Saturday, July 01, 2006

Roosevelt versus Bush

This week’s Time magazine has an unusual number of pages devoted to Theodore Roosevelt. I found it engrossing reading, and the illustrations and photographs helped me understand situations and locations. This two-term president is the only “modern” president on Mt. Rushmore, and I agree with Time that he was aptly chosen. This article traced his frail beginnings as an asthmatic through his last adventure along the Amazon. He was a warrior, a statesman, a radical thinker who understood the lower and middle classes of America, even though his family was “old money”.

As I read this mini-biography, I was amazed at the similarities between Teddy Roosevelt and George W. Bush. They both took charge and ignored Congress; they both believed in the superiority of the US military force; they both thought that the US should intervene in world politics; they both used might to protect what they felt was right; they both reckoned the US as the strongest nation on earth; and they were both right and wrong.

These two great leaders have a major difference in my opinion. Roosevelt looked toward the future in many directions, not just the immediate future but the future for generations that he could never know. Bush is short-sighted, looking only to sustain the status quo, to keep the vision of “America the Great” in the world’s sight. He has copied some of Roosevelt’s powerful moves but with the wrong reasons.

Power corrupts. The United States has a system in place that should prevent too much power from accumulating in any one person or group. Roosevelt knew about power and how to use it to his advantage; he considered his advantage to be the same as the people of the United States. If it was good for the masses, then it was good for Roosevelt. His outlook was to spread power around for the most good and most effectiveness. His vision of the future included all people, not the top 20 percent.

Bush’s moves in the Middle East seem motivated less by what is best for the masses of people in our country than by what makes the US seem a dominant power. The bullying of nations and the selective use of resources in solving international problems is not the proper use of power. Bush’s vision doesn’t seem to extend past his buddies and those of his economic class. His world vision includes neither preservation of resources such as national forests and parklands nor the exploration of alternative sources of energy to fossil fuels. He seems to use the media and his public relations staff to convince the world of US power (his power) instead of educating the world about potentials for great good or great harm.

Bush’s assurance that his military actions are designed to keep the United States free and safe are just words. Terrorism and guerilla tactics are almost impossible to control. We have been training foreign militia in these tactics for years at the School of the Americas. We have used them in seeing that US friendly leaders were put into office in countries around the world – Chile, Iran, South Korea.

I wish that Bush had more concern for future generations as he seeks to build a stronger United States, more concern for the earth itself, more concern for being a visionary for a good that extends beyond the bounds of his religious beliefs.

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