Barack and Teddy

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President Obama undoubtedly saw a shrewd political move in his speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, Tuesday, where a hundred years ago another progressive president, Theodore Roosevelt, delivered his “New Nationalism” address. It was at a time, like now, of a split in Republican Party ideology or at least in party positions.

In that 1910 speech, Roosevelt declared, “[T]he great special business interests too often control and corrupt the men and methods of government for their own profit.

“The absence of effective state, and, especially, national restraint upon unfair money-getting has tended to create a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to increase their power. The prime need is to change the conditions which enable these men to accumulate power which it is not for the general welfare that they should hold or exercise.”

Important and disturbing are the political agendas and attitudes toward capitalism that the current president shares with the progressive president of a century ago.

How neatly those words of Roosevelt fit the rat-tat-tat of Obama against the evil millionaires and billionaires he so eagerly wishes would only pay “their fair share” of income taxes.

Obama and Roosevelt share a number of similarities. As with Teddy, one of Barack’s favorite words is “I,” (as revealed in “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris, page 20). Both men went to Harvard. But while there, Roosevelt was an outstanding scholar. No one knows the well-hidden grades Obama made.

Even as a young state assemblyman in the 1880s, Roosevelt’s progressivism embraced an activist government to alleviate social ills, historians have written. Roosevelt’s antipathy toward corporations resembles that of Obama. But Teddy envied the corporate captains who had worked their way up from the bottom. Teddy’s disappointment never to have had the opportunity to succeed in business is a far distance from Obama’s puny aspirations as a community organizer.

By the time he became president, Teddy had prepared himself for the office in every aspect, save one (the same failing of Obama): Namely, “understanding capitalism and the industrial nature of modern America,” as historians Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen write in “A Patriot’s History of the United States.” Also like Obama, Teddy did “more to impede business than any President since Old Hickory” (Andrew Jackson).

Like Obama, Roosevelt sided substantially with labor, and at one point said, “To hell with the Constitution” (Tindall and Shi, “A Narative of America”). Obama regularly skirts the Constitution.

In his speech in Kansas, Obama described Roosevelt not only as a progressive but as a “socialist” and a “communist.” Roosevelt was not a socialist or a communist, although he was called a communist by Eastern political opponents, histories say.

“This is the defining issue of our time,” Obama said in his Kansas speech. “This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and all those who are fighting to get into the middle class. At stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home and secure their retirement.”

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  • John_Kelly

    Comparing Obama to the "Rough Rider" Teddy Roosevelt is beyond a joke.

    Teddy Roosevelt risked his life for his country when he led the charge at San Juan Hill during the Spanish – American war.

    Obama has proven he will throw anyone under the bus to preserve his own hide and there is NOTHING of heroic stature in this "empty suit."

  • FriendofGaryCooper

    This is a very misleading article. It distorts Theodore Roosevelt's position on Capitalism.
    First, T.R. wasn't anti-capitalism, only anti-trust. He was a trust-buster; and in the case of Standard Oil, which controlled 99%of the oil tank car space in Ohio and Indiana, breaking it up was necessary, because John D. Rockefeller was crowding out smaller refineries from transporting their oil. However,, T.R..didn't take matters to anywhere near the extremes that Obama does–like keeping America from drilling for our own oil; telling Boeing that they can't locate in South Carolina; putting hundreds of millions of dollars in the pockets of Union thugs–taxpayer dollars I might add. In addition, Obama is trying to destroy the middle class–after all, how many jobs has Obama destroyed?! T.R. NEVER destroyed any jobs; he may have been somewhat biased against BIG business; but had no such bias against small business.. And TR would have been horrified at how Obama is constantly trying to find new ways to tax and spend.; and he would have found the idea of the Federal government suing a state, because that state is trying to get the Feds to do their duty, and protect us from invasion, revolting.

  • FriendofGaryCooper

    And although TR didn't have the experience of running a business, I believe he was
    interstate commerce commissioner, during the administration of Benjamin Harrison; so he had some understanding of the workings of business. TR may have been in favor of strong government, but he would have been strongly opposed to Obama's oppressive government.
    TR had to be PERSUADED to support the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.