Sunday, November 02, 2008

What McCain's Hero Really Stood For

WWTRS? What would T.R. say?

John McCain claims Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt as one of his personal heros. For anyone who actually knows the life and legacy of T.R. it is painfully clear that McCain doesn't know what he is talking about and that his feigned admiration for T.R. is just another of McCain's unending stack of lies. Wouldn't it be interesting if McCain actually took the time to read and follow T.R.'s words?

We've seen how McCain's campaign has become one long character attack. Here's what T.R. said about character attacks.
Gross and reckless assaults on character, whether on the stump or in newspaper, magazine, or book, create a morbid and vicious public sentiment, and at the same time act as a profound deterrent to able men of normal sensitiveness and tend to prevent them from entering the public service at any price.
Speech, "THE MAN WITH THE MUCK RAKE" April 15, 1906

The words of President Roosevelt himself give the lie to McCain's claim of admiration for the legendary Rough Rider. While T.R. used his military experience to forge a deep sensibility for peace and justice, McCain has only bulit a career of pettiness and poison with his military background.

Recently, Timothy Noah in Slate Magazine has pointed out the discrepancy of McCain calling Obama a socialist when Teddy Roosevelt was called the same thing, and in fact was far more openly sympathetic to socialists than Obama can ever be expected to be in the current atmosphere of American politics. Here's how Noah's article begins:

McCain's Hero: More Socialist Than Obama!

McCain can call Obama a socialist or he can call Teddy Roosevelt his hero. He can't do both.

By Timothy Noah
Slate Magazine
Oct. 23, 2008

Imagine that instead of telling Joe "the Plumber" Wurzelbacher that "when you spread the wealth around it's good for everybody," Barack Obama had said the following:

We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used. It is not even enough that it should have been gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community. The really big fortune, the swollen fortune, by the mere fact of its size, acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means. Therefore, I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes, and a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes, properly safeguarded against evasion, and increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate.

The New York Post's Page One would blare: "OBAMA: I'LL
SEIZE 'SWOLLEN FORTUNES'!" Bill Kristol would demand to know, in his New York Times column, what godly powers enabled Obama to discern precisely whose wealth-David
Geffen's? George Soros'?-would "benefit the community." On Fox News, Bill O'Reilly would start to say something, then sputter, turn purple, and keel over backward in a grand mal seizure.

John McCain, meanwhile, would have to stop saying that Teddy Roosevelt is his hero, because the passage quoted above is from T.R.'s "New Nationalism" speech of 1910. Either that, or McCain would have to quit calling Barack Obama a socialist.

T.R. justified progressive taxation straightforwardly as a matter of equality. In his 1907 State of the Union address, Roosevelt said:

Our aim is to recognize what Lincoln pointed out: The fact that there are some respects in which men are obviously not equal; but also to insist that there should be an equality of self-respect and of mutual respect, an equality of rights before the law, and at least an approximate equality in the conditions under which each man obtains the chance to show the stuff that is in him when compared to his fellows [(bold) italics mine].

Noah goes on to compare the anti-socialist drivel coming from McCain with its witchhunt against "spreading the wealth" with T.R.'s plain contempt for people with "swollen fortunes" and "malefactors of great wealth."

As Noah also shows, T.R. was more like Obama than McCain as it was T.R. who also had to face the character attacks of being called a socialist.

T.R., of course, was no socialist. Indeed, his purpose was largely to prevent socialists from coming to power. But the trust buster got called a socialist a lot more often than Obama ever will. He writes in his autobiography:

Because of things I have done on behalf of justice to the workingman, I have often been called a Socialist. Usually I have not taken the trouble even to notice the epithet. Moreover, I know that many American Socialists are high-minded and honorable citizens, who in reality are merely radical social reformers. They are opposed to the brutalities and industrial injustices which we see everywhere about us.

T.R. then goes on to outline his strong differences "with the Marxian Socialists" and their belief in class warfare and the inevitable demise of capitalism. Later, he returns to his earlier theme:

Many of the men who call themselves socialists today are in reality merely radical social reformers, with whom on many points good citizens can and ought to work in hearty general agreement, and whom in many practical matters of government good citizens can well afford to follow.

Beyond the question of economic equality, progressive taxation, and the charge of socialism there are other ways in which McCain does not follow T.R. As stated in the introduction above, McCain has no compunction to run a campaign centered on character attack.

But T.R. also was capable of rising to the highest levels of public spirit far above the sloganeering of McCain. On the occasion of the celebaration of Lincoln's birthday in February 13, 1905, Roosevelt gave a speech on "LINCOLN AND THE RACE PROBLEM". One can only imagine what kind of different world view McCain would have to have to make a speech that included these following sentiments. I mean, has McCain ever made a speech on race issues in America, much less can you imagine McCain ever saying anything remotely like these words of Teddy Roosevelt?

Most certainly all clear-sighted and generous men in the North appreciate the difficulty and perplexity of this problem, sympathize with the South in the embarrassment of conditions for which she is not alone responsible, feel an honest wish to help her where help is practicable, and have the heartiest respect for those brave and earnest men of the South who, in the face of fearful difficulties, are doing all that men can do for the betterment alike of white and of black. The attitude of the North toward the negro is far from what it should be, and there is need that the North also should act in good faith upon the principle of giving to each man what is justly due him, of treating him on his worth as a man, granting him no special favors, but denying him no proper opportunity for labor and the reward of labor. But the peculiar circumstances of the South render the problem there far greater and far more acute.

Neither I nor any other man can say that any given way of approaching that problem will present in our times even an approximately perfect solution, but we can safely say that there can never be such solution at all unless we approach it with the effort to do fair and equal justice among all men; and to demand from them in return just and fair treatment for others. Our effort should be to secure to each man, whatever his color, equality of opportunity, equality of treatment before the law. As a people striving to shape our actions in accordance with the great law of righteousness we can not afford to take part in or be indifferent to oppression or maltreatment of any man who, against crushing disadvantages, has by his own industry, energy, self-respect, and perseverance struggled upward to a position which would entitle him to the respect of his fellows, if only his skin were of a different hue.

Every generous impulse in us revolts at the thought of thrusting down instead of helping up such a man. To deny any man the fair treatment granted to others no better than he is to commit a wrong upon him - a wrong sure to react in the long run opon those guilty of such denial. The only safe principle upon which Americans can act is thatt of "all men up," not that of "some men down." If in any community the level of intelligence, morality, and thrift among the colored men can be raised, it is, humanly speaking, sure that the same level among the whites will be raised to an even higher degree; and it is no less sure that the debasement of the blacks will in the end carry with it an attendant debasement of the whites. [bold added]

Yet how "indifferent to oppression adn maltreatment" McCain and the Republicans continue to be!

And while McCain and Sarah Palin go around the country stiring up the flames of regionalism with their "real America" campaign, Teddy Roosevelt talked like Obama about the United States and out people being the same throughout our nation.

Let us be steadfast for the right; but let us err on the side of generosity rather than on the side of vindictiveness toward those who differ from us as to the method of attaining the right. Let us never forget our duty to help in uplifting the lowly, to shield from wrong the humble; and let us likewise act in a spirit of the broadest and frankest generosity toward all our brothers, all our fellow-countrymen; in a spirit proceeding not from weakness but from strength; a spirit which takes no more account of locality than it does of class or of creed; a spirit which is resolutely bent on seeing that the Union which Washington founded and which Lincoln saved from destruction shall grow nobler and greater throughout the ages.

I believe in this country with all my heart and soul. I believe that our people will in the end rise level to every need, will in the end triumph over every difficulty that arises before them. I could not have such confident faith in the destiny of this mighty people if I had it merely as regards one portion of that people. Throughout our land things on the whole have grown better and not worse, and this is as true of one part of the country as it is of another. I believe in the Southerner as I believe in the Northerner. I claim the right to feel pride in his great qualities and in his great deeds exactly as I feel pride in the great qualities and deeds of every other American. For weal or for woe we are knit together, and we shall go up or go down together; and I believe that we shall go up and not down, that we shall go forward instead of halting and falling back, because I have an abiding faith in the generosity, the courage, the resolution, and the common sense of all my countrymen.

The Southern States face difficult problems; and so do the Northern States. Some of the problems are the same for the entire country. Others exist in greater intensity in one section, and yet others exist in greater intensity in another section. But in the end they will all be solved; for fundamentally our people are the same throughout this land; the same in the qualities of heart and brain and hand which have made this Republic what it is in the great today; which will make it what it is to be in the infinitely greater to-morrow. I admire and respect and believe in and have faith in the men and women of the South as I admire and respect and believe in and have faith in the men and women of the North. All of us alike, Northerners and Southerners, Easterners and Westerners, can best prove our fealty to the Nation's post by the way in which we do the Nation's work in the present; for only thus can we be sure that our children's children shall inherit Abraham Lincoln's single-hearted devotion to the great unchanging creed that "righteousness exalteth a nation." [bold added]

Also in his "New Nationalism" speech at the beginning of the twentith century, Roosevelt can almost be heard to be chiding McCain and today's twenty-first century Republicans directly when he said:

It is half melancholy and half amusing to see the way in which well-meaning people gather to do honor to the man who, in company with John Brown, and under the lead of Abraham Lincoln, faced and solved the great problems of the nineteenth century, while, at the same time, these same good people nervously shrink from, or frantically denounce, those who are trying to meet the problems of the twentieth century in the spirit which was accountable for the successful solution of the problems of Lincoln's time.

Today McCain, Palin, and the rabid Republican rank and file "frantically denounce" anyone who would try to meet the problems of this twenty-first century with the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt.

Excuse me, but T.R. quoted Lincoln saying:

"Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration."

This is the truth that years and years of conservative capitalist controlled education and propaganda has buried deep and out of sight of the collective consciousness of our nation.

What did McCain's "hero" have to say about the dangers of corporations? Originally the corporation franchise was a public benefit enterprise of limited duration. Since corporations was a term that implied "public-service" the term corporaiton was not used for for-profit enterprises and instead the term "combinations" was used. Here's an example, also from the "New Nationalsm" speech, of how "hero" T.R. felt about the necessity of control over for-profit corporaitons.

We have come to recognize that franchises should never be granted except for a limited time, and never without proper provision for compensation to the public. It is my personal belief that the same kind and degree of control and supervision which should be exercised over public-service corporations should be extended also to combinations which control necessaries of life, such as meat, oil, and coal, or which deal in them on an important scale. I have no doubt that the ordinary man who has control of them is much like ourselves. I have no doubt he would like to do well, but I want to have enough supervision to help him realize that desire to do well. I believe that the officers, and, especially, the directors, of corporations should be held personally responsible when any corporation breaks the law.

Combinations in industry are the result of an imperative economic law which cannot be repealed by political legislation. The effort at prohibiting all combination has substantially failed. The way out lies, not in attempting to prevent such combinations, but in completely controlling them in the interest of the public welfare.

Bearing in mind thia quote from T.R., what does McCain have to say about "completely controlling" the for-profit corporations of today "in the interest of the public welfare"? If we had any adequate moderators of the presidential debates this is a question that would have been asked of McCain.

It is said that failure to learn from history makes us bound to repeate it, and again the words of T.R. ring as true today about Wall Street as they did 98 years ago.

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 hold and increase their power. The prime need is to change the conditions which enable these men to accumulate power which is not for the general welfare that they should hold or exercise. [bold added]

This is a prescription to change the system of "money-getting", and is a call to action that today McCain has not even acknowledged much less embraced. We know that Obama has given at least some lip service to minor incremental change even while he receives campaign comtributions from the same class of "enormously wealthy". Whether or not he can lead any real change is an open question. But McCain adamently opposes even any discussion of change or restraint on the "unfair money-getting" and the conditions enabling those men to accumpulate power.

Lastly, let us consider that McCain, Palin, and the Republicans would call anyone who criticizes President Bush and his Iraq war unpatriotic. WWTRS? (What woould T.R. say?) Fortunatley, there is no need to speculate because here are his words:

The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else. [bold added]

McCain's entire public political personna, as it is built up around such images as holding Teddy Roosevelt to be his "hero," is shown by the very words of T.R. to be nothing but a sham, a phony con-game on the voters.

P.S. For a lighter side of calling Obama a socialist, here's a segment of the Colbert Report interviewing Brian Moore, the actual Socialist candidate for President,

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