Kresta in the Afternoon – January 15, 2020 – Hour 1

+  Kresta Comments: The Religious Motivations of LBJ and Woodrow Wilson

  • Description: We looked last week at the anniversaries of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society and Woodrow WIlson's Fourteen Points. Both men were religiously motivated, but both allowed their faith to blind them to the realities of the situation. Al has some thoughts.
  • + Resources Mentioned Available in Our Store:

    • The Moralist: Woodrow Wilson and the World He Made

      By the author of acclaimed biographies of Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Adams, a penetrating biography of one of the most high-minded, consequential, and controversial US presidents, Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924). The Moralist is a cautionary tale about the perils of moral vanity and American overreach in foreign affairs. In domestic affairs, Wilson was a progressive who enjoyed unprecedented success in leveling the economic playing field, but he was behind the times on racial equality and women’s suffrage. As a Southern boy during the Civil War, he knew the ravages of war, and as president he refused to lead the country into World War I until he was convinced that Germany posed a direct threat to the United States. Once committed, he was an admirable commander-in-chief, yet he also presided over the harshest suppression of political dissent in American history. After the war Wilson became the world’s most ardent champion of liberal internationalism—a democratic new world order committed to peace, collective security, and free trade. With Wilson’s leadership, the governments at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 founded the League of Nations, a federation of the world’s democracies. The creation of the League, Wilson’s last great triumph, was quickly followed by two crushing blows: a paralyzing stroke and the rejection of the treaty that would have allowed the United States to join the League. After a backlash against internationalism in the 1920s and 1930s, Wilson’s liberal internationalism was revived by Franklin D. Roosevelt and it has shaped American foreign relations—for better and worse—ever since. (learn more)

    • Woodrow Wilson: Ruling Elder, Spiritual President

      When Woodrow Wilson was elected as a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in 1897, his preacher father allegedly remarked, "I would rather that he held that position than be president of the United States." Fifteen years later he was both. Easily one of the most religious presidents in American history, almost all of Wilson's policies and important speeches were infused with religious concepts. The son, grandson, and nephew of southern Presbyterian divines, with six consecutive generations of preachers on his mother's side, Wilson viewed his political career as a sacred calling. As he remarked to a Democratic Party leader just before his inauguration in 1913, "God ordained that I should be the next president of the United States." As a scholar, Princeton University president, governor of New Jersey, then president, Wilson spent his entire career trying to further the cause of public righteousness. In 1905, he uttered his life's credo: "There is a mighty task before us and it welds us together. It is to make the United States a mighty Christian nation and to Christianize the World." Nonetheless, the 28th president was not principally a religious figure, and he didn't fit comfortably in any religious camp, either in his own time or today. In Woodrow Wilson: Ruling Elder, Spiritual President, Barry Hankins tells the story of Wilson's religion as he moved from the Calvinist orthodoxy of his youth to a progressive, spiritualized religion short on doctrine and long on morality. (learn more)

    • Great Society: A New History

      The New York Times bestselling author of The Forgotten Man and Coolidge offers a stunning revision of our last great period of idealism, the 1960s, with burning relevance for our contemporary challenges. "Great Society is accurate history that reads like a novel, covering the high hopes and catastrophic missteps of our well-meaning leaders."  Alan Greenspan Today, a battle rages in our country. Many Americans are attracted to socialism and economic redistribution while opponents of those ideas argue for purer capitalism. In the 1960s, Americans sought the same goals many seek now: an end to poverty, higher standards of living for the middle class, a better environment and more access to health care and education. Then, too, we debated socialism and capitalism, public sector reform versus private sector advancement. Time and again, whether under John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, or Richard Nixon, the country chose the public sector. Yet the targets of our idealism proved elusive. What’s more, Johnson’s and Nixon’s programs shackled millions of families in permanent government dependence. Ironically, Shlaes argues, the costs of entitlement commitments made a half century ago preclude the very reforms that Americans will need in coming decades. In Great Society, Shlaes offers a powerful companion to her legendary history of the 1930s, The Forgotten Man, and shows that in fact there was scant difference between two presidents we consider opposites: Johnson and Nixon. Just as technocratic military planning by “the Best and the Brightest” made failure in Vietnam inevitable, so planning by a team of the domestic best and brightest guaranteed fiasco at home. At once history and biography, Great Society sketches moving portraits of the characters in this transformative period, from U.S. Presidents to the visionary UAW leader Walter Reuther, the founders of Intel, and Federal Reserve chairmen William McChesney Martin and Arthur Burns. Great Society casts new light on other figures too, from Ronald Reagan, then governor of California, to the socialist Michael Harrington and the protest movement leader Tom Hayden. Drawing on her classic economic expertise and deep historical knowledge, Shlaes upends the traditional narrative of the era, providing a damning indictment of the consequences of thoughtless idealism with striking relevance for today. Great Society captures a dramatic contest with lessons both dark and bright for our own time. (learn more)

+  If Someone Had Told Me That I Would Become Catholic (I Would Have Told Them They Were Crazy)

  • Description: 20 years ago if you had told Marc Ayers he would one day be Catholic, he would have called you crazy. He was in law school at the time, a fervent Reformed Presbyterian who had spent time in seminary. What changed? He joins us.
  • Segment Guests:
    • Marc Ayers
      Marc Ayers is a partner for Bradley law firm representing individual, corporate and governmental clients before state and federal appellate and trial courts throughout the country.
  • + Articles Mentioned:

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