tv Patricia O Toole The Moralist CSPAN June 23, 2018 8:01am-9:16am EDT
national security advisor for president obama details his time in the white house and that is all this weekend, c-span twos book tv television for serious readers. for a complete schedule, visit book tv.org. first up, historian patricia o'toole chronicles the political career of president woodrow wilson. [inaudible conversations] [applause]. >> good evening, ladies and gentlemen. thank you. the historian john lucas who has spoke at the library couple times in his youth in his 80s. he's now in his 90s sent in an essay written in 1974 near the almost 50 year join anniversaries of the deaths of
lenin and wilson work i think they died within a month of each other in 1924. it looked like in the 1970s still than it might be the age of lenin, 20th century and beyond might be known as the age of lenin and he predict that it would be known as the age of woodrow wilson. that turns out to be a beer-- a bit more pressing into, but maybe not. wilson was a believer in power, persuasion as a tool of noble democratic leaders. he said at one point in his when he early essays quoted by patricia o'toole if arguments are weapons and people are the judges then things will work out when he ran for president in 1912 he ran for president on a jeffersonian democratic conservative democratic platform
government in which the people participate. he spoke in kansas city, interestingly left. is referred to that two of the three times i know he spoke in kansas city-- kansas city is in patricia o'toole's book. the first time he said control of our politics and therefore our life, power-- are ruled by the great bodies accumulated and inherited wealth. he was about cutting rid of them kind of populist agenda familiar to us today, perhaps. in 1914 he campaigned here to get his legislative agenda passed including his agenda military preparation for the war that was then going on in europe which of the us had not yet entered. he refused to meet with the democratic committee people in his tour of the western united states during the campaign.
interesting to me because my great-grandfather was then the democratic national committee from missouri. it also speaks to what patricia o'toole says about woodrow wilson very eloquently in this book about how he retreated into himself. he was not a good partner. he was not a good collaborator. he didn't listen perhaps as much as he should end in 1919 in a speech during a tour which patricia o'toole goes into though she doesn't mention this speech. as he toured to gain support for league of nations he was very disappointed in that as i'm sure you already know. he spoke in kansas city in 1919 and he spoke about democracy in kansas city and about american democracy and the preservation and extension of american democracy to the world. the irony is that in 1919 he was speaking about democracy in a town run by tom pendergrast.
patricia o'toole portrays a man who constantly retreated into himself at crucial moments and he is not unlike her brilliant portrayal of henry adams, but also she treats him with great empathy and as a man of deep faith in both democratic and christian values, servant leadership who believed in the servant leadership with all that it has come to mean which in my experience is usually a barrier partial humility, which it was with woodrow wilson. of the book also pictures the opposition possibly excluding the bullnose tr who was bullishly and sometimes abortion unforgiving of the man who deprived him of his third term, but henry cabot lodge it's fair treatment.
after the war also they are treated well and it's hard not to admire a guy who after wilson released the 14 points said and god only had 10. [laughter] the real problem was not the points or indeed the impossible idealism, but the attempt to sell the compromises with vengeance and power politics of the paris peace conference as a legitimate idealism and the opponent's irrational interested darkness and to do that while taking the largest step backwards of any american president in two most important ways, race relation and civil liberty and yet john lucas may still be right. harry truman, our president who may have been in one or two or even all three of the audiences in the three kenzie city
speeches i mentioned, harry who was himself declared wilsonian carried in his wallet for most of his life a copy of the passage envisioning the parliament of man and of coarse he helped inaugurate the united nations, the marshall plan, nato etc., collected security in abandonment of the rule of the 14 points, maybe envisioned in the 14 points or not. patricia o'toole has written a biography of teddy roosevelt and the-- "the five hearts" the book about the friendship of clearance hate and henry adams. most of the 19th century presidents came in for comic relief work it was a finalist for the pulitzer prize and she won that a standing-- excuse me
she won the presidential medal for outstanding teaching in her work with juvenile to link with that university. ladies and gentlemen, patricia o'toole. [applause]. >> thank you. very grateful. hello, kansas city. thank you. i am never happier than when i am talking at a library. i discovered the library in my little town in michigan by myself when i was about six and i could read pretty well by then and i was walking around main street and i saw this thing i thought was a store that sold books in the house i grew up in did not have a lot of books, so this was exciting to me. i went in and the librarian-- i looked around. i had never seen so many books and i looked around and wandered like how you could buy them. are you could look and figure out which one you wanted to buy
and this woman sitting at a desk explained to me that you didn't have to buy them that you could borrow them and i said how do you do that thinking it was something that just grown-ups could do and she said you could have a library card and take them out for two weeks. i couldn't believe that this. absolutely magical and i can still remember those days like 1953 or something like that and i remember standing there watching her fill out my library card, number 1221, and waiting for that ink to dry because i was afraid she was going to change her mind in the middle of this transaction, so it's always a homecoming for me to come to the library. i would like to start and probably finish by sharing a few thoughts about my approach to biography and telling you how i
came to focus this biography on wilson's morality. it wasn't the idea i had when i started out. i think a biography as portraits and a good biography to me like a good portrait is more than a little rendering of the facts. when i admire a portrait i think this is a common reaction, it's because i have a sense that the artist was able to get behind the faith and bring back something of the essence of the character of the person, giving us a sense we know this person, so the face is just a starting point and with biography, for me anyway, the facts are just the story and-- starting point. of the excitement when i'm reading a biography comes from not the facts themselves usually although they can be extraordinary and dramatic, but
from what the biographer makes of the facts and it's kind of like life, i guess when this is what happens to you and then here's what you make what happens to you, so when i'm looking at a person like woodrow wilson or theodore roosevelt that's what i'm thinking about is where are the connections that are not obvious, the things that seem like pieces of information, can you see something underneath them that brings them together or patterns in a subject behavior or unwitting revelations your subject makes, so for me great biographies are always great character studies, not just compilations of events. my initial interest in pro train wilson came from a long-standing
fascination with world war i and i thought i would like to continue. i had just on this book about theodore roosevelt after he was president and world war i was a big part of it so i thought i would stay in the world war i space. i thought i could do wilson as commander-in-chief because i noticed there wasn't much on that subject and then i quickly discovered that the subject is a good paragraph, but it's not a great book. the reason for that is that he delegated most everything. he delegated to his generals and admirals, delegated to this team of men he had running things on the home front, so the war is kind of there the background, but that action is 4000 miles away and i'm trying to keep the focus on wilson, so not as much war as i thought there would be
a night early on-- i had never done this before, but i think i will always do it now in other books. i started with a folder called what kind of man was woodrow wilson before he became president and when you think about it someone becomes president at a point usually when their life is half over, at least. sometimes much closer to the end of life and whoever they are when they turn up in the white house on the first day that is who they are going to be when they are present, so i read a lot of-- certainly read what wilson had to say about himself, but i also read memoirs by people who actually knew him with the stories about him, biography written by people who knew him and just try to get as
close to him as i could to kind of figure out what kind of guy he was before he came to the white house so i made a list of things that stood out to me. he was principled, dignified, restrained. he was a man of strong emotion actually, but he believed fervently in writing about them and he didn't understand why other people couldn't do that, why people would like senators and congressmen why they would vote self-interest over a great national interest. he was not impulsive. intelligent in a scholar g wayne. had a phd. serious, well-informed and well versed in the working of governments. that had been his subject matter as a early political scientist. he taught political science and history as a professor.
he was also the greatest public speaker of his time. he wasn't adoring husband and father, really wonderful to read his letters to his first wife, ellen. his children's memories of him, he was the sole support-- he had a lot on his shoulders. he was the sold support not just of his wife and three daughters, but a read-- parade of relatives who are always turning up needing help. woodrow was the only wilson who made good, so everyone else counted on him for financial support for years at a time in some places and he never complained about this or talked about it. we only know about it because his wife ellen would mention it in a letter to someone else. he was not a warm, outgoing, extroverted guy. he was very courteous, though an
unusually thoughtful. one of my favorite stories is the time in the summer of 1914. his wife ellen had just died. world war i had just begun and the family had rented a summer house in new hampshire so he went up there and his friend and confidant came to visit him and wilson put him in woodrow and ellen had chaired this suite that had a bathroom in the middle and so wilson put colonel house in the other bedroom and when house caught up in the morning he realized that wilson had gotten up even earlier, much earlier than he was accustomed to so he could be out of his guest way and i found that rather extraordinary coming here is a man who is burdened by what is happening in the world.
world war which spread very quickly and also grieving his wife of 31 years. he's not a good solution or, woodrow wilson. he doesn't really like making conversations. he would rather not so has this kind of repertoire of things he does. he was shy so he knew many limericks and he would recite limericks. he would also read after dinner. its relaxed him to read to his family so i mean there you are your father is the president and you're having dinner with the family hoping to talk to your dad about what he is doing, but he is in the mood to read to you he's not in the mood to talk, so he's unusual personality. when he became governor of new jersey in 1910 he liked being
courted by democratic leaders, but he could never bring himself to port than and he didn't court friendships either. he was afraid of being rejected or liking someone more that he would be liked back so he never took the initiative in informing a friendship. he would collaborate as was mentioned when he had to, but when facing a challenge usually like to figure it out by himself often when he did that he prepared a memo in the subject and took it to the cabinet and they were expecting to sign off on it. is kind of a rare moment in a cabinet meeting when they are actually discussing what he should do. he's usually already decided by the time he takes it up with them and many people who notice that once he made up his mind he just would not change it.
he preferred to fight because he had fought-- thought long and hard about what was right thing to do and he disliked negotiation intensely even as a young man. this comes up in his very first book which he wrote he was in graduate school. he thought you should figure out the right thing to do and negotiation was bad because you have to compromise with something else and then the ultimate solution to whatever it was would be less good than if you could stick to your guns and managed to get this thing you thought was better. it-- i don't know whether he didn't notice or whether he-- it was an idea that someone explained to him and he rejected it, but usually when people are negotiating in, arising if you are going to have to give
something up you asked for something in return, but that's not something that he liked to do or, i mean, he rarely did it unless someone else suggested it as a strategy, so also i'm still wandering around and what someone i know, big wilderness in the early stages of this book, not knowing where i'm going. i decided to take a look at some of the presidential greatness and see if that suggested anything. here, this turned out to be a gold mine. i went first to the in-depth of the books looking for the entries and one of these books by a historian whose work i liked it a lot, thomas a bailey, in the index woodrow wilson takes up more space than fdr, then lincoln, then washington
and i thought that's interesting, how can that be and it turns out that our major presidents, wilson was the most controversial, so i wanted to see what that was about. why was he so controversial. the short version is that his tribes were enormous and his defeats were enormous and in achieving his triumphs he had a lot of opposition and in his defeat he had a lot of people-- people were upset when he was defeated, but people were also glad. i think his isolation, love of solitude kind of made people have strong reaction to him in that way. didn't have a lot of political allies in the way that someone like theodore roosevelt-- roosevelt could befriend just about anyone. if you are in his office at 11:30 a.m. and let's say you are
a democratic senator and you went to see him about something and you had your conversation and theodore roosevelt was likely to say senator, would you like to come up and have lunch with mr.-- mrs. roosevelt and the children and me. so, you go up and have your much -- lunch with president and his family and then you go back to the hill and have a warm feeling about peter roosevelt and wilson could not bring himself to do things like that. so, this intense kind of praise and condemnation that he got really wanted to know like what was at the bottom of that, so i kept greeting and the things that pop to the surface for me was another portrait painter. it would be another quality, i'm sure, but it was the deep sense
of moral responsibility as a political leader, so that's how i came to write about him and the focus on his preoccupation with morality. some people have-- critics have thought it arrogance because-- well, you will see what happens to him as we go along here. so, it's not that i was the first biographer to notice his morality. many people have noticed it, but they attributed it to the fact that his father was a minister. 's father was a presbyterian minister. there were ministers all over the family tree hanging from every branch, so the thought was he had grown up with this strict religious upbringing. his father was actually kind of a liberal presbyterian when
woodrow was three in 1859. the origin of species comes along and there was lots of clergyman who were very upset about those ideas and there was a wing of progressive presbyterians who just thought scientific truth as part of a higher truth so they didn't have any problem with the darwin's ideas and world since father was like that. his father was a southerner, a chaplain for the confederate army for a summer and when the southern wing of the presbyterian church succeeded-- seceded when the civil war began his father was fine with that. wasn't liberal about anything, but in terms of intellectual ideas, he was. so this reminded me of the presbyterians i had known when i was growing up.
when i was at the library i had to be in catholic school which was its own kind of experience, but my family was kind of spiritually disorganized. my father's family was not catholic. they were presbyterian. my mother was catholic, but our catholic church and a school i went to was a polish conflict church, recent immigrants and my mother wanted to do church work, but the polish ladies in charge of the church work only wanted polish ladies, so my mother did her church work at the presbyterian church, so i was a presbyterian brownie and i went to presbyterian day camp in the summer and also like way the heck up there in northern michigan, i mean, this town is the same latitude as montréal, so way up there. way behind the times in every way, so when i was four which
was in 1950 my mother introduced me to a very old lady in a rocking chair and said, this is grandma bullock. when she was four she saw abraham the lincoln's funeral train, so i did know who abraham lincoln was then, but soon i did. all my life i have felt that connection to this woman who would have been born in 1861. woodrow was born just five years before that and his earliest memory in that story is one of my earliest memories and his earliest memory is running-- being outside in the front yard of the parsonage and herein strangers walk by at the end of 1860 and this man is saying to another man, lincoln has been elected. there will be war.
woodrow understood this was something serious, so he went-- he ran into the house to ask his father what war was a what this was all about, so i feel this personal connection, actually to woodrow wilson and his times and he took his civic very very seriously. i do to. i am like kind of i guess a new deal democrat. the last one. i wasn't born until after fdr died, but that's kind of where i live and i actually fly the flag at my house. it's a big deal to me, everything to do with civics and one of my favorite stories about wilson is he is in the white house alone in the summer 1918 doing work in the evening and outside he has windows open and outside he could hear the marine
band playing in the end of their concert with the star-spangled banner and there he is alone in the private quarters of the white house and he stands up, so i don't know i've ever done that , but i appreciate that of him, so i came to see his moral ideals-- yes, he was a devout christian. he never claimed to know the word of god. he certainly didn't try to impose his presbyterianism on the country at all. he used phrases like a god bless and god willing, but it really wasn't religious proselytizing that he was doing and i came to see his moral ideas more as a civic ideas, but those were the ones that were so important to him. on par certainly with his christianity, but that's what he
governed from, i believe from his moral ideals, not from his christian ideals and i think it was a result of his education, formal education in history, government and law. he wrote often about democracy. very frequent. he thought that because democracy rests on the consent of the governed that it is the most moral form of government and he thought as many people have before and since that since the united states was the world's most successful democracy that it was a morally superior nation. he also believed in what he called moral force. this is a phrase he uses over and over and over again and what he means is the force that you have if you are deeply moral
leader or deeply moral nation and he actually thoughts that the greatness of the united states late in this moral force, not in its wealth, it's great wealth and this was really quite different from many of his contemporaries who were all excited that the united states was now the richest nation in the world. that happened after 1900, so when he comes to office people are still very excited about being in the united states. but, he thought that the moral force of democracy is what would make the united states a great power, not its wealth, so moral sense works very well in his first term. he's the first president who goes to address congress in person. jefferson, so more than a hundred years have gone by.
his usual way of doing-- you go ask congress for something and he would say the right thing to do and not only that it's going to prove to be the prosperous and politically smart thing to do, so it's a combination of moral argument that's always there in the practical aspect as well and it's interesting. usually put the moral argument first and then practical benefits. i think later presidents would argue unless it's a moment where you really need to rise up to some great occasion. putting the practical side of things-- we are going to do this because it will be good for everyone in the country rather than we are going to do this because it's the morally right thing to do, so he fashions this
package of economic reform very quickly, the federal reserve board, modern income tax antitrust law and the federal trade commission, all of these things are still with us. they were really importance and it was the end of the day and moderate-- but the government, the federal government in charge of kind of regulating the economy in a way to live a degree that had not been the case before and no previous president and only to later presidents, fdr and lbj have a legislative record as impressive as wilson's. some historians say he was lucky because of all the things he did had been talked about for a long time and also he had control of congress.
i think his moral arguments also contributed to these victories, but made it difficult for congress to oppose him with outstanding moral or less moral than he was and i was intrigued by the moral victories for another reason. they were purchased in a kind of in moral bargain. the southerners in the house and senate realized that this expansion of federal authority might ultimately interfere with rights in these state laws enforcing segregation and basically white supremacy and they didn't want the federal government mandating an end to that kind of thing, so they asked the wilson administration-- not wilson himself, but his two handlers in congress, they said we were both
of these things, but in exchange we want the civil service segregated, so this is a huge blow to the blacks who had supported him in the election of 1912 and it infuriated black leaders and also infuriated white northern liberals who had supported wilson because they thought he was genuinely progressive about everything. so, people came to see him and he would see them. i was fascinated to see that these discussions when he would get in fights about segregation of the civil service it made him sick. it made him physically ill and i think it was just based on like following this pattern through other things. this is a man who loved to be on the moral high road and i think he knew that he wasn't there on
this issue and it tore him up. after the first conversation he had to go to bed for several days and after another one as soon as visitors were out of the office he grabbed his sidekick, his physician and said we are leaving town for the weekend. i just have to get out of here, so it's kind of-- i don't know of any other presidential stories like that of someone, i mean, all presidents have to make decisions that they wish they didn't have to make, but he is the one who really be-- these are actual body blows to him, so his concern with morality is also figured prominently in his foreign relations, united states
was neutral for the first two and half years of world war i and wilson did not see neutrality as kind of just standing by. he thought it was a moral stance in the face of an immoral world -- war, so that was his take on the y the country should neutral in thought-- in deed and in thought he said he didn't even want people think about who should win the war, but in 1917 a lot of german aggression against the united states, submarine attacks and other things, so he had to do 180-degree turn towards a war, but again he comes up with the moral justification for its and this line the world must be made safe for democracy work he wasn't going-- he thought germany had to be defeated
because it had been so aggressive and that the german empire had to end, but he looked beyond that to what the world would be after the war and he wanted it to be safe for democracy. he didn't mean by that that the whole world should become a democracy. heat demand both nations that wanted to be democracy should be able to be democracy and should not be if they were small states they should not be preyed upon by the great powerful states as germany had preyed on with its invasion of belgium and shut-- so on. that was just the starting point, but here we have this the world must be made safe for democracy so we have to go to war was the second part of that. well, there were a lot of
americans who did not want to go to war. they were either immigrants or children of immigrants, a third of the country was at that time and they had relatives fighting on one side or the other. there were a lot of socialist, there were a couple million socialists in the oppose war on principle and then there were people like the mennonites in the quakers who opposed war on principle, so not everyone was all swept up in this. so, there are protests in the largest clampdown on defense that we have ever seen. 1500 people were convicted and went to jail. it was a dark time for free speech, so the war happens and
you have to read other books. real sin with his solitude, he sometimes drops out of sight, so this is distracting for someone who is trying to paint a portrait. so, he didn't study alone, reading and writing thinking. he's with his vibrant second life who's 15 years younger than he is. he married her at the end of 1915 about a year-- a little more than a year after his first wife died and there is in the library of congress something for this period called the white house usher's diary and it's a list of people who come to the white house, not so much for the
office, but you see who is coming and going from the private quarters and 99% of the time and that's probably on the low side wilson is having breakfast, lunch and did-- dinner either by himself or with his family. he's not inviting senator so-and-so to come and join him, but when he has to make this agonizing decision to go to war he actually is consulting people and inviting people to come to his study and see him and all of them understood this is important so there are many accounts of their visits with the wilson as he goes towards making the decision. it's exactly the decision he did not want to make, but he thinks he has no choice but to go to
war, so that happens in the spring of 1917 and fall of 1918. we are at the end of the war, 2 million americans on the ground in france and the other army that we were fighting alongside, the french and british in particular, those armies have been so decimated by the fighting. even though we came really late it was just because there were 2 million soldiers, so you would think that when this day comes he could in the american are so much smaller than what the french and british had endured. you would think it would be like just giving thanks that it's over and you would be jubilant in some way and in a strange way
he would be jubilant, but a couple days before that they had midterm elections, we are coming up on the same thing and the republicans gained control of the house and gain control of the senate's. wilson had just before the election sent out a notice to the country asking people to vote democratic because he was going to have to negotiate the peace and he wanted a democratic house and senate on his side. well, the republicans were furious and understandably so because they had supported all of his war measures and now he seemed to be saying look it's going to go better if i'm democrats helping me then if i have republicans helping me, so nothing went right for him after this election and it's painful, really to watch and as the
opposition he met turns this moral sense that has animated his greatest deeds into a sense of moral superiority and i think that's the danger of being a moralist and some people think being a moralist's across-the-board bad thing, but the dictionary doesn't say that. it says it's someone concerned about morals, so he goes from being morally principle to being kind of like-- there is a moral vanity there, a moral superiority that just turns him. at the time he should be cultivating the other side because he's now a minority president. he has this idea that. the president was the only
public official elected by all the people and he said i will be president for another 21 months, kind of on the boss. those people will have to deal with me. i'm not going to deal with them, so he goes to the paris peace conference and irritates the republicans even more by not asking for their counsel on the peace from the american point of view. not inviting any permanent republicans to join the peace delegation that he took with him to paris. so, it's not unreasonable for them to be-- he goes often negotiates and the big triumph that he came away with was the league of nations, but covenants of the league of nations and they made that part of the treaty of their side and the british supported the efforts
and the french were kind of brought along to do it. had to bite the very hard right in france, the militarist who did not think the nations could work, but it was brought into being on paper. there was an effective charter for it, so wilson comes home with a treaty that had to be ratified by two thirds majority in the senate and he is sure he is going to get it because the senate had never before failed to ratify a peace treaty and things did not work out that way and his big antagonist at this point is senator lodge of massachusetts, conservative republican who does not think that the league can work and it's not that-- when i went to
high school lodge was per trade as the evil isolationist that didn't want the us to take part in world affairs and it is quite unjust to him. he one of the take part to be a good world citizen, but he didn't want the league of nations or anyone else outside the united states calling the shots. he thought that would not work. so, lodge as was known as a nationalist, but it's not like the sort of nationalists that we are talking about now where there's an emphasis on white nationalism. its nationalist in the sense of putting national interests first and along comes wilson with this notion of internationalism were you have this organization that wants her plant any government, but it's a way to the world to come together and make big decisions particularly to respond collectively when some
big monster power invades some poor little country to be back the aggressor and wilson-- elijah just thinks internationalism is a very sorry substitute for nationalism, but wilson and this is a quote, the greatest nationalist is the man who wants his nation to be the greatest nation and the greatest nation is the motion which penetrates among the nations of the world. that is very grand ambition, so according to wilson you couldn't be a good nationalist blush you are internationalist. you had to have the fate of the world on your mind when you were making national decisions, so wilson now finds himself in the fight of his life and he goes off on this speaking tour of the country. speaking tours had always worked for him in the past and he
thinks i'm going to get the people excited about the league didn't-- of nations and the senate will have to pass this and ratify this treaty. americans didn't really feel that way. they were much more inclined to buy the argument of the lodge side which was for 100 plus years have been on our phones-- own. why should we risk this for something that has not been tried? so, wilson comes home. he collapsed on his tour and came home about a week later. he had a major stroke and then he couldn't lead to this fight for the ratification of the treaty, so long story short the treaty was defeated and the united states never joined the league of nations and wilson leaves office a defeated man and just a little ps on this, when
world war ii came along wilson stock fell even lower because people sent see the league of nations couldn't prevent another world war, but fdr was a young assistant secretary of the navy throughout wilson's presidency and he is watching everything wilson does for the future. so, fdr was a committed internationalist and he treated wilson plan for this new world order with the league of nations as kind of a like the first draft of something that was worthy of revision, so some historians think fdr, he throughout everything wilson did and started from scratch, but i see it more as like he thought there were things worth preserving and the advisors he
had around him understood more about why the league had failed in one of the biggest differences or two big differences, from the get-go fdr had bipartisan support for what he was doing and cold applied-- cultivated by partisans of port where wilson just hugged the league of nations to his chest. so, fdr understood that was a big political mistake and then fdr also fought that the leak had been asked to do too much that no organization could succeed with all the things the league was expected to do, so in addition to creating the united nations what became the united nations they created other organizations as well, some like
the world bank and some regional like nato thinking that if you divided some of these tasks may be you would have a greater chance of success, so you can decide yourself if you think that was wilson 2.0 or fdr 1.0, but it came to be and that's kind of the-- fdr died before the un charter was signed and so it was up to harry truman to take up this cause and make it work and create the post war order we have been living for the last 70 years, so here we are. wilson was thinking about there had been these forces in the world that made the world blowup , these great power alliances and endless arms races
and kind of hyper nationalism that turned into just armed warfare and armed-- so thought of the league of nations as a response to that and we are kind of back at that place with international institutions falling apart somewhat. we have britain pulling out of the eu and there's a rise of dictatorship in the world. we are seeing the xenophobic political candidates getting large shares of the votes in various european countries, so we are kind of back to this? and the world be made safe for democracy again.
i think for all his faults and fraud he had gotten wrong wilson deserves our admiration for throwing his moral force and military and economic might of the united states against the people that set the world the berets-- ablaze and trying to imagine how can you have permanent peace. no, he did not get it right and did not get all of it right, but we still need to figure out a way to have a peaceful world. he was the one who-- he's the first one to recognize that going it alone is not possible in the world. you know, you can withdraw from the climate accord, but like climate change is going to go on anyway.
someone said there is no planet b. are now so interconnected in terms of communication money flying around the globe, so there is that and all of this tribal stuff happening down below, still-- we still need to think about whether the world can be made safe for democracy. so the league of nations was for all of its flaws brought into being an organization that was committed to peace and democracy and free trade, collective response to international aggression and it was a truly revolutionary idea and it is the touchstone. it still the touchstone for what will the united states play in the world. we can come down on different ideas about that, but we are
still kind of like thinking about wilson's idea and it was bad because at this and good because of that. he is still the guy we go back to, so hearing my criticisms of him he might think if i did paint him, actually, my portrait would be dark and kind of unpleasant, but you are partly right. there would not be any twinkle in his eyes. he wouldn't look like a guy you would like to have a beer with, but i think he would have some attractive qualities as well, so i would probably put him towards the edge of the canvas as he's trying to move into some other world work i think there has to be a certain tension in his posture. he's trying to keep his feelings under control and the mouth
would not be smiling or on smiling. i think it would show determination and the eyes would gaze across as some big distance, but not in a kind of arrogant way. i would want some suggestion that this man is a dreamer so someone would think that whether they do anything about woodrow wilson or not and his dream of a world committed to peace is as big of a dream as any world leader ever had, so i think you for listening to all of these thoughts. been very attentive and as i painted my portraits i hope you have some questions. that would be very rewarding. [applause]. think you-- think you.
i understand that if you want to ask a question you need to come up to the microphone. >> i had always been made to believe that wilson personally is quite racist, but you seem to think maybe not so much that he did it as a compromise for the southerners. how-- what was his personal attitudes? >> he generally believe that segregation was the key to the harmony between the races and don't believe that anymore and a lot of people in his time-- some people want to forgive him because it was a hundred years ago, but i don't think you really can because he counted himself an enlightened progressive and one of the most important aspects of his racism, the racism here in this country, but foreign policy also had a racist elements towards the japanese on a couple of occasions and also any brown
skinned person south of the border, so it's a fairly broad and we are back to a mean this is like such a problem. what you do with a guy who has-- did this magnificent thing? you know, the league of nations failed, but it gave us an idea we still have and cherish in this other stuff like people have strong feelings about it. no one applauds his racism anymore and it is a dark mark on his record as is his repression of free speech. batch was epic, record numbers of people, so you can't get out of it. yes?
>> you sort of answer my question, but as an educator and someone who teaches history i'm trying to figure out how to reconcile the morality of wilson with jim crow and imperialism. how do you handle it in the book >> pay pay a lot of attention to it, actually throughout the book. sometimes wilson biographies have a chapter and usually the chapters about african-american -- wilson and african-americans, but i think it's important to see a broader than that and in terms of reconciling it, i don't think you can. you just have to say there was this and then there was this. these things coexisted in the same man. so, i mean, maybe-- there are great president polls every time
cnn does a poll may have their measurements of what ingredients of greatness and wilson stock in those polls, he slipped this year-- or last year from number six to number 10 and he's usually been in the top four or five and i'm convinced it's because of the recent discussions about race and that is a discussion we need to have, but not referring to race, just how we can polarize our discussions about everything to see things in black and white, we need so much gray to discuss not just wilson, but everyone because we are just very good at putting people into categories and all good or all bad. ..
but i think that it would, if we had a poll where we are measuring consequential presidents instead of great presidents, wilson would always be in the top four mainly because of when he was president which he was president when the world really changed and he had a big impact. you don't have to think of him as a great president. >> two very quick questions. in terms of modern politicians, anybody you consider to be similar to president wilson and question 2 in terms of presidential honesty where would you put him, if next was a one and george washington was
a 10? >> wilson i think in terms of honesty and integrity was up there by washington. when you are setting yourself up as a moral leader it is easy to be accused of hypocrisy. if you fall short, this is why you don't go around bragging about your morals, first time you do something wrong they will hold it against you much more than if you are a bad guy all the time. comparing him to more modern politicians, jimmy carter and away, and a little bit obama in the sense that they are both amazing speakers and obama was much more outgoing than wilson was as president but sometimes you get the feeling he would
really rather be home with his family and, like obama is a very different personality from joe biden who is much more outgoing, the kind of centeredness of obama, very strange to talk about obama in light of what we were talking about but in terms of personality it is much more interior than extroverted. >> are you dishonest about his health? >> it is hard, a very good question, we could stay for another hour and talk about it. everything you can read about suggested he should have resigned. he didn't like his vice
president. also, some dr. convinced mrs. wilson that it would be terrible for him to resign, he would wither and die if he didn't have a father returning to the presidency in a big way ahead of him. and a lot of specialists were brought in, was very conflicted about it. he was a navy adm. by that time. as an officer of the navy he has constitutional responsibilities but is the pres.'s physician so they are a little in conflict and there is excellent work on the subject. carl biggest and would row by philip lee melvin. one of the best wilson biographies, that was indeed
it. >> thank you for coming to kansas city. >> so nice to be here. wilson had his hands full with international affairs but if i remember my history also, issues of women voting. he wasn't particularly helpful to back cars at all, and would be considered a misogynist. with the moral focus you have is that fair to him or was he a product of his time? >> your memory is absolutely he was a product of his time. some admirers say he came around to finally supporting it but it is more like he came around to dropping his opposition to it. he saw the tide going in a certain directly and wanted to
be on the right side of history. in 1918 the issue was a rights issue, he thought it was fine if individual states wanted to give women the right to vote that was fine by him, and they were saying we have been at it for decades, have 12 states and it will be centuries, finally momentum for a constitutional amendment that make it happen all at once and he was late in supporting that for sure. >> it seems germany surrendered to wilson's 14 points and there was one left, self-determination went out the window, freedom of the seas all
went out the window and germany had a lot of preparation, a lot of money and their economy suffered quite a bit. would you agree to the possibility of all 14 points were included in the peace treaty that france and england rejected it and world war ii could have been prevented, hitler may never have come to power because the economy in germany would not have suffered so much? >> that is an eternal question lots of people debate and it is a good question. one of the most interesting things i ever read about it and that was the theory of john maynard keynes's book, economic
consequences of the peace, the peace was too harsh, demanded too much of germany, and that came to pass so it looks like he was right. there was a young french, a doctoral dissertation turning keynes's idea upside down saying we didn't punish them enough because they had money to raise another army, and the last week of world war ii and his father finished tidying up the manuscript and it was a big hero, how cheeky, how ridiculous getting this news from a dead frenchman. and the campaign for them, what
i wish now, he went back and lifted keynes's predictions. there was this grand idea, hadn't played out, so he was kind of a cold figure. not many people know this, but if i were going to do a doctoral dissertation i would like to take on the comparison and come to some conclusion as they came down on one side or the other. his book is called the carthaginian peace or the economic consequences of mr.
keynes. >> the book is available for sale in the lobby and patricia will sign copies one more time. >> we appear to be about the same age i am pleased by the information that you have a couple more books in you but i would like to ask about history in the present moment. i was in the education conclave with 400 local people in the future of education and what high school graduates would have in their portfolio and there was a poll in the midst of that and a bunch of subject matters as to whether they were important or not and to cut to the bottom line history didn't fare very well which strikes me as a very sad thing. would you care to comment on what you see in your profession and maybe how what we may have thought about history when
poking around in those libraries has evolved over the course of your working life. >> i am an optimist actually. biography and history are alive and well as books and on tv. people get their information in different ways. i have liked history from the time i was a little kid but not every little kid shares that. i think history is an acquired taste for people. something happens. 9/11 happens and we were caught unawares. how do we get before that that led to this moment. it is distressing to see, there
shouldn't be any rules about who writes it or a book about woodrow wilson to take issue with me, please do but i will be interested to read it. it is therefore whoever wants to explore it. i worry about more about the differences happening between kids who are extremely well educated at really fine schools which is a minority, kids who are in school and kids who are not being made to work hard, not being maybe -- i don't like to pick on teachers. my mother was a teacher and i know how hard she worked.
somehow the knowledge is not sticking for the students so when i went to the university of michigan in the fall of 1964 there were a lot of students from new york public schools who were there, the smartest kids, that would not be the case anymore and that is the hollowing out of public education, a very sad thing. i am an optimist but said if that makes sense, thank you. thank you very much. [applause] >> this weekend on afterwards
maryland congressman john the laney, the first democrat to declare run for the presidency in 2020 offers his vision for america in his book the right answer, how we can unify our divided nation. he is interviewed by donna brazi brazile. >> you have been a member of congress since 2013. you had an opportunity to work with democrats, republicans, but you also call for end of partisanship especially partisanship that rewards a vision. what do you mean by that? >> i think a president or any other elected leader in this country should effectively represent everybody whether they voted for them or not they should almost take a pledge never to divide us. that doesn't mean they don't go out and say why they should vote for me over the other person but why my ideas are
better than the other person's ideas or why the future i'm envisioning is better than what the other person is but taking it to the step where you're cultivating a spirit of division is, i think one of the things going on in this country which is really insidious and i do think if you have the privilege of serving which i feel i do, in addition to swearing to defend and protect the constitution we should pledge to the american people that we are not going to say things to divide us but we will go out of our way to unify the country because the country is inherently stronger when we are unified. >> watch afterwards on c-span2's booktv. >> charles krauthammer, washington columnist and fox news commentator died this past week. here he is from 2013 talking about his life's work