Obama as Wilsonian warrior? Weak analogy


Chuck Chalberg ("The model for Obama ...," Dec. 26) warns that President Obama, like President Woodrow Wilson, may use his second term to advance an aggressively interventionist foreign policy.

Chalberg's main argument for why Wilson and Obama are comparable in this way is that they both attended Ivy League colleges. Trying to extrapolate someone's foreign -- or any other -- policy ideas from educational background is not a useful exercise.

For instance, Wilson was openly racist and despised the burgeoning suffragist movement, whereas Obama has endured years of racially colored criticism in addition to signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

Moreover, American sovereignty is not violated in a way even remotely comparable to the foreign encroachments faced by Wilson. As Chalberg points out, Wilson was able to leverage World War I to both lash out at Germany for attacking American merchant ships and to begin his "liberal crusade for democracy."

The potential countries that Chalberg lists for Obama's coming foreign-policy aggression are not only minor world powers but are largely unable to frustrate America in a way similar to 1914 Germany.

Wilson and Obama are not similar men, and, in fact, the international circumstances and personal characteristics between them are different enough that any comparison needs to be taken with a grain of salt.


• • •

If the Chalberg commentary had been written by a college freshman, the freshman would have flunked. Wilson's Fourteen Points, including his proposal for a League of Nations, might have averted World War II if fully embraced. To omit the principal reasons that Wilson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919 is like a tract on Eisenhower omitting mention of D-Day.

Due to Wilson's physical incapacity, France turned the Treaty of Versailles into an instrument of retribution, essentially guaranteeing German rearmament and World War II. Versailles did create the League of Nations, which the United States failed to ratify due to Republican obstructionism. Sound familiar?

Today, the United States' and President Obama's support of the United Nations might help avert World War III.


• • •

Chalberg draws a number of interesting parallels between Wilson and Obama, including their shared Progressive vision of "government by experts and bureaucrats."

It should also be noted that Wilson, like other Progressives of his day, viewed the Constitution as an obsolete impediment to the transformation of the United States into a centralized and bureaucratized administrative state. If his first term is any indication, Obama has wholeheartedly adopted Wilson's view of the Constitution.

Examples of Obama's disregard for constitutional restraints on presidential power include blatant disregard of the War Powers Act in attacking Libya, his appointment of unaccountable agency "czars" without Senate approval, using Environmental Protection Agency regulations to circumvent the express will of Congress, and his refusal to enforce laws with which he disagrees.


* * *


Farmers know best what's right for animals


The Star Tribune correctly points out (editorial, Dec. 22) that there are costs to switching from housing sows in individual maternity pens to group housing, including a greater risk of the animals being injured when fighting for food or establishing dominance. Science shows sows have lower stress-level markers in their blood when separated. Farmers who care for these animals should be the best source for determining which system works best for them and their animals.

It's no secret that consumers are increasingly urban and increasingly unfamiliar with farms and farm animals. Vegan animal-rights activists such as those at PETA and the Humane Society of the United States who don't eat meat use this lack of familiarity to their advantage by painting a one-sided picture of modern sow housing practices.

In fact, both the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians find that housing sows individually is an option that provides for animal welfare.

At the end of the day, farmers and vets know more than vegans about animal welfare. Consumers should trust them to make the right decisions for their farms.


The writer is executive director of the Center for Consumer Freedom.

• • •

The fact is that animals will continue to be abused as they are raised for food. Further, there will continue to be attempts, sometimes successful ones, to limit or eliminate these practices. In the end, however, it's about the individual making a choice.

Thirty-five years ago, I ate my last piece of meat after having watched yet another documentary on the subject and having said to myself, "Enough." At the risk of sounding preachy, every day since then I have been reminded -- living in a world of meat-eaters -- of my choice. That's roughly 12,775 reminders.


* * *


Guthrie brings back the interactive past


In bemoaning the Guthrie Theater's sanctioning of smartphones ("Tweeting seats might as well be the new smoking area," Dec. 28), James Lileks fails to mark a fascinating return to past cultural norms.

Tweeting during live performances is the modern, technology-enabled equivalent of the original Shakespearian theaters, in which audiences interacted loudly and raucously with the actors and with one another.

It is our insistence on total silence that deviates from tradition.