By Matt Welch
Former George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, writing in the Washington Post, is appalled and that Teddy Roosevelt has become "the conservatives' new demon." Excerpt:
The problem with America, apparently, is not just the Great Society or even the New Deal; it is the Square Deal. Or maybe [Glenn] Beck is just being too timid. Real, hairy-chested libertarians pin the blame on Abraham Lincoln, who centralized federal power at the expense of the states to pursue an unnecessary war -- a view that Ron Paul, the winner of the CPAC presidential straw poll, has endorsed.
Lincoln doesn't need defenders against accusations of tyranny -- the mere charge is enough to diagnose some sad ideological disorder. But the Rough Rider also does not deserve such roughing up.
Gerson counters that the Rough Rider is a "distinguished ancestor" of "reform conservatism," which the columnist describes as "the use of incremental reform to diffuse radicalism." Roosevelt's contemporary critics, on the other hand, are radical time-travelers hurtling back to the Stone Age:
In the name of constitutional purity, they propose a great undoing. Not just the undoing of Obamaism. Undo Medicare and Social Security. Undo the expansive American global commitments that proceeded from World War II and the Cold War. Undo progressive-era economic regulations. Undo the executive power grab that preserved the union. Undo it all -- until America is left with a government appropriate to an isolated, 18th-century farming republic.
Cupla comments: 1) Libertarians have chest hair? 2) The battle over the contemporary conservative/Republican soul, with its crucial weapon of who gets to marginalize whom, continues to be a fascinating exercise, especially from the outside looking in. It's no surprise at all that a former Dubya mouthpiece would be taking aim precisely at those from his broader political tendency who do not look back at 2000-2008 with nostalgia. 3) There is more than plenty to criticize about Teddy Roosevelt, or any other president (yes, even Lincoln, though that's certainly not what gets me up in the morning). Roosevelt, whatever his virtues, was a megalomaniac, a born crusader and military expansionist who believed in "race purity" and puffing up the Executive Branch to previously unpondered levels. He was a juvenile tuff guy and Wild West romance novelist who thrilled libertarian-hatin', late-20th century Republicans with his sermons against capitalism's "selfishness." It should be no surprise that after that 10 years of Teddy Roosevelt Republicanism, Republicans are once again asking whether that was such a good idea after all.
Reason on T.R. (not all of it negative), here.