“He Was No Wilsonian,” New York Times Book Review, December 13, 2009

When historians rank the American presidents, Woodrow Wilson almost always secures a place in the top 10. This seems to be an honor accorded successful wartime leaders; in the last C-Span Presidents Day poll, the highest three spots belonged to Lincoln, Washington and Franklin Roosevelt, two war presidents and a general. Yet compared with the reputations of other members of that august pantheon, Wilson’s lags far behind. George W. Bush was described as “Wilsonian” after 9/11, but that was hardly meant as a compliment. Barack Obama, like Wilson a scholar, political neophyte and Nobel Peace Prize winner, prefers to be compared to Lincoln and the second Roosevelt, or even to Truman and Reagan — practically any other member of the top ranks. Today, the only major public figure who seems to be interested in Wilson is the Fox News host Glenn Beck, who traces the roots of our current “socialist” predicament back to the dark era of Wilsonian income taxes, war propaganda and obscure monetary symbols.

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