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Lincoln by Goodwin: 'Political Genius'

Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin's new book is Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Goodwin, who won the Pulitzer Prize for her previous book, No Ordinary Time, recounts the life and work of our 16th president, as well as the work of the principal characters of his administration.


Other segments from the episode on November 8, 2005

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, November 8, 2005: Interview with Doris Kearns Goodwin; Interview with Mike Wallace.


DATE November 8, 2005 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Doris Kearns Goodwin discusses her new book, "Team of

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

On this Election Day, we're going to talk about the political genius of
Abraham Lincoln, who brought into his Cabinet three powerful men who had
politically opposed him. My guest, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, has
written a new book called "Team of Rivals." She writes, `In my own effort to
illuminate the character and career of Abraham Lincoln, I have coupled the
account of his life with the stories of the remarkable men who were his rivals
for the 1860 Republican presidential nomination: New York Senator William H.
Seward, Ohio Governor Salmon P. Chase and Missouri's distinguished elder
statesman Edward Bates.' Lincoln appointed Seward secretary of State; he
appointed Chase secretary of the Treasury; and Bates, attorney general.

Doris Kearns Goodwin won a Pulitzer Prize for her book "No Ordinary Time"
about Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and has also written books about Lyndon
Johnson and the Kennedys.

Doris Kearns Goodwin, welcome back to FRESH AIR. Your book is called "Team of
Rivals," and it focuses on Cabinet members who were his rivals, who actually
wanted the nomination for president from the Republican Party. Why would he
choose his rivals to be in his Cabinet?

Ms. DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN (Author): Well, I mean, it seems at the time an
unprecedented act because people hadn't done that in previous years. And
these men were not only his rivals, but they were so much better known than he
was. Seward had been the governor and senator from New York. We was so much
considered the possibility of being the person who would win the nomination
that 10,000 people were waiting outside his home in Auburn to celebrate. The
champagne had already been stocked in the local restaurants. And he thought
when he was made secretary of State that he would actually run the show and
Lincoln would be just simply some sort of puppet. But, in fact, Seward and he
ended up becoming great friends.

I think Lincoln had an internal confidence that even though these men thought
they should have been president, similarly Chase of Ohio thought he should
have been president; Bates of Missouri, an elder statesman--Stanton, who
eventually becomes secretary of War, had humiliated Lincoln once when they
were young lawyers together. But he was able to put those past rivalries
beside him, knowing that if these guys do a good job, then it will only be
down to the interests of the country and obviously to his own interest as
well. And it meant that he had to have, much more than they realized, a
sense, `I think I can handle these guys. I can master them.' And he did.

GROSS: Well, what do you think Lincoln did to bring together this Cabinet of

Ms. GOODWIN: Well, what he had going for him, which I think is so unusual in
political life, is that he had a set of emotional strengths that today we
might call emotional intelligence. So when all sorts of rivalries sprung up
with these guys and when they got hurt with one another, when they would call
each other names--I mean, if we ever heard what they were calling each other
then in today's parlance--liar, traitor, thief--I mean, and these things are
being said in Cabinet meetings--but he was somehow able to be in the center of
that storm.

When one of their feelings would be hurt, he'd be able to write a letter
saying, `If I hurt you in any way, I did not mean to do so. Forgive me for
things that I might do hastily.' When he was upset with somebody, he would
write what he called a hot letter, where he would write it all down and then
he would put it aside until his emotions cooled down and then write, `Never
sent, never signed.' And there was a sense about him where he was just kind
and sensitive to them. If one of them was feeling he was spending too much
time with another one, he would call that one aside and give him a special
time to walk together or to go on a carriage ride together.

So what he essentially did is what a great politician does, which is to
understand that human relationships are at the core of political success. And
he somehow managed these people, who, as I say, oftentimes hated one another,
wouldn't even go into the same room with each other after a while. Stanton
and Blair, his postmaster general and his secretary of War, said such terrible
things about each other that Blair would never even go to the War Department,
even though he wanted to find out what was going on in the battles.

It's almost unimaginable that he was able to keep this group together, but the
success in keeping it together meant they also represented very different
spectrums of political opinion, from very conservative to moderate to radical.
And as long as he could keep that coalition together by keeping these people
inside the tent, he was actually keeping those strands in the country together
as well.

GROSS: What was considered radical then?

Ms. GOODWIN: Well, what was considered radical then was the idea that early
on you wanted to make emancipation the central focus of the war. And then
later on, even after emancipation was made the focus, the radicals were more
desiring to make the South pay for having gotten us into this war, in their
judgment, and to wreak vengeance on them in order to be able to make sure that
the old social structure would not come back in the South, whereas the
conservatives were thinking that the Union was more important than
emancipation. And also at the end of the war, they wanted to make sure that
the South came back in a more gentle way, so that the Union would be
preserved, even if it meant not punishing the leaders of the South, who had
been part of the Confederate cause.

GROSS: And where did Lincoln stand?

Ms. GOODWIN: Lincoln stood in the middle on all these things--I mean,
naturally in the middle, not because he was positioning himself in the middle.
At the start of the war he thought that the Union was the most important thing
and that emancipation he wasn't sure was something that he as president could
do anything about, much as he might have wanted to, because it was in the
Constitution protected. So he thought the most important thing was to get a
constitutional amendment to eradicate it, which he eventually did.

But by the middle of the war, he came to understand that, as president, he
would have powers as commander in chief, when a military necessity was at
issue, to be able to do something about the slaves. And the slaves were being
used to help the South. They were digging the trenches. They were acting as
cooks. They were protecting the home front when those soldiers went off to
war. And they just unbalanced--gave so much benefit to the Confederacy as
opposed to the North that he finally was able to decide legalistically that if
he issued a cry for the emancipation as a military necessity, he would have
that power to do it. Eventually you need a constitutional amendment, so he
moved toward what might have been the radical side.

On the issue of Reconstruction, I think even by the time of his death,
however, he did not want to have vengeance against the South. But he would
have been worried about protecting the rights of blacks, which they were also
worried about, so he probably would have been in the middle on that ground as

GROSS: What did he do to hold together this group of people within the
Cabinet who had such differing views about what the fate of the South should
be and what emancipation should look like?

Ms. GOODWIN: Well, I think partly what he did was to move step by step toward
emancipation. You know, just as Franklin Roosevelt moved step by step toward
getting us more involved in World War II even before Pearl Harbor by
lend-lease, by the peacetime draft, Lincoln began to move toward certain steps
that would allow the Army, for example, if slaves came into the Army camp, to
take them into the camp and keep them protected from the Southern slave
owners. And these steps allowed him to move some of the conservative members
to see, `Well, we did that, and it didn't produce some sort of race war,'
because the conservatives were always afraid if you emancipated, there'd be
this incredible servile war in the South, so that it got them accustomed to
the idea.

And finally, however--the interesting thing is when he finally made the
decision to emancipate the slaves, he called his Cabinet together, and he told
them, `I want to tell you what I've decided, and I will listen to your
comments, but I want you to know I've made this decision.' I think he finally
knew that if he put it up to a vote or a discussion, then it might make it
harder for these people to understand that this was his decision. And the
only thing he did was he accepted their thoughts on the style of it. He
accepted Seward's advice that he not issue--he was going to issue it in the
summer of 1862, and the war was going very badly for the North. And Seward
said he thought it would look like he was just desperate and that it wasn't an
act of considered opinion. `Why not wait for a victory to issue it?' And
Lincoln took that into consideration, agreed with Seward and waited until the
Battle of Antietam was fought and successfully resolved before he finally said
he was going to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

So I guess in some ways what it meant was he listened to them as he was going
along, but he finally had to decide for himself what he was going to do and
then just tell the Cabinet in a very forceful way, `This is what I'm going to
do. I'd like you to think about it, but it's my decision.'

GROSS: What happened to these Cabinet members that you write about, the team
of rivals, after Lincoln was assassinated?

Ms. GOODWIN: Oh, it's so interesting what happens to them. I mean, first of
all, Chase is one of the more interesting pieces of this story. He was one of
the few Cabinet members who never did accept Lincoln's primacy. So even in
1863, in 1864, he was plotting to run against Lincoln for that second
nomination so that he could beat Lincoln and become the president. Lincoln
knew everything he was doing, he was aware. Lincoln had incredible tentacles,
so he knew what was going on, but he somehow kept it inside the tent rather
than letting them go inside. And then finally, Chase did resign from the
office of secretary of Treasury. He had embarrassed himself in many ways so
much because it became known what he was doing against Lincoln.

But then in the fall of 1864, after Lincoln had won the election, he appointed
Chase to the vacancy that arose in the Supreme Court when the chief justice
died, giving him the highest position on the Supreme Court even though he
said, `I'd rather swallow a chair than do this to Chase,' who he didn't like,
but he knew that Chase, who was an abolitionist, would be the best protector
for the rights of the newly freed slaves.

GROSS: Well, William Seward, Lincoln's secretary of State, wasn't he shot
during the assassination?

Ms. GOODWIN: You know, I hadn't fully realized what happened to William
Seward. During the assassination attempt, John Wilkes Booth really had a
triple assassination in mind. He wanted to get Seward, the secretary of
State, he wanted to get Andrew Johnson, the vice president, and, of course,
Lincoln. So he took Lincoln on for himself. The person who was supposed to
kill Andrew Johnson chickened out and didn't go to Johnson's hotel.

But the man who was assigned to Seward went to Seward's house at Lafayette
Park and he'd managed to get inside. Seward had had a carriage accident about
a week and a half before, and his jaw had been broken. He was up in a bed, so
he pretended he was bringing medicine up to Seward. But Seward's son
understood that something was wrong as he bound up the stairs and tried to
stop him. He then took the blunt end of a revolver and hit Seward's son--who
was his assistant secretary of State--on the head so badly that he was in a
coma for days. He then took out a knife and slashed two or three other
people, came into the room, slashed Seward's entire cheek off and just
happened to miss the artery that would have killed him. And he then ran out
and slashed another couple of his people on the way out. So it was one of
these extraordinary moments in Seward's family life, and--however, he somehow
managed to pull through. And, in fact, his son also came out of the coma and
pulled through.

And the incredibly sad thing was that his wife, Frances Seward, who was torn
about by the thought that she was losing her son and her husband, was so tense
that she wrote an article in which she said, `I've never before believed in
vicarious suffering, but I think somehow that my son and my husbands are
getting well that I've taken their suffering onto myself.' And in May, only a
month or so later, she died and no one knew quite what she had died from, and
she was not an old woman. So the Seward family was forever broken by the

But the part, I think, that got to me the most emotionally was that they
didn't want to tell Seward that Lincoln had been killed knowing how close
friends they were. So they kept his news from them. But finally, he looked
out the window and he saw the flag at half-mast and he turned around--he said,
`I know Lincoln is dead.' They tried to say, `No, no, that's not true.' He
said, `I know he's dead. If he were alive, he would have been the first one
here to see me after my knife attack,' and then great tears coursed down his
cheeks and he knew then his chief was dead.

GROSS: My guest is historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. Her new book is called
"Team of Rivals." We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: (Technical difficulties) A recent book about Lincoln says that he was
gay or bisexual. I haven't actually read the book, so I confess--so I'm not
sure which it asserts. But have you reached any conclusions about the
president's sexual orientation?

Ms. GOODWIN: You know, one of the great things about the comparative
perspective is when you see something like somebody claiming that Lincoln was
gay, you can look at what the evidence is and look at it in relationship to
all these other guys, as well. For example, it is said that because he slept
in a bed with his best friend Joshua Speed for three years that that's one
indicator of the possibility that he was gay. They also point to letters that
Lincoln wrote to Speed which were quite affectionate and full of feeling, of
intense feeling.

But if those are measures, then almost all my guys--as I sometimes call these
Cabinet members--would be looked at as being gay, because it was very common
for men to sleep in beds together. In fact, when Lincoln was on the circuit
in Illinois, they would all travel around the state together--the judge and
the bailiffs and the criminals sometimes and the lawyers--and they'd stay in
the same boardinghouses where there weren't enough beds. So sometimes two or
three lawyers would be in a bed together. The only one who got his own bed
was the judge because he weighed over 300 pounds, so no one could be there
with him.

And then when I looked at the affectionate letters that Lincoln wrote to
Speed, his friend, they were nowhere near the intensity of some of the other
letters that I found. For example, when two of his Cabinet members, Chase and
Stanton, were young men in their 30s, they had both lost their wives and were
very lonely and became very close friends. And I found these letters that
Stanton wrote to Chase at the time saying, `Since our pleasant intercourse
last summer, no one has been on my mind more waking and sleeping. I dream of
you at night. I can't wait to sit by the fire and hold your hand and tell you
"I love you."'

Similarly, Steward, when he was in the state Senate in New York, formed a
friendship with another senator who wrote to him saying, `I have positively
womanish feelings for you. I miss you when you're not here. This is not the
right thing for a grave senator to be talking about.'

I do not think any charges were ever made or any thoughts that these other men
were gay, and I think that just means that men were more free in that age to
express their deep feelings for one another. There was very little friendship
between men and women because women were so chaperoned, so that women and
women formed very close friendships; men and men formed close friendships.
And I think it was just an age where--I wish almost we had it today--where men
could really express those feelings as openly as they could then. But I don't
think that we can imply from that that sexual contact or sexual intimacy was
the end result of those letters or the sleeping in the same bed.

GROSS: Now that we know so much more about depression than we used to,
historians are starting to examine how, you know, depression may have affected
important figures, including Lincoln. Do you have any new thoughts about what
you describe as his, you know, melancholy temperament and how that affected
him as a leader?

Ms. GOODWIN: I came away feeling that rather than suffering from chronic
depression, that Lincoln did have a melancholy temperament from the time he
was born. There's a writer named Jerry Kagan who studied children from the
ages of zero to 20, and argues if you look at them even three months, six
months old, you can divide them into whether or not they have a melancholy or
a sanguine kind of optimistic temperament. And clearly, I think Lincoln had
that melancholy temperament.

But he also had enormous resources all the way along to figure out how to get
himself out of his sad moods; humor being one of them, conversation. During
the Civil War, he would go to the play when he wanted to. He went to the
theater a hundred times during the Civil War, if not more. He would go to the
battlefront when he felt sad over the loss of a battle to talk to the
soldiers. He had an acute awareness, I think, of his own needs. And except
for two depressions which we know about--one when his first love, Ann
Rutledge, died--which is natural for somebody to fall into a depression--and,
secondly, there were a series of events that took place when he was in his
30s. His best friend, Joshua Speed, was leaving town, his political career
had suffered a blow, he had broken his engagement to Mary Todd Lincoln and he
really did feel overwhelmed then by depression. And we have letters that he
wrote saying that he was the most miserable man on Earth, that if everybody
felt like he did, there would not be one cheerful face on Earth.

And he actually was so frightening to his friends that they removed all razors
and scissors from his room fearing that he might take his life. But his best
friend Joshua Speed came to his side and said, `Lincoln, if you do not rally,
you will die.' And he said, `I would just assume die now, but I haven't done
anything yet to be remembered by.' He had this dream from the time he was
young that he was so fearful of just dying and turning to dust that somehow if
he could accomplish something great--this is the way the Greeks used to
think--your name would be remembered after you die. And that powered through
the early losses of his childhood, it powered through his early days in the
state Legislature and it helped get him out of this depression.

And the great thing is that many years later, when he finally signed the
Emancipation Proclamation, Joshua Speed came to see him and he said, `Well,
Speed, remember that conversation we had when I was in my depths? Well, maybe
at last my fondest wish has been realized. I will be remembered after I die.'

GROSS: My guest is historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, and her new book is called
"Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln."

This is your first book published after the charges that you had plagiarized
passages in a couple of your books. Is this kind of like a re-emergence for
you now?

Ms. GOODWIN: Well, you know, the fact is that--I mean, for the last three
years, I've been out talking in lectures and been finishing the book, I've
been on television. So it's only when I talk to people about book book that
it seems like I haven't been running around all this time.

And the other fact is, of course, that this whole event took place nearly 20
years ago, and at the time that it took place, I acknowledged that errors had
been made, I made the corrections in the subsequent additions and made them to
the satisfaction of the author. And then when it came back up again three
years later, I acknowledged it once more. So there's nothing else than one
can do except to make absolutely sure that those errors will not take place
again. Even though I had credited the author every step along the way in the
past--the quote marks in some places were in the wrong places--I've made sure
that everything was right. So it feels very much like it's behind me. And
interestingly, it has been--I mean, when I talk to audiences, there's not a
single question asked about it. But I understand that journalists will every
now and then ask a question, and I'm fully prepared to answer.

GROSS: So has this whole incident changed your approach at all?

Ms. GOODWIN: I don't think so. I mean, you know--and the interesting thing
is when it was going on, and so it might have seemed like it was preoccupying
my life because it was in the newspapers, at the same time, two events were
happening in my family which were really much more important. My husband had
been working for 10 years on a play about Galileo and Pope Urban VIII and it
was put on in England. And we went over there for three months, and it was
one happiest times of our life because the play was so successful and it meant
so much to him.

And at the same time, our youngest son, Joey, had graduated from Harvard in
history and literature in the spring of 2001 and, after September 11th, joined
the Army. So he went to basic training, to Officer Candidates School and then
was sent to Iraq. So he was a platoon leader for a year in Iraq during that
period of time some years ago, and he luckily got out safely. And I was
thinking a lot more about him during that period of time. He eventually won a
Bronze Star. And those are the events in your private life; this was a piece
of it.

I've been lucky enough before this to have, you know, lot of wonderful things
said about me in the press. Hopefully, that will be--continue to happen now.
And that's simply what it was, was a press story, because the situation had
all been taken care of many years before.

GROSS: Well, Doris Kearns Goodwin, thank you very much for talking with us.

Ms. GOODWIN: You are so welcome. It's a great pleasure to talk with you

GROSS: Doris Kearns Goodwin is the author of the new book "Team of Rivals:
The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln."

I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)


(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Coming up, Mike Wallace looks back on his career as a tough
interviewer and tells us about some of the shows he did before he started
doing interviews. He has a new memoir called "Between You and Me."

(Soundbite of music)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Mike Wallace discusses his new memoir, "Between You and
Me," and his career with "60 Minutes"

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Mike Wallace is famous for the two-fisted interview style that he developed on
"60 Minutes." In his new memoir "Between You and Me," he writes about some of
his most dramatic interviews. An accompanying DVD features excerpts of those
interviews, like this one with Malcolm X, which Wallace did for the "CBS
Morning News" in 1964 after Malcolm X had become disillusioned with Elijah
Muhammad's leadership of the Black Muslims.

(Soundbite of 1964 interview)

Mr. MIKE WALLACE: Do you feel perhaps that you should now take over the
leadership of the Black Muslims?

MALCOLM X: No, I have no desire to take over the leadership of the Black
Muslims, and I have never had that desire. But I do have this desire. I have
a desire to see the Afro-American in this country gets the human rights that
are his due to make a complete human being.

Mr. WALLACE: Are you the least bit afraid of what might happen to you as a
result of making these revelations?

MALCOLM X: Oh, yeah, I probably am a dead man already.

GROSS: Eight months after that interview, Malcolm X was assassinated. In
1975, Mike Wallace interviewed Clint Hill, the Secret Service agent who
guarded President Kennedy when he was assassinated. Hill had retired shortly
before the interview was recorded, but you can hear that he's still

(Soundbite of 1975 interview)

Mr. WALLACE: Can I take you back to November 22nd in 1963? You were on the
fender of the Secret Service car, right behind President Kennedy's car. At
the first shot, you ran forward and jumped on the back of the president's car
in less than two seconds, pulling Mrs. Kennedy down into her seat, protecting
her. Now, first of all, she was out on the trunk of that car.

Mr. CLINT HILL: She was out of the back seat of that car, not out of the
truck of that car.

Mr. WALLACE: Well, she was--she had climbed out of the back, and she was on
the way back, right?

Mr. HILL: And because of the fact that her husband--part of her husband's
head had been shot off and gone off on the street...

Mr. WALLACE: She wasn't trying to climb out of the car. She was...

Mr. HILL: No. She was simply trying to reach that head--part of the head.

Mr. WALLACE: To bring it back.

Mr. HILL: That's the only thing.

Mr. WALLACE: Was there anything that the Secret Service or that Clint Hill
could have done to keep that from happening?

Mr. HILL: Clint Hill, yes.

Mr. WALLACE: `Clint Hill, yes'? What do you mean?

Mr. HILL: If he had reacted about 5/10ths of a second faster or maybe a
second faster, I wouldn't be here today.

Mr. WALLACE: You mean you would have gotten there and you would have taken
the shot.

Mr. HILL: The third shot, yes, sir.

Mr. WALLACE: And that would have been all right with you?

Mr. HILL: That would have been fine with me.

GROSS: That's an excerpt of the DVD accompanying Mike Wallace's new book.
Wallace has been with "60 Minutes" since the show's inception in 1968.
Although he's nearly 88, he's retired from full participation in the show, but
he still does some segments for it.

Let's go to the very beginning of your career. Your initial...

Mr. WALLACE: Right.

GROSS: ...goal was to be a radio announcer?

Mr. WALLACE: That's correct. And I was turned down in Muskegon, Michigan,
when I got out of Ann Arbor, where I went to school, the University of
Michigan. And as a result I eventually auditioned at WOOD in Grand Rapids,
and the program manager hired me for 20 bucks a week, and I was in heaven.
And that's what launched it all. All I wanted to be at that time was a radio

GROSS: Well, what was your job when you first got the job as radio announcer?

Mr. WALLACE: Well, as a radio announcer, I'd read, ripped and read news, but
I wasn't a reporter. I was reading the wire. And the other thing was I was
reading commercials, and I could do a hell of a commercial. And I did
exceedingly well. I used to announce `The Green Hornet rides again' or `The
challenge of the Yukon,' or occasionally I was the announcer on "The Lone
Ranger." So...

GROSS: Locally or nationally? Like, for the national show?

Mr. WALLACE: Nationally, nationally, out of Detroit, WXYZ in Detroit,

GROSS: So you would take us to those thrilling days of yesteryear?

Mr. WALLACE: That's exactly right. And I was good friends with Brace Beemer,
who was the man who played the Lone Ranger and took it very seriously.

GROSS: Did you work on your voice in those days? Did you take voice lessons

Mr. WALLACE: You know something?

GROSS: know, try to deepen it?

Mr. WALLACE: I had a--I have not thought about this forever. Louise
Hannon(ph) was a speech teacher at the University of Michigan, and she used to
put her--she said, `Here's how to produce a proper voice,' and she'd put her
hand on my belly and on my back, and she said, `The voice is'--I didn't know
what was on her mind, really, and she said, `Look, produce your voice from
down here,' and she pressed my belly. And the fact of the matter is that's
how I learned to develop a voice. And it became a kind of distinctive voice
and particularly when (clears throat) there's not too much phlegm down there,
it remains at the age of 87 a voice that's worth listening to.

GROSS: Now in 1949, under the name Myron Wallace, you hosted a program called
"Majority Rules."

Mr. WALLACE: Correct.

GROSS: What was the show?

Mr. WALLACE: It was a quiz show. It was...

GROSS: This was still radio?

Mr. WALLACE: This was radio. It was not television. Dr. Bergen Evans, who
was a professor of English at Northwestern University, was the star of the
show, and I was the moderator. And he would have a variety of--I forget
exactly what--can you imagine? You're just a child, so you don't have the
problem that I have. I...

GROSS: Yes, I'm still in my crib, yeah.

Mr. WALLACE: At the age of 87, I swear, it's astonishing how much I have
forgotten and cannot remember.

GROSS: Well, let me ask you about that actually because I think that the
issue of memory is such an interesting issue, particularly for someone who's
either an historian or a journalist, because part of what you've devoted your
life to is recording--I mean, what you've devoted your life to is recording
things, recording people, talking about events that have shaped their lives or
the world.

Mr. WALLACE: Correct.

GROSS: And you have that on history, and some of that history is in your book
and in the accompanying DVD. Then, of course, in your own mind, like the rest
of us, the mind and the memory--they're imperfect. So you've recorded all
these things, but then you start to forget them.

Mr. WALLACE: Yes. I know.

GROSS: So does it make you think that memory--that, like, tape and DVDs are
great, but that memory is futile because eventually you start forgetting...

Mr. WALLACE: Not--memory is not go...

GROSS: ...all the things you worked so hard to remember?

Mr. WALLACE: Look, to reach for a name, to reach for an event--I had a fall.
I fell off a jetty out in Martha's Vineyard and landed on my head, and it
was--I was standing and slipped, and it was brutal and bloody. And I woke
up--I don't know how long I was out. But that really--I--that, I'm convinced,
had something to do with losing my memory. When you have that kind of a blow
to the head--I hate to think about it--it really does something to your
memory. And then you add age to that, and then you begin to hear less and see
double--ahh, you're a very fortunate person to be how old?

GROSS: Me? Let's do the math. Fifty-four.

Mr. WALLACE: You're 54?

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. WALLACE: You've got the voice of a--it's a beautiful voice...

GROSS: Well, thank you.

Mr. WALLACE: ...and at least 25 years younger than that.

GROSS: So when was this fall?

Mr. WALLACE: It was two, three summers ago, really.

GROSS: You're still doing some work on "60 Minutes," right?

Mr. WALLACE: Yes. I have two profiles coming up on "60 Minutes," and, you
know, I'm down to doing maybe half a dozen, eight pieces a year because I've
been there for--What is it?--36, 37 years. Harry Reasoner and I started it,
along with Don Hewitt, back in 1968.

GROSS: Now let me get back to your early career, test that memory a little
bit. Shows that you hosted included "Majority Rules," "Guess Again," "All
Around the Town" and "Mike and Buff." So what great shows. So these are all

Mr. WALLACE: Well, "Mike and Buff" was radio and television. By that time...

GROSS: Oh, it was so good, they simulcast it. Was...

Mr. WALLACE: No. No. They--we did it on CBS in the afternoons on the radio
and then they decided, `Hey, why don't we put the two of them'--Buff was my


Mr. WALLACE: ...back then.


Mr. WALLACE: And what we did was one of the characteristics of the show was
that we were the Bickersons in that we used to bicker about things on the air
that people found entertaining, the kind of back-and-forth that used to go on
on husband-and-wife shows back then. Unfortunately for us, the bickering that
was on the air eventually turned real, and so it--after a while, the bickering
continued at home, and so eventually we bickered ourselves out of a job.

GROSS: And a marriage.

Mr. WALLACE: That's correct.

GROSS: My guest is Mike Wallace. His new memoir is called "Between You and
Me." We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is Mike Wallace. He has a new memoir called "Between You
and Me." It comes with a DVD that includes excerpts of the interviews he
writes about.

You started off doing quiz shows. You did some acting, announcing,
commercials. You eventually get to "60 Minutes" and become...

Mr. WALLACE: Well, the--wait, wait, wait...

GROSS: We're missing a lot here, yeah.

Mr. WALLACE: Yeah. What happened was I didn't feel that I was properly
earning my keep. I used to say--look, I do these commercials and I do this
drama and this sort of thing and rip and read news, and I was doing the air
edition of the Chicago Sun--I mean, air edition of the Chicago Sun-Times after
a while and so forth. I wanted to be more legitimate. I got interested
in--obviously, I had been interested in news. And what happened was that I
lost a son. He fell off a mountain in Greece. His name was Peter, a
wonderful boy, good writer, wanted to be a reporter.

And I used to say back then, look--I said, `Well, I have to do these things
because I have kids to support.' And that was my excuse for doing stuff that
I was not particularly proud of doing. I mean, I made a good, honest living,
but I was not--so I said, `I'm going to quit everything. I have enough money
to live for a year probably at the same--in the same standard of living and
so forth and see if I cannot get a job doing news exclusively. Forget quiz
shows. Forget drama and all of that stuff. Do news. Be a reporter.' And,
of course, it was a chance that I took, and it's the best chance I ever took,
obviously, because that was--I was 38 years old when that happened...

GROSS: When "60 Minutes" started.

Mr. WALLACE: ...and so I--no. I was...

GROSS: Oh, this was before "60 Minutes." OK.

Mr. WALLACE: That was before "60 Minutes." I finally...

GROSS: Oh, this is "Night Beat" and "The Mike Wallace Show," right.

Mr. WALLACE: That's correct.

GROSS: Right. Now so you became famous for interviews...

Mr. WALLACE: That's right.

GROSS: ...on your own shows and on "60 Minutes."

Mr. WALLACE: I was anonymous prior to--I was anonymous prior to "Night Beat,"
which was on--a local television show here in New York on Channel 5. And all
of a sudden it became a New York hit. You know, New York is supposed to be an
unwelcoming town, a tough town. Not true.

GROSS: Now let me ask you, I've heard, like, transcriptions, you know, like
old recordings of radio interviews, from the 1930s and maybe from the early
1940s and they're basically scripted. You can hear the interviewer and
interviewee literally reading scripts.

Mr. WALLACE: That's true.

GROSS: Right. And so when you started doing broadcast interviews, did you
have models? Had you heard unscripted interviews, broadcast interviews?

Mr. WALLACE: I had not really heard--no, to that degree, I--and when I say
I--I and the people I worked with, a fellow by the name of Ted Yates
particularly, who was my partner, producer, we decided we were going to ask
tough questions, abrasive questions. We're going to do a lot of research, and
we were going to do it live on the air. I had an 11:00 newscast, and then
what happened was we continued for another half-hour after the 11:00 newscast
on television, and all of a sudden New York fell in love with it. And it was
astonishing. This person, me, who was anonymous suddenly became, `Hey, Mike,
go get 'em.'

GROSS: One of the things you've become best-known for in your "60 Minutes"
interviews is, you know, you--is not only the tough interview, but the--what's
been described as the ambush interview. The cameraperson walks in with the
camera running, and the person doesn't want to be interviewed, but the
cameraman's there with the camera on. And you see the person waving the
camera away and putting their hands over their head, putting their hands over
their faces so that...

Mr. WALLACE: That's right.

GROSS: one can see who they are. And you're asking questions, even
though they're trying to get rid of you. Have you ever had any reservations
about that kind of interview? Have you ever thought that there is anything...

Mr. WALLACE: You know something?

GROSS: ...unethical about it? Yeah, go ahead.

Mr. WALLACE: I didn't think at the time that it was unethical, no. I mean,
come on, we're--I'm a reporter. I--you can't subpoena people to talk to you.
If you write to them and try to call them on the phone and they don't answer
or so forth, then take them unawares. The problem became this: We became a
caricature of ourselves. We were after light, and it began to look as though
we were after heat, not to reveal some information or not to find out the
story. But the drama of c...

GROSS: It turned into theater.


GROSS: It turned into theater.

Mr. WALLACE: It was good theater. It was good theater. But after a while
it became kind of predictable. And so finally both Don Hewitt and I said,
`Hey, enough of this. This is foolishness,' Don being the producer of "60
Minutes." This is foolishness. And so we gave it up and have not--I still
think it's a perfectly legitimate device to take somebody unaware and say,
`Hey, there's a question that you ought to answer. There's a question you
should answer.' Matter of fact, maybe I'll--of course, there'll be Secret
Servicemen around, but maybe I'll do that with Dick Cheney.

GROSS: Have you asked? Have you asked nicely yet?

Mr. WALLACE: I have asked nicely--I have interviewed every president. I
haven't interviewed many vice presidents, but I've interviewed every
president since Abe Lincoln, with the exception of George W. Bush, and...

GROSS: Yes. You say in your book that Karl Rove has never let you interview
George W. Bush, even when George W. Bush was governor of Texas.

Mr. WALLACE: That's correct. That's right.

GROSS: So why do you think that Karl Rove is standing between you and
President Bush?

Mr. WALLACE: I was doing a piece down in Texas when he was governor about
tort reform, and Karl Rove, who was his strategist, decided that we were not
going to be--that it was going to be difficult for him to answer some of our
questions, and so he said, `No, you're not going to--Mr. Wallace.' It was Mr.
Rove and Mr. Wallace--`You're not going to see the governor. He's not going
to talk to you.' As simple as that. So we went ahead and did the piece and
so forth, and then when he was finally elected president, we figured, `Well,
come on, now he's president.' Well, you know the White House and how
secretive it is, how stonewalling it is, and since he's been president, I've
tried and tried and tried. The fact of the matter is I have never met the
president of the United States. I interviewed his dad.

GROSS: My guest is Mike Wallace. His new memoir is called "Between You and
Me." We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is Mike Wallace. He has a new memoir called "Between You and
Me." It comes with a DVD that includes excerpts of the interviews he writes

You have discussed and written about a problem that you've had with
depression. When you realized what it was, did you comprehend it? And I ask
this because I think you're about 87 now, right? And...

Mr. WALLACE: I am going to be 88 next May.

GROSS: OK. I think it's fair to say that a lot of people of your generation
didn't grow up, you know, reading Freud and studying psychology, and it
being--you know, everybody wasn't in psychoanalysis or some kind of therapy.
Things have really changed in terms of dealing with psychological issues, and
certainly with depression, our understanding of the biochemistry of

Mr. WALLACE: Right.

GROSS: ...has changed enormously.

Mr. WALLACE: And the genetics, you know, the genetics of it.

GROSS: Yeah, the genetics of it, exactly. Exactly. But I find really that
a lot of people who are older and who didn't grow up with--you know, like
studying psychology--and perhaps you did--don't really understand things like
depression that well. You know, like you're happy...

Mr. WALLACE: Well, you know something?

GROSS: ...or you're sad and that's the way life is. And did you get it when
you were diagnosed?

Mr. WALLACE: When I first began to not be able to eat happily or sleep enough
or whatever and had pains in my arms, I didn't understand it. I was going
through a tough time. I was sitting--have you ever been sued for libel?

GROSS: Knock wood, no.

Mr. WALLACE: Good. She hasn't. Well, knock wood for you because when you're
sued for libel...

GROSS: And this was the Westmoreland case that you're talking about.

Mr. WALLACE: That's exactly right. For a hundred and twenty million dollars,
CBS and, among others, me sued for libel and spent four months in a cold and
drafty federal courtroom being called `liar, cheat, fraud,' etc., etc. I
mean, that--I didn't realize what was happening, that I was sliding into a
depression. The--my wife said, `Mike, you're depressed.' `I'm not. I
do'--and my own doctor said, `No, don't you talk about yourself and
depression. It will be bad for your image, Mike.' Can you imagine?

GROSS: Well, let me ask you, you say some people warned you that you couldn't
talk publicly about your depression. It would be bad for your image. And, in
fact, I mean, your image is of being the really tough questioner...

Mr. WALLACE: That's right.

GROSS: ...nothing gets to you and you can ask anything to anyone. And so if

Mr. WALLACE: So who was this...

GROSS: ...thought that you were vulnerable, that...

Mr. WALLACE: Yeah.

GROSS: ...could, in fact, really affect your image, so did it? When you came
out as having suffered from depression...

Mr. WALLACE: What happened was this.

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. WALLACE: What happened was this. One o'clock, 1:30 in the morning, you
remember Bob Costas used to do a show called "Later"?

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. WALLACE: He'd wanted to talk to me about "60 Minutes," and I asked him,
`Who watches or who listens at 1, 1:30 in the morning?' And he said, `Well,
some people who work at that time, but also people who can't get to sleep.'
And I said, `Oh, my people.' And that's--he got so many answers, so many
telephone calls, so many people who said, `Hey, that's what's going on with
me.' `And you mean to say that Wallace, who--apparently he's doing his job
and is a tough guy and so forth. He's not just a wimp'--as a result of that,
I figured I'm going to go public. Of course, by that time, I was fairly
well-established doing what I do.

GROSS: Yeah, I'll say. And speaking of doing what you do, you still do what
you do, although you do less of it, but you are not quite retired yet. Why
not? Why do you still want to be working at an age when most people choose
not to?

Mr. WALLACE: Because it isn't work, as far as I'm concerned. Because it is
fulfilling in all kinds of ways to do what I do. When I get up in the morning
and I know that I have an interesting story that I'm working on and I'm
reasonably healthy--that my psychiatrist to whom I go for lube jobs every now
and then has told me that--I'm sorry, it's still Dr. Kaplan and Mr. Wallace
after 20, 25 years of this. He says, `Look, you have no overwhelming--you're
not going to die right away, so you might as well get used to it. Keep
working. Keep working.'

GROSS: Has having a psychiatrist for--What?--25 years, did you say?

Mr. WALLACE: Yeah, yeah.

GROSS: Has having been in psychotherapy or seeing a psychiatrist for 25 years
taught you anything about interviewing?--because I'm sure your psychiatrist
asks you a lot of probing, interesting questions that got you thinking.

Mr. WALLACE: Of course, it does. You suddenly realize that if you can
persuade somebody, as he persuaded me, to talk candidly, and--look, your whole
life, Terry, the way that you live teaches you. In jobs like yours and mine,
I mean, it comes into play because it is useful, because it's part of what you
learn as you go. Come on, I'm nearing the end of the road and still learning.

GROSS: Mike Wallace, thank you so much for talking with us.

Mr. WALLACE: Oh, thank you, Terry.

GROSS: Mike Wallace's new memoir is called "Between You and Me." You can
read an excerpt on our Web site,


GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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