The Corner

Tree-Hugging in High Places

I was interested to read an article by Thomas V. DiBacco in the Wall Street Journal. (By the way, it would be interesting if Professor DiBacco disliked wine — as his name means “of Bacchus.”) The article begins,

Theodore Roosevelt’s commitment to conservation is well known. Less well known was the 26th president’s ill-fated attempt to ban Christmas trees at the White House. Why? So many trees were cut down for the holidays, he believed, that it was contributing to deforestation — and he wanted to set an example for the country.

I was reminded, so help me, of Mussolini. In 1992, his granddaughter made an interesting comment, when she was first running for the Italian parliament. (She won, and today she is in the European Parliament.) In addition to being the granddaughter of Mussolini, Alessandra Mussolini is the niece of Sophie Loren. She’s a fascinating story, and a piece of work.

Anyway, during that first run, she described her grandfather as “very modern, one of the first ecologically minded politicians.” Mussolini did not even want “a real tree at Christmas,” said Alessandra, “because it hurt him so much to chop it down.”

Kinder to trees than to Jews and other people — as many people have been, true.

(For more on the Mussolini family — an engrossingly, operatically interesting family — consult my new book on the sons and daughters of dictators.)

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