Conservatives have a weird relationship with Teddy Roosevelt. I think part of it has to do with the fantastic first installment of Edmund Morris’ TR biography, which came out during the Reagan years. It was so well-received that the White House agreed to work with Morris on the Reagan biography that didn’t turn out nearly as well. Part of it is that the warrior Teddy, unlike the priest Woodrow Wilson, tapped into (and helped create) the meritocratic nationalist American tradition in a way that is attractive to the right. Another reason is that TR, regardless of his political views, was just a really impressive guy. He was a Great Man in the historic sense, with a biography and intellect very similar to Winston Churchill’s (even though they didn’t like each other much personally, as I understand it). He belongs on Rushmore, deserves our admiration as a man, did important and sometimes necessary things as president and warrants continued study.
But he wasn’t a conservative.