David Catanese has a long profile of Jeb Bush in U.S. News & World Report. It’s well worth reading. But this line really stuck out:
“If you’re looking for the current equivalent of Huey Long, he’s not that man. If you’re looking for Woodrow Wilson, that might be Jeb,” says Mac Stipanovich, a longtime Tallahassee, Florida-based Republican operative who has advised Bush.
This might be the worst endorsement in the history of American politics.
Last year, Christopher Caldwell wrote a long essay about Wilson for the Claremont Review of Books. It was titled, in CRB’s typically witty way, “Schoolmaster to the World.” Some highlights:
In his new biography, Wilson, A. Scott Berg, whose earlier Lindbergh (1998) won the Pulitzer Prize, notes a bizarre compulsion that Wilson acquired in his teens and kept till the end of his life. Any time he became part of a group or organization—from the Eumeneans at Davidson College to the Princeton baseball club to the Johns Hopkins Literary Society—he would dig up and then rewrite its constitution, usually seizing on some neglected provision which, in an emergency, could be wielded to make the system more efficient, hierarchical, and subject to his own wishes. . . .
His main thought about his own country's Constitution was that it was inadequate to the challenges of the day. (That was the meaning of the word "New" in the New Freedom he preached in his 1912 presidential run.) He preferred England's constitution, as Walter Bagehot described it—a combination of dignified pomp and efficient power exercised unapologetically in loco regis. At 19 he wished America had "England's form of government instead of the miserable delusion of a republic" and confided to his diary that "universal suffrage is the foundation of every evil in this country.”
But it wasn’t just Wilson’s contempt for constitutionalism as a concept that marked him. It was his temperament:
An intimate biography can be a useful window on a personalized presidency. The problem is, no one ever remained intimate with Wilson unless he showed he worshipped the ground Wilson walked on. Wilson wielded against all those who disagreed with him a vindictive, grudge-holding, lifelong hatred. He had fantasies of revenge and would go to great lengths to satisfy them in the smallest measure. During a visit to Princeton, he sent for his former best friend, Jack Hibben, his replacement as university president, only to tell him he did not wish to see him. (Berg takes a more neutral view of this incident.) His second wife, Edith, brought out his nastiness like a highlighting solution in an X-ray. After getting a note from her in which she wished for the death of Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, Wilson replied, "What a dear partisan you are...and how you can hate, too!" Like many petty people, he was obsessed with the "bigness" and "smallness" of various human actions. On Armistice Day in 1922, addressing a crowd of true believers in the League of Nations, he said: "Puny persons who are now standing in the way will presently find that their weakness is no match for the strength of a moving Providence."
Sigmund Freud, who late in life co-authored a controversial study of Wilson, found one such episode bizarre and significant. On the night of Wilson's presidential election victory in 1912, the chairman of his campaign committee visited his house in Princeton. "Before we proceed," Wilson greeted him, "I wish it clearly understood that I owe you nothing. God ordained that I should be the next president of the United States. Neither you nor any other mortal could have prevented that.”
As a matter of policy, Caldwell notes that Wilson engineered the creation of what we think of as the modern administrative state: