How Theodore Roosevelt failed.

How we interpret the past.
May 18 2005 7:24 AM

Deconstructing Teddy

The darker side of the convivial president.

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"No triumph of peace is quite so great as the supreme triumphs of war," Roosevelt had famously declared. Alas, he had a point. Washington won the War of Independence. Lincoln directed the armies that preserved the Union. FDR led the nation to victory over Hitler. TR's charge up San Juan Hill doesn't quite measure up. Winning the Great War would at least have put him in the running to be considered among the very greatest presidents. The opportunity was in his grasp; he had only himself to blame for having thrown it away. His life, of course, was not a failure, but to Roosevelt himself, at the end, it must have felt that way.

Mark Lewis is writing a book about the American colonial experience in the Philippines.