To say that Theodore Roosevelt was a remarkable man is an understatement. I don’t think we’ve had a politician like him—either before or after. He was unique and we sure could use him today. He was the king of plain talk. He didn’t pull punches. Consequently he had a many enemies and detractors.
Two of those detractors unwittingly contributed to Roosevelt’s rise. Tom Platt and Mark Hanna were political bosses of the late nineteenth, early twentieth centuries and they hated Roosevelt. They feared Roosevelt. So, they conspired to put Roosevelt into the dead-end job of Vice President of the United States—even more of a do-nothing job at that time. William McKinley, the President, was about to enter his second term and no one expected him to die in office—foreshadowing of Kennedy removing rival Lyndon Johnson from his position of power in the Senate to be his VP in 1961. But, McKinley was assassinated and Roosevelt became President.
The “Rough–Rider” was President and he was not shy. It didn’t matter who you were, what your social standing was or your political importance—Roosevelt would come after you if he thought you were either corrupt or if he thought he had a better idea. He was a “bull in a china shop.” He was a reformer and a rebel. One could easily see him as a leader in today’s Tea Party movement. After all, in 1912 when he wanted and was denied the Republican nomination, he formed the Progressive Party (commonly known as the Bull–Moose Party) and ran as their nominee, garnering more votes than the Republican nominee, William Howard Taft, who was also the incumbent President. Had he won in 1912, we would probably have entered World War I earlier and perhaps it would have ended sooner. His victory would have set the two–party system on it’s ear and there’s no telling where we’d be today, as far as political parties are concerned.
He was not politically correct. Take his stance on hyphenated Americanism:
There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated American is not an American at all … The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality, than with the other citizens of the American Republic … There is no such thing as a hyphenated American who is a good American. The only man who is a good American is the man who is an American and nothing else.
…but a hyphenated American is not an American at all…
Today, he would not be popular with the main–stream media. Which is precisely why I think we need a man or woman like Theodore Roosevelt today. We need a reformer. We need someone who is willing to tell the truth without an eye on public opinion polls. I don’t know if such a person exists today, but we can hope.