TEDDY ROOSEVELT SAW THIS COMING
From the page: “…On the domestic front it is brutally disheartening to read that even a figure as historically transcendent and contemporaneously popular as Theodore Roosevelt found it impossible to break the lock of the two major parties on the political process. As schoolchildren learn, the Bull Moose Party marks the apex of third party attempts in presidential politics. In 1912 it was an empty farce.
During the Bull Moose run Roosevelt was shot at close range as he arrived for a campaign appearance in Milwaukee. The bullet, slowed by the printed text of the 50-page speech folded over in his jacket pocket, had nevertheless “pinked” the former president.
Morris’ description of TR’s grace under fire inspires awe: “Don’t hurt him. Bring him here,” Roosevelt shouted to men restraining his would-be assassin as he hoisted himself to his feet.
“Let’s go the hospital,” urged an aide.
“You get me to that speech,” Roosevelt replied, Morris says, “with a savage rasp to his voice.”
“[The bullet wound] was a ragged, dime-sized hole, bleeding slowly, about an inch below and to the right of his right nipple. The bullet was nowhere to be seen or palpated. The whole right side of his body had turned black,” Morris writes.
TR took the podium. “It takes more than that to kill a bull moose,” he said, going on to speak for an hour and fifteen minutes.
We have lost so much. Contrast TR’s courageous performance after being shot to our so-called “leaders.” On 9/11 George W. Bush abandoned Washington, fleeing into internal exile, hopscotching the nation like a coward before slinking back to the capital half a day later.
Roosevelt spent his last years hurling scathing critiques of Woodrow Wilson’s reluctance to enter World War I on the side of Britain and France. Nearly 100 years ago, however, the bellicose Roosevelt harbored no proto-neocon-like delusions about American exceptionalism–the nauseating combination of high-blown rhetoric and gutter-rat real-world actions that characterizes foreign policy of the United States and sparks outrage around the globe.
“He scoffed at the hypocrisy of Wilson’s grand-sounding phrase ‘self-determination for all peoples’ [in Wilson’s Fourteen Points], noting that the President was in no hurry to grant liberty to Haiti or Santo Domingo.” Both were under U.S. military occupation.
Were such self-awareness in greater supply in the U.S. today, we might not be fighting wars of aggression on three fronts at the same time we’re lecturing other countries about sovereignty and human rights.
Roosevelt’s martial spirit was his blind spot.
Unlike most Americans today, he had served valiantly. His bravery was unquestioned. One of his greatest disappointments was Wilson’s refusal to allow him to fight in the Great War.
Despite his experience in battle TR shared with today’s armchair “support our troops” “U-S-A” warriors an excess of willingness to send others to face shells and poison gas–without fully internalizing the consequences.
Despite being sidelined, Roosevelt pushed his sons to enlist and get to the fighting. Then his son Quentin, a pilot, got shot down. “Quentin’s mother and I are very glad that he got to the Front and had a chance to render some service to his country, and to show the stuff there was in him before his fate befell him,” he told the press.
But the cold reality of Quentin’s permanent absence marked the beginning of the end of a man known for his vigor. “The old side of him is gone, the old exuberance, the boy in him has died,” a friend noted the day after he learned of his son’s death. “I am not what I was,” TR confessed to his sister.
Two years later Roosevelt was dead, a victim of the American militarism he extolled and symbolized.”