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    Anecdotal Observations On History & Politics

    Entries in Teddy Roosevelt (7)


    Teddy Roosevelt's Exceptional Abilities

    The tales drawn from Teddy Roosevelt's vigorous life characterize American badassery at its best. As a statesman, soldier, rancher, author, sportsman and President, Roosevelt successfully triumphed over every obstacle he encountered, and then some. The guy was practically invincible, no exaggeration. Here are some testaments to his exceptional abilities:

    1. He thumbed his nose at his doctor's orders and led an active life - simoultaneously defying and astounding the medical community:

    2. He never tired, even while camping. And his buddy in the background, Ferris, was clearly wiped out:

    3. He brought order to the wild west long before John Wayne or Clint Eastwood could even get their pants on:

    4. When necessary, he settled bar room disputes with his fist:

    5. And he displayed great nonchalance whist doing so, because nobody likes a braggadocio:

    6. Always unafraid, Roosevelt charged headfirst into danger:

     7. And was often praised for his heroics:

    8. He was adored as a politician, because he never BS'd anybody:

    9. And he was resolute, never bowing to peer-pressure:

    10. He could take a bullet like a man and still deliver a full speech afterwards, again defying the medical community:

    11. He could drive a submarine with precision and still admire the wildlife:

       12. And he could fly a plane. He would have stayed up for longer, if he had been allowed:


    13. He didn't just "take" the train, he rode front of the engine. With a book:

    14. He killed large animals, with boyish enthuiasm:

    15. That bear never stood a chance:

    16. He got away with discharging firearms in the house, just to amuse his kids:

    17. He relished exploring countries that had never been explored*:

    *by white men

    18. And he brought that adventurous spirit wherever he went:

    19. He was greeted by crowds everywhere:

    20. And it never went to his head:


    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?"

    Contradictory Views of Roosevelt as a Trustbuster

    Much like how President Obama faces criticism from conservatives as well as disaffected progressives and liberals, Teddy Roosevelt faced similar circumstances when it came to trusts -- below are two cartoons, one from Life Magazine depicting TR as protecting the trusts and a Puck cartoon showing him combat them: 


    Choosing Not To Run

    Since 1900, only four presidents have decided not to run for an additional term even though they were constitutionally entitled to do so. What did they all have in common? They each assumed the presidency from the vice presidency, following the death of the president. Even after term limits were imposed after FDR, Presidents were allowed two "full" terms, but those who had served the end of a previous chief executive always declined. 

    Teddy Roosevelt assumed the presidency upon the assassination of William McKinley, who was only six months into his second term. Completing the majority of McKinley's first term, he was elected on his own right in 1904 but in 1908 he declined to seek reelection after flirting with the idea of exceeding the two term precedent and running for a third. In a 1908 letter TR said, "if I had conscientiously felt at liberty to run again and try once more to hold this great office, I should greatly have liked to do so and keep my hands on the levers of this mighty machine." TR served 7 1/2 years total. 

    Calvin Coolidge became president in 1923 after the death of Warren Harding, near the close of Harding's first term. Coolidge was then elected in 1924 and on the anniversary of the day he ascended to the Presidency he said, "It's four years ago today since I became president, if I take another term, I will be in the White House till 1933... Ten years in Washington is longer than any other man has had it -- too long!" Coolidge was characteristically understated in his announcement that he would not run in 1928. He wrote "I do not chose to run for president in 1928" on a single piece of paper, then had his short quote duplicated on several sheets that he personally cut into thin strips and then distributed to the press one by one, declining to give more information. He was president for 5 1/2 years. 

    When Franklin Roosevelt died in April 1945, Harry S. Truman took the office about a year into FDR's fourth term. He squeaked out a victory in 1948 against Thomas Dewey, but by 1952 his approval ratings had reached all time lows for the office, around 22%. His name was on the ballot in the New Hampshire Primary of 1952, but he lost to Estes Kefauver, a huge blow to a sitting president. While he denied it, the defeat likely contributed to his decision soon thereafter not to run. Truman was president for 7 years. 

    Lyndon Johnson became president after the assisination of JFK in November of 1963, completing the last year of Kennedy's term. His overwhelming election in 1964 bode well for him, however he would find his presidency in dire straits by 1968. Civil unrest, the unpopularity of the war in Vietnam and the emergence of peacenik candidates Eugene McCarthy and JFK's brother Robert Kennedy contributed to his decision to withdraw from the race in late March of 1968. On TV he famously declared, "I will not seek, and I will not accept the nomination of my party for another term as your president." However, by the Democratic Convention LBJ momentarily regretted his decision to bow out and considered rejoining the race because Hubert Humphrey, the apparent party nominee, was doing so poorly in national polls. Toying with the idea, LBJ shocked his intimates and baffled Humphrey, who felt that the President was selling him out to run in his stead. When a Harris poll showed Johnson running behind Nixon in a general election, he finally decided against it. LBJ was president for 5 1/2 years.