Bully Boy: The Truth about Theodore Roosevelt's Legacy
Denson, John V., Freeman
Bully Boy: The Truth About Theodore Roosevelt's Legacy by Jim Powell Crown Forum/Three Rivers Press * 2006/2007 317 pages * $27.50 hardcover; $15.95 paperback
Reviewed by John V. Denson
Jim Powell's new book on Theodore Roosevelt (hereinafter T.R.) is more of an economic history of the Progressive era than a biography of the former president. With it, he completes a valuable trilogy with his prior books, Wilson's War and FDR'5 Folly. In these books, he conclusively refutes many mainstream historical myths, and Bully Boy takes all the luster off T.R.'s reputation.
Powell demonstrates how T.R. created governmental monopolies while alleging that he was fighting monopolies created by the free market. His conservation efforts were counterproductive, and he was basically a champion of the "progressive" idea of increasing the power of the federal government while diminishing individual rights and the concept of federalism created by our Founders.
Although Powell doesn't compare T.R. with Mussolini, having read an excellent biography of the Duce (Mussolini: A Biography by Denis Mack Smith) shortly before reading Powell's book, I noticed many striking similarities. Bully Boy shows that T.R. deserves the label of "America's Mussolini." For example, Powell quotes T.R. as saying, "I don't think that any harm comes from the concentration of power into one man's hands." Both T.R. and Mussolini believed in personal rule via a vast bureaucracy to control the economy and no doubt Mussolini would have agreed with T.R.'s view that "politicians could solve the problems of the world if only they were given enough power."
The close similarities between Mussolini and T.R. aren't limited to their egocentric personalities and authoritarian economic policies, but are most glaring in their praise of war and its "benefits." Smith states that Mussolini "began to refer more frequently to war as one of the few truly ennobling and energizing facts of human experience and to imperialism as the supreme test of a nation's vitality." Smith quotes Mussolini as saying, "War is the most important thing in any man's life" and that "only through military glory could a country become great, only battle makes a man complete...."
That militaristic view closely matches T.R.'s. Powell writes, "Theodore Roosevelt believed war was glorious, even healthy for a nation. He thought that reasons for participating in war should not be limited to national defense. He insisted that the United States should intervene in affairs of other nations and enter into other people's wars to do good." Furthermore, T.R. claimed that war actually made for better men and a better world. …