CHAPTER SIXTEEN
Suddenly in the Saddle
1901

If Roosevelt hadn't been hearing for three years that he ought to be president, he might have been overwhelmed or at least humbled by the responsibilities that befell him on September 14, 1901. But the hurrahs that had greeted him on his return from Cuba in 1898, at the Republican convention in 1900, on his campaign swings later that year, and on his journeys out west had prompted no little mental rehearsing of how he would bear the burdens of the nation's highest office. Moreover, since the time of his appointment as assistant navy secretary, he had been measuring McKinley, and on each visit to the White House he compared his own shadow to that cast by his boss. Roosevelt would have given McKinley the nod for political shrewdness--not least for the way he had turned the enthusiasm for Roosevelt to his own benefit and then turned Roosevelt out to pasture. But Roosevelt at this stage of his career respected shrewdness in a politician about the way a policeman (himself five years earlier, for instance) admires cleverness in a thief, and he certainly didn't feel himself deficient for coming up short in that category. An upstanding character mattered far more, and he judged himself a veritable obelisk next to McKinley's eclair.

Nor did it hurt Roosevelt's self-confidence as chief-executive-by- chance that at the outset of the twentieth century the office of the president was but a suggestion of what it would become during the next several decades. Congressional control had slipped somewhat since the legislature had placed Andrew Johnson under White House arrest, but the center of American political gravity was still well toward the eastern end of Pennsylvania Avenue. Although the emer-

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