Theodore Roosevelt — he’s the one who doesn’t have a highway in Manhattan named after him — seems to be enjoying a resurgent popularity among the city’s political and chattering classes.
Clyde Haberman offers his take on the news.
T.R. re-entered the collective consciousness on Monday when Bob Turner, a Republican, officially kick-started his campaign to fill the vacancy in New York’s Ninth Congressional District. You probably know it better as Anthony D. Weiner’s former House seat.
Mr. Turner will run against the Democrats’ choice, Assemblyman David I. Weprin. Party leaders, not voters, picked both of these candidates to run in a special election that the governor set for Sept. 13. Sic transit the new era of political openness we’d been hearing so much about.
Mr. Turner got rolling on Monday at Station Square in Forest Hills, Queens. His campaign pointed out that on the same spot, during World War I and well past his presidency, Roosevelt delivered a line that would be quoted across the decades. “There can be no 50-50 Americanism in this country,” he said. “There is room here for only 100 percent Americanism, only for those who are Americans and nothing else.”
Hmm, was the Turner camp sending some sort of signal by choosing that location, perhaps about immigration policy?
“No, no deeper message there,” said Robert Hornak, a campaign spokesman. “It was a famous site in the district, connected to a famous Republican president. It’s nothing more than that.”
Indeed, Roosevelt spoke highly of immigrants who became naturalized citizens. His objection was to what in other speeches he labeled “hyphenated Americanism.” This is a phenomenon that many now celebrate. To Roosevelt, it was anathema. In a 1915 speech he said it risked turning the country into “a tangle of squabbling nationalities.”
Eliot Spitzer also had Roosevelt on his mind a few nights ago when CNN canceled his talk show, “In the Arena.” Mr. Spitzer, like Roosevelt a one-time New York governor, is a twofer for our purposes, belonging to both the political and the chattering classes. In signing off, he read from a 1910 Roosevelt speech that inspired his show’s title.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better,” Mr. Spitzer read. “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly.” He concluded the quotation: “His place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
This may be of little comfort to Mr. Spitzer, but Richard M. Nixon liked that speech, too. Nixon quoted from it when he resigned as president in 1974, and he reprised it at a reunion of his White House aides eight years later.
In fact, T.R. has inspired politicians from both major parties, New York governors most definitely included. Mr. Spitzer quoted him regularly even before his political demise. George E. Pataki considered him a political hero.
Mario M. Cuomo said he saw his office as a “bully pulpit,” a phrase borrowed from Roosevelt, who coined it.
Roosevelt’s speeches and writings can sustain a wide range of political thought, from right to left. “If an American is to amount to anything, he must rely upon himself and not upon the state,” he said in 1897. Conservatives would applaud. But hang on. He also said, in 1912, “This country will not be a permanently good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a reasonably good place for all of us to live in.” Liberals might find comfort in that.
Probably Roosevelt’s most famous line was one that he said came from a West African proverb: “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.”
That idea doesn’t carry much weight in New York, though. Here, the accepted rule in politics is to speak loudly and carry a big shtick.
For more local news from The Times, including potential tax trouble for an altruistic Yankees fan, a four-alarm fire at an Upper East Side synagogue and City Hall’s reticence about a car ban in Central Park, see the N.Y./Region section.
Here’s what City Room is reading in other papers and blogs this morning.
Thirteen people were shot, one fatally, in Newark on Monday night. [New York Post]
An art student fell off the roof of a five-story building, and lived. [Daily News]
Two police officers taunted by a teenager who had just been released with a summons have been charged with beating him outside their station house. [Daily News] (Also see New York Post and
A loophole in safety codes that excludes government buildings is being scrutinized since the acquittals in the Deutsche Bank fire. [DNA Info]
Rudolph W. Giuliani’s camp says he will decide very soon whether he will run for president. [Daily News]
An African burial ground has been uncovered at a Kew Gardens cemetery. [Queens Chronicle]
Acrobats gave a daring and illegal performance on the Williamsburg Bridge. [Animal New York]
Two sisters sue a cemetery after learning their mother was buried in the wrong grave 20 years ago. [Daily News]
A mob hit went awry in the Bronx. [New York Post]
At J.F.K. Airport, the area had its second local stun gun flapin less than a week. [New York Post]
F.A.O. Schwarz is sticking around. [New York Post]
The Empire Hotel may be close to a deal with its neighbors over noise. [Real Deal]