13 January 2008

They Shoot Candidates Don't They? - The Most Dramatic Moment in Presidential Campaigning

For my nickel, Teddy Roosevelt provided the most dramatic moment of any presidential campaign. On his way to a rally, he was shot by a would-be assassin. He shook off advisers who insisted that he go to the hospital rather than the podium. The audience - in this time before cell phones, TVs, or even radio - had no idea that Roosevelt had just been shot until he dramatically opened his suit jacket to show the spread of blood. When his aides saw this, they panicked at the sight of so much blood and again insisted that he rush to the hospital and he again shook them off. (Now that, sports fans, is a called an attention getting opening and is far more effective than a joke.)

Roosevelt explained to his audience that his speech was more important than his safety. (And, fortunately, it was a long speech. The sheaf of papers in his breast pocket was so thick that it slowed the bullet. Had he been delivering a speech as succinct as the Gettysburg Address, he might have died.)

What mattered so much to Roosevelt? Issues that today we take for granted, issues that helped to create a far better world where capitalism in its rawest form was tempered by something more just and less brutal. His platform included advocacy of the vote for woman, limits on child labor, the introduction of old-age insurance, regulations on business and an end to racist practices. Although Roosevelt never served another term, there were probably no issues that better defined the difference between 1900 and 2000 than the issues he championed in this death-defying speech. He lost his bid for a third term (this time as a Bull Moose rather than Republican) but his issues eventually won.

I don't just love this story about Roosevelt. I love the thought of how speechless would be today's pundits and analysts who endlessly dissect oddly trivial moments like Clinton's recent emotional moment. Now that would be campaign coverage.


cce said...

And for anyone who is a fan of The Wire...we now see Teddy's brilliant defense in prison yards. There's a great scene in one of last year's episodes where Omar, a notorious villain, straps an encyclopedic text on filing taxes across his chest with duct tape, puts his clothes back on and enters the prison cafeteria where he is stabbed repeatedly by an enemy but walks out unscathed, the blade having been stopped by the voluminous tax forms.
Doesn't quite have the nobility of Teddy's near miss but, still, a testament to the importance of large books to controversial characters.

Ron Davison said...

"still, a testament to the importance of large books to controversial characters."
will have to be my favorite, esoteric quote of the week. :)

Allen said...

I've been noticing there's a direct correlation between corporate america and running for politics. Here it is . . .

In corporate america, employees sit through powerpoint presentations every day, bombarded by charts/graphs showing the "hockey stick" of profit and market segment share (mss) in the future. In politics, we're bombarded by candidates running for office who spout all they're going to do for the economy, or healthcare, or homeland security, etc.

But do we ever hold reviews against plan in the 1-5 years following? I asked that question recently at yet another presentation meeting. I totally silenced the room. It took about 5 seconds before someone from Finance said, "Ah, no . . . we don't." And in the political world, any retrospective of an elected official's performance is airbrushed more than Playboy's centerfolds.

What impressed me about Teddy is he understood and actually LOVED doing what he said he was going to do more so than saying it initially.

Bully indeed!

Lifehiker said...

Teddy's one of my great heroes and role models. And, I'd like to remind all of you, a republican who loved the estate tax (no, not the "Death Tax" which is a perversion meant to demean it to mostly stupid people). Teddy said that without an estate tax we risk a "royal class" without the titles. He was right.