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“”...when I came to study Wilson at Versailles, blithely carving up the Austro-Hungarian empire, I could understand why this ignorant would-be Metternich drove Dr. Freud so mad that he felt obliged to publish a libelous 'psychoanalysis' of Wilson, without having met him, of course.
|—Gore Vidal, Palimpsest|
|—David Lloyd George, commenting on attending the Paris Peace Conference with Wilson and Georges Clemenceau.|
Thomas Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) was the 28th President of the United States. Though generally viewed as a Northerner, he was born in Virginia to a slave-holding family that supported the Slavers' Rebellion, which had an unfortunate impact on his views of race. He was in charge of the country during the peak of the Progressive Era. In many ways, though, he was a very conservative president. His administration was responsible for a very interventionist policy toward Latin America, and the ferocious suppression of dissent during and after World War I, including one of the earliest outbreaks of a Red Scare in the United States, and the resegregation of federal employees. He was really good at throwing people in prison for having a conscience.
Upon seeing D.W. Griffith's pro-Ku Klux Klan film Birth of a Nation, Wilson reportedly remarked, "It's like writing history with lightning. My only regret is that it is all so terribly true." However, he later denied ever having said that and it is possible that this quote was part of an elaborate marketing ploy by the makers of the motion picture.
However, Wilson was also a progressive in very important ways. A devout Presbyterian, Wilson governed his personal life according to principles of austerity and temperance, in line with the era's progressive fashions. He was responsible for some modest progressive reforms in economic regulation and taxation, including the creation of the Federal Reserve System, America's first progressive income tax, and the League of Nations. It is these latter policies, combined with the fact that Wilson was an intellectual with knowledge of foreign political systems, which have led to the creation of Alternate Universe Woodrow Wilson (see below).
Wilson ended up being arguably the worst case of a presidential disability, as he was nearly completely incapacitated by a stroke two years before the end of his second term. This, in part, led to the creation of the 25th Amendment which deals with presidential succession. It should also be noted that during his incapacitation, his wife Edith effectively ran the country by deciding who could and could not meet with the president, and it was during this time that the 19th Amendment was passed, which gave women the right to vote.
Alternate Universe Woodrow Wilson
This version of Wilson is either a fictional character or a delusion, depending upon whether Beck is a dishonest opportunist or a lunatic (a matter of some controversy among Beck scholars). Alternate Universe Woodrow Wilson embodies the progressive cancer which eats at the heart of American civilisation. He created "Big Government," stole from the rich to give to the poor, abrogated the United States Constitution and founded a secret cabal which currently rules the world. The primary ideological descendants of Alternate Universe Woodrow Wilson, for whom he bears moral responsibility, are Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Barack Obama.
Note that this view isn't entirely without merit -- Wilson was a racist and trampled civil liberties in the name of national security -- but conservatives use his shortcomings to "prove" that all progressives are evil and wicked. Oddly, when black students at Princeton demanded that the college remove Wilson's name from several buildings on the grounds that he'd been a racist asshat, these same conservatives were oddly silent, or even complained about political correctness.
A short excerpt from The New Freedom, a 1913 book compiled from Wilson's presidential campaign speeches, is sometimes quoted out of context by various conspiracy theorists to suggest that Wilson believed in a large conspiracy. The quote itself is taken from the first chapter of the book, where Wilson rants against corporations and "Big Business" (this is his own term!). Which sounds oddly familiar...
Here is the quote, with the following paragraph to give some context:
“”Since I entered politics, I have chiefly had men's views confided to me privately. Some of the biggest men in the United States, in the field of commerce and manufacture, are afraid of somebody, are afraid of something. They know that there is a power somewhere so organized, so subtle, so watchful, so interlocked, so complete, so pervasive, that they had better not speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it. They know that America is not a place of which it can be said, as it used to be, that a man may choose his own calling and pursue it just as far as his abilities enable him to pursue it; because to-day, if he enters certain fields, there are organizations which will use means against him that will prevent his building up a business which they do not want to have built up; organizations that will see to it that the ground is cut from under him and the markets shut against him. For if he begins to sell to certain retail dealers, to any retail dealers, the monopoly will refuse to sell to those dealers, and those dealers, afraid, will not buy the new man's wares.
|—The New Freedom, Chapter I: The Old Order Changeth|
Conspiracy theorists usually quote only the bold part, ignoring (or being ignorant of) the context, including the whole platform Wilson campaigned on and the political and economical climate of the era. The quote can be found in lists of similar quotes, such as on whale.to and elsewhere, or in isolation.
- The New Freedom, full text legally available at Project Gutenberg, as the copyright has expired
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*Ran for VP on the "National Union" ticket together with Lincoln but was otherwise a lifelong Democrat