Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Bully for Him!

Some time ago I read H.W. Brands excellent biography of Theodore Roosevelt,
‘ T.R., The Last Romantic.’
It provides a clue to the fascination that now possesses so many Americans with the McCain/Palin duet.
Roosevelt, who was an accidental president, coming to office after the assassination of President McKinley, was both an American hero and, even better, a ‘good ‘ole boy.’
He became one of the most popular of presidents in American history.
His hero status came, oddly, from the somewhat trumped up Spanish American war when, in spite of having no military experience, he had volunteered for the Cavalry Rough Riders. This ill-disciplined rabble was made up primarily of disgruntled cowboys and Roosevelt managed to be commissioned as a Colonel. The Cuban expedition was almost as disastrous for the Rough Riders as a later Bay of Pigs but, largely due to Roosevelt, they survived and the action culminated with his famous charge up San Juan Hill. Like McCain’s imprisonment in the Hanoi Hilton, the story was retold at every opportunity, with suitable embellishments, so much so that Edith, his wife, well aware of her husband’s proclivity for exaggeration, took a trip to Cuba to “see just how big that hill really was.”
No matter. Roosevelt was a folk hero in spite of being unable to lobby successfully for a medal (they gave him one posthumously in 2001).
But his other appeal was that he was an outdoors man and a hunter. In fact on his frequent expeditions to the west, he managed to shoot so much wildlife that it was a miracle that any were left for later generations.
Like Napoleon’s better generals, he was a lucky president. Nothing terribly untoward happened during his watch to dent his image in the public eye. His greatest achievement was the construction of the Panama Canal, which, in conversation, he tended to imply he had dug himself.
But by today’s standards, he would have been described as being a war-monger. Diplomacy was foreign to him and, at one stage, he advocated the annexation of Canada to remove the last traces of British rule from the Americas, all of which, both north and south, he regarded as potentially United States territory.
But it’s this sort of home spun patriotism that appeals to many Americans – along with the ability to eviscerate animals (it qualifies as the equivalent of a PhD. in many states) - which makes the McCain/Palin ticket so popular.
With all his many faults, Roosevelt was a good and honest man, and his life story, with his achievements over great odds, an inspiring one.
Someone of similar ethical standards would make a refreshing change in the White House.


Post a Comment

<< Home