Obama Gets His Teddy On

Newt Gingrich isn't the only political blowhard invoking Teddy Roosevelt these days. Today the Oval Officer in Chief went to Osawatomie, Kansas, site of T.R.'s famous "New Nationalism" speech, to declare this political season the "make or break moment for the middle class." From the president's speech as prepared:

You see, this isn't the first time America has faced this choice. At the turn of the last century, when a nation of farmers was transitioning to become the world's industrial giant, we had to decide: would we settle for a country where most of the new railroads and factories were controlled by a few giant monopolies that kept prices high and wages low? Would we allow our citizens and even our children to work ungodly hours in conditions that were unsafe and unsanitary? Would we restrict education to the privileged few? Because some people thought massive inequality and exploitation was just the price of progress.

Theodore Roosevelt disagreed. He was the Republican son of a wealthy family. He praised what the titans of industry had done to create jobs and grow the economy. He believed then what we know is true today: that the free market is the greatest force for economic progress in human history. It's led to a prosperity and standard of living unmatched by the rest of the world.

But Roosevelt also knew that the free market has never been a free license to take whatever you want from whoever you can. It only works when there are rules of the road to ensure that competition is fair, open, and honest. And so he busted up monopolies, forcing those companies to compete for customers with better services and better prices. And today, they still must. He fought to make sure businesses couldn't profit by exploiting children, or selling food or medicine that wasn't safe. And today, they still can't.

In 1910, Teddy Roosevelt came here, to Osawatomie, and laid out his vision for what he called a New Nationalism. "Our country," he said, "...means nothing unless it means the triumph of a real democracy...of an economic system under which each man shall be guaranteed the opportunity to show the best that there is in him."

For this, Roosevelt was called a radical, a socialist, even a communist. But today, we are a richer nation and a stronger democracy because of what he fought for in his last campaign: an eight hour work day and a minimum wage for women; insurance for the unemployed, the elderly, and those with disabilities; political reform and a progressive income tax.

Whole speech, which is rich with frustrating content, here.

Some other New Nationalism items that President Obama left out:

* A call for using the state to "destroy privilege."

* "[G]overnment supervision of the capitalization, not only of public-service corporations...but of all corporations doing an interstate business."

* Also, "the same kind and degree of control and supervision which should be exercised over public-service corporations should be extended also to combinations which control necessaries of life, such as meat, oil, or coal."

* Plus, "franchises should never be granted except for a limited time, and never without proper provision for compensation to the public."

* Creation of a "Federal Bureau of Corporations."

* Regarding people making a fortune, "It is not even enough that it should have been gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community."

* Using the Department of Agriculture to "cover all phases of farm life."

* And finally, one of the boldest (and most prescient) calls for executive power expansion in presidential history:

The American people are right in demanding that New Nationalism, without which we cannot hope to deal with new problems. The New Nationalism puts the national need before sectional or personal advantage. It is impatient of the utter confusion that results from local legislatures attempting to treat national issues as local issues. It is still more impatient of the impotence which springs from over division of governmental powers, the impotence which makes it possible for local selfishness or for legal cunning, hired by wealthy special interests, to bring national activities to a deadlock. This New Nationalism regards the executive power as the steward of the public welfare. It demands of the judiciary that it shall be interested primarily in human welfare rather than in property, just as it demands that the representative body shall represent all the people rather than any one class or section of the people.

It's no accident that such a naked government power grab accompanied the very kind of high-sounding national do-gooding that President Obama outlined in his speech, just as it's no coincidence that men who campaign on restraining the executive sing a different tune once they sit in the chair. A government that can sit in judgment of what is and is not "unfair money-getting" is a government that knows little restraint, in either cost or scope. Teddy Roosevelt is the favorite of John McCain, of swashbuckling foreign policy juveniles, of do-something third-party pundits, and of every frustrated sitting politician who isn't getting his way.  

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  • RoboCain||

    That's a visual I could have done without.

  • ||

    When the Bull Moose of Osowatomie morphs into a Newt with a lobotomy it's time to vote True Whig.

  • chris||

    Makes Lenin's speeches sound sane in comparison. Seriously, he railed against the privileges of a monarchy more than anything else that is almost understandable in the context of the time without the context of what occurred later. Teddy's call is a batshit demand for total control in an era that prosperity was creating a middle class by the actions of those Teddy condemned. Only an irrational guilt for that well being can explain why the masses didn't burn the fool on the spot.

  • Tony||

    Instead they put his face on a mountain.

  • chris||

    Good point, Tony. Only religious perversion explains the defacement of a mountain with the vsage of idols.

  • Tony||

    Don't worry one day the rest of the country will come around and put St. Ayn on a mountain. Eventually billionaires' taxes will be cut low enough to cause prosperity for everyone else somehow, and we'll put her up there.

  • BigT||

    She was too ugly for a mt. Let's put '$' up there; AR would be pleased.

  • Tony||

    Objectivism is the philosophy of psychopathy.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    "Egalitarianism is the philosophy of psychopathy"

    FIFY'd. No charge.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

  • chris||

    I don't share your enthusiasm for Rand, Tony, so I can't really get behind your idea.

  • chris||

    You don't need Ayn to be your hero. If anyone should be Tony's hero, it should be Tony because deep down inside he is a pretty cool guy. Never forget that.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

  • juris imprudent||

    Not knowing my meme I was all ready to jump on this. Thankfully it wasn't a SugarFree link and I surmised it was safe to click it.

  • Tony||

    which is rich with frustrating content

    Frustrating because it's hard to argue against?

    Destroying privilege is bad? Does that make you a defender of privilege? How do you sell to people the idea that luck and heredity ought to play an overwhelming role in success?

    So much of what libertarians hyperventilate about is just the addition of fairness to the market. I don't know why you have such a problem with fairness.

  • BigT||

    "The New Nationalism puts the national need before sectional or personal advantage."

    Tony, the nation needs your computer, car, and apt (to house convicts). Get out!

  • Tony||

    So you're in favor of promoting sectional and personal advantage?

  • Jordan||

    Yes, those of us who wanted the "Too Big to Fail" firms to fail are defenders of privilege, and idiots like you who defended TARP are not. Welcome to bizarro-world.

  • Tony||

    So... Obama voter then? TBTF means TBTF without fucking you, personally, up. Obama's idea is to prevent this monstrosity from happening again by putting rules in place to protect people from such consequences. The bailouts were the result of the ideology he's arguing against.

  • Michael||

    Hey, Tony. How many Skittles can you fit in each nostril? I'll bet you can barely manage twenty.

    Ready...go!

  • Suki||

    He did not seem to know if he was in Texas, Kansas or one of the other 55 states. Maybe he was confused about a few more things too. Sounds like it made perfect sense to you.

  • RoboCain||

    "a minimum wage for women"

    But not men? That seems more than a bit odd.

  • BigT||

    I read 'minimum rage'

  • BigT||

    Obama: "Mortgages sold to people who couldn’t afford them, or sometimes even understand them. "

    Caveat emptor.

  • chris||

    As Reno and Dateline demanded.

  • chris||

    Come to think of it, Obama demanded it at the time as well.

  • BigT||

    Obama: "Regulators who were supposed to warn us about the dangers of all this, but looked the other way or didn’t have the authority to look at all. "

    So now we need MORE regulators to watch the regulators, and of course regulators to watch those regulators.

    It's regulators all the way down.

  • Tony||

    Regulators not appointed by free market ideologues who don't believe in regulating would be a good start.

  • Spoonman.||

    When was the last time that even happened?

  • Tony||

    Bush administration.

  • wef||

    TR's deeper psycho-sexual problems are echoed in today's servile daddy-worshippers, like submissive Tony, who long for parental "fairness" and the order of family.

  • Tony||

    Whereas you think a fair economy is for pussies.

  • wef||

    Los serviles lloran.

    For the servile and the submissive daddy-worshippers, promises of “fairness” are all that is important. Daddy's soothing words are all that is required. That daddy is a liar and that he is a manipulative thug and that his promises are mere words are all invisible to those who yearn to return to a fawning and obedient childhood. And it is disturbing to the dutiful children, such as submissive Tony, that this wished-for fairness as conceived to apply to a family is incompatible with justice as applied to responsible adults. They whine again about fairness and long for stern and potent daddy to make it all better.

  • Tony||

    You don't want to endlessly defend the extremes of privilage no matter what... justice makes you do it.

  • BigT||

    Obama: "I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, and when everyone plays by the same rules."

    But, of coures, Solyndra gets a half billion loan, GM gets bailed out, Chrysler gets bailed out, and all Obama's friends get Obamacare waivers. Other than that, the same rules. Same, I tells ya.

  • BigT||

    Obama: "...the free market is the greatest force for economic progress in human history. It’s led to a prosperity and standard of living unmatched by the rest of the world."

    And THAT's why we need more regulations, to make the market more free.

    Has Obama gone insane? Cognitive dissonance.

  • ||

    Not at all. These are merely the code phrases that TEAM BLUE sheep respond to like Gort responded to "Klaatu barada nikto". They don't make any sense, but they're what the TEAM BLUE robots want to hear.

  • ||

    So Obama's ordering his robot to destroy the Earth?

  • ||

    His robots.

  • ||

    He's got more than one? That's not good.

  • ||

    TEAM BLUE is full of his robots. Yeah, he has far more than one.

  • Tony||

    Free market must mean totally unregulated market? Because that thing has never done shit for anyone.

  • BigT||

    The government has a role - to enforce contracts and help prevent fraud by encouraging openness and providing information that educates the market.

    Everything else intrudes on the voluntary interactions of free citizens pursuing happiness.

  • Tony||

    Even things that make you freer with more choices like healthcare and education?

    And aren't people free to make voluntary choices about how they are governed?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Oh, that's rich... the word "voluntary", coming from the fingertips of a liberal.

  • juris imprudent||

    When Tony says freer, more choices and healthcare why do I hear a latex glove snapping.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    A latex glove snapping, and two hands on your shoulders?

  • cynical||

    "Even things that make you freer with more choices like healthcare and education?"

    Those choices come at the expense of other people's choices. And usually they're not really choices at all. Single payer means you get things the way the government thinks you should, or tough shit for you. So, a net loss of choice, I think.

  • ||

    Even things that make you freer with more choices like healthcare and education?

    Tony, my lad, you could make the argument that having government give anything to somebody makes that person more free. Of course, its a little hard on the people who actually have to pay for it.

    And aren't people free to make voluntary choices about how they are governed?

    If they were genuinely voluntary choices that applied only to the people making them, I would say yes. But that isn't how the modern nation-state works. Sorry. You, as an individual, aren't free to make choices about how you, as an individual, are governed.

  • ||

    I like Roosevelt as a historical figure. Very entertaining. Not so much as a president and even more not so much as a model for current presidents.

  • BigT||

    He was America's pre-eminent imperialist. His tour of Europe was outrageous for the crowned heads that kissed his ass. The Amazon adventure cut him down to size - his ego almost did him in.

  • Warty||

    I knew that TR was a thoroughly evil man, but I didn't know he was so fucking banal.

  • SIV||

    TR's hunting and travel lit is pretty good.

  • The discombobulated Cowboy||

    Just finished reading River of Doubt, which was a fantastic book. That expedition was brutal. Even though the book was good, I don't think it did an adequate job conveying his much peril they were actually in.

    Still, well worth the quick read.

  • GroundTruth||

    "New Nationalism" sounds more like "National Socialism" than communism. Maybe that's why it's never mentioned in school, because commies have their hearts in the right place, but Nazis are just bad people.

  • ||

    Well, yeah, it was from the same cloth. It was one of the many third way socialisms popular them, including Fascism and Nazism.

    Very popular idea at the time - watch Metropolis (the old movie) for a great example of the idea - "If there was only a way between the crazy workers and the heartless capitalists"

    Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism is a good book on this...

  • cynical||

    In practice, they are just different takes on militaristic, technocratic authoritarianism. The Nazis were right-flavored, the Commies were left-flavored, the other fascists were closer to the center, but it was all the same shit at the end of the day.

  • Michael||

    Coming up next, Barry rams through thru spelling reform by executive fiat. Take that, capitalist stooges!

  • juris imprudent||

    I for one welcome Obama modeling his re-election effort on TR's '12 campaign!

    There may be hope yet.

  • BigT||

    Obama has it half right - bullshit instead of BullMoose.

  • ||

    Unfortunately, Gingrich is pretty much peddling the same crap. Either way we lose.

  • juris imprudent||

    Whooooooooooosh!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Obama has officially discarded Reagan's corpse and has dug up Roosevelt's? Probably a better fit.

    The original Sweaty Teddy knew that unregulated business transactions are the exact same thing as slavery.

  • BigT||

    An excellent, if ironic fit. I'd bet Obama has no idea what TR was like. Egotistical, elitist, blustery. But TR was a true intellectual, respected for his encyclopedic knowledge of flora and fauna. And a true adventurer, risking his life on many occasions.

  • Barry O||

    Flora and fauna?

    Does that mean I'd have to go in nature or something?

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    There was some nimrod, I can't remember who, that actually compared Obama as an intellectual on par with Roosevelt, just because O had written two self-serving autobios.

    This is what the philosophy of relativism produces--the idea that a couple of ego-stroking booklets are on the same intellectual level as a naval history of the war of 1812 that's still considered definitive over a century later, a magnum opus history of the American West that was considered the same for quite some time, and a self-produced encyclopedia of flora and fauna that would put modern texts to shame.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    In short, comparing TR and Obama on an intellectual scale is like comparing a steak from Ruth's Chris with a flame-broiled Whopper.

  • ||

    Hey now. The Whopper has real beef.

  • ||

    Fuck! I was hoping he had driven off a bridge.

  • BigT||

    Threadjack==

    When the post office goes under, how many private sector jobs will be created to distribute advertising and magazines and legal documents?

  • ||

    18

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Obama knows Tony's dick about nineteenth to twentieth century American industry, labor, and progressive politics.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    "would we settle for a country where most of the new railroads and factories were controlled by a few giant monopolies that kept prices high and wages low?"

    Centrally planned infrastructure turned out swell!

  • The Right People in Charge||

    WE'LL make centrally-planned *everything* work! We just need the help of... Top. Men.

  • Top. Men.||

    When We put Obama back in office, He will have four mor- wait, make that until the day he dies to make it work.

    With Our good graces, of course.

  • Sevo||

    I believe it was Hay regarding TR's blatant manipulation of Panama's politics:
    "Oh, Mr. President, do not let so great an achievement suffer from any taint of legality!"
    Mr. Obama needs a Mr. Hay.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Actually, Obama needs someone to stand up to him, in a similar fashion the way Special Counsel for the Army Joseph N. Welch stood up to Joe McCarthy and Roy Cohn.

  • Sevo||

    Tony|12.6.11 @ 7:34PM|#
    "Free market must mean totally unregulated market? Because that thing has never done shit for anyone."

    Cite, shithead, or be credited with one more lie.

  • Sevo||

    Tony|12.6.11 @ 7:32PM|#
    "Regulators not appointed by free market ideologues who don't believe in regulating would be a good start."

    Yes, shithead, perfect governments with unlimited power make perfect civilizations, like, oh the Soviet Union, shithead.

  • Barry the Jaunty Soviet Fan||

    Workin' on it, Sevo. I just need four more years!

  • Sevo||

    Tony|12.6.11 @ 8:41PM|#
    "You don't want to endlessly defend the extremes of privilage no matter what... justice makes you do it."

    Privilege like being left alone by shitheads like you, shithead?

  • Sevo||

    Tony|12.6.11 @ 7:25PM|#
    "So you're in favor of promoting sectional and personal advantage?"

    Like being left alone by shitheads like you, shithead? That sort of advantage, shithead?

  • Sevo||

    Tony|12.6.11 @ 7:25PM|#
    "Don't worry one day the rest of the country will come around and put St. Ayn on a mountain. Eventually billionaires' taxes will be cut low enough to cause prosperity for everyone else somehow, and we'll put her up there."

    Don't worry shithead, one day you'll be denied the power over anyone else, shithead.

  • Karl Marx||

    MY face should be on that mountain!

  • Thomas Friedman||

    But... but... you're not Chinese!

  • Just as I suspected||

    Adderall + LSD = psionic powers.

    Kids, just because some random post by some retarded guy who keeps suspect hours gave you the idea, you shouldn't try it. Though chemically similar to candy flipping there are a few additional chemical bonds that could possibly fry your nervous system. Leave the research to the good folks of DARPA!

  • Juice||

    Once I mixed LSD and crystal meth.

    Once.

  • ||

    How the fuck does Obama get away with promoting Nationalism?

    Seriously.

    Where is joe, the perfect combination of left wing hack and anti-nationalist, when you need him.

    Also I use to like Obama...you know as a human being.

    Not anymore.

  • ||

    "franchises should never be granted except for a limited time, and never without proper provision for compensation to the public."

    What the hell???

    McDonalds is the only company hiring in Obama's depression economy.

  • AT||

    To quote a classic:
    Yo', fuck Obama.

  • ChrisO||

    I have a rule: anybody who cites Teddy Roosevelt in support of anything loses my support automatically. Attitudes about TR are actually a very good test for cutting through the bullshit spouted by Republican candidates.

    When a Democratic statist tool like Obama cites TR, it's more easily dismissed as a cheap stunt, though their ideologies are actually closer.

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