Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen
Asker mothball Asks:
Hi there, I absolutely adore this blog, it's very interesting. I'm a high school student in AP US history and we just went over Wilson's presidency.I got the impression that he was a good man in a bad situation who genuinely believed in the league of nations and wanted peace for the world. However, my teacher offered the interpretation that he was not so pure in his intentions and got America involved in a war that didn't concern it. What are your thoughts regarding Wilson?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Woodrow Wilson was a lot of things, but he certainly wasn’t a good man.  I disagree with your teacher regarding the First World War not concerning the United States.  We played an important role in the war and it really expanded and solidified the U.S.’s position as a superpower.  One of the problems with Wilson (and it’s just one of MANY problems with Wilson) is that he probably waited too long to get the U.S. involved in the war.  Wilson probably should have gotten the American military ready much sooner.

I definitely agree with your teacher that Wilson’s intentions were not exactly pure.  To get deeper into the subject, I’ll just copy and paste some past comments I’ve made about Wilson and his “idealism”, which was largely an effort to remake the world in the manner that he genuinely thought God put him on Earth and in the Presidency to see fit.  I’ve written before that Wilson’s idealism is similar to George W. Bush’s:

I can’t speak for you, but there are many reasons I dislike Wilson.  First of all, he was a virulent racist and vicious about it.  Some Presidents had antiquated racial views, but Wilson just flat-out didn’t like people who weren’t white Christians.  So, as a person, Wilson was garbage. 

Then, politically, his “idealism” was no different than George W. Bush’s idealism.  In fact, I’ve said it many times before: I think that Wilson and Bush were VERY similar Presidents.  Here are two past things that I’ve written about my dislike for Wilson:

Woodrow Wilson governed in the same manner as George W. Bush.  Wilson’s beliefs were so intractable that not only was he convinced that he was always correct, but he was determined to prove that anyone who didn’t agree with him was worse than wrong.  Wilson felt that all of his opponents were enemies who stood on the wrong side of history, providence, and national survival.  Throughout his life and career, Woodrow Wilson believed that God ordained his success, placed him in a position of power, and intended for Wilson to zealously and tirelessly pursue his policies, ignore his supporters and colleagues, and stubbornly force his views on everyone else. 

and, this, from when I was asked if Wilson would have approved of the Iraq War:

Woodrow Wilson is partly responsible for the Iraq War.

George W. Bush’s belief that it is America’s role to spread democracy and fight tyranny around the world is rooted in Wilsonian thinking.  Bush was emulating Wilson.  He felt that Iraq was a place where democracy could take hold if Saddam Hussein were out of the picture.  Bush would argue that the Iraq War was not imperialistic, and I believe Woodrow Wilson would support that viewpoint.

Wilsonian idealism consisted of many things, but one of the main points was this belief that what is good for us in the United States is just as good for the rest of the world.  Wilson felt that we basically knew what was best for everyone else and if you’re looking for someone who mirrored that thinking, you’d find him in President Bush. 

Bush and Wilson came from different places and different parties and their wars were waged for different reasons.  Our entry into World War I was for a very good reason while the Iraq War was despicable.  The goal of both Wilson and Bush, however, was to export American-style democracy — either to ensure peace or to create a system where American leadership and military might was required to sustain a growing capitalist society. 

I could get a lot of heat for comparing Wilson and Bush, but people need to dig deeper and really understand that they thought the same way, they acted the same way, and they were both stubborn Presidents who wanted things done a certain way (THEIR way) or else they were fine with seeing everything crumble. 

Wilson wouldn’t frown because the Iraq War was imperialistic.  He would have frowned because he didn’t think of it before Bush did.

  1. mothball said: Thank you so much! That’s very interesting and I never would have guessed he was such a racist.
  2. deadpresidents posted this