The short title of A. Scott Berg's masterful biography of 28th U.S. president Woodrow Wilson belies its accomplishment. Berg is a biographer par excellence: his Max Perkins won a National Book Award, his Lindbergh a Pulitzer. Wilson might be his best yet. Scholars call books like this definitive.

Even though Theodore Roosevelt described him as "an apothecary's clerk," Wilson was, by his own admission, extremely sexual and handsome. His famous pince-nez glasses covered for one nearly blind eye. Son of a Presbyterian minister, he was religious, reading his Bible every night, but he also loved to sing and tell corny jokes. George F. Kennan said no president ever looked or acted the part as well.

President of Princeton in 1902, governor of New Jersey in 1910, and president in 1912, Wilson enjoyed the "most meteoric rise in American history." His "New Freedom" worked to protect the poor while the executive and legislative branches worked co-operatively to pass legislation. He said the government should be more concerned with "human rights" than "property rights." He created the Federal Reserve Board and even offered the first government bailout of a private industry. After being reelected, he worked to make the world "safe for democracy" and forever affixed his name to the vision of a League of Nations. Regrettably, this Southern president and his administration also instituted "Jim Crow" laws.

Berg's portrait of the president whom Truman called the "greatest of the greats" is magnificent. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

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