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human contacts was, perhaps, his greatest political weakness. If he had been able to arouse warm personal devotion in his followers, if he could have inflamed them with enthusiasm such as that inspired by Roosevelt, rather than mere admiration, Wilson would have found his political task immeasurably lightened. It is not surprising that his mistakes in tactics should have been so numerous. His isolation and dependence upon tactical advisers, such as Tumulty and Burleson, lacking broad vision, led him into serious errors, most of which — such as his appeal for a Democratic Congress in 1918, his selection of the personnel of the Peace Commission, his refusal to compromise with the “mild reservationist Senators” in ** the summer of 1919 — were committed, significantly, when he was not in immediate contact with Colonel House.
The political strength of Wilson did not result primarily from intellectual power. His mind is neither profound nor subtle. His serious writings are sound but not characterized by originality, nor in his policies is there anything to indicate creative genius. He thinks straight and possesses the ability to concentrate on a single line of effort. He is skillful in catching an idea and adapting it to his
purposes. Combined with his power of expression and his talent for making phrases, such qualities were of great assistance to him. But the real strength of the President lay rather in his gift of sensing what the common people wanted and his ability to put it into words for them. Few of his speeches are great; many of them are marred by tactless phrases, such as “too proud to fight” and "peace without victory.” But nearly all of them express honestly the desires of the masses. His strength in New Jersey and the extraordinary effect produced in Europe by his war speeches might be cited as evidence of this peculiar power. He sought above everything to catch the trend of inarticulate rather than vociferous opinion. If one objects that his patience under German outrages was not truly representative, we must remember that opinion was slow in crystallizing, that his policy was endorsed by the election of 1916, and that when he finally advocated war in April, 1917, the country entered the struggle practically a unit.
But it is obvious that, however much political crength was assured the President by his instincive appreciation of popular feeling, this was largely offset by the gaucherie of his political tactics. He had a genius for alienating persons who
should have supported him and who agreed in general with the broad lines of his policies. Few men in public life have so thoroughly aroused the dislike of “the man in the street.” Admitting that much of Wilson's unpopularity resulted from misunderstanding, from the feeling that he was a different sort, perhaps a "highbrow," the degree of dislike felt for him becomes almost inexplicable in the case of a President who, from all the evidence, was willing to sacrifice everything for what he considered to be the benefit of the common man. He might almost repeat Robespierre's final bitter and puzzled phrase: "To die for the people and to be abhorred by them.” So keen was the irritation aroused by Wilson's methods and personality that many a citizen stated frankly that he preferred to see Wilsonian policies which he approved meet defeat, rather than see them carried to success by Wilson. This executive failing of the President was destined to jeopardize the greatest of his policies and to result in the personal tragedy of Wilson himself.
Certain large political principles stand out in Wilson's writings and career as Governor and President. Of these the most striking, perhaps, is his
conviction that the President of the United States · must be something more than a mere executive
superintendent. The entire responsibility for the administration of government, he believed, should rest upon the President, and in order to meet that responsibility, he must keep the reins of control in his own hands. In his first essays and in his later writings Wilson expressed his disgust with the system of congressional committees which threw enormous power into the hands of irresponsible professional politicians, and called for a President who would break that system and exercise greater directive authority. For a time he seemed, under the influence of Bagehot, to have believed in the feasibility of introducing something like the parliamentary system into the government of the United States. To the last he regarded the President as a sort of Prime Minister, at the head of his party in the Legislature and able to count absolutely upon its loyalty. More than this, he believed that the President should take a large share of responsibility for the legislative programme and ought to push this programme through by all means at his disposal. Such a creed appeared in his early writings and was largely carried into operation during his administration. We find him bringing all possible pressure upon the New Jersey Legislature in order to redeem his campaign pledges. When
elected President, he went directly to Congress with his message, instead of sending it to be read. Time and again he intervened to forward his special legislative interests by direct influence.
Both in his writings and in his actions Wilson has always advocated government by party. Theoreti- . cally and in practice he has been opposed to coalition government, for, in his belief, it divides responsibility. Although by no means an advocate of the old-type spoils system, rewards for party service seem to him essential. Curiously enough, while insisting that the President is the leader of his party like a Prime Minister, he has also described him, with an apparent lack of logic, as the leader of the country. Because Wilson has thus confused party and people, it is easy to understand why he has at times claimed to represent the nation when, in reality, he was merely representing partisan views. Such an attitude is naturally irritating to the Opposition and explains something of the virulence that characterized the attacks made upon him in 1918 and later.
Wilson's political sentiments are tinged by a constant and intense interest in the common man. More than once he has insisted that it was more important to know what was said by the fireside