Biography of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson Part 7 Cons

About the United States President Woodrow Wilson, biography and history of the negatives of his presidency.

PROFILES OF THE PRESIDENTS

28th President

WOODROW WILSON

PRESIDENCY

His 8 Years as President:

CON

Wilson's reforms, though significant, were as much a reflection of the progressive temper of the times as of presidential leadership; on several secondary issues Wilson showed his true colors. He attacked Roosevelt's proposal for a minimum-wage law as "paternalistic" and dismissed the question of woman's suffrage as "not a problem that is dealt with by the national government at all." Under Wilson's administration, a policy of racial segregation was instituted for the first time in federal offices. Wilson's attorney general presided over the celebrated "Big Red Scare" in which socialists and other radicals were ruthlessly persecuted in coast-to-coast raids and 249 "undesirables" were deported to Russia.

CON

Wilson's talk of neutrality was a sham and a fraud; from the beginning, he and his top advisers showed a clear bias for the Allied cause. As American business interests became steadily more involved with Britain and France, Wilson adopted a policy that made war inevitable. While sincere pacifists such as William Jennings Bryan bitterly protested, the U.S., like the European powers, followed a foreign policy designed to protect the interests of major capitalists, even at the risk of war. Wilson's high-handed intervention in Latin American affairs provided yet another illustration of this policy. In 1914 Wilson ordered military action against Mexico which killed 126 Mexicans, led the U.S. to the brink of another Mexican war, and caused lasting resentment south of the border.

CON

Though effective as propaganda, Wilson's lofty speeches about "making the world safe for democracy" were misleading and deceptive. W.W.I was a struggle between self-interested nation-states competing for economic and political advantage, not a crusade for justice or democracy. After all, the most backward and repressive ruler in the world, the czar of Russia, had been a key partner in the coalition described by Wilson as "the forces of decency." At the peace conference after the war, the hollow nature of Wilson's idealism was exposed for everyone to see. One by one, the much-heralded 14 Points were abandoned, and a selfish and vindictive peace was imposed--despite Wilson's earlier assurances to the German people. It was the obvious bankruptcy of Wilson's visionary war aims that led to the universal disillusionment which plagued the world after the war.

CON

From the beginning Wilson's role in the peace conference was marked by an unparalleled series of destructive blunders. His first mistake was his decision to attend the peace conference personally; if he had remained in the U.S. "above the battle," he might have been able to exert a greater influence on the proceedings. Second, even though the Republicans controlled Congress, Wilson stubbornly refused to allow a representative of the opposition to join him in the American delegation to the peace conference; instead, he gave the negotiations a partisan flavor by surrounding himself with Democrats who were also yes-men. Finally, and most importantly, Wilson's refusal to compromise with the Senate on even the smallest detail of his policy ensured defeat of the treaty. Nearly all historians are agreed that if Wilson had permitted some key "reservations" to be attached to the Versailles Treaty, the Senate would have surely given its approval and the U.S. would have entered the League. On the most controversial of these reservations--a restatement of the Constitution insisting that only the elected representatives in Congress, and not the League of Nations, could formally commit the U.S. to war-the senators were certainly right, and Wilson's rejection of compromise seems not only impractical but inexplicable. It was Wilson-not the Republican senators-who demanded final rejection of the League, after the key reservations had been attached. The illogical and uneasy peace that Wilson created in 1919 nurtured the seeds of W.W.II. The enormously destructive influence of his neurotic personality must counterbalance the pity to which the President might otherwise be entitled.

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