The Corner

TR & Conservatives

For conservatives, it’s much easier to admire TR on a personal level than on a political one. He was an unabashed patriot. He was incorruptible. He was loyal to his family. He was manly in the very best sense of the term. Of all the presidents, he may have the best biography, by which I mean his personal story is more interesting than any other. This is almost certainly true if we exclude the Founding Fathers and count only pre-presidential years (the heartrending tragedy of February 14, 1884, when TR lost his wife and his mother on the same day; his rocket-like political rise; his experience in the Dakotas; his Rough Riding) and arguably true if we consider the whole life. As many writers during his own time knew (and historians such as David McCullough have come to appreciate): The man makes great copy. Over time, the false promise of Progressivism seduced TR. Great men often make big blunders. Roosevelt shared in many of the mistakes of his generation. The force of his incredible personality was not always put to good use. To call him wrong about key matters of public-policy is appropriate. To label him a “psychopath” is silly.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.


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