We feel compelled to start with this one because we just encountered a comment by a confused person named Melissa C. Williams, who was expressing herself about Teddy Roosevelt and his famous charge up San Juan Hill in the Spanish American War, on a long-ago July 1st.
She wrote, “After years of dithering by President Wilson, Pancho Villa still running wild, TR and his Rough Riders rode over the hill and took care of business. I think we need a TR in the White House about now!”
Hoo, boy. Where to start? Obviously Glenn Beck’s ceaseless lunatic attacks on Woodrow Wilson are making inroads somewhere.
Woodrow Wilson was president well AFTER Teddy Roosevelt, and after Wm. Howard Taft, who followed Roosevelt. William McKinley was president when Teddy led the Rough Riders in Cuba. Teddy then served as McKinley’s Vice President.
As for who “took care of business,” history has managed to largely omit the actions of the Buffalo Soldiers, the black US regiment who began the assault on San Juan Hill while the Rough Riders were assaulting the adjoining strong point on Kettle Hill. Once their objective was secure, they joined the assault on San Juan Hill. Some have tried to interpret that to the detriment of TR and his volunteer unit. Those who have studied the battle or who otherwise understand military tactics will know that all who took part caught hell, took casualties, and are responsible for getting the Spanish troops off the critical high ground, and that’s what enabled American forces to capture the city below.
Even more than the US invasion of Iraq, it was a war instigated by the press. Specifically, by Joseph Pulitzer and Wm. Randolph Hearst and his newspaper chain.
The cause of the war was the explosion and sinking of the USS Maine while “visiting” in Havana harbor. The Maine was, in fact, there to intimidate the rather cruel Spanish colonial masters of Cuba.
Hearst convinced his readers that the loss of the Maine was a nefarious act perpetrated as an act of war by the Spanish. It was actually caused because ships of the time burned coal, and as often happened, there was a smouldering fire in one of the ship’s coal storage bunkers. It caused an explosion that blew the bottom out of the Maine and sunk her.
Teddy Roosevelt was a lot of things. He was a great president, when he suddenly became president following the assassination of President McKinley. He built the Panama Canal, after decades of failures by others. But he was there to become president only because the way that you got rid of a politician in those days was to make them vice president.
The Republican Party of the 1890s was terrified of a maverick Republican governor of New York named Theodore Roosevelt. He had radical ideas about ending wealth inequality and breaking-up monopolies and leveling the playing field so everyone would have a chance to succeed. That was heresy, and a threat. The Republican power elite made the annoying war hero the vice president, under McKinley, so they could get rid of him.
As president, TR upended the status quo and ended the “Gilded Age” of control by the richest of the rich. He ushered-in the “Progressive Era.” Taft, the traditional big-business Republican who followed him, tried to destroy it. The people elected Democrat Woodrow Wilson, the leader of the other half of the interrupted Progressive Era.
Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt. One from each party. The two great Progressives who “took care of business” when it came to enacting America’s first workplace safety and labor laws, ending child labor, breaking up monopolies, and limiting the unbridled power and influence of the oligarchical plutocrats. Are you listening, Melissa C. Williams?