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If his intention was to channel the dynamic TR, Obama came to the wrong place.
Okay, okay, I get it. President Obama went to Osawatomie, Kansas (population 4500), on December 6, to give a speech to channel a populist speech given by Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) in the same town in 1910. But why did Roosevelt go to Osawatomie (population 4050) and, more broadly, can Obama successfully channel Roosevelt?
Roosevelt was invited to visit Osawatomie to give a speech for a specific occasion, namely, the dedication of John Brown Memorial (State) Park. The land had been accepted as a gift by the state from the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). Fifty-four years earlier, in 1856, John Brown had made Osawatomie, the residence of some relatives, his anti-slavery base. It was “Bloody Kansas.” In May of that year, Brown attacked pro-slavery forces, killing five, near Lane, Kansas. In August, he and about 30 others unsuccessfully and bloodlessly defended Osawatomie from a pro-slavery force of some 250 who burned all of three buildings of the town of fewer than 800.
In the ensuing years, Osawatomie was, in 1859, the site of the first convention of the Kansas Republican Party. From 1879 through 1985, it served as a “division point” for the Missouri Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads. (A division point consists of freight and passenger stations, storage facilities for trains, and places of origin for crews.)
In 1906, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Osawatomie, Charles W. Fairbanks, then Vice President under President Roosevelt, came to Osawatomie and addressed a crowd of 20,000. For the occasion of dedicating the memorial park, however, a town booster decided in March, 1910, that Roosevelt himself, now a former president, who had announced he would be touring the West in the late summer, should be invited. The governor of Kansas was persuaded to issue the invitation.
In early April, the Kansas governor telegrammed Gifford Pinchot (1865-1946), who was waiting at an Italian port for Roosevelt, to speak to Roosevelt in favor of the invitation. Pinchot was there to intercept Roosevelt, who was traveling to Europe after an African safari, to discuss President Taft’s firing of him. After Roosevelt and Pinchot spoke, Roosevelt accepted the invitation immediately without knowing the topics upon which he might speak since, at the time, Roosevelt was studying his political options.
By the time Roosevelt arrived in Osawatomie five months later, on August 31, he had decided to enunciate a detailed program that he hoped would unite the Republican Party, be adopted by the Republican Party, would bring the Party to victory in the 1910 congressional elections, and would cause the American people to view him as the heart and soul of the Republican Party — in time for the 1912 presidential election.
At Osawatomie, addressing an enthusiastic crowd of 30,000 for 90 minutes from the top of a sturdy kitchen table, Roosevelt proclaimed what he called in the speech a “New Nationalism” in which he asserted the priority of labor over capital, of human welfare over property rights, of equality of opportunity, of accountability of corporate officers and directors, of revision of the financial system to avoid financial panics. (The full text of Roosevelt’s address is here.) His detailed program became the platform upon which he eventually ran for re-election as president. It called for, among other things — and I insert the dates upon which there was success at the federal level:
• Women’s suffrage (19th Amendment, 1920).
• The direct election of senators (17th Amendment, 1913).
• Primary elections (to avoid local and state political machines and bring new blood into the Party; even for elections to federal office, this is a matter of state law; by 1920, most states had adopted this method for elections to the U.S. House).
• Limits on campaign contributions (the 1910 Federal Corrupt Practices Act had placed limits on House general elections and required disclosure concerning party funding; it was amended in August 1911 to require disclosure concerning candidates and placed limits on all federal primary elections and Senate general elections);
• Registration of lobbyists (the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 and the Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act of 1946).
• A safety net for the elderly and disabled (1918 funding for disabled war veterans; 1935 Social Security Act);.
• An 8-hour workday (adopted by Ford Motor Company in 1914 and many private companies followed; the 1916 Adamson Act applied to railroad workers).
• Regulation of securities (the Securities Act of 1933; the Panic of 1907 had occurred during Roosevelt’s term in office and many blamed him for it; in 1908 Republicans in Congress passed the Aldrich-Vreeland Act, and Roosevelt signed it the same day, establishing the National Monetary Commission, which recommended the Federal Reserve Act of 1913).
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?