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By Staff | Oct 2, 2009

A recent headline read, “What the Country Needs Now: A Trust Buster Like Teddy.” When I was standing on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt last May with fellow TR Association members, I heard it more than once, “I wish Theodore Roosevelt was president today.”

So do I, but quite frankly, many of the people looking for a golden knight to lead America out of all its problems are longing for a perception of Roosevelt that varies from individual to individual. It would be very unlikely that TR could be elected today.

I’m no historical expert with academic credentials, but I’ve got an above-average layman’s knowledge of TR with a section of my library devoted to him, including most of TR’s major writings, he being a prolific author himself.

It always amazes me when I hear Republicans claim Roosevelt as a member of their current fold. They don’t know the man or his history very well. Republicans profess to loath government. They want it smaller or none at all. That’s a major tenant of their conservative philosophy.

Roosevelt was at practical odds with small government; in fact, he expanded the powers of the federal government immensely when in office and advocated policies that could have expanded it more.

He federalized lands in the west, socialized the park system, championed government regulatory authority and was the first president to advocate a public health care system. He believed that it was the job of government to intervene with big business to protect competition and to regulate a level playing field.

He decried the cold-hand machinery of big business and would have opposed the system of oligopoly that too many sectors of American business have structured themselves into.

He championed the individual and believed that it was the role of a democratic government to protect the opportunity of the individual. He also championed individual responsibility, outlined in an essay entitled, “The Strenuous Life.”

His successor, Howard Taft, did not share this ideology, representing the conservative wing of the GOP and big business that we see dominating the Republican Party today. Teddy was a social moderate and progressive. Conservatives today would have considered him to be a socialist Democrat and absolutely hated the man.

Remember, Roosevelt abdicated from the Republican Party, running as a Bull Moose Progressive independent against Taft, beating Taft, but losing to Woodrow Wilson in the three-way general election.

Roosevelt was not a socialist President, but believed that government was the only means for effectively regulating an economic system that would otherwise run too extreme like ours just did. It was big banks that took the world economy down in 2008.

Roosevelt would have never tolerated today’s system where there are financial entities considered too big to fail that get special treatment and then there are the rest of us.

Roosevelt would not have tolerated the current health insurance systems absence of competition, even if he had to use government to change it. Actually, “TR was not against corporations. He said that great corporations are necessary and the talented men who run them must have great rewards.

But these corporations should be managed with due respect to the interests of the public as a whole. Without oversight by government, corporate officers might take actions not in ways that are for the common good, but in ways that tell against their common good.”

Prophetic, wasn’t he?

I’m amazed at people today who think that having a health insurance company representative who is trying to make the most money off their insurance premium will treat them better than a government health care insurance administrator! Not if TR was president.

There is an anti-government bias here that conflicts with logic. A corporate executive told me that while he didn’t agree with Roosevelt’s business philosophy, he liked his foreign policy. Roosevelt aggressively defended the nation and greatly expanded the reach of its foreign policy.

However, if he sent the country to war, he or his sons went too, losing Kermit in WWI. Roosevelt was well traveled, talked to U.S enemies and even won a Nobel Peace Prize. I would not describe him as a neo-con on foreign policy, looking to kill everyone different from us under the assumption that makes us safe.

If Roosevelt were president, we would not be borrowing huge sums from foreign banks and governments in order to operate our country. He would have advocated all living within our means.

He would have considered the fiscal policy of deficits promoted by George W. Bush and being extended by President Obama today, to be insane and the greatest threat to our national security conceivable.

He would have advocated with every ounce of energy that he had that Americans needed to step up and take responsibility for the country’s problems, requiring a whole lot more personal contribution than has been given by average Americans.

Taxes would go up but spending and the deficits would come down even more. I think TR, the conservationist, would have been a lot closer to being with Al Gore, than Republicans, on climate change. It would be fascinating to know what TR’s solution would be.

Roosevelt would not be welcomed into the Republican Party today any more than he was at the 1912 GOP convention. But he would be welcomed to the White House.

Ironically, TR invited the first black man as an overnight guest to the White House and caught hell for it.

David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet.

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