Patricia O’Toole: 2018 National Book Festival

Patricia O’Toole: 2018 National Book Festival


>>John Haskell:
Welcome everyone to the 18th Annual
National Book Festival. My name is John Haskell. I work at the Kluge Center
in the Library of Congress, and we’re proud to have
sponsors for this event, including Wells Fargo, David
Rubenstein, The Washington Post and the New York Times, and many
others that make it possible to have events like this
that are free to the public, thus officially the best free
event in Washington, D.C. [ Applause ] So by way of preparation, before
we get into the conversation, of course, you need to
silence your electronics, cell phones, that sort of thing. So today we’re talking
to Patricia O’Toole, who is the author
of “The Moralist,” and she’s also written
several other books, including, in particular, “When
Trumpets Call, Teddy Roosevelt After the White House,”
and “Five of Hearts, An Intimate Portrayal
of Henry Adams and his Friends, 1880 to 1918.” That was a finalist
for the Pulitzer Prize. Welcome, Patricia.>>Patricia O’Toole:
Thank you, John.>>John Haskell:
What motivated you to write a biography
of Woodrow Wilson?>>Patricia O’Toole: He
was a big puzzle to me, and in the beginning I
wanted to write about him because the Roosevelt book
has a lot of World War I in it and I got totally
fascinated by World War I, but I thought I would write
about him as Commander in Chief and then I learned
that he delegated most of the responsibilities, so
there wasn’t enough for a book, there was an enough
for a paragraph, Wilson as Commander in Chief. So then I started thinking
about his record in office. He was highly successful
for six years and then he had a
terrible last two years. So it’s a very kind of mixed
legacy, and I was just curious. I’m basically a student of
character, not a student of presidents, necessarily,
and I just wanted to know why that happened.>>John Haskell: In the last
ten years both Scott Berg and John Milton Cooper have come out with well-acclaimed
biographies of Wilson. How should we think about your
book in context with those?>>Patricia O’Toole: They’re
really quite different. This is why people can
go on writing biography after biography of
major figures. John Milton Cooper’s is a —
he’s a political historian and a very, very good
biographer as well, and he concentrates more on
the politics and he’s trying to cover a lot more
ground than I am. When I chose my focus
of “The Moralist,” I was really concentrating on
the events in Wilson’s life that I could tie to my
notion of him as a person who was deeply principled
and led from his principles. The Scott Berg book is
a little bit like mine in that he has a focal point, and that’s Wilson’s
Christianity, and he really works that out
in great detail, and I thought that Wilson’s morality was
based on more than Christianity. I thought it was based as
much on American civic ideals. So I guess mine would be
expansion, not in the sense, necessarily, of being better,
but just I wanted to add that civic ideals
picture to the book.>>John Haskell: Let’s go
a little further into that because that’s — you know, you
call the book “The Moralist” and so talk to us a
little bit more about where that moralistic streak
came from.>>Patricia O’Toole:
He was a child and — I mean, he was a child of
a Presbyterian minister. His mother was the child
of a Presbyterian minister. There are Presbyterian ministers
all over the family tree, so the Christianity
is definitely a formative influence. But once he started getting
interested in politics, he really was interested
in, you know, how do you make things
happen in politics. He was a great — as a young
man, even as a teenager, he hung a portrait of a British
prime minister in his bedroom. Any children here
today who do that? [ Laughter ] Kind of unusual boy. Then he went to Princeton
and he’s studying government, and kind of studying comparative
government and politics. And eventually he
decided that — I mean, early on he decided
he wanted to be a statesman, that’s what he wanted to be, so
he sets off in that direction. And the great statesmen
that he admired in the 19th century
were fantastic orators, so that’s what he perfected. He learned how to
project his voice. I don’t know what I would do in
this room without a microphone, but Wilson could speak to a
crowd outdoors of 10,000 people and make his voice heard
without amplification. So he went at that part of it, training himself the
way an actor would. And he thought that
his job as a leader, once he got to the White House,
was to think really hard, get advice here and there,
but think really hard about the right thing to do and
then talk people into doing it. In other words, some
politicians would think, well, I’m going to have to negotiate,
I’m going to have to compromise, but Wilson just wanted to
find the right thing according to his principles and also
what he thought was possible in a given set of
circumstances and then talk you into seeing it his way.>>John Haskell: So in the
end is being a moralist or having this streak, you know,
a moralist streak, is that, in the end, a strength
or a weakness? I mean, clearly it’s both,
but if you were to weigh it.>>Patricia O’Toole: Yes. Well, what happened to him is
a cautionary tale, I think. For the first six years of his
presidency he has majorities in both houses of Congress, so
much legislation gets passed and everything is going his way. And he understood that the
majorities were key to this, but he also, I think,
over-valued his oratory and getting things happened
because he would go to Congress when he wanted a big law, make
a very eloquent speech about it and then poof, he
would get the great law and he would think it
might not have happened without his oratory. But he succeeds for six years. And then come the midterm
elections of 1918, so we’re — I mean, it’s kind of
interesting to think about this in terms of this year’s. This will be the centennial of
that election, which was one of the most consequential
elections ever in American politics. He loses both the
House and the Senate and nothing goes
his way after that. But he’s defiant in
the face of this, of this new political reality. He doesn’t begin to do things
like compromise and negotiate, that he didn’t have
to do before. Spoiler alert, things
do not go well. [ Laughter ]>>John Haskell: So I’m going
to switch gears for a second and we’ll get back
to talking about some of the things he
did legislatively. Many of us have read
largely older biographies, but even some recent ones,
of Wilson that are based, to a significant measure, I
think, on the views of what — the man was called Colonel
House, Edward House, who was, I guess, an informal visor to –>>Patricia O’Toole: Yes,
he was his confidant.>>John Haskell: Yeah.>>Patricia O’Toole:
His chief confidant.>>John Haskell:
Right, to Wilson. And yet you don’t seem
to rely on Colonel House. What’s that about? You know, what did you
figure out that was different than other people had?>>Patricia O’Toole:
Well, I tried to — you know, when you come along after 600 biographies have
been written, you have to think about what you can do
that’s a little different. And my point of view
of him as a moralist, and that with strengths
and weaknesses because he doesn’t shift
and his morality becomes self-righteousness, rather
than straight moral principle. Colonel House was quite
useful in domestic politics. He was a fixer, not a
corrupt kind of fixer, but he was the one who could
finesse senator so-and-so into changing his mind about
things, and he was very good, he had a lot of contacts. And Wilson didn’t,
because before Wilson went to the White House his sole
political office was being governor of New Jersey
for two years, so he didn’t actually
know a lot of people in the democratic party. House knew them all, so
he was useful in that way. And then Colonel House discovers
foreign affairs and it’s like champagne for him, you
know, and he becomes hooked on this champagne and he
wants to try every variety of champagne that there is and
drink more and more champagne, and he greatly overestimated
his abilities. The British referred to him
as the Empty House [laughter] and he was — Colonel House,
one of his main strategies in dealing with people was
flattery and he thought he was so good at it, but
he didn’t understand that people were flattering him, so he took at face value
all the compliments that people paid him, and
that’s kind of fatal, you know. So he wasn’t useful in foreign
affairs, and not only that, he was quite duplicitous
with Wilson. He would tell prime
minister so-and-so or the French president
this or that, and then he would tell
Wilson something else and we’ll work it out. So there’s a lot of duplicity. Yeah.>>John Haskell: And
you actually depict him as an unreliable source.>>Patricia O’Toole: He is
an unreliable source, yes.>>John Haskell: And so how did
you come to that conclusion?>>Patricia O’Toole: Well,
you can read his wheelings and dealings with — I mean,
for years biographers used — House published, it’s four
thick volumes that are excerpts from his diaries, and
they’re useful to a point, but everything is about how
wonderful Colonel House is. So then I thought, okay, he’s
with the German ambassador, let me go find out what the
German ambassador had to say about his meeting
with Colonel House. So you get sort of different
impressions by, you know, the more you can bring different
sources to bear on things. So I came to think he was — he certainly cared deeply for
Wilson and ultimately they broke up at the Paris Peace
Conference when Wilson found that House had been really
working around his back, but there’s a very sad
moment when Wilson dies and House is waiting
for the White House — or Wilson’s out of
the White House. He’s waiting for Mrs. Wilson or
somebody in the Wilson family to invite him to the funeral and
there was just no invitation. So it’s kind of sad.>>John Haskell: But you talked
about his legislative record and he got a lot of
things passed, particularly in the first few years, but
also in the first six years. Give us a taste of those
legislative accomplishments.>>Patricia O’Toole: He
was elected on a package of economic reform
called the New Freedom and the big things
were to try to rout out the plutocracy of the age. I mean, thank goodness
we don’t have to think about that anymore,
right [laughter]? Oligarchs, plutocrats,
it’s all gone now. It’s wonderful. So Wilson actually
works with Brandeis, who had been thinking
along these lines, and Wilson had a lot of ideas,
but they were sort of scattered and to get all of this stuff
into a platform he works with Brandeis and
they overhauled — taxes used to be mostly
collected from revenues on imports, tariffs,
in other words. Thank God all that’s
gone, too [laughter]. So that ended up
costing consumers money. We’re beginning to see something like that now with
this new round. So one of the things was to get
rid of a lot of these tariffs, which meant that American
manufacturers would have to compete on a more
even footing with foreign manufacturers and
prices might actually come down, and it was a rough
adjustment, but it worked. And then there’s the question
where do you get more revenue if you’re taking away tariff
revenue, and the answer was to introduce an income
tax, and this happened. And if we want to make
America great again, we should bring back
the first income tax because half the people
didn’t have to pay anything and the highest earners, and
it was $500,000 or more a year in 1916, your top rate
was seven percent. So I think everybody
would be very happy to go back to that income tax. So he gets rid of the tariffs,
introduces the income tax, creates the Federal Reserve,
which basically eliminated a lot of the kind of bank panics that had been very common before
that, and put the United States in kind of the same mold
of European Central Banks, created a new antitrust law
that was easier for corporations to understand, and then created
the Federal Trade Commission. And I think the measure of
success of those things is that they’re still here. A hundred years later
they’re still here. So it’s very successful.>>John Haskell: How
does he stack up? Because normally
people say, well, the people who had the
incredible legislative packages were Roosevelt and the New
Deal and the Great Society in the ’60s with Johnson.>>Patricia O’Toole: Right.>>John Haskell: How
does he stack up there?>>Patricia O’Toole: I think
he stacks up very well. Maybe, I mean, certainly the New
Deal there were more measures, but there was a depression. And Wilson got the big
things, the big pieces right, so I think he stacks
up very well.>>John Haskell: And
so what was the — you know, you talk a lot about
the cost of doing business, you know, it’s never easy to
pass these things, you know, compromises — even
though he doesn’t like to compromise,
compromise –>>Patricia O’Toole: Right.>>John Haskell: has to be made. What was the major
cost of doing business?>>Patricia O’Toole:
Well, the major cost of doing business is one
that still haunts us. He had to get southern votes
for these economic reforms and Southerners, as a general
matter, did not like expansions of federal power, and all of these economic reforms
involved vast expansions of federal power. So they wanted a
sign from Wilson that he wouldn’t do anything
about segregation, and the sign that — to undo it in the South,
he wouldn’t mess with state laws about race and segregation. So what they asked for, as
a sign of his going along with their desires, was for him to segregate the Civil
Service, which he did. And the Civil Service
had been a happy place for African Americans, actually,
in the decades before that. They were not up there in
the supervisory rank so much, but an African American living in Washington could get
a Civil Service job, and there were many, many,
many of them in the ranks. So the first incursions against
them under this new regime were to separate the work spaces. And then, you know,
there’s no more integration of the restrooms. So you have black employees
having to go to the basement to go to the restrooms,
or having to eat at separate lunch tables. So it was just insulting
kind of stuff. And then it got rougher
than that. They required people applying
for jobs in the Civil Service to submit a photograph, so
immediately it’s easy to tell, in most cases, who’s
black and who’s not. And this ruined a lot
of what had been a path of upward mobility for
blacks for a long, long time. And it didn’t go away when —
Wilson gets blamed for this, and he deserves the blame
because he’s the guy who started this, but it
went on through the New Deal. I mean, there were
many things like this, where Roosevelt could get
votes for Social Security from southerners if you
left out domestic workers and farm workers because that’s
where most blacks were working. So it’s a very long,
terrible legacy.>>John Haskell: Now, somewhat
controversially you wrote “Wilson knew segregation
was morally indefensible”. How did you arrive
at that conclusion?>>Patricia O’Toole: I arrived at that conclusion —
it was interesting. Wilson was not in good health. Basically, his doctor, a
man named Cary Grayson, was at the White House almost
all the time while Wilson was president. And Wilson, if he
had to do something where his ideals were in
conflict with the action he had to take, it often made
him physically ill. There are a number
of instances of this. And there were two instances
where people wanted to talk to him about segregation in the
Civil Service and undoing it, and they ended up having
kind of knock-down, drag-out conversations in
his office and Wilson was, after the first one,
he was upset he went to bed for like three days. You know, he was just
profoundly upset by this. And I think it’s —
you know, when you have to do something you
really don’t want to do and you feel it’s morally wrong,
it can have a somatic effect, and he responded to stress
in that same way, too.>>John Haskell: And he
did it repeatedly, right?>>Patricia O’Toole: Yeah.>>John Haskell: I mean,
this happened repeatedly?>>Patricia O’Toole: Yes, yes.>>John Haskell: Yeah.>>Patricia O’Toole: It happened
a number of times, yeah.>>John Haskell:
So you mentioned — I guess we both mentioned
that he — I’ll put it in your words — showed no interest in mastering
the arts of friendship, collaboration and disagreement.>>Patricia O’Toole:
I’m kind of –>>John Haskell: To the point of disdaining negotiation
on principle. You talked about that. I mean, that’s odd
for a politician. You know –>>Patricia O’Toole: It is odd.>>John Haskell: How did
that cost him in terms of the Peace Conference, or
in other ways specifically?>>Patricia O’Toole: Yes. Well, this is back to this
thinking he can talk you into submission –>>John Haskell: Yeah.>>Patricia O’Toole: thing. And at the Peace Conference
— this is after World War I and he goes to the
Paris Peace Conference, he’s just lost the
midterm elections of 1918. He doesn’t appoint any
leading republicans to be on his Peace Commission. He’s just defiant. He goes off. And then he has to
deal with these — he thinks he’s going
to have a lot of swat because the United States
really did help to win the war, first with lending the
allies millions and millions of dollars, and second with our
Army was late getting there, but there were, in the end, two
million soldiers on the ground in France and that did — it was instrumental in turning
the tide and ending the war. So he thought he was going
in with a very strong hand, and he just wasn’t up to the
sort of close combat that you do when four powerful heads
of state are negotiating. And he wouldn’t listen to
his Secretary of State. He didn’t like his Secretary of
State at all, Robert Lansing. So you get this — in the record, this
was all in the Library of Congress actually,
part of my research, I’m reading what’s happening
in the Paris Peace Conference and these conferences with
Wilson and his opposites from France, England and Italy, and then reading what
Lansing is writing. You know, Lansing knows what’s
going on, but he’s not asked to take part in very much of it,
and Lansing’s making predictions about what things are going
to go wrong in the future because Wilson is not up to the
task of negotiating in the way that these European diplomats
have had to do constantly.>>John Haskell: And then he
has to bring this agreement to Congress, to the Senate.>>Patricia O’Toole: And he
brings it to Congress, yes. He comes home in July of 1919. Meanwhile, Henry Cabot Lodge,
who is his main adversary in the Senate, and at this point
he’s the Senate majority leader, also the senior senator in
Congress, he’s a pretty old man at this point — actually, I was just thinking
he was my age, so — [ Laughter ] Lodge actually was giving — Wilson was playing things pretty
close to the vest in Paris, but every once in a while he
would have a press conference and information would come
back to the United States. So Lodge had an idea of what
was going on and he had fears about over-committing the United
States in foreign affairs. People paint him as an isolationist
and he really wasn’t. He was kind of a — he
wanted to be a great power like the other great powers. But Lodge is making
these speeches which, if Wilson had read them,
they were Lodge’s game plan for defeating the treaty that
he thought Wilson was going to bring home from Paris, but Wilson wasn’t paying
any attention to Lodge. So Wilson brings
the treaty home. It goes to the Senate. The Senate drags its feet
for a really long time. And republicans are speaking
out against the treaty. The covenant for the League of
Nations was part of the treaty and that was a sticking
point for the Senate. They just thought it
overcommitted the United States and we would be sending troops
to every war that happened in Europe from now
until kingdom come. So Wilson goes out on a speaking
tour to the United States. He’s going to go over the
heads of the Senate and explain to the American people what
the League of Nations was, why the United States should
play a major part in it, why it would be good for the
world, and then he expected that people would write
their senators and, you know, this would change
the minds of the — after senators heard
from enough constituents, they would change their
minds about things. Well, Wilson was not in
good health at this moment and his speeches — it’s
very sad to read them because he’s not — you
know, he’s clearly failing at his superpower,
which was oratory. And in the middle
of this tour — well, about two-thirds of
the way through he collapsed and the train had to
hurry back to Washington. And then about a week after he
got home he had a major stroke that paralyzed his
right side forever and he couldn’t lead the
fight for the treaty. And there was a little bit of
talk about should he resign, but one of his reasons
for not resigning was that the vice president, a man
named Thomas Riley Marshall, who had been the governor of Indiana before he was
vice president, he knew — you know, the vice president’s
president of the Senate, right. So Marshall had already said he
would be willing to compromise on the kinds of points where the
republicans wanted compromise, and that was just an affirmant
to Wilson, so he hung in there. And the treaty was defeated,
not once, but three times, and the United States never
joined the League of Nations.>>John Haskell: So you wrote
that Wilson, during World War I, quote, “Repressed the Senate
more often and more harshly than any other occupant of
the White House,” and you went on to write, “In a
novel construction, the good American was no longer
the citizen who revered freedom, but the one who refused to
tolerate those who disagreed with their government.” I mean, what should
we make of this?>>Patricia O’Toole: It’s
quite a shameful episode, and two of the major laws about repressing descent
are still on the books. So, you know, don’t tell
anyone outside this room, but I worry sometimes that
they’re going to be invoked. The reason, the ostensible
reason for doing it was that one-third of the
population was either — they were immigrants or they
were children of immigrants, and the thought was that
you have this world war and you have all these people
who are in the United States who have cousins and uncles
fighting in this world war on one side or another,
so he feared that a sort of miniature version of
the world war could happen in the United States
just because you have such a large percentage of
the population disagreeing about what was happening
in the war. So once the United
States is in the war, he doesn’t want anything
like that to happen. He thought it would compromise
our chances of winning. So that was the ostensible
reason for this, yes.>>John Haskell: So he once
said before he became president, this is Wilson, quote, “It
would be an irony of fate if my administration
had to deal chiefly with foreign affairs,”
end quote. Did, in the end, the
foreign affairs side of his presidency have more
impact than the domestic?>>Patricia O’Toole: Well, the
domestic triumphs still stand and his notion of
what should happen in the world was truly
revolutionary, and we still — I admire it very much and
I think that some people in the world are
still trying to figure out how to make it happen. It’s not that you have
a world government, but you have a world
organization that can — his insight was that
global problems require global solutions. That still makes sense to
me a hundred years later. And his impact has diminished. And people argue about how
important it is and that — what happened after — or actually, during World War II
FDR was, in Wilson’s presidency, FDR was the assistant
secretary of the Navy for the whole eight years,
and FDR was also a young man who wanted to be
president someday, so he’s watching the
president very, very closely and thinking about,
oh, this works, that doesn’t work so well. He’s learning a lot
from this experience. So early in 1942 FDR
assembled some advisors and he said I think we’re
going to need something like the League of Nations,
but this time we have to make it stick and we have to
figure out how to make it work. So these people studied what
had worked, what had not worked in the League of Nations. And also, Roosevelt, once he
decided he wanted to do this, he began cultivating the other
side, people who were likely to be opposed to more
international involvement, isolationist kind of people, and that was something
Wilson never did. So FDR is going about it in a politically, I
think, smarter way. And FDR and his advisors
also figured out — or they concluded that the
League of Nations had been asked to do too many things
and it would be better if you had the League of Nations and then you had other
associations, either regional or global, to tackle big things. So out of this, in the post-war,
early post-World War II era, we get things like that the
International Monetary Fund and the World Bank
and NATO and — so that everything doesn’t
come out of the U.N. And that model held
until — pretty well. I mean, it went through
various changes, various presidents thought
of ways to pull back. It’s thought that President
George H.W. Bush was the last liberal internationalist,
which is what followers of Wilson had come to be called. He’s also the last president
who fought in World War II. And then after that
comes Bill Clinton and there’s a pulling back. It’s like, well, we still
are internationalists, but we’re going to pick and
choose what we’re going to do. And then comes George Bush with
the doctrine of pre-emptive war and not so much respect for
the kind of nation building that a good, old-fashioned
liberal internationalist would be in favor of. Probably the biggest example
of that, as a good model, would be the Marshall
Plan, you know, that if you make
a big investment, you’re likely to
get a big payback. And now we’re at a moment
where, you know, it’s a moment of crisis for the old
liberal international order, and this idea of going
it alone in the world, I just don’t see how that — I
mean, Wilson understood in 1918 that that was not a feasible
proposition anymore just because of airplanes
and airplanes being able to go everywhere to bomb. And Wilson’s idea was
you fold the whole world into one alliance and
then you don’t have to have these competing
alliances and spend a lot of money on arms, and so on, and you could probably
prevent a lot of wars that way. So I don’t know if we’re
at the beginning of new era or the end of the old era. I mean, I think it will take
us some time to sort that out. But I think Wilson’s idea,
his basic idea that, you know, in this really interconnected
world and if you’ve got global
challenges like climate change, it’s probably a good idea
to have global solutions. So that’s where we are
right now, is not knowing if the old order will come back
or we’re into a whole new order for the United States. We’re still up in the air about
the role of the United States on the world stage, I think.>>John Haskell: Before
we get to some questions, we’ll have some questions
in a minute or two, a lot of American
historical figures, you know, have prominent places,
schools, colleges, you know, high schools, universities,
programs named after them, and monuments, et cetera,
and a lot of them — and Wilson’s among those
who are controversial now because of positions on
race and other things. How do you think about that? How do you think we should
think about Woodrow Wilson in terms of, I guess, some might
say imposing the current ways of thinking –>>Patricia O’Toole:
The present values>>John Haskell: Yeah.>>Patricia O’Toole: Yeah.>>John Haskell: the
present values on the past.>>Patricia O’Toole: Yes.>>John Haskell: How do
you think about that?>>Patricia O’Toole: The way
I think about it is not a way that everybody thinks about it, but I think when you
erase the history, then a bad thing can happen. You know, it just disappeared as
if there never was this history. So I’m more in favor of
explaining than deleting, but I’ve also been moved by — you know, that speech that
the mayor of New Orleans made about he just — you know,
many people had talked to him about how painful it is to walk
past the statue of Robert — you know, African
Americans, how painful it is to walk past the
statue of Robert E. Lee and the celebrations
of the Confederacy. This is not — I mean,
we’ve seen, it’s not — you know, there’s a whole
Wilson aspect of this as well at Princeton and they’ve
made some changes, but they decided — there’s a
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs
there, and that name still stays but they’ve made
some other changes. In New York City I did a
project with the American Museum of Natural History once. They were revising their
Theodore Roosevelt Hall, or remodeling it,
and there’s a statue, maybe some of you have seen it,
outside on Central Park West of Theodore Roosevelt on a horse and there’s a Native American
walking on one side of him, and not even like an
African American figure, but like an African
figure, for some reason, walking on the other side,
and he’s, you know — Roosevelt, in his younger
years thought that — he said about settling the
West, whether by treaty or annihilation we’re
going to settle the West. I mean, that is really harsher
than anything Wilson ever said. So there are a lot of people who
would like that statue to come down and it can’t come down. It’s landmarked in New York
state, so that’s the argument so far, that you can’t take
down a landmarked thing. I think that could
change sometime. And what the museum has decided
to do is explain, not delete, and I think that’s
a good approach. Maybe it isn’t the right
approach for everything, but I think it’s an
interesting way to think about solving this problem.>>John Haskell: Well,
thank you very much.>>Patricia O’Toole: Thank you.>>John Haskell:
Very interesting.>>Patricia O’Toole: Thank you. [ Applause ]>>John Haskell: So those of
you who have questions can queue up behind the microphone. Sir.>>Hi. Why did Woodrow Wilson
run for president in 1912; what was the motivation? And then also, I know
after his presidency that you said it was
a downward trajectory after the ’18 election, and then
in 1920 the republicans romped to victory with Harding
and Coolidge. What did he think about like
the entire party just collapsing in his wake after
he left office?>>John Haskell:
That’s a great question.>>Patricia O’Toole: Yeah,
that is a great question. When he ran in 1912, he
was chosen by the democrats because he was a fresh face. He didn’t have any baggage. He had only been in politics
for two years and he was a good, solid economic progressive. You know, we know now that he
wasn’t progressive on race, he wasn’t progressive on
women’s issues either. He didn’t support a
constitutional amendment for suffrage until
1918, and he did it then because he knew it was going
to happen and he wanted to be on the right side of history. So he ran because he was
asked to run and he — it’s a four-way race in 1912. He’s running against
Taft, the incumbent, Theodore Roosevelt charges
in for a third term, creates a new party, and
then Eugene Debs ran also. So Wilson got 42
percent of the vote and that was enough
to get him elected. And after the election of 1918, when the democratic
party collapsed, he — I’m interested in your question
because he mostly didn’t — he wasn’t so focused on that. He was focused more on like how
idiotic the republicans were, how they refused to face
the realities of the world that had been changed
by World War I. So he didn’t really
blame himself for that. And after he left the White
House the only regret he ever expressed about his failed fight
for the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations was
that his timing was wrong. He said I think I was ahead of
the American people on this one. And there he is, he’s a
very sick man, you know, he’s had this stroke, he’s still
paralyzed, but he’s imagining, both in 1920 and then
in 1922, that he’s going to run for president again. You know, he’s clearly
not thinking straight. But one of the last things
— one of the two last — two of the last things
that he wrote were a sketch of his platform for 1924. I mean, this is a man who
is really, really ill. And a draft of his
acceptance speech after he got the democratic
nomination in 1924. He died early in 1924. He died in February 3rd, 1924. So people ask me how I
feel about Woodrow Wilson as a person, you know, what it
was like to write about him, because he’s not a cozy guy, you
know, you wouldn’t like ask him out for a beer [laughter]. And I feel like he was a
really good man who wanted to do the right thing, but he just didn’t
acquire all the skills that a politician needs at
the level of the presidency to do better than he did. But I still admire his
economic achievements and I still admire his
ambition for the world to figure out a way for global
cooperation. Yes, another question?>>John Haskell:
We’ll go on this side. Yeah.>>Patricia O’Toole: Oh, okay.>>Yes. Thank you
for the presentation. I came in here by chance, and it’s more serendipity
now, so I appreciate that.>>Patricia O’Toole: Oh, it’s
your lucky day, isn’t it?>>Yes, it is.>>Patricia O’Toole: Yeah. Hi.>>So how did Wilson
square his moralism with the behavior of the allies? So thinking about something
like the Balfour Declaration or the Sykes-Picot Agreement, or other colonialist
activities that –>>Patricia O’Toole: Yes. Yeah.>>came out of the
Paris negotiations?>>Patricia O’Toole: Yes. That’s –>>John Haskell: Thank you.>>Patricia O’Toole: That’s
an excellent question. He thought that his
big achievement in that regard was they —
you know, the former colonies of the other side, the Germans,
were taken away from them and rather than just
declare these things, rather than divide them up
among the other victors, he convinced the allies
at the Peace Conference that they should be mandates
of these powers and the powers, you know, like France
had some — well, I don’t want
to get in the weeds, but he saw that as an
improvement on imperialism, and it was kind of, in
a way, the beginning of the end of colonialism. So that was his contribution. And he didn’t like
these things at all. But one of the problems at the Peace Conference
is the principal powers that were negotiating this —
the Germans were not invited to the Peace Conference. And they had decided among
themselves, the victors, that they had to, when
they wrote an article into the treaty, it would be
after all of them agreed on it. They had to have unanimity,
because they thought if they didn’t, that
would be open to challenge by the defeated powers. So Wilson often argued
very intelligently and very forcefully for his
point of view, but if the vote in the end is three-to-one and
you have this unanimity thing, he has to go along
with the other side. So he did win some
concessions but not enough. So that’s, I think, a possibly
good way to look at Wilson and the colonialism
after World War I. Yeah. Yes.>>John Haskell: The
gentleman over here.>>So you mentioned how
critical the election of November 1918 was. I’m just curious about
what was Wilson up to, what his priorities were in the
month, six weeks before that, October 1918, when he was
trying to win that election and negotiate an
armistice and think about the future all at once.>>Patricia O’Toole: Yes. He was certainly more
occupied with thoughts of peace than anything else, and
he made a fatal blunder in the weeks leading
up to the election. He sent an appeal to the
country saying he needed them to vote democratic
because he was going to go to the Peace Conference and he
had to have the solid backing of the American people. And the republicans
were insulted, and I think justifiably so,
because the republicans, when it came to votes
on lending money to the allies before we were
in the war and then going — you know, building up the Navy
and Army in case we had to be in the war, and more
spending itself, the republicans were there as
a solid block behind Wilson and it was people from
the middle of the country, not all of them, or
southerners, who didn’t — you know, they just thought we
don’t have any business going beyond the United States. So I actually, in my
book, use the word dumbest to describe this move of his and a couple editors
asked me do you really — you know, that’s not your
usual tone with things, do you really want to use
that word, and I thought about it hard and long
and I decided I did. I mean, it was really
dumb [laughter]. So — and his wife begged him
not to send this out. I think Colonel House begged
him, too, not to send it out, but he did, and the
rest was very sad. Yeah. Yes.>>Well, I planned to be here because teaching
the Middle East, talking about Woodrow
Wilson was very important. So to follow up on my
colleague’s question, the King-Crane Commission, would
you like to comment on that, that he sent to the Middle
East to ask — this was 1919. Was that kind of part of, again,
this moralist, principled man who wanted to ask the people
who lived in that part of the world what they wanted?>>Patricia O’Toole:
You know, he was so busy at the Paris Peace Conference
that he took along this group of people called “The Inquiry”. Have you read about
them and their work? [ Inaudible comment ] It was a very good book –>>Okay.>>by a man named
Lawrence Gelfand that details what they’re doing. So a lot of smart people who
were expert in different parts of the world, cartographers,
geographers, economists, and so on.>>Right.>>Patricia O’Toole:
And the answer to your question is
probably in there, but he took their advice
on a lot of things. So if this idea had come to
him, he would have said, well, what do the men at The
Inquiry think about this, and would have followed
their advice. So it’s something
that really didn’t get on my radar very much. I’m sorry I can’t be more help.>>No. That’s fine.>>Patricia O’Toole: Yeah.>>Thank you. Thank you.>>John Haskell: Ma’am.>>Patricia O’Toole: Yes.>>Thank you. I was wondering who were his
mentors, as maybe starting in college, in that area. Who did he look up to? And then, it’s maybe
a different question, but who did he listen to? That’s what –>>Patricia O’Toole: Wow. Yeah. Yes. His mentors, the statesmen who inspired him were
the great orators. So, you know, Lincoln, Calhoun,
Webster, in the United States. And then in England it
was Sir William Gladstone and a guy named Cobb,
and they were all people who were really great
speakers who managed to — you know, managed
to sway parliament to do something or other. So those were his models. And then the question of who
he listened to, he got more and more isolated
as he was president. He was a better listener
early on. His treasury secretary,
William Gibbs McAdoo, became his son-in-law
and Wilson did — because he’s in the family,
so he would listen to McAdoo, but he really didn’t
like him very much. And he listened to Colonel House up to 1918, and that’s
mainly it. Yes. Thank you.>>John Haskell: Well thank
you very much, Patricia.>>Patricia O’Toole:
Thank you, John.>>John Haskell: This
has been fascinating.>>Patricia O’Toole:
Thank you very much. It was a great interview.>>John Haskell:
Thanks for joining us.

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