SOCIAL SCIENCES

Theodore Roosevelt and the American Political Tradition

. 2012. 368p. 978-0-70061-886-6. 39.95.
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While criticism of Theodore Roosevelt (TR) often addresses beliefs that he was a colonialist, imperialist, racist, sexist, and priggish, Yarbrough, (political science, Bowdoin College; American Virtues: Thomas Jefferson on the Character of a Free People) focuses here on TR’s political thought. She finds him wanting and critiques him for repeatedly departing from the principles of The Federalist by morphing from a moderate Republican reformer who believed in the golden mean into a “progressive radical” whose thinking posed a danger to constitutionalism. His “stewardship theory” of presidential power condemns him and those like him. Yet nowhere in this account does the author mention the restraint instilled in him that prevented him and his distant cousin from becoming dictators. TR’s martial fantasies are better explained by his having once been a sickly, 99-pound weakling who repeatedly needed to prove to himself and others that he was one of the fit.
VERDICT Certain to spark controversy among historians and political scientists, TR enthusiasts will be offended by this scholarly dismissal, just as they were similarly outraged by James Bradley’s recent popular treatment of TR’s foreign policy (The Imperial Cruise). Both books provoke interest but suffer from one-dimensional viewpoints.

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