And those imaginary people would have likely been right. See, Theodore Roosevelt was also a staunch environmentalist. The tree stunt, in all reality, was more likely a clever ploy by Roosevelt to defend another one of those trees that he loved so much.
We can't speak to the public's temperature on it back then, but we imagine that sacrificing your kids' Christmas happiness to prove a policy point is the kind of thing the media would have had a field day with. Luckily for Roosevelt, technological limitations of the time meant that journalists were only capable of instilling false rage in no more than 10 to 15 people at a time, so the "scandal" never really caught on.
If this had happened in 2002 instead, we wouldn't have heard the end of it for weeks.