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    Friday
    Jun172011

    Uneasy Allies: William McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt & A Twist of Fate

    Theodore Roosevelt's legacy has largely overshadowed that of President William McKinley, under whom he served as Vice President before ascending to the job himself. But despite his popularity at the time, his inclusion on the GOP ticket in 1900 was not exactly welcomed with open arms. 
     
    After the persistent lobbying of Henry Cabot Lodge Sr., who thought TR would strengthen the ticket after the death of then-VP Garrett Hobart, Roosevelt was compelled to publicly decline the offer of the Vice Presidency. Stating to the press, "it is proper for me to state that under no circumstances could I or would I accept the nomination for the vice-presidency," Roosevelt appeared to be firmly against the idea, however he sent Nicholas Butler to speak to McKinley and gauge his support. In his book Across the Busy Years, Butler told the story of his meeting with the President: 

    After laughing with me a little about some of T. R.'s characteristics, [McKinley] told me to talk the matter over with Senator Hanna. The Senator was explosive and abundant in expletives. He banged on the table and said that he proposed to control the Philadelphia convention absolutely and that under no circumstances would or could T. R. be nominated for the Vice-Presidency. He, Senator Hanna, would not have it. 

    Word that neither President McKinley nor his closest political ally, Mark Hanna, believed that Roosevelt was suitable for the office soon reached TR.  It clearly irked him "to find in how little political esteem he was held by the President and Senator Hanna," and he was soon whistling a different tune: he would reconsider seeking the office. 
     
    While it's difficult to say whether he decided to pursue the office in spite of President McKinley and Senator Hanna sentiments, he clearly flip-flopped in a letter to Lodge, "By the way, I did not say on February 12 that I would not under any circumstances accept the Vice Presidency," -- a complete reversal of his unambiguous statement, "under no circumstances could I or would I accept the nomination for the vice-presidency".
     
    Roosevelt was easily nominated at the 1900 Republican National Convention, but without an endorsement from McKinley, who had stated through his secretary that, "Any of the distinguished names suggested would be satisfactory. The choice of the convention will be his choice." Despite being uneasy allies, TR helped the campaign tremendously, rode McKinley's reelection coat-tails into the White House.
     
    In retrospect, Mark Hanna proved to have been strangely prescient when he exclaimed "Don't any of you realize that there's only one life between this madman and the Presidency?"
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