Woodrow Wilson and the ‘Spanish’ flu.

(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…

Moe Lane

*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  I originally made a comment about that, but I decided that it was probably unprintable.

10 thoughts on “Woodrow Wilson and the ‘Spanish’ flu.”

  1. The reason why it’s call Spanish Flu, even though it did not originate there is that the government of Spain at the time is the ONLY country on Earth not actively suppressing the news of the disease’s spread. Thus it earned this name.

  2. Yep, Wilson was the worse president this country has had. And we got him because of TR’s third party silliness. We saw a sad echo of this with Perot, and Pornstar. Third parties are bad, bad, bad for the Republic…….

        1. What do the rules say? In a “winner take all” system, like the one we have, parties are going to happen, because a collection of mediocre people working together beats any amount of genius working by themselves. And in our system, two parties is the stable point (“Winner take all”). Third parties just give victories to the parties so evil they can’t get elected any other way, such as Wilson or Pornstar……

          1. Yep – a “third party” can only succeed if it can suck the lifeblood out of one of the majors within *one* presidential election cycle. (see also the dried husk of the Whigs)
            Generally, once any issue or person gets popular enough to start talk of a “third party”, one of the two majors sucks *it* dry instead. (seen any Green Party stickers recently?)

    1. Third parties are BAD if the try to start from the top down. I think that they can be good if they build their strength at the local level first before attempting national races. I say primary first rather than run as a separate party, then caucus together once in office and force the party in power to make concessions for your support.

      1. That’s where Campaign Finance Reform kicks in.
        If filing for candidacy requires a large enough number of specialized lawyer-hours and an established infrastructure, you’ve pretty much eliminated the chance of this happening.
        In Idaho, Republicans have a clear supermajority in both houses of the state Congress, and a lock on all executive functions. The Democratic party has just enough clout to keep from being replaced, with the willing help of the Republican party. Who would much rather face a hapless Democratic party that’s outspokenly pro-abortion in an overwhelmingly pro-life state, and has eliminating nearly all jobs in the state as planks in its official platform, than a third-party that might upset the very comfortable applecart.

  3. I am not sure that the flu traveled from America to Europe given that it seems to have been pandemic in Europe before the US and spread from the East to West Coast once here.

    Wilson sucked for many reasons but mainly for running as a peace candidate in 1916 and declaring war after being elected. I think that one of the biggest mistakes in the 20th Century was the US picking sides in WWI.

    1. Well us “picking” sides in 1917 amounted to us declaring war on Germany after they participated in talks suggesting the partition of the United States. Germany was incredibly stupid in terms of steps it took to prevent us entering the war.

      Wilson’s folly was that he didn’t work to make sure that the Treaty of Versailles didn’t help create a 2nd World War. He allowed himself to be pushed aside by Lloyd George and Clemencau

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