This investigation of a century of public life and its implications for the Obama second term is scheduled for publication later this month. I describe the ascendancy of political leaders, including presidents and their cabinets, whom we in the public are trained to regard as committed visionaries and warriors on behalf of voters. My research suggests that many are merely the visible spokespeople for more powerful decision-makers who prefer to operate in private via their surrogates in Washington.
An example I've found from a century ago describes how three prominent Wall Street consortiums, those controlled by the Morgan, Rothschild and Rockefeller interests, helped split the 1912 Republican vote by backing former President Teddy Roosevelt against the isolationist Republican incumbent, William Howard Taft. The plan was help Democratic nominee Woodrow Wilson, right.
As described by author James Perloff in his 1988 book, The Shadows of Power, the understanding was that after election Wilson would help create a Federal Reserve bank system and an income tax, and listen to his backers in creating his cabinet. Moreover, Wilson was asked to understand that the United States might have to help the United Kingdom and allied nations in case of world war with Germany. Each of those events occurred, and yet the pattern is obscured by many other factors, historians and Wilson's own anti-Wall Street rhetoric and 1916 campaign slogan, "He kept us out of war."
Wilson's 1912 campaign speeches, collected in his 1913 book, The New Freedom, contain a riveting warning about the political process, then and now,
"Since I entered politics," Wilson wrote on pages 12 to 13 in the original and searchable on a Google version, "I have chiefly had men's views confided to me privately."
"Some of the biggest men in commerce and manufacture," Wilson continued, "are afraid of somebody, are afraid of something. They know there is a power somewhere so organized, so subtle, so watchful, so interlocked, so complete, so pervasive, that they had better not speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it."
Wilson, like any prudent individual, refrained from naming names for the most part. Therefore, the rest of us ever since must connect the dots on patterns like this that may affect not simply historical mysteries, but the most pressing issues currently.
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