A nice article in Sporting Classics by Roger Pinckney recounts how it was the Wild American West that made Theodore Roosevelt into the man who could become president.
â€œI have always said I would not have been president had it not been for my experience in North Dakota, for it was there that the romance of my life began . . . There were all kinds of things of which I was afraid at first, ranging from grizzly bears, mean horses, and gunfighters; but by acting if I were not afraid, I gradually ceased to be afraid.â€
It was wild country, alright, absolutely no fences. General Sherman said the Badlands looked like hell with the fires burned out. He was more right than he knew. The Little Missouri cut through lignite coal veins and lightning strikes set them afire. They were still burning when Roosevelt saw them and they are burning today, 50,000 years after they first lit up.
Buttes, canyons, coulees, draws, shelter from the winter wind, water running from the rocks and the bluestem and buffalo grass grew stirrup high everywhere. A perfect place to winter cattle, and America was hungry for beef. Roosevelt drew on his inheritance and bought additional cows in several installments, pastured them on two spreads, the Maltese Cross and the Elkhorn.
â€œMy home ranch lies on both sides of the Little Missouri,â€ he wrote of the Elkhorn. â€œThe nearest ranch above me being about twelve, and the nearest below me about ten miles distant. The story-high house of hewn logs is clean and neat with many rooms, so that one can be alone if one wishes to. The house is situated where the summer sun never hits the porch and one may enjoy a smoke in a rocking chair. Rough board shelves hold a number of books, without which some of the evenings would be long indeed.â€
Roosevelt, already an accomplished horseman, took right to the cowboy life, though his ranch hands noted he never mastered the lariat. He wore silver spurs, chaps, a slouch hat, a handmade buckskin outfit, a skinning blade from Tiffanyâ€™s, and a lavishly engraved .45 Colt Peacemaker. But he worked daylight to darkâ€” â€œcanâ€™t-see to canâ€™t-seeâ€â€”right alongside his men. He kicked together driftwood fires and slept on the ground and was covered with dirt, soot and plastered with manure at branding time. He arrested desperadoes at gunpoint and hauled them to justice.
He had an 1876 Winchester lever gun in .45-75 for hunting in the mountains, a tight-choked 10-bore hammer shotgun for ducks and geese, an open-choked 12 for grouse. When just knocking around, he kept an over-under 16-bore and .45-70 combination gun close to hand in his saddle scabbard. He kept himself, his hands and neighbors well supplied with game and was appointed to the local cattlemanâ€™s association. He volunteered for vigilante posse duty, but was turned down as â€œhis face was too well known.â€
But there was big trouble coming. The white man had been in the Badlands only a few dozen years, too short a time to fully gauge the potential of Dakota weather, which can be ruthless in the extreme. The summer of 1886 was dry, the high ground pastures played out early, and there was no hay to be made. Indeed, there was scant machinery to even make hay. Ranchers had never needed hay before, as the cattle wintered just fine in the grassy coulees, draws and gulches. When the moisture finally came, it was snow, not rain.
Cowmen in the Badlands still speak of it today, â€œthe Great Die Off.â€ One blizzard after another buried what was left of the grazing land, and cattle were found frozen to death where they stood at minus 40. Tougher animals survived long enough to eat the tarpaper off ranch houses. Others were found dead in cottonwood trees along the river bottoms after the snow melted, having climbed massive snowdrifts to reach edible twigs before expiring 20 feet off the ground. Tens of thousands of cattle died, around 80 percent of the herd.
â€œIf you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble,â€ Roosevelt later wrote, â€œyou wouldnâ€™t sit for a month.â€
Roosevelt lost a million in todayâ€™s money, almost half his net worth. And he did not sit down; he fled back East, got to know his young daughter, married a childhood friend, Edith Kermit Carow, ran for mayor of New York City and lost. But this was not the man New Yorkers knew before.
â€œHis voice which would not even raise an echo in Albany,â€ one reporter noted, â€œis now strong enough to drive oxen.â€
NBC News special correspondent and former “NBC Nightly News” anchor Tom Brokaw apologized Sunday evening for remarks he made on “Meet the Press” earlier in the day about Hispanic assimilation, after the comments triggered backlash.
During a panel discussion about the fight for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, Brokaw said: “On the Republican side, a lot of people see the rise of an extraordinary, important new constituent in American politics, Hispanics, who will come here and all be Democrats.”
He continued, “Also, I hear, when I push people a little harder, ‘Well, I donâ€™t know whether I want brown grandbabies.’ I mean, thatâ€™s also a part of it. Itâ€™s the intermarriage that is going on and the cultures that are conflicting with each other.” He did not explain who had told him this.
Brokaw went on to say: “I also happen to believe that the Hispanics should work harder at assimilation. Thatâ€™s one of the things Iâ€™ve been saying for a long time. You know, they ought not to be just codified in their communities but make sure that all their kids are learning to speak English, and that they feel comfortable in the communities. And thatâ€™s going to take outreach on both sides, frankly.”
America in the course of the last century has become a country of cowards, opportunists, and trimmers.
112 years ago, Teddy Roosevelt put it a lot more bluntly:
In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the personâ€™s becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American â€¦ There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isnâ€™t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag â€¦ We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language â€¦ and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.â€
And Teddy did not apologize.
The commission for the painting was arranged in 1902, likely at the behest of architect Charles McKim, who was then under Rooseveltâ€™s direction. Sargent was living in London at the time, but expected to return to the United States to continue work he had undertaken for the Boston Public Library. When Sargent agreed in May 1902 to paint the presidentâ€™s picture, Roosevelt wrote to him that â€œit seems to me eminently fitting that an American President should have you paint his picture. I cordially thank you.â€
Sargent arrived in the United States in January 1903 and came to live in the White House the following month. At first, the personalities of the two men made progress difficult. Sargent was especially picky about the location where he would ask the president to pose, and Roosevelt was notoriously prickly and impatient with directives. According to one account the president was leading the artist upstairs when the two got into an argument. Roosevelt accused Sargent of not knowing what he wanted, and the artist retorted that the president did not know how to pose. Furious, Roosevelt turned around, grabbed the newel-post with his right hand and yelled â€œDonâ€™t I!â€â€”at which Sargent told him to hold his pose right there. Sargent completed his portrait on February 19 after several sessions. The presidentâ€™s refusal to pose for more than half an hour at a time annoyed the painter, but Roosevelt was delighted with the results, professing to â€œlike his picture enormously.â€
American Museum of Natural History, Columbus Day, Purging White History, Removal of Confederate Monuments, Ressentiment, The Left, Theodore Roosevelt
The Guardian reported last Fall that they were already protesting in New York to get rid of Teddy Roosevelt (and to rename Columbus Day).
Hundreds of activists gathered at the American Museum of Natural History on Monday to take down the â€œracistâ€ statue of Theodore Roosevelt and an urgent call to rename Columbus Day.
More than 200 people cheered outside the museum as activists covered the statue of Roosevelt on horseback flanked by an African American and Native American on either side and demanded it be ultimately removed.
â€œA stark embodiment of the white supremacy that Roosevelt himself espoused and promoted,â€ the group explained in a statement. â€œThe statue is seen as an affront to all who pass it on entering the museum, but especially to African and Native Americans.â€
Activists from the groups NYC Stands with Standing Rock and Decolonize This Place organized the protest to draw attention to the museumâ€™s encouragement of racist tropes, and implored New York City to rename Columbus Day to Indigenous Peopleâ€™s Day.
Intellectual Takeout tells us that the LA Times recently asked The Donald what he was currently reading. Trump identified a book about Hillary, whose title he could not remember, which he was obviously reading for purposes of opposition research, and another book, whose author and title he couldn’t name, that he’s reading presumably in search of a role model.
I’m reading the Ed Klein book on Hillary Clinton,” Trump answered, without specifying which one â€” Klein has written two, “The Truth About Hillary: What She Knew, When She Knew It, and How Far She’ll Go to Become President” and â€œUnlikeable: The Problem with Hillary.â€
Trump then said that he’s reading a book about Richard Nixon, but was unable to recall the title or author, telling Wolff, â€˜[W]ell, I’ll get you the exact information on it.â€™â€
Politico asked Hillary the same question back in 2014, and Hillary had a perfectly-considered list all ready, one belle-lettres title establishing her intellectual cred, one PC title demonstrating her attention to diversity authors, and one best-seller thriller assuring the common people that she reads trash, too, just like them, as well:
â€˜The Goldfinchâ€™ by Donna Tartt; â€˜Mom & Me & Momâ€™ by Maya Angelou; and â€˜Missing Youâ€™ by Harlan Coben.â€
To see how far the American leadership class declined in a just over a century, compare the reading list Teddy Roosevelt shared with Columbia President Nicholas Murray Butler in 1903:
The History of the Peloponnesian War Thucydides
The Histories Herodotus
The Histories Polybius
Plutarchâ€™s Lives Plutarch
Oresteia Trilogy Aeschylus
Seven Against Thebes Aeschylus
The Bacchae Euripides
Early Age of Greece William Ridgeway
Alexander the Great Benjamin Ide Wheeler
History of Egypt, ChaldÃ¦a, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria Gaston Maspero
The Memoirs of Baron de Marbot Baron de Marbot
Charles XII and the Collapse of the Swedish Empire Robert Nisbet Bain
Types of Naval Officers AT Mahan
Critical and Historical Essays Thomas Macaulay
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Edward Gibbon
The Life of Prince Eugene Prince Eugene of Savoy
Life of Lieut.-Admiral De Ruyter G Grinnell-Milne
Life of Sobieski John Sobieski
Frederick the Great Thomas Carlyle
Abraham Lincoln: A History Hay and Nicolay
Speeches and Writings Abraham Lincoln
The Essays Francis Bacon
Twelfth Night Shakespeare
Henry IV Shakespeare
Henry the Fifth Shakespeare
Richard II Shakespeare
Paradise Lost John Milton
Poems Michael Drayton
Inferno Dante (prose translastion by Carlyle)
Beowulf (Samuel H. Church translation)
Heimskringla: Lives of the Norse Kings Snorri Sturluson
The Story of Burnt Njal (George Dasent translation)
Gisli the Outlaw (George Dasent translation)
Cuchulain of Muirthemne (Lady Gregory translation)
The Affected Young Ladies Moliere
The Barber of Seville Gioachino Rossini
The Kingis Quair James I of Scotland
Over the Teacups Oliver Wendell Holmes
Shakespeare and Voltaire Thomas Lounsbury
Sevastopol Sketches Leo Tolstoy
The Cossacks Leo Tolstoy
With Fire and Sword Henryk Sienkiewicz
Guy Mannering Sir Walter Scott
The Antiquary Sir Walter Scott
Rob Roy Sir Walter Scott
Waverly Sir Walter Scott
Quentin Durward Sir Walter Scott
Marmion Sir Walter Scott
The Lay of the Last Minstrel Sir Walter Scott
The Pilot James Fenimore Cooper
Tom Sawyer Mark Twain
The Pickwick Papers Charles Dickens
Nicholas Nickleby Charles Dickens
Vanity Fair William Makepeace Thackeray
The History of Pendennis William Makepeace Thackeray
The Newcomes William Makepeace Thackeray
The Adventures of Philip William Makepeace Thackeray
The White Company Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Charles Oâ€™Malley Charles Lever
Poems John Keats
Poems Robert Browning
Poems Edgar Allan Poe
Poems Lord Alfred Tennyson
Poems Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Poems Rudyard Kipling
Poems Bliss Carman
Tales Edgard Allan Poe
Essays James Russell Lowell
Complete Stories Robert Louis Stevenson
British Ballads William Allingham
The Simple Life Charles Wagner
The Rose and the Ring William Makepeace Thackeray
Fairy Tales Hans Andersen
Grimmâ€™s Fairy Tales Grimm Bros
The Story of King Arthur Howard Pyle
Complete Tales of Uncle Remus Joel Chandler Harris
The Woman Who Toils Bessie Van Vorst
The Golden Age Kenneth Grahame
All on the Irish Shore Somerville & Ross
Some Experiences of an Irish R.M. Somerville & Ross
Asia and Europe Meredith Townsend
Youth: A Narrative Joseph Conrad
Works Artemus Ward
Stories of a Western Town Octave Thanet
My Reminiscences of the Anglo-Boer War Ben Viljoen
Through the Subarctic Forest Warburton Pike
Cross Country with Horse and Hound Frank Sherman Peer
Ways of Nature John Burroughs
The Real Malay Frank Swettenham
Gallops David Gray
Napoleon Jackson Ruth Stuart
The Passing of Thomas Thomas Janvier
The Benefactress Elizabeth von Arnim
People of the Whirlpool Mabel Osgood Wright
Call of the Wild Jack London
The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come John Fox
The Captain of the Gray-Horse Troop Hamlin Garland
The Gentleman from Indiana Booth Tarkington
The Crisis Winston Churchill
John Ermine of the Yellowstone Frederic Remington
The Virginian Owen Wister
Red Men and White Owen Wister
Philosophy 4 Owen Wister
Lin McLean Owen Wister
The Blazed Trail Stewart Edward White
Conjurorâ€™s House Stewart Edward White
The Claim Jumpers Stewart Edward White
American Revolution George Otto Trevelyan
Donald Trump, Duty, Election of 1912, Election of 2016, Elihu Root, Fate, History, Republican Party, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft
Gerard van der Leun of American Digest (who is normally our most kindred spirit blogger) disagrees with NYM on Trump. Yesterday, he responded indignantly in a comment to our quoting John Hawkins‘s negative opinion of Trump:
The enemy of my enemy is always my friend until he helps me to destroy my enemy. After that he becomes my enemy again.
That or adios supreme court for one or two generations.
I think myself that Mr. van der Leun is not looking properly at the big picture. He ought to consider the historical perspective proposed by National Review’s Avi Snyder, to begin with.
With the GOP looking at the possibility of an open convention â€” complete with floor fights, riots, and the threat that the party will tear itself in two â€” the best historical analogue seems clear: Donald Trump is Teddy Roosevelt, and this is 1912 all over again.
The 1912 Republican National Convention was a battle for the soul of the party.
Though President William Howard Taft had been Theodore Rooseveltâ€™s chosen successor in 1908, by 1912, the increasingly radical Roosevelt was dissatisfied with Taftâ€™s relative conservatism in office. In violation of an earlier pledge not to run for a second full term, Roosevelt chose to challenge the president for the Republican nomination.
Much like Donald Trump, the progressive Roosevelt was a post-constitutional candidate. There are parallels between Trumpâ€™s defense of eminent domain abuse and Rooseveltâ€™s contempt for property rights, and Trumpâ€™s strongman tendencies have antecedents in TRâ€™s impatience with the machinery of constitutional government.
In the early 20th century, only a handful of states held popular primaries to choose presidential nominees, and the results werenâ€™t even binding. But Roosevelt was a popular figure, and he took advantage of these contests, carrying nine out of twelve primaries. President Taft, however, still controlled the machinery of the party, and in states where convention delegates were chosen by party regulars, Taftâ€™s forces dominated.
This didnâ€™t stop Roosevelt from crying foul. â€œI believe in pure democracy,â€ he had proclaimed at the Ohio Constitutional Convention in February of that year. As the forces of his eraâ€™s Republican establishment stood arrayed against him, Roosevelt, in the words of historian Lewis Gould, remained â€œfirm in his conviction that the nomination was being stolen from him.â€ One can almost imagine the outrage of Trump boosters, such as Sean Hannity, Newt Gingrich and others, at the notion that the â€œwill of the peopleâ€ could be so successfully thwarted by the party apparatus. Unlike Trump, Roosevelt didnâ€™t promise riots if he failed to secure the nomination, but the convention organizers were prepared for them. A thousand policemen patrolled the aisles of the convention, and barbed wire was hidden beneath the bunting of the speakerâ€™s platform in order to prevent assaults. For Roosevelt had cast his battle for the nomination in apocalyptic language, proclaiming to his followers that: â€œWe stand at Armageddon, and we battle for the Lord.â€
None of these protests stopped the conservative forces of President Taft from denying Roosevelt the nomination. Taftâ€™s ally Elihu Root defeated Rooseveltâ€™s chosen candidate for convention chairman. Rooseveltâ€™s forces lost important votes on the floor, and the convention awarded contested delegates to Taft. Roosevelt had won more primaries and had entered the convention with a plurality of delegates, but Taft easily wrapped up the nomination on the first ballot.
Taft and Root knew that denying Roosevelt the nomination would likely lead him and his supporters to bolt the convention and run on a third-party ticket, splitting the GOP vote and virtually guaranteeing a Democratic victory in November. Of course, this is precisely what happened. Combined, Roosevelt and Taft won over 50 percent of the popular vote, but Democrat Woodrow Wilson won the election with just over 40 percent.
Why was the Republican establishment of the day so intent on denying Roosevelt the nomination? Didnâ€™t they know that their dirty tricks would â€œhand the election to the Democrats?â€ Didnâ€™t they know it was time to â€œcome together as a party?â€ What Taft, Root, and their allies understood was that, as Root would later put it, â€œworse things can happen to a party than to be defeated.â€ In fact, as Root understood the situation before the party, â€œthe result of the convention was more important than the question of the election.â€
In 1912, Americaâ€™s very system of constitutional government was under attack. Woodrow Wilson, the man who would become the Democratic candidate, had spent his prior academic career attacking the Constitution as outdated and dismissing the eternal truths of the Declaration of Independence as passÃ©. Rooseveltâ€™s progressivism led him to support a variety of radical measures â€” such as popular recall elections for judges and judicial decisions â€” that also threatened Americaâ€™s constitutional order. Had Roosevelt captured the party in 1912, America would have been without a constitutionalist, conservative party.
Root and Taft insisted that the party of Lincoln should be maintained as â€œa nucleus about which the conservative people who are in favor of maintaining constitutional government can gather.â€ And even though they lost the election, ushering in Wilsonâ€™s disastrous presidency, history has proven their wisdom. It is hard to imagine a President Coolidge, a candidate Goldwater, or a â€œReagan Revolutionâ€ had the Republican party become the vehicle for promoting Rooseveltâ€™s proto-welfare state. In the face of defeat, the losers of the election of 1912 could rest in the knowledge that they had ensured constitutionalism would continue to find a home in one of Americaâ€™s major parties.
The relevance of 1912 to the 2016 GOP primary race should be obvious.
Of course, apart from such grand issues as preserving the alternative of a constitutionalist party, one needs to bear in mind that it likely to be better for the future of the country, and of the conservative cause, to see one’s adversaries elect a failed and disastrous presidency than to elect one of those supposedly representing your own party and your own principles.
I do not believe that Donald Trump shows any reasonable probability at all of winning, making America great, or making good decisions or appointments. I can easily picture Donald nominating his liberal sister and a few random poker buddies to the Supreme Court. I can picture Donald Trump taking a shot at reviving tariffs and Protectionism and instigating a world-wide trade war, dramatically deepening the economic bad times, and shaking the foundations of the world economic order.
I can picture Donald Trump bullying corporations, initiating his own series of New-Deal-style make-work federal programs, and adding some next larger entitlement to the Welfare State.
I think that four years of Donald Trump at the helm will produce results similar to Trump University’s or Trump steaks’, and that electing Donald Trump as a Republican will inevitably result in giving the radical democrat party a “One-Free-Presidency” coupon to be cashed for absolutely anyone.
Beyond these practical considerations, I think that we have a duty as citizens to respect our country and our institutions and to support for the chief magistracy only, in the words of John Adams’ prayer, “wise and honest men.”
It may be, this year, as in 2008 and other disastrous years, that Fate is against us. There is nothing we can do to win. We may not be able to command success, but we can, at least, conduct ourselves, and choose, in such a way as to deserve it.
Fellow Pennsylvanian Joe Veoni reports:
The big news in Clearfield was the Elk that took a plunge off the bridge.
This ~ 1,000 lb. bull elk jumped off of the Clearfield Bypass bridge near the mall this afternoon. Numerous crews including the Game Commission were called in to retrieve the bull from the water. It is unknown what caused him to jump. He died on impact.
Pennsylvania’s elk descend from a herd of elk presented as a gift from President Theodore Roosevelt to PA Governor Gifford Pinchot.
Andrew Jackson, Duels, George Washington, History, Presidents, Speculative History, Theodore Roosevelt
More interesting than any mere ordinary presidential campaign is Geoff Micks‘s theoretical question:
In a mass knife fight to the death between every American President, who would win and why?
Micks gives each president a lousy mass-produced, tactical-styled Gerber LRH. I think it would be more considerate to give them something a little better. My choice is the Randall Number 1 — All Purpose Fighting Knife. Each president can select his preferred blade length from 5 to 8″.
I don’t think Micks is far off on his analysis of the odds.
I think, though, that George Washington may have a better chance than Micks supposes. Washington was a large, powerful, and physically graceful man, and he was notoriously aggressive by temperament. After all, as a young lieutenant, George Washington essentially singlehandedly started the French and Indian War.
Teddy Roosevelt was game, and I think he would have made a spirited effort, hurrying into the fight, but let’s face it, Teddy was a four-eyed rich boy who went to Harvard. He was fine at shooting lions and bears, but it’s not certain that TR ever actually killed anybody.
The obvious truth is, in the history of the American presidency, only one stone cold killer has ever occupied the Oval Office. The number of duels fought by Andrew “By God” Jackson varies in different accounts. Some authorities claim he fought 13 times. There is no doubt at all, though, that Andrew Jackson, after first taking a bullet, shot Charles Dickinson dead in 1806, observing afterwards that “If he had shot me through the brain, I would still have killed him.”
Andrew Jackson survived the first assassination attempt on an American president, and actually subdued and arrested his own assailant. Some accounts say that Jackson produced a pair of pistols out of his pockets. Others claim that Jackson beat the would-be assassin into unconsciousness with his cane.
On his death bed, Jackson reportedly remarked: “I have only two regrets: I didn’t shoot Henry Clay and I didn’t hang John C. Calhoun.”
It seems to me that with respect to readiness to fight, competence, and iron resolution, not even Washington could hope to compete with Old Hickory.
Hat tip to Troy Senik.
President Obama’s hopes for reelection next November look pretty dim, as the latest poll shows hypothetical Republican nominee Newt Gingrich winning 45% to 43% over the incumbent months before the campaign has actually started.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Barack Obama had been planning to emulate Harry S. Truman and run a populist campaign, coming from behind by running against a “do nothing Congress.” But the Truman strategy has not been working. Democrat advisors are urging the president to adopt a different predecessor as his model.
The White House: â€œOn Tuesday, â€¦ President Obama will travel to Osawatomie, Kansas where he will deliver remarks on the economy. The President will talk about how he sees this as a make-or-break moment for the middle class and all those working to join it. Heâ€™ll lay out the choice we face between a country in which too few do well while too many struggle to get by, and one where weâ€™re all in it together â€“ where everyone engages in fair play, everyone does their fair share, and everyone gets a fair shot. Just over one hundred years ago, President Teddy Roosevelt came to Osawatomie, Kansas and called for a New Nationalism, where everyone gets a fair chance, a square deal, and an equal opportunity to succeed.â€
BACKSTORY FROM ALEX BURNS: â€œLast Sunday on â€˜Meet the Press,â€™ historian Doris Kearns Goodwin urged President Obama to emulate Teddy Roosevelt in organizing his campaign around the theme of â€˜a square deal, fundamental fairness” in America.
Apart from the spectacular incongruity of the wimp Obama trying to channel the Rough Riding, rifle-toting, lion-shooting presidential champion of the vigorous life, all this fantasy overlooks the fact that when Teddy finally slipped a cog and went all Progressive and Bolshie on us, he was rejected by his own party and wound up playing only the destructive role of Third Party candidate and spoiler, delivering the election of 1912 to his own enemy, Woodrow Wilson.
“The New Nationalism” went down to defeat a century ago, just as its recrudescence is going to be defeated come next November.
The real mystery is why reactionaries clinging to 19th century visions of collectivist statism and welfare state utopias built upon the rule of scientific experts are allowed in the 21st Century to refer to themselves as “Progressives.” They are about as progressive as the contraptions described in the novels of Jules Verne. Their political philosophy is as advanced as gas domestic lighting, horse-drawn cabs, and parlor pump organs.
And everything they advocate has been tried already, in Soviet Russia and in Hitler’s Germany, in Fascist Italy and Peronist Argentina, in post-war Britain (where food rationing continued until 1954), and by a succession of socialist governments in Britain and on the Continent. Socialism, centralized planning, the corporate state, cradle-to-the-grave welfare safety nets have all been tried and they have always failed.
The real question ought to be: when will “progressives” catch up intellectually to the liberal political ideas of the US framers?
The election of 2008 reminds Fred Barnes of the election of 1912.
John McCain, restless and emotional, couldn’t resist the temptation to join the battle to rescue our financial markets and save the economy. It was the biggest and most important fight around, bigger and more important than his campaign scrap with Barack Obama. Being engaged in the action–in the arena–is where McCain always wants to be. So he cast his presidential campaign aside, temporarily, and headed back to Washington. The campaign could wait. It might even benefit.
Obama, placid and professorial, had a different reaction to the fight over the bailout. Even before McCain’s maneuver he’d rejected the idea of putting his campaign on hold and joining the legislative battle. He’d be available if needed. An abrupt change in plans, a sudden shift, is not his style. His campaign would go on. He returned to Washington reluctantly. If he hadn’t, his campaign might have suffered.
The contrast here is not only dramatic. It’s unusually revealing about the two candidates and how they might act as president.
There’s an analogy that captures the difference: the warrior and the priest. McCain the warrior, Obama the priest. (If “priest” seems confusing, substitute “professor.”)
McCain has been a player in every major fight, in war and in Washington, for more than four decades. As far back as 1962, he waited in Florida as a Navy pilot for the order to attack during the Cuban missile crisis. (The order never came.) As a senator, he’s never stayed on the sidelines. As a candidate, he likes the rough-and-tumble and unpredictable turns of town hall meetings.
Obama prefers set speeches delivered with the aid of a teleprompter, a reflection of his more aloof and less engaged approach to politics and policy. In Democratic primary debates, he tended to be passive. Where McCain is an activist, Obama is more a visionary. As a senator, he’s involved himself only on the fringes of big issues.
Long before the McCain-Obama race, the warrior and the priest comparison was applied to Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson in a book by John Milton Cooper Jr., a history professor at the University of Wisconsin. The Warrior and the Priest was published in 1983 and was not widely acclaimed, but it’s become a cult classic.
Cooper described Roosevelt, the warrior, as “exuberant and expansive,” a man who “epitomized the enjoyment of power.” He gained fame “through well-cultivated press coverage of his exploits as a reformer, rancher, hunter, police commissioner, war hero, and engaging personality.” And TR was “associated conspicuously and consistently with one issue above all others–war.” Sounds like McCain.
Wilson, the priest, was “disciplined and controlled,” Cooper wrote. “He seemingly embodied a less joyful exercise of power.” Until he ran for office, Wilson was “a spectator and a bystander.” Roosevelt was a “tireless evangelist for international activism,” but Wilson had “a more pacific vision.” His entry into politics at the highest level was created by his reputation as “a widely regarded public speaker.” Obama isn’t Wilson personified, but he comes close. …
In 1912, Roosevelt and Wilson met in the presidential race. The priest won the election. But there was a complication that hampered TR. There was another candidate, Republican president William Howard Taft, who finished third. Absent Taft’s presence, the warrior would have won. McCain ought to keep this in mind.