John Nichols: Bizarro History: The Rough Rider as Socialist Stooge

Roundup: Historians' Take

John Nichols is the author of The S Word: A Short History of an American Tradition: Socialism (Verso). The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

What was Fox News to do when Barack Obama went to Kansas and delivered a speech that echoed the "New Nationalism" address Teddy Roosevelt used to renew and redefine his political prospects? Obama's oratory was not quite as radical as that of the former Republican president, but it was close enough is spirit and content to create concerns on the part of Fox commentators that the current president might be tapping into the rich vein of American progressive populism that actually moves the masses.

So the network of economic royalism did the only thing it could.

Fox broke away from Tuesday’s speech right at the point where Obama was most closely following TR’s line, with references to how the former president had declared: “Our country…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.” And the recognition by Obama that “today, we are a richer nation and a stronger democracy because of what [Roosevelt] fought for in his last campaign: an eight-hour work day and a minimum wage for women, insurance for the unemployed and for the elderly, and those with disabilities; political reform and a progressive income tax.”

Obama had the quote right. And he had the history right.

What was Fox to do?

No problem. They dismissed Teddy Roosevelt as a socialist....

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