Walter Lippmann

From Conservapedia
This is an old revision of this page, as edited by RJJensen (Talk | contribs) at 20:12, 8 May 2009. It may differ significantly from current revision.

Jump to: navigation, search

Walter Lippmann[1] (1889 - 1974), was an American journalist and commentator. Starting as a socialist he moved steadily to the right throughout his career, and was a conservative critic of the New Deal. He was the most influential journalist in America from the 1920s to the 1960s because of his honesty and fairness, his forceful writing style, his relationship with major politicians, and - despite his changing views - his conservatism and belief in using the balance of power as a means for maintaining peace. Although he was a member of the inner cirlcle of the "establishment," he opposed every president from Theodore Roosevelt to Richard Nixon.


Lippmann attended Harvard College, where he studied with the leading philosophers of the day, including George Santayana, William James, and Graham Wallas. His first job was helping muckraker Lincoln Steffens on Everybody's Magazine. He became active in the Socialist party and was one of the founding editors of The New Republic magazine in 1913.

He agreed with Theodore Roosevelt that the purpose of diplomacy not to attempt the impossible but to deal realistically with the existing balance of power. During World War I he was a staff assistant to Secretary of War Newton D. Baker, and a special adviser to Colonel House, President Woodrow Wilson’s top foreign policy advisor. Lippmann helped draft Wilson’s Fourteen Points in 1918, which became the basis for ending the war and restructuring world affairs at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, where he was advisor to House. In the 1920s he was editor of the influential newspaper the New York World, and sharply criticized the foreign policy of Harding and Coolidge for ignoring the League of Nations.

Public Opinion

In the 1920s philosopher John Dewey (1859-1952) engaged in a major debate with Lippmann on the impact of the technology on democracy. Both agreed that the communications revolution had created a large and more complex world, that political and social institutions had not kept pace with the changes wrought by technology, that the masses were more susceptible to propaganda, and that modernity threatened democracy. Their critiques diverge on solutions, especially whether or not democracy could be saved. While Lippmann saw the public as unredeemable and subject to mass manipulation, Dewey thought that more public involvement in socio-political affairs was needed and that tools of mass communication could be used to this end.[2]


In 1937 Lippmann attacked President Franklin D. Roosevelt's plan to reorganize the Supreme Court, which reflected Lippmann's growing criticism of the New Deal. Although he originally supported Roosevelt's policies, Lippmann felt that the president was placing the American constitutional system in danger by setting illegal precedents.[3]

Cold War

Lippmann is accredited with popularizing the phrase "Cold War" to describe the breakdown of the World War II Allied Powers alliance and the growing post-war tensions. Although he opposed Communism[4] he adopted a "realist" position in foreign policy in the 1940s and opposed idealistic goals such as Wilsonianism-- even though he had been a leading advocate of idealism in 1917-1918. He was distrustful of globalism or excessive involvements around the world. In the 1960s he was an articulate opponent on the War in Vietnam, saying it weakened America's ability to fight the true Soviet adversary.[5]


Starting as a Socialist, Lippmann moved right through most of his life, becoming a conservative in the 1930s and an advocate of Natural Law[6].

Further reading

  • Blum, D. Steven. Walter Lippmann: Cosmopolitanism in the Century of Total War. (1984). 205 pp.
  • Riccio, Barry D. Walter Lippmann - Odyssey of a Liberal. (1994). 240 pp.
  • Steele, Ronald. Walter Lippmann and the American Century (1980), 599pp; the standard biography
  • Wright, Benjamin F. Five Public Philosophies of Walter Lippmann. (1973). 171 pp.

Primary sources

  • Lippmann, Walter. Public Philosopher Selected Letters of Walter Lippmann, edited by John Morton Blum (1985)
  • Lippmann, Walter. Essential Lippmann a Political Philosoph ed by Clinton Rossiter (1963)
  • Lippmann, Walter. Men of Destiny (1927)


  1. His name is often misspelled with only one 'N'.
  2. Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion (1922) and The Phantom Public (1925); John Dewey, The Public and Its Problems (1927)
  3. Frederic Krome, "From Liberal Philosophy to Conservative Ideology? Walter Lippmann's Opposition to the New Deal" Journal of American Culture 1987 10(1): 57-64. 0191-1813
  4. The Golos spy ring used Mary Price, his secretary, to garner information on items Lippmann chose not to write about or names of Lippmann's sources, often not carried in stories, but of use to the MGB.
  5. Fredrik Logevall, "First Among Critics: Walter Lippmann and the Vietnam War." Journal of American-East Asian Relations 1995 4 (4): 351-375.
  6. Religion, Politics, and the Higher Learning, Morton White, Harvard University Press, 1959 p.112

External link