Archive for the ‘Theodore Roosevelt’ Category

It’s the Money, Stupid

A Hundred Years of History

On the presidential campaign trail in 2008, Arizona Sen. John McCain regularly invoked Theodore Roosevelt as his role model. “I count myself as a conservative Republican, yet I view it to a large degree in the Theodore Roosevelt mold,” McCain told the New York Times in 2008.

Channeling T.R. certainly has appeal for both Republicans and Democrats. Who other than perhaps a small-government Libertarian wouldn’t want to associate with the memory of one of the four presidents on Mt. Rushmore, a man arguably one of the greatest of the great presidents?

But by invoking Roosevelt as a model, McCain, in very many ways an exemplary individual and once upon a time a true maverick, is guilty of historical malpractice. The politics of our nation’s capitol today, and the distinguished senator from Arizona is part of it all, are as removed from the democracy Teddy Roosevelt embraced as Phoenix is removed from an ice flow. One need only look at this week’s news to understand the difference.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon waltzed into and out of a Senate Banking Committee hearing Wednesday suffering hardly a PR scratch despite the $2 billion plus his bank lost recently in risky financial bets. Washington’s favorite big banker did comment that some of his current and former underlings at the nation’s biggest (or maybe second biggest) financial institution might have to return some of their compensation and Dimon smoothly quoted Harry Truman on where the buck stops. (No commitment from the buck stops here guy as to whether any of his paycheck might be in jeopardy.)

In the big picture, as Congressional hearings go, Jamie Dimon before the Senate Banking Committee was a Beltway cake walk.  South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint helped set the tone when he said to the banker, “The intent here is really not to sit in judgment.” Got it.

It is substantially easier, I guess, for members of Congress to ask tough questions of former baseball players who might have used certain banned substances than to ask a really tough question of the biggest banker on Wall Street in the wake of the biggest financial crisis in 75 years. I wonder if Rafael Palmeiro, the steroid-abusing, once-a sure-thing Hall of Fame baseball player, who testified under oath before Congress about his transgressions was glued to C-Span for Dimon’s questioning? Palmerio a small-time drug abuser got the wire brush treatment. Jamie Dimon a big-time player who has opposed many regulations of the banking industry got an air kiss.

The other big money news this week was that Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has decided to further exercise his free speech rights and start spending millions on the Super PAC backing Mitt Romney. The numbers are stunning. So far, Adelson has written checks for $35 million and his minions tell Forbes he may be in the campaign for “unlimited” amounts.

There seems to be little doubt now that the 2012 election will involve billions – billions with a B – of dollars in unregulated, often unreported money from literally a handful of high rollers who, because of their personal financial balance sheets, are able to lavish dollars on the candidates and causes they support – or oppose.

In terms of the presidential election the United States has become, or is dangerously close to becoming, a Banana Republic where the biggest checkbook wins the day. Oligarchs spend money, control the media and determine the course of Russian politics. Can we seriously be that far away? Even the campaigns that benefit from all this lavish spending must be wondering if they can control the essential messages of their own campaigns when some kazillionaire has decided to fund a political action committee and own a few television stations.

All of this has happened thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the now infamous Citizens United case and that bring us full circle back to Teddy Roosevelt. The Supreme Court, by a 5-4 margin, opened the floodgates to all the unregulated, independent and corporate spending by overturning a century of established law, a law dating back to – that’s right – the Old Rough Rider.

Roosevelt, of course, famously spoke of the threat imposed upon a democratic society by what he called “malefactors of great wealth,” but he also said, “The death-knell of the republic had rung as soon as the active power became lodged in the hands of those who sought, not to do justice to all citizens, rich and poor alike, but to stand for one special class and for its interests as opposed to the interests of others.”

As to the big banks, Roosevelt – he was the Trust Buster after all – would not have stopped at bemoaning their enormous influence over our economy and public policy. JPMorgan and the other top four biggest banks essentially control 56% of the entire U.S. economy. Roosevelt would have acted, he would have broken up the biggest banks in the interest of a capitalist system that resists giving so much control of the economy to so few people.

But that approach is not an option in these times, even given the continuing danger to the U.S. and world economy presented by JPMorgan-like risk taking. Mention breaking up the big banks or re-regulating them as T.R.’s distant relative did in the 1930s and you won’t be invited back to a Georgetown cocktail party.

In his justly famous New Nationalism speech in 1910 – President Obama tried and mostly failed to capture some of the same Rooseveltian quality in his own recent economic speech – the 26th president said:

“At many stages in the advance of humanity, this conflict between the men who possess more than they have earned and the men who have earned more than they possess is the central condition of progress. In our day it appears as the struggle of freemen to gain and hold the right of self-government as against the special interests, who twist the methods of free government into machinery for defeating the popular will. At every stage, and under all circumstances, the essence of the struggle is to equalize opportunity, destroy privilege, and give to the life and citizenship of every individual the highest possible value both to himself and to the commonwealth. That is nothing new.”

It is nothing new. Just over a hundred years ago, the United States had a political leader summoning the country to a higher standard of accountability and behavior. T.R. was a trust buster and an advocate for reducing the enormous reach of money in our politics. There is no one sounding his clarion call today, or if they are their voices are lost in background noise that only money can buy.

Ask yourself, “What would T.R. do?” The great president’s record from 100 years ago tells us and the answer has almost nothing to do with what is happening in our politics in 2012.

 

 

Bigness

An Old Notion Relevant Again

On the downhill side of the Gilded Age in American political and business life – that would have been in the late 1800’s – progressive reformers from Theodore Roosevelt to Woodrow Wilson to Louis Brandeis found fault with the idea and reality of a concentration of economic power.

Brandeis, a great legal advocate before he went on the U.S. Supreme Court in 1916, described the threat of economic concentration by a single, simple word “bigness.” Brandeis entitled one of his greatest works, published in 1913, Other People’s Money and one chapter in that book was called “The Curse of Bigness.”

“Size, we are told, is not a crime,” Brandeis wrote, “But size may, at least, become noxious by reason of the means through which it was attained or the uses to which it is put. And it is size attained by combination, instead of natural growth, which has contributed so largely to our financial concentration.”

Today it is almost an article of faith that “bigger is better,” but the early 20th Century focus on means and uses of economic concentration are just as relevant today as when Woodrow Wilson was in the White House.

Our political and regulatory system seems unable to address the “too big to fail” syndrome and the human abuses that can follow. Much of corporate America seems one big merger followed by another and meanwhile, Walmart, one of the biggest of the bigs, seems to be engulfed by a major foreign bribery scandal in Mexico, Rupert Murdoch’s vast media empire is now defending its political clout in Great Britain as Murdoch execs fend off criminal charges for violating privacy. Criminal charges have been leveled against a BP engineer involved in the Gulf oil spill. You could go on, but the situation is clear – too big to fail can also be too good to be true.

Idaho Sen. Frank Church – he served in the Senate from 1957-1981 – is remembered today primarily for his headline generating investigation of the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1970’s, but Church always considered another of his Senate investigations equally, if not more, important. As chairman of a subcommittee on multinational corporations in 1973, Church delved deeply into the practices, some of them corrupt, of some of the biggest, most powerful companies in the world.

Church’s work cast light on International Telephone & Telegraph’s involvement in the fall and murder of Chilean President Salvador Allende and Lockheed was exposed for its role in a bribery scandal in Japan. Lockheed’s CEO at the time admitted to spending millions on bribes to foreign officials and a Japanese prime minister went to jail in the resulting scandal. The entire chain of events led to passage of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in 1977, the U.S. law that Walmart may find itself on the wrong side of today.

Frank Church discovered in that long ago investigation that human nature, driven by an imperative to constantly expand and concentrate economic power has its dark side. In such a world corners get trimmed, ends justify means and we experience an Enron or we end up bailing out a financial institution that can only justify its continued existence because it’s too big to fail.

A thinking man’s conservative, New York Times columnist David Brooks, had a fascinating column this week in which, in a way, he came at this bigness issue from a novel angle. Brooks’ point was that a blind focus on destroying the competition – Brandeis might have termed it how businesses become always bigger – is the flip side of a lack of innovation. When the focus is on constantly and relentlessly growing, creativity goes begging. The need to be bigger inevitably trumps everything, including finding a better way to make a widget.

Brandeis argued a hundred years ago – his was the age of Standard Oil and the House of Morgan – that eventually bigness, that which “is attendant of excessive size,” is inefficient. Eventually, he wrote, “Decentralization will begin. The liberated smaller units will find no difficulty in financing their needs without bowing the knee to money lords. And a long step will have been taken toward attainment of the New Freedom [a reference to Wilson-era reforms in banking and business.]

It may well be in this age of globalization with a bank in Rhode Island tied to the fate of a housing development in Ireland that there is no going back from bigness, but there may be more than nostalgia in longing for a simpler, smaller time.

Frank Church, a liberal Democrat, helped expose the evils of bigness and concentrated power in the 1970’s, just as his role model in the Senate, William E. Borah, had done in the 1930’s. Borah, a Republican progressive, hated bigness, monopoly and concentration of power. He championed small business and decentralization and once said, “When you have destroyed small business, you have destroyed our towns and our country life, and you have guaranteed and made permanent the concentration of economic power, [which in turn ensures] the concentration of political power.  Monopoly and bureaucracy are twin whelps from the same kennel.”

I don’t know about you, but I long for a political leader willing to call bluff on concentrated power. Bigger isn’t always better, it may just be bigger.

 

A New Gilded Age

A System Awash in Money

If Mitt Romney wins the Florida primary Tuesday, as now seems likely, the media scrum following his every move will no doubt credit his win to his new-found aggressiveness in taking on Newt Gingrich, including his clearly superior debate performances during the week leading up to the vote. But that explanation will only be part of the story.

Additional credit for Romney’s rebound from what looked like near disaster in South Carolina must go to the faceless, if not altogether nameless, pro-Romney Super PAC – Restore Our Future. The Super PAC has lavished millions on the Sunshine State to help restore the future of Mitt’s campaign. Of course, Romney is not alone in enjoying the largess of a well-heeled Super PAC. Gingrich has come to depend for television exposure in the dispersed and expensive Florida market on the Super PAC that supports him – Winning Our Future. Other less well financed Supers are supporting Rick Santorum and Ron Paul and a Super PAC supporting Barack Obama is waiting patiently in the wings.

There are so many sleazy angles to the Super PAC story it is difficult to create a priority list of all the real and potential outrages. We are now into the second year of this new 21st Century reality of unlimited, corporate, and often secret money perverting what were our already money drunk campaigns.

Still in fact what seems like a new reality is really an old American tradition; a tradition of unlimited corporate money in campaigns that dates back more than 100 years to what came to be called the Gilded Age. So, remembering the old admonition that those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it, we have effectively arrived at a new Gilded Age in the year 2012. It’s not necessary to be a good government, goody two shoes to worry that the very nature of our democracy is changing in ways that are profound and deeply troubling in this new age.

As the American Enterprise Institutes’ Norm Ornstein wrote recently in The Hill, the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case – that’s the now infamous ruling were the Court’s majority overturned a century of settled campaign finance law, allowed unlimited corporate and labor union money to flow to Super PAC’s and equated money with free speech – has put our politics more and more into the hands of the 21st Century captains of the new Gilded Age.

“By giving corporations free rein to meddle in politics without any accountability required, just like in the robber baron days, and by defining money as speech, the court dealt a body blow to American democracy,” Ornstein wrote. “Candidates no longer can focus simply on raising money for their campaigns against other candidates. Because corporations have almost unlimited sums they can put in with no notice, candidates have to raise protection money in advance just in case such a campaign is waged against them.”

The website OpenSecrets.org reports that the Romney aligned Super PAC has spent more than $17 million so far, most of it to attack Gingrich. Here’s where the perversion begins. Big money donors give unlimited amounts to the Super PAC’s, often attempting to conceal the real source of the cash, but nonetheless maintaining the ability to curry favor with the candidate supported by the big PAC. One has to be awfully naive to believe that a $1 million donation doesn’t buy more than a thank you note.

One example: Utah news organizations have reported that two Provo, Utah companies listed as $1 million contributors to Restore Our Future don’t really seem to be companies at all.

“Companies called Eli Publishing and F8 LLC contributed $1 million each to Restore Our Future,” Utah television station KSTU reported last August. “The companies share an address in downtown Provo and the super-PAC received the money from both on the same day.” The address listed for the companies, according to the TV report, was an accounting firm where employees said they had no knowledge of the businesses.

Other Romney Super PAC donors aren’t so obscure. John Paulson a New York hedge fund manager is in for $1 million. Forbes magazine lists Paulson as the 17th wealthiest guy in the world, worth $15.5 billion, which begs the question: why only a million bucks?

J.W. and Richard Marriott, the hotel guys, are into the Romney PAC for a half million each. Until a year ago, Romney served on the Marriott board. The CEO of New Balance athletic shoes is a half million dollar contributor, as is the managing partner at Romney’s old Bain Capital firm. That fellow’s wife shelled out her own $500,000.

Clearly the Romney-aligned Super PAC hasn’t had to look under many rocks to turn up millions. These dollars aren’t falling far from the tree, which is one reason all this Super PAC business has the real potential to be so sinister. The candidates all regularly proclaim that they have no connection to the Super PAC’s who are raising and spending so freely on their behalf. Federal law prohibits coordination between the campaigns and the PAC’s they say, but the line that separates the campaigns from the big corporate money certainly isn’t a very bright line.

USA Today reported over the weekend about the remarkable “coincidence” of the message in Romney’s speeches on the stump matching up with the anti-Gingrich television ads Restore Our Future is putting on the air. Of course, the two organizations don’t need to really coordinate since the PAC’s are run, in every case, by former close aides and associates of the candidates. But the no coordination mandate helps maintain the fiction that all this is happening at arm’s length and that there is no quid pro quo involved for the millionaire and billionaire contributors.

Gingrich’s Super PAC is, of course, mostly funded by an extraordinarily wealthy Las Vegas casino owner Sheldon Adelson and his wife Marion. Adelson says his support for Gingrich is easy to explain. He is a long-time friend of Newts and values the former Speaker’s vocal support for Israel, a cause near and dear to the Adelsons. But, of course, nothing is that simple in politics. Adelson’s international casino empire has vast interests in public policy and since early last year Adelson’s company has been under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is reportedly looking into violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

So, you might ask: what does the fact that all these very rich, very well connected, very politically interested corporate leaders have to do with a new Gilded Age? Isn’t this just the way politics has always worked? Maybe the only thing different is the amount of money involved.

Maybe the only thing different is the amount of money involved and the fact that thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United these vast amounts of corporate dollars can flow unregulated into the political process. We have gone back to the future, back to the first Gilded Age at the end of the 19th Century.

University of Texas historian H. W. Brands wrote his book Reckless Decade: America in the 1890’s in 1995. In an interview with C-SPAN’s Brian Lamb, Brands nailed the essence of why corporate money in politics has such a potentially corrosive effect.

“Any capitalist economy,” Brands said in the C-SPAN interview, ” is based on the notion of economic self-interest. And, you know, if you put it another way, you can — if you’re not being too complimentary, you can call it greed. And our economy runs as much on those lines as it did back then [the 1890’s] – maybe not quite as much. There’s a government safety net now to deal with those people who were falling out the bottom of the economy during the 1890s. But, certainly, I mean, the idea of profits, and I’m certainly not going to criticize profit. But, nonetheless, the idea of economic self-interest is definitely as much a motive.”

The question to ask of our democracy in this new Gilded Age is how any candidate, no matter how well-intentioned, no matter how honest, can escape the human impact of a well-heeled friend donating a few million to help get him elected?

And granting that the casino owners, the hotel operators, the unions and the guy running the non-business businesses in Utah may truly value the particular approach and policies of a particular candidate, we also can’t deny that each has a self-interest. We all have a self-interest, but not all of us can buy so much free speech or so much access.

Justice Anthony Kennedy rather unbelievably wrote in his opinion in the Citizens case,  “[The Court majority] now conclude that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”

You wonder if Mr. Justice Kennedy has been following the campaign so far.

At a time when growing concerns about income distribution in America collide with a mounting distrust of most of our national institutions, including corporations, the Congress and the Presidency, the Supreme Court has, by opening the flood gates to unlimited corporate money in our elections, given us even more cause to doubt the fairness and sustainability of our democratic system.

As H.W. Brands noted in his history of the first reckless decade in the 1890’s, the greed and corruption that seemed to seep into every facet of America life in the first Gilded Age became so serious that only two political alternatives seemed possible – revolution or reform. Thankfully, the country took the path of reform and Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson ushered in a Progressive Era in response to the Gilded Age.

One of T.R.’s Progressive Era reforms was to ban corporate money from political campaigns. That ban lasted for 100 years. That ban ended, and a new Gilded Age began, with a breathtakingly impactful Supreme Court decision two years ago.

As one of the beneficiaries of the excesses of the Gilded Age, Tammany political boss George Washington Plunkett, famously said, there is dishonest graft and honest graft. Plunkett went in for the honest variety. As he said, “I might sum up the whole thing by sayin: I seen my opportunities and I took ‘em.”

 

Colonel Roosevelt

Teddy RooseveltThe Most Famous Man in the World

We have become accustom to former presidents writing their memoirs, establishing the presidential library and undertaking a good cause here and there. That’s what ex-presidents do.

Jimmy Carter has led an exemplary post-presidential life and has, with single-minded determination, come close to eradicating a deadly disease in Africa. Bill Clinton’s Foundation has focused on AIDS and third-world development with considerable success. George W. Bush is still settling into the post-White House role and reportedly his recent book has become a best-seller on, of all places, college campuses.

As impressive as they have been, none of these recent ex-presidents come anywhere close to matching the life Theodore Roosevelt lived from 1909 to 1919. He packed a near lifetime of activity, scholarship, authorship and politics – including his own and many other campaigns – into the ten years after he left the White House.

This amazing Roosevelt history is superbly recounted in Edmund Morris’s new biography – The Colonel. The volume is the third in Morris’s life of T.R. and it will doubtless stand for a long, long time as the authoritative source on the larger-than-life personality who in his time was called “the most famous man in the world.”

One things our recent ex-presidents are loath to do is criticize their successors. Clinton and Bush 43 have been particularly careful – we can excuse Clinton’s role in stumping for his wife – not to mix their former status with current politics. Teddy had no such reservations. He literally sought every opportunity to bash his own hand-picked successor, William Howard Taft, and the man who wrenched the progressive label from him Woodrow Wilson.

Yet even without his deep and prolonged forays into partisan politics post-White House, Roosevelt would have been a world celebrity on the order of, say, Bono or Michael Jackson. The guy was a rock star before we had rock stars. He seemed to know everyone and write about everything.

The press of the day covered his African safari, his European tour, complete with marching in the funeral procession of England’s Edward VII, his near-death expedition into the Amazon jungle and, of course, his 1912 run for the presidency that included Roosevelt being shot in Milwaukee. Were this life a novel, it simply would not be believable.

We have certainly had supremely accomplished presidents since Theodore Roosevelt. Wilson earned a PhD, served as a university president and was a fine writer before the presidency. Herbert Hoover was a world-class engineer who also wrote well. John Kennedy won, with a little help from Ted Sorensen, the Pulitzer Prize. None could touch the breadth and depth of Roosevelt’s writing – books, hundreds of magazine pieces, essays, speeches and letters, thousand and thousands of letters.

This is a great book about a great man and, a little prediction, Morris will win another Pulitzer for producing what, as the New York Times said, “deserves to stand as the definitive study of its restless, mutable, ever-boyish, erudite and tirelessly energetic subject.”

In the end, as with much great literature, T.R. story is tragedy. Roosevelt’s enless agitating for American involvement in World War I served, in Morris’s telling, to glorify the tragic, wasteful, useless war that came to define the 20th Century. The senseless slaughter – only later did Roosevelt come to realize that war is not glory – also cost the life of the youngest Roosevelt, Quentin, who died flying over German lines in 1918.

Quentin’s father, worn out and dispirited, died the next year. Theodore Roosevelt was only 60; the youngest man to ever serve as president and still and forever one of the greatest.

To Be Thankful

Grand CanyonA Grand Canyon

Looking for something to be thankful for this holiday season?

Lift a glass to the memory of the 26th President of the United States. He saved the Grand Canyon – saved it, I’m convinced, so that I could have the marvelous experience of standing at its rim on a cold, clear Christmas Day knowing that there are some things too perfect to let the heavy hand of man intrude.

Theodore Roosevelt called the Grand Canyon “the most wonderful scenery in the world” and compared it to “ruined temples and palaces of bygone ages.” It is a temple and thank God Roosevelt had the vision and grit to protect it from the zinc and copper miners who were – its hard to believe today – determined to exploit the Canyon in the early days of the 20th Century.

On May 6, 1903, as part of his celebrated “loop tour” that took Teddy to Yellowstone, Yosemite and eventually the Grand Canyon, Roosevelt stood at the south rim and spoke words that still ring with universal truth and his vision. TR’s trip, the longest and most ambitious ever taken to that point in presidential history, is recounted beautifully in Douglas Brinkley’s fine book The Wilderness Warrior.

Reflecting on the majesty of what the locals called “the big ditch,” Roosevelt said simply, “You cannot improve upon it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. Keep it for your children and your children’s children and all who come after you as one of the great sights for Americans to see.”

When Congress failed to act on his request to protect the Canyon as a National Park, Roosevelt took his own action on January 11, 1908. Now, there’s something to be thankful for.

Teddy…a Socialist?

Teddy RooseveltOh…My…God…

Apparently in the supercharged environment of today’s American politics the worst thing that can be said of someone is that they are…a socialist!

Comes now the wingnut set in the person of Glenn Beck leveling that scurrilous charge at, of all people, the 26th president – Theodore Roosevelt. Glenn must be off his meds, or he’s been reading different history than me.

Beck, one of the new generation of agitators from the far right (they also exist on the far left) who live to create heat (never light), spoke recently to a very conservative audience in Washington, D.C. and managed to lay a good percentage of the problems of the 20th Century at the door of “progressives” like Roosevelt. What a profound misreading of American history, but then again what do you expect from cable TV bloviators who willy-nilly re-write history to fit the politics of the moment.

Never missing a beat, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs let it be known that his boss, not unfamiliar with being tarred with the “s” word, is reading Edmund Morris’ wonderful biography, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. I recommend it if you want the real story about Teddy.

My old buddy Joel Connelly, writing in the Seattle PI, was one of many to address the “kookiness” of history as misrepresented by Glenn Beck, the darling of the Tea Party crowd. Jonathan Alter in Newsweek had a similar take. If Beck’s take on T.R. weren’t so laughable it would be, well, laughable. That some people actually listen to this guy is, however, frightening.

Truth be told, the “progressive” movement of the early 20th Century was a pragmatic and very American response to the very real possibility that real socialists would gain a substantial following in American politics. When Teddy Roosevelt bolted the Republican Party in 1912 to run on the Progressive ticket – the Bull Moose ticket – he faced not only the conservative incumbent GOP President William Howard Taft, but progressive Democrat Woodrow Wilson and a real socialist, Eugene V. Debs. In that four-way contest, one of the most electrifying elections in American history, Debs garnered nearly a million votes running under the Socialist Party banner. In other words, Debs had a following and Roosevelt and Wilson, the progressives of the day, were dealing with the reality of that following. Their vision of America prevailed.

What did T.R.’s “progressives” stand for? Well, direct election of United States Senators, an income tax, regulation of monopoly, women’s suffrage and pure food and drug laws, among other things. Later progressives, including Senator Robert M. La Follette of Wisconsin, advocated additional reforms, including what became Social Security and regulation of utilities. Franklin Roosevelt brought such reform to reality in the 1930’s, continuing the progressive trend in American politics. This wasn’t socialism, it was progress.

It is simply a perversion of our history for anyone to suggest that the whole series of progressive reforms that began with the first Roosevelt have anything to do with socialism. It would be more accurate to say that the progressive agenda of the early 1900’s saved the country for capitalism and headed off socialism. FDR’s New Deal did much the same 20 years later during the darkest days of the Great Depression. Neither Roosevelt harmed capitalism, rather their response to the issues of their times saved capitalism.

Progressive reforms helped usher in the strong, diverse, resilient capitalist democracy that has long made the United States the envy of the rest of the world. It is a free country and Glenn Beck can extend and revise his fiction all he wants, but the facts get in the way.

Teddy Roosevelt, like all of the greatest of the great presidents, was a flawed leader. He was a romantic about war. He had an ego the size of North Dakota where he retreated after his wife and mother died a few hours apart on the same day. He had a tendency, like most presidents, to push the bounds of executive power in dangerous directions. But, he was also brilliant, a genuine scholar, a fine writer, an historian, a soldier, naturalist and a visionary. It is not an accident that he is with Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln on Mt. Rushmore. He deserves to be there. Edmund Morris, Ronald Reagan’s official biographer, is my authority.

Perhaps the most famous speech Teddy ever delivered – the man in the arena speech - sums up this remarkable man; a great president, and his importance to his times and ours. Think of a clown like Glenn Beck when you read this.

“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 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 and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for 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 he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

Roosevelt made that speech in 1910. In Paris. In France. At the Sorbonne! Sounds like something a socialist would have done. I’ll bet Glenn Beck is outraged.