our first president was also the first American leader to ride his personal foibles to political greatness. Kitman lampoons the modern "campaign insider" books, asking: "How is it possible that a man with no military experience becomes a general? He loses more battles than he wins and becomes a war hero? He has absolutely no political opinions in the most sophisticated intellectual period of our history? He has no ambitions, and he wins?" Through careful research, Kitman exposes Washington's weaknesses for social climbing and high-stakes whist and his relationships with the Founding Girlfriends.
—from the publisher's website
TRANSCRIPT
The Making of the President 1789
Program Air Date: December 11, 1989

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Marvin Kitman author of "The Making of the President 1789" -- why a book about George Washington?
MARVIN KITMAN, AUTHOR, "THE MAKING OF THE PRESIDENT 1789": Well, first of all, it's president, not prefident, it's an unprecedented book. First of all, it's the bicentennial of the election and it's a story that I feel was never told properly. Most historians say there was no real campaign since he won, he ran unopposed and won unanimously in 1789. And I, on reviewing the election, feel that that happened because of the existence of the Mount Vernon machine, this group of very skillful politicians, including Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, who made Washington seem unbeatable in 1789. They had written this campaign slogan, perhaps the best ever written, "First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen," and like most campaign slogans, it was only partly true. And, I felt that Washington had established basic precedents or prefidents, in running for President that other politicians today have followed and they have never given Washington credit for many of the things that he did in 1789.
LAMB: Why the ... and you explain a little bit inside your book about the, this part up here where you talk about the making of the president, this is the way it looked?
KITMAN:That's the way it looked, and you know there's a lot of question about whether they pronounced it that way also and certainly it's a (f)illy way to (f)ell, as I explain. But you know, we have no idea of how people sounded in that period. We didn't have audio tapes, and how do we know that they didn't actually say prefident or unprefedented or filly or fell. I think it's one of the unfortunate things that we didn't have records, audio tapes or video tapes. For example, Washington, on the stump was certainly not what we would call a spellbinder, if I could drop the f's and s's right now. I don't want to say fellbinder, because his hands shook when he got up to make his speeches and that would not have looked very well on television and he had a lot of difficulty speaking, also because of his teeth problem. So, you know, when he had false teeth, they didn't fit too well, and there was a droop in the mouth and things like that don't go very well on television. Of course, I have a theory that Benjamin Franklin may have invented television right after he discovered electricity except that he didn't tell anybody about it because he thought it would be bad for society, and that's unproven as yet.
LAMB: There's a lot of tongue in cheek in your book. How do you -- when somebody reads this book, how can you tell what's real and what isn't?
KITMAN:Well I, as a Washington scholar, I can never tell a lie and I worked very hard digging up facts about Washington. This is a fact driven book, as they say, and I worked from the facts and then, as any historian, I make judgments based on the facts. And my judgments are often different than other historians, which is my right as an author and historian. For example, I was the first one to discover George Washington's expense account. And this is a book that was in the library in the archives since 1831, when, as you know, he was elected general. He made a famous speech about he wanted no salary from this new country, he only wanted them to pick up his expenses in the war against British tyranny, and nothing -- I mean, I learned about speech in elementary school and they never said anything about the expense account itself.

And when I was in the library doing research for, "The Making of the Prefident," I came across the expense account and it was an amazing document, and I sat there and I started -- it's like a detective story -- I started tracing all of the items. You know, for eight years he kept a very careful record of all of his expenses, and I saw some very impressive things on it. I mean, for example, he listed all of the bar bills on it, and as you know, they did an enormous amount of drinking during the founding of this country. I think the founding fathers must have been plastered during that whole period, and and they were all on the expense account. Being a military man myself -- what really impressed me -- I was in the Army and I rose in only two years to the rank of Private First Class, and I read the expense account and he had listed on the expense account such things as scouting patrols. Now, when I was at Fort Dix, we went out on scouting patrols and they never told us that we would be able to put a chit in at the end of night's work, but Washington listed to a reconnoiter of the East River as far as $432.

And then he put the retreats on the expense account. Now, as you know, as a general, his strategy for winning the war apparently was losing all the major battles except the last big one. And he lost the battles -- sometimes he would leave the left flank unprotected, sometimes the right flank was unprotected, sometimes the center of the line was open, and this completely befuddled the British. They never knew what mistake he was going to make. But, as a result of this strategy, they spent all their time retreating. After the battle of Long Island and New York and Harlem Heights and Fort Washington and Fort Lee and then all the way through New Jersey, and of course into Valley Forge, they were retreating. And he listed all these things on the expense account.

At the time was a free-lance magazine writer, and I wasn't a professional historian, but I was an authority on expense accounts, and editors would whistle in admiration at my expense account, not my articles that I would write. And I saw what he had done and much of what I thought was original creative writing turned out to be derivative, because Washington had done it and I was following in Washington's hollowed footsteps. He had all the basic principles of modern expense account writing in his expense account. For example, the rule -- be specific about small items and vague about large items. So as a result, when he bought a ball of twine, it will be listed 3-3/4 inches circumference, red-colored twine, $1.98, and then he would just throw in a line like, dinner for one army, $2,000.

But, at any rate, that was the document. I just give this as an example of facts that are in the archives, in repositories, that historians have never taken advantage of. Either they did not read the expense account or they went along with the prevailing notion that the expense account was a monument to patriotism, as it was first published. That was the title of it -- "The Expense Account." But the man was a genius. He was first in expense account living, and something that nobody knew about. You know, we all have this picture of Washington as a totally irrelevant character in American life today -- a god, a marble figure, that doesn't relate to, say, your average business man. But when they read his expense account, they can see what he was actually saying to future generations.

Like, if you work for the government, charge them for everything -- which of course, is what's happened in real life. That's why Washington's expense account was the model for the Defense Department budget, for example. So after I found the expense account, I started exploring other things about Washington that historians didn't tell me about. They all said he was not a politician, he was a totally apolitical man, and that his election was as if ordained by God, Providence, they keep saying, was responsible. Now, I am different than other historians because I actually ran for president, and that was in the 1964 election. In the Republican party primaries, I'm a Republican, a Lincoln Republican, and in 1964, the front runner was Barry Goldwater, and I attacked Goldwater as a moderate.

I said his ideas only went back to McKinley's day, in the 1900, but as a Lincoln Republican, I was the only true reactionary in the race, and my ideas went back to Lincoln's day in 1864. And, as a matter of fact, I ran on the Republican party platform of 1864, so many of whose promises had yet to be fulfilled, as I said in New Hampshire. But at any rate, I lost by the way, in case you were wondering and I blamed it on being too closely associated with Lincoln then. And so it was my first race for political and I decided to go back to the library and to study George Washington, as a new role model. And the first thing that I was struck by was what a fantastic politician he was, uncredited by historians.

When, in the election of 1789 -- actually started in 1775, with the election of the general, and he was elected by Congress and one of the 64 Congressmen then was colonel Washington. And I read about this and there was a strange thing in the election. The first order of business was electing the General and of all of the 64 Congressmen, they were all dressed in brown homespun or black homespun, and only one was in a uniform, and that was George Washington. He had taken out his uniform from the French and Indian War, which he hadn't worn in 16 years, and, and he showed up in Congress wearing that. Now, at first I thought that there must have been some mistake -- his brown homespun was out at the cleaners or something, because this was an apolitical man, and then I read that for 62 days, he wore the uniform. Now, he had denied he was a candidate, and yet he was the one in the uniform. And he really stood out.

It was very much like Ollie North wearing the uniform during the whole Iran scam hearings, and North, by the way, was like Washington in one sense -- Washington never told a lie and North never told the truth. But they were similar in the fact that they, they both understood that Americans love uniforms. Now, this was a very political act. And the second one was that he never said anything in all his years in Congress, so when he actually was running for office, he didn't have to deny any statements that he had made because he just sat quietly in Congress, glowing in his uniform, and he was quiet as a clam, as I call him. So, I mean, this business about his never telling a lie, he didn't have much to lie about, since he hadn't said anything and he hadn't had any positions.

So this was another political strength of the man. And then, of course, his ability to perceive the importance of certain things, like he was the first to deny that he was a candidate. He always denied he was a candidate for general and president, and, you know, the war ended in 1783, so it was like six years until the actual election. During this whole period he denied he was a candidate and yet when the election was held and the Pony Express came riding up with the election results, he whipped out his acceptance speech, and he had been carrying it in his pocket for months because he wouldn't know when. Now, these are the acts of a a not exactly an apolitical figure.
LAMB: Do you like him?
KITMAN:Oh, I like George Washington. I have a whole book that goes into a lot of things that some people like the Daughters of the American Revolution would feel are flaws about the man. I say that he was first in shopping, for example. He never gets credit for that. He was a mail-order catalog freak when he would send these lists of things that he wanted to buy back to London and he would buy on credit, like you and I, and the Mastercharge and Visa of the day was dunning him all the time.

He was first in gambling. He would be playing cards and betting on everything from boxing to horse racing to, I mean, I think that he would even bet on the arrival time of the Pony Express. And he would keep very careful records of all of this, of his losses in cards, which I have included in the book. He was first in partying. I mean, he was a man, he was dance crazy. His life was like Saturday Night Fever. He just had this urge to dance. I call him one of the minuet men, the minuet being his favorite dance. These things are not necessarily negatives. I defend all of these areas that he was first in, like interior decorating. I mean, I was never told how he was into design, picking the wallpaper on the walls and even during the height of battles, he would be sending back notes to his caretakers -- "Change the stucco in the front hall, and a new piece of wood for the mantelpiece."

He was really into that. Interior decorating today is not a very macho field, but if they knew that George Washington was into that sort of thing, it would give a different image to things. All, I find him a very likeable person, I mean, all of what's considered a negative that I'm telling you about him, is a positive just as his being a great expense account writer is a positive.

And, just as a man, he was totally likeable also because -- you know, they never told me when I was in grammar school, first learning about George Washington, that he was an elementary school dropout, for example. They never told me that he was a terrible speller, I mean, all the years that I was struggling trying to learn the spelling rules, it would have helped to know that George Washington couldn't spell either. He had problems with his mother, as many of us did. She never appreciated him. I mean, he started in the Army at 21 as a major, for example, and he quickly became a colonel. Did she appreciate that? No. When he became general, she didn't appreciate that. When he was elected president, she didn't appreciate it. I think basically she would have preferred him to be a doctor.

And he had to learn -- his father had died -- he had to learn all of the social graces himself. His mother, Mary Ball Washington, sainted may she be, she used to smoke a pipe and she was very much like Mammy Yocum in L'il Abner, but Washington, they lived next door to the Fairfaxes. Now as you know, Ward Fairfax, I mean they weren't exactly the Jones. Ward Fairfax owned West Virginia, the whole state next to him, and Washington was very upward mobile, and he modeled himself after the Fairfaxes. And he had to learn a lot of things, and he had to, you know, as a teenager, he drafted this book, "The Rules of Civility" where he wrote down 113 rules. Things like, do not speak when you have meat in your mouth, and do not laugh in public, and do not spit in the fireplace, and I have a lot of these rules in the book, and that is really charming because this -- you have to remember -- is a teenager. Can you imagine teenagers today modeling, you know, having a structure for life? Everything was structured. He knew what he was doing, and he kept his mouth shut because there were a lot of things he didn't know how to say. And he would always be talking to a woman, or actually the women would be talking to him because he was this very tall, handsome fellow in his uniform, and there were a group who I call the “Founding Girlfriends" who, who were very much, they were like Washington party girls.

The ones that he danced with, and one of whom, if you can see this on camera, what this is the pictures from Washington footlocker, his pinups from his footlocker at Valley Forge. They includeSally Fairfax, for example, who was the girl next door, and who many historians think that Washington had an affair with her, which I seriously doubt. She was just an older woman who he was drawn to, and he would write impassioned love letters to. And then there are, I have pictures of Martha Washington, who was not George's first love, actually she's the fifth love. It raises an interesting problem about Washington's sex life, which I go into in the book, most historians totally ignore the fact that Washington must have had a sex life. He only spent one week a year during the Revolutionary War -- which lasted eight years -- with Martha. He brought her to the battlefield on the expense account.

And so what did Washington do for eight years? Did he take cold showers, as they told us to do in the Army? He prayed in the snow a lot at Valley Forge, if you remember the picture. I examined this area and the basic problem is that in 1789 or before, we did not have the benefits of the Miami Herald or the Washington Post, who would ask Washington, as they later asked Gary Hart, "Sir, we all know that you have never told a lie, but in the light of the past eight years, have you ever committed adultery?" They didn't ask him that question, so we have no answer to that. I find that there were at least eight candidates for the Donna Rice prize and for the woman who most certainly could say with, with certainty that George Washington slept here. And I don't want to name names here on your wonderful show because these people cannot rebut what I have to say. But in the book I have several interesting chapters, which is filled with evidence which would certainly hold up in the National Enquirer or Star.
LAMB: What do you hope..
KITMAN:I'm sorry I've spoken so long, but...
LAMB: No, no, it's an interesting story. What do you hope people will get out of this book?
KITMAN:Well, I want, first of all, we in this country, because of television, I feel, are history impaired. We have no sense of history. For television viewers, ancient history goes back to Elvis. They, they, in the, well it is the 1950s, it's a long time back. The only names that they know today are, are Willard Scott maybe, Roseanne Barr, Vanna what's her name, and I think that what I want to do with this book is to bring history to life again. George Washington and the other founding fathers were incredible people. I mean, to have people like this, you know, like Hamilton, Madison, Jefferson, Adams, in the same room at the same time, is an incredible period in history. And these are people whose achievements last and last and last, or should. Unlike celebrities today. There is such massive media coverage of them that they, they disappear. I mean, Andy Warhol said, "Everybody is going to be famous for 15 minutes," but he was wrong. I mean, already they're saying Andy Who?

So I wanted to bring George Washington back. In New Jersey where I come from, George Washington today is only the name of a bridge. It is a name, it's a birthday, it's a department store sale, so this to me is a great tragedy. I think that what historians have done with Washington, they have written 20,000 books about him and he gets more and more remote, and because they have made this cold marble figure out of Washington, which he wasn't. Sometimes they try to get underneath this wooden portrait and then they just come up with a plastic person, and that's because they don't look at the right things, these facts are all there. I mean, like his dancing. I mean, historians don't see any significance in dancing, but it was a major part of his life. And there is a story -- I came across a story that he danced with the wife of his leading general, General Nathaniel Green, who danced -- this was at Valley Forge -- and historians say he danced for three hours with Kitty Green without stopping. Now, historians make nothing of that, but I start to think, my word, what kind of dancing was that, three hours is a long time. And it was a very complicated ritual in that day. They even had dance cards and the woman had dance cards and they wrote down all your partners, so Kitty Green must have had a card that said, George Washington, George Washington, George Washington, George Washington.

And then, I read how in other places, I read that General Green was sent on a secret mission that very night and he had to leave so quickly that he couldn't tell his wife where he was going. What kind of mission was this? You go out to buy a left-handed cricket bat or something. Historians don't follow-up on this and I find many facts that, that are not related because assume that Washington could not have had a sex life. And they don't explore. Kitty Green, for example, General Nathaniel Green's wife, who I find, I mean I don't want to give away any secrets, but I find that she had had affairs with, with General Lafayette, for example, which was actually quite a positive because there had been rumors about a relationship between Washington and Lafayette, and very suspicious. She had affairs with Alexander Hamilton and, as I document in the book, with just about everybody else in the high command in Washington headquarters.

But, at any rate, these things are all there but historians haven't used these facts. So, what I want to do is to make Washington relevant to today, to show how presidents, presidential candidates today are using all of the techniques that Washington had used, and perhaps if they would realize that, there would be an upgrading of campaigning. The media, for example would not go bananas over Gary Hart, if they knew that Hart was only following in Washington's bedsheets, or if that is indeed what the case was, which I'm not saying here, so ... The media doesn't understand They don't understand things like conflict of interest, another issue they go crazy over. They find some possible conflict of interest story. But Washington was up to his hip, knee boots in conflict of interest all the time. The very inauguration of Washington, there was a conflict of interest charged that could have been raised.

As you know, he borrowed money to go to the inauguration. Now even though he was married to the richest woman in the country, Martha Washington, and there are some people who say that he married her for her money, which I deny. I mean, he married her for her slaves or land holdings, some 15,000 acres, and for her Bank of England stock. But, at any rate, even though he had all this money, he still borrowed money from these businessmen of Alexandria. They pooled their money and they gave him this, like travelers' checks to go to the inauguration. Now, and what happened after he was inaugurated? They needed a Capitol. Where did they place the Capitol? Why, in this mosquito infested swamp area, right opposite Alexandria. Now who owned the franchises for the ferry routes across to the District of Columbia? I mean, this, the country, it's first act would have been a congressional investigation of this conflict of interest, George's, against the President, which is what would happen today. And everybody would be appalled by it. However, the way to look at politics is that this is our tradition. The country was founded in conflict of interest. Conflict of interest with Washington.

You remember the famous story of Washington -- the young soldier going out into Governor Dinwiddie of your Virginia here, appointed Washington to head this army to notify the French that they were encroaching on Virginia's land at Fort Pitt, Fort ... And, I mean, they don't tell us that, that this land was all owned by the Ohio Company, and that Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia, who had given the Ohio Company this half million acres was a principle stockholder in their company and George Washington himself and his family were major stockholders in the Ohio Company. And they never told me that. So what he was involved with in this, of getting French out of the Pittsburgh area. It was like a stockholder battle. And, I mean, there is certainly a conflict of interest in that, and that expedition by the way, started the whole French and Indian War. And of course it was very important for Washington to, so...

At any rate, if anybody looks at politics today, they see the parallels and the things that aren't told to young people today. I mean, we look at politics and, and young people do, and they see that it is corrupt and they sort of blanche, "Oh, I want nothing to do with that, it's so corrupt today." But they should see that the country was founded in corruption. In Congress, you had Congressmen who were busy buying up wheat, for example. I mean, the name, Senator Chase of Maryland, he was speculating on wheat, which should have gone to the poor, starving Continental Army, but he was selling it through intermediaries to the British, because they were selling for gold.

Many of the Quaker, the families outside of Valley Forge, why were they starving at Valley Forge? Because the Quaker farmers would not give them the food because they were paying in paper dollars, the continental dollars. And yet all of these people are now proud of their heritage, they are all Daughters of the American Revolution, and Sons of the American Revolution. So, it's a fascinating period in American history that interlocks exactly what's going on today. I mean, every story I read, I mean, poor John Tower. I would read of his problems. He couldn't become Secretary of Defense because he drank a little bit. But then when you read about George Washington and the generals in the Army and, and all the founding fathers, they all drank like John Tower. There was truly a great patriot in the Senate in terms of drinking.
LAMB: What was your first book, "George Washington's Expense Account", about?
KITMAN:Well, the “Expense Account,” what it was, I was only the co-author of that book. I very clearly said it was by General George Washington and Marvin Kitman, Pfc., Retired. And the first third of the book was the actual reprinting of his expense account, which he submitted to Congress. I didn't point out earlier, if he had gone on the payroll as Congress originally wanted him to, they were going to pay him $500 a month for general so that's $6,000. a year, and the war lasted eight years, so it came to $48,000

The expense account that he handed in was $442,362.91. But, at any rate, Congress paid it without any question because he had won the war. Maybe if he had lost the war, they, you know, they never argue with success. But, at any rate, the first third of the book was his expense account with all the items and then the second two-thirds was my explanation and defense of all the items and all the spending and, and it's, the results of my fruits of detective work, of tracking down, you know, who was supplying the liquor and the places that he slept at, and sometimes in the New York area, there were two or three places listed and he slept at all of them, I concluded. And that's what George Washington's expense account was about.

And I think that it was very responsible -- it originally came out in 1970 -- and I think that it was responsible for the boom in the economy that started right after that because it liberated the huge increase in expense account spending. I mean, it eliminated a lot of the guilt, and many of the businessmen traveling around today are, sometimes unconsciously, sometimes consciously, spending. It helps the economy to spend on the expense account. And I think that ultimately it lead to the boom years, the Reagan years, and I think that it may have affected President Reagan even, because, as you know, he came in to office as a balanced budget man. By the time he left, there was a trillion dollar deficit, whatever it is, and it's truly Washingtonesque in terms of spending. So, it had great impact on society, the first book.
LAMB: What does Marvin Kitman do when he's not writing books about George Washington?
KITMAN:Well, I'm a television critic, that's my profession, and, curiously enough, I became the critic at Newsday in between, when I was working on "The Making of the Prefident", and the publication of the “Expense Account,” shortly after the “Expense Account” was published in 1969, I was selected by Bill Moyers to be the television critic of Newsday, and I write a column which I call "The Marvin Kitman Show" and I'm listed as the executive producer. I anticipated this electronic revolution that was taking place and on December 7, as a matter of fact, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of "The Marvin Kitman Show", December 7, 1969, it all started. A day that will live in infamy, as far as the TV industry is concerned. And it's been an amazing 20 years because my show has outlasted "The Merv Griffin Show", "The David Frost Show", "The Mike Douglas Show" and 13 versions of "The CBS Morning News" I've outlasted. It's been an amazing 20 years.
LAMB: What is it about you show that's been different and allowed it to last these 20 years?
KITMAN:Well, I try -- I introduced a lot of innovations on writing about television. For example, I usually attack public television more than commercial television, which I think is more in the mainstream of how people actually think about television. I was the first to see television programs as not just programs. All the critics, they rush to review a series the first night, and they will often lump together, at least in the 70s, they were lumping together all of the first night of sitcoms, say. Now, I sensed that that was wrong. At the first show is a, pilot and the producers spend a half a year and half the budget working on the first episode, and you can't tell how bad a series it going to be until the second or third episode.

So I introduced the idea of holding off and not writing about things immediately, and I sensed that they had a cumulative effect, TV series. And one episode means nothing because the characters in series become like beloved members of the family and they become even more beloved because they go away at the end of the half-hour or the hour, and yet they come to visit every week. And I sensed that these characters become the real people in the lives of television viewers.

The fictitious characters are the President of the United States, Dan Quayle, the vice-president, the senators. I mean, everybody assumed that that is important, the Secretary of State, but to television viewers, those are fictitious characters. The real people were the Archie Bunkers, and the people on MASH, or Cheers, or what have you. So, I was responsible for a major overhaul of the way television is, and that everything is not a neat little program.

What happened, television has changed people's minds, I started to say, in the 1970s. And that we were mutating. I mean, as we watched, and you know, we all noted that our kidneys had changed -- we had to go to the bathroom more often, like during the commercial breaks, we always went to the bathroom. Our stomachs had grown larger because, you know, we all tend to eat more while we watch television, and that our eyes -- Fred Allen once said that our eyes were going to become the size of cantaloupes, and the brains, the size of a pea. And we truly were mutating, and most critics were not dealing with this, and how we had changed. All the programs and commercials and everything was running together in our minds, and as a matter of fact, I wrote the biography of my first 20 years as a television critic was called, "I Am a VCR", and we had these cassettes in our head of all of our TV viewing.

There were like tapes and the great thing about it is that we sort of like take a tape out and we totally forget everything that, that transpired, because the tape wasn't running. And I saw that in the last election. President Bush used that technique, that knowledge, you know, like a big issue in the spring of the election was the Iranscam hearings. Now, he decided when the actual election started, the campaign, that he wasn't going to discuss that. He took the tape of the Iranscam hearings and threw it into his closet there, and everybody forgot about Iranscam. They were able to dictate whatever they wanted because we have no memory of things unless the tape is actually playing. So, these are the things that I deal with in my column rather than just saying, "This show is bad or that show is bad", and you know, I recognize that all television is bad. You know, they keep saying this season is the worst season, and I look at them and say, "Well, what about last year or the year before that?" and I came up with all these laws, Kitman's laws. Each season is worse than the preceding one. And it really stands up.
LAMB: Who are your favorite politicians on television?
KITMAN:Well, I tend to, just in terms of television, which is the important thing, I tend to like President's who stumble. I liked Gerald Ford. I think he was very important in American politics and culture. Without Gerald Ford, we never would have had Chevy Chase. And I liked Ronald Reagan sometimes, until his act started to get boring. He really didn't improve on it. Richard Reagan, ah, Richard Reagan, see how quickly they forget. I gotta put in the tape. You asked me the past. I thought Richard Nixon was fascinating from the early years. You know, he introduced a lot of the media techniques we see. I remember the simple little things. When he would make a speech and he would lean forward and the camera would focus on a little American flag that he was wearing, just for the speech to explain the Cambodia incursion, or something like that. He would have a picture on the side. He wasa master of interesting things to watch, and of course much of that is forgotten now.
LAMB: What about the campaigns. Has television been good to campaigns?
KITMAN:Well, I think that it's actually terrible, you know, what's happened to elections because of television. I mean, starting with the election results. You know, they have totally ruined elections as drama. I grew up in the days of radio. When I became first interested in politics and we all sat around the radio waiting for the downstate results in Illinois. The farm vote versus Cook County. Now I never knew where Cook County was, but it seemed, you know, something very interesting and, you know, that was part of the ritual. Going to sleep and not knowing about, and now of course, with their exit polls and their projections, they ruin elections.

Now, I think that's very bad for this country and I think that it is corrupting the youth of this nation in making elections not a viable alternative to no elections. Because everything is drama today on television and they are leeching out the most dramatic thing about elections. The results. Who cares about all the boring speeches? Compare it to the drama about the results. And yet there, there's no drama left. And this is totally inexcusable. Wars are fought for free elections, and yet there's a decline in the number of people voting. There is a cause and effect, and they wrap themselves around the flag, the television networks -- "It is the right of the people to know, we are not going to withhold information." But they are withholding information all the time, the very essence of a news show is withholding information.

They have the big CBS Evening News, is 23 minutes of news, and they're with ... They don't tell you all the news, whatever Walter Cronkite said, that, "This is the way it is, or that's the way it was," whatever he used to say. That was an out and out lie all the time. People, you know, who were not included, and especially in the 1960s and the 1970s. They would sit in their chairs, "No, no Walter, I'll tell you the way it is." You know, but they should not do that to elections. It's a serious problem. People should vote in a democracy. If you're gonna fight wars for free elections. I mean, you should either give the people green stamps or frequent flyer mileage or something, some bonus you have to throw in, you know, it's such a commercial, commercialized electorate that we have. But to take away the excitement of elections ... They have taken away the excitement of debates on television. Another criminal act, as far as I'm concerned.

People forget what real debates are. I mean, I remember I started writing from the first one in '76, in '80, I implored the League of Women Voters to stop what they were doing, you know, with this business of having these glorified press conferences, where they ask the candidates the questions and allowed them to squirm away, and I said that people are going to accept that as the debates. And, they're not. They're press conferences. And then finally by 1988, somebody asked Lee Atwater whether they were gonna have a real debate, and he looked at this reporter and said, "We had a real debate," and nobody -- the television viewers don't remember any more what a real debate is.

In the old days one guy would -- the two of them would stand there -- one guy would say, "My opponent is, is full of baloney," and the other one says, "No, my opponent is full of baloney," and they went back and forth. That's what a debate was, and people were able to decide on the issues, based on that. And television has perpetuated this, and it's now up to the point of affecting newspapers, because the newspapers in this last election only covered what was on television. Every headline was based on so and so said this on television, totally excluding, you know, the other kind of coverage. And so by '92, wait till you see '92. They'll learn how, in their style of writing, they'll actually be able to, to write in the 15- second sound bites. They'll be able to actually capture that. They're a little awkward about it now. The stories tend to be a little long and they do have a little extraneous information, but every election is getting less and less.

Look at the success of USA Today, where that manages to cover every issue in the five or six paragraphs on the front page. USA Today, the first television newspaper, and it's a terrible newspaper. You can't -- I try to burn it and my fireplace is getting filled with all of these colors, you know, the reds and the greens and, and it's not good for wrapping fish. The fish comes out purple now. But that's going to become a newspaper like The New York Times -- the next generation of papers.
LAMB: What do you think, back to your book, because we are running out of time, "The Making of the Prefident 1789", what do you think George Washington would have been like on television?
KITMAN:Well, I think that he would have been very bad on television. He was very uneasy as a public speaker, and if people actually saw him, actually speaking, you know, as I mentioned before, his hands shook when he held the paper and he stood up, and he tended to have a, a very high-pitched voice. You see, we have no record, we always assumed that he sounded like John Wayne, and I think that his voice was high-pitched, and he would have had a very thick English accent, for example, because he was a very pseudo kind of person in the sense of whatever was in fashion in London, he would adopt. So, the people he admired were all of the English people, Lord Fairfax and everything. So, this actually would not have been an asset to him, in the way he sounded, and he sensed that because when he started his inaugural address, he read and it was quite a spellbinding appearance he made down at Wall Street. But by the time of his farewell address, at the end of the second term, he did not deliver it orally, but he submitted it to the newspaper. It was a brief one page address that was printed in the newspaper, so that was his media sense.
LAMB: We've only got time for one more question. You ran for president in 1964 on the Abraham Lincoln Republican ticket. Are you still proud to be a good Republican?
KITMAN:I'm always a Republican. I think the party is in a state of decline because, I mean, look, we went from Lincoln to Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush. I think that the party is in decline, but it will come back because it was founded on such wonderful principles and such humanity, and such a strong civil rights platform. You know, ending the war and abolishing slavery, and, I think that it's a great party and I think that you know, we have our ups and downs and we're in a down period now.
LAMB: By the way, how many votes did you get in 1964?
KITMAN:Well, at the actual convention I got zero, but I tied Harold Stassen and that had been my strategy in New Hampshire. In New Hampshire I got a lot of votes, as did Stassen. And, I was running against Harold Stassen, and I expected the campaign to be deadlocked and I would win on the 25th ballot.
LAMB: Marvin Kitman, we're out of time, but thank you for joining us, and telling us about your new book, "The Making of the President 1789".


Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 2004. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.