Does the Separation of Powers Allow the President to Deliver a Face-to-Face Message to Congress?

Wilson SOU

Today this sounds like a silly question, but there was a time in American history when something like a State of the Union Address was unthinkable.  Karen Tumulty explains in her recent piece at The Washington Post.  A taste:

When President Trump steps into the well of the House on Tuesday to give his first formal State of the Union address, he will be performing one of the most familiar presidential rituals.

But for nearly half the nation’s history, the idea of a president personally delivering a speech on Congress’s turf was considered an act so presumptuous as to be nearly unthinkable.

The president who broke the mold — and introduced the kind of speech that modern Americans expect to hear each year — was Woodrow Wilson.

Wilson tested out the idea barely a month after his 1913 inauguration, when he traveled to Capitol Hill to give a speech on tariffs.

“Washington is amazed,” The Washington Post pronounced in a headline, over a story that noted no president since John Adams had done such a thing.

“Disbelief was expressed in congressional circles when the report that the President would read his message in person to the Congress was first circulated,” The Post reported, but assured its readers that such spectacles were “not to become a habit.”

Read the rest here.

The Author’s Corner with Cara Burnidge

APeacefulConquest.jpgCara Burnidge is Assistant Professor of Religion at University of Northern Iowa. This interview is based on her new book, A Peaceful Conquest:  Woodrow Wilson, Religion, and the New World Order (University of Chicago Press, 2016).

JF: What led you to write A Peaceful Conquest?

CB: A Peaceful Conquest is the result of me thinking about the American social gospel movement as both intimately connected to Christian ideas of proper governance, particularly American democracy, and as an example of American religious movements responding to their global context. 

As a graduate student, my primary research area was on the work of white social gospel ministers and the women of the settlement house movement. I knew from the primary sources that these themes were present, but when it came time to write a proposal for my dissertation, I had a hard time finding a hook that could make this project make sense without being the cliche of a PhD candidate who couldn’t speak succinctly about their own research. While sharing this conundrum in a meeting with a mentor, she asked simply “What about Woodrow Wilson? Have you thought about him?” I hadn’t. I didn’t consider myself a presidential historian and, to be honest, the vantage point of suffragists colored what limited considerations of Wilson I had had at that time. To be fair and start with the most obvious intersection between “on the ground” reformers and politicians, I began reading the The Papers of Woodrow Wilson and the most recent biography of Wilson at the time. I hoped to find a connection that would show that local and regional social gospel efforts made an impact beyond domestic policy concerns. Rather than a connection I could point to then move on, I found a treasure trove of of memos, letters, telegrams, speeches, and policy conversations that demonstrated the pervasive influence of social gospel thought in American foreign relations. The combination of primary and secondary sources convinced me that I had a different perspective to contribute to the existing historical conversation about Wilsonian liberal internationalism and American religion in this era based on my understanding of the social gospel movement.

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of A Peaceful Conquest?

CB: I argue Woodrow Wilson’s religious identity, shaped by both southern evangelicalism and social Christianity, influenced his liberal internationalism and its legacies for American religion and politics in the twentieth century.

JF: Why do we need to read A Peaceful Conquest?

CB: It should come as no surprise that I am not the first person to write about President Wilson and that others have written great works examining the role of religion in Wilson’s presidency. In fact, Wilson is often the go-to example of a president whose religion “mattered.” What makes A Peaceful Conquest different from these works is its intentional placement of Wilson in the greater American religious landscape and its reconsideration of how we think of presidents and their religious identity. Methodologically, I consider Wilson’s religious identity as I would any other historical figure—intersectional. Race, class, gender, and religion are not separate “lenses” to clarify or frame figures, but constitutive parts that must be held together to understand the whole person and their historical context. Some readers may find this approach helpful for understanding recent public conversations about Wilson’s legacy. It also allows scholars to place Wilson in historical perspective as Americans think (and rethink) the place of white evangelicalism in American identity and the role of America in the world.

A Peaceful Conquest should be added to your reading list if you want to know more about how American religion shaped international politics; if you’re interested in how religious identity does (and does not) shape presidents and their policies; if you’d like to think about the peculiar ways religion is both present and absent from American democracy; if you’re wondering how the social gospel could have been central to American culture yet seemed to disappear after World War I; and if you’re wondering how or why the so-called “God gap” became central to the Democratic Party’s identity.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

CB: As an undergraduate, I had the good fortune of having professors and mentors who treated me and other history majors as their equals. The History professors at Washburn University impressed upon us that history is a conversation among historians and they treated us as members of the guild well before we earned our credentials. Those conversations—arguments, debates, and more than one pontification on how history can save the world—convinced me that I was an American historian. More good fortune, generous mentors, and hard work helped me get to the position I am in now.

JF: What is your next project?

CB: My next project examines the King-Crane diplomatic mission, which surveyed residents of mandated territories of Palestine, Syria, and Transjordan to determine who they preferred to oversee their development toward democracy. I am considering how the State Department approached the role of residents’ religion and race in its commitments to advancing national self-determination and democracy in the Middle East.

JF: Thanks, Cara! Sounds like some good stuff.

The Author’s Corner with Barry Hankins

WoodrowBarry Hankins is Professor of History at Baylor University. This interview is based on his new book, Woodrow Wilson: Ruling Elder, Spiritual President (Oxford University Press, 2016).

JF: What led you to write Woodrow Wilson: Ruling Elder, Spiritual President?

BH: In 2012 I was writing Baptists in America: A History (New York: Oxford, 2015) with my colleague Thomas Kidd. In May, Tim Larsen at Wheaton contacted me to say he was pitching a series called Spiritual Lives to Oxford University Press. The criteria of the series is that the subjects NOT be principally religious figures, but nevertheless have religious or spiritual lives of significance. Tim asked if I might be interested in writing a book on Woodrow Wilson for the series. He caught me at a good time as I had begun to think about what my next project might be but had not committed to anything. The prospect of writing on Wilson intrigued me.

I’ve always presented Wilson in American history courses as probably America’s most Christian president prior to Jimmy Carter. Carter’s candidacy in 1976, then the rise of the Christian Right during Reagan’s run for office in 1980, touched off what I would call the evangelical era in American politics. But before Carter, Wilson stood out in his effort to apply Christian principles to the office of the presidency. It was also appealing to write about someone who was a historian before he was president. Wilson remains the only president in history to have a Ph.D.

I immediately thought of several questions I’ve always had about him. Did he retain as president any of the evangelicalism and Reformed theology of his youth in the southern Presbyterian Church? Or, did he turn more toward the progressive theological liberalism of his era? How did he appropriate Christian principles in leading the war effort in WWI? And, what was his civil religion like? So, I accepted Tim’s kind offer to write the book and over the next couple of weeks drafted a proposal that accompanied Tim’s series proposal that he submitted to OUP.

BTW, writing a book suggested by someone else is not unusual for me. This is the third book I’ve written that began as an idea in someone else’s mind. Darryl Hart, for example, is the one who suggested I write a biography of Francis Schaeffer.

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of Woodrow Wilson: Ruling Elder, Spiritual President

BH: The argument is in the title—“Spiritual President.” In what I call a soft thesis running through the book, I argue that having been reared in the theologically rich world of southern Presbyterianism, Wilson spiritualized away all the doctrines of his youth. What remained was the progressive, liberal theology of his era. For public purposes, “Christianity” for Wilson came to mean the forward march of democratic justice, while privately Christianity meant spiritual devotion of a warm and romantic sort.

JF: Why do we need to read Woodrow Wilson: Ruling Elder, Spiritual President?

BH: It’s a good read (at least I think so) about an important person in religious history whose life tells us quite a bit about the era in which he was a major figure. Because Wilson was president of Princeton, the book touches on the history of higher education and the irony of how a personally religious person secularized that university. Of course, with WWI, the Peace of Versailles, and the League of Nations the book deals with some of the 20th century’s most important events and the tragedy, irony, and unintended consequences that accompanied them. It also has a chapter on how a national moral leader engaged in and justified a long-running emotional marital affair he eventually became ashamed of. Finally, the book addresses the question of whether there is a place for explicitly Christian doctrine in public affairs.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

BH: I became a historian because I wasn’t tall enough to play in the NBA. Seriously, while in college I was not a great student, largely because basketball came first. Thankfully, I had a really good church history professor named Bill Pitts who I’ve now been colleagues with for over 20 years (although not in the same department). I was fascinated by church history, majored in religion, and thought I was studying for the ministry. After college I began to think I really wanted to be a college professor, in part because I’d get to do more preaching (i.e. lecturing) and less administration than as a pastor. After a year at Fuller Seminary, I went back to Baylor and got an M.A. in church-state studies, then to Kansas State where I studied with Bob Linder, who is still teaching full-time and doing his scholarship. I arrived at KSU wanting a Ph.D. almost exclusively so I could teach at a Christian college. I left with an awareness that I’d never be satisfied if I didn’t write history as well as teach it. I thank Bob for instilling in me that sort of scholar’s ethic.

JF: What is your next project?

BH: I’ve sketched out a book proposal called Religion and the Reagan Revolution (1964-2008). We’ve had some really good scholarship the past 15 years or so on religion and culture since the 1950s, particularly evangelicalism—Turner, Dochuk, Bowler, Coffman, Kruse, Eskridge, and the like. I’d like to synthesize some of that scholarship, supplement it with some of my own original research, and show how central religion was to the rise of Ronald Reagan, the development of Republican conservatism, and the advent of what we might call “evangelical America,” or the “evangelical moment in American history” (1980-2008). This seems particularly pertinent given that we could be past that era and moving into one where evangelicals will again be like they were before 1980—i.e. flying below the radar as a subculture on the margins—which actually might be a good thing for evangelicalism.

Having said all that, I do want to get back to the earlier 20th century at some point. I really enjoyed writing Jesus and Gin about religion and the Roaring Twenties and then the Wilson book. I’m at the point in my life (I turn 60 this year) where I don’t feel I have to rush into anything. I’m primarily interested in writing stuff people will find interesting and that will help them think about American religious history in constructive ways.

JF: Thanks, Barry!

Ben Carson, Bear Killings, Welfare, and Faith

I got in late last night and missed Dr. Ben Carson’s appearance on the CNN GOP Town Hall. Earlier today I finally got a chance to see Carson’s answer to a question about faith and the welfare state. It has been making the rounds on social media:

I want to commend Jessica Fuller for this question.  It is the best question on faith and politics that I have heard asked in this primary season.  (And that includes the media and the moderators of debates).

I am partially sympathetic here with Carson.  It is the responsibility of Christians to care for the poor at the local level through voluntary societies such as churches.

But we also live in a broken world.  Sometimes voluntary societies fail. Sometimes the church fails.

Think about the Jim Crow South.  Where was the white church during segregation?  If you read Martin Luther King Jr’s. “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” or David Chappell’s treatment of the Civil Rights movement in Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow you have to come to grips with the fact that the white church did not do its job. And because it didn’t do its job, the government had to step in and desegregate.  (This is also part of Mark Noll’s argument in God and Race in American Politics: A Short History).

I wonder if the same thing can be said for poverty in America.  Would we need welfare programs if Christians were doing their job?  I’m not sure, but it is certainly something to think about.

I also wonder why caring for the poor always has to be framed in a “big government” vs. “civil society” way.  Yes, the welfare system needs reform.  But why can’t government also be involved in this kind of work?  Carson rattles off a bunch of problems with welfare.  But there are also stories of success.

And then there are the historical problems with Carson’s comments..

First, Carson is right about the Constitution.  The Constitution doesn’t say that it is the government’s job to take care of the poor.  In fact, I am not sure the Constitution says anything about taking care of the poor.

Second, I am sure that the kind of moral community Carson is talking about here was present in the “old days of America.” I have even written about it. (Although I failed to mention the bear-attacks).

But one also has to be cautious when suggesting that back in the good old days everyone cared for one another and there was no self-interest.  It is easy to romanticize this kind of community.  Carson is very nostalgic for a world that only partially existed.

Third,  Carson’s reference to Woodrow Wilson and progressivism comes straight out of the Glenn Beck playbook. In fact, when Beck and his writers attacked me a few years ago I had to deal with rabid Beck fans leaving messages on my office answering machine accusing me of being “Woodrow Wilson.” For Beck, Wilson’s racism is not a problem.  He is a problem for his “big-government” solutions to social issues.

But putting all the blame on Wilson and the Progressive Era fails to recognize that one of the brightest moments in American history–Lincoln freeing the slaves and the Radical Republican Reconstruction plan to bring racial equality to the South in the wake of the Civil War– was an example of an active federal government try legislating morality.

The “Nomenclature Wars” of 2015

Wilson School

Woodrow Wilson School of International and Public Affairs, Princeton University

In case you missed it, check out Rutgers historian David Greenberg‘s essay at Politico: “The Great Renaming Craze of 2015.”  (HT: Kevin Levin on Twitter).  This is the best think I have read so far on the various controversies surrounding the removal of monuments to historical figures who were racist.  Greenberg’s take on Woodrow Wilson is on the mark.

You should read the entire article, but here is just a small taste:

Changing perspectives on Jefferson—and on scores of other historical figures and events—have in the past year prompted what we might call the Nomenclature Wars: a rash of efforts to topple statues, erase historical symbols, wipe names from buildings and institutions, and otherwise cleanse our heritage sites of any traces of our troubled past. In a few short months we’ve ricocheted from an overdue reckoning with the symbols of the Confederate South, through weird diversions like expunging William McKinley’s name from the Alaskan peak it had graced for a century, to a wanton and sometimes uninformed impulse to consign great but flawed men like Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and Woodrow Wilson to history’s hall of shame. We’re not yet with the French Jacobins, who remade their entire calendar in the hopes of reshaping human nature, but it can feel as if we’re moving in that direction.

Should Jackson or Alexander Hamilton be removed from the currency to make room for Harriet Tubman? Should Democratic dinners still be named for the party’s founding figures, Jefferson and Jackson? Should we rename the streets of New Orleans or the buildings of the Ivy League? The common thread in this year’s Nomenclature Wars has been a desire to highlight America’s shameful history of racial exclusion. That goal is among the worthiest that we can have in our public discourse, since we won’t be able to realize racial equality without an understanding of its deep roots in our culture, society and politics. But there’s a danger, too, that these campaigns will enshrine race as the sole criterion for judging our forbears—and will peremptorily end the conversation there. That may make sense for figures who matter mainly for upholding slavery or segregation, like Jefferson Davis or George Wallace. But with people whose achievement encompasses infinitely more, it’s short-sighted. Participants in these debates would do well to realize not only that a thorough study of history thwarts easy judgments about heroism or villainy, but also that the political passions of the current day typically prove to be a fickle guide to rendering lasting verdicts about the past.

When we undertake changes in our shared civic culture—whose pictures are on our currency, which flags top our legislatures, whose visages look down on us from the halls of our public buildings—we should do so with an eye toward the ages. We want our decisions to stand the test of time. We want to make sure that they won’t be subject to partisan whims, to the comings and goings of a Democratic or Republican Congress, or to social media-driven enthusiasms.

Peter Onuf and Brian Balogh on Woodrow Wilson at Princeton

Two of the three “American History Guys“–Peter Onuf and Brian Balogh– discuss the difficult legacy of Woodrow Wilson.  You can listen to it here.  

Here is a taste of the transcript:

ONUF: Well, that racism goes back to Jefferson’s time. The whole American narrative begins with Jefferson, you might say, and his famous words in the Declaration of Independence. And Jefferson was a white nationalist. And that’s the hard fact we have to come to grips with. I fashion myself as a kind of Jefferson therapist. I think there’s a place for…
(LAUGHTER)
ONUF: …Wilson therapy. That is, we have to work through it. Our history is full of -rough patches is a nice way to put it. But let’s just say that white supremacy is a major fact and we’re only coming to grips with it in the modern period.
NEARY: All right, if we keep that therapy metaphor going for a moment, are you saying we need to confront the truth and then do what?
ONUF: I think what the answer, Lynn, when something disturbs us in history is not to turn away from it but engage it. The answer is more history, not the denial of history.
BALOGH: Lynn, I would just add to what Peter said is that we simply can’t understand the racism that exists in society today – and it is significant – without understanding how we got there. And we got there through people like Thomas Jefferson and Woodrow Wilson.
NEARY: Well, Brian, at Princeton, now of course students are calling for Woodrow Wilson’s name to be removed from the School of Public and International Affairs. Do you think anything would be accomplished by doing that?
BALOGH: No, I actually think it might be a step backwards. I don’t believe in kind of buffing or smoothing out the rough edges of history. Of course, Jim Crow segregation and racism is a lot more than just a rough edge.
NEARY: Let me ask you this. That name has been there for a pretty long time. Why is it suddenly bubbling up to the surface like this? Why is that name on that building suddenly provoking a conversation that hasn’t been had up until now?
BALOGH: Well, first of all, the main reason I support keeping it there is not about Woodrow Wilson. It’s about the almost hundred years of history since Woodrow Wilson that people didn’t have a problem with it. And what that says to me is that America is becoming more racially sensitive, and that’s a good thing. The negative formulation of that is nobody thought about this for a hundred years. What does that tell you about America?

Jonathan Zimmerman Calls for a "Full Reckoning" with Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Legacy

A few years ago when I wrote what turned into a controversial piece about Barack Obama’s faith, my office voicemail was filled with angry calls from Glenn Beck supporters.  As it turns out, Beck mentioned my piece on his radio show and his website The Blaze made it front-page news.  Several of callers had some pretty nasty things to say.  They told me that I was just as bad Louis Farrakhan, Adolph Hitler, and Woodrow Wilson.  I at least understood the references to Farrakhan and Hitler. But Woodrow Wilson? At least four different negative messages (there were no positive ones) referenced the 28th President of the United States.

After a quick Google search of “Glenn Beck and Woodrow Wilson” I realized that Beck had been spending a lot of time on his radio program and in his writings attacking Wilson’s “progressive” political views.  In fact, as Jonathan Zimmerman of New York University points out in his recent piece at Politico, Beck was calling for the removal of Wilson’s name from buildings at Princeton University, the place where he served as college president from 1902-1910.

As many of you know, Beck is not the only one who wants Wilson removed from Princeton’s campus.  A few days ago I weighed in on the whole Wilson– racism issue going on at the historic New Jersey university. I joined several of my fellow American historians in sympathizing with the university’s African-American students, acknowledging Wilson’s racism, and arguing against removing his image and name from campus.

Zimmerman’s piece reminds us that despite his racism, Wilson remains an important figure in the history of American progressivism.  He is so important, that conservatives like Beck, and more recently a writer at The Federalist, thinks he should go.

Here is a taste of Zimmerman’s article:

...On balance, though, the federal government has been a force for justice and equality across the past century. That’s especially the case when it comes to African-Americans, who continue to suffer discrimination and poverty in our society. But they also vote in overwhelming percentages for the party of Big Government, the Democrats, because they understand that their circumstances would be many powers worse without federal programs and protections. Public housing, Medicare, occupational safety, mass transportation … the list goes on and on. And they’re all legacies of the Progressive doctrines espoused by Wilson, who understood that modern Americans needed the assistance of a larger, more supple national state.

That’s also why Glenn Beck despises him. So does the newly elected speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, who blasted Wilson and his fellow Progressives in a 2010 interview with Beck. “I see Progressivism as the source, the intellectual source for the Big Government problems that are plaguing us today,” Ryan told Beck. Progressives, Ryan added, “create a culture of dependency on the government, not on oneself.”

And just last week, the conservative Federalist website praised Princeton students for protesting Wilson. “Asking a private school to stop honoring an authoritarian hatemonger who also happened to be one of the most destructive presidents in the history of the United States is about the sanest thing I’ve heard happening on a college campus in a long time,” wrote senior editor David Harsanyi, in a rare right-wing tribute to the recent wave of campus demonstrations.

The Princeton students ended their sit-in after the university agreed to initiate a conversation about retaining Wilson’s name on its buildings. That’s exactly as it should be. But I hope the conversation includes a full reckoning with Wilson’s legacy, including his expansion of government regulations and services. His conservative antagonists certainly remember that. It would be a pity if liberals forgot it.

Read the entire piece here.

Historians, Woodrow Wilson, and Racism at Princeton

As many of you already know, students at Princeton University have convinced President Peter Eisgruber to consider removing Woodrow Wilson’s name and image from university buildings and programs because of Wilson’s views on race relations.

There is a certain logic to the students’ request.  It is the logic of progressivism.  It makes perfect sense that progressives on the Princeton campus at the turn of the 21st century would turn their backs on the progressives who came before them at Princeton.  That is how progressivism works.

Historians–even liberal historians–who think that Princeton should keep Wilson’s name and face on campus remind us that even progressivism has some limits.

I agree with historians and pundits who admit that this is a complicated issue.  Pundits ranging from Corey Robin to Jonah Goldberg are unsure about the best response to this controversy.  Wilson was a racist, even by the standards of his time.  We must empathize with African-American students who are required to live in Wilson College or see his picture on campus.  

But Wilson is also part of Princeton’s history and thus his legacy should not be erased. Yes, we must do a better job of bringing nuance and context to Wilson’s role at Princeton.  But I am on the side of those historians who believe that we must always learn from the past, no matter how ugly it might be. Corey Robin is right when he says that Wilson’s presence on campus, and the protest against his presence on campus, has opened up what will certainly be an ongoing debate and conversation about race–the kind of debate that should happen on college campuses.

This controversy also reminds us that we are all flawed human beings.  Everyone who we encounter in the past is flawed (Christians might say that they are sinful).  Until we come to grips with the reality of our flawed condition and the flawed state of the people we encounter in history we will continue to have these debates–whether it be the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, the legacy of John C. Calhoun at Yale, or Woodrow Wilson at Princeton.  

I don’t have much more to say on this front.   Here is a taste of Rutgers historian James Livingston’s essay recently published at the Chronicle of Higher Education:

As for Wilson: If we can acknowledge and teach the centrality of slavery and racism in 19th-century American history by keeping Calhoun on our minds, we can acknowledge and teach the centrality of imperialism and racism in 20th-century American history by keeping Wilson on our minds. As the historian William Leuchtenburg demonstrated many years ago, the social reforms we associate with progressivism, from the FDA to the Federal Reserve, were enabled by imperialism — every one of them. But then again the imperialism that Wilson sponsored was a vast improvement on the colonial precedent. It advocated national sovereignty and economic development rather than conquest and exploitation.

And here are historians Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg in a piece published at Salon titled “Woodrow Wilson is Not a Confederate Flag“:

But we do a great disservice to the discipline of history when we take deeply flawed historical actors and reduce to single-minded caricatures of racism, sexism, or any other –ism. The current commotion at Princeton University, where students are pressuring the administration to remove all references to Wilson, borders on the absurd. Wilson attended Princeton, where he also served as a professor of political science, then president, before graduating to the governorship of New Jersey and president of the United States. By erasing a racist’s name from a pair of buildings––the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and Wilson residential college; or renaming a distinguished institute (the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars) and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, you are merely pretending that the problem goes away. To erase a name does not acknowledge history; it erases history. You’re learning nothing about history in its demanding complexity.

By the way, the Princeton University supplemental application for the class of 2020 gives students the option to respond to this question:

In addition to the essay you have written for the Common Application, please write an essay of about 500 words (no more than 650 words and no less than 250 words). Using one of the themes below as a starting point, write about a person, event or experience that helped you define one of your values or in some way changed how you approach the world. Please do not repeat, in full or in part, the essay you wrote for the Common Application:

“Princeton in the Nation’s Service” was the title of a speech given by Woodrow Wilson on the 150th anniversary of the University. It became the unofficial Princeton motto and was expanded for the University’s 250th anniversary to “Princeton in the nation’s service and in the service of all nations.” –Woodrow Wilson, Princeton Class of 1879, served on the faculty and was Princeton’s president from 1902–1910. 

How long will this question last?

Woodrow Wilson on Labor

1912:  From the Library of Congress’s National Jukebox:

  • Recording Title

    Woodrow Wilson on labor
  • Other Title(s)

    • On labor (Alternate title)
  • Author

  • Speaker

  • Genre(s)

    Speeches
  • Category

    Spoken
  • Description

    Political address
  • Language

    English
  • Label Name/Number

    Victor 35253
  • Matrix Number/Take Number

    C-12392/1
  • Recording Date

    1912-09-24
  • Place of Recording

    New York, New York
  • Size

    12″
  • Duration

    03:35

Woodrow Wilson’s Calvinism

Check out my colleague Dean Curry’s excellent review of Malcolm Magee’s What the World Should Be: Woodrow Wilson and the Crafting of a Faith-Based Foreign Policy. (Baylor 2008).  Here is a taste:

Magee concludes that the tragedy of Woodrow Wilson “had more to do with Jerusalem than Athens. It was a tragedy of faith.” And so it was. The lesson of Woodrow Wilson’s presidency is not that Jerusalem has nothing to say to Athens in the realm of international politics; rather, it is that good intentions inspired by misguided theology can lead to disastrous foreign policy consequences.

The antidote to idealism of the Wilsonian sort is a deep knowledge of the contours of history, a keen understanding of the moral ambiguities that delimit human action in the “meanwhile” in which we live, and a commitment to honing the virtue of prudence in defining the purposes to which we direct national power. In short, Reinhold Niebuhr is not a bad place to start after all.

For those of you interested in some of the nuances of twentieth-century American Calvinism, Matthew Tuininga offers a slightly different perspective on Wilson.

Hating Woodrow Wilson

Tea Partiers like Glenn Beck have it out for Woodrow Wilson and his progressive politics.

The New York Times asks: “Why is Woodrow Wilson singled out and not, say, Theodore Roosevelt, who in popular history is far more associated with the Progressive cause? What in the current political climate is continuing to fuel the criticism of Wilson”

A panel of noted thinkers, historians and biographers weigh in on this question.  The panel includes Jill Lepore, John Milton Cooper, George H. Nash, and Thomas West.