President Roosevelt's attempt to reshape the Supreme Court landed short and drew criticism from both Republicans and Democrats. "It was a recognition on his part that he had lost some measure of power," says David Ginsburg, a member of FDR's administration.
David McCullough [voice-over]: To save the New Deal, Roosevelt proposed a radical piece of legislation -- a bill to give him the power to appoint additional justices to the Supreme Court and outnumber his opponents. On Capitol Hill, critics argued that Roosevelt's bill challenged the Constitution itself.
Sen. Frederick Van Nuys, (D), Indiana: I shall not be a party to breaking down the checks and balances of the Constitution.
Rep. Samuel B. Pettengill, (D), Indiana: A packed jury, a packed court and a stuffed ballot box are all on the same moral plane. This is more power than a good man should want or a bad man should have.
Sen. Arthur H. Vandenberg, (R), Michigan: This is a non-partisan battle to preserve an independent Supreme Court.
David McCullough [voice-over]: Determined to win votes for his court plan, Roosevelt was now in the congressional fight of his life. He dangled promises of federal projects, hinted at judicial appointments, threatened to withdraw patronage. At a picnic for Democratic congressmen, he turned on all his charm. This time it didn't work. On July 20th, he asked his vice president, Jack Garner, what his chances were with Congress. "Do you want it with the bark on or off, Captain?" Garner replied. "The rough way." "All right, you're beat. You haven't got the votes."
David Ginsburg: And the price that he paid was very high. It was a loss of confidence on the part of the country. It was a recognition by his opponents in politics that they could beat him. It was a recognition on his part that he had lost some measure of power.
A look at the poor Scottish emigrant boy who built a fortune in telegraphy, railroads and steel, and then began systematically to give it all away.
From the Revolutionary War to Operation Desert Storm - newly discovered letters read by celebrity actors tell of courage, longing, and sacrifice.
The staggering death tolls of the Civil War permanently altered the character of the republic and the psyche of the American people.
Dwight D. Eisenhower was one of America's least understood presidents. Part of the award-winning Presidents collection.
Harry Truman was responsible for finding America's place at the start of the Cold War. Part of the award-winning Presidents collection.
Forever enshrined in myth by an assassin's bullet, Kennedy's presidency long defied objective appraisal. Part of the award-winning Presidents collection.
A revealing portrait of one of America's most paradoxical leaders.
The story of James Garfield, one of the most extraordinary men ever elected president, and his assassination by a deluded madman.