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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Obama and TR

Presidents often invoke their predecessors, as President Obama will do today. AP reports:
President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit unfriendly political territory Tuesday and deliver what the White House bills as a major speech on the economy, addressing a small eastern Kansas town in a state that seems certain to again vote solidly Republican in next year's presidential election.

But Obama's trip to 4,400-resident Osawatomie, located about 50 miles south of Kansas City, gives the Democratic president a chance to invoke political symbolism and try to link his views with those of a past American icon, political scientists said. The White House notes the town was the site of a 1910 speech by former President Theodore Roosevelt, promoting a "New Nationalism" and a government active in society and the economy on behalf of the disadvantaged.


Bob Beatty, a Washburn University political scientist, said Roosevelt's speech in 1910 represents a "gold mine" for a Democrat trying to get his core voters excited again.

"It makes perfect sense politically in terms of his re-election strategy, especially when you read Teddy Roosevelt's speech," Beatty said. "He wants to stand where Teddy Roosevelt stood. The Democrats, from where they stand in 2012, couldn't write a better speech."

In his 1910 speech, Roosevelt decried the influence of large corporations in politics and called for "a more substantial equality of opportunity." He quoted former President Abraham Lincoln, saying, "Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration."

Our text has a boxed feature titled "Pledges and Promises." A passage from the Roosevelt speech is relevant:

A broken promise is bad enough in private life. It is worse in the field of politics. No man is worth his salt in public life who makes on the stump a pledge which he does not keep after election; and, if he makes such a pledge and does not keep it, hunt him out of public life.