Thomas Woodrow Wilson, the 28th US president, often makes the top ten in rankings of the best US presidents. In the well-known polls taken by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr. in 1948 and 1962, Wilson was ranked #4 behind Lincoln, Washington, and FDR. By the end of this post, I hope you will agree with me that he belongs in the bottom rung and was one of our worst presidents ever, if not THE worst.
Wilson was the first president to criticize the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
Wilson criticized the diffuseness of government power in the US in most famous book Congressional Government. In this work he confessed, “I cannot imagine power as a thing negative and not positive.” His love and worship of power was a prime characteristic of fascism. “If any trait bubbles up in all one reads about Wilson it is this: he loved, craved, and in a sense glorified power,” writes historian Walter McDougall. It should not surprise us that his idols were Abraham Lincoln and Otto von Bismarck.
“No doubt a lot of nonsense has been talked about the inalienable rights of the individual, and a great deal that was mere sentiment and pleasing speculation has been put forward as fundamental principle,” wrote Wilson, attacking the very individual rights that have made America great.
He rejected the principles of “separation of powers” and “checks and balances” that are the foundation of American government: “Government does now whatever experience permits or the times demand….” wrote Wilson in The State.
No fan of democracy or constitutional government, he wrote the following in Constitutional Government in the United States: “The President is at liberty, both in law and conscience, to be as big a man as he can. His capacity will set the limit….” Sounds like a devotee of the imperial presidency.
Indeed, in a disturbing 1890 essay entitled Leaders of Men, Wilson said that a “true leader” uses the masses of people like “tools.” He writes, “The competent leader of men cares little for the internal niceties of other people’s characters: he cares much–everything–for the external uses to which they may be put…. He supplies the power; others supply only the materials upon which that power operates…. It is the power which dictates, dominates; the materials yield. Men are as clay in the hands of the consummate leader.” So much for the dignity of each person!
“Woe be to the man or group of men that seeks to stand in our way,” said Wilson in June 1917 to counter protests to the fascist regime that he created upon entering WW I.
Wilson rejects the Jeffersonian individualism that has defined the Founding and American conservatism: “While we are followers of Jefferson, there is one principle of Jefferson’s which no longer can obtain in the practical politics of America. You know that it was Jefferson who said that the best government is that which does as little governing as possible…. But that time is passed. America is not now and cannot in the future be a place for unrestricted individual enterprise.” Follower of Jefferson? Yeah right!
Wilson sought war with Germany and purposefully drew the US into World War I.
“I am an advocate of peace, but there are some splendid things that come to a nation through the discipline of war,” said Wilson and he would seek after those progressive “splendid things” when the opportunity of WW I arose.
It is an often overlooked fact of WW I that Great Britain’s powerful navy blockaded Germany and in so doing starved the German population. And guess who led the British in this distant blockade (which was against international law at the time)? Our dear beloved Winston Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty. This blockade drove the Germans to retaliate with submarine warfare (U-boats), and they warned that “neutral ships will be exposed to danger” and it would be “impossible to avoid attacks being made on neutral ships in mistake for those of the enemy.” This was especially true since British abused the rules of war by decorating their warships with neutral flags to lure German submarines to the surface and destroy them.
Wilson all the while claimed neutrality but was actually very pro-British. The British blockade and the German unrestricted submarine warfare both violated the rights of neutral nations under international law. But he refused to acknowledge that the former had led to the latter. German misdeeds against vessels carrying Americans received swift denunciation from Wilson, but the terrible British blockade that starved hundreds of thousands of Germans to death got a slap on the wrist. The Germans even proposed to end their unrestricted sub warfare if the British would end the blockade; the British refused. It was this double standard that would drive Wilson to bring the US into the war.
The cunning Churchill knew of Wilson’s irrational disposition and used it to his advantage: “It is most important to attract neutral shipping to our shores in the hope especially of embroiling the United States with Germany….” Britain aimed to lure America into the war. Indeed, by making it dangerous for the German submarines to surface, Churchill would increase his chances of success: “The submerged U-boat had to rely increasingly on underwater attack and thus ran the greater risk of mistaking neutral for British ships and of drowning neutral crews and thus embroiling Germany with other Great Powers.” By that time, the US was the only great power left that had remained neutral.
The most famous incident was the sinking of the Lusitania. But you will seldom read in school textbooks that the German government actually published warnings in major newspapers not to book passage on the great vessel. But most passengers ignored the warning. The German U-boat only fired one torpedo at the Lusitania and, to the surprise of the German captain Walter Schwieger, that was all it took. The liner went down so quickly that Swieger noted, “I could not have fired a second torpedo into this thing of humanity attempting to save themselves.” A total of 124 Americans died.
What was the American reaction to this tragedy? Hardly any of the newspapers advocated that declaring war was the proper response. Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan certainly had no desire to go to war over it and challenged Wilson’s double standard head on: “Why be shocked by the drowning of a few people, if there is no objection to a starving nation?” It was of no use and Bryan resigned in protest. Senators Wesley Jones of Washington and Robert Follette of Wisconsin urged the President to exercise restraint.
Bryan’s replacement, Robert Lansing, reveals that the Wilson administration was determined to go to war: “In dealing with the British government, there was always in my mind the conviction that we would ultimately become an ally of Great Britain and that it would not do, therefore, to let our controversies reach a point where diplomatic correspondence gave place to action.” American protests against Britain were carefully “submerged in verbiage. It was done with deliberate purpose. It insured the continuance of the controversies and left the questions unsettled, which was necessary in order to leave this country free to act and even act illegally when it entered the war.”
Germany then agreed to call off the sub warfare if Wilson would pressure Britain to stop the hunger blockade (Sussex Pledge). Wilson refused.
Then Wilson did the most irresponsible act that brought us into war: he ordered that merchant ships be armed with US Navy guns and staffed with US Navy crews and that they fire on any surfacing submarines they encountered. Under such circumstances, the ships sailed into the war zone. Wilson sent out ships with the purpose of sacrificing them in order to push America into war! Four of them had been sunk by the time Wilson requested a declaration of war from Congress. It was only after the war that Congress would realize what a dangerous fanatic Wilson was and actually stood up to him be rejecting the Treaty of Versailles, especially Article 10 the League of Nations. This article obligated each League member to preserve the territorial integrity of the other member states. Why should the US sacrifice blood and treasure for obscure border disputes in Europe? Congress was not advocating isolationism as many have asserted but rather defending its own constitutional authority to decide when America goes to war.
John Bassett Moore, a distinguished professor of international law at Columbia University who would serve on the International Court of Justice after the war, argued that “what most decisively contributed to the involvement of the United States in the war was the assertion of a right to protect belligerent ships on which Americans saw fit to travel and the treatment of armed belligerent merchantmen as peaceful vessels. Both assumptions were contrary to reason, and no other neutral advanced them.” Wilson apparently believed that every American, in time of war, had the right to travel aboard armed, belligerent merchant ships carrying munitions of war through a declared submarine zone. No other neutral power had ever proclaimed such a doctrine, let alone gone to war over it!
No American interest was at stake in WW I, and yet a total of 116,516 men died and 204,002 were wounded. In fact, Wilson bragged about fighting a war with no national interests at stake! “There is not a single selfish element, so far as I can see, in the cause we are fighting for,” he declared. It was a war to satisfy his own naive idealism that he could remake the world in his “progressive” ideology. War was an instrument for perverse social engineering that would remake the world: “[A]s head of a nation participating in the war, the president of the United States would have a seat at the peace table, but…if he remained the representative of a neutral country, he could at best only ‘call through a crack in the door.’” The whole war was so that HE could have a seat at a table?! The guy was insane, sick (even Freud, who wrote a whole book on Wilson, thought so).
Wilson created the first official propaganda department in the US.
A week after Congress declared war on Germany, Wilson created a government apparatus whose sole purpose was to lie to the American people, the first modern ministry for propaganda in the West. It was called the Committee on Public Information and was led by journalist George Creel.
Edward Bernays, an adviser to Wilson and participant in CPI operations, characterized the mission of CPI as the “engineering of consent” and “the conscious manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses.”
A typical poster for Liberty Bonds read: “I am Public Opinion. All men fear me!…[I]f you have money to buy and do not buy, I will make this No Man’s Land for you!” Other posters were created to mobilize the public and silence dissent.
A trained group of nearly a hundred thousand men gave four minute speeches to any audience that would listen. They portrayed Wilson as a larger-than-life leader and the Germans as less-than-human Huns, emphasizing fabricated German war crimes and horrors.
CPI released propaganda films entitled The Claws of the Hun, The Prussian Cur, To Hell With The Kaiser, and The Kaiser, the Beast of Berlin.
Wilson harshly suppressed dissent and resistance among citizens and the press.
At Wilson’s urging, a Sedition Act (not unlike the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 ) forbade Americans from criticizing their own government in a time of war. Citizens could not “utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language” about the government or the military. The Postmaster General was given the authority to revoke the mailing privileges of those who disobeyed. About 75 periodicals were were shut down by the government in this way and many others were given warnings.
In the fashion of a police state, the Department of Justice arrested tens of thousands of individuals without just cause. One was not safe even within the walls of one’s own home to criticize the Wilson administration. A letter to federal attorneys and marshals said that citizens had nothing to fear as long as they “Obey the law; keep your mouth shut.” In fact, the Justice Department created the precursor to the Gestapo called the American Protective League. Its job was to spy on fellow citizens and turn in “seditious” persons or draft dodgers. In September of 1918 in NYC, the APL rounded up about 50,000 people. This doesn’t even include the infamous Palmer Raids (named after Wilson’s attorney general) that occurred after the war.
In 1915, in his address to Congress, Wilson declared, “The gravest threats against our national peace and safety have been uttered within our own borders. There are citizens of the United States, I blush to admit, born under other flags…who have poured the poison of disloyalty into the very arteries of our national life; who have sought to bring the authority and good name of our Government into contempt, to destroy our industries wherever they thought it effective for their vindictive purposes….”
All in all it is estimated that about 175,000 Americans were arrested for failing to demonstrate their patriotism in one way or another.
Wilson took over the US economy completely.
He charged Bernard Baruch with running the War Industries Board, which would endeavor to control all industry in service to the state. It would serve as a precursor to the corporatist policies Mussolini and Hitler.
Grosvenor Clarkson, a member and later historian of the WIB, would characterize the WIB as follows: “It was an industrial dictatorship without parallel–a dictatorship by force of necessity and common consent which step by step at least encompassed the Nation and united it into a coordinated and mobile whole.” He would also later say that the war was “a story of the conversion of a hundred million combatively individualistic people into a vast cooperative effort in which the good of the unit was sacrificed to the good of the whole.” The government weakened the spirit of the people to resist government tyranny.
Rationing and price-fixing characterized the wartime command economy. (hmmm, sounds like communism and the Carter administration)
Wilson himself was a major cause of the outbreak of World War II.
It is a well-accepted fact that the extremely harsh and unfair terms of the Treaty of Versailles were the incipient cause of WW II. Wilson’s Fourteen Points were fair and persuaded the Germans to surrender before the allies devastated Germany. He had the opportunity to make sure Europe did not take revenge on Germany, but he let is slip away. He threw Germany to the dogs so he could have his worthless, utopian League of Nations. He deluded himself into thinking the League could make up for the other thirteen points. This stab in the back of Germany would give rise to Hitler and allow him to rouse the German people to war a mere two decades or so later. Therefore, in a very real sense, Wilson is responsible for all the horrors of WW II.
In sum, Wilson was the first fascist president of the US and first major fascist dictator of the 20th c.
Wilson took over the US economy, infringed on American civil liberties especially by suppressing dissent, oppressed the “unpatriotic,” and purposefully sought to drag the US into war. This Marxist, totalitarian, jingoistic, and militaristic Democrat president was a fascist. He worshiped the power of the state, and such statolatry is exactly what fascism is.
I don’t think President George W. Bush is a fascist, but his Wilsonian idealism for spreading democracy should disturb any conservative. America was attacked on 9/11; no such thing happened during Wilson’s presidency. The Patriot Act is no where near as harmful to civil liberties as Wilson’s Sedition Act was, if harmful at all.
Though the Democratic Party is largely dominated by anti-war people now (even though Soviet communism and radical Islam have been actual threats to national security unlike the Kaiser’s Germany), Wilson’s fascism still remains with the party, especially with regard to economics and expanding the power of the federal government in general whenever possible. This should not be surprising since fascism is a product of the Left, not the Right, side of the political spectrum.
(Reference The Politically Incorrect Guide to US History and Liberal Fascism)