tv Patricia O Toole The Moralist CSPAN December 31, 2018 7:15pm-8:01pm EST
. >> hello everyone the 18th national book festival. at the clooney center of the library of congress "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 that is the best free event in washington d.c. [applause] but by way of preparation you need to silence your electronic cell phone we are talking to patricia o'toole who has written several other
books including teddy roosevelt and after the white house and in intimate portrayal of henry adams. that was a finalist for the pulitzer prize what motivated you to write a biography in the beginning i wanted to write about him because of world war i i was totally fascinated. i thought i would write about him as commander in chief that then to learn he delegates most of his responsibilities so there was just enough for a paragraph. [laughter] so then i started to think about his record in office. he was highly successful then he had a terrible last two years. it is a fixed legacy so i was
curious and i just wanted to know why that happened. >> in the last ten years coming out with well acclaimed biographies so how do we think of your book in context? . >> they are really quite different this is why people write biography after biography of major figures. a political historian and a very good biographer as well and concentrates more on politics and tries to cover a lot more ground than i am and then concentrate on those events for those that are deeply principle principled.
there is a focal point but that is the christianity and he works that out in great detail. as wilson's morality was based on america's civic ideals i guess it would be expansion not just the sense but i wanted to add that civic ideals. >>host: you call the book the moralist so talk to us more where that came from. >> he was the child of a minister his mother was a child of a presbyterian minister they were all over the family tree so christianity is a formative influence.
but once he started to get interested in politics he was really interested in how do you make things happen? even as a teenager he was hanging with her british prime minister. any children here today that do that? [laughter] then he went to princeton to study government studying comparative government politics and eventually he decided early on to set off and the first statesman was a fantastic orator and that is what he perfected learning how to project his voice but
wilson could speak outdoors to 10000 people and make his voice heard without amplification. so he was training himself and he thought his job as a leader to the white house was to think really hard about the right thing to do than talking people into doing it some politicians would say i have to negotiate or compromise but according to his principles what he thought was possible and then talk you into seeing it his way. >> so to have a moralistic streak in the end this is a strength. >> so what happened to him is a cautionary tale.
he has majorities in both houses of congress so much legislation is passed and he knows the majorities will see this but he has overvaluing the oratory so he makes very eloquent speech and then you think this might not have happened but he succeeds for six years and with those midterm elections of 1918. it's interesting to think about this centennial of this election most consequential ever, he loses the house and the senate and nothing goes his way after that but he is defiant in the face of this in
this reality he does not begin to do things like compromise or negotiate. spoiler alert. things do not go well. [laughter] . >> so talking about things we do legislatively so older biographies but even recent ones that are based to a significant measure of edward house who is the informal advisor. but yet you don't seem to rely on him. what is that about? what is different than what other people have? . >> when you come along after 600 biographies you have to think about what you can do.
in my point of view is that it doesn't shift and morality doesn't become self-righteousness with moral principles. he was one who could finesse the senator about changing his mind he had a lot of contacts. before wilson went to the white house that soul political author did not actually know a lot of people in the democratic party. he was useful in that way. but then he discovered foreign affairs and it's like champagne and he becomes
hooked and wants to try every variety that there is. he greatly overestimated his ability the british make fun of him. [laughter] and one of his main strategies to deal with people was flattery but he did not understand people were flattering him so he took at face value all the compliments that people paid him and that was fatal. so he was not useful in foreign affairs and that's too bad because he would tell prime minister so-and-so or the prime minister this or that or tell wilson something else so there was a lot of duplicity. >>. >> he is an unreliable source.
>> you can read his feelings and dealings biographers, publishing those excerpts from the diary and there is just a point everything is about how wonderful and then i thought he's with that german ambassador let's go find out what the german ambassador has to say. so you get different impressions with those different sources to bear. he certainly cares deeply for wilson and ultimately they break up when and wilson found house was working around his back but there is a bad moment when wilson dies and houses waiting for the white house waiting for mrs. wilson to
invite him to the funeral. there was no invitation. that was sad. >>host: give us a taste of the legislative accomplishments. >> and with economic reform called the new freedom and trying to ruin the plutocracy we don't have to think about that anymore. [laughter] it's wonderful. so working with brandeis who was along these lines and wilson had a lot of ideas but they were scattered if you put them into a platform they overhaul taxes used to be collected from revenues so
that ended up costing consumers many so one of the things was to get rid of the tariffs that they would have to compete with the foreign manufacturers and the prices might come down. it was an adjustment but it worked so then where do you get more revenue? the answer was introduce an income tax stuff you want to make america great again half the people didn't have to pay anything and the highest earners those from 1916 the
top rate was 7 percent. so i think everybody would be happy. so to introduce the income tax that basically eliminates what was common before that to put the united states into the same mold of the european central bank. to create a new antitrust law that was easier for corporations to understand then create the ftc i think the measure of success is they are still here 700 years later. >> normally people say those packages were roosevelt and the new deal how does that stack up? . >> very well.
certainly with the new deal there were more measures but he does stack up very well. >> if you talk about the cost of doing business to compromise what's the cost of doing business? that is one that still haunts us. he had to get the southern votes for those economic reforms as a general matter did not expand his federal one - - power so they wanted a sign they would not do anything about segregation. he would not mess with the state laws of race and
segregation. so what they asked for as a sign of going along with his desire to segregate the civil service which he did. this was for african-americans in the decades before that. we are not in the supervisory ranks so much but as an african-american living in washington, could get this job and there were many in the ranks. so first incursions against the new regime were two separate then no more integration of the restroom so black people have to go to the basement or eat at separate lunch tables. and then they require people
applying for jobs to submit a photograph so you could tell who is black and who is not. and this ruined that path of upward mobility for a long long time. wilson gets blamed for this because he started this but it went on through the new deal that he could get social security if he left out domestic workers and farm workers because that's where most blacks were working. this is one terrible legacy. >> will send new segregation was morally indefensible had you arrive at that conclusion? .
>> basically his doctor was at the white house all the time when wilson was president if he had to do something to be in conflict it often made him physically ill. there were a number of instances where people wanted to talk to him about segregation and the civil service and they have a knockdown drag out conversation after the first one wilson was so upset he went to bed for three days profoundly upset and when that's morally wrong it can have a dramatic effect.
>> this happened repeated the. . >> and to show no interest for collaboration and disagreement that is odd for a politician in terms of the peace conference this is back to thinking and the peace conference after world war i he has just lost the midterm elections he doesn't appoint anyone and then and then they
did help to win the war and second there were 2 million soldiers on the ground in france that was instrumental to turn the tide. so going in with a very strong hand and just wasn't up to the for those more powerful had the state and he did not like secretary of state at all. robert ramsey. this is all part of my research and with wilson in the opposite from france?
and read why lansing is writing. and then to make predictions what will go wrong in the future because wilson is not up to the task that the diplomats have had to do. >>host: then he brings it to congress. >> yes. he comes home july 1919 meanwhile henry cabot lodge who is is main adversary in the senate also the senior senator in congress actually i'm thinking he is my age. [laughter] actually he plays things
pretty close to the vest every once in a while he'd have a press conference and information would come back so we had an idea and he had fears over committing the united states to foreign affairs. people thought he was an isolationist and he really wasn't. but he makes the speeches if wilson had read them it was a game plan for this treaty that wilson was not paying any attention so wilson brings the treaty home and goes to the senate and the senate drags its feet for a long time and republicans are speaking out against the treaty the covenant of the league of nation was part of the treaty that was the sticking point for the senate because they overcommitted the united states sending troops to every war from now until kingdom
come. so wilson goes on a speaking tour going over the heads of the senate to explain to the american people why the united states should play a major par part, why it would be good for the world and then people would write their senators and this would change the minds of the constituency. wilson was not in good health at this moment it's very bad to read his speeches because he is clearly failing and in the middle of this or two thirds of the way through he collapsed and had to go back to washington then after he got home he had a major stroke
that paralyzed his right side forever. and he could not lead the fight for the treaty. there was a little bit of talk if he should resign but one of his reasons was the vice president who was the governor of indiana, marshall already said he would be willing to compromise on those points that was an adamant to wilson that he was in there and the treaty was defeated three times in the united states never joined the league of nations. >> during world war i it is said are often and more harshly than any other occupant of the white house the good american was those who revered freedom but for
those who disagreed with their government so what should be make of this? . >> it is a shameful episode in two of the major laws are still on the books. so i worry sometimes that they would be invoked. [laughter] the reason for doing it is that one third of the population were either immigrants or children of immigrants and the thought is you have a world war and all these people in the united states cousins and uncles fighting in this world war on one side or another. he feared it would be a miniature version could happen in the united states because you have such a large
percentage of the population with what was happening in the war. once the united states is in the war he doesn't want anything like that to happen he thought it would compromise their chances of winning and that would be a reason for this. >>host: before he became president mrs. wilson said it would be an irony of faith if they had to deal cheaply with foreign affairs. in the end did the foreign affairs side ever impact domestic? . >> his domestic triumphs still stand and what should happen was truly revolutionary. and i think 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 his insight was
global problems require global solutions. it still makes sense to me 100 years later and the impact has diminished and people argue how important it is and what happens during world war ii fdr was the assistant secretary of the navy for the whole eight years so he's watching the president very closely and thinking would this work? if that doesn't work he learns a lot from this experience. 's or early 42 he assembled advisors and said i think we will need something like the league of nations but we have to figure out how to make it work. so he - - so they studied what worked and why didn't once
roosevelt decided, he began to cultivate the other side who would likely be opposed to more international involvement. that is something wilson never did. fdr goes about this in a smarter way. and fdr figured out that they concluded the league of nation was asked to do too many things. is better if you had the league of nations other associations to tackle big things so in that world war ii era like the imf and the world bank and nato and that model held pretty well. it went through various
changes the thought was president george h.w. bush was the last internationalist. so there was some thought into world war ii then after that comes bill clinton. and then say we will continue what we will do and that helps george bush with the doctrine of preemptive war and not so much for nationbuilding but to be in favor of the biggest example of that is a good model. that if you make a big investment you will get a big payback. so now we are at a moment.
a moment of crisis of international order. and this idea going alone in the world, roosevelt understood that wasn't a feasible proposition anymore. and wilson's idea was to put the world into one alliance then you don't have to have competing alliances and spend money you could probably avoid a lot of wars that way. so i don't know if we are at the beginning of a new era or the end of an old era and it may take time to sort one - - figure that out but but in this world you have global challenges like climate change it's probably a good idea to
have global solutions. that's where we are right now not knowing if the old order comes back or we are in a new order for the united states. we are still up in the air about the role of the united states on the world stage. >>host: now we will get some questions. allied of historical figures have prominent places like schools or colleges or universities or programs named after them are monuments but among those that our controversial because of positions on race, how do you think we should think about woodrow wilson? about the current values on the past? . >> yes.
not a way that everybody thinks about it but if you read the history than a bad thing could happen so more in favor of explaining the and deleting but the mayor of new orleans many people talk to him how painful that is to walk past that statute of robert e-lee celebrations of the confederacy. there is a whole wilson aspect of this as well that princeton and they made some changes but to disclose international and public affairs and that they made some other changes. and in new york city a project
with the natural american museum of natural history. and there is a statue outside of central park west and there is a native american walking on one side. that like an african figure on the other side. and roosevelt thought whether by treaty or annihilation we will settle the west. that is harsher than anything wilson ever said. a lot of people who would write that one - - you would like the statue to come down. it is landmarked in new york state so that is the argument so far. i think that could change.
but but that is a good approach may be the right approach for everything. that's a good way to think about solving this problem. >> thank you very much. [applause] . >> why did wilson run for president in 1912? what was his motivation? after he spent the downward trajectory after the election of 1920 and at harding and coolidge thinking about the entire party collapsing after he left office. >> that's a great question.
in 1912 he was chosen by the democrats because he was a fresh face with no baggage he had only been in politics two years. and he was a good solid economic progressive we know now not on race or women's issues either and did not support a constitutional amendment for suffrage through 1918 and did it then because it was going to happen and wanted to be on the right side of history. he ran because he was asked. it was a four-way race. he raised one - - against taft roosevelt charges in for the third term and then a third number so will sing god enough of the vote to get him elected.
but after the election of 1918 when the democratic party collapsed, this should be a question because he was not so focused on that but how idiotic the republicans were they refuse to face the realities of the world changed by world war i so he did blame himself for that after he left the white house the only regret he ever expressed was the treaty of versailles and the league of nations that the timing was wrong. he said he would be with the american people on this one. he was a quick man but he imagines both in 1820 and 1822 he will run for president again. that one of the last he wanted
was as a sketch of his platform from 1924. and a draft of his speech after he got the democratic nominatio nomination. so people ask me how i know about woodrow wilson as a perso person, what it was like to write about him, you would not ask him out for a beer. i feel he was a really good man who wanted to do the right thing but did not require all the skills that a politician needs at that level of a presidency. but i still admire his economic achievements and his
vision for the world for global cooperatio cooperation. >> thank you for the presentation i came here by chance now it is serendipity. >> now at your lucky day. [laughter] . >> so what about the behavior of the outliers? like the declarations or agreements or the colonialist activities for paris negotiations? . >> that's an excellent question. he thought his big achievement in that regard was the former colonies of the other side but
then they are among the other victors he convinced the allies at the peace conference they should be a mandate of these powers. so he saw that as an improvement on imperialism so that was the beginning of the way of colonialism that was his contribution. he did not like them at all but with the peace conference the principal powers that were negotiated and they had to write an article into the treaty after all of them
agreed on it. they would have that anonymity and if not that they could check on their powers. so wilson argues very intelligently for his point of view but then he has to go along with the other side. . >> with that election of 1918 and october 1918 and think about the future? . >> to have be surprised with thoughts of peace and he made a fatal
>> the republicans were insulted. and i think justifiably so. the republicans when it came to votes on lending money to the allies, building up the arm crane navy, and more spending, the republicans were there behind wilson. it was people from the middle of the country, not all of them, or southerners who didn't -- they just thought we don't have any business going beyond the united states. actually in my book i used the word dumbest to describe this move of his. a couple editors said that's not your usual tone with things, do you really want to use that word? and i thought about it hard and
long i i decide i did it was really dumb. he -- and his wife begged him not to send this out. but he did. and the rest was very sad. >> i plan to be here because teaching in the middle east, talk about woodrow wilson is very important. to follow up on my col eagle's question. the king crane commission, can you comment on that, 1919, was that part of again this moralist principled man who wanted to ask the people who lived in that part of the world what they wanted? >> he was so busy at the paris peace conference, and he took along this group of people
called the inquiry. there is a very good book that details what they were doing. a lot of smort people who were expert in different parts of the world, 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, what do the men at the inquiry think of this and would have followed their advice. it's something that didn't get on my radar very much. i'm sorry i can't be more help. >> i was wondering who were his mentors as maybe starting college in that area. who did he look up to. then what -- who did he listen to? >> wow, yeah. his mentors, the statesmen who
inspired him were the great orators, lincoln, calhoun, wester in the united states, and in england it was sir william gladstone and a guy named cobb. they were all great speak horse managed to sway parliament to do something or others. those were his models. then the president he listened to, he got more and more isolated when he was president. his treasury secretary became his son-in-law. and wilson did, because he's in the family -- he would listen to him but he didn't like him very much. he listened to colonel house up
to 1919, but that's about it. >> thank you very much. >> great interview. >> cspan where history unfold daily. in 1979 cspan was created by america's cable industry. today we bring you coverage of congress, the supreme court and public policy events in washington, d.c. and around the country. cspan is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. >> tarlton gillespie is a her to of this book, "coals toldians of the internet." what i