Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

This profound inquiry into the life of the 28th president reveals what kind of man he was, how he came by his exalted ideas and why he failed in the end. Dutch historian Schulte Nordholt focuses on the bitter wrangling at the Paris Peace Conference between Wilson and the other Allied leaders and on the clash between Wilson and the Senate over ratification of the Versailles Treaty and the League of Natons. Acknowledged as one of history's pivotal figures, Wilson is characterized as the embodiment of America's naive idealism, a ``brilliant mixture of vision and delusion.'' Schulte Nordholt argues that Wilson's belief in the reasonableness and goodness of humans--one element of the ``typically American complex of religion and nationalism'' which Wilson called ``faith''--contributed significantly to his failure as a statesman. An excellent scholarly work. Photos. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review

From Dutch historian Schulte Nordholt, an evenhanded look at the 28th President. Schulte Nordholt seeks to illuminate the contradictions that made Wilson a paradox: a great President but a presidential failure. A student of the Romantic historians and an admirer of Wordsworth, Wilson, the author explains, was a disappointed poet who channeled biblical metaphors into political oratory with the ambition of becoming a statesman. As president of Princeton, Wilson gained the notice of the Democratic Party, winning the governorship of New Jersey and, in 1912, the US presidency. During his tenure in the White House, though, his hope for American neutrality in the Great War could not be maintained. Nor could the promise of his postwar Fourteen Points, designed to make the world safe from future aggression by providing a utopian world ruled by a rational League of Nations. As Schulte Nordholt shows, Wilson's idealism ran smack into the Old World's self-interest--and Wilson's own stubbornness, which led to the Senate failing to ratify the Treaty of Versailles and to American exclusion from the League of Nations. Though Schulte Nordholt does a good job in detailing Wilson's woes, he spends too much time--for American readers, at least--on digressions about Holland during Wilson's day; moreover, his writing, though well translated, occasionally trips over its own cleverness, as in his comparison of the winter of 1919 to a ``hawthorn bush in the winter dunes, stubborn and fierce, a tangle of branches, a crisscross of contradictions, of mutual division....'' Schulte Nordholt's perceptive focus on Wilson's volatile mind- set--which equated esthetics with ethics and poetics with politics- -is a refreshing change from the more familiar portraits such as August Heckscher's Woodrow Wilson (p. 909). (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs-not seen.)

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