The characteristics of a great president are one who abides by the constitution, protects individual freedom, doesn’t overreach their designated powers and honestly represents the people of the country. So my question is: Why are Lincoln, Wilson and FDR always considered by academia, media, historians and most people, the greatest presidents in American history?
All three of these men as president overreached their designated powers, ignored the constitution and failed at peace. These three presidents took on a dictatorial role in governing this country and exploited the will of the people. And coincidentally, all three participated in the biggest wars the modern world has seen. Should these presidents be celebrated and admired for overseeing the most bloodiest and avoidable wars in our countries short history? And then on the other hand, peaceful presidents like Grover Cleveland who vetoed 2/3 of all bills that came to his desk because he actually abided by the constitution, barely make a history book, let alone a face on Mount Rushmore.
Abraham Lincoln, practically worshiped by the both political parties, is arguable America’s first real dictator. As all other civilized countries abolished slavery with peaceful measures, Lincoln plunged America into the deadliest war in its history, killing over 600,000 people. The motive of this war, according to Lincoln didn’t have anything to do with slavery. “My paramount object…”, Lincoln wrote, “is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it.”
By waging war on his own country, “Lincoln did not hesitate to act as a dictator when doing so served his purpose”, according to Robert Higgs in his great book, Against Leviathan. During the war, Lincoln imprisoned political dissidents, skeptical war journalists and anyone who questioned his war effort. He suspended the writ of habeas corpus, closed down newspapers, monitored telegrams, enacted military conscription etc. Because of Lincoln, individual liberty took a backseat to tyranny for the first time in the United States since its secession from the British Empire.
Was the death and destruction as a result of this war really justified? Or was it waged so Lincoln could “maintain boundaries of an existing federal union, as if those boundaries possessed some sacred status.” Lincoln never respected the states, congress or the constitution; seemingly, he was a manipulative politician who didn’t believe slavery worth fighting for and instead, according to Gore Vidal, had an “overriding vision: to save the Union” and form “it into a modern industrialized, national state so powerfully and tightly coherent that nothing can tear it apart again.”
Again and again we’re taught that Lincoln was an honest and noble man who cured the disease of slavery in America by virtue of his precise actions. But in reality, it’s just part of the gallant narrative to glorify the state and to rationalize the atrocities it has committed on its own people.
In the end, the war resulted with the death of 3 percent of the population (many were civilians), decades of economic stagnation and the massive expansion of the government. And Lincoln, until his dying day, insisted on the deportation of all blacks, because he truly believed they would never fit into society with the white man.
And yet, millions of Americans each year go to DC and stand in awe at the feet of the Lincoln Memorial to idolize the so-called “Great Emancipator.”
Woodrow Wilson, the intellectual academia idol, was responsible for the biggest foreign policy blunder in the past century. According to the historian Jim Powell, Wilson’s intervention in Europe during WWI “ushered in revolution, terror, runaway inflation, dictatorship and mass murder.”
During this senseless war which killed over 9 million people, Wilson used his authoritarian power to imprison people here at home who dissented against America’s intervention, labeling them “treasonous” and “traitors.” As Americans were told the troops are overseas fighting for their freedoms, here at home their freedoms were be squashed in result of the war effort.
War is always the biggest oppression of freedom, but it’s always sold to the people as the direct opposite.
A wave of totalitarian repression swept across the “land of the free” during this horrific time. Wilson’s war was waged, like all American wars, through propaganda and for economic interests. This war resulted in many unnecessary deaths, domestic tyranny and ended with the disastrous Versailles Treaty-which wrongly put the blame for the war on Germany. This inevitably led to WWII.
It should be of no surprise that Woodrow Wilson, a man who lied his nation into war and whose actions ultimately paved the road to another World War, would win the Nobel Peace prize in 1919.
Franklin D. Roosevelt is another president who is utterly praised as one of the greatest. Twelve years into FDR’s Great Depression, WW 2 was blazing in Europe. FDR promised the people that he wanted no part in involving America with another foreign war. Little did the people know that the president was hungry for this war. The polls prior to the attacks on Pearl Harbor showed a whopping 80 percent of the American public opposed to entering another war in Europe. FDR needed more support.
Thanks to America’s Freedom of Information Act and Robert Stinnett’s well-researched book, Day of Deceit, the author came to the unfortunate conclusion that FDR knew well in advance of the imminent attack on Pearl Harbor. The author of this great book show’s how Japanese transmissions were indeed intercepted my the U.S government, which confirms that FDR knew of the attack prior. Evidence also shows that FDR withheld vital information from the Admirals in Pearl Harbor that could have been used to prevent the attacks. Instead of going to the people and pleading his case for American involvement in this war, Stinnett illustrates, instead, that FDR provoked Japan into attacking Pearl Harbor. The president successfully maneuvered Japan into “firing the first shot”, his thought-out conniving plan all along. After this “surprise attack”, FDR now had overwhelming public support. The backdoor into WWII was now opened.
The truth is, FDR provoked the attack and sacrificed the lives of over 2,000 Navy men to gain support for his war effort. Americans were duped yet again into another war. Some say that FDR lying the US into war is justifiable because Hitler needed to be stopped. This is a credible argument. Hitler was an evil maniac. But so was Stalin, who FDR befriend in alliance with the war effort.
John V. Denson makes a good point in his book, A Century of War, when he writes, “A huge monument has been erected in Washington, D.C., to celebrate the ‘greatness’ of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. On the monument is a quotation from Roosevelt—‘I hate war’—indicating falsely to the public that he was a president who sought peace rather than war.” Instead of this propaganda “perpetrated upon the American people”, Denson recommends that a recording of the Pearl Harbor sailors pleading for life, trapped inside the hull of the half sunken battleship Oklahoma, be played “every hour at the Roosevelt Memorial to remind Americans of the treachery of their commander-in-chief.”
The reason we’ve been hoodwinked into worshiping these three presidents is because they embody the absolute power of the state. We’ve shed the dreams of liberty, peace and prosperity from our Founding Fathers and adopted an imperial outlook for our country. Americans love war or I should say, the idea of war. We have been conditioned to espouse the militarism mindset purveyed to us from all outlets of our society. We’ve grown accustomed to permanent war.
American patriotism is rooted in an orgy of preventable wars, totally oblivious to the ill-conceived origins and of the stifling of freedoms that comes with its aftermath. In America, the adoration for the flag and its patriotic zeal is derived from the misguided sense of the righteousness of its wars. The notion that political leaders might have a devious motive for waging a war never entertains the minds of the country’s “patriots.” The war effort always has blind support. This is how the state so easily bamboozles the masses to conform to its purposes and atrocities.
As time passes, history is written with a favorable tone toward those who led these so-called great wars. Rarely are the intentions of these leaders scrutinized or criticized. But instead, they’re glamorized with a heroic storyline. This is what gives birth to the patriotic myths of a nation. This is what gives birth to the mythical heroism we allot our political leaders.