WOODROW THE WORST
By Myron Robert Pauli, WHO DAMNS THE 28TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES AND THE DAY HE WAS BORN: DECEMBER 28.
AS Woodrow Wilson’s birthday approaches, I would like to place his name in nomination as our worst significant President. Perhaps Franklin Pierce was drunk during much of his 4 years in power but what did he particularly do, drunk or sober, besides the Gadsden Purchase? Woodrow, however, was a man of “accomplishments” – almost all bad. Obviously, other libertarians dislike other consolidators of power such as Lincoln or FDR, but they had a few mitigating features: fighting against slavery or Nazism, dying before they could botch the victory, and a keen sense of humor.
The only example of Wilsonian humor was when he was holed up in the White House after his stroke and finally a congressional delegation came to see him. When told that the country was “praying for you,” the paranoid Wilson responded “which way?” This was the same Wilson who got up and danced when he heard Theodore Roosevelt had died, who refused to pardon his political opponent, Eugene Debs. Sigmund Freud wrote an entire book on Wilson’s psyche including an abusive father, a doting mother, 14 nervous breakdowns, and a paranoid Messianic complex. The famous psycho-historian James Barber characterized him and Nixon as classical “active-negative” Presidents.
In Civil Liberties, Wilson brought in the Espionage and Sedition Acts, the Bureau of Information (promoting young J. Edgar Hoover), the Red Scare and deportations, and, as mentioned, he refused to pardon Debs (a leader of the labor movement who opposed going to war), even after World War I ended.
Wilson gave us our first anti-drug law (Harrison Narcotics Act) and then Prohibition making our cities safe for urban mafia and gangsters and destroying civil liberties for nearly 100 years. Our modern day paramilitary SWAT teams had their origins in Wilsonian Progressivism.
In racial matters, Wilson segregated the federal government and promoted “Birth of a Nation” (originally “The Clansman”), written by his friend Thomas Dixon. The Klan was reborn and was influential enough that supporters of his son-in-law McAdoo turned down a motion to repudiate the Klan at the 1924.
Wilson’s “domestic reforms” included the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Reserve System, and the Internal Revenue Service. So much has been written about the latter two as essential elements of the modern Leviathan state that I will go on to other Wilsonian mischief but they are certainly worthwhile trophies in his nominee for “Worst President”.
But perhaps Wilson’s most insidious legacies were in foreign policy. He acted sanctimoniously neutral during World War I, while simultaneously egging Britain on, covering up our bias, and trying to sabotage efforts at peace by Pope Benedict XV through the Catholic warring states. As the war kept on, nations collapsed and communists took over Russia. Wilson’s armed interference with Mexico’s sovereignty ironically encouraged the idiotic Zimmerman telegram. Then, when we plunged into the war, he instituted wartime socialism management of industry, and his fanatical supporters went after German language teaching and “German music” like Beethoven.
Germany asked for an Armistice under the so-called “Peace Without Victory” ideas of his Fourteen Points. What they got was a starvation blockade, bankrupting reparations, and a hypocritical vindictive peace. The Wilsonian concept of “ethnic self-determination” started out with silly disputes between Poland and Lithuania and ended up with Nazism and The Holocaust. Non-Europeans who listened to Wilson were quickly turned away when their ideas conflicted with Japanese, French, and English imperialists – hence Mao and Ho drifted into communism in response to Wilsonian hypocrisy. Finally, he was so inflexible as a politician as to sabotage Senate adoption of his own Treaty of Versailles.
Much of the foreign policy disasters of the last century stemmed from the Wilsonian cause of America “making the world safe for democracy.” We have since been “spreading democracy” into Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Libya, Haiti, Sudan, Tunisia, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, etc. Our troops have been are remain in hundreds of countries, since, with both political parties leading the battle cry.
If, in the words of Jefferson, the purpose of government is to “secure our rights” – then it appears that Wilson did the direct opposite. From Drug Laws to Sedition Laws to the IRS to the Federal Reserve to our Permanent Empire, Wilson gets my nod for the Worst. A century later, his pathetic legacy, unfortunately, lives on.
Barely a Blog (BAB) contributor Myron Pauli grew up in Sunnyside Queens, went off to college in Cleveland and then spent time in a mental institution in Cambridge MA (MIT) with Benjamin Netanyahu (did not know him), and others until he was released with the “hostages” and Jimmy Carter on January 20, 1981, having defended his dissertation in nuclear physics. Most of the time since, he has worked on infrared sensors, mainly at Naval Research Laboratory in Washington DC. He was NOT named after Ron Paul but is distantly related to physicist Wolftgang Pauli; unfortunately, only the “good looks” were handed down and not the brains. He writes assorted song lyrics and essays reflecting his cynicism and classical liberalism. Click on the “BAB’s A List” category to access the Pauli archive.