Fresh analysis of Wilson, his times, and the evolution of his international position; by Knock (History/Southern Methodist Univ.). With never an extra word, Knock creates a sense of the creative ferment, innocence, and scale of a still-young America that brought into being such vigorous visionaries as Teddy Roosevelt, Eugene Debs, and John Reed. He shows a thoughtful Wilson, confident in his intellectual capacities, unafraid in the company of socialists and radicals, aware that new ideas would be needed to solve new problems. But Knock's Wilson isn't an original thinker: ""The salient ideas...he derived from other groups and individuals"" and ""the broad concept [of the League of Nations]...had long been espoused by a disparate constellation...."" Nor was Wilson quick to grasp realpolitik. His (and America's) isolation and lack of historical instinct are clear as he-conducts WW I press conferences that simply ignore the incredible slaughter in Europe in the belief that we can remain uninvolved. Knock traces a pattern of Christian virtue, moral conviction, and idealism that made Wilson into a national hero who could address the (primarily Republican) League to Enforce Peace to thundering applause; and he shows how these same qualities--combined with lack of experience in international affairs and negotiations--would eventually undo Wilson. The American leader's reliance on his advisor Edward Mandell House's intrigues and optimistically inaccurate reports here figure in the failure of the President's Pan American Pact (a kind of model for the League of Nations), and suggest how this pattern of wishful thinking about human and national motivations would lead to similar results at Versailles. Sharp, succinct, and expert.