Glenn Beck vs. Teddy Roosevelt? No Contest!

Listening to Glenn Beck disparage Theodore Roosevelt is a little like listening to Ed Wood, auteur of the deathless classic, “Plan Nine From Outer Space,” condemning John Ford as an unimaginative hack.

At his uproariously received speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Beck, the libertarian talk-show host, flamboyant TV showman on Fox and current Tea Party hero effectively racked up cheap applause by pulling a quote out of Teddy’s “New Nationalism” speech and deriding it. Beck didn’t analyze and critique the speech, of course, because that would have required a discipline of scholarship and a rigor of intellect that he simply does not possess. He simply quoted this section…

“We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it’s honorably obtained and well spent. It is not even enough that it should have been gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it only to be gained so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community.”

…and said,

“Is this what the Republican Party stands for? Well you should ask members of the Republican Party, because this is not our founders’ idea of America. And this is the cancer that is eating at America. It is big government – it’s a socialist utopia. And we need to address it as if it is a cancer. It must be cut out of the system because they cannot co-exist. And you don’t cure cancer by – well, I’m just going to give you a little bit of cancer. You must eradicate it. It cannot co-exist. And we need big thinkers, and brave people with spines who can make the case – that can actually say to Americans: look it’s going to be hard – it’s going to be hard but it’s going to be okay. We’re going to make it.”

I don’t care about Glenn Beck’s politics; “Ethics Alarms” examines political issues and events, but it isn’t about politics. I do care about respect, honesty and fairness, however, and Beck’s Roosevelt-bashing violates all three. It especially violates all three because he was addressing a segment of the public, admittedly part of a large majority, who wouldn’t know what Teddy Roosevelt looked like if his face wasn’t on Mount Rushmore, and couldn’t tell you three accurate facts about his life if a million dollars were riding on the answer.  Now, thanks to Beck, in addition to being ignorant about Teddy Roosevelt, they are misinformed about Teddy Roosevelt.

Why misinformed? Let me count the ways:

  1. Teddy Roosevelt is an iconic American figure, but his historical importance centers on his achievements while he was President of the United States from 1901-1908. Beck’s quote is from a hard-hitting speech he made in 1910, after Roosevelt had declined to run for another term. The ideas expressed in it built upon his policies in office, but also were far more radical. The speech, in the context of his political career, was made at a time in his political evolution that was after the period that put him on the mountain. There are also quotations from Abraham Lincoln, made before the achievements that placed him next to Teddy on that mountain, that are similarly jarring; indeed no political figure in history who spoke or wrote frequently was immune from controversial or ill-considered ideas.
  2. It was 1910. Roosevelt delivered his New Nationalism Speech as the increasingly violent conflict between organized labor and industry was intensifying. In 1908, the Supreme Court had declared Section 10 of The Erdman Act, making it illegal for employers to fire employees for union activities, unconstitutional. Late in 1909, police arrested many of the 20,000 female garment workers involved in the New York shirtwaist strike of 1909. Sentencing those who were charged, the judge told them: “You are on strike against God.” (The year after Roosevelt’s speech witnessed the horrific Triangle shirt factory fire, in which unconscionable working conditions led to the deaths  of 146 women. This helped the public understand that God was, in fact, not running the men’s shirt industry.) In 1910, a bomb exploding in the non-union Los Angeles Times building leading to the deaths of twenty workers in the resulting fire.  Another bomb destroyed an L.A. iron works factory that was in the midst of a bitter strike. In all these and many other incidents, the working conditions, hours, and salaries (there were no benefits) imposed on workers were inhumane by any civilized standards. In 1910, industry and big business had nearly complete freedom to do whatever they wanted, and were abusing it. Roosevelt’s comments cannot be understood out of this context. He was on the side of the good guys.
  3. 1910 was a hundred years ago. There had been no World Wars. Women couldn’t vote. Blacks were being lynched and victimized by Jim Crow. There was no social security, welfare, workers compensation or private pension plans. Child labor was still legal. There was no treatment for cancer, no airplanes to fly. America’s class system that fatally divided passengers on board the Titanic—which hadn’t sailed yet—was thriving. Nobody had ever seen a talking movie or one in Technicolor; computers, rock music, television, even commercial radio didn’t exist. There had never been a Broadway musical. Babe Ruth hadn’t hit his first home run; Bill Wilson hadn’t launched Alcoholics Anonymous and developed the famous twelve steps. If recovering alcoholic Glenn Beck had been alive in 1910, it may well have been as a hopeless wino, drinking Sterno in the gutter. It is willfully ignorant and wildly unfair for Beck to take the statements of a man living in the world of 1910, and judge his wisdom and worth by the standards of today. 1910 America was as much like 2010 America as today’s world is like the fantasy world of Pandora. If Mozart was alive today, he’d be a rock star. If Edwin Booth were acting today, he’d be performing David Mamet, not Shakespeare.  If Thomas Edison were alive, he’d be competing with Bill Gates, not inventing light bulbs, and Charles Lindbergh would be an astronaut. It is both easy and unfair for a pedestrian mind to demean a superior intellect from the past by using all the accumulated experience, wisdom, customs, traditions, ideas, and knowledge the earlier figure couldn’t possibly have encountered. Oh, what a fool Aristotle was: he actually believed in Zeus! And that William Shakespeare uses strange words! Why didn’t the Founding Fathers include a provision in the Constitution addressing abortion? How stupid of Robert E. Lee not to use guerrilla warfare at Gettysburg! Theodore Roosevelt, possessor of one of the most inquiring, versatile, creative, and efficient minds in American history, would have many fascinating opinions about what America should be and do in 2010, but to suggest that it would bear any resemblance to what he was thinking in 1910 is an insult.
  1. Theodore Roosevelt was a strange man, an eccentric and infuriating man, and one of the biggest egotists who ever lived. He was also,  beyond all question, a great man. Of all Americans, only Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin challenge him for the title of America’s Most Versatile Genius. He was a superb writer and historian; he was a world-class explorer; he was a war hero, a naturalist, a scientist, a big game hunter, a political philosopher, a terrific public speaker, a cowboy, an athlete, and public servant. It is laughable that Glenn Beck dares to call for “big thinkers” after denigrating Roosevelt, for nobody thought bigger than Teddy. He spun off ideas so fast some didn’t hit the ground before another one made it obsolete. Using one Roosevelt quote to define him as a “socialist” is indefensible, and it is offensive for Beck to call for “brave people” in counterpoint to invoking Roosevel’s namet, for there has never been anyone braver. This was a man, after all,who once insisted on giving a political speech immediately after being shot in the chest by a would-be assassin. (I said he was strange…)

It is also instructive to read all of Roosevelt’s New Nationalism speech. What a speech! There are parts of it that we can say with some confidence go too far, but it is rich with inspiration, thoughtfulness, passion, originality, and bold ideas. Nobody gives such speeches today, either because they don’t have the skills, the vision, or the political courage. Contrast it with Glenn Beck’s rambling sequence of clichés, snide barbs and slang. Which man has the more disciplined mind? Which man is more capable of defending his position? Which man’s words radiate reverence for human values and a sense of national greatness?

It’s no contest, is it?  President Theodore Roosevelt started to break up entrenched financial power that was being used to crush workers and cheat consumers. He established the United States as a world power. He began the process of unraveling Jim Crow racism, by inviting the first black man ever to meet with a president at the White House. He saved the American wilderness by establishing the National Park system. And, perhaps most of all, he lived a remarkable life that taught the lesson that anyone can overcome great obstacles with courage, optimism, hard work, perseverance, a zest for  life, and a little luck along the way. Every American is happier, healthier and safer because of what Theodore Roosevelt accomplished in his life and career of public service.

And Glenn Beck? He has never built anything or had an original thought. His books, dictated to be easily readable by those whose taste runs to Reader’s Digest and People Magazine, will be landfill in five years. He criticizes and harangues, calls people racists, fascists and other names, and gets in a good joke once in a while. He’s good at what he does, I suppose, and he has made a remarkable personal comeback from serious missteps in his life. But a Glenn Beck owes some things to the likes of Teddy Roosevelt: fairness to the career of a far more brilliant man, respect for the legacy of a great American, honesty in portraying him to those who are not well-educated, and the humility to know when he should defer to the memory of someone who was superior in every way.

27 thoughts on “Glenn Beck vs. Teddy Roosevelt? No Contest!

  1. People today wouldn’t understand the concept of the “square deal” much less recognize it. Along with the quote of the week below, it shows our leaders have become too polarized and entrenched to truly represent ‘the people’. Could you imagine a leader today meeting with union and management and deciding that both sides were idiots, both sides were wrong, and then force a settlement that he alone thought was fair?

    It isn’t that our leaders today couldn’t try to understand both sides of disputes, they just don’t seem to even realize that is a possibility, much less their jobs.

  2. Just one suggested edit: that you include Alexander Hamilton to your small American pantheon. No “greatest” list should exclude the great soldier, philosopher of the Constitution, and designer of the Executive Branch.

  3. Brilliant and beautiful, Jack. Just great! Thank you. Theodore Roosevelt is among my favorite presidents. How tenacious was he in his desire to bring fairness to business with anti-trust laws. There were powerful interest afoot: J.P. Morgan’s Northern Securities Company, John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Trust and James B. Duke’s tobacco trust.

    How awe-inspiring was Theodore Roosevelt’s preservation of our national parks! I’ve watched the Ken Burns special a few times. What a great man of passion and integrity! Beck should be ashamed of himself. But he isn’t. Those who support him should be too, including the leaders of CPAC, but they’re not–at least publicly.

    Love the ending:

    “But a Glenn Beck owes some things to the likes of Teddy Roosevelt: fairness to the career of a far more brilliant man, respect for the legacy of a great American, honesty in portraying him to those who are not well-educated, and the humility to know when he should defer to the memory of someone who was superior in every way.”

    Ah, YES! Thanks again, Jack.

  4. And speaking of IDIOTS (see following post), I want to apologize to posterity, history and aviation for mis-spelling Charles Lindbergh’s name. I have an explanation: I had it without the H and tried two spell checks. One gave me “Limbaugh”—yes, at this point a talk-show hose is better known that an American hero/icon, God help us—and the other, I thought, had Linberg, which looked wrong too, but I figured I must be crazy. Of course, it wasn’t Linberg, but “LiMBerg,” why, I don’t know. Thanks to my friend and former proofreader, Patrice Wieglein Roe, for flagging this. And I’m sure I spelled HER name wrong, too…

  5. While Teddy Roosevelt is a great study, it is somewhat of an insult to even compare Glenn Beck with him.

    However, is the intent of this article to admire Teddy Roosevelt, to demonize Glenn Beck, or both? If it is to admire Roosevelt, might I suggest that too much emphasis is placed on comparing him to Glenn Beck (not a very good figure to compare him with… maybe pick another president to make it fair?). If the article is designed to demonize Beck, perhaps pick another pundit to compare? If the article is intended to demonize Beck while elevating Roosevelt, it does a poor job establishing circumstances that warrant a comparison. Pundits are not presidents, therefore expectations of each are very dissimilar.

    The logical progression of the article: Beck criticized a particular quote of Roosevelt; Roosevelt was a great man and taken out of context; Therefore, Beck should “defer to the memory of someone who was superior in every way”. In other words, Beck shouldn’t criticize Roosevelt’s quote because he is a lesser man. This could be considered an example of the “poisoning the well” (or perhaps “ad hominem”) fallacy. You can’t analyze the validity of Beck’s assertions based on who was the greater man. Nor can you can you analyze what Beck should do as a pundit today based on what Roosevelt did as president 100 years ago.

    I would have been much happier with this article if it had simply tried to put the quote into context and gone on to praise Roosevelt. The Beck bashing cheapened the article, in my opinion.

    • I didn’t just pull Beck out of a hat, you know. He gave a political speech denigrating a speech by TR. Your first sentence makes the same point you criticize me for making in the article.

      The article is about 1) the unfairness of impugning any figure by pulling a quote out of context 2) the obligation of public speakers not to misrepresent history to the politically gullible and 3) respect, as in having the respect to be properly appreciative of genuine and accomplished thinkers and statesmen, especially when you aren’t one. Since Beck is the one who raised the issues, there is no way to do discuss TR without reference to him, and since part of the problem is that he has neither the credentials nor the integrity to analyze or criticize Roosevelt, he should find someone else to use a a straw man.

      There’s no fallacy. A Washington Post drama critic liked to write that Neil Simon and Arthur Miller were talentless hacks. Well, she can’t make that argument, because of the combination of two factors: she has no comparable literary achievements or talent of any kind, and the vast consensus of the world disagrees with her. Now, change any of the two, and I’m willing to listen…or she has to make a cogent argument. Beck didn’t give a fair assessment of Roosevelt or the quote, has done nothing to approach TR’s achievements, and there’s little scholarship to back him up. I agree that any opinion should be judged on its own merits, not those of the opiner, but I also believe that even criticism must be delivered with some deference and respect when there is such a vast gulf in credibility and achievement between the critic and the criticized.

      • I agree with you that Beck should not be quoting TR out of context.

        Given the context you included in your article, it appears that Beck is criticizing this specific phrase “We should permit it only to be gained so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community.” (“It” references “a fortune” in the previous line of the speech.)

        From your additional quotes of Beck, it appears that Beck believes that people should be able to earn a fortune whether or not it directly benefits the community.

        I’m not sure how this quote is taken out of context considering that the context of TRs actual speech continues with the claim “This, I know, implies a policy of far more active governmental interference with social and economic conditions in this country than we have yet had, but I think we have got to face the fact that such an increase in governmental control is now necessary.”

        Furthermore, in TRs speech, he argues these points:
        1. Money made in the stock market is not fairly earned.
        2. Income should be taxed in a graduated manner.
        3. A graduated inheritance tax on large fortunes is advised.

        Basically, it appears that TR is saying it is a good idea to heavily tax large incomes and fortunes because he doesn’t believe these fortunes are fairly acquired.

        Now, whether or not we agree with his specific points is a political debate, however, it is clear in Beck’s comments that he believes TRs ideas lead to a big government, which in his mind is a bad thing — and big government is exactly what he is against.

        As such, I don’t believe Beck took TR’s comments out of literary context at all.

        Now, there is a difference between literary context and circumstancial reference. Beck makes no attempt to assess the overall value of TR’s public service, especially not in relation to that particular speech, so I understand your argument on that level. However, it would not be as effective in his speech to quote Marx, Hitler, or Stalin as these were not US statesmen. I assume that he could have quoted Obama or Carter, as they have said things similar to those in Teddy Roosevelt’s speech with the assumption that people are not ignorant about their accomplishments.

        Still, I don’t think we can assume that either Beck or his intended audience are uneducated about TR and his accomplishments, either.

        It seems to me unethical to place men of history on a pedestal because of their accomplishments without allowing the common man to criticize them when believing they are wrong.

        To place the man above ideals means allowing all manner of immorality and falsehood.

        For example, many of the US founding fathers (who many believe are greater than Teddy Roosevelt) were slave owners, although many had mixed feelings about the practice. Does this mean that “commoners” should not speak out against their slave ownership or comments they made supporting slavery, simply because of their service to this country?

        Morality and ethics have their roots in truth, and I cannot fault Beck for telling what he believes to be truth, no matter how ineloquently. If the content of his telling is false, then it should be fought against as immoral and unethical. But, how can the telling be moral and unethical if he believes it wholeheartedly, regardless of what dead man may or may not suffer harm to their reputation?

  6. The main issue, which your original comment led me away from somewhat, is the unfairness of judging historical figures by the standards of today, with our benefit of hindsight. Glenn Beck has said at other times that TR was a “bad guy” and a socialist. Teddy’s views would be very different today, just as Madison wouldn’t be a slave-holder, and pretending otherwise is a dishonest tactic, or just plain dumb.

    The New Nationalism speech is indeed radical, but as I wrote in the post, it was not what Roosevelt practiced in power; it was a call to new ways of thinking at a very specific time in history. Beck has an obligation to explain that, or it’s misleading and unfair. The sentence is not quoted out of literal context, but out of historical and social context.

    Yes, I think it is both unfair and wrong to criticize 18th century Founders who were Southern slaveholders on the basis of current knowledge and understanding, except for Jefferson, who continued to practice what he agreed was wrong. Once Washington decided slavery was wrong, in contrast, he freed his slaves. He should be praised for that. The smug superiority of modern day critics standing on the shoulders of our greatest thinkers to see what they could not is not honorable or fair.

    I am not advocating pedestals. TR had many flaws, and was often wrong and misguided. I advocate fair and competent criticism begun from a presumption of respect. And I repeat: there is a lot Glenn Beck should appreciate and admire about Teddy—after all, he would have admired Beck’s ability to rise above his problems. On this blog, I have criticized Franklin Roosevelt, for example. I also know that my value to civilization pales next to his….as with Beck vs. TR, no contest. Beck would have met my standards by simply beginning by noting that TR was a remarkable man of impressive abilities and character, but he once said this…”—-“. He doesn’t have to worship the man, but before I’m going to listen to what Beck has to say, I require some evidence of respect.

  7. I appreciate your comments about the US founding fathers and somewhat agree with your point about not making general judgements about their character based on current-day ethics and morality.

    I think there is a very fine distinction to be made between criticizing what someone says in a speech versus judging someone’s character based on that speech. I’m just not convinced that Mr. Beck was mounting an attack (intentionally or not) on Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy by criticizing some of the content in his speech.

    I can somewhat agree that using the speech of a historical figure that lived in a different time with a different set of circumstances is “cheating”, but I am not fully on the bandwagon with you in saying that it was a wrong committed against the memory and legacy of Theodore Roosevelt. There is too much room for the audience to do their own research and make their own conclusions. I hope we can agree to disagree.

    My two cents about Mr. Beck: I generally do not listen to (or watch) Mr. Beck very much as it seems to me that he tends to obsess over tiring details while sometimes allowing actual good points to be made to slide into oblivion. He tends to speak in a muddy, indirect ways, making implications instead of direct statements of his opinions. This annoys me.

    • I very much appreciate your comments, and will keep them in mind in the future. The blog format is a little slap-dash for the nuance some of the topics deserve; this was a good example, and your points were well-taken and well-made. And I am sincerely grateful for them.

  8. I love your article, duh huh, I even uhhhhh, like that part where you called us idiots, thanks. I can’t believe I was so out of touch with history and you have set me straight.

    Actually, I found your article to full of elitism and a normal article that I would expect to come from the academic elite who have nothing better to do than write boring incoherent articles. While TR played an important role in our current laws that attempt to make doing business in America fair, he was also responsible for leading this country down a road of failed schools and a society dependent on government welfare. You and your kind are responsible for the degradation of our society you are quick to point out how stupid we are yet it is big government and academia in this country that keeps lowering expectations of our students. The current government plan is the same plan laid out in any other socialist regime dumb down the population so you can control them without them even knowing. TR was not intended to be on Mount Rushmore and was not such a great man to be with those that are carved there. You disagree with the politics of Glenn Beck, got that, and I am not surprised, but just by taking 3 paragraphs to call someone stupid was a waste of my reading time. Your article could be summed up for us idiots. Glenn Beck is stupid and so are his supports and TR was a great man. Long drawn out dribble to say one sentence is a waste of time for readers, but what do I know I am just an idiot. By the way I am not in the world of academics, I am in the world of IT and if we compared my knowledge of an industry that helps America produce and your knowledge that does nothing for America, I think I win.

    • I really don’t know if you are an idiot or not, but you should be smart enough to know that being ignorant and stupid are two very different things. That the American public is largely ignorant about history isn’t an opinion but fact, and it is, to some extent, the direct result of the educational break-down you decry. In a country where more people under 30 get their news from Comedy Central than any other source, the Glenn Becks have an obligation to not try to affirmatively misinform them. That’s the crux of the article, and I don’t see what offends you about it. I’ve re-read the essay, and there is nothing, or very little, in it that is critical of Beck’s politics—this isn’t a political blog. The essay is about misrepresentation, disrespect, and fairness. I do think comparing the Progressives of the early 20th Century with today’s liberals is demonstrably ignorant, and blaming Teddy for “putting us on the road” to anything plaguing us today, including one of his main accomplishments, national environmental awareness, is just silly, since the roads have been re-routed and the drivers have changed dozens of times. George Washington put us on those roads too, I suppose. Blame him. Blame Adams. Blame the Pilgrims. Blame Adam.

      I do think my piece should have been shorter, but as you managed to write a few hundred words and manage to get everything astoundingly wrong—1) I am not an academic, although I do teach; 2) Teddy Roosevelt was no socialist; 3) One can (and should) criticize the methods of a conservative whether one agrees with his basic positions or not; 4) While it is true that this administration misinforms or fails to inform the public about the implications of its policies, fighting misinformation with exaggerations, fear-mongering and more bad information is hardly the remedy and 5) The post wasn’t boring, —maybe it wasn’t long enough.

      Win what? This isn’t a competition.

  9. So no one of Glenn Becks standing or credentials has the right to criticize anything said or done by Teddy Roosevelt! He’s an American and he has the right to judge or criticize anything said or done by anyone, even the likes of Teddy Roosevelt. Glenn at least has the guts to attach his name to the criticism, unlike this column. Teddy was many of the things you mentioned, but he was also a man and wrong much of the time, like when he wrote under the counter laws sidestepping the congress, and stealing land from citizens to give back to “The King” (national Parks) who Richard Nixon gave away to the United Nations, the largest single gang of socialist criminal and murderers in the written history of man. Admit it. You just hate Glenn Beck and since you’re in the same trade and most likely jealous of his upstart rise to fame over your superior knowledge and intellect. Beck is only human; he makes mistakes and is wrong often. When asked to identify new concentration camps being built in all 12 of the socialist reorganization zones, he called the government if they were building concentration camps and believed them when they said no. He can be a fool, just like you, me and Teddy ‘god damn’ Roosevelt.

    • Honestly, Craig, I have no idea what you are ranting about. Beck has a right to say whatever silly thing he wants to. I didn’t say he didn’t. Teddy was a mixed bag (I wouldn’t necessarily agree with your reasons why that is true). But Beck has a big audience, and people with big audiences who influence people that trust them and don’t check their facts have an obligation (I strongly believe) to be responsible in their presentation of facts. Calling Teddy Roosevelt a Socialist, judging him by today’s very different political and cultural scene. and most of all, using a post-Presidential speech to characterize his core beliefs is just unfair and disrespectful.

      You’re a prime example: you can find my name on the home page, with a link to my e-mail—you can link to my Twitter feed, with my profile—you can go to my company’s website, or you can (read carefully now) click on “About Ethics Alarms,” where you would learn aaaaaall about who writes everything here: me. Yeah, you’re right: I hide my authorship. People who are this helpless about doing minimum research are sitting ducks for guys like Beck, who deal in broad and crude generalities which only work if you’re half-paying attention.

      You’re assertion is silly: I certainly don’t hate Glenn Back. I think he’s entertaining and provocative. For me, he’s a little abrasive and arrogant, but he’s obviously effective at what he does. That doesn’t make it OK for him to misrepresent TR just to make a point. He and I are certainly not even vaguely in the same fields. I’m an ethicist, writer and a lawyer; he’s a TV personality pundit. Obviously he’s better at his chosen profession than I am in mine, and good for him. He’s earned his success.

      But with success and prominence comes responsibility. That’s all.

  10. Glenn Beck is a sock puppet with the hand of big business wedged firmly up his backside so as to make his lips move on cue.

    His real objections probably have more to do with the ideas of taxing progressively, holding corporate directors responsible for crimes and limiting corporate political speech than anything else.

    • I don’t doubt Beck’s independence at all. People don’t have to be manipulated to come up with extreme laissez faire capitalism theories. They are just another point of view.

  11. Jack,

    Loved it. My problem with Beck is his nonsensical approach to history and blatant distortions of same. I have no respect for a man who intentionally misinforms his listeners. It makes him a demagogue.

    T R Roosevelt was a forward thinking individual with a unique vision of where America was headed in the next 100 years. Yes, he occasionally causes my head to tilt but then I remember he was viewing the world from a very different perspective than I am today, and there’s the trick. His words on the one hand sound so contemporary that they momentarily deceive you into forgetting how different the world was that he lived in. Something Beck conveniently leaves out of the equation.

    • Condemning TR for the sweep of his progressive imagination in his speeches is like attacking Lincoln because he didn’t instantly grasp racial equality. Neither believed that he always had the Absolute Answer—both believed that mankind has to keep striving for answers, trying new solutions, failing and trying again. Beck, like all people who think they have it all figured out, thinks he elevates their own credibility by proving great, dynamic minds were “wrong” with the benefit of decades of hindsight, and when they were only searching for better answers. Neither TR nor Lincoln were particularly modest, but they knew that humans never truly figure it all out, and that those who think they have only prove their own shallowness.

  12. I just finished reading “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt,” the first volume of the three-part biography of Teddy by author Edmund Morris. One of Roosevelt’s most incredible achievements, it seems to me, was his life-long battle against corruption in government.

    Early in his career, Roosevelt was a leader in standing up against long-entrenched political bosses who ran New York City and the New York state assembly in Albany. Public service that was truly for the public, rather than for private gain, was at the core of his desire to go into politics, and his never-ending efforts sparked a major and ultimately permanent transformation in how government operates in this country.

    Skillfully using the press and his own talent for self-promotion, Teddy pushed and fought and bullied and battled to clean things up, often at considerable danger to his career and his personal safety.

    The effects of his crusade are felt even today. Yes, public figures and government employees still do dumb things all the time, but at least we operate under the common assumption that public service should prevail over private gain, that the local police force does not take bribes, that judges are not on the take, and that the system generally works.

    To be unaware of Roosevelt’s victory over corruption is to misunderstand a large part of what he achieved. And to describe Roosevelt as just another self-aggrandizing power-hungry bureaucrat, as Beck has done, is just plain shameful.

    Beck is free to make any point he wants. But it should not be at the expense of the memory and achievements of a great man who loved this nation and who placed his own life in danger time and time again to serve it and advance it.

    Before Beck interprets any more history to his audience, it might be helpful for him to actually read some of it.

    • Wonderful comment, wonderful book.

      Picking one speech or even one episode in a leader’s career for the purpose of condemning or dismissing him is both dishonest and unfair. This is especially true with complex, brilliant, mercurial figures like TR. He did and said a lot, had lots of ideas, made plenty of mistakes and never let it frighten or stifle him. I don’t mind Beck having a negative opinion about Teddy, but misinforming people about him is wildly unfair, especially since learning about the man is a delight. My favorite American character, among many. Hands down.

  13. I do not have anything to add to the discussion about Teddy Roosevelt other than to say I stumbled upon it when I was doing a “Google” search for specific comments Glenn Beck made against him.
    What I would like to remark upon is the incredible insight, depth and restraint evidenced in your replies to those commenting on your article.

    I wish we could see more of this kind of discourse in our current main stream media.

    Thank you for this unexpected gift.



  14. Fabulous response to someone I’ve come of a late to regard as a bloviating radio and TV hack. TR was in a class wholly to himself; Beck is simply classless.

  15. I just ran across your blog and have thoroughly enjoyed the read. Thanks for putting TR’s comments into perspective for those less informed about this great man.

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