(H/T: RCP) Seriously, Woodrow Wilson was very possibly the single most personally awful President we’ve ever had. And we’ve had some awful people in that job. I was previously unaware of how the ‘Spanish’ flu may have gotten started*:
In 1917, the war to end all wars was well under way. At Camp Funston within the boundaries of Fort Riley, Kansas, sergeants were turning recruits into doughboys. During their training, the soldiers picked up backpacks, rifles, helmets—and a new strain of flu. They carried all these with them as they traveled from the camp to the railroads, the big cities, the ports and, ultimately, overseas. On every step of the way to the trenches in Western Europe, they spread the deadly disease.
When news of the epidemic reached Washington, the White House decided it was a national-security problem. The British and French desperately needed reinforcements to turn the tide of the war; getting our boys over there was far more important than stopping the spread of the flu over here.
The administration insisted on pressing full speed ahead with the deployments. The White House also wanted every factory worker on the job and every red-blooded American to show up at mass rallies to buy more war bonds—all activities that spread the disease more quickly.
As the article notes, the eventual death toll for that was 50 million. How many dead can actually be directly laid at Wilson’s feet is arguable – goodness knows that era did not lack for fools and knaves – but you can certainly tie his actions to the American soldiers and workers and patriots who died because they were at an event that was deliberately put on despite a quarantine. Not that there’s any rush to do that; the whitewashing that they’ve done for Barack Obama pales in comparison to the cleanup that academia and the media have done on Woodrow Wilson’s reputation…
*Basic fairness requires me to note that there are multiple arguments on how and where the flu actually got started. It is, however, fairly clear that at absolute best Woodrow Wilson made a horrific, and possibly criminal, error in judgement by doing precisely the wrong things to keep the disease from spreading. I originally made a comment about that, but I decided that it was probably unprintable.