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The first major biography of America’s twenty-eighth president in nearly two decades, from one of America’s foremost Woodrow Wilson scholars. A Democrat who reclaimed the White House after sixteen years of Republican administrations, Wilson was a transformative president—he helped create the regulatory bodies and legislation that prefigured FDR’s New Deal and wo The first major biography of America’s twenty-eighth president in nearly two decades, from one of America’s foremost Woodrow Wilson scholars. A Democrat who reclaimed the White House after sixteen years of Republican administrations, Wilson was a transformative president—he helped create the regulatory bodies and legislation that prefigured FDR’s New Deal and would prove central to governance through the early twenty-first century, including the Federal Reserve system and the Clayton Antitrust Act; he guided the nation through World War I; and, although his advocacy in favor of joining the League of Nations proved unsuccessful, he nonetheless established a new way of thinking about international relations that would carry America into the United Nations era. Yet Wilson also steadfastly resisted progress for civil rights, while his attorney general launched an aggressive attack on civil liberties. Even as he reminds us of the foundational scope of Wilson’s domestic policy achievements, John Milton Cooper, Jr., reshapes our understanding of the man himself: his Wilson is warm and gracious—not at all the dour puritan of popular imagination. As the president of Princeton, his encounters with the often rancorous battles of academe prepared him for state and national politics. Just two years after he was elected governor of New Jersey, Wilson, now a leader in the progressive movement, won the Democratic presidential nomination and went on to defeat Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft in one of the twentieth century’s most memorable presidential elections. Ever the professor, Wilson relied on the strength of his intellectual convictions and the power of reason to win over the American people. John Milton Cooper, Jr., gives us a vigorous, lasting record of Wilson’s life and achievements. This is a long overdue, revelatory portrait of one of our most important presidents—particularly resonant now, as another president seeks to change the way government relates to the people and regulates the economy.


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The first major biography of America’s twenty-eighth president in nearly two decades, from one of America’s foremost Woodrow Wilson scholars. A Democrat who reclaimed the White House after sixteen years of Republican administrations, Wilson was a transformative president—he helped create the regulatory bodies and legislation that prefigured FDR’s New Deal and wo The first major biography of America’s twenty-eighth president in nearly two decades, from one of America’s foremost Woodrow Wilson scholars. A Democrat who reclaimed the White House after sixteen years of Republican administrations, Wilson was a transformative president—he helped create the regulatory bodies and legislation that prefigured FDR’s New Deal and would prove central to governance through the early twenty-first century, including the Federal Reserve system and the Clayton Antitrust Act; he guided the nation through World War I; and, although his advocacy in favor of joining the League of Nations proved unsuccessful, he nonetheless established a new way of thinking about international relations that would carry America into the United Nations era. Yet Wilson also steadfastly resisted progress for civil rights, while his attorney general launched an aggressive attack on civil liberties. Even as he reminds us of the foundational scope of Wilson’s domestic policy achievements, John Milton Cooper, Jr., reshapes our understanding of the man himself: his Wilson is warm and gracious—not at all the dour puritan of popular imagination. As the president of Princeton, his encounters with the often rancorous battles of academe prepared him for state and national politics. Just two years after he was elected governor of New Jersey, Wilson, now a leader in the progressive movement, won the Democratic presidential nomination and went on to defeat Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft in one of the twentieth century’s most memorable presidential elections. Ever the professor, Wilson relied on the strength of his intellectual convictions and the power of reason to win over the American people. John Milton Cooper, Jr., gives us a vigorous, lasting record of Wilson’s life and achievements. This is a long overdue, revelatory portrait of one of our most important presidents—particularly resonant now, as another president seeks to change the way government relates to the people and regulates the economy.

47 review for Woodrow Wilson: A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    James Thane

    This is a well-written, evenly-balanced account of the life of the twenty-eighth president of the United States, the first major biography of Wilson in over two decades. Cooper describes Wilson's childhood and early family life and details his rise through the halls of academia to become the president of Princeton. After winning and losing some major battles in that office, Wilson consented to run for governor of New Jersey on a progressive reform platform. He won the election and, af This is a well-written, evenly-balanced account of the life of the twenty-eighth president of the United States, the first major biography of Wilson in over two decades. Cooper describes Wilson's childhood and early family life and details his rise through the halls of academia to become the president of Princeton. After winning and losing some major battles in that office, Wilson consented to run for governor of New Jersey on a progressive reform platform. He won the election and, after only two years in office, was catapulted into the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 1912. Although the Republicans had controlled the presidency for the last sixteen years, and although they remained the country's majority party, Wilson emerged victorious in a three-way contest when Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft split the Republican vote. Wilson would go on to become one of the most influential presidents in the nation's history and secured a wave of reform legislation that included tariff reform, anti-trust legislation, labor reform, the creation of a number of important regulatory agencies and the creation of the Federal Reserve system. On entering office, Wilson freely admitted that he was not well-prepared to deal with foreign affairs and he hoped to spend his administration securing domestic reform. Fate intervened, of course, and presented Wilson with the greatest international challenge to confront the United States up to that point with the outbreak of the First World War. Like most Americans, Wilson fervently hoped that the U.S. could remain aloof from the war, but that simply proved impossible. As the most important neutral nation and as a rising economic powerhouse, the U.S. found itself caught in a vice between the major belligerent powers, all of whom wanted to take advantage of American trade and all of whom wanted to prevent their opponents from taking similar advantage. In the end, both sides violated the neutral rights of the United States, although to Wilson and most other Americans, the German violation of our rights seemed more oppressive, particularly in the wake of the sinking of the British ship, the Lusitania when more than a hundred American lives were lost. Cooper does not really address charges that the Wilson administration effectively gave the British and their allies a free pass for their violation of our rights while insisting that they would hold Germany to a "strict accountability" for their violations, and that the administration, while proclaiming our neutrality, tilted in favor of the Allies in a number of other ways. Most important, the administration continued to allow American banks to loan huge sums of money to the Allies, which gave them a significant advantage over the Germans and their allies. These actions may have suggested to the Germans that we were, in effect, favoring the allies, and they may have led the Germans to behave in ways that threatened our interests even more. Ultimately, of course, the U.S. did enter the war in 1917, and our participation tipped the balance in the war and produced the defeat of the Germans. Wilson was determined to produce a just and lasting peace at the end of the war and to put in place a mechanism which would hopefully prevent future conflicts. This, of course, was the League of Nations, and the effort to get the U.S. to ratify the Treaty of Versailles that ended the war and to join the League would consume the rest of Wilson's life. Wilson made two trips to Paris in an effort to influence the resulting peace agreement and then led a major campaign here at home to persuade Americans to join in the collective effort. The battle was fiercely waged against entrenched Republicans who opposed the treaty and who feared that entering the League would compromise the nation's sovereignty. Cooper notes that Wilson made any number of mistakes in battling for the League and then, in the midst of the struggle, Wilson suffered a major stroke that left him virtually incapacitated through the last year and a half of his presidency. The Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the Constitution had not yet been adopted and the country had no mechanism in place to deal with such a crisis. The vice president remained largely invisible and the country was essentially run by the members of Wilson's cabinet who continued to meet on a regular basis. Mrs. Wilson assisted, by sorting through papers and showing her husband the things she thought he should see. Wilson's illness deprived the Democrats of his leadership during the fight over the League and blinded him to the fact that he might have made minor concessions to satisfy the Republicans and win ratification for the treaty and allow the U.S. to join the League. Rather, he became increasingly stubborn and short-sighted. He refused to compromise in any way and in the end, the Senate defeated both the Treaty of Versailles and American membership in the League of Nations. Cooper paints a sympathetic portrait of Wilson but is not blind to his faults. In particular, Wilson held racial views that were inappropriate by the turn of the Twentieth Century and he allowed his administration to violate the rights of large numbers of Americans by stamping out dissent during the war. Cooper reserves his severest criticism for Wilson's decision to remain in office after his stroke. He believes that Wilson was incapable of performing his duties and that he should have resigned. Ultimately, he concludes, Wilson was "one of the deepest and most daring souls ever to inhabit the White House. His was also a flawed soul, rendered worse by the failing of his body, which consigned his presidency to an inglorious end." Anyone looking for an excellent introduction to a president that few Americans know beyond the caricatures created of him, will be rewarded by reading this book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Amanda M.

    The other day when I sat down to dinner, my friend Jon asked, “How’s the boyfriend?” To a casual listener this would seem like a completely normal way to begin a conversation; to those at the table more familiar with my weird proclivity for naming historical figures in games of “marry, boff, kill,” it would’ve been obvious that he was actually referring to America’s 28th president, Woodrow Wilson. Over the course of the semester, I’ve devoted more time reading this biography than I have to most The other day when I sat down to dinner, my friend Jon asked, “How’s the boyfriend?” To a casual listener this would seem like a completely normal way to begin a conversation; to those at the table more familiar with my weird proclivity for naming historical figures in games of “marry, boff, kill,” it would’ve been obvious that he was actually referring to America’s 28th president, Woodrow Wilson. Over the course of the semester, I’ve devoted more time reading this biography than I have to most hobbies [tennis, 2001: three weeks; crochet, 1998: 25 minutes] and college relationships [information not available] so now that it has come to an end, I feel sort of…bittersweet? In memoriam, here is my ode to one of the nation’s most fiercely and unabashedly intellectual presidents, who lived through the rise of a powerful progressive reform moment and a major World War, but nevertheless had a personality about as exciting as untoasted Wonder Bread. In Woodrow Wilson: A Biography, Cooper traces Wilson’s rise from his early days in academia as president of Princeton to his entrance into political life with the governorship of New Jersey and later the presidency, when he defeated two former Republican presidents in the hotly-contested three-way race for the White House in 1912. Uncommonly intellectual, Wilson was both a famously private figure and a celebrated public speaker, a respected political scientist (the only president to hold a PhD!) and a Nobel Peace laureate. He also had the reputation of being pretty, for lack of a better word, milquetoast. Cooper, much to my amusement, tries to push back a little against this by reaffirming Wilson’s virility as early as the introduction, an accomplishment counted as equal alongside his impressive treatises on government and wartime leadership. This continues later when Cooper writes, in discussing Wilson’s relationship with a young widow: “Others, viewing Wilson harshly, have maintained that such a supposedly unattractive prig was incapable of having a sexual fling” which might actually be the single best line in a biography that has ever existed and will ever exist. My immature fascination with Cooper’s frank discussion of the completely commonplace sexual behavior of a middle-aged man may suggest to you that I am not doing this book justice. You would be correct. Meticulously researched and written, Cooper’s account is remarkably thorough and sympathetic to his subject. Naturally there is a lot of ground to cover, but I think one of the passages where Cooper is at his best is in discussing perhaps the most infamous aspect of Wilson’s legacy: the idealistic formulation—and then stunning failure—of the League of Nations. Noting that Wilson’s campaign in support of the League coincided with a massive stroke that left him essentially incapacitated for months, Cooper argues that the stroke severely impaired Wilson’s judgement and leadership capabilities and bluntly criticizes the president for remaining in office during this time. In doing so, he takes the stigma of inevitability out of the League’s failure—instead of seeming like unrealistic pipe-dream of a naive idealist, the League of Nations is instead presented as a workable approach to peace that many Americans supported and very well could have been passed. In Cooper’s biography, the failure of the League of Nations hinges on minute decisions—a failure to compromise with Republican leadership here, a misguided directive to Democratic senators there—which were all within Wilson’s control (and pre-illness Wilson likely would have been able to master.) Could the League of Nations have succeeded? Cooper argues that it could have had Wilson been healthy enough to face the debate with the same ardor and spirit of compromise he brought to challenges faced as President of Princeton, Governor of New Jersey, and in his early terms as President. And who knows how history would have unfolded had America joined? Wilson is not exactly the most colorful figure, though he has a sparkle of humor in him now and then (when one visitor to his study at Princeton asked “Do you read all these books, Professor?” he reportedly responded “not every day.”) Nevertheless, Wilson presided over an extraordinary period in American history, and the book provides fascinating insight into the anguish of an executive reluctantly waging war, the creation of a powerful Democratic coalition, the triumph of Wilson’s progressive legislative agenda, his change of heart and later impassioned support of women’s suffrage, and his apathy and fatal inaction on questions of racial equality, the consequences of which still reverberate today. Examining the era through his (charmingly bespectacled) eyes is a more than worthwhile exercise. Besides, not all of our presidents could joyride around on safaris and get shot at. That’s what Teddy Roosevelt is for. review originally posted here.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Marks54

    This was a really fine biography, although I am not sure how much I like Wilson after reading it. I started reading this when I heard some fairly extreme pundits starting to trash Wilson. I realized that while I did not wish to agree with the pundit, I was not as informed about Wilson as I thought I was. I had read the most about his diplomacy, especially his role in the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and the his failures around the League of Nations. I was much less aware of his background, his This was a really fine biography, although I am not sure how much I like Wilson after reading it. I started reading this when I heard some fairly extreme pundits starting to trash Wilson. I realized that while I did not wish to agree with the pundit, I was not as informed about Wilson as I thought I was. I had read the most about his diplomacy, especially his role in the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and the his failures around the League of Nations. I was much less aware of his background, his importance as a political scientist and academic administrator (President of Princeton), and as a politician (Governor of New Jersey). What was most surprising was the speed of his rise from being President of Princeton to being President of the US. The book is very informative, especially about the Progressive era and the national politics that permitted Wilson to become elected President in 1912. Cooper's treatment is superb throughout, including the wars years and the peace conference. Cooper also has a measured view of Wilson, which while generally positive also recognizes Wilson's numerous limitations. Overall, this was an amazingly effective President who really influenced the country and the world, although not always for the better. Another realization from the book is how much the world has changed since Wilson's time. He -- or any other academic - would have a hard time getting elected today and the modern media has no doubt thoroughly changed how political life is conducted. The book is well written and easy to follow for a thorough and critical biography. It is not the easiest read to get through but is well worth the effort to push to the finish.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    The NYTimes review made Cooper sound like a professional Wilson booster-apologist, member of one of those scholarly cheering sections, perennially urging reevaluation, which every one of our presidents seems to boast. My taste in presidents, aside from the pivotal empire-builders and empire-savers like Lincoln and FDR, runs more to the con-men (JFK) and the crazies (Nixon) who've noir-ishly helmed the state; I'm also getting interested in the great failures, so I think I'm due for a Wilson biogr The NYTimes review made Cooper sound like a professional Wilson booster-apologist, member of one of those scholarly cheering sections, perennially urging reevaluation, which every one of our presidents seems to boast. My taste in presidents, aside from the pivotal empire-builders and empire-savers like Lincoln and FDR, runs more to the con-men (JFK) and the crazies (Nixon) who've noir-ishly helmed the state; I'm also getting interested in the great failures, so I think I'm due for a Wilson biography. Everything I know about Wilson is disagreeable, and Clemenceau’s jibes are music to my ears ("Fourteen Points? The Good Lord only gave us Ten, and do we abide by those?"), but I'll listen to Cooper make the case for Wilson because in college I took (and loved) a class he taught on American foreign policy—-a class that was a dream of conversational erudition and narrative lectureship—-and because John Milton Cooper has one of those awesome nineteenth century names that incorporate the name of a Great Man in a sign of family homage (reading about World War I I've come across American generals named "Robert Lee Bullard" and "Ulysses Grant McAlexander").

  5. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    In his thoroughly-researched biography of Woodrow Wilson, John Milton Cooper, Jr. offers the reader a look into the life and times of a significant man in American history. Wilson not only shaped America and the world in the early 20th century, but also helped to push the parameters of the American political system, both from his academic ivory tower and within the Oval Office. As Cooper explores the nuances in Wilson's life, the reader is treated to a wonderful narrative that rises above partis In his thoroughly-researched biography of Woodrow Wilson, John Milton Cooper, Jr. offers the reader a look into the life and times of a significant man in American history. Wilson not only shaped America and the world in the early 20th century, but also helped to push the parameters of the American political system, both from his academic ivory tower and within the Oval Office. As Cooper explores the nuances in Wilson's life, the reader is treated to a wonderful narrative that rises above partisan rhetoric to permit all readers a fast-paced journey through a busy life. Rather than digesting the biography as a tale that spans from A to Z, Cooper offers three distinct characters of Woodrow Wilson with whom the reader can liaise. The keen academic emerges to expound on the need for change, the politician seeks to bring that change to fruition, and the world leader seeks to instil that change in the global political narrative, both within America's borders and in the international political arena. Cooper successfully argues that these three characters are intertwined and did help produce a country and a world that had a better handle on events, heading into some of the most difficult years in modern history. A wonderful biographical piece that readers with a strong interest in politics and the American political system will surely enjoy. 'Thomas' Woodrow Wilson came about his academic prowess naturally. With a keen interest in all things educational from an early age, Wilson surrounded himself with those whose primary focus was to expound knowledge. While many of the men in his close family were preachers, Wilson sought a more conventional approach to academics and attended Princeton, where he read politics and found a passion in this educational endeavour. Even as an undergraduate student, Wilson sought to question the various institutional aspects of the American political system, arguing that it was less effective than the British parliamentary system. In his numerous essays and published work, Wilson felt that parliamentary systems had stronger checks and balances than the American republic, while also allowing a more hands-on approach to governing. This passion extended as he forged onward into deeper study and earned degrees not only from Princeton, but also Johns Hopkins. His essays caught the attention of many, though even armed with a superior writing style, Wilson could not always turn the minds of those in positions of power towards his ideals. As an academic, Wilson returned to Princeton, seeking to educate the next generation of learners, where he discovered changes afoot, as women and people of minority races peppered the student body. Cooper discusses how Wilson wrestled with this change and called for racial and gender segregation on campus, issues that would reemerge later in his presidential life. Wilson rose in the ranks and soon found himself as President of Princeton University, where he could affect outward change, including more faculties to accommodate the new and exciting realms of science, technology, and higher learning. Wilson's downfall came when he tried to push too hard for a graduate building, coming up against strong-willed members of the faculty and board. Wilson would not be deterred, however, as he stood firm in his beliefs, trying to bring about the change he felt was necessary. This passion would prove highly useful in his future endeavours, which seemed to flow naturally from his presidency of Princeton. Wilson's political aspirations could be seen as inherent from his youthful obsession with the American political system. While not thumping for Democratic candidates alongside his family, as with some future presidents, Wilson had a passion for the machinery and knew that he would need to become a cog if he wanted to bring about concrete, rather than theoretical, change. One could argue, as Cooper does, that Wilson began exemplifying political tendencies while leading Princeton. The aforementioned lobbying for space and new faculty buildings forced him to barter with those around him. The university's politics did instil in him some anger and frustration, but also helped shape him into the man needed for his next two posts; ones that would shape a larger electorate and determine major changes for decades to come. After leaving Princeton, Wilson was steered towards the 1910 gubernatorial race of New Jersey, which Cooper made sound like a veritable cakewalk. Wilson's ideas helped stir the pot and forced those legislators to see that he was by no means a passive man, armed with his academic interests in the political system. Cooper does make Wilson's time as governor appear to be a launching pad for a presidential run in 1912, which came to pass without much issue. While Wilson may have been seen by Democrats as their potential saviour, his march to Washington was by no means pre-ordained. In a raucous fight at the convention, Wilson had to fend off others for dozens of ballots before emerging victorious, only to face a hyperactive Teddy Roosevelt who sought to steal away Republican votes through a third-party in the form of the Progressives. Cooper illustrates the pains to which Wilson went to endure the '12 campaign and his ultimate victory, though it was only then that things got a great deal more interesting. While acting as president, Wilson was forced to steer a domestic agenda for a country in dire need of navigation. He used his interests to steer things in a certain direction, but had to weigh his sentiments with both congressional leaders and a Cabinet, each with their own preferences. Wilson succeeded in placing financial legislation on the agenda and developing the Federal Reserve, but there were things outside the domestic realm, discussed below, that occupied his time and turned him from a President of the United States into a world leader prepared to look at a global political sphere. While Wilson did run again in 1916, he was encumbered with an isolationist stance while Europe and the Far East continued their bloody Great War. As Cooper mentions throughout one particular section of the biography, while Wilson did succeed in his second presidential election, said victory marked the end of any domestic presidency, though this is not entirely true. Wilson did oversee two significant amendments to the US Constitution, prohibition (which he tried to veto) and women's suffrage. Cooper illustrates these fights effectively, painting America as a progressive power while the world turned its eyes on Europe and the Germans continued to goad America to join the bloodshed. That Wilson succeeded as a politician was only the first step in the arduous process of becoming a stellar statesman. Wilson was not faced only with leading America during the Great War, but also had to balance his domestic policies with defending American borders and citizens. Mexico proved to be the first thorn in Wilson's side, forcing him to use negotiating skills to prevent another US-Mexico War and keep the peace on the continent. Wilson adopted a 'diplomacy over aggression' approach, which became his niche for both presidential terms when looking to the international arena. Wilson kept America out of the Great War, as Cooper explains, for reasons not simply to steer clear of the European mess, but because there was no territorial infringement or investment. Cooper's wonderful narrative not only depicts the struggles in Europe, but also Wilson's hand-wringing as he watched from the outside, formulating his League of Nations idea. While America did eventually send troops into the fray, Cooper effectively argues that this was neither an easy choice for Wilson nor one the world should take lightly. Wilson began drafting his famous Fourteen Points address and was keen to get things started while the ink dried on the Armistice in 1918. Wilson was surely the key player in pushing the peace negotiations forward and Paris would surely not have been as effective without his invested time. Cooper echoes some of the other reading I have done on this subject (see Margaret MacMillan's Paris 1919) and exemplifies the courage taken by the American president. That said, one might speculate this central role has caused future presidents to feel as though they are the essential cog in the wheel to any peace, and that things ought to be drafted along their own terms. In any case, Cooper argues repeatedly that Wilson shaped not only post-War Europe, but that other seasoned statesmen deferred to him, even as he entered their continental sphere and played chess with their respective geographic neighbours. However, when returning to America to instil this world leader persona on his congressional colleagues, they neutered him and refused to accept the Treaty of Versailles, which proved to be the bloodiest battle Wilson fought and led to the demise of the Democrats in the 1920 election, one in which Wilson could not convince the party faithful to allow him to lead. That Wilson was a statesman like no other cannot be discounted and Cooper does a masterful job at exploring this, though both Wilson and Cooper would likely admit that the former's long-time lamenting of the republican system of government led to the downfall of the larger League of Nations and sullied some of the world leader ideals that the president held. One would be remiss not to mention the familial theme that flows throughout the book, all of which help shape the Woodrow Wilson who emerged in the public domain. Wilson was lucky enough to have met and married two women who acted not only as political wives, but could be seen to offer their own insight into the daily decisions that he made throughout his working life. Ellen Axson, while not the first woman to win his heart, was surely the first to take the time to fully understand him. She stuck by Wilson through the early years at Princeton and helped make the leap to both the Governor's Office (no mansion at the time in New Jersey, for those who enjoy a little trivia) and White House. She bore him three children, all of whom played a significant role in Wilson's life and whom Cooper mentions throughout the narrative. However, her untimely death caused Wilson much angst and he suffered greatly for a period of time during his first term because of this. Cooper offers a thread that Wilson was by no means a man out of touch with the allure of the feminine charm, hinting at potential affairs and dalliances before reaching Washington. Wilson was also able to meet and marry his second wife, Edith Bolling, not too long after Ellen's passing. Edith Wilson was that rare second rock to keep him upright as he forged into the most difficult years as president and stood by him throughout his frustrations surrounding the League of Nations. She offered a strong and protective approach of Wilson, particularly in his twilight years and helped Wilson after his debilitating stroke during the latter time of his second term in office. Cooper's personification of Wilson, showing that he was a man as well as a political beast, offers the reader a great counterbalance throughout the narrative and injects some lighter fare into the heavier topics discussed at length. Cooper's attention to detail is not lost on the reader, as he weaves his way through these most important political and historical events. Wilson's time in the White House alone were, arguably, some of the most important political years in the world. From the push to offer women's suffrage through to the Great War and the Treaty of Versailles negotiations thereafter, Cooper presents the reader with a well-rounded collection of facts and arguments from all the players, allowing a well-grounded decision to be made, even if it differs from that of Woodrow Wilson. There is little within the tome that does not have a balanced counter argument, which is the sign of a superior writer, particularly one who tackles political issues. Cooper is to be commended for his analysis, as well as his luring the reader in with a detailed narrative that paints these historical events in way so as to bring them off the published page. If only all biographers had this passion in their writing! Kudos, Mr. Cooper for such a wonderful biographical piece. Woodrow Wilson transcends the two-term presidency for which he is known and supports his position as one of the twentieth century's greatest world leaders. Like/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at: http://pecheyponderings.wordpress.com/

  6. 4 out of 5

    Whitebeard Books

    Exceptionally interesting information here! Woodrow Wilson is one of those overlooked presidents I believe. He was years ahead of his time and had intrigue while in office. He seems to have been a man with a combination of ingredients that took a small portion of many other presidents. He had a sex life, a conspiracy while in office, he entered a very unpopular war, had ideas far ahead of his time about solving not just US problems but of a united world. Any person who enjoys American history wi Exceptionally interesting information here! Woodrow Wilson is one of those overlooked presidents I believe. He was years ahead of his time and had intrigue while in office. He seems to have been a man with a combination of ingredients that took a small portion of many other presidents. He had a sex life, a conspiracy while in office, he entered a very unpopular war, had ideas far ahead of his time about solving not just US problems but of a united world. Any person who enjoys American history will totally enjoy this terrific telling of a very modern president who was in office a hundred years before it all became popular.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Shawn Deal

    A great history about an unlikely man who became president. I loved all the detail put into this book. It was well researched. Well written and and a very accessible read. A very good biography about this man.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    A very well-written biography of the 28th President by the magnificently-named John Milton Cooper. There is certainly a lot to either like or dislike about Wilson, who's probably best known for his failure at the end of his presidency to get the Senate to pass an unrevised version of the Versailles Treaty that would have placed the USA in the League of Nations. Against this, one should keep in mind Wilson's successes in implementing his progressive domestic goals during his first term, but one n A very well-written biography of the 28th President by the magnificently-named John Milton Cooper. There is certainly a lot to either like or dislike about Wilson, who's probably best known for his failure at the end of his presidency to get the Senate to pass an unrevised version of the Versailles Treaty that would have placed the USA in the League of Nations. Against this, one should keep in mind Wilson's successes in implementing his progressive domestic goals during his first term, but one need also keep in mind that he oversaw the segregation of the civil service. In general, Wilson held to the racial views of the old South; it was once said that Wilson favored freedom in Czechoslovakia but not in Alabama. There's plenty of material to chew over here, and Cooper presents it all in a enjoyable narrative. Cooper isn't exactly worshipful, but he occasionally can't help excusing Wilson's weaker performances or supposing "what-ifs." Nonetheless, this is a good solid biography.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Steve Smits

    A popular contemporary conception of Woodrow Wilson is that he was a largely successful president whose term ended in failure by his quixotic quest for Senate approval of the Treaty of Versailles and American entry into the League of Nations. He is viewed by some today as an academician and theoretical visionary whose skills as a politician were not particularly strong. There is also the image that he was completely invalided by a stroke suffered in 1919 and that the remainder of his term was ca A popular contemporary conception of Woodrow Wilson is that he was a largely successful president whose term ended in failure by his quixotic quest for Senate approval of the Treaty of Versailles and American entry into the League of Nations. He is viewed by some today as an academician and theoretical visionary whose skills as a politician were not particularly strong. There is also the image that he was completely invalided by a stroke suffered in 1919 and that the remainder of his term was carried out through the shadow presidency of his wife and advisors. Cooper's book provides a comprehensive analysis of this remarkable man. Some impressions we hold are supported but given much more depth by Cooper's thoughtful portrayal of this complex figure; others are shown to be misjudgments, or at least shallow. Wilson was the most highly educated president in our history. His understanding of political systems was scholarly and informed his views and actions as a political leader. He was a student of Edmund Burke and accepted Burke's view that political dynamics were matters of behavior and actions more than institutions. Wilson was a strong proponent of political parties and the salutary effects of parties on shaping political discourse in national events. His early writing on congressional government was (and is) considered to be a brilliant exposition on the nature of, and weaknesses of, our system of separation of powers. He was particularly critical of the congressional committee system which gave inordinate control of matters to a few people whose motives often did not match the national interest. While Wilson was genuinely a scholar, he was also a university administrator. Cooper points out that managing university politics provided meaningful experience to Wilson in his considerable political adroitness shown later in elective offices. Wilson attempted to transform Princeton, where he was president, into a more academically rigorous institution and his maneuvering presaged his skills as a traditional politician. Wilson was governor of New Jersey for only two years before ascending to the presidency. Here he showed his abilities in governing in a state thad been dominated by political bosses and hack politicians. As president, Wilson took a path of progressivism and reform that was extant in the public domain of that era. In working to achieve his agenda, he was far from being an ivory tower theorist in his dealings with political allies and opponents. It was remarkable to see, especially in our time of gridlock, how skillfully he worked with both parties in congress to achieve policy outcomes. One of his two great blind spots, however, was on race relations. One must conclude that Wilson was at best indifferent to racial equality and fairness. There is a strong case to be made that his inactions and actions stemmed from his overtly racist views of African-Americans. At the outbreak of WWI, foreign affairs became the predominant problem to command Wilson's attention. He tried stalwartly to keep America neutral and out of the war. There was in the country up until 1917 strong aversion to getting involved and Wilson worked hard to keep events from pulling America into the conflict, many times in the face of extremely provocative acts by the Germans, particularly the submarine warfare which was costing American lives. When the Germans announced unrestricted submarine warfare in early 1917 the scales of peace and war were tipped toward America's entry. The war effort was all out and encompassed many dimensions of American life. The rabid anti-German sentiment that emerged after our entry led to the second great failing of Wilson's leadership. He was willing to let flourish the most egregious abuses of civil liberties and suppression of dissent that our nation has ever seen. Constitutional freedoms of expression were trampled and dissenters tried and jailed over their anti-war views. Wilson must have had little sympathy for alternative views as even after the war he resisted a pardon for socialist Eugene Debs, a national figure who was imprisoned for several years because of his opposition to the war. Wilson participated directly and closely in the peace conference of 1918-1919. He spent a number of months in Europe negotiating with the victors for a peace treaty that would do much more than satisfy the victors through harsh punishment of the Germans. His famous fourteen points demonstrated his long view that the war's resolution must created a different world than existed before 1914. His conception of the League of Nations was that countries could collectively guarantee peace as they had before come together to wage war. He strongly urged reasonable terms for the vanquished so that the seeds of revenge would not sprout. It is with the treaty and his advocacy for it that we see the strength of his vision and the weakness of his obstinacy. He chose not to involve his political opponents throughout the lengthy negotiations in ways that might have mitigated their concerns or at least weakened their platforms of opposition. When he presented the treaty to the Senate, he was unwillingly to accept compromises (the so-called reservations) that might have ensured approval and garnered at least a starting point for internationalism that could have grown later. He decided to take his message to the public and it was on a whirlwind national speaking tour that he suffered a stroke. The stroke was a life-threatening event for Wilson and certainly deprived him of the vigor to continue his pro-treaty strategy. His wife and advisors shielded him from excessive stress and turmoil, but they did not act as substitute president during his illness and recovery. He did, in fact, recover to a substantial degree, but the affects of the stroke appeared to affect him more emotionally than intellectually. His judgment lost its coolness and he reacted to circumstances in non-helpful ways rather than through calculation. One does not know that even if healthy he would have been able to salvage the treaty due to his rigidity, but surely the stroke made this outcome nearly impossible. Wilson continued to stay on the public scene after his term in office. He contemplated a run for a third term in 1920 and in 1924. While still a figure with a strong national following, his stamina and intellectual prowess were clearly diminishing in his post-stroke years. He appeared to be getting ever stronger by early 1925 when an illness brought him to death, probably due to a generally weakened condition from his stroke. Ironically, Wilson was correct in his vision for ensuring peace through the collective actions of governments as was his fear about the inevitable return to war if his vision were not adopted. Within two decades of the conclusion of the "war to end all wars" the nations of the world became embroiled in an even more devastating global conflict. One of the interesting aspects of the story of Wilson and his times is the parallels with our political milieu one hundred years after. The struggles between progressivism and conservatism, between the powers of the executive and the congress, on whether collective efforts of sovereign governments can bring peace, and on America's role as an internal leader have a strikingly familiar resonance to us in the 21st century.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    http://bestpresidentialbios.com/2015/... “Woodrow Wilson: A Biography” is John Milton Cooper, Jr.’s 2009 biography of the 28th president. It was the 2010 Pulitzer Finalist in the Biography category. Cooper is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of nearly a dozen books, including “The Warrior and the Priest,” his 1983 comparative biography of Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt. “Woodrow Wilson" is detailed and comprehensive - and clearly the result of significant research. About seventy p http://bestpresidentialbios.com/2015/... “Woodrow Wilson: A Biography” is John Milton Cooper, Jr.’s 2009 biography of the 28th president. It was the 2010 Pulitzer Finalist in the Biography category. Cooper is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of nearly a dozen books, including “The Warrior and the Priest,” his 1983 comparative biography of Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt. “Woodrow Wilson" is detailed and comprehensive - and clearly the result of significant research. About seventy pages of notes accompany the 599 pages of text. Cooper's writing style is easy to navigate, but while it is intellectual it is not particularly elegant or descriptive. As a result, this book feels like the product of a research-minded historian rather than a writer. While I don't remember reading anything groundbreaking and revelatory about Wilson, this biography is strong in several areas. The discussion of the campaign and election of 1912, for example, is extremely interesting - particularly Cooper's comparison of Wilson's and Teddy Roosevelt's backgrounds and political philosophies. Cooper also provides an interesting review of the 1916 Republican presidential candidate (Charles Hughes) as well as that party's tactical situation during Wilson's campaign for reelection. And the story of Wilson's efforts to ensure US neutrality during World War I is probably better-told here than in any Wilson biography I've read. But the best part of the book may be its final pages: Cooper provides the best summary of Wilson's three-year post-presidency that I've seen. There is a consensus that Cooper's biography is too kind to its subject, and on an absolute basis that is true. Relative to other biographies of Wilson, however, this book actually proves somewhat balanced. Cooper addresses Wilson's views regarding race relations and women's suffrage with more candor than I've seen in other biographies, while his harshest criticism is leveled at Wilson for remaining in office after suffering a debilitating stroke. Still, every Wilson biographer seems to be an admirer...and this case is no different. But while there is much to admire about Cooper's biography, it fell short of my lofty expectations. The author conveys facts articulately and efficiently, but is not always as focused on interpreting those actions and events. Some chapters are infused with compelling analysis, but many are not...reminding me of a souped-up history text. And where the best biographies bring their subjects to life with colorful scene-setting, "Woodrow Wilson" lacks spark and personality. It is not quite a "facts-only" rendering of Wilson, but he and others around him don't come to life with nearly the vibrancy I expect. Instead, this biography reminds me of a college friend you could rely on to tutor you in a difficult subject...but who wasn't a person you would choose to hang out with for fun. Overall, John Milton Cooper, Jr.'s "Woodrow Wilson" is a good, but not great, presidential biography. It's hard to imagine a more thorough or detailed review of Wilson's life, but not difficult to envision one that is more captivating or engaging. It does not live up to its reputation of "revitalizing" Wilson's image (a task performed by at least one earlier biography), but Cooper is successful in portraying Wilson as a great man who was tragically human - and whose presidency would have been greater had it ended sooner. Overall rating: 3¾ stars

  11. 4 out of 5

    Steven Peterson

    A very nice biography of Woodrow Wilson. He began his adult career as an academic, became President of Princeton University, was elected governor of New Jersey, and--finally--he was elected President of the United States. He was not just an ordinary academic either, but the author of journal articles and books that were--for the time--well reputed. A political scientist who became elected to political office. . . . The book follows him through his life course. It portrays his strength A very nice biography of Woodrow Wilson. He began his adult career as an academic, became President of Princeton University, was elected governor of New Jersey, and--finally--he was elected President of the United States. He was not just an ordinary academic either, but the author of journal articles and books that were--for the time--well reputed. A political scientist who became elected to political office. . . . The book follows him through his life course. It portrays his strengths and his weaknesses. He had an analytical mind, thought things through, and could be definitive in his decision-making. On the other hand, he could be very stubborn, sometimes creating problems when he served as President of Princeton, Governor of New Jersey, and President of the United States. He held views on race that were problematic. Politically, he began as rather conservative, but won elections as a progressive Democrat. His background in the south helped shape some of his views, although he was hardly an unreconstructed Confederate. The book also displays his personal life--his happy first marriage, the death of his wife, and his second marriage. . . . The sad last years of his life are well depicted. It seems clear, from the author's research, that Wilson had had earlier medical problems that presaged the massive illness occurring late in his presidency. In short, this is a fine biography of Woodrow Wilson.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    Woodrow Wilson: A Biography, a wonderful work of scholarship, is aptly subtitled. Cooper focuses on Wilson's entire life and seems determined to get that story just right. Thus, the author picks no fights in this cautious tale. Mostly, I found that refreshing. Cooper is clearly a fan of Wilson's, but no apologist. Thus, he doesn't minimize Wilson's racial attitudes and fairly places the blame for the WWI Treaty's American failure at Wilson's doorstep. Cooper is much taken with Wilson's oratoric Woodrow Wilson: A Biography, a wonderful work of scholarship, is aptly subtitled. Cooper focuses on Wilson's entire life and seems determined to get that story just right. Thus, the author picks no fights in this cautious tale. Mostly, I found that refreshing. Cooper is clearly a fan of Wilson's, but no apologist. Thus, he doesn't minimize Wilson's racial attitudes and fairly places the blame for the WWI Treaty's American failure at Wilson's doorstep. Cooper is much taken with Wilson's oratorical and writing skills and even gushes a bit comparing Wilson to Lincoln. Sorry. Lincoln's speeches and writing continue to move me. Wilson's really don't. Cooper didn't convince me otherwise. In the great presidential campaign of 1912, Cooper ventures a little bit into a comparative analysis of the philosophical growth of Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt. I would have liked even more of this because the abbreviated version here was not entirely convincing. (Cooper has also written a comparative dual biography of the two presidents and contemporary opponents). Finally, whether or not you are an admirer of Wilson's (I'm not), this biography is not likely to change your mind. Nevertheless, it was a fascinating and worthy read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bookmarks Magazine

    It is hard to doubt that Cooper's book is now the definitive biography of Wilson: professors from Harvard, Brown, and Yale gave it this accolade in their reviews. These and other critics tended to praise Cooper for disentangling Wilson from the contemporary use and abuse of his legacy; as Cooper puts it, the 28th president "was no Wilsonian, just Woodrow Wilson." Reviewers were also impressed by Cooper's chapters on the ample domestic agenda of a president normally remembered for foreign affairs It is hard to doubt that Cooper's book is now the definitive biography of Wilson: professors from Harvard, Brown, and Yale gave it this accolade in their reviews. These and other critics tended to praise Cooper for disentangling Wilson from the contemporary use and abuse of his legacy; as Cooper puts it, the 28th president "was no Wilsonian, just Woodrow Wilson." Reviewers were also impressed by Cooper's chapters on the ample domestic agenda of a president normally remembered for foreign affairs. Some critics took issue, however, with Cooper's attempts to attribute some of Wilson's faults (such as the institution of racial segregation of federal agencies or the crackdown on dissent during WWI) to his advisers or cabinet members. But all these critics indicated that these flaws were more than outweighed by the book's many strengths, suggesting that if readers want a book on Woodrow Wilson, this is the one. This is an excerpt from a review published in Bookmarks magazine.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mike Clinton

    This was an excellent, informative, substantial biography, exactly the kind that makes people fans of biographies, written with a sharp focus and engaging style that made me look forward to the sessions when I could spend with it (although circumstances kept me from getting through it as quickly as I might have.) Cooper presents Wilson with a favorable eye, balanced with reasonable assessments of his shortcomings and mistakes. More than most presidents, Wilson continues to be a figure towards wh This was an excellent, informative, substantial biography, exactly the kind that makes people fans of biographies, written with a sharp focus and engaging style that made me look forward to the sessions when I could spend with it (although circumstances kept me from getting through it as quickly as I might have.) Cooper presents Wilson with a favorable eye, balanced with reasonable assessments of his shortcomings and mistakes. More than most presidents, Wilson continues to be a figure towards whom derision or veneration is directed based largely on ideological and political commitments of the present rather than those from Wilson's own time. In that respect, he's a significant figure in American political history because he represents attitudes about the character of American democracy that endure across generations - essential convictions over ephemeral issues. Cooper's portrayal of Wilson is convincing, taught me some things I didn't know, and led me to reflect about things I should reflect about. That's what a good, solid book does.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Craig

    I think this is probably the best one volume biography of Wilson I have read so far. It used to be Heckscher, but I give Cooper the edge because of his writing. There is so much going on, but his writing style makes it enjoyable. Be prepared, it is a dense read, but Wilson had such a impact. I do wish the book was more of his life and times, though. Cooper refers to many situations that really could be expanded just a bit. Yet, the author presents a balanced view of Wilson and shows warts and al I think this is probably the best one volume biography of Wilson I have read so far. It used to be Heckscher, but I give Cooper the edge because of his writing. There is so much going on, but his writing style makes it enjoyable. Be prepared, it is a dense read, but Wilson had such a impact. I do wish the book was more of his life and times, though. Cooper refers to many situations that really could be expanded just a bit. Yet, the author presents a balanced view of Wilson and shows warts and all. A. Scott Berg is coming out with his one-volume, so stay tuned to see if he can surpass Cooper.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    While Woodrow is not my favorite Pres., I am looking forward to this bio by Cooper.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Chaston Kome

    Wilson’s legacy has come to the foreground again in the past few years, especially in regards to his legacy on race relations. At Princeton University, there has been discussion to remove his name from their school of Public and International Affairs, as to cease commemorating a terrible racist. It was this new brand of discussion that caused me to look into Cooper’s biography of our 28th President. Cooper’s biography tells the complex story of a complex man with such amazing ability; Wilson’s legacy has come to the foreground again in the past few years, especially in regards to his legacy on race relations. At Princeton University, there has been discussion to remove his name from their school of Public and International Affairs, as to cease commemorating a terrible racist. It was this new brand of discussion that caused me to look into Cooper’s biography of our 28th President. Cooper’s biography tells the complex story of a complex man with such amazing ability; never, in any biography have I felt I understood someone so thoroughly through a book. Most importantly, Cooper is of the era of biographers who are not writing hagiographies, but helping us readers examine and get a measure of a subject. Cooper challenges popular misconceptions, and in knowing his subject so well, is able to educate the reader about how Wilson’s intellect, determination, temperament, and eloquence helped lead Princeton, then New Jersey, then the United States into a brighter future. Conceptions of an aloof, and high-minded Professor trying to do a politician’s job are incorrect: while his approach to handling issues may have been scholarly, Wilson was enormously capable of political machinations, negotiating on legislation, and educating the public about his goals. The legislative accomplishments of his first Presidential term are truly an incredible list. For all of Roosevelt’s punch, it is Wilson who has the political savvy that achieves a lot of the reforms of the Progressive Era. Likewise, Cooper doesn’t avoid or apologize for Wilson’s many flaws. Throughout the book, Cooper hammers Wilson for his shortcomings and failures. He does not shy away from Wilson’s racism and shortcomings on race relations, though he points out Wilson was more of typical of Northerners of his time who just wished this race issue would go away (the Birth of a Nation endorsement is likely not true). Of course, Wilson held positions of power throughout his adult life, so his racism and indifference to the sufferings of black Americans held far greater consequences for blacks, then the prejudices of the average person. Likewise, Cooper examines his temperamental flaws and vanities that held him back from further successes and that came to the front as a stroke ravaged his mind and body for the final year of his presidency. Cooper has so successfully captured the complexity of this Wilson and his even more complex legacy who is, without a doubt, one of our most accomplished presidents.

  18. 5 out of 5

    David Beeson

    Fans of The West Wing may remember Ainslie Hayes, played by Emily Procter, the Republican lawyer who takes a job in the Counsel’s Office of a Democratic White House. In a bantering argument with Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe), she asks “How many grand theories of international relations did [Woodrow] Wilson come up with that were dead on arrival in Congress?” There was, in fact, only one that mattered. But it was massive. US President at the end of the First World War, Wilson was a leading Fans of The West Wing may remember Ainslie Hayes, played by Emily Procter, the Republican lawyer who takes a job in the Counsel’s Office of a Democratic White House. In a bantering argument with Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe), she asks “How many grand theories of international relations did [Woodrow] Wilson come up with that were dead on arrival in Congress?” There was, in fact, only one that mattered. But it was massive. US President at the end of the First World War, Wilson was a leading figure in drawing up the Versailles Peace Treaty that made peace with Germany and launched the League of Nations. That body, the predecessor to the United Nations, was intended to prevent war by using the power of other states against any that tried to impose its will be violence. As John Milton Cooper points out in this biography of Woodrow Wilson (cleverly entitled Woodrow Wilson: A Biography), Wilson ‘conceded that the League would bring no absolute guarantee against another world war, “but I can predict with absolute certainty that, within another generation, there will be another world war if the nations of the world, if the League of Nations, does not prevent it with concerted action.’ In the event, he couldn’t persuade Congress to ratify the Treaty and the US never joined the League of Nations. There were, undoubtedly, other factors but the world did indeed descend into another world war, as Wilson predicted, within a generation. Wilson is still the only US President, out of 44, to have held a PhD. He was also President of Princeton before he went into politics. That background may have coloured his approach, based on the need to educate the public, to win their understanding as well as support for his actions. Princeton was a good training ground for him. It was riven by another kind of politics, and Wilson had to battle to see his initiatives adopted. He enjoyed mixed success, though he contributed significantly to turning the college into a world-class centre or learning and research. Moving into politics in the other sense, in 1910, at the age of 53, may seem an outlandish career change. However, he won immediate success, becoming Governor of New Jersey. His did well in that role, so he became quickly talked of as a possible Democratic candidate for President in 1912. That was a good year for the Democrats. Since Abraham Lincoln’s victory in 1860, the Republicans had been out of the White House for only eight of 52 years. But now they were split: ex-President Theodore Roosevelt had fallen out with his old friend and hand-picked successor, incumbent President William Taft. The field was wide open. Wilson didn’t start as front runner. But an intelligent campaign, run as much by well-chosen advisers as by himself, took him through forty ballots at the national convention, until he seized the nomination from the early favourite. He then went on to win the general election, taking advantage as predicted of the Republican Party split. In the White House, he took a new approach to legislation, working directly with the Democratic caucus in Congress. This was unprecedented and some suspected unconstitutional, as it might be seen as a breach of the principle of separation of executive and legislative powers. It worked, though, as he pushed through some major elements of his ‘New Freedom’ agenda: he reduced tariffs to make goods cheaper for the poor, he brought in anti-trust legislation against abuse of power by major corporations, he set up the first Federal Reserve system. These were times of success, but also of tragedy. His wife died in 1914, depriving him of a major source of encouragement and support. Cooper takes us through these dark times for the President, through to the moment he met his second wife the following year. He repeats the description of a secret service guard who saw Wilson dancing a jig in the street as he hummed “oh, you beautiful doll, you great big beautiful doll”, after a meeting with his new love. Internationally, the clouds were gathering. War broke out in Europe in August 1914. Both Wilson and his secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, three-time defeated candidate for President, long-time leader and conscience of the Democratic Party, and committed pacifist, set out to keep the US neutral. However, the behaviour of Germany, especially its use of submarines which led to American deaths in sinkings of liners, made it increasingly difficult to stick to that path. Eventually, Bryan went, disillusioned with what he saw as Wilson’s increasingly bellicose stand. Finally, in 1917 Wilson decided the US had no choice but to join the war against Germany. That led to eventual victory and the peace negotiations at Versailles. When he returned to the US, he faced serious opposition to ratification of the Treaty. Cooper makes a persuasive case that he was already a dangerously sick man; his ill health combined with the loss of Democratic control of the House and Senate meant that Wilson couldn’t again pull off the trick of pushing his measures through Congress as he had in the past. And worse was to come: when he took the case for the Treaty, and for the League of Nations, to the country on a speaking tour, he wore himself out and suffered a serious stroke. The last year and a half of his Presidency were a sad period, as a once-giant of the political arena shrank into a disabled old man, unable to come to an accommodation with his opponents and take the US into the League of Nations. In 1920, the Republicans recaptured the White House and both Houses of Congress by large majorities. So the fictional Ainslie Hayes was right. On a huge question, he backed an important proposal that was dead on arrival in Congress. And, wrecked by ill health, he struggled on when he should have gone. In what I found one of the saddest moments in the book, Cooper shows us Wilson still making preparations for another run at the presidency just weeks before his death. Cooper’s book sometimes suffers from being a little too academic, too long on detail. But it is scrupulously fair and excellently researched, showing the President as he truly was, including his failures, even his inability to shake fully the racist views absorbed from his Southern roots. Overall, it gives a vivid and invaluable picture of a remarkable man in fascinating times.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    A slog of a read in its first half, during Wilson’s career in academia, the pace picked up dramatically to cram his presidency and final years into the second half. Ultimately, details were sufficient throughout, although more could have been said of Wilson’s faults and indifference at times. Cooper was fair, however, calling out Wilson’s wrong-headed decisions as well as his good ones. For a single-volume biography, this did its job, but Wilson—and the time—deserve more pages. I also enjoy an e A slog of a read in its first half, during Wilson’s career in academia, the pace picked up dramatically to cram his presidency and final years into the second half. Ultimately, details were sufficient throughout, although more could have been said of Wilson’s faults and indifference at times. Cooper was fair, however, calling out Wilson’s wrong-headed decisions as well as his good ones. For a single-volume biography, this did its job, but Wilson—and the time—deserve more pages. I also enjoy an ending that wraps up the other aspects of a president’s life which this lacked, such as the fates of his wife, children, friends, and staff. But there was a nicely-packaged note on Wilson’s legacy, as well as nods throughout the book to “what might have been.”

  20. 4 out of 5

    Francisco

    A very long book with some events repeated and future events mentioned while the chronological story line continues. It was interesting to know some of the inner moments in WW decisions not mentioned in H.S. history class.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Regina Lindsey

    Woodrow Wilson by John Milton Cooper 4 Stars Wilson is most known as the professorial president who managed the US entry into WWI. The first to hold the office with a PhD, Wilson started life with a learning disability, possibly dyslexia, and had only two years elected government experience prior to capturing the Democratic Party’s nomination. This did not, however, prevent him from managing the legislative process well. In fact, he appears more adept than Theodore Roosevelt in t Woodrow Wilson by John Milton Cooper 4 Stars Wilson is most known as the professorial president who managed the US entry into WWI. The first to hold the office with a PhD, Wilson started life with a learning disability, possibly dyslexia, and had only two years elected government experience prior to capturing the Democratic Party’s nomination. This did not, however, prevent him from managing the legislative process well. In fact, he appears more adept than Theodore Roosevelt in this manner. While one could argue his party was indebted to him for its return to power and was willing to reward him, it cannot be denied that the skills Wilson learned as President of Princeton, where a tremendous amount of acumen was required to implement an ambitious agenda, served him well. It is in visionary thinking and strategically implementing an agenda where Wilson is at his strongest. It is also what puts him in a category with Andrew Jackson as having a major influence on our history. He dramatically changed our country whether one thinks that is good or bad for our country. Southern born, ironically, Wilson is a federalist, preferring Alexander Hamilton over Thomas Jefferson, prefers parliamentary government over congressional government, and was an open admirer of socialism (even though he kept Eugene Debs imprisoned well after the conclusion of WWI) While Theodore Roosevelt may be seen as the Father of Progressivism, it was Wilson who was responsible for moving the country towards policies that reflect that movement as evidenced by replacing tariffs with the income tax, implementing the inheritance tax, and passing the Federal Reserve Act. He had a hands-off approach to managing his cabinet, which Cooper argues was the genesis of many the missteps during his administration but probably kept the country running in the aftermath of the stroke Wilson suffered. This was an excellent biography. Cooper is very readable and able to explain very complex issues like the Federal Reserve Act. I finally understood why it was important to trudge through those excruciating reads on the tariff issue in previous reads. It set incredibly important context for the enactment of the federal income tax. I found Cooper’s attention to Wilson’s experience with Mexico a fascinating pretext for Wilson’s hesitancy to enter WWI, and I was among many Americans who assumed the sinking of the Lusitania immediately precipitated our entry into the war. I was really surprised to learn how early the rudiments of Wilson’s ideas on a worldwide league had been germinating in his thoughts. Finally, it is really scary to realize how long the country was operating without an able minded president (anyone who thinks we have never had a female president should read a Wilson biography). It is telling of just how impaired his thinking was that he didn’t offer to resign. Wilson appears, up until the point, to be a man who possessed an incredible amount of self-awareness and had devised a plan to allow Hughes to take the presidency prior to inauguration date had Wilson lost the 1916 election because of the looming war, fearing that a lame duck presidency could be dangerous for the country. There are only two areas where I think Cooper didn’t live up to a 5 star rating. First, while able to analyze Wilson objectively for the most part, Cooper gives Wilson a pass on his civil rights record providing little to no analysis and passing off the record to Cabinet members and Wilson’s management style. This is disappointing. Secondly, I never felt like I got a good understanding of why Wilson was willing to come off of his “no clear victors” stance at the conclusion of WWI. This is an area that deserved much more discussion as the Treaty of Versailles is directly responsible for circumstances leading to WWII.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Woodrow Wilson ranks among the most controversial presidents in American history. Elected at the peak of the Progressive movement in the United States, he secured passage of a number of new measures that fundamentally transformed the government’s relationship with the economy, yet presided over the introduction of segregation at the federal level. While promising a new approach to foreign policy governed by morality rather than crass personal interest, he initiated Latin American military interv Woodrow Wilson ranks among the most controversial presidents in American history. Elected at the peak of the Progressive movement in the United States, he secured passage of a number of new measures that fundamentally transformed the government’s relationship with the economy, yet presided over the introduction of segregation at the federal level. While promising a new approach to foreign policy governed by morality rather than crass personal interest, he initiated Latin American military interventions little different than those pursued by his predecessors. And while he led his nation into a war to make the world safe for democracy, the resulting peace only laid the groundwork for another, even more devastating conflict just two decades later. For these reasons, Wilson has not wanted for historical study, yet a good biography has long proved elusive. John Morton Blum’s Woodrow Wilson and the Politics of Morality and Kendrick Clements’s Woodrow Wilson: World Statesman are both valuable short introductions to Wilson’s life, but a more detailed examination that fits Wilson within the context of his time has been lacking until now. John Milton Cooper has meet the need for such a work with this book. A scholar who has spent his career studying Wilson and the Progressive era, he brings the benefits of his extensive knowledge to bear in this study. While not uncritical, he is generally sympathetic towards Wilson, and works to dispel the image of the stern moralist that persists in the popular imagination. His Wilson is at his core an educator, a president who was most successful when he explained his proposals and intentions to the public. Such efforts helped win for Wilson a number of impressive legislative and other policy achievements, while his failure to do so (such as in the fight over the League of Nations) often emerges as a major factor in his greatest failures. Such an approach can seem forgiving, and at times Cooper can come across more like an advocate for the defense than a scholar weighing the evidence. Yet this is a minor complaint when weighed against the scope of his achievement with this book. Cogently written and supported by a wealth of material, it enriches its readers' understanding of Wilson as a person and a president, and will likely be the standard by which future biographies of our nation’s 28th president are judged for decades to come.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Embarrassingly here are the new things I learned from this 600 page book that I’ll likely retain five years hence: • The ex-president used to go by his birth name of Tommy Wilson. • He was a big baseball fan. Obviously before the Houston Astros ruined the sport for many of us. • He almost took his first academic post at the University of Arkansas before they rescinded the offer! (way to go Hogs…or Cardinals or whatever you were called in those days) If anyone’s still wi Embarrassingly here are the new things I learned from this 600 page book that I’ll likely retain five years hence: • The ex-president used to go by his birth name of Tommy Wilson. • He was a big baseball fan. Obviously before the Houston Astros ruined the sport for many of us. • He almost took his first academic post at the University of Arkansas before they rescinded the offer! (way to go Hogs…or Cardinals or whatever you were called in those days) If anyone’s still with me, the most important aspect of Cooper’s biography is that it serves to balance the divergent viewpoints about Wilson that followed his presidency. The author readily acknowledges the camp that vilifies Tommy as a racist war-mongerer who’s actions – or in the case of civil rights, inactions – inexorably led to the Cold War, World War Zwei, and ill guided Birmingham fire hoses. This happens to be a camp – seemingly following no particular partisan line – that has authored all the books mentioning Wilson I’ve read of late. At least from the standpoint of someone who doesn’t know any better, I found Cooper’s narrative to be successful in this regard. The structure is predictably chronological but I never got the sense of being bogged down in some particular time frame/event. I’ll stop short of saying that I didn’t occasionally desire a nap while reading this sizeable tome. In fact the only reason I got through the last 200 pages in two evenings is that my library due date was upon me and I can no longer entertain the thought of standing in a lengthy, angst-filled line to pay a 15 cent library late fee to an anti-social miscreant. (No offense to libraries in general but at Boston’s Central Public Library they apparently only hire surprisingly unhelpful misanthropes to handle all public interactions). The whole, if you will, story flows well from his pre-Confederate birth to his final, incapacitated days attempting that lawyer thing again.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rosa Ramôa

    Os 14 pontos de Wilsom... "1.º Estabelecimento de tratados de paz. 2.º Livre navegação de todos os oceanos.3.º Supressão de barreiras alfandegárias. 4.º Desarmamento. 5.º Resolução das questões coloniais. 6.º Evacuação e restabelecimento da Bélgica. 8.º Devolução da Alsácia-Lorena à França. 9.º Retificação das fronteiras italianas. 10.º Autonomia dos povos que constituem o Império Austro-Húngaro. 11.º Evacuação e restabelecimento da Roménia,Sérvia e Montenegro. 12.º Autonomia dos povos não Os 14 pontos de Wilsom... "1.º Estabelecimento de tratados de paz. 2.º Livre navegação de todos os oceanos.3.º Supressão de barreiras alfandegárias. 4.º Desarmamento. 5.º Resolução das questões coloniais. 6.º Evacuação e restabelecimento da Bélgica. 8.º Devolução da Alsácia-Lorena à França. 9.º Retificação das fronteiras italianas. 10.º Autonomia dos povos que constituem o Império Austro-Húngaro. 11.º Evacuação e restabelecimento da Roménia,Sérvia e Montenegro. 12.º Autonomia dos povos não turcos do Império Otomano;livre passagem dos estreitos do Bósforo e Dardanelos. 13.º Fundação de um Estado polaco independente. 14.º Criação de uma Sociedade das Nações que assegure a independência política e a integridade dos Estados".

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    Good book. Wilson had a lot of flaws: racist (who wasn't back then?), self-righteous. But he busted his ass and seemed to have, for the most part, a decent moral compass (aside from racism and anti-civil libertarian positions). I liked very much how much he appreciated the need to have ALL Americans involved in the First World War. The idea that only a small number of people would be inconvenienced by the war effort was not his way. His League of Nations was a failure, and that was largely his f Good book. Wilson had a lot of flaws: racist (who wasn't back then?), self-righteous. But he busted his ass and seemed to have, for the most part, a decent moral compass (aside from racism and anti-civil libertarian positions). I liked very much how much he appreciated the need to have ALL Americans involved in the First World War. The idea that only a small number of people would be inconvenienced by the war effort was not his way. His League of Nations was a failure, and that was largely his fault. But he was right to push for something that would better connect the nations of the world. Ah well.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    John Milton Cooper Jr. has spent his life exploring the life of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, so it is unsurprising that this full-scale biography is packed with detail and nuance. What is pleasantly surprising is that its scholarship is matched by its readability. Cooper writes very well, very clearly, and his narrative of the beleaguered president's life is compelling and dramatic. I've been lucky recently to read a few presidential biographies that were real page-turners. This happily is ano John Milton Cooper Jr. has spent his life exploring the life of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, so it is unsurprising that this full-scale biography is packed with detail and nuance. What is pleasantly surprising is that its scholarship is matched by its readability. Cooper writes very well, very clearly, and his narrative of the beleaguered president's life is compelling and dramatic. I've been lucky recently to read a few presidential biographies that were real page-turners. This happily is another one.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    Enjoyed reading this well-written biography of the 28th president of the United States, especially with the History Book Club moderators guiding the discussion. Wilson became a real human being to me, with nuances of personality and attitudes brought in, making me want to examine his actions and speeches in a more thoughtful light than the one-dimensional portrait most people get from today’s “sound bite” commentators. This book always comes to my mind now when I try to understand other presiden Enjoyed reading this well-written biography of the 28th president of the United States, especially with the History Book Club moderators guiding the discussion. Wilson became a real human being to me, with nuances of personality and attitudes brought in, making me want to examine his actions and speeches in a more thoughtful light than the one-dimensional portrait most people get from today’s “sound bite” commentators. This book always comes to my mind now when I try to understand other presidents and leaders in history, and a biography that can do that deserves a recommendation.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Million

    This is a very well-researched and detailed biography. However, I think that Cooper frequently looks the other way when evaluating many of Wilson's actions, motives, and policies. I came away with the impression that Wilson was a racist. He was also an idealist, which ultimately helped him destroy his own presidency and his campaign for the League of Nations. His obsession with the League of Nations, and his ambivalence to race riots in 1919 and the subsequent Palmer Raids is disturbing.

  29. 4 out of 5

    elliot leven

    review

  30. 5 out of 5

    Robert Speziale

    John Milton Cooper, Jr; acknowledged to be currently the foremost scholar of the 28th president, portrays him in a very positive manner. Wilson's domestic legislative achievements are highlighted, and his worldview is shown to be progressive and ahead of it's time, in particular his concept of and championing of the League of Nations. The book also shows that Wilson may be a very unlikeable man. He is priggish, pompous and absolutely vindictive against his political opponents, and can be describ John Milton Cooper, Jr; acknowledged to be currently the foremost scholar of the 28th president, portrays him in a very positive manner. Wilson's domestic legislative achievements are highlighted, and his worldview is shown to be progressive and ahead of it's time, in particular his concept of and championing of the League of Nations. The book also shows that Wilson may be a very unlikeable man. He is priggish, pompous and absolutely vindictive against his political opponents, and can be described as an intellectual elitist. His uncompromising stance against alterations to the League of Nations Covenant by the U.S. Senate led to it's defeat when put to a vote, preventing us from joining that organization, impotent though it may have been. Perhaps the best way to characterize Wilson from Cooper's book is that he is one of the first, along with Theodore Roosevelt, his predecessor and rival, who would later be called "imperial presidents"; as the presidency was evolving and changing at that time into a very vigorous, activist office. Very informative, good read.

  31. 4 out of 5

    Mark Roth

    This book covers the life of Woodrow Wilson, America's 28th President. It covers his whole life, including his childhood, his education, his time as president of Princeton University, his time as President of the United States, and his retirement years. Wilson is a fascinating historical figure. His background was mostly in academia (he was the only president to have a PhD), and he was a relatively inexperienced politician, having served only a single term as governor of New Jersey be This book covers the life of Woodrow Wilson, America's 28th President. It covers his whole life, including his childhood, his education, his time as president of Princeton University, his time as President of the United States, and his retirement years. Wilson is a fascinating historical figure. His background was mostly in academia (he was the only president to have a PhD), and he was a relatively inexperienced politician, having served only a single term as governor of New Jersey before being elected president. His election did benefit tremendously from the split in the Republic party in 1912, but Wilson seems to have been very effective once elected. He worked effectively with Congress on his progressive legislative agenda, seized control of the Democratic party from his rivals, and got himself reelected on his own merits in 1916. Unfortunately, his second term was much more rocky. He attempted to keep the U.S. out of World War I, but after much German provocation, he was ultimately not able to do so. After the war was over, he spent a lot of time in Europe on the peace negotiations, which produced a treaty that established his brainchild, the League of Nations. Unfortunately, he did not pay enough attention to domestic opinion during this time, and the Senate refused to ratify the treaty. He began a speaking tour of the country to try to rally public opinion, but unfortunately, he suffered a severe stroke and was unable to finish the tour, and the U.S. never ratified the treaty. Wilson finished his second term as a near invalid, and probably should have been removed from office, but his wife and his secretary covered for him. Some have charged that his wife was actually the acting president during this time. Wilson's critics point out his lack of support for African American rights, which was indeed a sad stain on his otherwise progressive record. While he did nothing to actively harm African Americans' rights, he did nothing to stop his cabinet members from doing so, even though he knew what they were doing. This book paints a mostly complete picture of Wilson as a principled man who had high ideals and truly wanted the best for both his nation and for the world. His effort to keep the U.S. out of World War I was noble; he clearly understood the implications that involvement in the war would have for the country, and he wanted to avoid that if at all possible. Also, his effort to establish the League of Nations was revolutionary in its time, although I suspect that Wilson's conception of it was perhaps a bit unrealistic; he often tried to sell it as a means to end all war in the world. That having been said, there are places where the author fails to adequately explain Wilson's actions when they seemed to contradict the picture that he tries to paint. For example, Wilson clearly understood the need for educating the public to shape public opinion, but it's not clear why he neglected this important activity during the peace negotiations in Europe. The author never seemed to adequately explain this oversight; he merely comments that it was puzzling. This sort of thing leaves the reader feeling like the picture of Wilson was not entirely complete. Overall, while the author might have done a somewhat better service to such a fascinating subject, I still found the book enjoyable. I would recommend it to anyone interested in learning about Woodrow Wilson and his era.

  32. 4 out of 5

    Scott Cox

    “Woodrow Wilson” by John Milton Cooper ????? Son of Scotch-Irish Presbyterian immigrants, born in Virginia and raised in the deep south, political scientist, renowned author, professor and college president, Woodrow Wilson was probably the most educated of the American presidents. A Democrat, Wilson was solidly progressive by the time he became governor of New Jersey. After a short gubernatorial tenure, he captured the Democratic Party nomination and subsequently became the 28th president o “Woodrow Wilson” by John Milton Cooper ????? Son of Scotch-Irish Presbyterian immigrants, born in Virginia and raised in the deep south, political scientist, renowned author, professor and college president, Woodrow Wilson was probably the most educated of the American presidents. A Democrat, Wilson was solidly progressive by the time he became governor of New Jersey. After a short gubernatorial tenure, he captured the Democratic Party nomination and subsequently became the 28th president of the United States in 1912. Pursuing his progressive agenda (coined as “New Freedom”) Wilson initially focused on internal issues including conservation of natural resources, anti-trust access to raw materials and goods, equal access to credit (important to farmers), and tariff reform. Cooper notes that by enacting his New Freedom agenda, Wilson “would rank among the greatest legislative presidents in the twentieth century, perhaps in all of American history.” This is quite an accolade. However, Wilson is also known for leading the country into World War I. Initially reluctant to be drawn into the conflict, Wilson constantly sought to bring about peace without victors. He once stated that he was “too proud to fight” and that “War isn’t declared in the name of God; it is a human affair entirely.” However he was unable to keep the country out of war once Germany escalated their U-boat (submarine) tactics and attacked merchant ships carrying Americans and American supplies. Once drawn into the conflict, Wilson excelled at organizing the war effort, tirelessly noting, “The world must be made safe for democracy.” Unfortunately Wilson wasn’t quite as ambitious in guarding American’s rights to freedom of speech during the war, allowing civil liberties to be trampled upon (leading to the formation of the ACLU). However Wilson’s biggest fight came in promoting his proposed “Fourteen Points,” which included the formation of the League of the Nations. This was a fight he lost in the Republican controlled Senate, partly due to his refusal to compromise, and partly due to his suffering a stroke while in the last year of his presidency. Wilson cautioned that a harsh settlement upon Germany would lead that country to become “embittered and bent on revenge.” Sadly twenty years later this would prophetically come true with the rise of Adolf Hitler and the horrors of the Third Reich. Instead of being the “war to end all wars,” the ending of the WWI carried the stigma of the “peace that failed.” I highly recommend Cooper’s biography; it is an excellent lesson in the adage that history often seems to repeat itself if we fail to learn from our mistakes.

  33. 4 out of 5

    Bryan

    First, let me preface my review by stating that Woodrow Wilson's presidency, his legacy and his vision for America are absolutely repugnant to me. I personally believe that Wilson was one of the most dangerous and damaging presidents ever to serve as the top executive of the United States and the damage he caused to the constitution has had devastating consequences for our country. John Milton Cooper is clearly an admirer of Wilson and all that he stood for. While this leaves an immen First, let me preface my review by stating that Woodrow Wilson's presidency, his legacy and his vision for America are absolutely repugnant to me. I personally believe that Wilson was one of the most dangerous and damaging presidents ever to serve as the top executive of the United States and the damage he caused to the constitution has had devastating consequences for our country. John Milton Cooper is clearly an admirer of Wilson and all that he stood for. While this leaves an immense chasm between the ideology of myself and the author, I must praise his work. He was able to praise Wilson without improperly shading the facts; rather, the author leaves plenty of room for the reader to make an independent assessment. This book was well researched and well written. He was able to present the character and philosophies of Woodrow Wilson and thoroughly characterize his strengths and shortcomings. Cooper did not whitewash his failings late in his presidency that accompanied his failing health, nor did he characterize Wilson inappropriately at any point. While source material was not interwoven into the narrative as masterfully as a McCullough or Chernow biography, Cooper did a pretty good job at it and should be commended on a well written and balanced biography of Woodrow Wilson. I was also impressed that even though I could easily ascertain the author's personal feelings about the subject, it did not poison the work with bias like works by Joseph Ellis and Jon Meacham who use "biography" as a means to shape readers' opinions and ideology. Kudos to John Milton Cooper for a well written biography of Woodrow Wilson.

  34. 5 out of 5

    Foreignpolicysifter

    “Wilsonian” is a word that gets thrown around a lot in foreign policy circles, and we are as guilty as anybody. The term—usually derogatory—warns against anyone stumping for policies (especially foreign intervention) based on idealistic notions such as self-determination or human rights. Woodrow Wilson has become something of a cliché: the stuffy, pie-in-the-sky academic-president who thought he could solve all of the world’s problems through high-flown rhetoric and goodwill. Of course few peopl “Wilsonian” is a word that gets thrown around a lot in foreign policy circles, and we are as guilty as anybody. The term—usually derogatory—warns against anyone stumping for policies (especially foreign intervention) based on idealistic notions such as self-determination or human rights. Woodrow Wilson has become something of a cliché: the stuffy, pie-in-the-sky academic-president who thought he could solve all of the world’s problems through high-flown rhetoric and goodwill. Of course few people know what was actually going on in America at the time surrounding World War I, and similarly few people know much about Wilson, including ardent students of international politics. As with everything, when one digs deeper, the truth is, to infuriate ideologues of all stripes, more complicated. James Milton Cooper, professor emeritus of history at the University of Wisconsin, has written a few books on Wilson1 and the time period, and now he has penned the book on America’s 28th president. And though he clearly admires Wilson, that admiration doesn’t spill over into the all-out adoration practiced by some of Theodore Roosevelt’s biographers. Cooper takes measure of the man and his policies and often finds him lacking. Wilson’s tale is, at its heart, all about tragedy. Time and again, at Princeton, as governor of New Jersey, and as president, Wilson seems on the cusp of resounding success, only to descend into deadlock, failure, and self-pity. Clearly, Wilson was a strong starter and a practitioner of boldness. He wrote his sole major academic work, Congressional Government, when he was only 28. At each administrative/executive stop along the way, Wilson pushed through major reforms within a year or two of ascending to the top of the ladder, thereafter to be stymied by enemies often opposed to his brand of progressive reform. As president of Princeton, he lost a battle to make the newly founded graduate school the heart of the university and as Governor of New Jersey he fought the Democratic Tamany Hall-style of politics to a standstill. The first year of Wilson’s presidency stands as possibly the most successful legislative record of all time, and one which signified the modern era in the new world: restrictions on child labor, creation of the Federal Reserve, the Federal Trade Commission, the income tax, and the eight-hour workday, and the first federal aid to farmers. Yet his early success was tarnished by the way his presidency ended. Wilson is a hard man to get a feel for, even when Cooper is doing his best. Part of that certainly lies in the fact that Wilson had very few close friends and really only one or two close male friends throughout his whole life. Although we do find out that Wilson wasn’t the dry, stuffy man people usually think (he actually did have a pretty good sense of humor), Cooper is unable to convince the reader that there wasn’t some sort of aloofness or insecurity about him, a distance from others that, in large part, would be his undoing. Many “great men” of history are also men of contradiction. After all, they are only men, as Wilson reminds us. Contrary to the present-day assumption that he was a crusading idealist (a mantle much more apt for Mr. Roosevelt), we find out that Wilson was an admirer of the great conservative Edmund Burke and his concept of “expediency.” Yet while Wilson trumpeted gradualism on some issues like women’s suffrage, he was more often partial to the bold move and grand gesture. And though, he ushered in a startling number of reforms, he had no empathy for or interest in the plight of African Americans. He had great nostalgia for the South of his childhood, but lived most of his life in the North. In his painted portraits, Wilson was able to project the stoicism of a man in control of his passionate impulses, but in his private life his emotions frequently got the best of him. After the death his first wife Ellen, in his first term, the president understandably sunk into the bowels of depression, only to ascend to the heights of romance as he fell in love at first sight. According to Cooper, Wilson virtually abandoned the presidency while mourning Ellen’s death and then courting the widowed Edith Bolling Galt. Much has been made of Wilson’s “irony of fate,” that a politician so learned in domestic politics instead would be forced to confront international affairs as no president had before.2 Here, too, had Wilson heeded Burke, he may have been able wield his considerable intellectual powers toward a lasting and realistic peace. It’s not as if he was blind to the magnitude of the challenges facing the world in the years ahead. As Cooper notes, Wilson repeatedly predicted a devastating conflict arising out of the first world war, unless the structure of international politics could be changed drastically. But instead, in his quest to upend a system governed by the balance of power, he was forced to accept the very types of ugly bargains (harsh punitive terms for the Germans, ceding parts of China to the Japanese) in order to get the world powers to agree to his League of Nations. In another irony, these compromises would be a large part of his undoing as he tried to sell the treaty to Congress. Cooper convincingly argues that Wilson’s health is what ultimately sunk the treaty, however. The wrangling over the Treaty of Versailles in Europe had left him exhausted, irritable, and on the brink. As he toured the country doing what he could do best (eloquently educating the populace), Wilson suffered a stroke that would leave him bedridden for months. Worse, it completely destroyed his ability to control his emotions. Having never surrounded himself with able men who could challenge him and whose opinions he respected, Wilson became a shut-in and hardened himself against the outside world. He alternated between delusions of grandeur and self-pitying depression. And he ultimately killed American participation in the League of Nations by refusing any compromise. It is to Cooper’s great credit that he is able to genuinely move the reader as he describes Wilson’s embittered last years. A man who had scaled the greatest heights in academia and politics should have ridden into the sunset graciously. The most eloquent president of the 20th century (he was the last to truly write his own speeches) should have penned a memoir to cement his legacy, or campaigned forcefully for his League of Nations. But it was not to be. Poor eyesight and a crippled left hand made typing difficult, and the stroke had affected his ability to analyze the political landscape clearly. Instead, Wilson spent his last years dreaming of running for president again, with those close to him unable to confront him with the truth that his time had long passed.3 Probably because he’s written so extensively about many of these issues elsewhere, Cooper keeps his lense squarely on Wilson. There are few lengthy descriptions of the other players or dissections of the conditions of the time period (unlike, for example, Robert Massie’s epic Catherine the Great). Neither does Cooper engage in the sort of “historiatrics” of Roosevelt and Reagan biographer Edmund Morris, whose rich renderings can strain to the brink of hyperbole. That could have left Woodrow Wilson boring and stale, but thankfully Cooper has a gift for clear and readable prose, and the laser-like focus on his subject keeps the reader chugging along. Do not fear instrusive documentation or overwhelmingly footnoted work. The quotations and analysis are incisive while still allowing Wilson’s much-ballyhooed eloquence to shine through. Casually throwing out the quasi-insult of “Wilsonian” becomes a bit more complicated after delving into the life of the professor—and possibly a reason to revisit the origins of “neoconservatism” and “realism” to see how the modern interpretation differs from the original. While Cooper remains quite sober 4, his book enters that rare category of engaging, well-researched, and relevant history. It’s an achievement that likely won’t be surpassed. http://foreignpolicysifter.com/post/2...

  35. 5 out of 5

    John Frazier

    For about the first quarter of this tome I felt that Woodrow Wilson's two terms in office as president of the United States would take less time than I'd need to finish this book. Sadly, the pace didn't pick up much from that point on. A quick glance at Amazon (after I'd ordered and started reading the book) showed that author John Milton Cooper has written no fewer than four books about Wilson and/or that period in American politics, a fact that, had I known earlier, would've told me For about the first quarter of this tome I felt that Woodrow Wilson's two terms in office as president of the United States would take less time than I'd need to finish this book. Sadly, the pace didn't pick up much from that point on. A quick glance at Amazon (after I'd ordered and started reading the book) showed that author John Milton Cooper has written no fewer than four books about Wilson and/or that period in American politics, a fact that, had I known earlier, would've told me how highly he thought of Wilson. In my opinion, anybody who dedicates so much of his life's work to one individual must think very highly of his subject. (Would anyone expend so much effort if they didn't?) And that, I think, leads to a less-than-balanced perspective. Apart from a near-clinical and very pedantic approach to Wilson's life--including his southern upbringing and brief tenure as a lawyer, which preceded his term as president of Princeton University and very brief stay as New Jersey's governor--Cooper seems to spend much less time and effort on at least two key issues which, I believe, say as much about the man as anything. Racial inequality and woman's suffrage were central issues in Wilson's era--this was, after all, 50 years after the Civil War--yet Wilson did next to nothing to advance the cause of either. (It wasn't until his second term as president that he began to support suffrage.) As detailed as this biography is, I found Cooper's explanations, or lack thereof, for Wilson's lack of a stance with regard to either concern lacking and somewhat defenseless, if not apologetic. What was the genesis for this, and why couldn't they be part of the "American Freedom" platform that Wilson rode to victory in 1912? And why the reluctance to call Wilson's relationship with a woman outside his first marriage anything other than what it was, an affair? Cooper certainly included enough correspondence between the two to reach such a conclusion, yet he steers clear of any determination. Whether this was out of respect, reverence or simply not wanting to conclude the obvious for fear of tainting Wilson's image, it remains a shortcoming in Wilson's personal narrative that deserves more critique. Wilson is one of those presidents whose time in office we, in general, know too little about, and I was pleased that Cooper at least developed a context within which we might better appreciate Wilson's achievements, especially regarding labor unions, protection of farmers' rights and the general political environment, both domestic and foreign, he worked within. Strangely enough, while he doesn't maintain the stature or significance of a Jefferson, Lincoln or Roosevelt (either Teddy or Franklin), Cooper does suggest that Wilson warrants comparison; justification for that, I fail to see. While Wilson successfully engineered the United States late entry into World War I, Cooper spends little time discussing how America's involvement led to its quick conclusion roughly two years later. He does, however, spend an extreme amount of time detailing Wilson's unsuccessful support of America's entry into the League of Nations upon the war's conclusion which, in Cooper's opinion, defined Wilson's presidency to an equally inordinate extent. That Wilson had suffered a stroke late in his second term was news to me, and its impact on his administration and the history books may never be fully appreciated. (There were arguments made to have him step down, for the sake of the country if not himself.) That said, I'm not sure that "Woodrow Wilson: A Biography" is going to make me appreciate the man any more. There are any number of reasons why we don't know more about Wilson, and that's okay.

  36. 4 out of 5

    Cyndi

    At times a bit boring but a very comprehensive view of the academic who would become president. Very socialist and progressive his ideas didn't seem to always have connection to real people though surprisingly he could connect to them. Seems to be very self-confident and assured of his ideas even when those around him are not so sure but that made him the leader. A bit scary at the end of his life when he was medically not competent to continue as president but his wife and those close to him ma At times a bit boring but a very comprehensive view of the academic who would become president. Very socialist and progressive his ideas didn't seem to always have connection to real people though surprisingly he could connect to them. Seems to be very self-confident and assured of his ideas even when those around him are not so sure but that made him the leader. A bit scary at the end of his life when he was medically not competent to continue as president but his wife and those close to him made many decisions that in my opinion were not theirs to make. They were motivated out of love since they thought that taking the Presidency from him would cause him to lose hope and to possibly never recover from his stroke. Still, it leaves the question that when any President's health fails, can we be assured that those around him or her will make decisions based on what is right for the good of the country and not one person? Learned much about a period of history that I am not very educated about.

  37. 5 out of 5

    Mel

    The first 120 pages of this biography were so boring that after several unexpected naps, I very nearly gave it up. I don't know whether to blame the author or the subject. Reading about Wilson's writings about political theory and his concerns about where student housing should be located at Princeton University is pretty dull stuff to follow after reading the Edmund Morris trilogy about Theodore Roosevelt shooting moose, elephants, tapirs, and Spaniards. Once we get to Wilson's New Jersey Gover The first 120 pages of this biography were so boring that after several unexpected naps, I very nearly gave it up. I don't know whether to blame the author or the subject. Reading about Wilson's writings about political theory and his concerns about where student housing should be located at Princeton University is pretty dull stuff to follow after reading the Edmund Morris trilogy about Theodore Roosevelt shooting moose, elephants, tapirs, and Spaniards. Once we get to Wilson's New Jersey Governorship and his US Presidency, the pace of the book quickens. Cooper posits that the Republican/Democrat, liberal/conservative, Hamiltonian/Jeffersonian philosophical alignment reversed during this time. Memo to self: more reading needed here! Wilson's stroke after WWI and his subsequent failure to get the League of Nations and Versailles Treaty ratified by the US Senate gives us one of those history changing what if? moments. Would have Hitler come to power? Would have Italy and Japan switched allegiances and joined the Axis? I give this bio 4 stars because it makes me want to read more.

  38. 5 out of 5

    Jerry-Book

    Wilson was our most controversial president since Jefferson in my opinion. Cooper captures this dynamic president who passed such measures as the Federal Reserve Act, the Income Tax, the FTC, a lower tariff, etc. but floundered like LBJ in the foreign policy arena. According to Cooper, he would not be stampeded into war like James Madison was in 1812. In essence like our current President Obama he essentially drew a line in the sand for Kaiser's Germany, I.e., no unrestricted submarine warfare a Wilson was our most controversial president since Jefferson in my opinion. Cooper captures this dynamic president who passed such measures as the Federal Reserve Act, the Income Tax, the FTC, a lower tariff, etc. but floundered like LBJ in the foreign policy arena. According to Cooper, he would not be stampeded into war like James Madison was in 1812. In essence like our current President Obama he essentially drew a line in the sand for Kaiser's Germany, I.e., no unrestricted submarine warfare and no sinking of American merchant ships. Unfortunately for Wilson, Germany crossed the line in an attempt to knock the UK out of the War in 1917 with indiscriminate submarine warfare. Wilson then led America into WW I (the war to end all wars). Unfortunately, Wilson would not tolerate dissent in WW I and condoned the persecution of the Wobblies and Eugene Deb and the country reached a new low in civil liberties. At the same time like Jefferson Wilson according to the author was perhaps the worst president for the black man since Andrew Johnson. He allowed segregation of federal offices, southern lynchings of blacks, and the crushing of black riots. At the same time he advocated a "peace without victory" in WW I and his famous Fourteen Points which included the League of Nations. Unfortunately, the early Wilson who was able to pass tremendous domestic legislation lost his political barometer when it came to the League of Nations. First, he failed to take any prominent Republican Senators to Paris for the negotiations. Second, he even failed to take along such prominent Republican League sympathizers as Root and Taft, head of the League for Peace. Third, he failed in his attempts to prevent France from imposing a punitive peace on Germany and he failed to protect China from the Japanese. Fourth, when he brought the Treaty before the U.S. Senate he failed to compromise when some reasonable compromises especially in Article X might have achieved ratification. Fifth, he went on a whistle stop tour of America thinking he could turn public opinion not realizing the American public was sinking back into isolationism. Sixth, his health failed and he suffered s stroke. Even if he had enjoyed good health, he would have had to return to the Wilson of 1912 to achieve passage of the Treaty. Seventh, in 1918 the Republicans captured both houses of Congress. This was a new reality that Wilson (unlike perhaps Bill Clinton)'did not seem to recognize. Finally, Wilson in addition to his racism was guilty of personal vindictiveness. Even though Colonel House served Wilson faithfully for years, he cut Wilson off completely after Paris in 1919. After the War, he failed to pardon Eugene Debs. Part of this was due to his health. Even though he cut off Colonel House he failed to rid himself of the disloyal Secretary of State Lansing until 1919. Cooper is sympathetic to his subject but this does not prevent him from presenting a comprehensive portrait of one of our most controversial presidents.

  39. 5 out of 5

    Bobscopatz

    Cooper has done an amazing job of capturing the life of Woodrow Wilson. He ends with an apt assessment of how Wilson remains controversial today with echoes of his legacy still affecting the world scene. I became interested in reading about Wilson after finishing Edmund Morris' three-part history of Theodore Roosevelt and reading TR's views of his former admirer and now political opponent. I searched Google using the terms "Woodrow Wilson" and "Best Biography" and was steered directly to this 20 Cooper has done an amazing job of capturing the life of Woodrow Wilson. He ends with an apt assessment of how Wilson remains controversial today with echoes of his legacy still affecting the world scene. I became interested in reading about Wilson after finishing Edmund Morris' three-part history of Theodore Roosevelt and reading TR's views of his former admirer and now political opponent. I searched Google using the terms "Woodrow Wilson" and "Best Biography" and was steered directly to this 2009 publication. All of the comments mentioned how thorough and unbiased the Morris' treatment is. And I agree. It's probably the best presidential biography I've read in that it is clearly designed to present the facts as facts and opinions, while minimized, are clearly supported by what is known (and knowable). One note of caution: I warn would-be readers of this volume that it is neither a quick nor an easy read. It doesn't work well as bed-time reading in my estimation. There's just too much requiring attention to the details. And Cooper does a great job of relating events from Wilson's earlier careers to his behavior as governor and President--you really have to stay connected to the narrative all the way through. (view spoiler)[I come away from this with a profound appreciation of Wilson's patriotism, and his world-centered view (or rather, his view of America's need to take its place on the world stage as well as the need for the world to avail itself of America's leadership). Wilson truly never gave up, so in that sense he was a LOT like Teddy Roosevelt. But he was so much quieter and less self-promoting in his methods. He wasn't selling himself, he was selling ideals. Not everyone went along, though, and he made some awful decisions (from today's perspective at any rate). Things that don't even get to the issues of partisan politics that I imagine turn off many modern conservatives. The fact is the man deliberately made expedient choices that ran contrary to his stated beliefs and charges of "hypocrisy" were all too easy to make stick--even if the reality wasn't all that cut and dried. His treatment of dissenters during WWI, for example, was appalling and he deserves nothing but scorn for how he handled it both during the war and afterwards--leaving it to his successor to pardon people who were sent to prison for merely speaking out against America's involvement during the war. In so many areas, Wilson was a man who was so strong and able to take the long view--even tolerating extreme disloyalty in his cabinet members--but he failed and let things get personal in ways that truly don't make a lot of sense, even after reading the analysis of his personality that appears in this biography. (hide spoiler)]

  40. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Just wanted to say thanks to my sister for this gift of John Milton Cooper's "Woodrow Wilson, a biography", Vintage Books, 2009. Wilson was an academic and raised a Presbyterian for which reasons, perhaps, I feel I can relate to him. The book read well but as an academic, Wilson did not lead a physically adventurous life and so the book is a bit dry, thoroughly political, and therefore, a little monotonous (which may explain why there aren't many Woodrow Wilson biographies floating about). Just wanted to say thanks to my sister for this gift of John Milton Cooper's "Woodrow Wilson, a biography", Vintage Books, 2009. Wilson was an academic and raised a Presbyterian for which reasons, perhaps, I feel I can relate to him. The book read well but as an academic, Wilson did not lead a physically adventurous life and so the book is a bit dry, thoroughly political, and therefore, a little monotonous (which may explain why there aren't many Woodrow Wilson biographies floating about). Nevertheless, I enjoyed it quite a bit. Also, I appreciate that the author did not take liberties by presenting anecdote as fact just to spice things up. On the contrary, the book was well researched and carefully annotated. Yes, the author, himself an academic, appeared to be Wilson's fan and, like other biographies by adoring authors of democrat presidents I've read, there was a consistent, biased mantra: progressives = good, conservatives = bad. So I half-expected Cooper to downplay Wilson's destructive, anti-constitutional bent. He did not. Cooper quotes Wilson's brother-in-law quoting Wilson as saying, "I am perfectly sure that the state has got to control everything that everybody needs and uses." (Not taken out of context.) And, while this may be a bit of hyperbole on either Wilson's or Axson's part, it consistently reflects Wilson's actions as president as portrayed in the book and as remembered in history. Indeed, while I feared a cover-up, the book revealed that Wilson was what I'd heard he was and he did what I'd heard he did (massive regulations, empowerment of unions, centralized control of money, larceny of parental rights, and much more). So there was no disguising his progressive and anti-constitutional colors. What did surprise me, however, was to learn that Teddy Roosevelt, though a Republican and Wilson's predecessor (before Taft), was also a progressive. And more, that Wilson was, while, granted, an effective speaker and a tenacious leader, merely riding a wave of American opinion in his day; or, maybe, American "ignorance". Having realized this, I've also come to realize to a greater extent the insidious intent and disastrous consequences of the American Civil War just 50 years prior. Much more than slavery, the real cause of the Civil War was the battle over the balance of power. Having won, the North and it's advocates began promptly to dismantle constitutional restraints on the central government. "State's Rights" wasn't merely an issue of state's rights as we are superficially taught. Slavery aside, it was an issue of the liberty of the citizen under the protection of the individual - and heretofore autonomous - state, against the encroachment of a centralized - and inevitably totalitarian - power. In Wilson's words, "the state has got to control everything". So, it wasn't necessary to "read between" Cooper's lines, as Wilson's battle for the centralization of power played out in broad daylight. Much as it does in our day, I suppose, under another tenacious and thoroughly progressive leader. Although, today, that appears to be not upon a wave of public opinion, but contrary to it. Such is the nature of centralized power.

  41. 5 out of 5

    Christie Bane

    Wilson, like Roosevelt two presidents before him, was a strong, powerful president, and he was pretty much the exact opposite of Roosevelt. Taft was in between the two of them, but he was such a mediocre president it's almost like he didn't even exist between those two powerhouses. Wilson was a courteous, poised intellectual. He did everything possible to both avoid war and to establish policies that would prevent future wars, but wasn't successful in either of those attempts. He wasn't nearly a Wilson, like Roosevelt two presidents before him, was a strong, powerful president, and he was pretty much the exact opposite of Roosevelt. Taft was in between the two of them, but he was such a mediocre president it's almost like he didn't even exist between those two powerhouses. Wilson was a courteous, poised intellectual. He did everything possible to both avoid war and to establish policies that would prevent future wars, but wasn't successful in either of those attempts. He wasn't nearly as interesting an individual as Roosevelt, but then again, who in U.S. history was? (Except for maybe Lincoln.) The question of what would have happened if Wilson hadn't suffered a serious stroke towards the end of his second term is one that will probably never really be resolved. I personally think that he still wouldn't have been able to make the League of Nations happen -- the country wasn't ready for it then -- but he might have been able to save the Democratic party from its total crash and burn. The end of Wilson's life was kind of sad. He made a decent physical recovery from his stroke, but while he kept some mental acuity, he didn't have the same self-control, perspective, or judgment as he did pre-stroke. His emotions weren't really under good control, and he was frankly almost delusional in thinking he could run for a third term. Opinions of his legacy are mixed, but I personally think he did as well as anyone could have under the circumstances of his times. This is a well-done book by a solid writer, and any reader of presidential bios would be making a good choice by adding this one to their library.

  42. 4 out of 5

    M.T. Bass

    It seemed to be a serviceable enough biography, though I didn't really get a sense of why Woodrow Wilson is considered one of the best Presidents ever, but that's not necessarily the author's short coming.  Like many contemporary politicians, Wilson's reputation seems to exceed him and his exploits in academia pale in comparison to other Presidents like Washington, Jackson or Grant, or T. Roosevelt. I felt that the biographer tried to "whitewash" Wilson's racism (segregationist polici It seemed to be a serviceable enough biography, though I didn't really get a sense of why Woodrow Wilson is considered one of the best Presidents ever, but that's not necessarily the author's short coming.  Like many contemporary politicians, Wilson's reputation seems to exceed him and his exploits in academia pale in comparison to other Presidents like Washington, Jackson or Grant, or T. Roosevelt. I felt that the biographer tried to "whitewash" Wilson's racism (segregationist policies), his disregard for civil liberties (Espionage & Sedition Acts) and his questionable handling of foreign affairs (WWI & League of Nations).  Blame kept getting laid off on underlings, advisors, personal strife and, later in his second term, his ill health.  It sure didn't smell right -- too much excuse making on behalf of a supposed Top Ten President. I've been reading Presidential biographies in chronological order for the past few years and spent a little more time on this era, including separate books about Roosevelt and Taft, along with Doris Kearns Goodwin's The Bully Pulpit. I balanced this bio with Andrew Napolitano's Theodore and Woodrow, which definitely gives an alternative look at Wilson's presidency. On to Warren G. Harding . . . .

  43. 4 out of 5

    James Barber

    I saw the book in my local book store and I was intrigued on how well researched the book would be. As a black military officer, I was offended to find that this American President re-segregated the military just before our entrance into WW1. He was known to have a negro problem and the book has no entry in its index for Margaret Sanger. This tells me that the author is about "glorifying" Woodrow Wilson instead of telling the truth, or only the "good" truth. I know that Hitler used so I saw the book in my local book store and I was intrigued on how well researched the book would be. As a black military officer, I was offended to find that this American President re-segregated the military just before our entrance into WW1. He was known to have a negro problem and the book has no entry in its index for Margaret Sanger. This tells me that the author is about "glorifying" Woodrow Wilson instead of telling the truth, or only the "good" truth. I know that Hitler used some of the theories of Margaret Sanger to exterminate the Jews and she was one of his advisers to work on his "Negro" problem.

  44. 4 out of 5

    Robert Loeffler

    Very well and interestingly written, and I learned a lot about a period of our history I previously knew only casually. For that, I recommend it. I did not come away understanding how he had risen to political prominence and, eventually, high offices. Although I came to a sense of some of his motivations or perspectives, however one would name it, I remained unclear how or why he came to some of the decisions, including major decisions, that he did. I do not at all grasp a personality. Hence, I Very well and interestingly written, and I learned a lot about a period of our history I previously knew only casually. For that, I recommend it. I did not come away understanding how he had risen to political prominence and, eventually, high offices. Although I came to a sense of some of his motivations or perspectives, however one would name it, I remained unclear how or why he came to some of the decisions, including major decisions, that he did. I do not at all grasp a personality. Hence, I liked the book and thought it well worthwhile, but I think I need to read more about Wilson.

  45. 4 out of 5

    Jerome

    An interesting read for history folks. Apparently very well investigated and put forth in an easy to read manor. This book confirmed my opinion that Woodrow Wilson was one of the five worst presidents this country ever had. His wishy-washy, head in the clouds, anglo saxon mindset and very poor cabinet selections led this country into what was called the first world war. A war that was none of our business and because of our intervention upset the balance of power in Europe which led to the secon An interesting read for history folks. Apparently very well investigated and put forth in an easy to read manor. This book confirmed my opinion that Woodrow Wilson was one of the five worst presidents this country ever had. His wishy-washy, head in the clouds, anglo saxon mindset and very poor cabinet selections led this country into what was called the first world war. A war that was none of our business and because of our intervention upset the balance of power in Europe which led to the second world war in Europe 20 years later. Wilson was what I would call an intellectual fool that had no idea what he was getting into with European diplomats and politicians.

  46. 4 out of 5

    Don Heiman

    John Milton Cooper Jr. published his Pulitzer Prize Finalist biography "Woodrow Wilson" in 2009. Milton captures in this book the enigma of Wilson's life, his academic proclivities, social biases, and his genius. Wilson's U.S. Presidency and the events surrounding World War 1 profoundly affected my family's life and to this day influence the world order that Impacts government policy and practice. Wilson held a doctorate, taught government policy at leading educational institutions, and left an John Milton Cooper Jr. published his Pulitzer Prize Finalist biography "Woodrow Wilson" in 2009. Milton captures in this book the enigma of Wilson's life, his academic proclivities, social biases, and his genius. Wilson's U.S. Presidency and the events surrounding World War 1 profoundly affected my family's life and to this day influence the world order that Impacts government policy and practice. Wilson held a doctorate, taught government policy at leading educational institutions, and left an indelible mark on Princeton where he served as their President. The book is a great read for those interested in American history. (P)

  47. 4 out of 5

    Carl

    This has all the virtues (and shortcomings) of a scholarly biography of a president. It gets tedious at times -- I don't really care that much about the thinking behind Wilson's cabinet appointments -- but Cooper is obliged to tell it all, and he does. Final sections on Wilson's stroke and its aftermath were all new to me. Wilson was debilitated for 18 months . . . the vice president did not take over . . . Wilson's second wife served as gatekeeper showing him only the most urgent business. This has all the virtues (and shortcomings) of a scholarly biography of a president. It gets tedious at times -- I don't really care that much about the thinking behind Wilson's cabinet appointments -- but Cooper is obliged to tell it all, and he does. Final sections on Wilson's stroke and its aftermath were all new to me. Wilson was debilitated for 18 months . . . the vice president did not take over . . . Wilson's second wife served as gatekeeper showing him only the most urgent business. Garfield succeeded Wilson. At the inauguration, Garfield bounded up the steps while Wilson was unable to mount them at all. Two years later, Garfield was dead and Wilson was making a "recovery" of sorts. A side effect of the stroke was a personality change--Wilson became more demanding, slightly irrational. He considered running for a third term (!) in 1924 even though he was barely able to walk. Interesting life and man . . . president of Princeton, governor of New Jersey, president. An idealist in all three jobs, but a man who compromised when required. The League of Nations became his obsession. Cooper is not at all certain that the fact that the USA never joined was a true cause of WWII. There were serious problems with the League: Ireland remained under the thumb of England; parts of China were simply given to the Japanese. Last comment. Cooper makes a convincing case that WWI should have gone on longer--hardly a popular thought about war these days. He argues that total defeat of the Germany, not a brokered armistice, would have brought home to the German people their defeat. The brokered armistice did not have the impact actual defeat would have had. Delusions of glory (Hitler) took root where otherwise they might not have.

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