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The Daily 202: Backlash brews against erasing Woodrow Wilson’s name from Princeton

Students from the Black Justice League protest at Nassau Hall last week to demand the school remove Woodrow Wilson’s name from programs and buildings because of his racist legacy. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
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— Many alumni of Princeton think that student protesters have jumped the shark by demanding the removal of Woodrow Wilson’s name from campus because of his racist attitudes a century ago.

After activists from the Black Justice League occupied the university president’s office for 32 hours last week, he agreed to consider such a move. The Board of Trustees has now formed a subcommittee to evaluate whether the former president (of both the university and the United States) should be expunged, including from the distinguished school of public policy that bears his name.

Several prominent Republicans connected to the Ivy League institution are decrying the process, which will include public meetings in the spring, as political correctness running amok.

“I am disappointed in the Administration and their reaction to it,” Chris Christie, who as New Jersey’s governor is an ex-officio member of Princeton’s board of trustees, told the 202 in a statement.

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New Jersey Republican Rep. Leonard Lance, who earned a master’s from Princeton in 1982, faulted Wilson for re-segregating the federal workforce in the 1910’s but said it’s shortsighted to ignore the rest of his legacy because of it.

“George Washington owned slaves. Slavery is an indelible stain on the American nation. But I do not favor renaming the capital jurisdiction,” Lance said. “This has to be taken in the context of his entire public service.”

Former Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa), who taught at the Wilson School after three decades in Congress, suggests that the university endow a new chair for W.E.B. DuBois to defuse the controversy.

“Clearly in the resume of Woodrow Wilson, there is a weakness,” said Leach, who graduated from Princeton in 1964. “To me, it’s not a credible response to completely eliminate the name of Wilson.”

Leach noted that James Duke made his fortune selling cigarettes, Leland Stanford used Chinese labor to become a railroad baron, and Thomas Jefferson, the father of the University of Virginia, impregnated one of his slaves.

He added that Wilson welcomed Jewish faculty to Princeton at a time when they were still actively discriminated against at Harvard.

“Let’s acknowledge the blind spots and go forward without erasing history,” Leach said by phone from Iowa.

Conservatives find it deeply ironic that they are coming to the defense of one of the fathers of modern progressivism.

Colorado Republican Rep. Ken Buck, class of 1981, quipped in an e-mail: “Instead of fighting dead, racist Democrats, these students should be fighting against the worst part of Wilson’s legacy: an overbearing federal government that denies opportunity to young Americans.”

Lance and Buck are two of six Princeton graduates in the House. There are two alumni in the Senate. Ted Cruz, class of 1992, declined to comment.

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, a former GOP congressman from Florida, tweeted that the push to remove Wilson’s name is “insanity.”

— Where does this end? The Black Lives Matter movement has spawned similar pushes at campuses across the country. The faculty of Amherst College recently voted to remove “Lord Jeff” as the school’s unofficial mascot. Jeffery Amherst, as a British general in the 1760s, advocated infecting Native Americans with smallpox. The school will still keep its name, however. Georgetown announced two weeks ago that it will rename two buildings named for school presidents who organized the sale of Jesuit-owned slaves to help pay off campus debt in the 1830s.

— Jefferson is the next target on campuses. Inside Higher Ed reports that, at both the University of Missouri in Columbia and at the College of William & Mary, critics have been placing yellow sticky notes on Jefferson statues, labeling him — among other things – a “rapist” and a “racist.” It’s hard to see such a movement catching on at the University of Virginia, overlooked by Monticello.

Several columnists have weighed in against expunging Wilson this week:

The Post’s Alexandra Petri explains that “history is a grey area”: “When you erase the ugly parts of history, you run the risk of forgetting that someone lousy can do something worthy of honor. You divide the past into obvious heroes and obvious villains. And that’s dangerous. Then you forget what good and bad people are capable of. Then you forget that most good and bad things are not unmixed.”

Richard Cohen argues that “we have an obligation to place historical figures in the context of their times and to accord them what they, in some instances, did not accord others: understanding.” He calls Wilson “a transformational progressive” in many ways: “He advocated women’s right to vote (the 19th Amendment) and the eight-hour workday, and he supported the Clayton Antitrust Act as well as the creation of the Federal Reserve and the Federal Trade Commission. He also backed the implementation of the federal income tax, a progressive way for the government to raise funds. In foreign affairs, he took the country into World War I and helped create the League of Nations, which the United States, to his painful regret, did not join. He formulated an internationalism we now call ‘Wilsonian’ that has influenced U.S. foreign policy ever since.”

Franklin Roosevelt interned 120,000 U.S. citizens of Japanese descent, Christine Emba of The Post’s In Theory blog notes, but no one thinks he shouldn’t be honored. At least not yet. “We can acknowledge the contributions of even greatly flawed individuals,” writes Emba, who notes that she is a black Princeton graduate who studied at the Woodrow Wilson School.

Bill Scher, executive editor of LiberalOasis, complains that Wilson is “already a woefully under-analyzed and under-appreciated figure.” He argues on Real Clear Politics that, “Removing his name from his intellectual home would not just condemn him; it would condemn us to a poorer understanding of our own history. For Princeton to contribute to American ignorance would be an unconscionable act for a premier university.”

The Newark Star-Ledger published an editorial urging Princeton protesters to “learn the entire history”: “If we were to erase tributes to every historical figure with a repellant quality, there would be no names left on any building, bridge, airport, school, river, park, statue or boulevard in the land … We can’t name everything after Mother Teresa.”


— A four-hour old baby with his umbilical cord still attached was found alive in a New York church’s nativity scene. Police say they have video of a woman entering the church with a baby and leaving without one. Thankfully, the baby is in good condition. (Yanan Wang)

— Unrest in the Midwest: Thousands marched in Chicago after the city released dashcam video of a white police officer fatally shooting a 17-year-old black teenager. Jason Van Dyke, a 14-year veteran of Chicago’s police force, was charged yesterday with first-degree murder. He has been accused of misconduct 17 times before. (It’s graphic, but you can watch the footage here. Read the full story here.)

Here is an autopsy diagram provided by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office, showing the location of wounds on the body of victim Laquan McDonald. Sixteen shots were fired at the 17-year-old, who was wielding a knife:

— Meanwhile, protests in Minneapolis were peaceful after three white men in their 20’s were arrested in connection with the shootings of five Black Lives Matter protesters the night before. (Alex Baumhardt, Wesley Lowery and Mark Berman)

— St. Louis Rams wideout Stedman Bailey is in “critical, but stable condition” after being shot twice in the head. (Fred Barbash)

— Campaigning in Myrtle Beach, Trump claimed for a fourth straight day that he watched a large number of Muslims in New Jersey cheering, tailgating and “dancing in the streets” on 9/11, an urban myth discredited by state officials years ago. Trump said “the liberal media” is hiding evidence and claimed he’s received “hundreds of phone calls” this week from people who say they, too, saw the celebrations.

Jenna Johnson, our reporter following Trump, relays that the rally wasn’t all doomsday: “At one point, Trump invited onto the stage a guy in the audience who dressed up like him. ‘This is what I call a real supporter,’ Trump said. ‘Wow. Thank you, man. Are you married?’ The guy nodded and pointed out his wife in the audience. ‘Are you happy with your husband?’ Trump asked. ‘She said yes! She fantasizes that he’s really the real Donald Trump!’” Eew…


  1. Costco’s chicken salad is responsible for an E.Coli outbreak affecting at least 19 people in several western states. (Lena H. Sun)
  2. The GDP grew by 2.1 percent in the third quarter, according to a revised estimate, up from 1.5 percent. (CNBC)
  3. Tunisia declared a month-long state of emergency after a bomb exploded on a bus, killing 12 officers of the presidential guard, in the heart of the capital. (Erin Cunningham)
  4. A U.S. military report said faulty targeting led to an unintentional strike on the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan. The target was a nearby Taliban compound. (Wall Street Journal)
  5. The suspected mastermind of the Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, went by the scene of the crime as police were responding to see the devastation, according to cell phone records. (NBC)
  6. The French military reports a 40 percent year-over-year spike in applications, a trend that began with the Charlie Hebdo attacks. (Rick Noack)
  7. Employees of the airbag manufacturer Tanaka raised questions internally for a decade about the company covering up testing failures and misleading the public about their product’s reliability. (Wall Street Journal)
  8. Four men in drought-stricken California were arrested in connection with vandalizing a dam resulting in 50 million gallons of water being lost into San Francisco Bay. (Los Angeles Times)
  9. The judge in the Freddie Gray trial in Baltimore rejected a request by defense attorneys to sequester the jurors. (Lynh Bui)
  10. The Golden State Warriors, defending NBA champions, thrashed the Lakers to start the year 16-0, the best start to a season in league history. (Mercury News)
  11. Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma and Iowa are the top four teams in this week’s College Football Playoff rankings. (Chuck Culpepper)


  1. Bernie Sanders unveiled a plan that would allow undocumented immigrants in the country for five years to stay without worrying about deportation. (John Wagner)
  2. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) wants to renew the NSA’s ability to collect bulk phone data in the aftermath of Paris. The authority expires Nov. 28, but it’s unlikely to be renewed. (Karoun Demirjian)
  3. Marco Rubio, pandering in Iowa, voiced his support for continuing the Renewable Fuel Standard until 2022. (Des Moines Register)
  4. A Quinnipiac poll of likely Iowa GOP caucusgoers puts Trump in the lead, with 25 percent, but finds that Ben Carson has lost 10 points (putting him at 18) and Ted Cruz has gained 13 points (at 23) since last month.
  5. Outgoing Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) signed an executive order allowing most nonviolent criminals to vote and hold public office following prison release. (Elahe Izadi)
  6. Hillary Clinton accepted an endorsement from the Laborers’ International Union of North America in Colorado. (Anne Gearan)
  7. Obama-appointed federal judge Randolph Moss, who worked in Bill Clinton’s Justice Department, will oversee the wrongful termination  and defamation suit filed against Rep. Trey Gowdy by a former investigator for the House Benghazi Committee. (MSNBC)
  8. For the first time in four decades, and just months after his son’s death, Joe Biden will not spend Thanksgiving in Nantucket, electing this year to head to Europe for meetings with international leaders. (New York Times)
  9. The vice president also met with Martin O’Malley at the Naval Observatory yesterday.
  10. Republican focus group guru Frank Luntz will have dinner with the House Democratic Caucus after Thanksgiving. (Politico)
  11. Pope Francis begins his African trip with a stop in Kenya. (Kevin Sieff)
  12. Leading climate change denier Sen. Jim Inhofe is considering crashing the Paris climate summit starting next week. (Elise Viebeck)


NATO faces new Mideast crisis after downing of Russian jet by Turkey,” by Hugh Naylor and Andrew Roth: “NATO faced being thrust into a new Middle Eastern crisis on Tuesday after warplanes from member state Turkey shot down a Russian jet that Turkish officials said had violated their country’s airspace on the border with Syria. The incident marked a serious escalation in the Syrian conflict that is likely to further strain relations between Russia and the NATO alliance. Russian officials confirmed that a Russian Su-24 attack aircraft was shot down Tuesday morning but insisted it had not violated Turkey’s airspace. Russia’s Defense Ministry said one of at least two pilots probably died during the incident, and a marine also was killed by apparent Syrian insurgent fire during a helicopter rescue operation to retrieve the downed airmen. The downing brings renewed attention to a scenario feared for months by the Pentagon and its partners: a potential conflict arising from overlapping air missions over Syria — with Russia backing the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and a U.S.-led coalition conducting airstrikes against the Islamic State.” Read a quick historical primer on Turkish-Russo relations here.

— “U.S., France to press allies for more assets in fight against the Islamic State,” by Karen DeYoung: “The Obama administration is using the current moment of extreme anger and anxiety in Europe to press allies for sharp increases in their contributions to the fight against the Islamic State. Suggestions include more strike aircraft, more intelligence-sharing, more training and equipment for local fighters, and deployment of their own special operations ­forces. The message has already fallen on willing ears, at least in the case of France, whose president met with President Obama on Tuesday to plan strategy in the wake of the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris. ‘There is a new mind-set now,’ French President François Hollande said during a White House news conference. They agreed, Obama said, that ‘our nations must do even more together.’ While the two leaders spoke in generalities, a senior administration official said that both Obama and Hollande would be ‘working the phones’ with other members of the U.S.-led coalition — and with potential new members — to insist that now is the time for ‘those who could bring more assets to the table’ to do so.”

— After Paris, Sanders sticks to script — and it doesn’t say much about fighting terrorism,” by John Wagner in South Carolina: “The Democratic presidential hopeful ticked off an expansive agenda for improving the lot of those struggling to get by, touched on climate change and devoted some extra attention to issues of racial justice and policing. But by the time the senator from Vermont had wrapped up his speech, which clocked in at 59 minutes, there was one topic that hadn’t merited a single mention: foreign policy. The omission Sunday was striking, given the marked shift in tone of the presidential race… Many of the Republican candidates have recast their pitches altogether, and the other Democrats, including former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, have pushed their plans for defeating the Islamic State to the top of their agendas. The post-Paris-attacks Sanders campaign looks remarkably similar to the pre-Paris-attacks Sanders campaign.”


— ZIGNAL VISUAL: Bernie Sanders was mentioned about twice as much online as Hillary Clinton on Tuesday. Here’s a word cloud visualization of Sanders mentions to show what everyone was talking about:

A plug from rapper Killer Mike, an Atlanta native and member of hip-hop duo Run The Jewels, drove the social media story around the Vermont senator. In all, our analytics partners at Zignal Labs relays that Killer Mike was mentioned more than 15,000 times in stories and tweets that also mentioned Sanders. That’s about 20 percent of the senator’s total mentions for the day.

Mike endorsed Sanders at an Atlanta rally, in a speech that received widespread attention in the music press. “Before I was a rapper I was a son of Atlanta,” he said. “Before I ever wrote one rhyme and word on paper, before that, I was a black man in America. And before I ever learned how to dance to jig, I gave a damn about American politics, I gave a damn about the people of America, and I took to the streets and I advocated. … I am here as a proponent for a political revolution that says ‘healthcare is a right of every citizen.’ I am here because working class and poor people deserve a chance at economic freedom, and, yes, if you work 40 hours a week you should not be in poverty. That’s why I’m here.”

“I didn’t come here to lollygag ’cause I rap,” he added. “This could be y’all’s last time seeing me ’cause I got tours to go on, I got jets to fly on, and I ain’t lyin. But while I’m here I have to tell you that in my heart of hearts I truly believe that Senator Bernie Sanders is the right man to lead this country.” Watch the full speech here: 

–Pictures of the day:

President Obama awarded the Medal of Freedom to Willie Mays, Barbra Streisand, Gloria Estefan, Barbara Mikulski, Steven Spielberg and James Taylor, among others:

You can watch the video of the full 45-minute ceremony here:

Trump got a visit from country star Brad Paisley (“a really nice and talented guy”):

The wreaths are up at Union Station:

Can you spot what is wrong with the viral photo below? Oh, Paul Krugman:

It’s hard to see, but a cat has been photo-shopped in next to Hillary and Denis McDonough. Krugrman updated his post to say: “Yes, I know there’s a cat in the picture; I took it from Slate, ‘The Cats of War.’ I’ve used that image before, to lighten things up slightly. Apparently I didn’t succeed.”

–Tweets of the day:

The Thanksgiving celebrations are already starting for members of Congress, including Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.):

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) congratulated his senior senator, Mikulski, on her Presidential Medal of Freedom:

Speaker Paul Ryan gave an update on how he’s redecorating his office:

Actor Liev Schreiber, who plays The Post’s Marty Baron in the new movie “Spotlight,” endorsed an Esquire piece that argues he might be the best editor ever:

–Instagrams of the day:

Jeb Bush took a selfie with the Peachoid in Gaffney, S.C.:

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) took time for a weekend deer hunt:

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) captured a Vermont sunset from his farm in Middlesex:


— New York Times, “Donald Trump’s shortcuts and salesmanlike stretches,” by Maggie Haberman: “Here are some of Donald J. Trump’s favorite ways to deal with a difficult question: Asked what he would do on issues like trade deals or terrorism, he warns that bad things are happening ‘all over the place.’ His policies as president might or might not include the subject at hand ‘and a lot of different things.’ All ethnic groups will ‘love’ a Trump presidency. Here is what you may almost never hear Mr. Trump say: ‘I’m not familiar with that,’ or ‘I misspoke.’ No one ever expected Mr. Trump to turn himself into the issues expert of the Republican presidential field. Yet the verbal shortcuts and salesmanlike stretches that he has relied on for months — generalities used to dodge questions, and questionable recollections — are tripping him up as the tenor of the campaign has grown more serious.”

— New York Times, “In renovation of golf club, Donald Trump also dressed up history,” by Nicholas Fandos: “Between the 14th hole and the 15th tee of one of the club’s two courses, Mr. Trump installed a flagpole on a stone pedestal overlooking the Potomac, to which he affixed a plaque purportedly designating ‘The River of Blood.’ ‘Many great American soldiers, both of the North and South, died at this spot,’ the inscription reads. ‘The casualties were so great that the water would turn red and thus became known as ‘The River of Blood.’ The inscription, beneath his family crest and above Mr. Trump’s full name, concludes: ‘It is my great honor to have preserved this important section of the Potomac River!’ Like many of Mr. Trump’s claims, the inscription was evidently not fact-checked. ‘No. Uh-uh. No way. Nothing like that ever happened there,’ said Richard Gillespie, the executive director of the Mosby Heritage Area Association, a historical preservation and education group devoted to an 1,800-square-mile section of the Northern Virginia Piedmont, including the Lowes Island site.”

— Los Angeles Times, “Inside the Southern California factory that makes the Donald Trump hats,” by Christine Mai-Duc: “Donald Trump’s hats have quickly become a signature totem of the 2016 campaign, a kitsch magnet that serves ironic hipsters and sincere supporters alike. The red-and-white caps are emblazoned with the real estate mogul’s oft-repeated slogan, ‘Make America Great Again.’ But look around the factory floor where these hats are being made by the thousands, and you’ll find faces that don’t seem to fit into Trump’s America. Yolanda Melendrez is one of them. Melendrez, an immigrant from Mexico who was brought to the United States by her parents when she was a baby, has worked at the Carson-based Cali-Fame headwear company since 1991. ‘When we first got the order [for the Trump hats], I said to myself, ‘Just wait until he sees who’s making his hats. We’re Latinos, we’re Mexicans, Salvadoreños.’”

— Wall Street Journal, “Many GOP voters favor Trump despite limited foreign policy credentials,” by Reid J. Epstein: “In interviews during a weekend Iowa candidate forum, many voters pointed to Trump as the nation’s best chance to contain Islamic State militants. ‘Obviously, with all the business knowledge that Trump has, he has to have international knowledge that would be useful,’ said Kathy McCammant of Grinnell, Iowa, who attended the forum. Mr. Trump wasn’t one of the seven candidates at the event. Ms. McCammant’s husband, Dale, said Mr. Trump’s lack of government experience would be a benefit. ‘He doesn’t play the political game as much as the other candidates,’ he said. …Post-Paris public opinion polling shows the McCammants are hardly alone. A Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll found a plurality of New Hampshire Republicans said terrorism and national security are the most important issues facing the country. The same survey found Mr. Trump with twice as much support in New Hampshire as any other GOP candidate.”

Even Republicans wary of Trump admire his style: “Nobody in Iowa wants Donald Trump for president,” said Dave Tyree, a preacher at the Church of Christ in Chariton, Iowa. “But everybody in Iowa wants somebody like Donald Trump for president.”

— Forbes, “Strange but true: Dark matter grows hair around stars and planets,” by Ethan Siegel: “It’s a lot like the way a magnifying glass can focus sunlight into a single point: by bending the various rays together in a stream behind the lens. In the case of dark matter and a planet, however, it’s the mass of the planet itself — and the force of gravity — that causes the dark matter to come together in a caustic stream, referred to by Prézeau as a “hair,” that has such a significant density enhancement. For the Earth, the hair’s root starts about a million km behind the Earth as it moves through the galaxy, and has a density enhancement of about 1,000,000,000 over the normal dark matter density, whereas Jupiter’s root starts 10 times closer to the planet and offers an enhancement of an extra factor of 100 over Earth.”


Hillary Clinton pledges to stop using the phrase “illegal immigrant.” From TPM: “Facing an onslaught of criticism from the immigrant community as well as former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Clinton said Tuesday during an online Facebook event that she will no longer refer to immigrants who enter the the country illegally or overstay their visas as ‘illegal immigrants.'” She said it was a “poor choice of words” when she did so recently.


NOAA chief: No one will “coerce the scientists who work for me.” From The Washington Post: “The Obama administration is continuing to resist efforts by a top House Republican to gain access to the internal deliberations of federal scientists who authored a groundbreaking global warming study the lawmaker is investigating. In response to a threat from House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) to subpoena Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told Smith in a letter Friday that her staff will not be influenced by political interference.”


— At the White House: President Obama meets with his national security team, pardons the National Thanksgiving Turkey and participates in a service event with his family.

— What’s happening today on the campaign trail: Marco Rubio meets voters in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. 

— On the Hill: The Senate and House are in recess.

— Programming note: There will be no 202 tomorrow or Friday. We’ll return Monday. In the meantime, know that everyone over here at The Post is thankful to you for reading.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Todd Bosnich’s lies were incredibly painful, smeared my reputation, and ultimately derailed our congressional campaign. Although no length of sentence can ever undo the damage he has done, what matters is that Bosnich was unmasked as a liar and is now a convicted felon.”  — Failed GOP congressional candidate Carl DeMaio responding to a former aide being sentenced to five years of probation related to fabricating stories of sexual harassment


— “With high pressure in firm control, it’s a terrific travel day across the vast majority of the Eastern U.S.,” the Capital Weather Gang forecasts. “Here in the D.C. area, we’ve got mostly sunny skies and temperatures right around average, reaching afternoon highs in the mid-50s. Winds are light and variable in direction.”

— The Indiana Pacers crushed the Wizards 123-106. (Jorge Castillo)

— Fairfax County passed an ordinance that restricts dog owners from tethering their pets unsupervised for more than an hour a day, with a $500 fine for a first-time violation. (Antonio Olivo)


Here’s a roundup of the best moments from President Obama’s past turkey-pardonings:

Marco Rubio, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina show how they would pardon turkeys:

And in case you were wondering, Thanksgiving dinner for NASA astronauts will feature pouches of smoked turkey and candied yams.