Morning Joe | November 28, 2012
>>> it is not given to us the mysteries of the future. i avow my hope and faith pure and invie lat that in the days to come the british and american people will for their own safety and for the good of all walk together in magic step in justice and in freedom.
>> that was former british prime minister winston churchill on american soil addressing copping back in 1941 . this friday, november 30th , marks churchill 's birthday. here to talk about the final years of britain's revered lead certificate paul reid , co-author of "the last lion." the defender of the realm, 1940 -'65. mike barnicle and mark mckinnon are back with us as well. great to have you on the show.
>> delighted to be here.
>> you're giving us the back story. how did you get involved with the project?
>> well, i have to do it fast. i met bill manchester when i was doing a story on him in 1998 . he had two strokes. went up with some marines to buck them up a bit. we became friends and visited him over the years. we became good friends. die hard red sox fans.
>> there you go.
>> that's what does it.
>> he, of course, the last book he completed was alone with churchill in the wilderness years and you get to pick up this it remarkable story at a moment as you all describe where everything lined up for winston churchill to step into his place in history that he had been preparing for since he was playing with toy soldiers in the 19th century .
>> he did not believe in fate but on that occasion he did. this was the day that he had been working towards since he was a little boy . no one trusted him. this was an unpopular man in the big job, the big role at the most important time.
>> he was seen as a joke in the '30s.
>> the day before the king summoned him to number ten torre functionaries were wonder who will it be sam but not winston. he's useless.
>> even the king.
>> even the king didn't want him.
>> even the king didn't like winston churchill and was mournful that he had been treated so badly.
>> the difference is winston churchill liked winston churchill .
>> winston churchill didn't like winston churchill . and that's one of the things i found in this book. winston churchill loved winston churchill and i think even more fascinating, he was surrounded by people that loved winston churchill and, as you say, and why not? he was winston churchill . talk about how he held court everywhere he went.
>> he told a friend or biographer his idea of a perfect evening was to have wonderful food, wonderful drink, and much of it --
>> lots of it --
>> with wonderful friends, and at the end of the meal conversation which he with would lead and guide and, in fact, monopolize. that was his idea of a perfect evening.
>> and we're not saying this even half in jest. he simply wasn't interested in what other people had to say.
>> no. sadly, especially with regards to his wife, or what they felt. she was under a lot of stress. she was having nervous break downs. his daughter and his son were descending into alcoholism and another daughter killed herself with barbiturates. he didn't see it at all. he didn't see any of it.
>> talking about alcohol, we have heard before, and you talk about it here that churchill always seemed to have at least a little bit of alcohol in his body. you said he ate horribly, he drank horribly, and he smoked. churchill could not have been an alcoholic because no alcoholic could drink that much.
>> at breakfast, dinner, working all the time.
>> i heard someone tried to imitate his day. he had a bottle of wine at breakfast with black tea and then the little johnnie walker red which he nursed all day adding more water, more water. but then at lunch a couple of beers, always a bottle of champagne.
>> so he was always drunk?
>> no, not drunk.
>> and even his critics, eleanor ro roosevelt would say it was just remarkable because you don't want to argue with him after dinner and the third brandie. he never appeared very, very rarely, well, he's drunk.
>> okay. always under the influence or that was his normal state.
>> what was it about churchill that made him such a remarkable man, i would say the man of the century just because of what happened in 1940 . we're talking about all these oddities but yet in these oddities, he was beyond remarkable. his memory, his ability. he didn't live in the past. the past lived in him, and yet all of these traits a came together at the perfect time to save western civilization . he stood alone.
>> he did. and we in america our 1941 begins in honolulu on december 7. our collective memory of that year, except for red sox /yankees fans. ted williams . but other than that, that's when our year began and he's now in the 11th or the 12th month of 1941 alone for another year that we don't even remember, a terrible year for englishmen, britain, as president roosevelt would say.
>> this is such an epic work about an epic human being , winston churchill begun by an epic writer, bill manchester . talk a bit about the degree of difficulty, what manchester left you, what direction he gave you, if any, in terms of completing the work that manchester devoted so much of his life toward.
>> he had 5,000 plus pages of notes arranged in 100-page blocks, tablets. he called them clumps. i took them home and i say in the author's note, i learned pretty quickly they spoke to him in ways they couldn't speak to me. he had colds on the left and right -- codes on the left and right for topic and source. the key was lost. the librarian found it two years later. so about 18, 20 months into this i thought i can't do it. with bill's notes. he could have if he was healthy. so i kind of reverse engineered and found the sources and new memoirs that weren't available to him and assembled them on five tables this a room and, you know, that was my factory. my line. my production line . and i realized i had to do it in little segments. a story at a time. the bismarck sinking or dunkirk or the fall of france or five, six, eight, ten pages and then move on to the next one. if i thought in terms of 2,200 type written pages stacked up to my left --
>> did you start with wine in the morning?
>> wine in the afternoon .
>> when was the moment from winston churchill -- we talked about how he was a joke in the 1930s . what was the moment -- was it after dunkirk that one critic after another who had loathed him just a year earlier said, you know what, this is the man who can save england?
>> and how much of a joke -- how unpopular was he?
>> very. among his own party. they didn't want -- the tories didn't want him in the party.
>> it was labor that actually made this coalition government work.
>> and the prime minister.
>> the labor said we won't work with any other than winston.
>> so that was the key. that's what kind of saved him, that coalition?
>> the coalition.
>> and that demand?
>> and the tories didn't want him.
>> and what was it about his relationship with labor?
>> 040 years earlier he had switched parties to the liberal party .
>> he was very flexible.
>> very flexible.
>> he's the one who said it's one thing to rat and another to rerat.
>> he was extraordinarily flexib flexible. he would break a union and then become the union's biggest champion.
>> when he reratted, tories never forgave him for ratting in the first place. labor trusted him. with gladstone, the early part of the 20th century , he was the uncle, if you will, of the british social security system and the national health insurance and programs that roosevelt introduced 20 years later with great trepidation. ch churchill was onboard two decades earlier.
>> and at one moment, brown shirts after the irish and then he becomes a champion of home rule .
>> he was willing to deal for the three irish ports that chamberlain had stupidly given back to ireland. ch churchill was willing and told roosevelt , you give us the ports and we'll make it happen after the war that ultimately returns to ireland.
>> what was winston churchill 's greatest moment? was it his speech? what was it?
>> i think one of the most powerful -- the most powerful moment for me was his valedictory speech in march of '55, never again spoke in the house but he stayed there for the next nine years. where he wondered if god had forsaken humanity because of humanity's behavior. and he pretty much came up with mutually assured destruction and he laid it out in that speech and he said with these bombs, h-bombs, a war can be fought but no one will win and we're all going to die and it was, i think, a very powerful moment. i think it moved eisenhower. it moved policy. he always wanted to get to a summit meeting with the soviets and never did. he failed there. but in his last day, his last speech in the house of commons , i think that was his finest hour.
>> the book is "the last lion. " paul reid , thank you very, very much.
>> great work.
>> next year for the sox.
>>> up next, business before the bell with brian shactman . nope. just can't fit 'em in my budget. well, with the walmart credit card special financing