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Monday, September 27, 2004

They don't cast 'em in the mold of Teddy Roosevelt anymore...

My wife and I talked a bit about the elections on our way back from working-out this afternoon, and I shared with her a story about Teddy Roosevelt: how one night when he was President he was giving a bill the "hairy eyeball" before signing it. Roosevelt found an item in the bill that he couldn't understand the rationale for... and he wasn't about to sign it until he did. So Roosevelt put on his coat and hat, stomped out of the White House and took a carriage to the house of the congressman who wrote the bill, and at about 1 in the morning started banging on the door. The bleary-eyed, disheaveled representative found the President of the United States on his front doorstep demanding to know what was constitutional about that part of the bill. The congressman couldn't give Ol' Teddy an adequate answer, which led to an angry scolding from Roosevelt, who then told him that he would not, could not sign the bill. Roosevelt then hopped back into the carriage and left.

Don't even think that there's this kind of accountability or stalwartness today. Lisa put it best when she told me "this country needs another Teddy Roosevelt." She's right... but I can't see one riding into town anytime soon.

Teddy Roosevelt figures well in today's article by Charley Reese: "First Lady Just a Wife". In it Reese speaks softly and carries a big stick against the notion that the President is like unto Caesar...
I have never bought into this imperial presidency. The office of president, under the Constitution, was made a deliberately weak office. If the politicians in Washington obeyed the Constitution, which is to say if frogs sang arias, the president would not be allowed to start wars without a formal declaration, nor would he be allowed to legislate with executive orders.

As for the president himself, whoever he is, he is nothing more than an ordinary American citizen with a temporary job. As a man, he is entitled to common courtesy; the office itself is entitled to respect, but not worship or awe. As Truman had the integrity to realize, the presidency does not belong to the man holding the office, but to the American people. The White House is the people's house. Some presidents have respected that; others have not. Ronald Reagan always wore a jacket and tie in the Oval Office. Richard Nixon was careful never to put his feet on the furniture. That's in stark contrast to Bill Clinton's behavior, which was personally disgraceful and showed contempt for the White House, especially the carpet.

Punch here for the rest.