Streetwise Professor

April 19, 2015

More Obama & Wilson Parallels

Filed under: History,Military,Politics — The Professor @ 3:57 pm

Watched a show on CSPAN3 (yes, it’s an exciting life I lead) involving a discussion of Woodrow Wilson and the Versailles Treaty and the League between Prof. Melvyn Leffler of the University of Virginia, and Oxford’s Prof. Margaret MacMillan, author of “The War that Ended Peace: The Road to 1914.” Leffler made two points that resonate today, when thinking about Obama. (This discussion is around the 1:05 mark of the video.)

First, Leffler pointed out that Wilson made many compromises in Paris, but adamantly refused to make any compromises with his domestic opposition. Leffler further noted that contemporaries noted the contrast.

Second, and relatedly, Leffler emphasized that Wilson hated and despised his domestic opponents, in particular Henry Cabot Lodge. MacMillan related some anecdotes about what she called Wilson’s “stupidity” in dealing with the opposition, in particular his very public scorn for the domestic opposition that just intensified their desire to defeat him. She said that Wilson didn’t just disagree with Lodge: he believed Lodge was evil, and wouldn’t do a deal with the Devil. MacMillan said that [I paraphrase] “Wilson believed if you disagreed with him, there was something morally wrong with you.” (This is around the 1:08 mark.) That is, Wilson’s refusal to compromise on the League (even though MacMillan claims that many of Lodge’s objections were reasonable) stemmed from a visceral hatred and disdain for his political opponents. This refusal to bend (indeed, Wilson instructed Democratic senators to vote against an amended treaty) doomed his beloved League to defeat.

The parallels with Obama are quite apparent. One wonders if the outcome will be as well, that is, whether Obama’s disdain for Republicans will doom his beloved Iran deal to defeat.

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  1. John Batchelor has been making the very same comparison between TWW & BHO, also! Batchelor also interviewed A. Scott Berg about his Wilson biography. here is the link to but one example:

    Comment by Mudak — April 19, 2015 @ 6:28 pm

  2. @Mudak-Thanks. I’ll listen with interest. I have been listening to Batchelor a lot lately, but I missed that one.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — April 19, 2015 @ 7:12 pm

  3. @Mudak-I first made the comparison over 5 years ago. Some people gave me a hard time about it. I think the comparison has stood up very well.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — April 20, 2015 @ 12:55 pm

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