Saturday, April 24, 2010

Woodrow Wilson: I think I might've dated that guy in college

So I polled people on the next presidential post, like, three or four years ago, and Wilson totes won, despite Kelly's well-reasoned arguments in favor of William Henry Harrison AKA America's Most Temporary President. I had to stick to democratic principles and take on Mr. Wilson, who received a whopping four votes. Anyway, without further ado, the return of the Blonder and Thinner Presidential Post:

 Doesn't he look dapper trying to broker international peace?

Thomas Woodrow Wilson (why the hell did he go by Woodrow?) was born in Virginia in 1856. So his memory of the Civil War was probably about as good as mine is of Operation Desert Storm. Wilson was of Scottish and Scots-Irish ancestry, which basically means that his insides were plaid and his heart beat in a lovely brogue. His parents soon moved further south and owned some slaves. During the Civil War, the opened their home to injured Confederate soldiers, so basically they were big fatty fat racist traitors. The senior Wilson was a Presbyterian minister and moved his family to South Carolina during America's Favorite Era, Reconstruction. Wilson's mother was a hypochondriac. So I'm sure that was good for a totally well-adjusted childhood.  Some people have speculated that Woodrow Wilson wasn't very good at reading when he was little because he may have been dyslexic. I am going to perpetuate this rumor. Eventually he ended up at Princeton, though, from which he graduated in 1879. He was in the Phil Kappa Psi fraternity, because that's what future powerful dudes do. I wonder if 19th century Princetonian frat dudes played Cornhole.

Old Woodlestein enrolled in law school at the University of Virginia after he graduated, where he participated in glee club ("You don't deserve the power of Madonna.") and debating. Unfortunately, he had to drop out after a year for some unspecified health reasons.* He moved back in with his parents, now in North Carolina, to recover and continue studying law. He passed the Georgia bar eventually and set up a fledgling law practice in Atlanta. Soon however, Wilson realized that the lawyering business was a little too practical for his taste, so he enrolled in graduate school like a true neurotic. In 1883, he earned a Ph.D. in history and political science from Johns Hopkins University because apparently he is my ex-boyfriend from college. Two years later, Wilson married Ellen Axson, also the offspring of a minister, with whom he eventually had three daughters. Ellen died in 1914, once Wilson was already in the White House, but Woodyface became the first president to be (re-)married while in office when he hooked up with Edith Galt a year later. Supposedly Edith Galt was a direct descendant of Pocahontas, which means she probably looked something like this.

Wilson's hobbies including driving cars (totes hated the earth), baseball (because he was boring), biking, and playing golf because he's extra-boring. Apparently during the winters of his presidency, the Secret Service would paint golf balls black so Wilson could practice his swing on the snow-covered White House lawn. He played something like 1,000 rounds of golf (on proper courses, I assume) during his eight years in office, which means he was almost as prodigious as George W. Bush at doing things besides Being President while president. In grad school, Wilson learned German, which I imagine came in handy while he was, you know, fighting the Germans. Eventually he got a teaching position at Princeton. His academic work talked about how parliaments ruled and U.S.-style legislatures DROOL! Wilson was appointed (elected? who cares, I'm not going to check) the president of Princeton in 1902. Woodrow Wilson was NOT  popular administrator. See, he wasn't really into the whole aristocratic culture of that Ivy League school he went to and now was president of, and tried to abolish the "Gentleman's C," which GWB would NOT have liked. At the time, former prez Grover "Sesame Street" Cleveland was one of the elite Princeton trustees who were pissed about Wilson's elitist anti-elitism. By 1910, though, Wilson had moved on to the presidency of the American Political Science Association.

Wilson continued his streak of unpopular executive decisions when he got elected Governor of New Jersey that same year and immediately moved to deconstruct the state party machinery. Then he decided to run for POTUS. His "New Freedom" campaign was good enough to triumph over the mess in the Republican Party in 1912, which was split between bathtub enthusiast incumbent Taft  and the Jay Leno-esque third term seeker Bull Moose MAN Teddy Roosevelt. So due to their spectacular failure to unite behind a single candidate, the Republicans lost the presidency for only the second/third time since (Cleveland again, he is confusing) before the Civil War. Also, Wilson was America's first Doctoral President! It's just him and fake president Jed Bartlet. Wilson was all anti-trusty, and held the first modern presidential press conference in 1913. He kind of shut that shit done during the war, but for a while he actually took live questions and answered them extemporaneously. He signed into law the Federal Reserve in 1913, and did a bunch of shit with economic issues. He wanted to try and "mediate" the European situation AKA World War I, or the Great War as it came to be known in those days (it would have been awfully pessimistic to call it that in the first place), but they weren't having it. Despite earning large proportions of African-American votes in places where blacks weren't murdered for trying to go to the polls, Wilson didn't care so much about civil rights issues. He pretty much reversed himself a shit-ton of platform issues like people do when they get elected.

 You do NOT want to lose your wallet with this inside!

In 1916, the Wil-man ran for reelection against another white man I'm too lazy to look up. His campaign motto was "He kept us out of the war," which is kind of funny considering, you know, the future. He barely won reelection, and the outcome was in doubt for days. So kind of like 2000, but slightly less sketchy. Anyway, by April 1917 there had been that Lusitania nonsense and the U.S. entered the "war to end all wars." There was fighting in Europe and scary stuff with German submarines, blah blah blah. In anticipation of the close of the war, Wilson proposed his famously infamous 14 Point Plan. He wanted to have a peaceful postwar and to set up the League of Nations (the weak pre-U.N. that failed because the anti-Wilson Republican U.S. Congress refused to ratify the country's membership). They did give Wilson the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919, besides the ultimate failure. Apparently they just hand that shit out if you try hard. Wilson embarked on a speaking tour that year to promote the League of Nations, when he suddenly had a stroke. His wife Edith became his "steward" or go-between for official business, effectively meaning that she was probs the president for awhile. CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS! Anyway, after he left office in 1921, Wilson retired to his home in Washington, D.C., which is a museum, which I should totally visit one day. He died in 1924 and was buried in the National Cathedral (been there, bitchez). There is now a Princeton Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs kiss-asses and try-hards can go to. In 1929, his face was printed on the now non-circulating $100,000 bill. Luckily we have electronic money transfers now so we don't have to worry about people absconding with those particular sacks of money. Wilson's anti-isolationist and pro-international community and interventionist shit was not recognized as genius by politicos and wonks until the Cold War, when they used "Wilsonianism" to justify every military incursion into every third-world country evs.

*Isn't that the reason they give when Mormon dudes can't go on/come home early from their missions, but really means they are depressed or slutty or gay?

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