League Of Nations

95th Anniversary Of Woodrow Wilson’s Death: The Decline In Historical Reputation, Although Still In Top Quarter Of All Presidents

On February 3, 1924, Woodrow Wilson, who had been in retirement only for nearly three years, died in his home, the Woodrow Wilson House, in Washington DC, at the age of 67.

Wilson had never fully recovered from the massive stroke he suffered on October 2, 1919, and he was unable to gain support of the US Senate for the Versailles Treaty and American membership in the League of Nation that he had fought for when he attended the Peace Treaty negotiations in France, the first President to travel overseas as America’s diplomat.

Wilson had accomplished much domestic legislation that was memorable, including the Federal Reserve Act, the Federal Trade Commission Act, the Clayton Antitrust Act, and the first federal labor laws.

But his record on racial segregation was horrendous, and he opposed the woman suffrage movement for a long time. He also presided over massive attacks on civil liberties during the First World War, totally intolerant of dissent.

And his mission to the Versailles Peace Conference ended in failure, as America did not join the League of Nations, and ratified its own peace treaty with Germany and the other nations on the losing side of the war.

Wilson’s reputation for his accomplishments kept him in the top ten of all Presidents for many decades, but lately he has come under fire, and his spot in the Presidential polls of scholars has declined. He is now out of the top ten at number 11 in the C Span Presidential Poll of historians conducted in 2017, after having earlier been number 6 in 2000, and number 9 in 2009. The American Political Science poll of Political Science professors had pegged Wilson at number 10 in 2014, and in 2018, he slipped to number 11, the same as the most recent C Span poll.

The troubling part is that Wilson fell behind Ronald Reagan and Lyndon B. Johnson in the recent polling, and is only 15 points ahead in the C Span 2017 poll over number 12, Barack Obama, just as he left the Presidency.

So do not be surprised that Wilson will likely slip to number 12 in the next polling, with Obama surging ahead of him, as Obama looks ever better in comparison to Donald Trump, who ended up at the bottom of the APSA 2018 poll as number 44 out of 44.

Protectionism And Isolationism: Herbert Hoover And Donald Trump

Eighty six years ago, President Herbert Hoover signed into law the most protectionist tariff law in American history, the Smoot Hawley Tariff of 1930, over the strong opposition of hundreds of economists who signed newspaper ads opposing the cutoff of foreign trade in the early months of the Great Depression.

These economists warned that creating tariff walls would backfire on the US economy, but Hoover did not listen, and he paid the price of a much worsening depression, leading to his defeat in 1932 for reelection by Franklin D. Roosevelt

Hoover also pursued a foreign policy of isolationism, refusing to participate in the League of Nations, and issuing the Stimson Doctrine in 1932, named after the Secretary of State, Henry Stimson. This document declared the US refusal to recognize the aggression by Japan against Manchuria, part of China in 1931, but making clear that no military or other action would be taken against foreign aggression anywhere in the world.

Hoover continued to be an isolationist after the Presidency, and opposed US entrance into World War II until after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941.

Now, Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump is taking similar stands on both protectionism and isolationism, a pivot from the modern tradition of the Republican Party, and considered by many to be a major mistake in both domestic and foreign policy.

Historic Leaders Of The Senate Foreign Relations Committee

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is one of the most important of all committees in the history of that body, having begun as early as 1816.

It is one of the most significant committees, with many future potential Presidential seekers wishing to be seen as “experts” on American foreign policy.

It is a committee often in conflict with the President of the United States on strategy and policy toward other nations.

There have been many colorful leaders of the committee, both Democrats and Republicans, who have become famed or notorious for their principles and impact on American foreign policy.

The committee again has become focused on as part of the heated debate over the Iran nuclear deal, and its recent former Chairman, John Kerry, is now the Secretary of State, charged with gaining the support of the committee, which, clearly, however, under Republican control, is a lost cause.

Among its leaders have been Presidential nominees Rufus King, Henry Clay, and John Kerry; President James Buchanan; and Vice Presidents Hannibal Hamlin and Joe Biden.

Such prominent political figures, other than those mentioned above, who served as Chairman of the committee include: Thomas Hart Benton, Charles Sumner, John Sherman, Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr., William Borah, Arthur Vandenberg, J. William Fulbright, Frank Church, Charles Percy, Richard Lugar, Claiborne Pell, Jesse Helms, and present Chairman Bob Corker, with Fulbright serving the longest as Chairman, 16 years from 1959-1975.

Those who made the most news included Lodge fighting Woodrow Wilson on the Versailles Treaty and League of Nations; Vandenberg playing a crucial role in backing the containment policy of President Harry Truman, despite them being from different parties; Fulbright fighting against the Vietnam War under Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon; and Helms being a major problem for Bill Clinton on many foreign policy issues.

Midterm Elections, Second Term, A Political Disaster From Woodrow Wilson To Barack Obama!

The issue of midterm elections, second term of a President, has become one of great interest, as invariably, it weakens the President in his last two years, and inevitably, puts the opposition party in power.

This happened with Ronald Reagan in 1986, George W. Bush in 2006, and now, Barack Obama in 2014.

The second term midterm election also led to stronger opposition support in the time of Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1958, although the Democrats already had control of both houses, gained in the first term midterm elections of 1954.

In the time of Harry Truman, while his Democratic Party kept control in the second term midterm elections of 1950, his party lost 28 seats in the House and 5 in the US Senate, after having lost the first term midterm election and control of both houses to the Republicans in 1946.

In the time of Franklin D. Roosevelt, while his party continued to control both houses of Congress, the second term midterm election in 1938 saw weaker Democratic support than his first six years, with FDR actually gaining seats in the first term midterm election of 1934, the only time until 1998 under Bill Clinton.

In the time of Woodrow Wilson, the Democratic Party lost control of both houses in the second term midterm elections of 1918, just as Wilson was about to go to Versailles to negotiate the end of the First World War, and this insured that the Treaty of Versailles and League of Nations would be rejected by a Republican controlled Senate. Wilson had already suffered heavy losses in the first term midterm elections of 1914 in the House of Representatives, although not in the Senate.

The only modern President to avoid second term midterm doldrums was Bill Clinton, who still saw the opposition Republicans in control in 1998, but with the same balance in the Senate and a five seat gain by Clinton’s Democratic Party. However, Clinton and his party had suffered massive losses and control of both houses of Congress in his first term in 1994.

A Century Ago, Full Scale Outbreak Of “The Great War”, And Woodrow Wilson’s Neutrality Declaration!

A century ago, with Great Britain and France joining the war in Eastern Europe, which had begun on July 28, “The Great War”, World War I, was in full swing!

The event shocked President Woodrow Wilson, who declared American neutrality, and stated that America would be “neutral in thought, as well as action”, a statement not easily enforced, as how could one prevent partisanship on the events going on, as to which side should win, and whether American should join the war “to save democracy?”

So the debate goes on ever since, with many blaming President Wilson for us entering the war in April 1917, and some stating the whole interventionist foreign policy of America dates from that event, and sees Wilson as the perpetrator, indirectly, of every “sin” America has been engaged in since 1914!

Others have seen Wilson as the great idealist, who wanted to make the world safe for democracy, and supports his goals of ending war and starting the ill fated League of Nations.

Others have argued over the years for isolationism in world affairs, that this is the only way to keep America safe from foreign wars, and loss of life on a massive scale.

The historical reputation of Woodrow Wilson has gone through ups and downs over the past century, and continues to be heatedly debated even in 2014!

The Centennial Of Woodrow Wilson’s Presidency: A Time For Debate Over His Legacy

A century ago day, Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated as the 28th President of the United States,and helped to transform the Presidency in massive ways, some good and some bad.

Wilson has been under attack in the present climate of conservative attacks on reform oriented Presidents, including Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Barack Obama.

The facts are that Wilson, FDR, and LBJ were the three most accomplished Presidents in domestic affairs, but with plenty of criticism about their handling of wars and the domestic relationship to those wars.

Wilson accomplished the most domestic reform of any President before him, taking on parts of Theodore Roosevelt’s New Nationalism agenda on the Progressive Party line in 1912, adding it to his own New Freedom legislative ideas.

So Wilson’s time saw the following:

Underwood Simmons Tariff

Federal Reserve Act

Clayton Anti Trust Act

Federal Trade Commission

Keating-Owen Child Labor Act

La Follette Seamen’s Act

Adamson Act (eight hour work day in interstate transportation)

Federal Farm Loan Act

Some of this did not work out well long term, and additionally, Wilson had major negative policies dealing with:

Woman Suffrage—opposing an amendment (although it came about despite him in 1920, via the 19th Amendment).

Race Relations—clearly racist policy of imposing Jim Crow segregation in Washington, DC; unfair treatment and recognition of African American sacrifices in the World War I effort; and endorsement of an openly racist film, D W Griffith’s BIRTH OF A NATION, which portrayed the Southern view of Reconstruction, a myth of long standing, which finally was proved inaccurate in the past half century of historical research and writing.

Civil Liberties Violations— including arrest and imprisonment of Socialist Party leader Eugene Debs for opposition to the draft and American involvement in World War I; the Espionage and Sedition Acts; and the Palmer Raids after the war.

In foreign policy, Wilson engaged in “Missionary Diplomacy” including interventions in Haiti, and more significantly in Mexico, attempting to pursue Pancho Villa for a raid across the border into Columbus, New Mexico, the worst incursion in American territory since the War of 1812. And of course, the controversy over Wilson and our entrance into World War I continues even today, and the whole debate and divisiveness over the Versailles Treaty and League of Nations in 1919-1920.

Additionally, being incapacitated by a stroke, but being unwilling to hand over temporary power to Vice President Thomas Marshall, and allowing his wife to run cabinet meetings, is another major issue in assessing Wilson’s Presidency.

So Wilson is a “very mixed bag” as a President, but usually is ranked in the bottom of the top ten of our Presidents, specifically because of his long range influence on America, rare among Presidents, for good or for bad, and there is clearly plenty of both!

Troubled Second Terms Of Presidents Common Theme

Sadly, it is much more likely that a second term in the Presidency will downgrade the historical image of that President, no matter how successful he might have been in the first term.

Below is a list of second term Presidents— including those who succeeded to the Presidency during the term, and then were elected on their own—who faced adversity big time in that last term in the Presidency, indicating the negative developments.

Thomas Jefferson—-The Chesapeake Affair, and the Embargo Act.

James Madison—The War of 1812, and burning of the White House and the US Capitol by the British.

Abraham Lincoln—Assassinated within six weeks of starting second term of office.

Ulysses S. Grant—-Exposure of Credit Mobilier Scandal, and the Panic of 1873.

Grover Cleveland (non consecutive terms)—Panic of 1893, Pullman Strike, Cancer surgery on the President’s jaw in secret.

William McKinley—Assassinated after six months of his second term in office.

Woodrow Wilson—-Controversy over Versailles Treaty and League of Nations, the Red Scare, and the stroke which paralyzed him in his last 18 months in the Presidency.

Franklin D. Roosevelt—-Split in the Democratic Party over the Supreme Court “Packing” plan, attempted “Purge” of Southern Democrats, Recession of 1937-1938, and controversy over isolationism and World War II.

Harry Truman—After finishing the term of FDR, facing the Second Red Scare and the Korean War controversy.

Dwight D. Eisenhower—The Soviet move into space with Sputnik, and the U-2 Spy Plane Incident with the Soviet Union.

Lyndon B. Johnson—The escalation of the Vietnam War, and the invasion of the Dominican Republic, both highly controversial.

Richard Nixon—The Watergate scandal and the move to impeach, and the resignation.

Ronald Reagan—The Iran Contra Scandal

Bill Clinton—The Monica Lewinsky Scandal, and the Impeachment Trial.

George W. Bush—The Hurricane Katrina disaster, and the Great Recession.

Let us hope for better fortunes for Barack Obama in his second and last term!

Reelected Presidents And Foreign Policy

An interesting trend of reelected American Presidents is their tendency to become deeply involved in foreign policy matters. This is true since the dawn of America as a world leader in the time of Theodore Roosevelt.

The question is whether this is a planned strategy, or a simple reaction to events, or both.

After Theodore Roosevelt won his full term, having succeeded William McKinley after his assassination, TR became involved in aggressive policy making, criticizing Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany over Morocco at the Algeciras Conference of 1906, and taking leadership of relations with Japan.

Woodrow Wilson, after keeping us out of war in Europe, called for our entrance into World War I a month after his second inauguration, and then went to the Versailles Peace Conference after the war, and worked, unsuccessfully, to convince the US Senate to ratify the Versailles Treaty and membership in the League of Nations. He also committed troops, along with Great Britain, France, Italy, and Japan, to attempt an overthrow of the Soviet Union regime under Nikolai Lenin.

Calvin Coolidge, elected after succeeding Warren G. Harding in 1923, became involved in the promotion of the Kellogg Briand Pact in 1928, an attempt to outlaw war as an instrument of international policy.

Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the nation closer to dealing with the German Nazi, Italian Fascist, and the Imperial Japanese threat before and during the early part of the Second World War, and then took us into the war after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in his third term, and pushed for an alliance with the British and the Soviet Union during the war, and advocated the formation of the United Nations as the war was ending.

Harry Truman, after succeeding FDR upon his death in 1945, and winning his own election in 1948, helped to form the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, took America into the Korean War, and gave aid to the French in the Indochinese War.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his second term, engaged in diplomacy with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev at Camp David in 1959 and secretly planned to overthrow Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Lyndon B. Johnson, after succeeding the assassinated John F, Kennedy in 1963, in his full term, escalated American involvement in Vietnam to a full scale war that divided the country, and invaded the Dominican Republic in 1965.

Richard Nixon, after being reelected, became engaged in the Yom Kippur War in 1973, saving the possibility of a Soviet intervention in the Middle East, and also arranged the overthrow of the Chilean President, Salvador Allende.

Ronald Reagan, in his second term, engaged in arms agreements with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev; bombed Libya over its claim of a 200 mile territorial limit; and supported overthrow of dictatorial regimes in Haiti and the Phillippines.

Bill Clinton, in his second term, brought about peace in Northern Ireland; became engaged in war against Serbia over Kosovo; and engaged in counter terrorism actions against Osama Bin Laden and other terrorists.

George W. Bush, in his second term, conducted a “surge” in Iraq, and promoted action against the HIV-AIDS epidemic in Africa.

The question is what Barack Obama will end up doing in the field of foreign policy, and whether he will initiate it, or react to events he cannot control.

Evaluating Woodrow Wilson A Century After His Election To The Presidency, And On His 156th Birthday Commemoration!

Woodrow Wilson, our 28th President, was born on this day in 1856, and was elected President in the four way race of 1912, running against Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Eugene Debs, arguably the most exciting Presidential election in American History.

The President with the least government experience, only two years as Governor of New Jersey; the only earned PH. D. to become President; the first President elected who grew up in the South (Virginia) since the Civil War; the President to face the greatest war crisis since Abraham Lincoln; the President who emphasized the importance of international affairs and the need for an international organization to promote peace; the President who was the culmination of the Progressive reform movements of the early 20th century; and the President who promoted successfully his domestic agenda, and then took on Theodore Roosevelt’s even more advanced progressive ideas and made them his own—this President has also been bitterly attacked by many for his shortcomings in many areas, and particularly has been viciously attacked by right wing conservatives, including Glenn Beck and George Will, who have torn his image to shreds.

Well, the question is whether the attacks on Wilson are fair and just, so that requires a careful examination of the positive and negative aspects of his Presidency.

Let’s start with the negative points that can be made about Wilson, and they are plenty!

1. Wilson was a white supremacist, despite his stellar education, and failed to treat people of African, Asian, and Latin American heritage in a dignified way, whether in the nation or with foreign nations overseas. His treatment of China, Japan, Mexico, Haiti and governments of other nations outside of Europe were treated in an insensitive and unacceptable manner, and he issued an executive order mandating segregation of the races in Washington, DC, and failed to recognize the contributions of soldiers of other than the Caucasian race during World War I. He legitimized and set back mistreatment of African Americans for another thirty years, until progress was made by President Harry Truman after World War II.

2. Wilson, inexplicably, opposed the woman suffrage movement, and had suffragettes arrested for disturbing the peace in their marches on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House. Theodore Roosevelt had proposed this constitutional change in his 1912 Progressive Party campaign, but Wilson never moved in that direction on his own. Despite his opposition, the 19th Amendment was added at the end of his term in 1920.

3. Wilson had a horrible record on civil liberties in wartime, promoting passage of the Espionage Act, Sedition Act, and numerous other laws violating freedom of speech and press. He displayed total intolerance toward critics, once America was at war, and is regarded as one of the absolutely worst Presidents on the subject of civil liberties overall for his eight years in office.

4. Wilson was intolerant of opposition in Congress, refusing to work with Republicans when events worked against him, and tended to see things in religious terms, with him having God behind him, and often invoking religion in his speeches and comments. So he was seen as manipulative and deceitful in his actions and words that took us to ultimate war in 1917, and refused to negotiate on the Versailles Treaty after the war.

5. Wilson had a supreme, and self righteous ego, and this made him blind to reality much of the time, as when he had a severe paralytic stroke, but refused, along with his second wife, to keep Vice President Thomas Marshall informed, or to consider resigning in 1919-1921 so that the nation would have a President capable of leading the nation in the difficult post war days, when Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer led the Red Scare or Palmer Raids, another massive violation of civil liberties, which helped to spur the creation of the Civil Liberties Union in 1920. The nation was basically leaderless for a period of 18 months, as Wilson slowly recovered and even thought of running for an unprecedented third term despite his poor health.

Now to the positive side of Woodrow Wilson!

1. Wilson was the most successful President in domestic policy achievements up to his time in office, and only surpassed later by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s and Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1960s. He accomplished all of his original domestic agenda, including legislation that has stood the test of time, despite criticism by conservatives and Republicans over the years, including the Federal Reserve Act, the Federal Trade Commission Act, and the Clayton Anti Trust Act, as well as the first attempt at so called “free trade”, the lowering of tariff walls on foreign goods.

2. Wilson also accomplished the passage of laws originally promoted by Theodore Roosevelt in 1912, including the temporary end of child labor, protection for some workers on hours, workers compensation, and the protection of the merchant marine workers who are employed on ships offshore. Also, the first real attempt at agricultural aid to farmers to encourage expansion of acreage and the buying of new equipment, was also an idea promoted by TR. Basically, Wilson adopted much of the Populist Party and Progressive Party agenda of earlier times, and brought Progressive reform to its peak in the period before the conservative 1920s.

3. Wilson dealt with a war that was the most massive for America in 50 years, and was skilled enough to keep America out of war for two years and eight months after World War I began in Europe, but his role in the eventual entrance of America is still highly disputed even today, seen by some as dishonest and deceptive, but praised by many others as the best one could have expected.

4. Wilson had a vision of a peaceful post war world, and saw an international organization, the League of Nations, as the most important accomplishment of the Treaty of Versailles, and was stunned by the rejection of the US Senate to any international commitment, with America going into isolation. But his vision came to fruition a generation after his passing, with the establishment of the United Nations, but with many conservatives and Republicans bitterly opposed today in the US involvement in that international organization.

5. Wilson comes across, despite his many faults and shortcomings as worthy, in the minds of most experts, to be rated in the top ten of all Presidents–number 6 in the C Span 2000 poll and number 9 in the 2009 C Span Followup poll, and this despite bitter condemnation by so many right wing sources who only emphasize the evil side of Wilson, and give him no credit for his accomplishments. There is no question, however, that he had an important impact on the growth of Presidential power, the exact reason why the right wing hates his guts.

This blogger and author understands the mixed legacy of Woodrow Wilson, but still sees him as an influential President, who still impacts America a century after his first election to the Presidency!

So Happy Birthday, President Wilson, a man we will hear a lot about as we commemorate the major events of his administration over the next eight years from March 4, 1913, to March 4, 1921!

Inflexible, Rigid Presidencies: Major Problems For Woodrow Wilson, Lyndon B. Johnson, And Richard Nixon

One of the most important personality characteristics needed for a successful Presidency, and to avoid a tragic end to a leader’s time in power, is his ability to be flexible and open minded to new ideas other than his own, and not to be outraged by criticism.

This does not mean, however, that a President should not have courage, guts, and decisiveness, but still flexibility and openness to others and their ideas is essential.

Going by this standard, America has had three Presidents in the past hundred years, who, despite some of their great accomplishments, were ultimately tragedies in office.

These three Presidents would include the following:

Woodrow Wilson
Lyndon B. Johnson
Richard Nixon

Woodrow Wilson was never good at negotiating with his critics in Congress, and his moment of great failure was when he lost the battle for ratification of the Versailles Treaty and American membership in the League of Nations in 1919-1920. While things were going well for him in domestic affairs, he was very effective, but lost it all once there was strong opposition. He never fully recovered from a stroke, which incapacitated him in his last 18 months, and only had three short years of retirement in bad health before his death in 1924.

Lyndon B. Johnson had brilliance as a legislative strategist, with his Great Society programs, but again, as with Wilson, he fell apart and became defensive and stubborn when opposition developed over the escalation of the Vietnam War, and he left office beaten, and only had four unhappy years of retirement before his death in 1973.

Richard Nixon, on the other hand, had great foreign policy ability, but despite his great foreign policy and some domestic policy accomplishments, he reacted defensively, and with a sense of being persecuted and mistreated, brought about by his own psychological demons. So he ended up pursuing his “enemies”, who criticized his Vietnam War policies and his use of his executive authority in an illegal and unethical manner, and he became saddled with the Watergate scandal, which brought him down by resignation in 1974, with his mission being to rehabilitate himself during the last 20 years of his life, but never quite accomplishing that goal.

All three men were brilliant and talented, but each had an inflexible and rigid personality that trapped them in tragedy they could not escape!