Mike Green: Republican Candidates Should Embrace Their Inner Teddy Roosevelt

Roundup: Media's Take

Mike Green blogs for Foreign Policy.

In his May 25th Washington Post column, George Will slammed Republican Presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty for "sounding like a dime-store Teddy Roosevelt" when the former Minnesota governor called for a tough stand towards Muammar al-Qaddafi.  Will clearly likes Pawlenty, but hates the 26th president, complaining that "the real TR was bad enough" without Republicans emulating him with "chest-thumping" today. 

Will is only the latest in a series of political commentators and historical writers on the left and the right who have been piling on the Rough Rider. On the right Glenn Beck has had an ongoing investigation into the supposed excesses of TR's activist policies abroad and progressive reformism at home -- the same themes that seem to irk Will to no end. On the left, Evan Thomas of Newsweek portrays TR as a childish belligerent in his book The War Lovers (2010) and James Bradley seeks to expose how TR's racism and imperialism laid the seeds for the Pacific War in The Imperial Cruise (2009)....

There is ... something deeper in the life cycle of American power and America's role in the world that have brought TR back from the grave. Roosevelt presided over the emergence of the United States as a world power and represented more than any other president in history a boundless self-confidence and optimism about American ascent. In polls taken last year by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, only 33 percent of Americans thought that their country would still be the world's leading power in 50 years and a meager 8 percent thought the United States should try to remain the preeminent leader in solving global problems. The White House clearly thinks it can ride this seeming wave of defeatism by applauding itself for a prudent strategy of "leading from behind" in response to the Arab Spring. For "realist" intellectuals on both the left and the right, TR was representative of our youthful folly; now we must find ways to retrench and accommodate to other powers and ideals in the world as we approach the dusk of Pax Americana. When Jon Huntsman described his opposition to the Libyan intervention as being "an affordability issue," it seemed that even he was testing this reductionist view of American power (please say it ain't so, Jon)....

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