Who's Who - Walter Lippmann

Walter Lippmann Walter Lippmann (1889-1974), the noted liberal journalist, was among the first moderate liberals to sign-up to President Wilson's policy of 'limited preparedness' in 1916, and was influential in encouraging support from similar quarters.

Born in New York on 23 September 1889 to German-Jewish parents, Lippmann studied at Harvard where he developed socialist beliefs and there co-founded the Harvard Socialist Club, simultaneously editing the Harvard Monthly.

Lippmann was befriended in 1911 by Lincoln Steffens, the campaigning journalist.  Steffens (and subsequently Lippmann) supported Theodore Roosevelt's Progressive Party in the 1912 presidential election.  The following year, 1913, Lippmann published the well-received A Preface to Politics.

He co-founded in 1914 (with Herbert Croly) the New Republic magazine of political criticism, and which was part-intended as an antidote to what he regarded as the 'muck-raking' format of political press coverage of the period.

Lippmann came to reject his earlier embracing of socialism in Drift and Mastery (1916), while retaining liberal progressive tendencies.  Lippmann used the New Republic to champion Wilson's re-election campaign in 1916, which brought him into subsequent contact with Wilson's closest advisor, Colonel House.

With war underway Lippmann, a prominent pacifist, was persuaded (initially by Colonel House) to back a policy of limited military preparedness for war in 1916.  With Lippmann's backing, who envisaged the war as a vehicle for liberal values, other moderate liberals were encouraged to come forward with support.

Lippmann likewise approved the U.S. government's increasing participation in social and economic management during wartime.  Perhaps as importantly, Lippmann believed in Wilson, and was confident that the president would ultimately prove able to impose a liberal form of peace upon the warring nations of Europe.

In 1917 Lippmann accepted an appointment as assistant to Newton Baker, Wilson's Secretary of War.

Wilson established a wartime 'Inquiry' body, in effect a secret investigation into world affairs with the aim of producing a programme for world peace.  Boasting some 125 researchers, Lippmann acted as its co-ordinator.  Its final report, The War Aims and Peace Terms It Suggests, sent to Congress on 22 December 1917, formed the basis for Wilson's subsequent Fourteen Points declaration of January 1918.

Disappointed with the results of the peace thrashed out at the Paris Peace Conference, which he attended as a U.S. delegate, and appalled at the severity of the treatment meted out to Germany, Lippmann distanced himself from Wilson during the summer of 1919.  In consequence Lippmann used the New Republic to urge public opposition to the Versailles treaty and to U.S. participation in the proposed League of Nations.

With the collapse of the so-called 'Progressive' policies most associated with Wilson (and the re-election of the Republicans first to control of the Senate and then to the presidency), Lippmann's influence declined in tandem.

In 1920 Lippmann left the New Republic to join the New York World.  He published two controversial works in the 1920s, Public Opinion (1922) and The Phantom Public (1925), which expressed doubts as to the practical feasibility of establishing a true democracy in modern society.

Rising to edit the New York World in 1929, Lippmann moved to the Herald Tribune with the closure of the former newspaper in 1931.  For the following 30 years Lippmann edited the nationally syndicated column 'Today and Tomorrow', during the course of which he shifted his political stance.  Taking a rather more pragmatic approach to current events, Lippmann came out in support of seven Democratic presidential nominees and six Republicans.

In the wake of the Second World War Lippmann apparently returned to his former liberal values.  He subsequently opposed the Korean War, upsetting both major parties at once.

Walter Lippmann died in New York on 14 December 1974 at the age of 85.

A "gutzer" was slang for a stroke of bad luck.

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