Category Archive 'Woodrow Wilson'

22 Nov 2015

Who Will Be Next?

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WoodrowWilson

Geoffrey R. Stone wonders out loud:

[I]f Woodrow Wilson is to be obliterated from Princeton because his views about race were backward and offensive by contemporary standards, then what are we to do with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, and Andrew Jackson, all of whom actually owned slaves? What are we to do with Abraham Lincoln, who declared in 1958 that “I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races,” and that “I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people”?

What are we to do with Franklin Roosevelt, who ordered the internment of 120,000 persons of Japanese descent? With Dwight Eisenhower, who issued an Executive Order declaring homosexuals a serious security risk? With Bill Clinton, who signed the Defense of Marriage Act? With Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, both of whom opposed the legalization of same-sex marriage?

And what are we to do with Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who once opined in a case involving compulsory sterilization that “three generations of imbeciles is enough”? With Leland Stanford, after whom Stanford University is named who, as governor of California, lobbied for the restriction of Chinese immigration, explaining to the state legislature in 1862 that “the presence of numbers of that degraded and distinct people would exercise a deleterious effect upon the superior race”?

And what are we do with all of the presidents, politicians, academic leaders, industrial leaders, jurists, and social reformers who at one time or another in American history denied women’s right to equality, opposed women’s suffrage, and insisted that a woman’s proper place was “in the home”? And on and on and on.

22 Nov 2015

Progressives Devouring Their Own

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StalinYeshov
When former head of the NKVD Nikolai Yezhov was purged and executed in 1940 by Stalin, his image, too, was purged from official photographs.

With characteristic Ivy League administrative courage, Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber surrendered to snowflakes of color demands that former Princeton (& US) President Woodrow Wilson be purged for holding racial opinions a century ago deemed politically incorrect today.

Following a 32-hour standoff with student protesters, the president of Princeton University acceded Thursday night to demands that Woodrow Wilson’s name be removed from campus.

In a statement released Thursday evening, the university announced that President Christopher Eisgruber, along with Dean Jill Dolan and Vice President for Campus Life Rochelle Calhoun, had reached an agreement with members of the Black Justice League to resolve a sit-in that had been taking place outside Eisgruber’s office since Wednesday afternoon.

Seventeen students also signed the document addressing their demands for various diversity initiatives, which was inspired by the Mizzou protests, and in the process received immunity from disciplinary consequences related to their demonstration.

In the agreement, the administrators promise to “initiate conversations” with the Board of Trustees on proposals to change the name of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, as well as to remove a mural of the former U.S. president from a dining hall on campus.

Wilson served as Princeton’s president prior to his election to national office—hence the tributes to him on campus—but the student protesters believe such references to him are unbecoming, insofar as the progressive-minded President was also a virulent racist and staunch segregationist.

In addition, the Black Justice League also secured concessions on related demands for mandatory cultural competency courses for all school employees and the creation of a cultural center for black students on campus.

While the school did agree to expand the availability of cultural competency training, it stopped short of committing to make the training mandatory as the protesters had requested, instead inviting the BJL to send representatives to an upcoming meeting to discuss the possibility of implementing a cultural diversity requirement.

The administrators also pledged to immediately designate four rooms in a building on campus for use by “Cultural Affinity Groups,” promising over the longer term to pursue the creation of “Affinity Housing for those interested in black culture” with the Residential Colleges.

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Princeton’s eagerness to purge its one-time favorite son is absolutely loaded with delightful ironies, alas! lost upon the ideologically-deranged minority students as well as upon their slimy and invertebrate praecepters.

Yale renaming the residential college previously named in honor of Yale’s greatest contributor to political thought is rather tragic, but Princeton throwing Woodrow Wilson to the wolves of trendy contemporary elite opinion could scarcely be more fitting.

Woodrow Wilson himself would have been among the first to chisel out the name of any distinguished predecessor currently in bad odor with the forces of Moral Uplift and Progressive Thought. One can almost picture Wilson arising from his tomb in order to recant all of his old-time racial and eugenicist positions, and to volunteer to take down his own portrait, while getting in a few unkind remarks along the way about George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq.

Abraham Lincoln (the dirty racist!) will be next.

11 Feb 2009

Liberalism’s Fourth Wave

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Charles R. Kesler, in Christian Science Monitor, warns that Barack Obama intends to move America as far in a leftward direction as his predecessors Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson.

Modern liberalism came to America in three waves, and it’s useful to think of Obama in this light.

The progressives of the early 20th century were the original liberals, developing the essential tenets of liberalism as a political doctrine. Woodrow Wilson and others argued that the Constitution was an 18th-century document, based on 18th-century notions of rights. While suited to its day, they said, it was now painfully inadequate unless interpreted in a vital new spirit.

This spirit was Darwinian and evolutionary, turning Hamilton’s “limited Constitution” into a “living Constitution” that must be able to adapt its structure and function to meet the latest social and economic challenges. To guide this evolution, to organize society’s march into the future, presidents had to cease being merely constitutional officers and become dynamic leaders of popular opinion.

Obama accepts all the major elements of this evolutionary approach to the Constitution and American government. As he wrote in “The Audacity of Hope,” the Constitution “is not a static but rather a living document, and must be read in the context of an ever-changing world.”

Likewise, in his inaugural address he declared, “The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works….”

This emphasis on what “works” is his nod to pragmatism, which he implies is almost the opposite of ideological liberalism. In fact, however, such pragmatism is part of liberalism.

What “works,” after all, depends on what you think government’s purpose is supposed to be. Pragmatism tries to distract us from those ultimate questions, while assuming liberal answers to them. Thus Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal promised “bold, persistent experimentation.” Obama’s domestic agenda betrays the same eagerness.

Liberalism’s second stage was economic. In the New Deal, the Great Society, and its sequels, liberals turned to the wholesale minting of new kinds of rights. Citizens were thus entitled to socioeconomic benefits through programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Besides these entitlements, the federal government also extended its regulatory authority to areas previously private or under state and local jurisdiction.

But this wave crested unexpectedly, and for a while, contemporary liberals seemingly lost their enthusiasm for such top-down regulation and the work of transforming privileges into rights.

With the fall of the Soviet Union and the discrediting of socialist economies around the globe, liberals such as Bill Clinton took a second look at the free market. He populated his Treasury department with highfliers from Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street firms. In left-leaning think tanks and even in the academy, capitalism commanded strange new respect. This rehabilitation of the market, though never more than partial, was the greatest change in American liberalism in the past 40 years. Obama absorbed it, as did many members of his new administration.

But the financial crisis and market meltdown have changed things.

It looks like 1932 again, a time for reinvigorated government activism. …

An enduring Democratic majority is not out of the question. The wild scramble to stop the economic and financial downturn may well leave America with a politically controlled economy that would corrupt the relationship between citizens and the federal government – sapping entrepreneurship and encouraging new forms of dependence on the state, as in much of Europe. That would be consistent with the more socialized democracy that liberalism has been striving for ever since the Progressive Era.

Obama likes to emphasize that America is more like the world than we realize, and must become still more like it if the US is to remain the world’s leader. Despite his summoning oratory, his sense of American exceptionalism thus is far less lofty, far more constrained, than Reagan’s or FDR’s. The greatest stumbling block to Obama’s ambition is likely to be the inability of this exceptional president to persuade Americans to follow him into so unexceptional a future.

05 Oct 2008

The Warrior and the Priest

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The election of 2008 reminds Fred Barnes of the election of 1912.

John McCain, restless and emotional, couldn’t resist the temptation to join the battle to rescue our financial markets and save the economy. It was the biggest and most important fight around, bigger and more important than his campaign scrap with Barack Obama. Being engaged in the action–in the arena–is where McCain always wants to be. So he cast his presidential campaign aside, temporarily, and headed back to Washington. The campaign could wait. It might even benefit.

Obama, placid and professorial, had a different reaction to the fight over the bailout. Even before McCain’s maneuver he’d rejected the idea of putting his campaign on hold and joining the legislative battle. He’d be available if needed. An abrupt change in plans, a sudden shift, is not his style. His campaign would go on. He returned to Washington reluctantly. If he hadn’t, his campaign might have suffered.

The contrast here is not only dramatic. It’s unusually revealing about the two candidates and how they might act as president.

There’s an analogy that captures the difference: the warrior and the priest. McCain the warrior, Obama the priest. (If “priest” seems confusing, substitute “professor.”)

McCain has been a player in every major fight, in war and in Washington, for more than four decades. As far back as 1962, he waited in Florida as a Navy pilot for the order to attack during the Cuban missile crisis. (The order never came.) As a senator, he’s never stayed on the sidelines. As a candidate, he likes the rough-and-tumble and unpredictable turns of town hall meetings.

Obama prefers set speeches delivered with the aid of a teleprompter, a reflection of his more aloof and less engaged approach to politics and policy. In Democratic primary debates, he tended to be passive. Where McCain is an activist, Obama is more a visionary. As a senator, he’s involved himself only on the fringes of big issues.

Long before the McCain-Obama race, the warrior and the priest comparison was applied to Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson in a book by John Milton Cooper Jr., a history professor at the University of Wisconsin. The Warrior and the Priest was published in 1983 and was not widely acclaimed, but it’s become a cult classic.

Cooper described Roosevelt, the warrior, as “exuberant and expansive,” a man who “epitomized the enjoyment of power.” He gained fame “through well-cultivated press coverage of his exploits as a reformer, rancher, hunter, police commissioner, war hero, and engaging personality.” And TR was “associated conspicuously and consistently with one issue above all others–war.” Sounds like McCain.

Wilson, the priest, was “disciplined and controlled,” Cooper wrote. “He seemingly embodied a less joyful exercise of power.” Until he ran for office, Wilson was “a spectator and a bystander.” Roosevelt was a “tireless evangelist for international activism,” but Wilson had “a more pacific vision.” His entry into politics at the highest level was created by his reputation as “a widely regarded public speaker.” Obama isn’t Wilson personified, but he comes close. …

In 1912, Roosevelt and Wilson met in the presidential race. The priest won the election. But there was a complication that hampered TR. There was another candidate, Republican president William Howard Taft, who finished third. Absent Taft’s presence, the warrior would have won. McCain ought to keep this in mind.


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