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History Has Its Eyes on You

[ 80 ] November 20, 2015 |
Woodrow Wilson by Pach Bros c1875.jpg

“Woodrow Wilson by Pach Bros c1875” by Pach Brothers, New York – Heritage Auctions. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

I suppose I’m not utterly convinced that Princeton should change the name of the Woodrow Wilson School; Wilson was a two-term President, and is particularly important to Princeton as an institution.  He’s not nearly as disposable as John C. Calhoun, for example. But it’s unquestionably positive that student activism has forced a public conversation on Wilson’s central “achievements:”

Leaving the broader question of whether Wilson’s name should be removed, let’s be clear on one thing: Woodrow Wilson was, in fact, a racist pig. He was a racist by current standards, and he was a racist by the standards of the 1910s, a period widely acknowledged by historians as the “nadir” of post-Civil War race relations in the United States.

Easily the worst part of Wilson’s record as president was his overseeing of the re-segregation of multiple agencies of the federal government, which had been been surprisingly integrated as a result of Reconstruction decades earlier. At a April 11, 1913, cabinet meeting, Postmaster General Albert Burleson argued for segregating the Railway Mail Service. He objected to the fact that workers shared glasses, towels, and washrooms. Wilson offered no objection to Burleson’s plan for segregation, saying that he “wished the matter adjusted in a way to make the least friction.”

In effect, Wilson killed the last, best part of Reconstruction. While I don’t necessarily support expunging him, it’s fair to say that we (both generally, and specifically the institutions that lionize Wilson) need to grapple with this.

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  1. Todd says:

    Seems like there should be an easy (or at least simple) compromise. There are several buildings/departments/scholarships/etc… named for Wilson at Princeton. Despite Wilson’s scumbaggery, a school of public and international affairs seems appropriate (WWI, Versailles, LoN). But universities change the name of buildings and programs all the time. Paintings can easily be moved or given to a museum.

    Wilson was an influential and famous alumnus/professor/President of Princeton. Scrubbing the institution free of him would be denying facts. But reducing his on-campus profile should be fairly painless.

    • ploeg says:

      And you can make more of an effort to be more inclusive when it comes time to name things. It’s not always possible when you depend on donor goodwill to get things built, naturally. Iowa State has Carver Hall for GW Carver’s contributions to science and extension. It took some more effort to get Jack Trice Stadium named after a football player who died from injuries sustained during a game, but it eventually got done. And then Martin Hall is named after a couple who housed African American students when they couldn’t get on-campus housing.

      • EliHawk says:

        The whole story of naming first the field after Trice, and then the entire stadium is kind of interesting, in that it runs counter to so much of the way College sports throw a name on the field/court as a way to honor someone else without changing the established historical name name (i.e. Bobby Dodd Stadium at Grant Field, John and Nell Wooden Court at Pauley Pavilion, Coach K Court at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Yale naming the field at the Yale Bowl after whichever class ponied up money to renovate it, etc. My favorite of those being Kansas going with James Naismith Court at Allen Fieldhouse, because the tradition junkies wanted to honor someone even older, even if he’s their only coach with a losing record). The story of Trice itself though is tragic and sad, but good on the university for finally honoring him.

    • Shantanu Saha says:

      Certainly Wilson College should be renamed, as it was a throwaway name when it was created in the mid 80’s as part of Princeton’s residential college system. I don’t remember there being any donor money behind the naming, as there was for Forbes College (previously named Princeton Inn College — I know, I was there as a freshman the year they changed the name) named after Steve “Frog-face” Forbes by his rich dad Malcom “Capitalist Tool” Forbes along with a million-dollar donation.

  2. Incontinentia Buttocks says:

    Link to the source of the blockquote?

  3. Cheerful says:

    I remember asking at TNC’s joint what actual efforts Republicans made on behalf of blacks in the years after Reconstruction ended, but the solid core of institutionalized racist oppression still rested in the Democratic party. The primary answer was federal appointments – up through Wilson Republican presidents had a good record of putting blacks into many local federal offices, the post office among them, which was of course a means of creating and sustaining middle class jobs when there weren’t a lot of other opportunities.

    I have never checked in to see how that worked out after Wilson – did Harding/Coolidge/Hoover revert back to less racist appointment policies, or keep Wilson’s.

    • Randy says:

      I don’t know about Hoover or Coolidge, but Harding spoke out in favor of civil rights for African Americans. He also supported anti-lynching legislation.

      Interestingly, back when I was in high school and the Today Show actually put on real news, they had an interview with some bigwig in the Klan–the Grand Shithead, or something like that–and he claimed that the Klan’s influence got Harding elected. My die-hard Republican mother laughed, and said “That’s nothing to brag about.”

      • Ormond says:

        Harding’s support for anti-lynching and Civil Rights contributed to the rumors that he was, himself, possessed of African heritage.

        • EliHawk says:

          Of course while voicing nominal support for anti-lynching legislation (that never passed; indeed, he actually accomplished nothing on Civil Rights), he also came out in favor of eugenics and in opposition to “social equality”—a code phrase at the time for interracial marriage. Harding didn’t actually get much of anything done on civil rights. Worse, he signed the 1921 Emergency Quota Act, which reduced the number of immigrants allowed into the United States based on ethnic quotas. The law severely restricted the admission of southern and eastern Europeans, a result that helped keep many Jews from emigrating, to horrifying effect during the Holocaust. And his administration saw the mainstreaming return of the KKK. So Warren Harding, Cviil Rights hero, is really nothing more than Right Wing Revisionism.

      • jim, some guy in iowa says:

        “Grand Shitwizard”, I think is what they call themselves

      • Ahuitzotl says:

        Interestingly, back when I was in high school and the Today Show actually put on real news,

        geez, I didnt realise you were that old

    • Manny Kant says:

      My understanding is that exclusion of blacks from the Republican Party really got going with Taft, but that it wasn’t complete until Hoover or so.

  4. Mike Furlan says:

    “…presidents had a good record of putting blacks into many local federal offices, the post office among them, which was of course a means of creating and sustaining middle class jobs when there were not a lot of other opportunities.”

    Which is why to this day bigots hate the post office and will not rest until it is destroyed. They will ignore the Constitution in this case as long as they can hurt some “undeserving” black folks who work there.

  5. Manny Kant says:

    Obviously Wilson was a racist, but as your quote shows, it was Burleson, the former congressman from Texas, who was the driving force here, along with Treasury Secretary McAdoo, he of the future KKK endorsement. Not to excuse Wilson in any way (the buck stopped there and all that), but to what extent was the segregation of the federal government more or less inevitable assuming a Democrat in the White House around that time?

    Obviously, the two Cleveland administrations managed to come and go without doing this, but that was a lot closer to the Civil War, and mostly before Jim Crow really got fully established in the South itself (Plessy wasn’t until almost the end of Cleveland’s second term). Would, say, Champ Clark have been any better on this issue than Wilson, given that he almost certainly would have had several segregationist southerners in his cabinet who would be pushing the issue?

  6. AMK says:

    Leading politicians who weren’t racist before the Civil Rights era were the exception, not the rule. It’s not like Wilson was a Confederate leader, but he was President of Princeton and the architect of the League of Nations….so for the School of Public and International Affairs, it makes sense.

    On second thought, maybe Wilson’s name is a better fit for the donor relations building. Only 7% of the incoming freshman class is black (2015 stats), and we can guess where resistance to raising that number will come from.

    • Ormond says:

      Part of the objection to Wilson is that he was the next best thing to a Confederate leader. If you read the whole Vox post Erik provided the link for, you can see that Wilson used his power where possible to roll back existing civil rights and oppose racial equality at home and abroad. He was not merely a racist in the sense that many, if not all, whites were at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th Centuries, but a white supremacist of the first order. We are not talking about Lincoln supporting African colonization, or JFK’s antipathy for MLK. We are talking about someone who actively supported the KKK in its campaign of racial terrorism.

      • Woodrowfan says:

        No, Wilson thought the Klan were a bunch of thugs. He wrote to a friend in Texas in 1923, noting that he heard that he joined the Klan. Wilson hoped it wasn’t true, as the Klan was was one of the worst things to happen in the U.S. He praised the Reconstruction Klan in his history books, but also noted that they disturbed order more than they restored it, a quote DW Griffith left out of that movie.

        He also issued a statement in 1918 denouncing lynchings. “There have been many lynchings, and every one of them has been a blow at the heart of ordered law and humane justice. No man who loves America, no man who really cares for her fame and honor and character, or who is truly loyal to her institutions, can justify mob action while the courts of justice are open and the governments of the States and the Nation are ready and able to do their duty”

        What did Teddy Roosevelt say when asked to denounce lynchings? In 1903 he did write a letter denocuing lynchings, but tempered with a comment that “in such cases the colored people throughout the land should in every possible way show their belief that they, more than all others in the community, are horrified at the commission of such a crime [rape] and are peculiarly concerned in taking every possible measure to prevent its recurrence and to bring the criminal to immediate justice.”

        Was he a racist, of course he was. But in demonizing Wilson as somehow exceptionally awful on race we can ignore the uncomfortable realization that in fact he was well within the mainstream, that such racism was not only common, it was the default in American society.

  7. Scott Lemieux says:

    He also put James McReynolds on the Supreme Court.

  8. djw says:

    It would be an interesting parlor game to rank the presidents by ‘most racist by the standards of their time.’ Wilson would surely be a contender.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

      That would be interesting! I imagine that Dick Nixon would win among post-WWII presidents.

      • Lee Rudolph says:

        According to what I’ve read on the Internet, it’s Obama hands down.

      • djw says:

        Yeah, we’d have to come up with a rule on how to weight attitudes/views vs. policies/actions. Nixon obviously looks particularly bad on the former, but maybe that’s because we got to hear way too many of his private conversations…

        • EliHawk says:

          Yeah, we’d have to come up with a rule on how to weight attitudes/views vs. policies/actions.

          Yeah. The classic example being LBJ’s tendancy to toss off all kinds of slurs in private vs. being the most progressive President on Civil Rights in history.

          • Mellano says:

            How racist was LBJ, subjectively speaking? Based on Caro’s books he sounds like if anything he’s been one of the more personally tolerant people in the Oval Office, shades of growing up broke in a small farming town. Not that he wasn’t given to talking like a white southerner — but much of that was performative, fitting in with powerful racists who also helped him politically.

    • Philip says:

      Even by the standards of his time, Jackson must be a strong candidate.

    • EliHawk says:

      I’d argue he’s not even the most racist Princeton alum that was President. I mean, James Madison, Class of 1771, owned slaves and sold them. We’d all agree that’s worse than Jim Crow. It’s kind of terrible to make use sabermetric terminology here for something that’s completely not statistical, but if you’re judging past racism I really think you have to look at something like Racism Above Replacement Politician (RARP) rather than trying to look at it from 21st century standards. And even then, you get the problem that some people were racist against certain ethnic groups but not others (See Harlan, Dissenter of Plessy, talking about the Chinese, or Sherman dealing with the Native Americans) So someone like Theodore Bilbo or James McReynolds? Super duper high RARP. McAdoo? High RARP. Wilson: High/Medium High RARP. TR and FDR? Average RARP? Lincoln and Grant: Very low RARP.

      • djw says:

        “by the standards of their time” would make slave-owning at a time when most wealthy people own slaves and most Americans had no problem with that not exactly vault you to the top of the pile.

      • Manny Kant says:

        How is TR better than Wilson, though? I mean, I suppose he’s marginally better on American race relations stuff, but probably considerably worse on Latin America/the Philippines.

    • Manny Kant says:

      This seems pretty absurd to me. Teddy Roosevelt wrote a letter talking about the importance of avoiding “race suicide” and was obsessed with all kinds of scientific racism. He and Taft also, you know, helped create an American colonial empire in the Philippines. I’m not sure what calculus makes Wilson a bigger racist than TR.

      As far as segregation within the federal government goes, it was relatively easy for TR to be better than Wilson on this, because, being a Republican, he didn’t have a cabinet full of racist southerners demanding segregation.

      • Erik Loomis says:

        Basically the entirety of letting TR off the hook for racism compared to Wilson is that time he had dinner with Booker T. Washington. Everything else in Roosevelt’s career is horrible on racial issues. This may be worth a blog post.

  9. Origami Isopod says:

    Wilson admonished [W.E.B. DuBois] for his tone: “If this organization is ever to have another hearing before me it must have another spokesman. Your manner offends me … Your tone, with its background of passion.”

    Just gonna leave that here.

    • tsam says:

      Uh oh–watch that uppity-ness, boy!

      What a fucking prick.

    • Woodrowfan says:

      that wasn’t to DeBois, that was to someone else. I believe his name was Trotter. Basically he got in WW’s face (understandable under the circumstances) and Wilson didn’t like anybody who got in his face like that.

      • Mellano says:

        Yeah, shenanigans. Wilson tells Trotter (an African-American newspaper publisher and Harvard alum) that segregation is beneficial to its victims, Trotter responds with pretty amazing restraint, to which “tone” Wilson takes offense. Hard to read this as anything but Wilson being offended that he has to speak with a black man.

        The full text is here, quoted by Randy freaking Barnett as evidence that Wilson acted appallingly:

        President Woodrow Wilson. The white people of the country, as well as I, wish to see the colored people progress, and admire the progress they have already made, and want to see them continue along independent lines. There is, however, a great prejudice against colored people. . . . It will take one hundred years to eradicate this prejudice, and we must deal with it as practical men. Segregation is not humiliating, but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you gentlemen. If your organization goes out and tells the colored people of the country that it is a humiliation, they will so regard it, but if you do not tell them so, and regard it rather as a benefit, they will regard it the same. The only harm that will come will be if you cause them to think it is a humiliation.

        Mr. Monroe Trotter. It is not in accord with the known facts to claim that the segregation was started because of race friction of white and colored [federal] clerks. The indisputable facts of the situation will not permit of the claim that the segregation is due to the friction. It is untenable, in view of the established facts, to maintain that the segregation is simply to avoid race friction, for the simple reason that for fifty years white and colored clerks have been working together in peace and harmony and friendliness, doing so even through two [President Grover Cleveland] Democratic administrations. Soon after your inauguration began, segregation was drastically introduced in the Treasury and Postal departments by your appointees.

        President Woodrow Wilson. If this organization is ever to have another hearing before me it must have another spokesman. Your manner offends me. . . . Your tone, with its background of passion.

        Mr. Monroe Trotter. But I have no passion in me, Mr. President, you are entirely mistaken; you misinterpret my earnestness for passion.

  10. River Birch says:

    Won’t it be interesting if this movement starts applying a similar level of scrutiny to the politics of still-living donors who’ve managed to get their names on campus buildings, scholarships and the like? That could get fun quick.

  11. mbxxxxxx says:

    Jackson, MS has one of its major streets named after Woodrow Wilson. It actually intersects with streets named for Martin Luther King and Metger Evers. Until I read about WW’s racist ways (came across this history several weeks ago on another site), it seemed odd to me that such a major street would be named for Woodrow Wilson when there didn’t seem to be an obvious local connection to him. It now makes perfect sense.

    Jackson is now a majority black city with black leadership. But I don’t think there is an appreciation for why Woodrow Wilson would be singled out for recognition. The rationale for honoring Wilson was probably never clearly, publicly identified. A lot was left unsaid in the good ol’ days. I think a public discussion of the motivation for honoring Woodrow Wilson in Jackson, MS would be a useful tonic. I don’t think we should change the name, though. I think it’s more useful as a reminder of how racism shaped, and shapes, our lives. Mississippi, perhaps more than any other state, badly needs a truth and reconciliation process around its racist past — and present. An honest look at why we honor Woodrow Wilson might be a good place to start.

    • EliHawk says:

      I think, even at the time though, few honors and commemorations were due to racism or white supremacy, even by say Mississippi white supremacists. Wilson’s legacy then, and still mostly is, as the high water mark of the Progressive Era, ancestor to the New Deal, leader in World War I and founder of the Liberal Internationalist / Collective Security tradition. While at the end of his Presidency it all fell apart, he was the ideological progenitor, at home and abroad, of FDR. That’s why people named stuff after him, and where he sat in the American historical tradition, not for his white supremacy, which was both terrible and not all that outside the norm for his time.

      • mbxxxxxx says:

        So you think Mississippi politicians of the day honored him because of his progressive liberalism.

        Really?

        I don’t think you know much about Mississippi.

        • wjts says:

          Wilson got 89.9% of the Mississippi popular vote in 1912 (the only state he did better in, percentage-wise, was South Carolina). Populist/progressive ideas, provided they’re exclusively applied to white men, have always been popular in the South.

        • EliHawk says:

          I think Mississippi politicians honored him because Democratic President. I mean, Mississippi voted for FDR by a margin of 19 to 1. Mississippi Senator Pat Harrison was a loyal New Dealer until FDR’s 2nd term (Court Packing and FDR backing Barkley over him for Majority Leader soured the relationship) who helped pass the NRA and Social Security, (while also a racist), at the same time the other Senator was the disgusting racist Klan demagogue Theodore Bilbo. Southern Democratic politicians were White Supremacists, and Loyal Democrats who were able to have liberal political ideas outside of civil rights.

          I think reducing the idea that Mississippi only through a monument to him because his cabinet officers segregated their departments underestimates both his reputation at the time and the people of Mississippi. If you look at the state’s two Senators during the Wilson years, you have James Vardaman, one of the country’s most notorious race baiters and bigots (and Wilson endorsed Harrison when he ousted him in 1918), but you also have John S. Williams who, while also completely racist (though not a demagogue), was a huge supporter of Wilson, opposed colonialism, supported free silver, an income tax, and the League of Nations, backed Brandeis on the Supreme Court. The Mississippi that sent him to Washington for 30 years had every reason to want to honor Wilson. If you lump all Southern politicians and states together on the race issue, you miss both their own gradations and their other policies. What’s sad in a way is that as the Solid South has moved from Democrat to Republican that Southern populist/statesman strain has disappeared from the region.

          • heckblazer says:

            White supremacy unfortunately seems to trump everything else for some people. Socialism? Great, as long as we can stick to black people. Socialists are anti-racist now? Then we’ll give capitalism a try. You could probably get zombie Lenin elected in Mississippi if he also promised to bring back Jim Crow.

  12. Rob in CT says:

    But look at that square jaw!

  13. Joseph Slater says:

    Within the last year or so, I let my radio stay on Mark Levin’s radio show for a few minutes because he was talking about Wilson. He went on about how racist Wilson was, and then concluded triumphantly, “and he’s a major hero to ‘progressives’ today!!!” I was briefly tempted to call in and say, “so, who exactly in the progressive movement today says Wilson is a hero?” But, because I’m relatively sane, I didn’t.

    • Hogan says:

      Butbutbut it’s a very serious, thoughtful argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care!

    • Malaclypse says:

      Because I am a masochist, I hate-read Vox Day. He’s sure that Wilson was a “SJW.”

      He also has a really nasty Swedish youtube video up called “Europe Belongs To Us.” It really doesn’t hide the fascism at fucking all…

      • Joseph Slater says:

        I wonder where this comes from. Is it just because Wilson was a Democrat, or is there some other reason the current right thinks the current left lionizes Wilson?

      • The Temporary Name says:

        Wilson leads to League of Nations leads to UN which will TAKE ALL YOUR GUNS!

        • Davis X. Machina says:

          Is it just because Wilson was a Democrat, or is there some other reason the current right thinks the current left lionizes Wilson?

          Lionizes?

          Wilson leads to liberal interventionism, which leads to Vietnam, which leads to Iraq, which leads to BLOWBACK!

          • BiloSagdiyev says:

            You left out World War I there, too. I’d like to know where all the right wing patriots stand on WWI. I’d really like them to take the opportunity to call it an unnecessary bunch of bullshit. I mean, to Not Support Our Troops.

  14. Gregor Sansa says:

    I think that all post titles in this blog should be required to come from the Hamilton lyrics.

  15. wengler says:

    Wilson could be wiped out from all public buildings. His legacy was ‘scientific’ racism, lying about going to war, and putting people in prison for speaking out against that war.

    He gets credit for building an international institution that failed completely(but it totally would have worked! if it wasn’t for that meddling US), and passing some good progressive laws in a prelude to the worst progressive law of them all(Prohibition).

    Maybe the students should compromise and name the buildings after his wife. She was the first woman President after all.

    • Manny Kant says:

      What did Wilson have to do with prohibition? Amendments don’t get signed by the president. Wilson vetoed the Volstead Act, but his veto was overridden.

      I’m also not clear on how Wilson lied about going to war. Wilson had made it clear in 1915 that the US would regard German resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare as a casus belli, and public opinion was behind him. It was the Germans in 1917 who crossed Wilson’s very clearly drawn red line, knowing absolutely that it would result in US entry into the war (thus their contemporary inept attempts to encourage a Mexican attack on the US), as part of a gamble to win the war before US intervention would mean anything.

      Wilson certainly campaigned in 1916 saying “he kept us out of the war.” But that was true. He didn’t say “He will definitely keep us out of the war in the future, even if Germany starts attacking our merchant shipping.” If TR had been president in 1915, the US would have gotten into the war right then. Quite possibly if Taft had been president, too. Hughes absolutely would have done exactly the same thing Wilson did if he’d been elected. We can imagine alternative Democratic presidents who might have done more to avoid war (Champ Clark, for instance), but Wilson was not a warmonger. He tried to avoid war until the Germans basically forced it upon him.

      And Wilso’s status as the “peace candidate” in 1916 was largely because he was actually less belligerent than Hughes. Irish and German voters were, I’m sure, disappointed that they’d supported Wilson. But voting for Hughes wouldn’t have gotten them a more attractive result.

      Now, one can argue that Wilson’s version of U.S. “neutrality” was actually nothing of the sort, and instead was heavily biased towards the Entente powers. That is no doubt true. But what other option is there? Braving the British blockade to sell stuff to Germany in spite of it? That seems like madness. Cutting off all trade of any kind with Europe until the war ends? That’s a different kind of madness.

      Wilson’s policy with respect to World War I was eminently defensible and not particularly dishonest.

  16. LeeEsq says:

    Wilson is an interesting problem. A genuine racist but with a lot of good accomplishments during his presidency like the creation of the Federal Reserve, creating a stronger home government for the Phillipines (independence was politically impossible), and US citizenship for Puerto Ricans. Plus he did do a lot for Princeton when he was President. But he was a big racist.

  17. Bruce Vail says:

    Black activists at Princeton should harp on Wilson’s pro-union record — that will prompt the administrators to wipe out his name right quick. :)

  18. Phil Perspective says:

    A genuine racist but with a lot of good accomplishments during his presidency like the creation of the Federal Reserve, …

    Why is the creation of the Federal Reserve a good accomplishment? In theory it is, not in practice however.

    Edited: This was meant as a reply to LeeEsq.

    • Manny Kant says:

      A central bank is more or less an essential institution for a modern economy. Even if we dislike how the Fed actually operates, the existence of some such institution is incredibly important.

      Furthermore, the Fed is actually better than many of its counterparts, in that a mandate to fight unemployment is baked into it from the beginning, whereas, for instance, the ECB is only supposed to deal with inflation.

  19. LeeEsq says:

    Phil, it finally gave the United States a proper central bank and put monetary policy firmly under government control. That’s a big thing even if the Fed acts suboptimaly at times.

    • EliHawk says:

      Also the Clayton Anti-trust Act (which, by exempting Labor Unions, ended up being dubbed the “magna carta of Labor”), the Adamson Act (Eight Hour Work Day for Railroads), a ban on Child Labor, the Federal Trade Commission, The National Park Service (and Glacier, Acadia and Grand Canyon National Parks), a national Farm Loan program, Federal Workers Compensation laws, the Income Tax,Direct Election of Senators, and plenty of other Federal Programs. His first term was a giant burst of social progress over the conservative coalition, and a guiding point that the Democratic party would be a liberal project instead of the kind of warmed over Cleveland Conservatism of Alton Parker or later John W. Davis. There’s really only three great bursts of Liberal Legislative progress in history: Wilson’s First Term, the New Deal, and the Great Society. That current liberals are either unwilling to defend it or ignorant of its very existence is somewhat depressing, especially as jackasses like Levin and Beck are more than happy to trash it.

  20. LeeEsq says:

    Wengler, I think this is a very ahistorical reading of Wilson’s Presidency even if your emphasizing the negative. We look at Prohibition as something conservative and boneheaded but it was seen as Progressive at the time.

    He also didn’t lie to get us into way. Germany was basically doing a lot to provoke the United States into war.

    • EliHawk says:

      Yeah, if you want someone lying to get us into war, you have a much stronger case for what FDR was doing in the Atlantic vs. U-boats, 1940-1941.

    • Bill Murray says:

      Isn’t the lying part more about his re-election as the President who kept us out of the war, shortly before switching to getting things ordered so that we could/would got to war?

      • Hogan says:

        It wasn’t Wilson who ordered unrestricted U-boat warfare and sent the Zimmermann telegram. The situation changed, and his policy followed.

      • EliHawk says:

        The thing is that the situation absolutely changed shortly after that election. Germany resumed Unrestricted Submarine Warfare in January 1917, something that Wilson made absolutely clear after the Luisitania would result in war. They began to sink seven US ships shortly thereafter, and had every intention to sink more. Either Wilson or Hughes would have declared war after that. Blaming Wilson for campaigning on staying out of War in 1916 is sort of like the people who tout the quote of FDR in 1940 promising “your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars”– we generally understand that events can intervene with that promise.

        • Manny Kant says:

          Except that Roosevelt was more or less being actively dishonest. He was doing everything he could to get the US into World War II even while making dishonest promises like that. Wilson actually didn’t want to go to war! He’d have been content to sit it out if Germany hadn’t resumed unrestricted submarine warfare.

          We give Roosevelt a pass for much greater dishonesty because we mostly agree with him that it was good for the US to get involved in World War II. Wilson gets excoriated not because he did anything particularly awful, but because World War I was a shitty war, and because people on both left and right frequently dislike Wilson for (different) reasons totally unrelated to his decision to declare war on Germany.

          • EliHawk says:

            Yes! I totally agree that FDR’s Atlantic policy was getting the US involved in war, although much of the more aggressive naval actions (shoot on sight, dividing the Atlantic in two west of Iceland, the attacks on the USS Greer, the USS Kearny, and USS Reuben James) all came in 1941. The most notable pre-election action was the Destroyers for Bases deal, which was publicly announced. I was just looking at that specific quote, which often does get brought up in the same tut tutting from people who think they’re being clever kind of way that Wilson’s “He kept us out of war” does.

  21. j_kay says:

    I think this’ from mostly conservative lies from hatred of Wilson because of his FED, UN start, and his freeing of Austria and German Empires. See Vox Day’s testimony on that total SJW Wilson; he was right. That’s why Princeton’d be wrong, I’d say.

    Alot reminds me of Carter the Honest’s reputation after Reagan and decades of GOP liemakers. Carter did so badly that Reagan stole tons of credit for what he did.

    Wilson was the first mentally disabled President, both caused by Versailles and making it worse by making him too cranky to campaign well for what he’d agreed to.

    Yes, Wilson was racist, but so were Republicans like TR and Taft whom took away Philippine democracy because they chose the wrong color President. Taft also tortured, starting US water torture; he adopted a Filipino practice,

    Taft the Torturer and racist has been taught as good to the same people whom learned of Wilson as a racist horror. Taft wrote that we Democrats whom did Jim Crow were good.

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