Theodore Roosevelt, American Politician: An Assessment

By David H. Burton | Go to book overview

4
Mistakes

THE distinction between decisions and mistakes may appear to be a fine one inasmuch as mistakes ordinarily arise from decisions once taken. In many instances whether Theodore Roosevelt made a mistake in carrying out public policy, what some might call decisive action, others might argue such action was misbegotten. His handling of the debt crisis in the Dominican Republic -- why he chose to implement the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine as he did -- has appealed to certain observers as wrongheaded and therefore a misfortune. Then there is the objection that any use of the term "mistake" is itself judgmental. It becomes not a matter of historical presentism but of historical hindsight. Roosevelt's refusal to actively support reform of the tariff rates may be so determined in light of the Underwood Tariff of 1913. Nevertheless, to categorize "mistakes" has its uses for a fuller definition of Theodore Roosevelt as an American politician. It may be added that where judgments must be made they are designed to be exploratory rather than condemnatory in nature.

What then are the standards for distinguishing decision from mistake or, to put it another way, to identify a decision as a mistake? Two considerations may be brought to bear on the issue. First, was the action in question intrinsically flawed, something in itself wrong and in which Roosevelt persisted. This would be constituted by an attitude followed by an action any fairminded person would find misguided. A second consideration is much less subjective. It is grounded on historical evidence that demonstrates what happened in consequence of a Roosevelt initiative. It might be contended, for example, that TR's reentry into politics in 1910 was at fault because of the upheaval created within the ranks of the Republican party. Such an argument tends to place too much blame on him and too little on President Taft and his administration. Spelling out a decision turned

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Theodore Roosevelt, American Politician: An Assessment
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 7
  • Preface 9
  • Introduction 11
  • 1 - Parties 17
  • 2 - Persons 45
  • 3 - Decisions 81
  • 4 - Mistakes 116
  • 5 - Legacies 145
  • Notes 159
  • Index 170
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