Historian Edmund Morris could be forgiven for having Theodore Roosevelt on the brain. He has, after all, spent the better part of the last 35 years documenting the life of America’s 26th president in the three-volume biography which draws to a close with his latest, “Colonel Roosevelt.”
But the fact that Roosevelt sprang to mind while Morris watched Charles Ferguson’s recent economic-crisis documentary “Inside Job” the night before our interview was entirely apt, as the issues that TR confronted during his unsuccessful 1912 campaign are uncannily (and depressingly) similar to those the country faces today.
“I began to realize the essence of his campaign in 1912 was federal regulation and control of Wall Street,” Morris says of viewing the film, “and that really is the vital issue right now. Roosevelt had a profound mistrust of wealth as a false American value, and wealth these days is so grotesquely celebrated and regarded as a badge of merit. That’s exactly the kind of sentiment that made his gorge rise.”
It was Roosevelt’s “dramatic quality” that compelled him to devote such scrutiny to the ex-Rough Rider, the author says. “Not only the drama of his personality, but the drama of his life. But I’m not sorry to say goodbye to him, because we’ve spent enough time together.”