In a recent article published by Politico—backhandedly titled “TR? Obama’s more like Taft”—aspersions were cast upon my good name.
Allow me to clear the air.
As the article maintains, my first term as President a century ago was overshadowed by that of my predecessor, Teddy Roosevelt. And Mr. Obama has been channeling Roosevelt of late, even likening himself to TR in a recent speech in Osawatomie, Kansas. The speech was designed to echo the one TR gave 101 years ago, and it was a neat bit of vaudeville on the part of the President.
But for Politico to attempt to besmirch Mr. Obama by comparing him to me rather than Roosevelt… Why, it goes too far.
The article’s author, one Mr. Eric Rauchway, argues thinly that I rolled back the progressive gains TR made before me. I will admit, Teddy and I had our differences. Once I took office in 1909, I found things were not as cut and dried as he had viewed them. I sought balance, and I looked for way to appease and find common ground between both sides of many issues. This includes labor and industry; conservation and development; conservative and progressive. These differences between TR and I, of course, led to his running against me as the candidate of the Bull Moose Party in 1912.
But what did that accomplish? We split the Republican vote, and he and I both lost.
I won’t deny, as Rauchway states in his article, that I “did no rhetorical smiting” while in the White House. That was not my way then. It is not my way now. For every raging, forceful bully of a President like Roosevelt—not to downplay his many achievements, nor the debt I owe him for thrusting me into national politics—we need a mediator. A moderator. A man of reason, even temperament, and plain sense.
In many ways and despite his many flaws, Mr. Obama is this kind of man. But he lacks the hindsight and hard-earned wisdom that I bring to the table—and that I will bring to the Oval Office, should the good people of this country continue to rally behind the Taft Party.
But I am not here to defend my legacy. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes, yes. Any President who claims otherwise is a liar. I am here to say: This is all old news. Why are Mr. Rauchway and Mr. Obama and the rest of us talking about what happened a century ago? Is it my reappearance and campaign that has stirred up this unwholesome fixation on the past? These are different times. What TR and I did back then—while making for provocative talk and tawdry headlines—does not pertain to the issues that we face today.
And neither am I the politician I was then. I have seen much and talked extensively since my return. I have been strengthened and renewed by what I have learned. I have more of a focus on America’s future, ironically enough, than those who were born in it.
I am not a relic of yesterday. I am a man of today. And I am a leader for tomorrow.
So let us all—and journalists and pundits in particular—take our eyes off the past and get down to the Taft at hand.