On Tuesday, Barack Obama gave a speech (stop the presses!) of dubious veracity in the small town of Osawatomie, Kansas, in a desperate attempt to wrap himself in the mantle of Theodore Roosevelt. But one wonders whether anyone in the Obama campaign read Roosevelt’s original speech before choosing it as a template for the two parties to follow, since it contradicts Obama’s most fundamental beliefs and defining policies on class warfare, cradle-to-grave welfare, wealth redistribution, crony capitalism, equality of opportunity, and endorsing politically violent movements like Occupy Wall Street. And the nation’s youngest president has yet more to teach his immature successor.
Obama wished to conjure up memories of a groundbreaking speech Teddy delivered in the city in 1910 entitled, “The New Nationalism.” Selecting Roosevelt as the model Republican seems odd, since the founder of the (real) Progressive movement stood closer to liberal hero Woodrow Wilson than Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan. But it is clear which part of the speech appealed to Obama. Teddy said he favored “far more active governmental interference with social and economic conditions in this country,” that “each nation must do its own part in international police work,” and that “the executive power as the steward of the public welfare.” The government, he said, may “take from some one man or class of men the right to enjoy power, or wealth, or position, or immunity, which has not been earned by service to his or their fellows.” Yet Obama overlooked significant lessons TR would want him to learn.
Obama has endorsed the Occupy Wall Street movement, whose members have committed numerous felonies and misdemeanors against one another and left their hosts with a hefty bill and a huge mess to clean up, when they leave at all. Would the advocate of “The New Nationalism” hail a movement whose members sang, “F— the USA”? Would the hero of San Juan Hill stand with the rabble of Zuccotti Park?
In the speech Obama cited, TR warned against political “excess,” saying, “I do not want to see our people, for lack of proper leadership, compelled to follow men whose intentions are excellent, but whose eyes are a little too wild to make it really safe to trust them.”
Like whom? Teddy told the Kansas crowd, “in the interest of the working man himself, we need to set our faces like flint against mob-violence just as against corporate greed; against violence and injustice and lawlessness by wage-workers just as much as against lawless cunning and greed and selfish arrogance of employers.”
Aimed like a dagger at Obama’s heart, Teddy Roosevelt said, “I have small use for the public servant who can always see and denounce the corruption of the capitalist, but who cannot persuade himself, especially before election, to say a word about lawless mob-violence.”
Democratic pollster Doug Schoen reported that 31 percent of Occupiers he surveyed said they “would support violence to advance their agenda.” Barack Obama echoed OWS talking points in a weekly radio address in October and told two Occupy protesters, “You’re the reason I ran for office in the first place” in November.
More than a century ago, Teddy Roosevelt warned America about movements like Occupy Wall Street — and leaders like Barack Obama.