Thursday, August 31, 2006

Still crazy after all these years

I once heard a speaker at a symposium on the American Presidency describe Teddy Roosevelt this way. "He was not the Smartest American President or the dumbest. He was not the tallest or the shortest. He was not the thinnest or the fattest. But he definitely was the craziest."

He once said that he felt that there was nothing he could not do when he wore his special cowboy suit.

Upon shooting his first buffalo he abandoned himself to a celebration which involved screaming and shouting while jumping up and down and dancing about. This is said to have lasted for several minutes. Witnesses report that he had the same reaction in Cuba when he killed his first human being.

When elevated to the presidency he did much to grow the federal government to the detriment of the average citizen's wealth and freedom.

It is good to see others taking note of the disaster that TR's administration was for the nation. From today's American Spectator website:

A lot of conservatives seem to love Theodore Roosevelt, perhaps because he came across as a rugged individualist and a strong president. It didn't hurt that he looked great in a cowboy hat.

Yet TR did much to increase the scope of federal power, and saddle us with a federal income tax. Congress had enacted an income tax in 1894 but the U.S. Supreme Court struck it down the following year. With no political opportunities to reintroduce the idea, its promoters gave up. Then, in 1906, TR began giving speeches saying that America needed a federal income tax with ever steeper rates. He inspired Cordell Hull, Democratic congressman from Tennessee, to draft a proposed constitutional amendment permitting an income tax, and after it was ratified, an income tax bill. President Woodrow Wilson signed it into law in 1913.

As President, Roosevelt oversaw a dramatic expansion of executive power, and was famously quoted as saying, "I love power...I don't think any harm comes from the concentration of power in one man's hands." He repeatedly bypassed congress, issuing more executive orders than any other president except Franklin Delano Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson (both of whom at least had the excuse of being involved in World Wars - LC).


Roosevelt remarked that free markets were "a riot of individualistic materialism." He secured passage of a law that restricted the ability of America's largest industry (railroads) to set market-rate prices. This began the long decline of railroads, by making it harder for them to attract the capital needed for maintenance and improvement.


As Roosevelt said in his "New Nationalism" speech in Kansas in 1910, he sought "a far more active governmental interference with social and economic conditions in this country." In short, he was no conservative. Theodore Roosevelt was a big government man, and many of our current troubles can be traced to him.

Teddy Roosevelt was a member of the Republican Party and was an outdoors man who loved to hunt and shoot. He was also an aggressive advocate of using American military power (even against nations which had not attacked us and were no conceivable threat to us, like Canada which TR urged President McKinley to invade).

These traits have caused some modern Republicans to view TR as some kind of ideal president. In reality he was a statist who rivaled Howard Dean for lunacy.