Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Clash of the Titans 1917 ..............The private battle between Roosevelt and Wilson

In 1912 there was perhaps one of the most nasty presidential elections in our history.
It was between the incumbent William Howard Taft (R), Woodrow Wilson (D) and Theodore Roosevelt (Bull Moose Independent).

The insults that were spoken were very bad and some were down right nasty! Most of them were coming from Bull Moose candidate, Theodore Roosevelt.

Teddy was mad, in 1904 he announced he would not seek re-election.....He would come to regret that statement in 1908. He didn't want to leave. After trying to find a hand picked successor, he favored Elliot Root. Root said no.

Roosevelt's Secretary of War William H. Taft was interested in becoming Chief Justice. He was a judge and was comfortable in this situation. Mrs Taft however, was very interested in making her husband President.
Taft himself really didn't care for it....But Mrs. Taft had given orders...and also his brother Charles Taft was pretty interested in getting his brother into office.

Roosevelt was not always the most stable of persons..He was highly excitable and VERY political. He was very pushy...and then he had to deal with Mrs. Taft who was just as pushy....
There was friction already between Taft and Roosevelt and of course not helped by Mrs. Taft who was really pulling of lot of William's strings. But most of all there was hardly any similarity between the ideology of Roosevelt and Taft.

Roosevelt seems to have wanted to have a standing in President to keep the chair warm till he came back. He seemed to want someone who would follow HIS policies and not their own.
What it seems to be is he wanted a babysitter for the Presidency. To look after things till he (Roosevelt) came back.
Taft did things his own way, not at all like Roosevelt. When it came to trust busting Taft did much more in 4 years than Roosevelt did in nearly eight!!!

Roosevelt went hunting in 1909 after the babysitter was in place and went hunting in Africa.
By 1910 Roosevelt was publicly not happy..By 1911 he was mad as hell...

Roosevelt always was a "DRAMA QUEEN" and he loved to be the star. For all intents and purposes he was already running for office in 1911.
I really never think he ever intended to let Taft have a second term..Four years were enough he wanted to President again and he started his smear campaign on Taft.

By the time of the Republican Convention it was a war.....The Roosevelt forces wanted Taft out....They tried to hijack the convention..It did not work...Teddy was not happy. He wanted to be king again and he was ready to fire the babysitter. But the babysitter was not going easy...After 2 years of being called everything under the sun by Roosevelt, there was no friendship left..and just to annoy Roosevelt...Taft stayed in. Saying "even a rat will fight when he is cornered"

Roosevelt left the convention..Splitting the Republican party. He became an Independent candidate under the name of the Bull Moose Party!

Enter into the scene the Democratic candidate, Woodrow Wilson. He was the current Governor of New Jersey. He had been President of Princeton University. He was author of numerous scholarly works. He was a slight man, not a man into athletics. But he had one side of him that few saw. He had a tremendous temper...and he would always hold a grudge. If you crossed him, you would always be on his hit list.

The election was as you would expect...awful, nasty, rude, rotten, and insults flew like the wind. Most of it came from Roosevelt. He wasn't happy...He was not the star..and he didn't like Wilson. Who he inferred was something less than a man.

He called Taft "stupid and fat"...He called Wilson "a trained elocutionist" and "neither a gentleman nor a real man" (That hit below the belt!)

Since Roosevelt had split the Republican party it was a no brainer that Wilson won.

The election left a lot of bad blood. Taft lost of course. He was happy to get out of the place and the office.
Roosevelt had burned all of his bridges, created a lot of anger in the Republican party, insulted Wilson, and really made quite a fool of himself.

The change of power took place on March 4, 1913. Taft got out of the area as soon as he could. Wilson was a brilliant man...Stubborn, proud, unmoving, and not happy to share the spotlight with anyone!

In 1914 Europe exploded into the same time Wilson's wife died. He was a professor of history...He had written on it all. He was not about to let the USA to get involved in any way. At least for the moment.

As the war grew in size and scope...There was more and more comments on us getting involved. In May of 1915 the Lusitania was sunk by a German sub. By this point it was too much for Roosevelt...He was looking at 1916 and wanted to get Wilson out.

The personal attacks flew from Oyster Bay.

In 1916 the Republican party passed over Roosevelt. There were too many memories of 1912. He had personally screwed himself by his actions in 1912. Charles Evans Hughes was nominated. Roosevelt called him the "bearded lady" ...Hughes did not have a great personality, he did not come off as exciting. Neither did Wilson who could be as cold as an ice bucket. The campaign was based on Wilson keeping us out of the war...On that he won.

To Roosevelt now....Wilson was fair game...and he went hunting just like he was in Africa. Roosevelt was for preparedness, getting ready for war, building up the army and navy. In this he was right, it was just how he went about it.

As he had always done it this way since the days of McKinley. He had said of President McKinley that "he had the backbone of a chocolate eclair" McKinley who had more class than Roosevelt let it pass with out comment.

Woodrow Wilson was not McKinley. As Roosevelt's insults mounted...Wilson's silent anger grew....and grew...

By 1916 Roosevelt was ready to start a new army division, called the "Roosevelt Division" He was ready to grab his glory again. He had drained every ounce out of San Juan Hill...Now it was time for great glory..His crown achievement leading a division into France...It was all drama..Roosevelt had no idea what to do. His experiences in Cuba had been terribly exaggerated. The world had changed greatly and romantic war was no longer a real thing.

He was ready to form it...All it needed was official recognition from the President. Roosevelt wrote to Secretary of War Baker..

"I have already on file in your department my application to be permitted to raise a division of infantry. If you believe there will be war and a call for volunteers,I respectfully and earnestly request that you notify me at once. I have prepared the skeleton outline of what I have desired the Division to be"

Baker's response was not what Roosevelt expected......

"No situation has arisen. Your letter will be filed for consideration should occasion arise"

Baker was basically saying FORGET IT...Roosevelt didn't get it...He was already dreaming of leading his division up another San Juan Hill in France....

Now he sent another letter to Baker

"In the event of being allowed to raise a division, I should , of course , strain every nerve to have it ready for efficient action at the earliest moment."

Baker replied

"In replay to your patriotic suggestion, I have to state the limitations of the War Department. No action in the direction suggested by you can be taken without the express sanction of Congress. No additional armies can be raised, no contracts assumed, without the specific authority of Congress. General officers for all volunteer forces are to be drawn from the regular army."

Roosevelt was not about to be told "no" by someone like Baker...Who was working under Wilson. It is amazing he is still insulting Wilson countless times and then asking for help from him! Not a brilliant strategy from someone who prided himself in his prowess of it.

Roosevelt now is getting hot under the collar....He writes Baker again...He is not too pleasant this time.

"I wish respectfully to point out that I am a retired Commander-in-Chief of the United States Army and eligible to any position of command over American troops to which I may be appointed."

He also reminded Baker of his exploits in Cuba and San Juan Hill...etc

Baker replied "The patriotic spirit of your suggestion is cordially appreciated and carefully considered."

One other note that Baker made to Roosevelt was "that war took into account many more problems than those of one individual."
(BANG right in the kisser)

Roosevelt was outraged! He was not about to be told no by anyone...He was the star.

Roosevelt decided he would go to Washington and meet Mr. Wilson.

The meeting of the Titans took place on April 9, 1917 in the White House red room.
Roosevelt was sweet and pleasant. Wilson was chatting about everything but what Roosevelt wanted. He was trying to control his anger, as he had before him the man who had been insulting him for years. Roosevelt explained what he wanted to do....Wilson listened and promised nothing.
He was not going to let Roosevelt lead a division into France...Suddenly the gentleman who wasn't a gentleman or a real man was making the Rough Rider look like a monkey. The last insult was Wilson's...

It was over for the rough rider...he just didn't know it.

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