On The Road to Now, we talk a lot about how understanding history is essential to making informed political decisions. In today’s episode, Patricia O’Toole joins us to talk about what happened when a historian got control of the White House.
O’Toole’s new biography The Moralist: Woodrow Wilson and the World He Made (Simon & Schuster, 2018) examines the life of a President whose policy was guided by his personal sense of morality. From today’s perspective, Woodrow Wilson’s time in the White House (1913-1921) seems full of contradictions. He supported a constitutional amendment to ensure women’s suffrage, but oversaw the re-segregation of America’s civil service. He championed national self-determination for the people of Europe, but readily deployed US soldiers to intervene in Latin America. And he won re-election with the slogan “He Kept Us Out Of War,” yet called for America’s entry into World War I just a little over a month after his second inauguration. In spite of this, O’Toole says that a close examination of Wilson’s thought and policy reveals a consistent world view that binds these seemingly contradictory actions together.
Patricia O’Toole is the author of five books, including The Five of Hearts: An Intimate Portrait of Henry Adams (Simon & Schuster, 2006), which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She previously taught in the School of the Arts at Columbia University was a fellow of the Society of American Historians. Her new biography of Woodrow Wilson The Moralist was released on April 24, 2018.