Skip to main content

I just finished reading a biography of Theodore Roosevelt, not having known all that much about him before, and what really struck me about him is this:  I will bet you that he could sit in a room with a self-identified Tea Partier and a self-identified Socialist, and after a short time, he'd have them arm in arm, ready to get out there and make their country a better place together.   The biography I read was written by someone considerably more conservative than me, but in the end, the conclusion we both reached was that we really liked and admired this guy.

He had a way of taking the valid points that each side has and making the other side see the worth in them.  And I think he made the two sides realize that they weren't as different as they thought.

Here is an example of what I mean, from a speech he gave in 1910 at the Sorbonne in France:

We can just as little afford to follow the doctrinaires of an extreme individualism as the doctrinaires of an extreme socialism. […] Much of the discussion about socialism and individualism is entirely pointless, because of the failure to agree on terminology.  It is not good to be a slave of names.  I am a strong individualist by personal habit, inheritance, and conviction; but it is a mere matter of common sense to recognize that the State, the community, the citizens acting together, can do a number of things better than if they were left to individual action. […]  The deadening effect on any race of the adoption of a logical and extreme socialistic system could not be overstated; it would spell sheer destruction; it would produce grosser wrong and outrage, fouler immortality, than any existing system. But this does not mean that we may not with great advantage adopt certain of the principles professed by some given set of men who happen to call themselves Socialists; to be afraid to do so would be to make a mark of weakness on our part.
I, as a liberal, want to see equality of opportunity and a leveling of the playing field.  I want everyone to get their fair shot, and if they earnestly try and fail, I want to see them get helped back up.  But I also want people to realize that they need to step up, and we ought to reward people that do.  Many conservatives think that I don't think that.  More TR from the Sorbonne speech that exemplifies this:
We are bound in honor to refuse to listen to those men who would make us desist from the effort to do away with the inequality which means injustice; the inequality of right, opportunity, of privilege. We are bound in honor to strive to bring ever nearer the day when, as far is humanly possible, we shall be able to realize the ideal that each man shall have an equal opportunity to show the stuff that is in him by the way in which he renders service. There should, so far as possible, be equality of opportunity to render service; but just so long as there is inequality of service there should and must be inequality of reward. We may be sorry for the general, the painter, the artists, the worker in any profession or of any kind, whose misfortune rather than whose fault it is that he does his work ill. But the reward must go to the man who does his work well; for any other course is to create a new kind of privilege, the privilege of folly and weakness; and special privilege is injustice, whatever form it takes.
He gives both liberals and conservatives some room to cheer and some room to cringe.  But in the end I think he gives them something they can both live with.

You may think he's Archie Bunker for a second because he says this:

The good citizen in a republic must first of all be able to hold his own. He is no good citizen unless he has the ability which will make him work hard and which at need will make him fight hard. The good citizen is not a good citizen unless he is an efficient citizen.
But not so fast; he also says this:
It is a bad thing for a nation to raise and to admire a false standard of success; and there can be no falser standard than that set by the deification of material well-being in and for itself.  But the man who, having far surpassed the limits of providing for the wants; both of the body and mind, of himself and of those depending upon him, then piles up a great fortune, for the acquisition or retention of which he returns no corresponding benefit to the nation as a whole, should himself be made to feel that, so far from being desirable, he is an unworthy citizen of the community; that he is to be neither admired nor envied; that his right-thinking fellow countrymen put him low in the scale of citizenship, and leave him to be consoled by the admiration of those whose level of purpose is even lower than his own.
When you read what Roosevelt said at any length, you realize how educated and thoughtful he was.  But he was also the Rough Rider, the South Dakota cowboy, the Amazon explorer.  I can't think of many people who exemplify both erudition and rugged individualism quite the way he did.

Not that TR doesn’t have some good straight-up admonishments for conservatives of our own day:

I hold that in this country there must be complete severance of Church and State; that public moneys shall not be used for the purpose of advancing any particular creed; and therefore that the public schools shall be non-sectarian. As a necessary corollary to this, not only the pupils but the members of the teaching force and the school officials of all kinds must be treated exactly on a par, no matter what their creed; and there must be no more discrimination against Jew or Catholic or Protestant than discrimination in favor of Jew, Catholic or Protestant. Whoever makes such discrimination is an enemy of the public schools.


To permit every lawless capitalist, every law-defying corporation, to take any action, no matter how iniquitous, in the effort to secure an improper profit and to build up privilege, would be ruinous to the Republic and would mark the abandonment of the effort to secure in the industrial world the spirit of democratic fair dealing.
But I want to end with what is still my favorite TR quote, one that anyone might do well to look at every morning.  If you are doubting yourself and maybe aren't sure whether to try to do that thing you've always wanted to do, because you're not quite sure of yourself, TR has a word for you:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Theodore Roosevelt is on Mt. Rushmore, and I am beginning to better understand why.
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Admire Teddy, But It Was A Different Time..... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Of course, he could start w/ the Koch brothers & 5 of the 9 Supreme Court Justices.  Turn them around, & we might be able to get somewhere.

    •  At least in terms of corruption . . . (4+ / 0-)

      the current era, which began with Reagan, and has escalated since then, has a lot more in common with TR's time than any time since FDR's administration.

      Worth remembering that TR was elected with Big Money.  What was remarkable was that he risked alienating big money by pushing forward with the use of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and other progressive measures.  Part of the reason that he was able to push these populist items is that there was a credible opposition party pushing that populist agenda, and so a degree of unorthodoxy was tolerated.  In the end, even TR wasn't able to push things nearly as far as FDR.

      Roosevelt received a large amount of money for the campaign from wealthy capitalists, such as Edward H. Harriman (the railroad tycoon), Henry C. Frick (the steel baron), and J.P. Morgan (the financial potentate of Wall Street). The wealthy capitalists and their friends contributed more than $2 million to Roosevelt's campaign. They supported Roosevelt because they preferred an "unpredictable head of a predictable party" in power than the "predictable head of an unpredictable party." They might have favored Parker as a person, but the Democrats were simply too populist in their constituency and potentially too radical in their ideas for the conservative business leaders ever to trust.

      The election, however, had never been in doubt. TR won 336 electoral votes to Parker's 140. He took every state outside of the South, including Missouri. Roosevelt was immensely popular and rode to a second term on a huge wave of public support, unlike anything the nation had ever seen.

    •  I agree. I don't think he could do anything (0+ / 0-)

      more with this situation and bring Dems and Reps together. Dems are reasonable and moderate now and if they had a similar partner as they once did much more would be achievable. And would be by Obama also.

      I wonder if the diarist blames Obama then for not being able to bring Dems and Reps together. He's far from perfect but the conspirators on inauguration night prove what he was up against was as far as we know unprecedented.

  •  theodore roosevelt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    launched modern american imperialism. he was one of the- if not the- principle drivers of the spanish american war. what we don't need is a theodore roosevelt right now.

    The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

    by Laurence Lewis on Sat May 24, 2014 at 10:40:15 PM PDT

    •  But we never possessed Cuba (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      They were granted their independence as soon as was practicable.  I'm not quite sure how that is imperialism.  The Spanish were treating the Cubans pretty abhorrently, basically forcing them into starvation by shutting down farms.  You can say we took the Philippines, but it's hard to see how they were better off under Spanish rule.  And of course the Philippines were also ultimately granted independence.  I guess I'm not quite getting the imperialsim connection.

      •  Cuba and the Philippines . . . (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Meteor Blades

        were independent in name only for decades.  The U.S. exercised a defacto veto and overturned elections, in the case of Cuba, when it served our purposes.  In the case of the Philippines the "earliest practicable date" was over 80 years later, if we are talking about the establishment of a system of genuine representative rule and not merely a U.S. backed dictatorship.

        In terms of foreign policy, Spain was a colonial power, the U.S.'s role was only marginally more benevolent -- that pretty much ended with the Cold War, some would probably say sooner than that if you looked at the degree to which American business was given license to do whatever the hell it wanted in these countries in ways that have helped to sown longstanding enmity towards the U.S.

        In terms of TR, his views were militaristic, imperialistic, and pretty damned racist when it came to foreign policy.

        e.g.  As per the ever reliable PBS -

        Following President McKinley's assassination in September, 1901, Roosevelt, then vice president, ascended to the presidency, bringing his imperialistic philosophy with him. Roosevelt had long advocated the building of a Central American canal, linking the Pacific to the Atlantic. In 1903, when negotiations with Colombia for a canal zone lease broke down, Roosevelt quietly supported a revolution in that country. Fighting began on November 3rd. Days later, with tacit support from TR, the independent country of Panama emerged from Colombian control, sporting an American-made declaration of independence, constitution, and flag. Panama rapidly agreed to American terms on a canal zone lease, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began digging the following year.
        There were a lot of ways that TR was ahead of his time and his views were advanced.  I think he was one of the top tier presidents, but in terms of his foreign policy I would say it was also imperialistic and colonial.  In the context of the battle for global supremacy between the European powers, maybe it's possible to rationalize the actions as "less bad", but it was still imperialism.  
    •  Completely wrong. Read some history. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      skralyx, Santa Susanna Kid, ozsea1, Chi

      Roosevelt was not a "driver" of the Spanish-American war - he was a Colonel, leading volunteer troops. He had held no political offices before that higher than police commissioner of New York and Assistant Secretary of the Navy.

      He did not launch modern imperialism - it existed long before him. McKinley entered into the Spanish-American war and was responsible for policies that are generally regarded as Imperialistic.

      Theodore Roosevelt was a peacemaker, founder of the National Park system, breaker of corporate business monopolies, and someone who appointed numerous African-Americans to federal offices. He was very enlightened for his time.

      •  But even McKinley... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ...dragged his feet as long as he possibly could on entering that war, and was widely criticized for it.

      •  In the context of American history . . . (4+ / 0-)

        he did.

        This is why I suspect the comment was qualified to explicitly state "American imperialism".  He didn't invent the concept, but in the context of American history he was the first president to really engage in the foreign policy approach in a big way.  Look at the growth of the navy and the function of the U.S. Navy under his watch.  The changes were significant.

        The fact that he did a lot of good things, and that he was ahead of his times in many domestic policy areas doesn't change this fact.  In terms of foreign policy, his views were very much of the time.  In terms of our history too it represented a shift away from a more isolationist stance -- it was a harbinger of things to come, both in some of the more positive and less positive respects.

      •  you have no idea what you're talking about (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Meteor Blades

        roosevelt not only was assistant secretary of the navy before the war, he also was a close associate of key hawk henry cabot lodge, and had played an instrumental role in gaining the speakership for thomas brackett reed- he was that influential behind the scenes. he wasn't some minor official, he was a key mover. his tireless efforts drumming up support for the war effectively ended his friendship with reed, who ultimately retired, he was so disgusted with the war.

        The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

        by Laurence Lewis on Sun May 25, 2014 at 03:03:08 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Uh... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Are you familiar with this "peacemaker's" doctrine known as the Roosevelt Corollary? It was a major factor for decades of U.S. policy in Latin America. Here's Walter Le Feber on the subject:

        The Monroe Doctrine of 1823 said, as President Monroe issued it in that year, that Europeans should stay out of Latin America, that the Americas were essentially an American preserve. People should stay out of Latin American affairs. What Roosevelt says in 1904 and 1905 is to say, the United States should get into Latin American affairs. He essentially turns the Monroe Doctrine on its head and says the Europeans should stay out, but the United States has the right, under the doctrine, to go in in order exercise police power to keep the Europeans out.

        It's a very neat twist on the Monroe Doctrine, and, of course, it becomes very, very important because over the next 15 to 20 years, the United States will move into Latin America about a dozen times with military force, to the point where the United States Marines become known in the area as "State Department troops" because they are always moving in to protect State Department interests and State Department policy in the Caribbean. So what Roosevelt does here, by redefining the Monroe Doctrine, turns out to be very historic, and it leads the United States into a period of confrontation with peoples in the Caribbean and Central America, that was a really important part of American imperialism.

        Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

        by Meteor Blades on Sun May 25, 2014 at 12:04:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  You may need to set aside your believes and read (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      about Teddy.

  •  We have a Teddy, and she is a Senator. (0+ / 0-)
    •  Elizabeth Warren? (0+ / 0-)

      I'd say only in a very, narrow, limited sense.  She and TR would have agreed with the idea of federal regulation of the marketplace.

      Very different biographies in many other respects.  TR also came from money and a connected political family.  Warren traveled a different road to where she is -- that has to shape her views.  Very different attitudes about foreign policy as well.

      Is there someone else?

  •  Someone with TR's resume . . . (0+ / 0-)

    and his qualities could probably win election today.  

    However, I'm not so sure that he would win socially conservative Red States -- remember that TR lost election in the old confederacy, and his views regarding a national health insurance program would probably generate resistance in that area as well.  His views regarding the role of "Big Government" also run counter to the Tea Party dogma.  The Tea Party might have found something to like in other aspects of his message, but definitely for a segment of the Tea Party he would be a non-starter.  TR could probably do pretty well though in the interior west and would be viable on the coasts, provided that there wasn't a viable more liberal option running against him.

    Part of TR's progressivism was a consequence of the existence of a credible progressive party, which helped to pull American politics leftward on economic policy -- at least for a time.  This is part of TR's legacy -- he was able to achieve what he achieved, in part because Big Money viewed him as a less bad option than the election of a genuine progressive Democrat.  If a genuine progressive Democrat wasn't viable on economic policy, perhaps TR wouldn't have been able to win the nomination in the first place and might not have been selected by McKinley as a counter-balance to the McKinley ticket.  

    Later, after he left the GOP his political weight helped to split the GOP in half and create an opening for Woodrow Wilson.

    If we are looking for a truly transcendent politician, we probably aren't going to find one.  The last, was the first, Washington.

    It's just the nature of our political system.  There will always be divisions, and often very sharp divisions.  Lincoln didn't even win 50 percent of the vote in his first presidential election and a huge chunk of the country hated him.  Even FDR in 1936 who crushed Alf Landon, had strong and committed and well-organized opponents.  

  •  Harry Truman, too. (0+ / 0-)

    Boycott all republican owned businesses-see how they like THAT.

    by old mark on Sun May 25, 2014 at 01:26:52 AM PDT

  •  Our Problem is Apples vs. Locomotives (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    k9disc, Choco8, ozsea1

    Ownership is completely post state, they have no use for government or nation whatsoever, other than for keeping the people off their backs.

    There's only one group, the liberals, having ANY conversation about the nation, except for the xenophobe populists on the right.

    The entire power conversation is about markets and industries not nations or peoples. Nobody powerful enough to act gives a shit, because there's nothing forcing them to.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun May 25, 2014 at 05:41:52 AM PDT

    •  This^^^ (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Meteor Blades

      and it's getting worse. The new "Singapore/China model" (my monker) floated publicly by the management of the Economist, iirc, is a major move in this direction.

      These corporate sponsored pols and think tanks are going to "reinvent" government. It will be led by corporate.

      Welcome to Crazytown! Population: You.

      Democracy - 1 person 1 vote. Free Markets - More dollars more power.

      by k9disc on Sun May 25, 2014 at 05:45:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  While praising TR, it's worth remembering... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...he had a few flaws. His remarks in


    “This continent had to be won. We need not waste our time in dealing with any sentimentalist who believes that, on account of any abstract principle, it would have been right to leave this continent to the domain, the hunting ground of squalid savages. It had to be taken by the white race.”
    “In my judgment the time has arrived when we should definitely make up our minds to recognize the Indian as an individual and not as a member of a tribe. The General Allotment Act is a mighty pulverizing engine to break up the tribal mass.”
    1903 in his book Winning the West:
    “The truth is, the Indians never had any real title to the soil.”
    President Theodore Roosevelt issued eight proclamations which transferred 15 million acres of Indian timber on reservations created by Executive Order to adjacent national forests. The reservations included Fort Apache, Mescalero, Jicallilla, San Carlos, Zuni, Hoopa Valley, Tule River, and Navajo. The proclamation regarding the enlargement of the Trinity National Forest to include most of the Hoopa Reservation stated that after 25 years any un-allotted land on the reservation was to become a part of the national forest and the Hoopa were to lose their rights to this land. (Ojibwa, 2011)

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Sun May 25, 2014 at 12:11:36 PM PDT

    •  Thank you MB (0+ / 0-)

      The road to getting my history degree made me lose any interest I had in admiring Teddy Roosevelt (or any president, really).

      Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole. - Ta-Nehisi Coates

      by moviemeister76 on Mon May 26, 2014 at 02:37:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site