For John, BLUF: One purpose of an education is to help us see our heroes in their true light. Nothing to see here; just move along.
For a Sunday news trifecta, we have Ms Maureen Dowd (MoDo) writing in The New York Times about President Woodrow Wilson. Be advised, it is a puff piece, pushing Wilson, a biography by Mr A Scott Berg.♠ The title of MoDo's piece is "Woodrow Wilson, Stud Muffin", but she gets to the important part, at the end.
When I was young I had heroes like President Teddy Roosevelt, Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes and President Woodrow Wilson. Who could not admire President Wilson. He was a straight arrow, he kept us out of war and when war was inevitable he gave us his Fourteen Points. Then he pushed the League of Nations, which the other nations accepted but the US Senate did not.♥ Turns out all three had feet of clay.
Jumping to the bottom of Ms Dowd's opinion piece and perhaps President Wilson's greatest moral failure, Ms Down quotes biographer Berg:
“He made statements, no matter what age they were uttered in, they are racist in nature,” the author said. “More important, he famously brought Jim Crow back to Washington. They were just starting to integrate the Postal Service, the Treasury Department, and it was Wilson’s cabinet members, specifically McAdoo, his Treasury secretary, and Burleson, his postmaster general, who insisted that you can’t have integration in federal offices. The truth is, Wilson’s cabinet was largely made up of Southern racists.”Another fifty years to finally begin to put an end to the racism that followed the US Civil War.
And he did not want to cross the block of Southern senators and congressmen he needed to get his progressive “New Freedom” agenda passed. When he was president of Princeton, Wilson worked to curb elitism, trying to get rid of eating clubs, but he did not work to curb racism. When a poor student at a Virginia Baptist college wrote beseeching to come, Wilson answered “that it is altogether inadvisable for a colored man to enter Princeton.”
He made jokes in black dialect and felt that interracial marriage would “degrade the white nations.”
“For me,” Berg said, “the worst thing Woodrow Wilson did as president was what he didn’t do. That was in 1919 when the soldiers came home from the war. Many of them were African-Americans. They came home thinking: ‘This is our moment. We’ve lost brothers, we have shed blood, this is the time we have shown we are full-blooded Americans.’ But he said nothing on the subject. He had global things on his mind.”
Wilson was so consumed with his “New Freedom” agenda, he failed to push for new freedom.
Regards — Cliff
♠ Warning, 833 pages.
♥ Before the United Nations there was the League of Nations, and even less effective. Ask Haile Selassie.