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Glenn Beck Should Revere Theodore Roosevelt

By Christopher Ruddy   |   Monday, 03 May 2010 08:51 AM

It is remarkable that Theodore Roosevelt (TR to his friends), who has been beloved as an iconic patriot and president, would become a controversial figure today.

This unusual development is largely due to the rise of Glenn Beck.

Glenn has been right on many issues and his views are resonating with Main Street.

But he is wrong on one big issue: Theodore Roosevelt is not, as he claims, the root cause of President Obama’s intrusive, “big government” policies.

It is no accident that TR’s face is chiseled into Mount Rushmore along with those of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, as he is rightly regarded by historians as one of the greatest presidents in American history.

He was raised to that height in the national consciousness by the weight of important achievements that significantly advanced the interests of the United States.

Strong in this belief, I have found Glenn Beck’s criticism of TR surprising.

At his CPAC speech this past February, Glenn said that TR was largely responsible for the “progressive” encroachments we are seeing today. Elsewhere, he has described TR as a “weird progressive,” and said that TR started the idea that the United States should not be a sovereign nation.

A few words of disclosure here: I am an ardent Theodore Roosevelt devotee and have been a longtime member of the Theodore Roosevelt Association (the membership roster has me listed after another TRA member, Karl Rove).

And my brother, Daniel Ruddy, a historian, is the author of a new book called “Theodore Roosevelt’s History of the United States” (published by Harper Collins). It draws upon TR’s own words to construct a unique history of the United States based on Roosevelt’s colorful insights and provocative views.

Editor's Note: Get Daniel Ruddy's new book. Go here now.

After reading it, I was awed. I was glad to see my high opinion of the book confirmed by the high praise my brother has already received from historians, including Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edmund Morris (who has studied TR’s life for 30 years and penned the book’s Foreword), as well as Douglas Brinkley and Thomas Fleming.

Dan’s book should put to rest the idea that TR was “weird” or had any extra-constitutional agenda.

Glenn Beck is correct in stating that Roosevelt was among America’s first progressives. To accurately portray TR today, we must widen our perspective and see him in the full context of his life and times.

Roosevelt embraced a progressive agenda, one that called for establishing a “progressive” income tax, giving women the right to vote, creating laws banning child labor, instituting anti-monopoly regulations, and other programs. Many of his positions are accepted by most reasonable Americans today.

The policies advocated by TR were not those of some social engineer who wanted to remake the United States based on a Saul Alinsky radical model.

Remember that TR’s generation was dominated by ruthless “robber barons” who did not hesitate to use devious means to eliminate competition.

While TR wanted sensible reform, he was no socialist. In an excerpt from my brother’s book, TR said: “To say that the thriftless, the lazy, the vicious, the incapable, ought to have the reward given to those who are farsighted, capable, and upright, is to say what is not true and cannot be true. Let us try to level up, but let us beware the evil of leveling down.”

It is difficult to imagine Barack Obama uttering such sentiments.

Like all great statesmen in the history of our republic, TR listened to the American people.

His hero was the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln. Roosevelt was deeply impressed with Lincoln’s political sagacity, noting that, “Lincoln stood with the radicals to abolish slavery and with the conservatives to save the Union, and he was right in both cases.”

And that is what Theodore Roosevelt always tried to do, to act according to the practical needs of the occasion, to make America strong and No. 1 on the world stage.

Editor's Note: Get Daniel Ruddy's new book. Go here now.

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