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Commentary Quote

Wednesday Words: Theodore Roosevelt

flat550x550075fThe United States does not have a choice as to whether or not it will or will not play a great part in the world. Fate has made that choice for us. The only question is whether we will play the part well or badly.

— Theodore Roosevelt

If you read me regularly, you know that I’m a big fan of Teddy Roosevelt, the “last great Republican” who, arguably, was more responsible than any other single person for the grand switch that turned the Republican Party–the power brokers of which regarded TR as a class traitor– towards corporatism, and headed the Democratic Party, in word if not deed, towards populism.  That’s how the party of Lincoln became the party of Nixon.  The evolution of the Democratic Party is a little more complex, largely due to it’s entanglement in race politics of the south.

In simplest terms, the millionaire President, disgusted by his party’s betrayal of his populist legacy, ran for election under the canopy of a third party, the Bull Moose Party, drawing many of the most moderate Republicans with him.  Democrat Woodrow Wilson easily defeated the fragmented opposition.  Following the election, the Bull Moose supporters either joined the Democrats or, chastened, skulked back to the Republicans.

like-a-boss-e1350189178780_6As  flawed as any man, Roosevelt was not only an idealist, but an iconoclast–a leader with no fear of doing what he felt was right (even when that “right” meant invading Cuba pretty much because it was convenient, and seemed like fun).  He was not afraid to embrace the disdain of his peers, and a stubborn son of a bitch in just about every sense of the word.  I started thinking about him yesterday, when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie–a candidate with much of the oratorical bluster but none of the substance, conviction, or verity and integrity of TR– declared himself as the 14th candidate for the Republican Presidential Nomination.

It occurred to me then, that across just the two major parties there are now sixteen hopefuls running for possible election, and if the vote was held today I’d have to defer. What has become of our country that we have so few viable leaders.  What does is say that Bill Clinton, with his severely questionable personal choices, shines in comparison to to the ineffective and unremarkable George W. Bush?  That even while Barack OBama has accomplished a few things domestically, his management of our middle east entanglements falls somewhere between naive, inept, and highly questionable (drone kills, kill lists, domestic surveillance….), and his most notable accomplishments have occurred not by gathering popular support, but by fiat and litigation–all of it timed to fall after he was free of the possibility of political fallout?  To be blunt, he waited until things were safe before he extended himself. Roosevelt would have pushed in his first term.

*Beginning Today, Wednesday Word of Wisdom will be called, simply, Wednesday Words–making for less unwieldy titles and more flexibility in the type or tenor of quotes I include.

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Commentary Quote

Wednesday Words of Wisdom: Franklin Delano Roosevelt

RooseveltinwheelchairThe test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.
–Franklin D. Roosevelt

My wife and I have been devoting time over the past few weeks to watch Ken Burns 14-hour biographical documentary The Roosevelts: An Intimate History . I was excited when she brought the DVD set home from our public library mainly because of my great admiration for Theodore Roosevelt, but the opportunity to learn more about Franklin and Eleanor in the pleasantly passive format of video was compelling as well.

I’ve got a larger post in the works about FDR, but the main thing that I’ve taken away from the film thus far is that these were giant personalities, with giant ideas, who were unafraid to step boldly forward when events called for action.  It is difficult to process this, considering the caliber of leadership we’ve had during my life–Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Little Bush, even President Obama.  Some better than others, but none of them Great in the true sense.  All of them, on a mythological scale, have been “small” men defined, in the end, by their limitations.

I look out at the candidates we’re being handed and I’m unimpressed.  Three niche Republicans shaped from the same cookie cutter, different only in the details with which they’ve been decorated, and Hillary Clinton, the candidate I supported 8 years ago–owing to her savvy, intellect, and depth–but who now just feels like a doorway to the past.

Others will surely step forward–perhaps Chris Christie will take a stab at emerging from the stench of corruption that rises from New Jersey, and we’ve heard Jeb Bush–a predictably milquetoast Republican who, right now, might be the only conservative out there with a chance.

None of them, however, have any big ideas–the conservatives are mired in pettiness, dragged down by tea party greed and religious hysteria, and strangled by the power brokers who fund them and run their machines, whose only goal to to save their corporations a few dollars at the expense of the nation that feeds their wealth.  Short-sighted fools.

And the Democrats….sigh.

I look out at our nation and have to wonder if we’re incapable of creating these kind of giants any more.  Does the rigid hierarchy of the entrenched two-party system weed out the exceptional individuals so completely that our fate is to always be restricted to average people with small ideas?  I wonder.  Was it that rare combination of wealth and progressivism that allowed them to transcend the entrenched power brokers of the day–Teddy facing down the industrialists in his Republican Party, and Franklin taming the corrupt New York City power brokers who controlled his Democrats?

I wonder.

Bull Moose, anyone?

 

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Funny and/or Strange Photo I Like

Putin Just A Wanna-Be

I can’t be the first, or the only, internet hack to point out that Vladimir “Vain Vlad” Putin’s whole wild man schtick is neither new nor particularly interesting.  In fact, he’s quite literally a (ghostly white) pale imitation of a real rough customer.

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But…

teddy moose

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bonus points to the world leader who invented national parks and who, when he was shot in an assassination plot during a speech, opted to stay at the podium and finish his speech before stopping by the hospital.

Negative points for having sexy threesomes with dolphins.  That’s not the kind of rough riding we were talking about, Vlad.

putin gets it on