McCain’s Conservative Model? Roosevelt (Theodore)
True confession: I adore Teddy Roosevelt. In fact, I have the original sheet music "We're Ready for Teddy Again" from Teddy's run for the Presidency from the Bull Moose Party.
President Theodore Roosevelt was outspoken, too. He cleaned up corruption, and he didn't flinch at the hard stuff.
Many people don't know how much Teddy suffered physically. He had asthma as a child, so severe that it could have killed him. As he grew up, he threw himself into physical fitness and finding his own ways to get over it--quite an undertaking in a time when there weren't any treatments for asthma. The robust Teddy who braved the wild west and frozen winters on his ranch was a self-made creature.
Time Magazine named Teddy one of the 100 most important Leaders and Revolutionaries of the 20th century. In so doing, they declared:
"They don't hold White House lunches the way they used to at the beginning of the century. On Jan. 1, 1907, for example, the guest list was as follows: a Nobel prizewinner, a physical culturalist, a naval historian, a biographer, an essayist, a paleontologist, a taxidermist, an ornithologist, a field naturalist, a conservationist, a big-game hunter, an editor, a critic, a ranchman, an orator, a country squire, a civil service reformer, a socialite, a patron of the arts, a colonel of the cavalry, a former Governor of New York, the ranking expert on big-game mammals in North America and the President of the U.S.
All these men were named Theodore Roosevelt."
Time also noted Teddy's environmental leadership. It's because of Teddy Roosevelt that we have national parks and other protected areas.
"Most of all, I think, Theodore Roosevelt would use the power of the White House in 1998 to protect our environment. His earliest surviving letter, written at age 10, mourns the cutting down of a tree, and he went on to become America's first conservationist President, responsible for five new national parks, 18 national monuments and untold millions of acres of national forest. Without a doubt, he would react toward the great swaths of farmland that are now being carbuncled over with "development" as he did when told that no law allowed him to set aside a Florida nature preserve at will.
"Is there any law that prevents me declaring Pelican Island a National Bird Sanctuary?" T.R. asked, not waiting long for an answer. "Very well, then," reaching for his pen, "I do declare it."
I can't think of a better role model for McCain than Teddy. (Note: this commentary includes some opinion,, in the first and last sentences. The rest is historical fact.)
UPDATE: While cruising the web, I found this piece on the McCain-Roosevelt link back in 2000. It's off-target, I think, especially in the call for a leader like President William McKinley, the "Idol of Ohio," who was assassinated. Although he was a genial fellow, very smooth with people, McKinley admittedly entered the White House without a firm foreign policy. He also adamantly backed big business, including the monopolies and huge trusts that Roosevelt broke up. One of the early controversies about Teddy's presidency was that he refused to be a mini-McKinley and do what his predecessor would have done. He was his own man.
Asked to name a conservative model, he skipped over the suggestions of three names typically associated with the conservative movement — Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Barry Goldwater, the founder of the modern-day conservative movement who occupied the Senate seat Mr. McCain holds today — to settle on Theodore Roosevelt.
Mr. McCain has long admired Roosevelt, and in the interview he identified with him as a fellow reformer and environmentalist and also touched on his assertive foreign policy. The choice might to some extent be an indication of how Mr. McCain would like to position himself now that he has moved from the primary to the general election.