Alfred Zacher
Alfred Zacher
Trial & Triumph: Presidential Power in the Second Term
ISBN: 0965108708
Trial & Triumph
Alfred Zacher talked about his book, "Trial and Triumph: Presidential Power in the Second Term," published by Presidential Press. It focuses on how some presidents have succeeded in their second terms and why others have failed, primarily because of congressional opposition. He also talked about his ten criteria for a successful second term.
TRANSCRIPT
Trial & Triumph
Program Air Date: January 19, 1997

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Alfred J. Zacher, author of "Trial and Triumph: Presidential Power in the Second Term." Of all the presidents that have had two terms, which one's your favorite?
Mr. ALFRED J. ZACHER, AUTHOR, "TRIAL AND TRIUMPH: PRESIDENTIAL POWER IN THE SECOND TERM": Well, I probably do like George Washington awfully well. My memory, of course, goes back to Franklin Roosevelt, and he stands out for that reason. I think that the combination of all qualities in a president--I--and--and having survived the full eight years, I would have to say that--George Washington.
LAMB: What do you think George Washington would be like if he had to deal with television today?
Mr. ZACHER: Oh, I think he'd cope with it. He disliked the press, which was beginning at the time that he was in office, but he understood the necessity for communicating. He spoke well. He was comfortable with himself. And I think he would have handled television in the same sense that, possibly, Eisenhower did.
LAMB: Who had the worst second term?
Mr. ZACHER: Well, it's always said that Grant did, and I'm sort of troubled by Grant. There's no question that he failed to administer the office. As I mention in the book, the office simply overshadowed him. He needed the adulation and praise of office--could not risk. But it was a time of terribly difficult leadership. There was no constituency out there for those causes that he might have supported. The war was over; people wanted to retreat, go back into their own world. There were real problems out there that he recognized probably as well as anyone living, but--but he had no constituency and simply backed off.
LAMB: Have you ever met an American president?
Mr. ZACHER: I was standing in the lower level of the Palmer House one day and--one evening...
LAMB: Chicago.
Mr. ZACHER: Yes. And I think there were three of us in this little corridor and suddenly, doors burst open and Harry Truman walked in and said, `Hello,' and so forth, but it was hardly a conversation. But it was--is still an interesting moment.
LAMB: When did you first get interested in presidents?
Mr. ZACHER: Well, I have probably been intrigued by the presidency since I was a small child. I can remember Franklin Roosevelt vividly as though it were yesterday. And I think lots of us, of course, at that time, became enveloped with the presidency--he was such an all-encompassing person--and just watched all kinds of activities of the president, knew when he was going fishing, observed all of his travels. And, by the way, there's all these comments about not knowing that he was an invalid. Everyone knew he was an invalid. At Christmastime, they had the fund-raising for March of Dimes, and it was--we all knew it was because he was an invalid. And that was something that intrigued everyone. He didn't appear to be an invalid, but we knew he was an invalid. And--but the presidency has interested me from that time I was a small child.
LAMB: What is the Presidential Press of Ft. Wayne, Indiana?
Mr. ZACHER: Well, that's my company. I published the book myself. This e--these are times when small, unknown authors cannot find a publisher, and I did this myself with the help of an excellent firm in--up in northern Michigan, Jenkins Group, that packaged it for me. But it's there are many, many books being self-published these days.
LAMB: You going to make your money on this?
Mr. ZACHER: As Richard Reeves said to me I happened to talk to him about--about publishing it all, and he says, `You don't do these things to make money.' So that's not an issue. It was a great, fun avocation for me and I've enjoyed it. It's been an exciting experience, and I wouldn't give that up at all, and the money aspect is not an issue.
LAMB: What do you do for a living?
Mr. ZACHER: I'm in the general practice of industrial and commercial real estate.
LAMB: Where?
Mr. ZACHER: Ft. Wayne, Indiana.
LAMB: How long have you lived there?
Mr. ZACHER: About 43 years.
LAMB: And when did you first start the work on this book?
Mr. ZACHER: About 1986. I had looked over Henry Adams' "The Administrations of Jefferson" and discovered, to my great surprise, that Jefferson had a difficult second term. We had just gone through Nixon and Johnson, and I say I'm old enough to remember--and I do remember that Franklin Roosevelt had a difficult second term. It wasn't something I read; I remember it very clearly, vividly. And I thought, `Well, what's going on here? Is there something about the second term that we ought to know about?' So I began a study, not knowing at all where it'd take me, examining each of 17 presidents elected to a second term. There were actually 18. I didn't do McKinley--he died so soon after being elected that I didn't feel his second term was relevant. I cheated, however, and included Lincoln. He had two major goals, visions for his terms in office, and he fulfilled those in his very brief second term, so I included Lincoln.
LAMB: So how did you start this whole process?
Mr. ZACHER: I began a bibliography of each president, taking each one separately and beginning the study with George Washington. And it was certainly was a labor of love. The objective and the necessity was to sort of creep into the world of each president and not leave that world until I felt I understood not only who that president was, but what the environment was like, what the culture was like, so as to place the president in that era, and then move on to the next one when I felt I had understood that president and then had written about him.
LAMB: And how long did you do research before you started writing the first word?
Mr. ZACHER: Oh, I spent six, seven years writing. I--each one took a different amount of time. I would really not be certain how long it was simply related to the necessity of each one. And, of course, the body of information--as I got into someone like Cleveland, for example, there was less information; Jefferson, there's endless information, material. So each president had their own time.
LAMB: In general, how do presidents do in their second term?
Mr. ZACHER: Well, I, with some guts, I guess, ranked the presidents. And I also--but more important than that, I list them by success, troubled second--success in their first term--second term, troubled second terms, failed second terms, and then I have a special category for Lincoln and Coolidge.
LAMB: Let me just show the audience down at the bottom of this page in the back the ranking by total score. It just so happens that over the weekend, The New York Times published Arthur Schlesinger survey that shows that Lincoln, Washington and FDR are considered the great presidents, and your ranking is one, two, three.
Mr. ZACHER: Yes. And they also have Teddy Roosevelt and Jackson as the near-greats, so I felt in fairly decent company. We conflicted on a couple of them. Ronald Reagan was one, and Eisenhower--I happen to think that Eisenhow--I placed Eisenhower very high on my list.
LAMB: Number six.
Mr. ZACHER: Yes, and I continue to feel that way. It takes some courage to argue with people who are truly professionals in the field, and yet I defend my research and feel that I'm willing to back my position with the arguments that I have. But I do feel Eisenhower was an extremely capable and competent and knowledgeable president.
LAMB: In general, though, second terms?
Mr. ZACHER: OK, now those who--I f--I listed the following who succeeded in their second terms. I say Washington, Madison--and Madison was listed as a below-average success in--in The New York Times magazine article you mentioned, and I really disagree. I thought Madison was a marvelous president. He's a near-favorite of mine. Then going on to Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Reagan.
LAMB: Andrew Jackson?
Mr. ZACHER: Oh, of course, Andrew Jackson. Thank you. Yeah.
LAMB: You put troubled second terms: Jefferson, Monroe, Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt and Truman.
Mr. ZACHER: Yes.
LAMB: Which of those was the most interesting to you: Jefferson, Monroe, Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt or Truman?
Mr. ZACHER: They're--I would have to say that they're absolutely all--I'll go out on a limb and say equally interesting. Each one has a--a dramatic story to tell. Wilson probably was the most tragic one of the group. And truly, Wilson is one of the, obviously, most brilliant presidents we've had, able to communicate not to individuals but to the public. Came into office as a really relatively conservative individual--and by the way, Franklin Roosevelt did, too--and found the tenor of the times led him to initiate all kinds of legislation for change, for resolving what were then thought of as the populace problems: the direct election of senators, Federal Reserve, greater control, Clayton Antitrust laws. And yet he was rigid; he would not compromise.

And his second term was characterized most significantly by his having personally negotiated the Versailles Treaty to the shock of the leaders of Europe. They didn't want to--they wanted to send in their emissaries to do this. Well, he came over himself with his typewriter and spent hours typing the Versailles Treaty himself and negotiating it. He could have had a just peace, which was his principal goal in the Fourteen Points earlier and when he came to Versailles, a peace that did not damage Germany particularly. He also wanted the League of Nations. He could have had both. He was the only person on the scene who had the ability, the power, the authority, the persuasiveness, the--the arguments to induce a just peace for Germany and also--and that would be no reparations or not excessive, not taking away the colonial empire of Germany. And he didn't negotiate for that because he thought he needed the League, which he got, at a very unjust peace.

Comes back to America, and Henry Cabot Lodge decides he's going to get this fellow, an enemy. And he he does a very simple thing; he says, `Let's change just one paragraph.' And the paragraph had to do with whether or not the League could call out our troops, which was a reasonable objective--regional--reasonable problem. Well, Wilson was intransigent. He would not compromise. And Lodge knew that, so he simply said, `Well, all we want is this compromise.' Wilson wouldn't. It failed in attempting to persuade the American people. He went out on speeches, gave speeches to 50,000 or more people. And, of course, what were they going to do? It was complicated, difficult. They weren't going to persuade their senators to vote. And the League failed, the peace failed. We know what happened. And in my book--and I say this--that in a way, Wilson triggered the--the rise of Hitler and Second World War--not intentionally. And it's one of the--one of the side things about the book, the--the law of unintended consequences. And that's certainly one of the most significant.
LAMB: Do you have a political point of view yourself?
Mr. ZACHER: It's not identifiable in the book.
LAMB: Do you...
Mr. ZACHER: And I take a very neutral and very long-term position on things.
LAMB: Were you ever political?
Mr. ZACHER: No.
LAMB: You've never run for an office?
Mr. ZACHER: Oh, no, no, no, no. No, I have no interest in that at all.
LAMB: Now what do your friends think of, I mean, this whole project?
Mr. ZACHER: Well, they've been very--very encouraging, very complimentary. It's been sort of a--a fun enterprise with the president having mentioned the book in--in his press conference and on CNN and on CNBC and so forth. And it's--here I am, this fellow back in Ft. Wayne who is known in the business community, and suddenly here I am talking with you and on television and so forth. And it's a different world, and it's been a lot of fun.
LAMB: Let's show the clip of the president, the November news conference, so that those who can't remember what he said will know why we ha--asked you to come here.

(Excerpt from C-SPAN, November 8, 1996)
President BILL CLINTON: There's a book that's just been written on second-term presidencies, and I was a little nervous about reading it before the election. I was--but along toward the end, I read it and I got to thinking in my own mind about the second terms of--you know, President Truman's second term, President Eisenhower's second term and President Reagan's second term.

What the record shows is that the things which derail a second term are basically three. One is some external event intervenes and the president can't fulfill his dreams or hopes or his agenda.

The second thing that happens is sometimes a president thinks he has more of a mandate than he does and tries to do too much in the absence of cooperation.

And the third is that sometimes a president essentially just runs out of steam.

(End of excerpt)
LAMB: Did you happen to be watching it at that time?
Mr. ZACHER: No. In fact, I was at a conference in San Francisco, and I walked into a bar at the St. Francis, and a group of friends were sitting there and said, `You know, the president just mentioned your book on television?' I thought he was joking. I had--and I walked back to our room and checked some messages, and here are some people were are calling from Chicago and elsewhere saying, `You know, the president's mentioned your book.' So I didn't see it, but I've since seen it. In fact, we called our kids in Indianapolis and said, `Will you please tape this on C-SPAN?' so they did.
LAMB: Well, how'd he get it?
Mr. ZACHER: Our mayor is a personal friend of his, having gone--they were in Yale Law School together. I sent the book to our mayor and said, `Would you'--with a cover letter to the president; I said, `Will you be willing to forward this?' This was months ago, back in April or May or whatever it was, and--or maybe June. And I forgot about it completely. And I would say a month and a half ago or so, I got a letter from the president thanking me for the book, saying that he was not going to read it now, and that he would, and Hillary and he sent regards or whatever. And I hate to say this, but I thought it was some secretary, you know, doing some routine thing. Well, it's corroborated. I mean, he said he wouldn't read it then, which is what he said in the letter, so it was a surprise. There's no question about it.
LAMB: In the book, when was the last word you wrote, actually, before this went to the press?
Mr. ZACHER: I was writing the conclusion as it was going to press. One of my real deep problems with the book was to draw a conclusion. You know, I had all these chapters on the presidents. `What do I have? What's there? What is the meaning of it all?' And I hate to say this, but just as I was coming into Washington for this interview, I'm still formulating my conclusions.
LAMB: So what was the date, though, the last word was written?
Mr. ZACHER: I--it would have been January of--of...
LAMB: 1996?
Mr. ZACHER: Yes.
LAMB: The reason why--because I want to read to you back what you said about President Clinton. You said, `In many respects, Bill Clinton's performance as president is baffling. He is intelligent, educated, can be a capable communicator, and is an experienced public administrator. Clinton has failed in the test of a president on several very essential measures. First and foremost, he failed to understand the conservative tendency in America.' He got re-elected.
Mr. ZACHER: Well, of course, Morris said the same thing effectively. But I'm saying the same thing exactly that Morris said, which did intrigue me a little bit. Word for- and said that--that his health-care plan was evidence of a spirit of invincibility, which was one of my criteria for failure, and he mentions it in his press conference. And I think he learned a great deal from that. I really do. I think it was a very effective lesson. I think one of the true qualities of Bill Clinton is his ability to be flexible, to learn, to observe the horizons and follow along with it. And--and I do say that as I follow up, in order for him to be successful and succeed, he has to understand- you know, you didn't finish the quote, and I say exactly that he could well win, but he has to acknowledge the--what I claim is a conservative bent in America.
LAMB: How many copies did you have printed?
Mr. ZACHER: Three thousand.
LAMB: Did you sell them all?
Mr. ZACHER: No. No, no.
LAMB: The price on it is $24.95.
Mr. ZACHER: Yes.
LAMB: Can you ... would you mind telling the audience what the whole project cost you?
Mr. ZACHER: Well, I probably could have bought a Mercedes or something for...
LAMB: I mean, would it have been under $20,000, or did...
Mr. ZACHER: Oh, no, no. It was more like $35,000 or $40,000.
LAMB: And then what happened after the book came out when?
Mr. ZACHER: It came out in March, early in March.
LAMB: And how did you get it distributed?
Mr. ZACHER: You sign up with distributors, midpoint distributors, and then they send it off to people like Ingram Books, and they have it now, and it's in all their warehouses. And--and it is now available in most of the Barnes & Nobles and Border's and so forth. And it is--it's beginning to sell.
LAMB: So you had the mayor of Ft. Wayne, Indiana...
Mr. ZACHER: Yes.
LAMB: ...send a copy to the president?
Mr. ZACHER: Yes.
LAMB: Now did he ever get back to you, by the way, on this, the mayor?
Mr. ZACHER: Oh, we see each other--yes. I--we belong to a club. He just gave a paper the other day on avant garde, and our--our Quest Club in Ft. Wayne--we're very proud of that--it's been on, oh, about 85 years now, and once we be--give papers on--on all kinds of topics, and I gave some of my papers on the presidents there. And I see--I just saw the mayor the other day, and we talked about the president and the fact that this had occurred.
LAMB: So the book came out and then the president--did anything happen on sales before the president acknowledged it in the news conference?
Mr. ZACHER: Well, I was on CNN's World Wide Web the night of the election.
LAMB: How'd that work?
Mr. ZACHER: That was fun. I was out in San Francisco by coincidence, and we had over a million hits.
LAMB: How did you get asked to be on the Web?
Mr. ZACHER: I have a marketing firm that--that put me on that. And then the next day, because it went so well, I was on CNN--"Ask CNN."
LAMB: So you were--where were you in San Francisco physically, I mean? Were you on...
Mr. ZACHER: Oh, at CNN headquarters.
LAMB: In San Francisco?
Mr. ZACHER: Yes. Yes.
LAMB: And people were transmitting their questions to you?
Mr. ZACHER: Yes. Mm-hmm.
LAMB: And you would answer them?
Mr. ZACHER: Yes.
LAMB: And you had over a million hits?
Mr. ZACHER: Yes. It was fun. Yes. And then--then we had an interview, about a three-minute interview on the Web and politics, which went on--on the worldwide CNN network. In fact, someone called me sitting in a hotel room in Tel Aviv, and he says, `There's--there's Al Zacher.' I mean, it just really was--when he got back, he called me. And so it's--it's getting some notoriety.
LAMB: So the next day you went on CNN network?
Mr. ZACHER: Yes.
LAMB: To do what?
Mr. ZACHER: Well, it's called "Ask CNN," and we had a call-in show. We talked with the interviewer about the pre--about the second term and then interweaved it with some questions that came in.
LAMB: Then what happened next to you to get visibility?
Mr. ZACHER: Well--and then I was on "Politics with Chris Matthews" for a half-hour, and--and that was a lot of fun, also. That was very interesting.
LAMB: Now as you're going through all this, what's your--what's your feeling about it? What's your feeling about the process? Is this a hard--I mean, kind of talk to others that might be interested in doing the self-publishing of a book. Do you--are you--first of all, let me ask you this. Are you surprised how--how much attention this got?
Mr. ZACHER: Well, I felt that it was a topical subject, and I worked very hard toward the end of--of last year to finish the book. I--I didn't--I didn't have Nixon done at all a year ago, and I started out last--or the beginning of last summer to write Nixon. And that--that really pressured me. And then I didn't have my conclusion done, so that there was a lot of pressure to get this out, but I did it intentionally for the--for the--for the election. In fact, I almost thought of trying to get it done for--for Bush's potential second term and that didn't, of course, work out.

But I think the most important issue is--is the dedication to writing the book. That's first. I think the self-publishing aspect is interesting, and--and going on more and more. I think--What?--there are 25,000 or 30,000 books being self-published now. It's some large number. I could even be understating that. But the important ingredient is to have a book you care about. And that's one of the elements of this. I was devoted to the subject from the very beginning. It's excited me. It was something that I found totally absorbing.
LAMB: How did you go about making sure that you didn't make a historical mistake?
Mr. ZACHER: Oh, of course, I'm sort of a nut about that. I had an excellent tutorial at our local Indiana Purdue campus and worked with Professor Bartky over all the years of writing. And he checked--he worked with me on accuracies. He's quite knowledgeable about the presidency. And then I had six others editing, and I had someone who's expert in grammar and syntax. And I thought I was good at that, but I found out I wasn't. I had--this was written and rewritten over and over again to make sure that all aspects were covered. And I have--I've only found one or two obvious mistakes. I think some experts out there might find some glaring errors. I had Calvin Coolidge giving a presidential address in 1921, but other than that, I haven't found any. I reread the book for this session, and I found just a couple of things I didn't like, but...
LAMB: I found one tiny error in the list of the ages of people when they became president.
Mr. ZACHER: Oh.
LAMB: The--and you might correct me if I'm wrong, but you have Theodore Roosevelt being 43, and I think he was 42, because...
Mr. ZACHER: OK. Yeah.
LAMB: Did you do that chart yourself?
Mr. ZACHER: I put it together from another source, and I'll have to double-check that. That's interesting.
LAMB: Because people are always asking who the youngest president in history was.
Mr. ZACHER: Oh, yes.
LAMB: If my calculations are right, that--Bill Clinton will be the youngest president to--by a few months, only after U.S. Grant--to have served two terms if everything works out right?
Mr. ZACHER: Yes, yes, yes.
LAMB: Does youth have anything to do with whether he will be successful or not?
Mr. ZACHER: Oh, I think it will be totally irrelevant, absolutely irrelevant. I think it would have no factor whatsoever. I do think the times in which you serve make a difference--some difference, and that was referenced in the Schlesinger article. There's no question that if you have a great war to fight, that you can be far more momentous a leader than if you don't. And Teddy Roosevelt always regretted the fact that he didn't have some war. But I think he used the White House quite effectively.

Eisenhower would probably be an example of a president who--who had such quiet times that--I think that's one reason he isn't judged to be more effective. And the other is, of course, his whole hidden-hand approach, which a historian presented--Greenstein presented. And--and, of course, I totally agree with that. He had a legislative agenda, and he allowed Lyndon Johnson to take full credit for most of his programs. And he also acted the sort of--oh, loving, grandfatherly type, little bumbling, playing golf, great chief of state, but certainly not a dramatic leader. The fact is behind the scenes he was brilliant; he wrote many of his own legislative proposals, understood all the agendas that were there, and had complete involvement with the government, including foreign and domestic affairs, but never, never cared to have this as a public aspect of his career. And it was hard to judge him for that reason.
LAMB: What about--because you talk some about this through your book. What impact do you think the continuing discussion about scandal will have in the second administration of Bill Clinton, based on what you know from past experience?
Mr. ZACHER: Well, there's been very little American presidential history on the subject. Grant--never accused of being involved in any of the scandals, but it severely diminished his second term. There was one flare-up in the first term … but he was completely separated from that. But in a second one, major people--major members of his administration were involved in graft and stealing, in diverting funds; lost their jobs, went to jail. And he simply--it--it diverted attention from his administration, an administration that was not heading anywhere anyway. So it's unclear what effect a graft or whatever, dishonesty, morality would have on the president who had an agenda. The only other one we have with any relevance is Harding, and Harding died--it was his first term, and he died. And, of course, Richard Nixon, where there was a smoking gun near--near impeachment, and I don't hear any such rumors as that. I hear--we hear all more stories similar to those of--of the Grant administration. And it'll be interesting to see. I think we just have to wait and find out whether there--there's evidence. And if there is, then will it impact an activist president? The other experience we have is Grant, who was not involved in--in--in promoting those programs which he--in which he actually did have some belief.
LAMB: On the back of your book, you have this endorsement from this Elliot Bar--Bartky...
Mr. ZACHER: Yes.
LAMB: ...who you worked with. He says, `"Trial and--and Triumph" is a testimony to the endurance and possibility of democratic leadership. Zacher brings a fresh perspective that the experts have long ignored.' What's the fresh ex--perspective?
Mr. ZACHER: I suppose, number one--and this is my own view and I'm not quite sure what he meant--and that is my--I have three conclusions. And the first one is that the presidency, the qualifications--the qualities of success have not changed. And I also feel--and this is kind of a new perception, but I think it does--that the --I claim the American people haven't changed. Going back to what I consider the--really the prevailing document that--the controlling document, and that's the Declaration of Independence, all men are created equal. They have certain inalienable rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Well, I define-- I think the founders define the pursuit of happiness as economic security. And it didn't say, `happiness,' it said `the pursuit of.' So I believe that the Founding Fathers were arguing for equal opportunity, equality and equal opportunity. And I think that theme has been carried throughout the American history. I think those presidents who understood this and who applied reasonable solutions to achieving equal opportunity for Americans, starting with Jefferson, who felt that Hamilton was going to overrun the average farmer in this case, that what was needed was getting Hamilton out of the way and too much government out of the way, and then you'd have equal opportunity, less government and so forth.

Well, by the time Teddy Roosevelt came along and industry had such great power and wealth had such great power and the common man did not, equality again and equality of opportunity, not equality, but equality of opportunity. That--Teddy Roosevelt used government to try to implement that, Woodrow Wilson did the same thing, all with the same original Founding Fathers' objectives, but using different tools.
LAMB: Have you had equality of opportunity in your life?
Mr. ZACHER: Yes, I certainly think so.
LAMB: Where were you born?
Mr. ZACHER: Bay City, Michigan.
LAMB: How long did you live there?
Mr. ZACHER: I left for college when I was 18--yes-- and really never returned. I went to Antioch College, where they sent us out on jobs, then I was in Korea, serving in the Corps of Engineers near the front lines during the war, then came back to Michigan, got a master's degree in economics.
LAMB: And Antioch College is located where?
Mr. ZACHER: Yellow Springs, Ohio.
LAMB: What'd you study there?
Mr. ZACHER: Economics.
LAMB: What got you interested in economics and then going on and getting a master's degree?
Mr. ZACHER: Oh, I think it was a practical side of history. I always--in my world today, I sort of live in a practical world and a dream world, I guess, a little bit of both. And that fitted it. It's both worlds.
LAMB: What took you to Ft. Wayne?
Mr. ZACHER: Well, I had a family activity business there that I was interested in.
LAMB: What did you start out doing in your business?
Mr. ZACHER: It was a retail activity.
LAMB: What kind?
Mr. ZACHER: It was women's haberdasher--women's hats.
LAMB: How long did you do that?
Mr. ZACHER: About four years.
LAMB: Then what?
Mr. ZACHER: Sold that and went into real estate.
LAMB: Now I--were you that--were you interested in the presidency that early in your life?
Mr. ZACHER: Oh, I've always been interested in it. And--and I--and you asked me before if I was involved in politics, but I've always been interested--deeply interested in politics so that, yes, I...
LAMB: Over the years, have you done anything special about following presidents in any way? I mean, did you keep track of them in any kind of research material up until the time you started working on the book?
Mr. ZACHER: No, not at all, just--I suppose I read everything. And I would read of the lives of presidents and look into biographies and that sort of thing.
LAMB: Do you have a favorite president in history?
Mr. ZACHER: Well, I mentioned before that...
LAMB: Mentioned George Washington.
Mr. ZACHER: Yes. But--but I'm very intrigued by James Madison. And I say--the Schlesinger article there--they played him down. But Franklin Roosevelt's certainly somebody that--who was very intriguing, and I--and I like my chapter on Franklin Roosevelt. He had a lot of faults, but he- --there's no question that he saved the American economy, he saved the way of life, certainly in a halting and--the New Deal was not a success by the time the second term was over. And by the way, one disagreement I had with the article was that he was responsible for some major legislation at the end of his second term. It was Congress who took over, and one of my conclusions is that getting along with Congress--really the principal conclusion I have--is essential for a president to succeed. And if the president does not control a Congress, Congress will control him. And by--near the end of the second term, Congress had taken over the New Deal legislation that was- the Hours Acts and those changes which occurred at the end of the second term were initiated by people like Wagner in Congress. Roosevelt was, of all things, more of a follower than a leader at that time.
LAMB: At the end of each of your chapters, you have a reader's score of the particular president you've just written about. This one is Grover Cleveland. Defense, economic--I can't even see from here--communications, vision...
Mr. ZACHER: Leading--the ability to lead Congress.
LAMB: What--what do you want people to do with this?
Mr. ZACHER: Oh, I think that was something that I discussed with one of the people I worked with the book. And I'm--you see, I'm a citizen historian, and I think there are a whole bunch of history buffs and presidential junkies out there, and they all have their own opinions after reading the chapter. And I thought, well, there's a slight chance that they might want to argue with me, and I encourage that, so that I've asked people to send in their opinions. I don't think that's a principal aspect of the book.
LAMB: Well, then in the back you have a chart that people can fill in.
Mr. ZACHER: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: And what do you want them to do with it?
Mr. ZACHER: If they want to, they send it in.
LAMB: Has anybody done that to you?
Mr. ZACHER: I've had some, yes.
LAMB: Do they agree or disagree with your rankings?
Mr. ZACHER: Well, I've had some disagreement. It's interesting. In one review, I was absolutely trashed for my chapter on Andrew Jackson, and I don't know the press at all that did that. It must--I say so--it must be very, very liberal because they--they criticized my favoring Jackson. Keep in mind again that the Schlesinger article and that survey still place Jackson among the near-great. But Andrew Jackson co--violated Supreme Court directive--would not implement a Supreme Court directive to assist the Indians--the Amer--Native Americans in Georgia, and he forced their removal, the death of tens and tens of thousands of Indians. Well, by today's standards, looking at the perspective from today, he was a cruel, vicious reactionary. But in his time, that's what the majority of Americans wanted. He was fulfilling the wishes of the majority of Americans and it was the common man, not large industry. He wasn't defending great wealth. He was defending the ordinary American citizen who wanted that land that the Indians had. And by standards of his day, he was their leader.
LAMB: How much--did you ever total up the number of books you read to get ready to write this book of your own?
Mr. ZACHER: No. I'm sure there are an awful lot of them. I bought a lot of them, but I read a lot of them in the library and so forth. But I read a lot of books.
LAMB: And having read all those books, did you find some that just stuck out as being ones that you'd recommend to your friends and that are particularly good?
Mr. ZACHER: Well, the--there's such a variety of them. Of course, the David Donald book on Lincoln--you have to mention that-and I was kind--I'm kind of proud of the fact that my perspective on Lincoln is the same that he had, and his book, of course, came out way after my chapter on Lincoln. And it has a slight variation--and David Donald's book does also--on those perspectives of many historians prior to that on Lincoln. And that's one thing--it took a lot of courage on my part to take strong positions on each and every president, and I do that. There's no beating around the bush in what I think of each president, I don't think. It's very clear where I stand on each one.
LAMB: Well, let's go over some of these presidents. You give us your capsule feeling about them. In your chart in the back, you have special situations, Lincoln and Coolidge.
Mr. ZACHER: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: Let's start with Abraham Lincoln. Everybody, it seems, rates him number one as the greatest president in our history. Do you agree with that?
Mr. ZACHER: Of course.
LAMB: And what's the reason?
Mr. ZACHER: He--one thing--he had huge ego, but he set that aside as president, which is a remarkable quality. He understood--he--to quote Dave Donald, "He directed the ship of state from point to point," he said, where he did not necessarily know which direction he was going and he accepted that, despite all the criticism against what he knew to be the only course he could take, which was to study situations and follow--and learn from them and be-- to be as creative as, of course, he was able to be. He had two visions for America, and it's rare, of course, for any president to have strong visions. One, of course, was to save the Union. No other president--I'm sorry--no other candidate, no other individual around, I argue, would have attempted to save the Union. They would have allowed slavery to go off, the country to separate, and Lincoln was determined to preserve the Union. And secondly, of course, going back to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the Declaration, all men are created equal--he wanted to end slavery. He fulfilled those two great visions. He had tremendous opposition in the country. He was hated in many parts of the country, took authority that no other president in history has taken, and he did this with self-confidence.
LAMB: Then you also have another special situation. I'll read what you say. `Coolidge --was highly popular during his second term, yet history judges him to have been a failed president.'
Mr. ZACHER: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: What do you think of him?
Mr. ZACHER: He, a frugal man, believed in honesty, frugality, would not stand up to the rising speculation in the country. And he knew clearly that the country was headed in the wrong direction--speculation--and would not allow his Federal Reserve board to speak out as, in fact, Greenspan did just recently about speculation, and the country was headed toward a terrible crisis. The farmers had no--their incomes had collapsed. Legislation came before Congress, and Congress approved legislation to help the farmer, and he voted against it, because he said, `They ought to be independent.' There's a godlike force--really God-- whose guiding hand will direct capitalism to function successfully, and he would not allow Congress to help the farmers. He would not speak out against the excesses on Wall Street. And I claim he implemented the final crash in the Depression.
LAMB: Have you ever done other things in public life at all besides write books and be in business? I mean, are you involved in any other causes?
Mr. ZACHER: Oh, yes, I'm very active in our public radio station. I'm past chairman of--of our psychiatric organization. And through the I've been on United Way and Chamber of Commerce. I'm University of Michigan Alumni Association. I was on the board. I was first chairman of their scholarship committee. And I'm always very active.
LAMB: So I get back to what I asked earlier. I mean, are people surprised that you did the book or they say, `There goes old Al Zacher again. He's finally got that book done'?
Mr. ZACHER: I didn't tell anybody about the book for years. I just absolutely would not mention it, could not imagine anybody--anyone believing that I'd be writing a book. And it came as a complete surprise to everyone. It was just literally this year that I got up courage enough to tell people I'd written a book.
LAMB: Why did it take courage to tell them?
Mr. ZACHER: Well, because, you know, who am I to write a book on the--on the presidents? Here are all these people with these lifetime credentials and I--and no one's written a book on the subject before. It's the first book written on the second term.
LAMB: Where did you get the title "Trial and Triumph"?
Mr. ZACHER: It came out of my original introduction. It's just something that hit me as being what actually happens in the second term. It is a trial and triumph.
LAMB: Now on the back you have a Small Press magazine comment that says, `Jackpot. A wonderful guide for what is in store in this year's fascinating, riveting, continuous election. Clinton's shadow is on every page of Zacher's engrossing and suggestive book.' What's Small Press magazine?
Mr. ZACHER: It's a publication for those who self-publish.
LAMB: Sum up your experience of the self-publishing thing. Has this worked out the way you thought it would?
Mr. ZACHER: I'm extremely pleased with the Jenkins Group, who put the book together. I think it has professional look to it. It could have been put out by any of the big houses.
LAMB: And what is the Jenkins Group?
Mr. ZACHER: They provide the full packaging service for people like me. They take the manuscript and they put it together in terms of type size, and they came up with the design for the cover, and I do like the cover design. I said it was one case I hope people judge book by its cover. I think it is attractive. And they make sure that I do my bibliography and that the index is done and it's all put together, and they package it completely.
LAMB: Where's the Jenkins Group located?
Mr. ZACHER: They're up in Traverse City, Michigan.
LAMB: And so no matter who the author is, if you go to the Jenkins Group, they'll do this for the price?
Mr. ZACHER: Yes. Mm-hmm.
LAMB: And do they also have it--the book distributed?
Mr. ZACHER: No. They recommend distributors. And I have somebody--distributor for libraries, and then, of course, midpoint is my distributor for the general trade book--all the, you know, bookstores, that sort of thing.
LAMB: Did you go on a book tour?
Mr. ZACHER: No, no. I think book tours, you have to have a name like Hillary or Colin Powell or Bork or whatever. Book signings you have to have a name.
LAMB: Now looking back, would you do anything differently on a second book?
Mr. ZACHER: I would not put in the rankings. But, no, I would not do anything--I mean, this same book, and...
LAMB: Why wouldn't you put the rankings in?
Mr. ZACHER: Oh, in fact, I talked with one agent who said, `No one's going to bother,' and I do think so. People will read, but they don't want to bother.
LAMB: In other words, you wouldn't put the rankings in of p...
Mr. ZACHER: I might rank it, but I wouldn't ask them to...
LAMB: You wouldn't ask the...
Mr. ZACHER: The public to rank.
LAMB: ...the readers to rank.
Mr. ZACHER: No.
LAMB: Now have you got another book in mind that you're thinking about doing? And would you self-publish again?
Mr. ZACHER: Well, I would like to think that because of the effectiveness of this one, a publisher might take it, but it depends of the book. People who have started out in their first or second book with publishers have gone to self-publishing. Frankly, if the book sells very, very well, then you get to keep a greater--greater amount of the profits, significantly greater. But I would try to have it published. I don't want to spend my time--and I spent a lot of time getting this self-published. It takes a lot of time.
LAMB: What would your second book be about?
Mr. ZACHER: I have two or three topics, one that is kind of rare and I probably wouldn't mention that. My grandson--one of my grandsons suggested I do a children's book on the presidency, and I like that idea. And then also I'm intrigued about the whole issue of: What is conservative and what is liberal?
LAMB: What do you think it is?
Mr. ZACHER: I say it isn't clear. I think of Andrew Jackson, who's considered so--one of the liberal presidents, Democrat, fighting for the common man. I've already mentioned what he did to the American Indian by today's standards, but in those days, was that liberal or not? But he felt, as Calvin Coolidge did not, that there was excess. He never he broke-- he eliminated the bank of the United States, opened up a whole bunch of state banks, very successful. The little --the small entrepreneur, the farmer could borrow money endlessly, and there was huge speculation, great growth of wealth, very successful, just exactly what he wanted.

And one day he decided that this was too much. So it's as though the Federal Reserve today raised interest by 5 percent or whatever, and suddenly, cut credit and demanded the--the exchange of gold for--backing of gold for loans rather than paper money. Well, overnight, it all shut down. All the real estate speculation, all the farmer speculation. and a tremendous Depression occurred. Well, I think you have to say that this was not something that was very favorable to the mass of Americans. And what is liberal and what is conservative?
LAMB: You list four presidents that you consider had failed second terms. We've talked a little bit about a couple of them. It's Grant, Cleveland, Johnson and Nixon. Why did Cleveland--Grover Cleveland had a separation of--you know, between...
Mr. ZACHER: Yes.
LAMB: ...Benjamin Harrison he wasn't a successive term. Why did his second term fail?
Mr. ZACHER: And let me just--we'll maybe come back to it. But I'm--probably might shift Lyndon Johnson over to troubled rather than failed. But...
LAMB: I mean, you have four columns: successful second terms, troubled second terms, failed second terms and then the special situations.
Mr. ZACHER: Yes. And Grover Cleveland is listed--he's sort of the darling of some people, and I definitely consider that he had a failed second term. He came off--he's a very rigid, very determined individual. And the--there was an economic downturn, and there again, he tightened money, he would not respond to the demand for a freer supply of funds. And he was a Democrat, keep in mind, and he had the allegiance of labor and the average citizen, the middle class, and they're the ones who asked him for help and he wouldn't give it. And I think his inability to relate to his own constituency is an issue. And then there was this famous Pullman strike. The strikers walk out on the Pullman industry in Illinois and he sends the troops in. He doesn't consult a Democratic governor in Illinois, doesn't talk to him. He's simply arbitrary about this rather than trying to figure out how to settle the strike, how to work locally, and the public just turned on him.

Now--and he did not solve--he did not step in to solve problems that he had. And it struck me, `Well'-- and I say this--`did he have the tools? Did he have the insights? Were they not there yet? Was it premature?' But you look back on earlier presidents going back to Madison's day. Presidents grappled with problems in a way that--that Cleveland didn't. And I I put him as a failed president.
LAMB: Why would you move Lyndon Johnson from failed to just troubled, the second term?
Mr. ZACHER: And I struggled with why I put him in as a completely failed president because he was so successful in the first part of his second term. And--and I guess I'd have to say part of the reason is that he himself saw his second term as--as a failure. He was devastated by it. And I probably was influenced by that. The fact that he really lied to the American people about the number of troops and the costs of the war. I find that objectionable and strong evidence of failure on his part. I also probably have to say--and I mentioned--that his fight on--his--his war on poverty and his tremendous success in legislation for the poor and for the average individual is so tainted by a self-need that I'm probably a little biased in that sense.

In other words, when there's great crisis, when there's civil war or depression or even Teddy Roosevelt's time--the threat to the American economy from potential uprisings--it was the beginning of Bolshevism and that sort of thing--he felt he was saving the country from a threat, a real threat. Johnson didn't have any of that. So I find his programs, whatever their merits--and that's another issue--that there is a certain falseness about it. But really, that aside, he was effective legislator, he did have great success with Congress, certainly riding on the back of the death of Kennedy. But his first two years were successful in terms of his own program, and then, of course, it all went downhill.
LAMB: How have the reviews been on your book?
Mr. ZACHER: There haven't been many.
LAMB: Why's that?
Mr. ZACHER: Those that I've had--National Journal here gave me a very favorable review. American History magazine gave me a very favorable review.
LAMB: And why do you think there haven't been many reviews?
Mr. ZACHER: Simply there's so many books out, and the publishers go to the press and they-- their lobbyist floor review, and I have none of that.
LAMB: Did you get the kind of attention you thought you'd get from CNN and CNBC or is it more than you thought?
Mr. ZACHER: It's a Walter Mitty kind of a fantasy realization. It's-- not anything at all that could have been imagined. There was no time. Well, first of all, when I wrote the book, I paid no attention whatsoever to the public--that is, to the response. That was never an issue in writing the book. But then once it came out, you have to sort to think about a little bit, and at that time, it would never, ever--I never would have allowed it to enter my thought that--that the response and acknowledgment would be there.
LAMB: So--but you would do this again?
Mr. ZACHER: Only if I had a topic that--that...
LAMB: No, no. I mean, but you would do this book again? In other words, after you had this experience, it was worth it?
Mr. ZACHER: Oh, would I do--yes. Oh, of course. But I would have done it without because I believed in the book and I--and I've--and it was a great adventure writing it.
LAMB: This is the cover of the book. It sells for $24.95, self-published, Presidential Press of Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Alfred Zacher, the author. Thank you very much for joining us.
Mr. ZACHER: Thank you.


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