The Paper of No Record

Liberals often scoff at the conservative idea that the mainstream media is “leftist” or partisan. I think that’s a blinkered view — coming from thinking that leftist views are inherently reasonable and rational. The media doesn’t seem biased because “everyone” agrees on the sensible point of view.

A perfect example of how bias is missed? The NYT today ran a story on the recent spate of conservatives excoriating Woodrow Wilson as a terrible President. The NYT’s “debate” consists of five scholars defending Wilson and mocking his detractors in condescending tones. And they have one guy who sort of explains the connection, but doesn’t add anything.

That’s “balance” to the New York Times: six people not really addressing the criticisms made of Wilson. That’s why, if you want real balance, you have to go elsewhere. Somewhere like Radley Balko:

He dishonestly led us into a pointless, costly, destructive war, and assumed control over huge sectors of the economy to wage it. He seized railroads, food and energy production, and implemented price controls.

He suppressed dissent and imprisoned war critics. Said Wilson, “Conformity will be the only virtue. And every man who refuses to conform will have to pay the penalty.” He signed the Espionage and Sedition Acts, the latter of which made it a criminal offense to “oppose the cause of the United States.” He retaliated against critical newspapers, and directed the U.S. Postal Service to stop delivering mail determined to be critical of the war effort.

Wilson not only continued existing racial segregation of federal government workers, he extended it.

He instituted the first military draft since the Civil War.

He signed the first federal drug prohibition.

He reinstituted the federal income tax.

A few more, from Gene Healy’s book, The Cult of the Presidency:

Wilson believed in an activist, imperialist presidency. In his 1909 book Constitutional Government, he made the case against checks and balances and the separation of powers. The government, Wilson argued, is a living organism, and “no living thing can have its organs offset against each other as checks, and live.”

He ordered unconstitutional, unilateral military interventions into Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico. (He also oversaw military interventions in Panama and Cuba, and instituted American-favored dictators throughout Latin America.)

Wilson believed God ordained him to be president, and acted accordingly, boasting to one friend in 1913 that “I have been smashing precedents almost daily every since I got here.” Every president since Jefferson had given the State of the Union in writing. Wilson reinstituted what Jefferson derided as the “speech from the Throne,” and ordered Congress assembled to hear him speak, giving rise to the embarrassing spectacle the SOTU has become today.

He oversaw a massive domestic spying program, and encouraged American citizens to report one another for subversion.

My biggest problem with what remains of “conservatism” is their tendency to ignore all the dreadful stuff George Bush did because of the stuff they liked: cutting taxes, fighting terrorism and saying what they wanted to hear. The same is true of Wilson: people ignore the terrible stuff he did because of the stuff they liked: the income tax, some worker protections, farm subsidies, the Federal Reserve. (This is assuming you think the income tax and farm subsidies are wonderful things, which I don’t.)

Time to take off the blinders, guys. Presidents have to be judged by their entire record. And Wilson’s record, as a whole, is awful.

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