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The Contender
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Woodrow Wilson was a bad president.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/3/2012 Category: Politics
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 7,728 times Debate No: 23390
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (11)
Votes (2)




Resolution: Woodrow Wilson was a bad president.

(1) Debater must have typing experience and internet access.
(2) Place your arguments and sources inside the debate
(3) Structure the debate in a readable, coherent fashion.
(4) No semantics, trolling, or lawyering.
(5) Must insert one witty quote per round.

(1) Acceptance + Internet High Five
(2) Main Argument
(3) Rebuttal to opponent's main argument
(4) Response to rebuttal + closing arguments + voting issues (one paragraph)

"Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program." -Milton Friedman

I accept this debate which I have thusly created and challenge those of rhetorical wizardry to a verbal duel. With my hand elevated and ready for forearm pronation, I slap yours in a ritualistic manner. Good luck to whomever accepts, and may the Gods smile upon you during this debate.



"Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys."
P. J. O'Rourke

Woodrow Wilson was a highly competent and sucessful President, leading us through a highly stressful time in our history.

He kept us out of a European war until it began to directly effect our citizens, most modern President invade to help the 1% not the welfare of the common people.

He won two terms and helped build us up to the most successful economic place that we ever were in. He mobilized our nation and made us into a superpower, the first world superpower outside of Europe.

He continued to fight for America even after suffering a devasting stroke.

Personal Knowledge
Debate Round No. 1


I look forward to a great debate, ConnorR! :D

Those who assess the quality of presidents are often impressed by communication skills and charisma. Both of those characteristics account for President Woodrow Wilson’s standing in several lists of good presidents. However, Wilson, like other presidents should be judged not on charisma, but on how his policies affect the nation and the world during his presidency and over the course of history. The policies were catastrophic.

The “ruler” with which I will categorically evaluate Wilson’s presidency are the criteria of peace, prosperity, and freedom. Peace allows human beings to be free from unnecessary suffering at the hands of other men and lays the foundation for sound economics and the protection of civil liberties. Prosperity increases the standard of living of humans within its scope and of trading nations. Freedom allows a human to exercise his protected rights in any manner he chooses (so long as it does not interfere with the exercise of the rights of others), and is a fundamental aspect of human nature’s desires. Wilson is scored negatively on all of these criteria; thus, making him a bad president.

Peace 1: Wilson decided to enter World War I.
In 1916, he ran for reelection of the slogan, “He kept us out of war,” but in April 1917, shortly after his narrow reelection and second inauguration, he asked Congress to declare war on Germany. As early as December 1916, the Germans desired peace talks, while wanting to keep the land they occupied in Belgium and France. But because Britain and France expected that United States entry into the war was likely and would turn the tide of the war in their favor, they rejected Germany’s settlement. If the US had stayed out, the French and British would have been forced to take this settlement and end the war. As a result of US entry into the war, millions more men were killed in combat and billions of dollars was wasted in an effort to “win” the war. Because of the harsh reparation payments forced on Germany to get the US war loans from Britain and France, the the usurpation of its foreign lands, and the stringent control of Germany’s industry, World War II was essentially created by the Treaty of Versailles. Many historians trace the roots of World War II to the Treaty of Versailles of which he was an integral supporting member.

Peace 2: His military policies instigated decades of aftermath.
While generating support for the Treaty of Versailles and League of Nations, was oblivious to the fact that he would be held largely responsible for the largest, costliest, and bloodiest war in world history: World War II. World War I brought to power three monstrous dictators: Stalin, Lenin, and Hitler.
He also played a role in triggering the Russian Revolution and then meddles in the ensuring Russian Civil War, i.e. he inadvertently helped the communists take power initially in Russia and then made them hate the United States; thus, paving the way for a Cold War that lasted more than forty years. In that Cold War, two confirmed false nuclear launch signals from both countries was received which could have ended civilization in a nuclear holocaust.
He was the most interventionist president in United States history. He ordered military interventions in Mexico in 1914 and 1916, Nicaragua in 1914, Haiti in 1915, the Dominican Republic in 1916, Cuba in 1917, and many other military operations that have generated lasting animosity against the United States.
As a result of World War I and II, the Russian and Chinese revolutions, and civil wars and conflicts spawned by the Cold War (most of which can be traced to US entry into WWI) the twentieth century was by far the bloodiest century in world history. Even in the 21st century, people are still losing their lives in conflicts ( e.g. Iraq) indirectly generated by the US entry into WWI. If the loss of approximately 110 million lives is not enough to make you think Wilson was a bad president, we still have two more categories to go.

Prosperity 1: Promoted pre-war economic interventions.
Even before Wilson mobilized the entire economy to fight World War I, he was pursuing an activist domestic agenda contrary to the history of the Democratic Party, which had been a bastion of small government. Like Wilson’s faith-based foreign policy, which included total war,religion also fueled his missionary ardor for the progressive movement at home. He is among the three most legislatively active presidents in the 20th century, and with this came disastrous consequences of both progressive politics and its economic intervention. Decades after the idea of a national bank was buried, his “New Freedom” legislative agenda created the Federal Reserve System, which Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman showed to be the cause of the Great Depression, as it excessively expanded the money supply during the 1920’s. The Federal Reserve has also been proven to be the cause of the boom and bust business cycle, the financial crisis and the housing bubble among other economic fiascoes.

In 1913, the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, which allowed the return of the income tax. At first the tax was minimal, but then he (with inspiration from the Ten Planks of Communism) decided to get a more sharply graduated income and inheritance taxes passed. In a classic example of the “ratchet effect” (going up, but not going down), some of the high taxes on incomes and corporate profits were retained after the war extended. The tax continues to progress today, and is one of the primary causes of unemployment and economic sluggishness and deadweight loss.
His programs laid the groundwork for expanded government with his setting precedents of the FDA, Overman Act, Enemy Act, Fuel Control Act, and Railroad Administration, etc. His creation of agencies to try to fix problems inspired FDR’s New Deals which prolonged and exacerbated the great depression.

Freedom 1: Undermined constitutional check and balances.
Wilson used World War I to vastly enlarge the president’s powers. Under the National Defense Act of 1916, he could appoint all commissioned and noncomission officers of the National Guard. This encroachment subverted the states’ constitutional right to appoint the officers of the militia. The act effectively increased the president’s authority over the military and undermined the constitution’s provisions for ensuring some state control over militia as a counterbalance to federal power.

Freedom 2: Eroded civil liberties.
In US history, WWI and its after math were probably the worst times for the erosion of precious and unique American civil liberties. Conscription, a form of involuntary slavery, was resurrected from the Civil War. The Congress passes the selective service act of 1917, which authorized him to draft men against their will to fight in a distant war, thereby taking away their own liberty.
The Espionage act of 1917 and the sedition act of 1918 were “probably the most serious attacks on the civil liberties of Americans since the short-lived alien and sedition acts of 1798” during the administration of John Adams. Yet the Supreme Court upheld convictions under these unconstitutional WWI-era laws.

Freedom 3: Set bad policies toward blacks and women.
To Wilson, some racial groups were more equal than others. A Democrat originally from the South and a blatant white supremacist, he sought unsuccessfully to get Congress to pass legislation to restrict the civil liberties of African Americans.
During and after his administration, racial violence spiked, in some measure because of the racist tone he had set The results were lynching, anti-black race riots, and the emergence of the second KKK to dominate the Democratic party in the southern and western states.
Similarly, Wilson had women suffragists arrested, because of his blatant misogyny. But later, under intense continuing pressure, he campaigned for the 19th Amendment.

Woodrow Wilson was a bad president.



ConnorR forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


I decided to post some stuff :D

"There can be no liberty, unless there is economic liberty." -Margaret Thatcher

"All war is deception." -Sun Tzu

Round Structure and Forfeit

(1) Acceptance + Internet High Five
(2) Main Argument
(3) Rebuttal to opponent's main argument
(4) Response to rebuttal + closing arguments + voting issues (one paragraph)"

Round (1) was described as a round for acceptance and internet high fiving; however, my opponent introduced a weak main argument during that round, causing him to lose the conduct point for his lack of debate decorum.

My opponent, in addition to his violation of the round structure, has forfeited the last round, causing a strengthened conduct point violation (pending I remain living and post in rounds).


Con said, "'Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.' -P. J. O'Rourke"

1) My opponent's quote runs contradictory to his Negative position on this resolution, as Woodrow Wilson undoubtedly accumulated presidential power during his term:

a) Through the creation and use of the presidential press conference he greatly expanded the exposure and legislative impact of presidential ideas.
b) His advocacy of diminishing Congress's power was evident throughout his 1885 treatise, Congressional Government: A Study in American Politics, in which he wrote:

"It is, therefore, manifestly a radical defect in our federal system that it parcels out power and confuses responsibility as it does. The main purpose of the Convention of 1787 seems to have been to accomplish this grievous mistake. The 'literary theory' of checks and balances is simply a consistent account of what our constitutionmakers tried to do; and those checks and balances have proved mischievous just to the extent to which they have succeeded in establishing themselves as realities. It is quite safe to say that were it possible to call together again the members of that wonderful Convention to view the work of their hands in the light of the century that has tested it, they would be the first to admit that the only fruit of dividing power had been to make it irresponsible."

c) He though he was ordained by god to be president, he writes, "Remember that God ordained that I should be the next president of the United States. Neither you nor any other mortal or mortals could have prevented this."

2. Woodrow Wilson greatly expanded the power of the federal government to take money from its citizens and wreak economic havok.

a) He played an integral role in establishing the Federal Reserve System through the Federal Reserve Act, which forced people into a system of inflationary taxation that eats away at savings and encourages speculation.
b) He played a key role in establishing the income tax, which forcibly takes money from citizens and allows the federal government to use the money, as if it was more efficient or responsible making decisions for you than yourself.


Con said, "Woodrow Wilson was a highly competent and sucessful President, leading us through a highly stressful time in our history."

The 1910's could have been a peaceful and economically prosperous era in American history had it not been for Wilson's harmful policies of military interventionism, racism, and economic incompetence. He led us into the stressful time with poor policy decisions.

Con said, "He kept us out of a European war until it began to directly effect our citizens, most modern President invade to help the 1% not the welfare of the common people."

1) Woodrow Wilson greatly expanded the Military-Industrial Complex by the creation of the Federal Reserve System, which allows that sector to use the newly created money prior to most of the United States, and facilitating massive purchases for the war effort in Europe with typical Defense department frontloading and waste.

2) Many of the wars, conflicts, and "peacekeeping missions" of the 20th century and even the 21st century would have been avoided or mollified had the United States declined assistance to the Allies during World War I.

Con said, "He won two terms and helped build us up to the most successful economic place that we ever were in. He mobilized our nation and made us into a superpower, the first world superpower outside of Europe."

1) Reelection is not a valid indicator of a good president (e.g. FDR won reelection several times while he mismanaged the US economy).
a) He won against Charles Evans Hughes by a narrow margin of 277 to 254 in electoral college votes, and 49.2% to 46.1% in the popular, respectively.
b) Presidents who perform horribly by mismanaging the economy, taking away liberties, and expanding the power of the federal government and presidency tend to get reelected historically. This negates your point.

2) Mobilizing a nation for war requires extensive central planning, failures due to the economic calculation problem, and unjustified bloodshed in unnecessary wars.
a) I guess the question is, do the benefits of becoming a superpower outweight the costs? Russia became a superpower at the expense of a devastating authoritarian regime that led to economic stagnation. The United States did so with the accumulation of power and resources from citizens and the subverting of the constitution occasionally. This led to involvement in wars, economic stagnation, rationing, deprived freedoms, and injustice, so I don't think that becoming a superpower is a noble goal, and the empirics surrounding the transitions prove my point.

3) If you're claiming Woodrow Wilson's policies improved the economic situation of the United States, you evidently have not viewed the overwhelming empirical data absolutely demolishing that point.

Con said, "He continued to fight for America even after suffering a devasting stroke."

There is no quarrel about whether Woodrow Wilson was a determined, dedicated, and persistent individual; there is quarrel with whether or not his being alive helped the country as president or hurt it; I, and the evidece, indicate the latter.


[1] Ivan Eland, Recarving Rushmore, pgs. 212-229
This book is the basis of the metric system and dismissal of the charisma and communication skills biases I used in this debate.

A section of this article demonstrates how Woodrow Wilson expanded federal power through coercive accumulation methods.

This article explains the political and economic issues that were caused by Woodrow Wilson's decision to enter World War I, and their effects on the rise of dictators in Europe.

This article describes the expansions of presidential power ushered in by Woodrow Wilson, which subvert the democratic process and undermine liberty.

This article describes Woodrow Wilson's role in establishing the federal reserve system.

This article describes Woodrow Wilson's role in creating the income tax with the Sixteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, a tax that was previously ruled unconstitutional.

A portion of this article describes why Woodrow Wilson was one of the worst presidents on civil liberties in American History.



ConnorR forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


"Human intelligence is a reflection of the intelligence that produces everything. In knowing, we are simply extending the intelligence that comes to and constitutes us. We mimic the mind of God, so to speak. Or better, we continue and extend it."-Huston Smith

"When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking." -Albert Einstein

"A lot of good arguments are spoiled by some fool who knows what he is talking about." -Miguel de Unamuno


I am a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice. I have been known to remodel train stations on my lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of heat retention. I translate ethnic slurs for Cuban refugees, I write award-winning operas, I manage time efficiently.

Occasionally, I tread water for three days in a row. I woo women with my sensuous and godlike trombone playing, I can pilot bicycles up severe inclines with unflagging speed, and I cook Thirty-Minute Brownies in twenty minutes. I am an expert in stucco, a veteran in love, and an outlaw in Peru.

Using only a hoe and a large glass of water, I once single-handedly defended a small village in the Amazon Basin from a horde of ferocious army ants. I play bluegrass cello, I was scouted by the Mets, I am the subject of numerous documentaries. When I'm bored, I build large suspension bridges in my yard. I enjoy urban hang gliding. On Wednesdays, after school, I repair electrical appliances free of charge.

I am an abstract artist, a concrete analyst, and a ruthless bookie. Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear. I don't perspire. I am a private citizen, yet I receive fan mail. I have been caller number nine and have won the weekend passes. Last summer I toured New Jersey with a traveling centrifugal-force demonstration. I bat 400.

My deft floral arrangements have earned me fame in international botany circles. Children trust me. I can hurl tennis rackets at small moving objects with deadly accuracy. I once read Paradise Lost, Moby Dick, and David Copperfield in one day and still had time to refurbish an entire dining room that evening. I know the exact location of every food item in the supermarket. I have performed several covert operations with the CIA.

I sleep once a week; when I do sleep, I sleep in a chair. While on vacation in Canada, I successfully negotiated with a group of terrorists who had seized a small bakery. I balance, I weave, I dodge, I frolic, and my bills are all paid.

On weekends, to let off steam, I participate in full-contact origami. Years ago I discovered the meaning of life but forgot to write it down. I have made extraordinary four course meals using only a mouli and a toaster oven. I breed prize-winning clams. I have won bullfights in San Juan, cliff-diving competitions in Sri Lanka, and spelling bees at the Kremlin. I have played Hamlet, I have performed open-heart surgery, and I have spoken with Elvis.
But I have not yet gone to college.

-Hugh Gallagher


ConnorR forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
11 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Wallstreetatheist 4 years ago
I argued what his policies did, but I assume you could argue about his whimsical ideas he accrued from the world of academia, although I don't think that would characterize his presidency well. Because the disparity between his ideas and what he got accomplished would have a semblance of failure imbued in it.
Posted by THEBOMB 4 years ago
could you argue Wilsonian idealism? or just what he actually accomplished?
Posted by Wallstreetatheist 4 years ago
I've yet to have a serious debate on the man. There are some good things he did: lowering tariffs, advocating peace (sometimes), and writing his own speeches. But, in the vast realm of policy, almost everything he did was disastrous.
Posted by THEBOMB 4 years ago
This could have been a good debate...
Posted by Wallstreetatheist 4 years ago
Please just concede the rounds, if you do not wish to participate anymore. Forcing others to wait 72 hours for an argument is ridiculous.
Posted by Wallstreetatheist 4 years ago
Posted by ditzmister 4 years ago
You're a bad president...
Posted by Wallstreetatheist 4 years ago
I assent to that noetic approbation.
Posted by bossyburrito 4 years ago
Posted by Wallstreetatheist 4 years ago
The ambiguous usage of your intellectual lexicon renders the resolution of meaning incomprehensible. Please eschew the obfuscation immediately.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Xerge 4 years ago
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: Forfeit....
Vote Placed by THEBOMB 4 years ago
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Total points awarded:70 
Reasons for voting decision: contest.