Teddy Roosevelt

T.R. rodeos political corruption into submission. (actual photograph)

Just The Facts

  1. President of the United States of America from 1901-1909.
  2. Cowboy, soldier, historian, naturalist, rhinocerous hunter, author, bear hunter, explorer, elephant hunter, winner of the Nobel Damn Peace Prize, and the namesake for Teddy Bears.
  3. Agreed by all historians worth their salt to be the most badass politician in American history, world history, and the history of the universe in both fiction and non-fiction forms, possibly excepting Darth Vader. Possibly.

Early Life

Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., nicknamed "Teddy" or "TR", was born October 27, 1858 in New York City.  As a young child, he was often sick and was stricken with asthma.  Viewing this as a challenge, he proceeded to beat his asthma to death.  In order to get exercise, he took up boxing as a kid.  Coming from a rich family, he was eventually sent to Harvard.

 

At age 19, during his summer break, he went on hunting trip with logger William Sewell, who hired himself out to city folks who wanted to see the wilderness.  Usually, they didn’t last more than a day or two.  Sewell was astonished to find that not only did this NYC city guy joyfully canoe, hike, and hunt all day for weeks on end, but he actually enjoyed it more when they were soaked by rivers and nearly frozen to death by winds and cold.

 

During a boxing match at age 20, his opponent at one point punched him so hard he actually apologized.  TR laughed it off, saying “Don’t mention it,” and went right back to the fight. (According to legend, the guy actually hit him after the bell sounded.  When the crowd booed him, TR said that the guy didn’t hear the bell, then returned to fight.)  You just couldn’t stop the guy from violencing things up.

 

At age 21, he took another hunting trip in the woods.  Specifically, a winter trip in the Northeastern forests.  After spending two weeks in literally sub-zero temperatures, he wrote in his diary, “I have never passed a pleasanter two weeks.”  By contrast, Cracked staffers have been heard to start complaining when the air conditioning drops the temperature below 70.

 

And by the end of college, he entered into his Golden Years of love and joy when he married the love of his life, Alice Hathaway Lee, described by TR as “beautiful in face and form, and lovelier still in spirit.”

 

Out West

Four years later, his wife died in childbirth.

 

We know, this seems a pithy way of treating Alice Roosevelt, particularly since understanding so much of TR’s character rests in the death of his Love’s life at such a young age.  TR himself wrote in his diary, “The light has gone out of my life.”  Their charming courtship, and its quick, tragic end, forced him to be a tougher, harder man, a man with the power of a lion outside, but with a romantic sadness resting within.  Like Mad Max, only with less leather bondage gear.  Emotionally, for the rest of his life, he held a buried but potent emotion within his heart, and refused to mention Alice ever again, in public or private, distancing himself from the daughter his wife died giving birth to.  Even his second wife, Edith, whom he loved to the end of his days, felt a certain never-ending distance at times.  Surely, this was one of the most crucial days of TR’s life. 

 

Oh, also, his mother died the same day.  Total bogus, dude.

 

Alright, enough of that.  Let’s get back to the violencing.

 

Distraught, TR moved out to the Badlands in the Dakota Territory, now firmly in the legendary times of the Old West.  He turned back to his love of slaughtering animals, enjoying increasingly larger game. At age 26, on a hunting trip, he stumbled across a grizzly bear.  For those who aren’t fully aware, grizzly bears have the horrific strength and power of a T-Rex (except with arms that can actually be used), the speed of a Velociraptor, and the temperament of a crazed bulldog.  And they look cute, too. 


Running into a grizzly is a situation known in hunting circles as “not good.”  Given such a situation, TR, without hesitation, raised his rifle and shot the bear right between the eyes.  First shot.  No panicky shooting in his general direction, no turning and running, just a calm, quick, perfect shot.  Thrilled by this adventure, TR started hunting Grizzly bears as a hobby. By contrast, on the last Cracked Staff hunting trip, upon arriving in the woods, six of us went into immediate Wii withdrawal, four went into a panic after seeing a squirrel run up a tree, one shot himself in the leg (twice) when a spider crawled over his boot, and three were never seen again. 

 

Of course, in the Old West, bears weren’t the only killers.  These were the days when the land was roamed by killers like Billy the Kid and Russell Crowe.  It was a lawless time of violence and death, where a dispute over a card game resulted in knife wounds and lynchings, where the drunk outnumbered the sober, where a brothel was one of the more respectable joints in town, where walking down a street the wrong way could get you shot.  So, pretty much just like modern-day Las Angeles, except with drive-by shootings replacing lynchings.  The excuses for such violence were often thin and even non-existent. 

 

One time, while TR was out hunting grizzlies, a local decided that the glasses-wearing, jolly-faced New Yorker shouldn’t be allowed to let his cattle graze on lands that nobody owned, and wouldn’t be a problem to get rid of.  So, he hired a killer named Paddock to either scare TR out of town or shoot him out.  Paddock went around town bragging about how he was going to kill the dude from New York.  When TR got back from his trip and heard about this, he decided that this “Paddock” couldn’t be more dangerous than a grizzly.  He checked to make sure his guns were working correctly and walked calmly over to where Paddock was staying.  When Paddock opened his door, TR said, “I understand you have threatened to kill me on sight.  I have come over to see when you want to begin the killing.”  It then dawned on Paddock that threatening Theodore Roosevelt wasn’t one of those things that ended well.  He never bothered him again.  Nor did anyone else in town.

 

 

Of course, those from out of town didn’t always get right away that the jolly city guy wasn’t one of those guys you messed with.  While TR was in a bar, a drunken gunslinger was waving his guns around and terrorizing the ladies in the bar before turning to TR and calling him “four-eyes.”  TR responded, “If I have to, I have to.”  He then punched the guy three times and crashed the guy’s head on the corner of the bar.

 

Historian and Politician

After marrying his childhood sweetheart, Edith Kermit Carrow (No, really, that was her name.), TR began writing history books, including The Naval War of 1812, which for decades was considered the definitive book on the subject, and The Winning of the West, which is one of the most influential visions of the Old West, and which helped shape our view of that Wild era.

 

He also entered full-force into politics, getting appointed to the United States Civil Service Commission where he blah blah blah President of the New York City Police Commissioners blah blah destroyed police corruption blah blah Assistant Secretary of the Navy blah Governer of New York blah blah blah.

 

Let’s get back to the part where he kills things.

The Spanish-American War

Specifically, Spaniards.

 

TR was ready for some more fighting.  “I should welcome almost any war, for I think this country needs one,” he remarked.  As Assistant Secretary of the Navy, he had poured himself into preparing the US Navy for a war, and what was the point of all that hard work if it wasn’t going to pay off?

 

Fortunately for him, this was the 19th Century, a time when any old excuse would work for war.  Heck, the French didn't even wait for excuses to declare war (and surrender) back then.

 

In 1898, the US declared war on Spain in order to free the Cubans.  TR was thrilled and immediately rounded up a group of cowboys, Native Americans, and cops and whipped them into the 1st US Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, known as the "Rough Riders".  TR became their Colonel, and led them into Cuba.  Their charge up San Juan Hill became legendary.

 

The Cubans were now, finally, left free to rule themselves and create their own government.  Really paid off, for both them and us.

 

Roosevelt's awesome victories made him immensely popular, and in 1900, he became the Vice President of the United States... for about six months, before President McKinnley was shot.

 

Now, for the first time in 40 years, the United States would be led by a man with the charisma, intelligence, moral center, and leadership to truly be one of the great leaders, a man who could accomplish anything, overcome any obstacle, lead through any difficulty.

 

So, of course, he became president in the one decade of the 20th century where absolutely nothing happened.

President of the United States