NARRATOR: On the morning of July 1, 1898, American troops in Cuba prepared to make their assault on the Spanish forces holding San Juan Hill. In the jungles below, Colonel Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders waited impatiently. ''The instant I received the order,'' Roosevelt remembered, ''I sprang on my horse and then my crowded hour began.'' ''Gentlemen,'' he shouted, ''the Almighty God and the just cause are with you. Gentlemen, charge.'' What happened that day in the Cuban jungles would make Theodore Roosevelt one of the most famous men in America, and catapult him into the presidency.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: He is exactly the right man for the times. It's the new century bursting with all kinds of wonderful expectations and new inventions and new ways of seeing things, and he's young, he's fresh. The country just embraced the whole idea of Theodore Roosevelt.
NARRATOR: Theodore Roosevelt embodied America at the turn of the century -- the confidence, the exuberance, the aggressiveness. It was all there, all in him. ''Roosevelt,'' someone said, ''was a steam engine in trousers.'' Cowboy, soldier, explorer, scientist, a world authority on large mammals and small birds, the author of 36 books and more than 100,000 letters, he made himself president by the age of 42.
None of it was easy. Shadowed by illness, haunted by the deaths of those most dear to him, he learned early, he said, that ''Life was one long campaign where every victory merely leaves the ground free for another battle.'' ''Black care,'' he wrote, ''rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough.''
The Long Campaign
NARRATOR: Theodore Roosevelt's first battle was simply to survive. He was born in New York City on October 27, 1858. There was some doubt that he would live beyond his fourth birthday. He suffered from asthma so severe he sometimes could not summon the strength to blow out his bedside candle.
EDITH DERBY WILLIAMS, Granddaughter: Asthma's a terrible thing. It's a terrible, suffocating illness. He would have to sit upright, bolt upright in bed and-- struggling for breath.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: It's as though you're being strangled to death. It is though you're being denied life suddenly and mysteriously, and it comes on you involuntarily. Everybody around you is galvanized by the horror of this experience that you are going through. You are-- it's as if they're attending a hanging, and you are being hanged.
NARRATOR: Night after night, he struggled to breathe, frightened he might not pull enough air into his lungs to make it through to morning. Only his father seemed able to comfort him. During the worst of Theodore's spells, he would gather his son up and walk the floor with him.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: The father was very maternal in his way, because the father realized this little boy was dying in his own arms.
P. JAMES ROOSEVELT, Cousin: His father would pick up him out of bed and-- and get the carriage harnessed up and drive through the streets of New York, hoping that, as the boy gulped in air, the breathing would clear and he would survive.
NARRATOR: ''My father got me breath, he got me lungs, strength, life,'' Theodore remembered many years later. ''I could breathe, I could sleep when he had me in his arms.''
Theodore Roosevelt's father would be his guiding spirit, his source of inspiration and the yardstick by which he would measure himself his entire life.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: Now, the father was called ''Great Heart.'' In Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, Great Heart is the Christian warrior, the protector. The father would not tolerate deceit, would not tolerate cowardice. Everybody had to measure up. He was God in his house. And, like God, you walked a little humbly in his presence.
NARRATOR: Theodore Senior came from an old Dutch family and cut a handsome figure in New York society. New York was a city of more than half a million people. The select few like the Roosevelts were prosperous and serenely confident.
The immigrant poor lived crowded together in tenements just a few blocks from the Roosevelt family home. Theodore's father contributed to charities for homeless newsboys and orphans. He taught Sunday School and helped found the Children's Aid Society. He had what he called ''a troublesome conscience.''
WILLIAM HARBAUGH, Historian: His father was an extremely moral man who believed in helping the poor, and so young Teddy was imbued with a sense of compassion on that level, or obligation more than compassion, shall we say.
THEODORE ROOSEVELT IV, Great-grandson: One time when Theodore Roosevelt Senior was trying to raise money, he brought some of his wealthiest friends in to have dinner. And he opens up the doors to the dining room and around this splendid rosewood table were a whole number of children who were crippled from diseases or unfortunate accidents. And people took a collective gasp of horror, and then he said, ''I now want money from you so that these children can benefit from the money you have,'' and out of that began some of his philanthropic work.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: The father said, ''Get action. Seize the moment. Don't dwell on the inner darkness of yourself. Reach out. Burst out.'' His little son, Theodore, adored him, worshipped him, and, I think, took his role as being that father's son entirely to heart, both with tremendous benefit and with difficulty.
NARRATOR: He was ''the best man I ever knew,'' Roosevelt wrote, ''and the only man of whom I was ever really afraid.'' Theodore's mother was from the South.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: Mittie Bulloch Roosevelt was a southern belle. She was a gorgeous woman -- dark-haired, petite, effervescent.
EDITH DERBY WILLIAMS, Granddaughter: And she always wore a gardenia or something behind her ear, tucked in her hair.
TWEED ROOSEVELT, Great-grandson: It was the first time, I believe, in the Roosevelt family -- at least in our line -- that somebody married out of the New York Dutch line.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: She came from a different world. The South of Mittie Bulloch's life as a young woman was the South of plantations, the South of slavery. She came from this sort of wild, romantic, sometimes violent, sometimes erratic family, and for her to come to New York and move into this stiff, rather phlegmatic Dutch burgher family that had been established so very long on the island of Manhattan was as different as if she'd come from a different planet. She is as responsible, if not more so, for the way Theodore turned out. He's more a Bulloch than a Roosevelt. The Roosevelts didn't have that energy. The Roosevelts didn't have that vitality, the flamboyance, the love of poetry, the love of romance, the love of travel, the eccentricity.
NARRATOR: The southern belle and the northern gentleman loved one another, but in 1861, the Civil War divided the Roosevelts just as it divided the nation. Theodore's father stood firmly against slavery. His mother remained loyal to the South, and she did not want her husband going to war against her brothers, who fought for the Confederacy. Theodore's father paid a substitute to fight in his place.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: In a society of the kind where the Roosevelts circulated and belonged, this was by no means shameful -- this was quite commonly done. But to the little boy raised on the heroics of adventure stories and on the heroics of his mother's family, this was very hard to explain, very difficult for him to accept.
NARRATOR: Theodore's father did perform charitable work among the Union soldiers, but Theodore would never forget that his father had not enlisted, had not fought, and the memory of that embarrassment would one day help drive Theodore himself into battle.
Theodore was obsessed with natural history, made meticulous drawings, and dreamed of becoming a great naturalist. He was a precocious, irrepressible, odd little boy. He carried frogs in his hat, raised mice in the family icebox, kept snakes in his water pitcher, and began a collection of birds which he insisted on stuffing himself at home. He devoured grown-up books -- fiction, history, poetry, science -- and noisily reported everything he'd learned to anyone who would listen.
But asthma continued to ravage him. He was anxious and suffered from a recurring nightmare that a werewolf was loose in his bedroom. His desperate parents tried remedies recommended by the best doctors of the day. Theodore was dosed with a medicine to induce vomiting, made to swallow black coffee, even forced to smoke cigars. At one point, he noted in his diary, his chest was rubbed so hard ''that the blood came out.'' When he was 11, his father took him aside.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: He said, ''You have been blessed with a wonderful mind, but you have to build your body. You have to take charge of your body.'' In a way-- in a larger way, he was saying, ''You have to take charge of your life.''
NARRATOR: Determined to be worthy of his father, the sickly boy spent hours every day trying to build himself a new body, slowly ''widening his chest,'' his sister remembered, ''by regular monotonous motion -- drudgery, indeed.'' His father even paid a professional coach to teach his son how to box, and every summer he took him on camping trips, hiking through Maine and the Adirondacks and around the Roosevelt summer home at Oyster Bay on the shore of Long Island Sound.
Slowly, Theodore's neck thickened, his chest expanded, he began to breathe a bit more easily, but even when he left home for Harvard, his asthma stubbornly hung on. He was 17 years old and had never been away from his family before.
''As I saw the last of the train bearing you away,'' his father wrote him, ''I realized what a luxury it was to have a boy in whom I could place perfect trust and confidence. Take care of your morals first, your health next, and, finally, your studies.'' At college, Theodore was a serious student with a growing sense that he was destined for great things. His classmates didn't know what to make of him. He took an eight-mile walk every afternoon, ran from class to class, and couldn't seem to stop talking.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: There's a great moment where one of his professors turns and says, ''See here, Roosevelt, I'm running this class.''
NARRATOR: Then, on February 9, 1878, during Theodore's sophomore year, his father died suddenly of stomach cancer at the age of 46. Theodore hurried back from Harvard to a rain-soaked city. His father's good works were praised from pulpits all across New York. ''I feel,'' Theodore wrote, ''that if it were not for the certainty that he is not dead but gone before, I should almost perish.''
Shattered, for months he poured out his pain and bewilderment in his diary. ''How little use I am or ever shall be.'' ''If I had very much time to think, I believe I should almost go crazy.'' Along the shores of Long Island Sound, he sought relief in the natural world and in ceaseless physical exertion. He ran, hiked, boxed, hunted, and swam, wrestled.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: Exactly what his father had preached -- ''Get action, get out, do things.''
NARRATOR: He rowed a boat across Long Island Sound and back in a single day -- 25 miles. He rode his horse almost to death, and shot a neighbor's dog just because it snapped at him. Then he fled to the Maine woods. ''Oh, Father, my father, no words can tell how I shall miss your counsel and advice.'' Many years later, when Theodore was president of the United States, his sister wrote, ''He told me frequently that he never took any serious step or made any vital decision for his country without thinking first what position his father would have taken.''
When Theodore returned to Harvard, he kept up his furious pace. He joined nearly every club, began a book on naval history, and fought for the lightweight boxing championship of the school, which he lost. Somehow Theodore also found the time to fall in love. Her name was Alice Hathaway Lee, the tall, golden-haired cousin of a classmate. She was just 17. Her family called her ''Sunshine.''
''See that girl?'' Theodore told a friend soon after he'd met her, ''I'm going to marry her. She won't have me, but I'm going to have her.''
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: He was head over heels in love with Alice Lee. She had wealth, background, she was very appealing, and she was unattainable.
NANCY JACKSON, Granddaughter: Anyway, he must have been kind of-- you know, he had this high voice, and he was no great shakes in looks, and he was all kinds of things. And he didn't-- she didn't think he was suitable, I don't think, for her in any way-- probably didn't dance, for all I know, and I think she loved to dance. But it doesn't sound-- I'd have known-- never known a Roosevelt who was such a great dancer.
NARRATOR: Theodore didn't dance, one woman friend recalled, He ''hopped.'' He was a jealous suitor, so fearful that someone might steal Alice from him that he ordered a pair of dueling pistols from France. At last, on January 25, 1880, he noted in his diary, ''I drove over to the Lees and, after much pleading, my own sweet, pretty darling consented to be my wife.''
They were married on October 27, 1880. On a high bluff overlooking Oyster Bay, they planned to build a big house. Theodore named it for his bride, Leeholm. ''There is hardly an hour of the 24 that we are not together,'' he wrote, ''and I am living in a dreamland. How I wish it could last forever.''
Theodore and Alice became prominent members of New York's most fashionable society. Lavish dinners, theater parties, gala balls-- hardly a day went by without some glittering affair. But to the wonder of most of his friends, Theodore was part of another world. He had decided to become a politician.
JOHN MORTON BLUM, Historian: In 1880, when Theodore Roosevelt graduated from Harvard College, gentlemen -- men of good birth and competence, money -- simply did not go into politics as a career. Politics was for ''muckers.''
NARRATOR: ''Politics are low, run by saloon-keepers, horse-cart conductors and the like,'' Theodore's friends told him. ''That merely means,'' Theodore replied, ''that the people I know do not belong to the governing class, and I intend to be one of the governing class.''
JOHN MORTON BLUM, Historian: He went into politics -- if initially, perhaps, only to see what it tasted like -- basically because he wanted to govern. Roosevelt loved power.
NARRATOR: With the money to finance his own campaign, Roosevelt was soon running as a Republican for the State Assembly, and his wealth, his eagerness and his father's good name all helped him to victory. He was the youngest man in the Albany legislature, just 23 years old. Albany had never seen anybody like Theodore Roosevelt.
JOHN MORTON BLUM, Historian: He wore thick spectacles, and he had a rather high-pitched, patrician intonation.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: He would stand up there in the halls of the old Capital in Albany and say, ''Mistah Speakah, Mistah Speakah.''
JOHN MORTON BLUM, Historian: When that squeaky voice began to make moralistic statements on the floor of the New York Assembly -- which was filled with country lawyers, morticians, saloon-keepers and the like -- well, the newspapermen made a lot of it, and they were the media then.
NARRATOR: Reporters called him, ''His Lordship,'' a ''Jane-Dandy,'' and just plain ''silly.''
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: And there he is among some very tough, profane, colorful, rough characters.
NARRATOR: When a drunken Democratic assemblyman made fun of his clothes, Theodore remembered the boxing lessons his father had paid for. He knocked the man down, let him get up, knocked him down again, then ordered him to go and wash himself. ''When you're in the presence of gentlemen,'' he told the man, ''conduct yourself like a gentleman.''
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: What he wants to prove is that he himself and people like him -- in other words, children of privilege -- can hold their own-- can hold their own with the roughs of the world.
NARRATOR: Denouncing the bosses in both parties, Theodore demanded to be heard on nearly every bill, and crusaded for Civil Service reform. Newspapers began calling him ''the cyclone assemblyman.''
WILLIAM HARBAUGH, Historian: He was so appealing that in spite of his greenness, in spite of challenging the Republican machine virtually the first day he was in the New York State Assembly, they didn't really dislike him, they didn't run him off. They sensed that there was too much quality here to put this man completely aside, and, anyway, he wouldn't have let them do it, you see. He was so vigorous.
NARRATOR: Roosevelt was, above all, a moralist. Every issue became a clash between good and evil. His side was right. The other was the side of corruption or self-interest. He told a friend, ''I honestly mean to act on all questions as I think Father would have done, had he lived.''
In 1882 when a bill was introduced in the Assembly to protect cigar workers from exploitation by their employers, Theodore went to New York's Lower East Side to see for himself the conditions under which they lived. ''I have always remembered one room in which two families were living,'' Theodore recalled. ''The tobacco was stowed about everywhere, alongside the foul bedding, and in a corner where there were scraps of food. The men, women and children worked by day and far into the evening, and they slept and ate there.''
Brought up by his father to believe in private charity, now, for the first time, Theodore began to see how government could help in ways that philanthropy could not. He fought for the bill to protect the workers who made cigars at home, and it won, only to be ruled unconstitutional by the New York Court of Appeals, which insisted government had no right to interfere with business.
Theodore delighted in politics, and everything seemed to be going his way. By 1884, he had been elected assemblyman three times, named a minority leader, and his wife was pregnant. He was just 25 years old. On the morning of February 13th, he was in Albany when he received a telegram from New York. Alice had given birth to a baby girl. A friend remembered he was ''full of life and happiness.''
But then a second, ominous telegram had sent him racing for the train. A thick fog had settled over the city. A morning paper called it ''suicide weather.'' Guided by street lamps that looks as though gray curtains had been drawn around them, he rushed to the family home.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: He pulls up in a carriage, gets down, goes up the stairs -- raining, the fog -- he's full of apprehension. And the door is suddenly flung open by his brother, who stands there in anguish, saying, ''Mother is dying, and your wife is, too.''
NARRATOR: Theodore ran upstairs. Alice could no longer recognize him. She was dying of Bright's disease -- kidney failure. Helpless, he held her in his arms. In a bedroom downstairs, his mother was mortally ill with typhoid fever. Within the next few hours, both women were dead. His mother was only 48, Alice just 22.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: And the curtain came down for him. What more did he have to live for? This tragedy, coming like sledgehammer blows, within hours on the same night-- he never got over it. He never, ever got over it.
NARRATOR: He was ''in a stunned, dazed state,'' a friend said. ''He does not know what he does or says.'' In his diary, he wrote, ''the light has gone out of my life.''
The baby survived. Three days after her mother's death, his daughter was christened Alice, but Theodore showed no interest in her, [and] turned her over to the care of his sister. No one ever heard him speak of his wife again, and never once, in all the coming years, would he mention Alice Lee to the daughter he had named in her memory.
After the death of his wife and mother, Theodore Roosevelt fled west to the Badlands in Dakota Territory. For the next two years, Roosevelt would throw himself into a life of almost constant action. ''Black care,'' he wrote, ''rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough.''
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: He goes to the Badlands of North Dakota, which are named because they are grim, they look bad. In one of his vivid figures of speech, he said, ''They look like Poe sounds.'' He wanted to find some manifestation in nature of this dark, tragic, overwhelming landscape within.
NARRATOR: ''I grow very fond of this place,'' Theodore Roosevelt wrote his sister that summer. ''It certainly has a desolate, grim beauty.'' Roosevelt settled into a spread on the Little Missouri and became a rancher on his own terms.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: When he went west as a cowboy, he went all stops out. He had his spurs and his belt buckles and his pearl-handled revolvers all done for him by Tiffany. He had a woman make him a cowboy shirt with fringe and all that cost $100. Well, that would be $1,000 or $1,500 today. Imagine getting yourself up in a $1,000 cowboy shirt.
NARRATOR: The cowboys called him ''Four Eyes'' and ''Storm Windows,'' and teased him about his fancy grammar.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: They would go charging off by horseback, and he would shout over to them, ''Hasten forward quickly there.'' Well, they'd just about fall out of the saddle, it was so hilarious.
NARRATOR: Despite his eastern manners, Roosevelt impressed everyone he met with his grit and determination.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: Theodore Roosevelt was not a very good shot, he wasn't a very good rider. It's just that he tried harder than everybody else. He went on roundups, he braved every kind of weather. In the winter, it was punishing, sometimes 35, 40, even 65 below zero. Gradually, this comic character who they had made such sport of became admired because he could take it.
There was an incident one night where a bully who'd been drinking heavily came at him in a bar, and this young Harvard fellow with the glasses and the strange way of talking decked him, knocked him cold, and, of course, that endeared him to his cowboys quite a lot.
NARRATOR: ''All strangeness passed off,'' he wrote. ''the attitude of my fellow cowpunchers being one of friendly forgiveness, even toward my spectacles.''
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: He liked to say, ''There were all kinds of which I was afraid -- mean horses, gunfighters and grizzly bears -- but by acting as if I were not afraid -- wasn't afraid at all -- I found that I wasn't afraid.''
NARRATOR: The West toughened Theodore Roosevelt's body. His asthma would only rarely return, and it revived his failing spirit.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: The robust Theodore Roosevelt -- the man that we know who becomes president of the United States -- came out of the Badlands, returned to New York remade, physically, emotionally and mentally.
EDITH DERBY WILLIAMS, Granddaughter: If it hadn't been for the time that he was in the Badlands, he never would have been president. He knew that he had to carry on, and it took him quite a long time to decide how he was going to carry on. I think then he began to think more about my grandmother.
NARRATOR: Edith Carow had known Theodore Roosevelt since he was a small boy. He had been her first love, and she had never forgotten him.
KERMIT ROOSEVELT, Grandson: Edith had lived just a few houses away from the Roosevelt family, and was virtually the same age as Theodore's sister Corrine. When Edith was about four years old, she developed a very strong attachment to Corrine's older brother Theodore, who was all of seven years old.
NANCY JACKSON, Granddaughter: They used to write each other all the time. He told her all about the bugs he'd collected -- it's so adorable. They really knew each other well.
NARRATOR: When Theodore needed comfort after the death of his father, it was Edith to whom he turned.
KERMIT ROOSEVELT, Grandson: His diary reflects spending virtually every day with her -- rowing one day, riding the next day, picnics, et cetera, et cetera -- and then, suddenly, two weeks after her 17th birthday, there's a reference to a meeting in the summerhouse and a squabble, a blowup. And neither Edith nor Theodore ever told anybody what happened that afternoon.
NARRATOR: The death of Alice Lee had left Theodore free to marry again, but he strongly disapproved of second marriages for widowers. They revealed ''a weakness in a man's character,'' he said, and implied disloyalty to the memory of his dead wife.
TWEED ROOSEVELT, Great-grandson: He knew that Edith was a threat after Alice's death -- a threat, in his mind, to his idea that he would remain constant to his first wife -- and he instructed his sister than when he came back to New York from the West on his occasional visits to make sure that Edith wasn't around. Sisters don't always do what brothers tell them to do and, in fact, she had an entirely thing in mind. So after maybe his third or fourth trip, clearly not by accident, Edith was there at the top of the stairs when T.R. returned from the West, and it was all over from then on.
NANCY JACKSON, Granddaughter: Immediately he sees Edith, all the old feelings surge up again, and he's passionately in love again.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: There are moments when others would hear him pacing the room upstairs, saying, ''I have no constancy, I have no constancy.'' He took himself very seriously.
NARRATOR: Their courtship was conducted in secrecy. They kept their engagement to themselves for almost a year. Edith even moved with her family to London where she and Theodore were finally married in a quiet ceremony on December 2, 1886. Her long wait for him was over.
Edith and Theodore went to live in the hilltop house at Oyster Bay, which he renamed ''Sagamore Hill.'' Sagamore was an Abnaki Indian word for ''chieftain.'' Alice, Theodore's three-year-old daughter, was finally brought to live with her father, but both Theodore and Edith acted as if her real mother had never existed.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: Imagine raising a child, and you will not talk with that child about her own mother, tell her about her mother -- what did she look like, how did she speak, what was the sound of her voice, what was so wonderful about her, why did he love her so.
NARRATOR: In 1887, Theodore and Edith's first child, Theodore Junior, was born. Eventually, six children would tumble across the lawns at Sagamore Hill.
EDITH DERBY WILLIAMS, Granddaughter: She had a sort of a leveling influence on him. They were a perfectly suited couple, really, because they had very many different interests. She loved music, he was tone-deaf. He, of course, loved the outdoors. She didn't do any of the very active things that he did.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: And I think she saw -- as well as perhaps anyone did -- what might be in store for him, that this really was an extraordinary human being, and there was very little limit to how far he could go.
NARRATOR: Theodore loved married life, loved Sagamore Hill, and his prodigious energy found an outlet in writing. Book after book began to flow from his pen -- Hunting Trips of a Ranchman, Essays on Practical Politics, and a series of books that would eventually become a bestseller, The Winning of the West in four volumes.
But Roosevelt couldn't stay away from public life. In 1886, he ran in a three-way race for mayor of New York City, and finished third. Three years later, he went to Washington as a Civil Service Commissioner and made the most of it. He even insisted on exposing fraud within the administration of the president who had appointed him, and then, in 1895, took on a new kind of corruption.
He was appointed one of four New York City police commissioners and spent the next two years noisily cleaning up the Police Department. He fired the chief, insisted that the law that closed saloons on Sundays be enforced against rich and poor alike, and he demanded that all New York City police meet certain standards.
JOHN GABLE, Theodore Roosevelt Association: They had to be able to read and write, and they had to have training. For example, there was no training in ordnance, in the use of guns, nor was there any required weapon -- you supplied your own pistol. So he introduced standard weapons, pistol practice, and that pistol school that he started is the basis of the present police academy, and was one of the first two schools for police training in the United States.
NARRATOR: Commissioner Roosevelt was tireless. He prowled the streets at night in disguise, making sure his men were on the job. ''These midnight rambles are great fun,'' Roosevelt said. ''My work brings me into contact with every class of people. I get a glimpse of the real life of the swarming millions.'' Reporters trailed him everywhere. Strangers now shouted, ''Teddy,'' as he passed by. Papers as far away as London headlined his exploits, and street hawkers began to sell big celluloid teeth in imitation of his real ones. The Roosevelt legend was growing.
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: This is when the cartoonists really begin to take up Theodore Roosevelt -- moustache, glasses and teeth. He is the cartoonist's dream, and this is what makes him the familiar figure.
NARRATOR: ''He must be president someday,'' one observer said, ''a man you can't cajole, can't frighten, can't buy.'' In 1897, Roosevelt was ready to move on to bigger things. When the new Republican president, William McKinley, offered him the post of Assistant Secretary of the Navy, he jumped at the chance. Roosevelt believed in America's destiny and in his own.
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: Theodore Roosevelt wanted to be Assistant Secretary of the Navy because that's where the action was. He believed that no nation could be great -- could be truly great in the world -- unless it was great on the seas. Faster ships, bigger ships -- this is where the great arms race is going on.
NARRATOR: By the end of the 19th century, America had become the richest and most productive country in the world and was ready to assume the role of a world power. In the contest for commercial markets with countries like England and Germany, Roosevelt was prepared to lead the way.
WALTER LaFEBER, Historian: In the 1880's and the 1890's, Asia, Africa, even parts of Latin America were being divided among the imperial powers. The British, the French and the Germans were very active, and Roosevelt feared that if the United States did not enter this race, we'd be left behind.
JOHN MORTON BLUM, Historian: It was a matter for him of national pride and of his curious concept of manliness. Manliness, as a virtue, involved a willingness to fight, not to be a bully necessarily -- he didn't like that word -- but a willingness to stand up and assert yourself.
NARRATOR: And just as a man needed to stand up and fight, so, Roosevelt believed, did a nation. In the struggle for international power, he argued, war was not to be feared.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: Roosevelt felt that a war would be good for the country. It would stir up the blood. It would bring us together. It was a noble aspiration, rather than the kind of self-serving, grimy business of commerce and the mercantile ambitions of the country.
NARRATOR: Just months after he was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Roosevelt spoke at the Naval War College. ''Cowardice,'' he said, ''is the unpardonable sin. No triumph of peace is quite so great as the supreme triumphs of war. The nation must be willing to pour out its blood, its treasure and its tears like water rather than submit to the loss of honor and renown.''
Roosevelt would have the chance to put his theory of war to the test in the jungles of Cuba. For two years, Cuban revolutionaries had been struggling to overthrow the Spanish, who had ruled the island for centuries. Roosevelt sided with the Cuban people and set out to convince President McKinley to strike at the Spanish empire in both Cuba and in the Philippines.
WALTER LaFEBER, Historian: The Spanish empire had been declining for generations. It was simply sitting there, waiting to be taken, and Roosevelt understood that Spain would be an easy victory.
NARRATOR: Then, on February 15, 1898, in Havana Harbor, the U.S. battleship Maine blew up. Two hundred and sixty-six Americans were killed. Roosevelt, eager to place the blame, responded at once. ''The Maine was sunk by an act of dirty treachery on the part of the Spanish,'' he said. ''The blood of the murdered men of the Maine calls for the full measure of atonement, which can only come by driving the Spaniard from the New World.''
But in spite of the lurid headlines, it was not at all clear what had caused the Maine to explode, and McKinley hesitated to declare war. Privately, Roosevelt said that the President had the backbone of a chocolate eclair. ''We will have this war,'' Roosevelt said, and he didn't hesitate to reach beyond his authority to prepare for it.
On February 25, 1898, when Roosevelt's boss, Secretary of the Navy John D. Long, took the day off, Roosevelt cabled squadron commanders all over the world, putting them in state of high alert. One cable ordered Commodore George Dewey to prepare to attack the Spanish fleet in the Philippines in case of war. ''The very devil seemed to posses Roosevelt yesterday,'' Long said when he returned. Outraged, Long told the President what Roosevelt had done, but McKinley let Roosevelt's order to Dewey stand.
WALTER LaFEBER, Historian: McKinley was going to war, all right, but he was doing it on his own time, and he was going to insure that the American people were behind him. And I think that it's a commentary on Roosevelt that McKinley was going to war, but he wasn't going to war fast enough for Theodore Roosevelt.
NARRATOR: Two months later, Congress declared war on Spain, and Commodore Dewey steamed into Manila Harbor and destroyed the entire Spanish fleet in the Philippines without losing a single American life. America, Roosevelt had said, needed a war. Now America had a war, and Roosevelt couldn't wait to get into it.
When the Spanish-American War began, Roosevelt was 39, the father of a boisterous swarm of children. His sixth child had just been born. He and Edith named him Quentin. He delighted in his family, reveled in his job at the Navy Department, was proud of his growing reputation as an author, but he was willing to risk it all for the chance of glory in battle. ''I had determined that if a war came,'' somehow or other I was going to the front,'' he wrote.
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: He was going to see combat himself. He said, ''I have been advocating expansion, I have been advocating this war. I've got to practice what I preach.''
NARRATOR: He resigned his post and accepted a lieutenant colonel's commission in the Army. ''Theodore is wild to fight and hack and hew,'' a friend wrote.
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: He was absolutely determined that he was going to fight, no matter what. He said he would have left his wife's deathbed in order to go and fight.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: His father had not gone to war. I don't think there's any denying that was at the root of the decision. He would do what his father hadn't done, because his father might approve of that, but also because he could do something his father had never done and, in that way, outdo the father.
NARRATOR: With 12 pairs of extra spectacles and a brand-new blue uniform specially run up for him by Brooks Brothers, Theodore Roosevelt was off to war.
JOHN MORTON BLUM, Historian: He was terribly myopic. He was going into battle with vision that would have not been permitted in the Second World War of a private.
NARRATOR: Roosevelt got permission to form his own regiment, and called for volunteers. From the more than 20,000 who applied, he chose a thousand men who reflected his own widely varied connections. There were Ivy Leaguers and cowboys, yachtsmen and a Scottish laird, four New York City policemen, an Arizona sheriff, the tennis champion of the United States, Choctaw, Cherokee and Creek Indians, and the world's greatest polo player, all brought together by the prospect of fighting under Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt hailed them as ''the children of the dragon's blood.'' The newspapers called them ''Roosevelt's Rough Riders.'' The First Volunteer Cavalry, wrote one reporter, was ''the society page, financial column, and Wild West Show all wrapped up in one.''
On June 8, 1898, Roosevelt and his Rough Riders began boarding ships in Tampa, Florida for the short journey to Cuba.
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: He had reporters along, he had photographers, and he also had a couple of movie cameramen, very early movie cameramen. In fact, he deliberately made room-- there was some protest from some of the Army brass, but he made room to make that they come along.
NARRATOR: There was so little room on board that only Roosevelt and other senior officers were permitted to bring their horses. The Rough Riders would have to fight on foot. Roosevelt was impatient to get his regiment into action. ''It will be awful,'' he wrote, ''if the game is over before we get into it.'' The Rough Riders set sail for Cuba to the popular tune, ''There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight.''
WALTER LaFEBER, Historian: There were often orchestras, small stringed orchestras playing on the ships, and there are accounts we have of these wonderful moonlit nights as the soldiers are anticipating covering themselves with glory, listening to this music as they sail into battle. It was a wonderful, romantic notion, and, of course, Roosevelt personified this kind of romantic notion of war. He thought that war could be glorious.
NARRATOR: ''The nearing future,'' he wrote, ''held many chances of death, of honor and renown.'' On June 22, 1898, the Rough Riders went ashore in Cuba. Roosevelt wrote in his diary, ''Landed.'' The night before, he and his men had drunk a toast: ''To the officers-- may they get killed, wounded or promoted.''
Twelve miles away, the Spanish were fortifying the hills surrounding the city of Santiago. An American victory on the hills overlooking the city would end the war. As Roosevelt led the Rough Riders inland through the dense undergrowth, they were caught in an ambush. Roosevelt gave chase, and the Spanish retreated. Eight Rough Riders were killed, 34 more were wounded. Roosevelt was enjoying every minute of it.
JOHN MORTON BLUM, Historian: One evening within the range of Spanish snipers, he took his swagger stick, the emblem of his colonel's rank, and walked back and forth in the twilight with the enemy shooting at him. His tent-mate said to him when he got back, he said, ''Colonel, didn't you realize you could be killed?'' And Roosevelt said, ''Of course, I realized it, but that's been the trouble all afternoon. We were getting licked because the men were afraid of being killed. I was going to show them there was nothing to be afraid of.'' Well, that was Theodore Roosevelt. Most of us are afraid of being killed.
NARRATOR: After more than a week of fighting their way through the jungle, the Rough Riders reached the hills overlooking Santiago. On the morning of July 1st, they were ordered to attack. While his men waited for his signal, Roosevelt prepared to mount his chestnut stallion, Texas.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: This was to be his crowded hour, his great moment, and they're about to take the hill, and he says, ''Gentlemen, charge.''
NARRATOR: ''All men who feel any power of joy in battle,'' he wrote, ''know what it is like when the wolf rises in the heart.'' As if he were driven by some elemental force, Roosevelt raced up the slope. Bullets nicked his elbow, punctured his boot, cut down men on either side of him. Nearly a quarter of his men were killed or wounded. When some hesitated under the deadly fire, he shouted at them, ''Are you afraid to stand up when I am on horseback?'' Coming upon a dying Rough Rider, he stopped, shook his hand and said, ''Well, old man, isn't this splendid?''
The Rough Riders took the hill, but Roosevelt kept going. He led another charge up a second hill -- San Juan Hill. It was, he said, ''the great day of my life. I am quite content to go now and to leave my children at least an honorable name.''
The Santiago garrison fell, the Spanish surrendered. What remained of the 400-year-old empire that began with Columbus had been destroyed in less than 50 days. American soldiers were heading home.
WALTER LaFEBER, Historian: Secretary of State John Hay called it ''the splendid little war,'' but in many respects, it was a very cheap, romantic war. The United States won essentially an empire to the accompaniment of stringed orchestras in about six weeks. Roosevelt thought that this was going to be the way of war in the future, and he never believed that there would be the kind of terror and horror and bloodshed that finally occurred in 1914 and '15. It was a very different kind of war.
NARRATOR: Roosevelt returned home a national hero, a perfect candidate for higher political office. The call came from Senator Thomas Collier Platt. Known as ''the Easy Boss'' because of his polished manners and quiet voice, he ran Republican politics in New York State with a grip of iron.
Just 33 days after Roosevelt returned from Cuba, Platt summoned him to the Fifth Avenue Hotel and offered him the Republican nomination for governor, but the party boss was worried. He didn't like Theodore Roosevelt's record as a reformer, and wanted to make certain that the unpredictable war hero would be a loyal soldier in the Republican ranks. Platt and Roosevelt struck a deal.
JOHN MORTON BLUM, Historian: He promised to consult the machine in making appointments. He didn't promise always to take the machine's recommendation, but he was saying, ''I'm not going to be an independent, I'm going to be a good Republican, and we're going to work together at this.''
NARRATOR: Roosevelt campaigned up and down the state, escorted by uniformed Rough Riders. Every speech was preceded by a bugle blowing ''Charge.'' At Carthage, in Jefferson County, a friend remembered, ''He spoke about 10 minutes. The speech was nothing, but the man's presence was everything. It was electrical, magnetic.''
His reputation as a war hero and the sheer force of his personality won him a narrow victory. ''I have played it with bull luck this summer,'' he wrote a friend, ''first to get into the war, then to get out it, then to get elected.''
Boss Platt soon found that he had made a terrible mistake. As governor, Roosevelt refused to be controlled. He challenged Platt's nominees for office, supported regulation of factories and tenement workshops, fought to preserve state forests, even worked closely with some labor leaders. ''I want to get rid of the bastard,'' Platt said, ''I don't want him raising hell in my state any longer. I want to bury him.''
JOHN MORTON BLUM, Historian: Roosevelt had a sense of what was necessary for social justice which didn't run quite with the business interests who were supporting Platt, so Platt thought it would be a lot safer for the New York machine if he could kick Roosevelt upstairs to the vice presidency.
NARRATOR: But Roosevelt knew the vice presidency carried with it no real power. ''I would rather be anything,'' he said, ''say, a professor of history.'' But at the Republican Convention in 1900, the party faithful clamored for him, and Platt was determined to have his way. Roosevelt was nominated overwhelmingly, winning every vote but one -- his own.
March 4, 1901 -- Inauguration Day. William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt had won in a landslide, the biggest Republican triumph in more than a quarter century. Boss Platt was in the crowd. He wanted, he said, to see Theodore ''take the veil.'' He was certain he had ended Roosevelt's political career forever, but others were not so sure. McKinley's closest adviser warned, ''There's only one life between this madman and the presidency.''
The Bully Pulpit
NARRATOR: Less then seven months after his inauguration, President William McKinley was dead from an assassin's bullet. Five days of mourning were led by the new President, Theodore Roosevelt. The worst fears of the Republican establishment had come to pass. ''The whole country was in mourning,'' a reporter remembered, ''and no doubt the President felt that he should hold himself down, but his joy showed in every word and movement.''
He strode to the office on his first day, September 22, 1901, a torrent of energy, moving quickly to make the presidency his own. ''It is a dreadful thing to come in this way,'' Roosevelt wrote a friend, ''but it would be a far worse thing to be morbid about it.'' He greeted a steady stream of visitors. When one man worried about his safety, Roosevelt cocked his fists and said he knew how to protect himself.
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: The change with Theodore Roosevelt becoming president is almost instantaneous. The temperature of politics, the radiance of politics, everything with public affairs just rises almost instantaneously.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: You have to remember all those sort of bland, overfed, not-very-interesting presidents who had preceded him, Democrats and Republicans alike. I mean, this was a big breath of fresh air.
NARRATOR: His first day in office was also his father's birthday. ''I have realized, as I signed various papers all day along,'' he said, ''and I feel that it is a good omen, as if my father's hand were on my shoulder.'' His father had set the highest possible standards -- duty to those less fortunate, principle before self-interest, strength in the face of fear. Now, as president, he would try to act on those old-fashioned principles in a world very different from the one his father had known. At stake would be the power of the presidency itself, and the welfare of ordinary Americans everywhere.
By the turn of the century, America had been transformed from a rural republic into a mighty industrial power. The benefits to the country were enormous. But those who did the everyday work of building the new America did not fully share in those benefits, and their anger was growing. Vast fortunes were being made by the men who controlled American industry. They were not regulated by government. There were no restraints on their power. Roosevelt saw it as his duty to try to head off the violent confrontation he feared was coming.
WILLIAM HARBAUGH, Historian: He thought that the rich were making too much, the lower classes were making too little. He feared that the long-term consequence of this would be social revolution.
NARRATOR: ''These fools on Wall Street think they can go on forever,'' Roosevelt told a reporter. ''They can't. I would like to be the buffer between their foolishness and the wrath that is surely to come. Sooner or later, there will be a riotous, wicked, murderous day of atonement.''
Within just five months of taking office, Roosevelt acted to stave off that day. He struck without warning at the single most powerful financier in America, J. Pierpont Morgan. Morgan was an international investment banker who could command resources worth more than all the gold and silver in the United States Treasury, almost 10 times what the federal government spent each year. ''Under his piercing gaze,'' one observer said, ''the boldest man was likely to become timid. There seemed to radiate something that forced the complex of inferiority upon all around him.''
In industry after industry, Morgan had combined hosts of small companies into giant monopolies -- trusts -- United States Steel, International Harvester, General Electric, all under the financial control of just this man. Trusts like Morgan's dominated American life at the turn of the century. They manipulated prices, destroyed competition, bought and sold politicians.
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: There is a great deal of public discontent. Middle class people, small businessmen, working people are really getting bothered by this. They believe the trusts are controlling their lives, they believe that they're paying them low wages, and they believe that they're just taking too big a share of the national pie.
NARRATOR: The trusts had long been closely allied with Roosevelt's own Republican Party, but the new president had earned his reputation as a reformer.
JEAN STROUSE, Biographer of J. Pierpont Morgan: These guys were very worried about Roosevelt. Roosevelt has showed himself already to be a maverick and a kind of uncontrollable force. He's not going to go along with business as usual. They look on him as kind of a time bomb. They just do not know what he's going to do.
NARRATOR: One of J.P. Morgan's trusts controlled the major railroad lines in the Pacific Northwest. Called Northern Securities, it symbolized everything people hated and feared about the trusts: they stifled competition, charged exorbitant prices, concentrated too much power in the hands of Wall Street. Roosevelt ordered his attorney general to break up the monopoly and restore competition. He brought an antitrust suit against Northern Securities charging it was ''an illegal combination in restraint of trade.'' J.P. Morgan was stunned.
JEAN STROUSE, Biographer of J. Pierpont Morgan: He has been very used to getting inside information from Washington, and, in fact, Washington has sought his advice on most of what it has done in economic and business matters. And all of a sudden, here's a president who isn't asking his advice and who prosecutes him as a criminal, and Morgan is just beside himself.
He comes right down to Washington with a couple of his lawyers and advisers and brings a couple of friendly senators into the White House and says to Roosevelt, ''Why didn't you warn me?'' Roosevelt says, ''Warning you was just what we didn't want to do.'' Then Morgan says, ''If we've done anything wrong, why don't you just send your man'' -- meaning the attorney general -- ''to my man'' -- meaning his own lawyer, who was often called his attorney general-- ''Just send your man to my man, and we'll fix it up.''
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: Roosevelt responded, ''That cannot be done.'' The point for him was that nobody -- nobody, no interest, no private interest -- can presume to be the sovereign equal of the U.S. government. No tycoon can be the equal of the President of the United States.
JEAN STROUSE, Biographer of J. Pierpont Morgan: Roosevelt, with a brilliant sense of symbolism and timing, establishes right off the bat that he's going to be in charge here, that he's, in effect, waving his big stick in the face of these Wall Street plutocrats and saying, ''I'm running this country, you're not.''
NARRATOR: The struggle continued in the courts for more than two years. In the end, Morgan's railroad trust was broken up, and Roosevelt went on to prosecute other unpopular trusts -- sugar, oil, beef, tobacco. But in spite of the headlines he made as a trust-buster, he left most of the giant monopolies untouched. ''I believe in corporations,'' he wrote. ''They are indispensable instruments of our modern civilization, but I believe they should be so regulated that they shall act for the interest of the community as a whole.''
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: T.R. believes the supremacy of the public interest has to be asserted. If you're going to have big business, you're going to have to have bigger government in order to control it and regulate it.
NARRATOR: In the fall of 1902, Roosevelt took his case for a stronger federal government directly to the American people. No one, he said -- not even the trusts -- was above the law. Other presidents had been content to issue pronouncements from Washington. Roosevelt saw himself as a crusader. ''My problems are moral problems,'' he once said, ''and my teaching is morality.'' Like his father, Roosevelt believed it his duty to urge people to do better. He called the presidency ''a bully pulpit.''
Americans had never seen anyone quite like him. He was noisy, colorful, unstoppable. When a trolley car struck his carriage in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, one newspaper reported that the President was hurled into the street ''like a football.'' Just an hour later, his face bruised and swollen, he was back preaching to the crowd again.
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: He has got messages he wants to get out to the American people -- the need to avoid class divisions and conflicts, the need to rise above material interests. He wants us not to become flabby, not to be timid. He wants the country to remake itself, to transform itself after the fashion that he had done with himself. He had lifted himself up from being a sickly, timid boy to being a manly, outgoing, strong, energetic person who serves the greater good. He wants our country to do that.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: He thought that what would destroy America was the ''prosperity at any price'' attitude, the love of what he called ''soft living,'' and a get-rich-quick theory of life. ''Americanism,'' he would insist, ''is a question of spirit, of conviction and purpose, not of creed or birthplace.'' ''The test of our worth,'' he said, ''is the service we render.''
Somebody once said of him that if you took all of Theodore and put it in a pot and boiled it down and down, what you've have at the bottom of the pot after that all was over was the preacher-militant.
NARRATOR: In 1902, the men who mined America's coal threatened to go out on strike. Coal heated America's homes and powered its factories, and many feared a strike would cripple the country. When the miners finally walked off the job that spring, no one knew what the President would do, least of all the Mine Workers Union.
JOHN MORTON BLUM, Historian: Before his presidency, Roosevelt had frequently expressed his distaste for radical unions -- unions that seemed to him to be threatening stability in industrial relations -- but he recognized that to conserve American society as he valued it, there would have to be changes made so as to control the excesses of great wealth.
NARRATOR: No president had ever helped the miners before, but Roosevelt would surprise them. ''Occasionally great national crises arise,'' he wrote, ''which call for immediate and vigorous executive action. In such cases, the President has the legal right to do whatever the needs of the people demand.''
JEAN STROUSE, Biographer of J. Pierpont Morgan: The mine workers wanted higher wages, shorter working hours, some safety regulations, and they also wanted recognition of their union, and the mine owners were absolutely intransigent on all of those counts. The strike is something that terrifies the owners, the managers and many people in Washington, because strikes to them mean violence, anarchy, revolution, [and] class struggle.
Social unrest made Roosevelt extremely nervous. While he hated the lazy rich plutocrats on the one side, he was terrified of the democratic mob on the other side.
NARRATOR: As the strike dragged on, the mine owners refused even to meet with the miners' union. With winter approaching, Americans grew angry and frightened. ''Unless the strike is ended,'' a New York newspaper wrote, ''cold weather will drive thousands to the coal yards. There will be riots.'' From all across the country came appeals to Roosevelt to do something. ''I'm at my wits' end how to proceed,'' he wrote a friend. Then, on October 3rd, Roosevelt finally went into action.
JEAN STROUSE, Biographer of J. Pierpont Morgan: He takes a very unusual step. He calls the mine owners and the union representatives to the White House. The owners are completely intransigent and brutal and, Roosevelt later said, stupid.
NARRATOR: ''They came down in a most insolent frame of mind,'' Roosevelt wrote, ''refused to talk of accommodation of any kind, and used language that was insulting to the miners and offensive to me.''
JOHN MORTON BLUM, Historian: Indeed, the owners' spokesman said that God, in His infinite wisdom, had given control of property in the United States to the owners of coal mines. Roosevelt thought otherwise.
NARRATOR: The President was furious and depressed. ''I have tried and failed,'' he wrote that evening. ''I feel downhearted. What my next move will be I cannot yet say.'' Then Roosevelt hit on a drastic plan.
WILLIAM HARBAUGH, Historian: He went secretly to the commander of the Army, told him that he should get so many thousand troops ready and use them to seize the industry.
NARRATOR: In the past, other presidents had used the Army to crush labor. Now, Roosevelt was threatening to use it to take control of the mines and let the striking miners go back to work. Congressmen from his own party were outraged. ''What about the Constitution of the United States?'' one protested. ''The Constitution was made for the people,'' Roosevelt replied, ''not the people for the Constitution.''
Faced with the threat of federal intervention, the mine owners backed down. The coal strike of 1902 was over. The miners went back to work. Although their union was still not recognized, they got a 10-percent wage increase and a nine-hour work day. Roosevelt saw the settlement as simple justice.
JEAN STROUSE, Biographer of J. Pierpont Morgan: It's the birth of what Roosevelt calls the square deal -- he really wants to see the government offering fair terms in disputes like this between capital and labor, but when he says it's a square deal, management didn't need a square deal, labor did.
JOHN MORTON BLUM, Historian: It was an extraordinary act for the presidency, since never before had the President of the United States come down so solidly on behalf of labor, particularly on behalf of union labor.
NARRATOR: In little more than a year, Roosevelt had made the presidency his own. He had attacked the trusts, settled the coal strike, expanded the power of his office, and come to dominate American politics.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: The country just embraced the whole idea of Theodore Roosevelt in the White House. He puts the presidency back in business as it had not been since Lincoln, and he gives it vitality, he gives it strength, and he gives the country a sense that it's a good thing to have a good man who wants to do good things in that office.
NARRATOR: Roosevelt embodies the national spirit at the turn of the century -- expansive, confident, boundless. He had an opinion on everything, and cheerfully expressed them all. Spelling should be simplified, he insisted. It was the patriotic duty of every healthy married woman to bear four children. People didn't necessarily agree with all he said, but they loved to hear him say it.
His face and name were everywhere. There was even a movie made about him in which he was portrayed as the hero of a bizarre version of ''Goldilocks and the Three Bears.''
And then there was the Teddy Bear. When the President went hunting in Mississippi and refused to shoot a bear cub, reporters made it big news, and an enterprising Brooklyn toymaker began turning out stuffed bears -- Teddy Bears. Millions were soon being sold all around the world. Crowds called Roosevelt ''Teddy.'' His real friends did not. ''Outrageous impertinence,'' he cried, when an indiscreet lawyer dared try.
JOHN GABLE, Theodore Roosevelt Association: Theodore Roosevelt was really the first true intellectual in the White House since John Quincy Adams. He read Italian, Portuguese, Latin and Greek.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: He could recite all of The Song of Roland in its original archaic French, and, if you wished, he might recite it for you a second time, too. He could read two books a night, and quote from them five years later. He was interested in history, interested in biography, he was a big game hunter.
JOHN GABLE, Theodore Roosevelt Association: And, as John Burroughs said, he was a many-sided man and every side was like an electric battery.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: He was the great exponent of what he called the strenuous life -- vigor, vitality, exercise, being fit. He was a horseback rider and a hiker. He brought boxers to the White House to box with him, Japanese wrestlers to wrestle with him. He was the first president photographed in action. He had himself photographed jumping on horseback, and when the photographer said that he didn't get the shot after the President jumped over a rather high railing, he said, ''I'll do it again.''
He didn't need the spin doctors and advertising advisers and public relations specialists. He had an innate genius for calling attention to himself. He had done that all of his life. It was natural for him.
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: I really don't think Theodore Roosevelt ever took a trip or made a public appearance where he was not accompanied by a photographer. One thing I know where he drew the line was he would not be photographed playing or dressed to play tennis. The reason was tennis was supposed to be effete. This was supposed to be the upper class. It wasn't a good, sweaty, physical contact sport. It doesn't fit his image.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: His braggadocio, his broad-shouldered, smack-'em-on-the-back style was only part of the man, because underneath that was a real sense of life's pathos and life's tragedy and loss.
JOHN MORTON BLUM, Historian: The public face of Roosevelt was exuberance, but in private, in the inner man, there was in Roosevelt an extraordinary sense of the evil and the grief inherent in life.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: He would retire at night to his room privately to read the great American poet, Edwin Arlington Robinson, who is both the poet of great humor and also of loneliness.
Owen Wister, who was his great friend, understood Theodore Roosevelt, I think, as well or better than anybody, and he writes somewhere-- he said Theodore had to hold onto his optimism very tight; otherwise he couldn't get through the shadows, the darknesses surrounding him.
If you look at the Sargent portrait -- John Singer Sargent's great portrait of Theodore Roosevelt -- you see in the eyes, you see in that face a wistfulness, a melancholy, and Wister said that was the best portrait ever made of Theodore Roosevelt, as did others who knew him.
NARRATOR: But Roosevelt allowed himself little time to brood. He thrived on the excitement and action at the top, loved to feel his hands, he said, ''guiding great machinery.'' ''Oh,'' he once told his admiring young cousin, Franklin Roosevelt, ''if I only could be President and Congress, too, for just 10 minutes.''
While Roosevelt was expanding the power of the President at home, he was also expanding the country's power abroad.
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: Theodore Roosevelt wants the United States to act in the world the way that he believes he acts in his personal life -- honorable, strong, ready to defend your interests, prepared.
NARRATOR: As Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Roosevelt had argued fervently for the war with Spain that had won America island possessions in the Caribbean and the Pacific. Now he was president of a republic he had helped turn into an empire. He believed it was America's destiny to compete for world markets with the great imperial powers -- Germany, Britain, Japan.
In the next eight years, Roosevelt would make the American battleship fleet one of the largest in the world, and make sure the world took notice of it. He was fond of quoting an old African proverb, ''Speak softly, and carry a big stick.''
JOHN MORTON BLUM, Historian: Roosevelt recognized that it had become a very small world, even by 1901, and he was, as ever, concerned to prevent chaos or serious instability in any part of the world where that instability might threaten what he thought were American interests.
NARRATOR: In 1904 when Santo Domingo, a small island in the Caribbean, defaulted on its loans from Germany, France and Italy, chaos threatened, and Roosevelt sent in the United States Navy to preserve order and prevent the European powers from intervening.
WALTER LaFEBER, Historian: The one thing he did not want to happen was for Latin America to turn into another Africa or Asia where the imperial powers were struggling for position and where, indeed, the Germans, the British, the French were carving up parts of Africa and Asia.
NARRATOR: Eighty years earlier, President James Monroe had warned the European powers to stay out of the western hemisphere. Theodore Roosevelt now went one step further.
WALTER LaFEBER, Historian: He says the Europeans should stay out, but the United States has the right to go in in order to exercise police power to keep the Europeans out. It's a very neat twist.
NARRATOR: Against the wishes of Congress, Roosevelt took control of the Customs houses in Santo Domingo, began collecting payments on the debt, and restored order to the island.
At the same time, he was already planning to use American power in another Latin American nation to realize a centuries-old dream -- the building of a path between the seas that would link the Atlantic and the Pacific. To achieve it, Roosevelt would have to mislead the American public, foster a revolution and conquer geography itself, all to build the Panama Canal.
WALTER LaFEBER, Historian: The distance at that time from New York to San Francisco -- you had to go around the tip of South America -- was something like 13,600 miles, and in order to move the American fleet from the Atlantic to the Pacific in case there was a war, say, in the Pacific, would take an extraordinary amount of time. With the canal, the distance is reduced to about 5,000 miles. The building of a great navy and the building of a canal were all parts of the same foreign policy, and without the canal, the rest of the foreign policy would not fall into place.
NARRATOR: Roosevelt wanted to cut his canal through Panama, the westernmost province of the sovereign nation of Colombia. Twenty years earlier, a French company had tried to build a canal there and gone bankrupt, leaving behind millions of dollars of equipment and a legacy of disaster. Now that company wanted to sell its rights to the United States for $40 million. Roosevelt was prepared to buy, but first he had to negotiate with the Colombian government. He offered $10 million in exchange for a six-mile-wide strip of land. Colombia refused.
WALTER LaFEBER, Historian: The Colombians wanted much more than $10 million, they wanted a good part of that $40 million that the United States had promised the canal company. Roosevelt said he was not going to be shaken down this way.
NARRATOR: ''We may have to give a lesson to those jack rabbits,'' he told his Secretary of State. The Colombians were acting in their own national interest, but Roosevelt accused them of extortion. ''You could no more make an agreement with the Colombian rulers,'' Roosevelt wrote later, ''than you could nail currant jelly to a wall. I did my best to get them to act straight. Then I determined what ought to be done without regard to them.''
Roosevelt knew that rebels in Panama were planning to declare their independence from Colombia and would happily give him rights to the canal for $10 million. The rebel spokesman was a Frenchman named Phillipe Bunau-Varilla. He was also a major stockholder in the French canal company. On October 10, 1903, Roosevelt invited him to the White House. Bunau-Varilla wanted Roosevelt's assurance that the United States would not oppose the Panamanian rebellion. In the discreet language of diplomacy, the President would give him exactly what he wanted. ''What is going to be the outcome of the present situation?'' Roosevelt asked. ''Mr. President,'' Bunau-Varilla replied, ''a revolution.'' Roosevelt pretended to be surprised, but he raised no objections. The President's visitor had what he had come for -- tacit encouragement from the President of the United States to lead a rebellion in Panama.
WALTER LaFEBER, Historian: Roosevelt didn't put anything on paper that the United States was going to help this uprising, but there was certainly what we might call at that time a gentlemen's understanding that if the Panamanians did rise up against Colombia, Roosevelt was going to help the rebellion.
NARRATOR: With the American Navy patrolling offshore to keep Colombia from sending in reinforcements, the fighting was over within 48 hours, and when news reached the United States, it took Roosevelt just one hour to recognize the new Republic of Panama. Two weeks later, a treaty with the new Panamanian government gave America control of a strip of land 10 miles wide. Panama got $10 million. The old French canal company got $40 million. Colombia got nothing. Many Americans were appalled, but Roosevelt dismissed his critics as ''a small bunch of shrill eunuchs.''
WALTER LaFEBER, Historian: Roosevelt's position was that the Panamanian uprising against the Colombians was in the good old American tradition of 1776, and that the United States had every right in the world to help these kinds of nationalist uprisings. The interesting thing, of course, was that there had been earlier Panamanian uprisings, and the United States had helped put them down.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: He tried to defend himself, argue what the legality of it was, and finally later on, in a speech he made in California, he said, ''I took Panama and let Congress debate that while I went ahead and built the canal.''
NARRATOR: The Panama Canal was one of the greatest engineering feats in history. Two hundred and sixty-two million cubic yards of earth had to be moved. Thousands of workers would have to fight tropical heat, swamps, dangerous working conditions and deadly fevers that would take 6,000 lives. Roosevelt couldn't resist getting involved. He consulted with engineers, scientists, doctors, and in 1906 he went to see it all for himself, the first time a president had ever traveled outside the United States while in office.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: He walked everywhere, talked to everyone, saw everything. He was up and down the line in his white linen suit, in the mud, up on the equipment to see how it worked, talking to the fellows who were doing the actual digging at every turn, and he adored it.
NARRATOR: He remained entirely unrepentant. ''I did not intend that Uncle Sam should be held up,'' he later said, ''while he was doing a great work for himself and all mankind.''
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: He thought it was the most important, the grandest, most historic accomplishment of his presidency. He was quite certain that it was what he would be remembered for. And he put his stamp all over it, just as he did everything else he ever touched. Other presidents would be in office before the canal was finished, but it's Theodore Roosevelt's canal. We all know that.
NARRATOR: An imperial presidency demanded an imperial style. Roosevelt saw to it that trumpets now hailed his entrance at official receptions. He dressed his servants in uniforms of buff and blue, the Roosevelt family colors. There were even rules printed up requiring anyone who accompanied him on his daily ride to keep their right stirrup in back of the President's left stirrup. The President's home, too, would be transformed. The Roosevelts had moved into a tired, old, rat-infested building that had endured a century of presidential life. Inside, the President said, it looked like a shabby version of the lobby of the Astor Hotel.
KERMIT ROOSEVELT, Grandson: It was ornate, bulbous, heavily frescoed, dark -- the worst of Victorian. Alice Roosevelt described it [as] ''late Grant, early Pullman.'' It had been altered repeatedly and architecturally it was an abomination.
NARRATOR: The First Lady, Edith Roosevelt, was determined to change all that.
JOHN GABLE, Theodore Roosevelt Association: She said she didn't like living above the store, because, you know, all the offices and all the business of the presidency were done in the main part of the White House, and it was Mrs. Roosevelt who completely renovated the main building.
NARRATOR: Under Edith's supervision, workmen shored up unsound beams, killed the rats, and tore off a welter of Victorian embellishments. When she was through, new east and west wings housed the official business of the presidency. The upstairs was entirely devoted to family. Before the Roosevelts moved in, the President's home had officially been called the Executive Mansion. Now, by executive order, the President gave it the name ordinary citizens had always used -- the White House -- and for the first time in years, the White House was filled with children.
P. JAMES ROOSEVELT, Cousin: It was far from being the sort of solemn, quiet place it had in the past. There was laughter, there was action, there was gaiety. My own father, for example, remembers going up and down on stilts on the stairway, sliding down the banister into a formal diplomatic reception.
NARRATOR: Roosevelt's daughter from his first marriage, Alice, had grown into a beautiful, willful young woman desperate for attention. She defied every convention of the day. She smoked in public, flirted with men, carried a live green snake coiled in her purse. Newspapers were filled with her exploits. A family friend called Alice ''a young wild animal put into clothes.''
TWEED ROOSEVELT, Great-grandson: Somebody once asked T.R. why he didn't keep her under control, and he said, ''I can either run the country or control Alice, but I'll never be able to do both.''
NARRATOR: Like their father, all the children loved animals. At one time or another, the White House was home to a badger called Josiah, a lizard named Bill, a mouse called Nibble, and Loretta, a parrot taught to say, ''Hurrah for Roosevelt.''
Then there was the youngest, Quentin. His father called him ''Quinikins.'' ''He is the quaintest, funniest little fellow imaginable,'' his father wrote. A reporter once tried to ply Quentin for information about the President. ''I see him sometimes,'' the seven-year-old replied, ''but I know nothing of his family life.'' Quentin, his older brother Archie, and their friends called themselves ''the White House gang,'' and delighted in tormenting the staff.
TWEED ROOSEVELT, Great-grandson: The Secret Service and police were particular victims, and the children loved to play all kinds of things, for example, dropping water balloons on them, or springing at them from outside of cabinets, or crawling around under dining room tables.
P. JAMES ROOSEVELT, Cousin: One time Archie was sick, and Quentin knew that what would cure him would be a visit from his favorite pony. So he brought the pony into the White House, put him in the elevator, took him up to Archie's sickroom. Well, Archie did recover, so perhaps it worked.
TWEED ROOSEVELT, Great-grandson: You can imagine this rambunctious group of several children, all their rambunctious friends, and the biggest of the rambunctious children, T.R. himself.
NARRATOR: Roosevelt chased them through the White House corridors, challenged them to obstacle races, pillow fights, Blind Man's Bluff. When they played hide-and-seek, the President always insisted in being It. ''You must always remember,'' the British ambassador once said, ''that the President is about six.''
By November 1904, Roosevelt had been in office for three and a half years -- an accidental president who had been brought to power by McKinley's assassination. Now he was running for president for the first time. Conservative Republicans opposed him, but they could not deny him the nomination. With his intervention in the coal strike, his victory over the trusts, the Panama Canal, his popularity had never been higher, and his Democratic opponent, Alton B. Parker, was so colorless that one newspaper said that he had ''all the salient qualities of a sphere.''
But tradition demanded that a president not actively campaign, and as Election Day neared, Roosevelt was haunted by the black foreboding that so often overcame him when he was unable to act. On November 3rd, he confessed his fears in a letter to his 14-year-old son. ''Dear Kermit, I naturally tend to become a little worried. If the Democrats sweep all the doubtful states, why, I am beaten. In any event, I shall feel -- and I want you to feel -- that I have been very fortunate to have had the career I have had. I have enjoyed being President. It was a great thing for all of us to have had the experience here.''
Roosevelt's fears proved groundless. He won the largest popular vote any candidate had ever won. It was, as one newspaper put it, ''an illustrious personal triumph.'' A joyful Roosevelt told his wife, ''I am no longer a political accident.''
When he first became President, Roosevelt had written a friend, ''Do you know that at the end of my term, I shall be exactly the age Father was when he died.'' Now Roosevelt was approaching that age -- almost 47. Never in all his life had he been more satisfied.
But on Election night, at the very pinnacle of his success -- as if he were suddenly unable to imagine life beyond the age at which his father had died -- Roosevelt committed one of the greatest blunders in presidential history. He was still young and there was then no legal limit to the number of terms he might have served, but he gathered a group of reporters and told them, ''Under no circumstances will I be a candidate for or accept another nomination.''
With a single sentence, he had volunteered to relinquish the presidency in four years. He said he was honoring the two-term tradition set by George Washington. Edith, who was standing nearby, flinched.
EDITH DERBY WILLIAMS, Granddaughter: Not in public, but later, my grandmother said to him, ''You know, Theodore, that was not a wise thing to say.''
NARRATOR: He later told a friend he would cut off his right hand if he could just take back those words. Those words would haunt him through the next four years and beyond. They would weaken his presidency, compel him to give up the power he so loved to wield, and drive him to spend the rest of his life trying to win it back.
The Good Fight
NARRATOR: March 4, 1905 -- flanked by an honor guard of Rough Riders, Theodore Roosevelt headed up Pennsylvania Avenue. He was just 46 years old. ''Much has been given us, and much will rightfully be expected from us,'' he told the crowd. ''We have duties to others, and duties to ourselves, and we cannot shirk either.''
Roosevelt was in high spirits, stamping his feet to the music, waving greetings to the cowboys and Civil War veterans who paraded in his honor. Seven-year-old Quentin Roosevelt balanced on the shoulders of a Supreme Court justice to get a better view. When his oldest daughter Alice waved too enthusiastically at the crowd, Roosevelt ordered her to stop. ''This is my inauguration,'' he told her. It was a perfect day. ''How I wish Father could have lived to see it, too,'' Roosevelt said.
But even as he began his first full term in office, Roosevelt knew that it would also be his last. He had pledged to serve just four years. If, as he believed, he was destined to achieve greatness, he had little time to do great things. He would begin by renewing his battle with the trusts. ''The dull purblind folly of the rich, their greed and arrogance and corruption have produced a very unhealthy condition,'' Roosevelt wrote, and his impatience mirrored the mood of the country.
Many Americans were demanding an end to the unfettered powers of big business. Farmers wanted relief from railroads charging high prices. Consumers wanted protection from rancid, disease-ridden meat and from patent medicine companies selling drugs laced with narcotics and alcohol. A crusading press exposed corporate greed and corruption that outraged ordinary Americans. They looked to the federal government for help.
The President was outraged, too. He charged those he called ''malefactors of great wealth'' with arrogantly ignoring the public welfare, and he proposed a series of laws to regulate industry, but to get those laws through Congress, he would have to fight the members of his own party.
WILLIAM HARBAUGH, Historian: The Republican Party was divided essentially into two factions. One -- and by far the strongest -- was the conservative faction. The other was a progressive faction. To get something through the Congress, there had to be some bending on both sides, and Roosevelt, as President, was the man who tried to persuade each group to bend.
NARRATOR: To Republican conservatives, opposed to any federal regulation of industry, Roosevelt was the enemy. ''We bought the son of a bitch,'' complained a large business contributor to his presidential campaign, ''and then he didn't stay bought.'' As cartoonists mythologized him, the President outmaneuvered the conservative congressmen and won new laws to protect consumers. Nothing like it had ever been tried before.
To protect farmers from railroads charging excessive rates, he called for strengthening the Interstate Commerce Commission. To protect consumers from filthy conditions in stockyards and food-processing plants, he championed federal meat inspection, and he moved to insure the purity and safety of drugs, medicine and food with the Pure Food and Drug Act.
While Roosevelt battled Republican conservatives, he grew impatient with Republican progressives when they refused to compromise. He was willing to weaken reform bills in order to insure their passage through Congress. His public moralizing was matched by shrewd political realism. ''I believe in men who take the next step,'' he wrote, ''not those who theorize about the 200th step.''
Roosevelt was wary of reformers, especially the crusading journalists who had fueled the country's fever for change. He belittled them as ''muckrakers,'' adding a phrase to the political lexicon.
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: When Theodore Roosevelt uses the term ''muckrake,'' it is a very pejorative term he's using. What he's saying is that these people who are exposing these various ills, they're being too negative, they are exciting the public.
JEAN STROUSE, Biographer of J. Pierpont Morgan: He thought that the reporters were doing this were only interested in uncovering evil and depravity and corruption and graft, and that they weren't interested in saying anything of what was good about America. He thought that it was actually a very potent force for evil, this stirring up of hysterical, anti-government, anti-American feeling.
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: He thinks that the ''propah'' kind of reform is the kind that is led by people like himself, by educated people with a larger vision, that they know what's right, that they won't go too far, they won't be irresponsible. He believes that he ought to be controlling the reform very carefully himself.
NARRATOR: Roosevelt presented himself as the reasonable alternative to the radicals. ''Constructive change offers the best method of avoiding destructive change,'' he argued. ''Reform is the antidote to revolution.''
There was only one issue on which he would not compromise -- conservation. ''Dear Kermit,'' he wrote his son. ''Mother and I have just come home from a lovely trip to Pine Knot. It is really a perfectly delightful little place. In the morning, I fried bacon and eggs, while Mother boiled the kettle for tea and laid the table. It was lovely to sit and hear the birds by daytime and at night the whipporwills and owls and little forest folk.'' In 1905, Edith Roosevelt paid $195 for a cabin deep in the woods, east of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. She called it Pine Knot.
EDITH DERBY WILLIAMS, Granddaughter: It was very simple. It was bare bones. There was no running water, no facilities of any kind, no electricity, and they went there to be away. It was their retreat.
NARRATOR: As a boy, Roosevelt had dreamed of becoming a naturalist, and even as a very busy President, he never completely abandoned his first passion. He continued to study evolutionary theory, and added to his already expert knowledge of large mammals and small birds.
THEODORE ROOSEVELT IV, Great-grandson; He takes great pride in identifying a large number of birds, and, indeed, when John Burroughs comes down, they have a race through the woods to see who can see and identify the most birds. It's probably not birding in the conventional system, 'cause he's just charging through the woods at full speed.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Historian: He probably knew more about the natural world, had a greater interest in natural history than any president since Jefferson.
NARRATOR: And no president had ever acted forcefully to confront the damage private interests had done to the nation's public lands. For more than a century, America's natural resources had been cheaply given away, then exploited and destroyed. Forests had been decimated, grasslands ruined, buffalo slaughtered. By 1900, half of America's original stand of timber had been cut, and billions of tons of precious topsoil washed away.
To save America's natural resources and protect the wild areas that meant so much to him, Roosevelt would stretch the power of the presidency to the limit. ''We must handle the water, the wood, the grasses,'' he wrote, ''so that we will hand them on to our children and children's children in better and not worse shape than we got them.''
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: Conservation is the one real cause for Theodore Roosevelt when he first becomes President. It is the only thing in domestic affairs where he gets out in front, even of reformers.
NARRATOR: ''Public rights come first,'' Roosevelt said, ''and private interests second.'' Roosevelt would fight a running battle against the conservatives in Congress to preserve the nation's natural resources and some of its most famous landmarks.
TWEED ROOSEVELT, Great-grandson: Congress was refusing to make the Grand Canyon into a national park, and the reason was because the developers were coming along, and they were going to ''improve'' it. What T.R. did is he realized that he had the power to make national monuments and the power to make game reserves, and so he declared the sides of the canyon a national monument and the base of it a game reserve, and he said, ''Congress will come to its senses eventually.''
NARRATOR: Roosevelt again went into action when the birds of tiny Pelican Island, a four-acre speck of land off the east coast of Florida, were threatened by hunters collecting feathers to decorate women's hats. ''Is there any law,'' he asked, ''that will prevent me from declaring Pelican Island a federal bird reservation?''
WILLIAM HARBAUGH, Historian: Told that there was none, he said, ''Very well, I so declare it.''
NARRATOR: Pelican Island became the first federal wildlife refuge, and Roosevelt would authorize 50 more simply by declaring them into existence.
WILLIAM HARBAUGH, Historian: He pushed the limits of the presidency in terms of conservation, or, really, what he did was he pushed the limits of the law.
NARRATOR: His conservative opponents grew more and more furious. ''The President,'' the speaker of the House said, ''has got no more use for the Constitution than a tomcat has for a marriage license.'' In 1907, his enemies in Congress struck back. In a deliberate blow to Roosevelt's authority, Congress passed a bill stripping him of the power to designate national forests, opening up millions of acres of timber to loggers and developers. But Roosevelt was too quick for them. Just days before the bill became law, he responded by creating 16 million more acres of national forests.
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: This is in utter, blatant defiance of the will of Congress, and he gloried in what he did. He said, ''When others dithered and prevented action, I took it.''
NARRATOR: ''Our opponents,'' he wrote, ''turned handsprings in their wrath, and dire were their threats against the executive, but their threats were really only a tribute to the efficiency of our action.''
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: For him, it really is a moral issue. We need to preserve the wilderness. He believes that when life begins to get too easy and the elements of danger and of risk and of hardship are removed, we have to expose ourselves to those again, and we need to preserve the places where we can do that. You need the challenge. And he's deeply worried that, in a sense, we won't be good soldiers. Men, especially, won't have the opportunity to develop the physical and the moral qualities that will make them soldiers and citizens and do the things-- in other words, to make them be like him.
NARRATOR: Before he was through, Roosevelt had created five new national parks, 18 national monuments, 150 national forests, in all placing 230 million acres of United States land under public protection. These would be Theodore Roosevelt's most enduring legacy.
The President's family continued to fascinate the nation. The older children were now often away from home. Increasingly, Quentin became the focus of his parents' attention. ''Quentin is a roly-poly, happy-go-lucky personage,'' Roosevelt wrote, ''the brightest of any of the children.''
NANCY JACKSON, Granddaughter: He was the baby. Everybody has a special feeling for the baby, and they just adored him because I think that he had somewhat some of the things that Grandmother loved in Grandfather.
NARRATOR: ''His towhead was always mussed,'' a boyhood friend remembered, ''his tie coming untied, his stockings refusing to stay up. He was as irrepressible mentally as he was physically, and either way, there was no holding him down or back.''
Roosevelt delighted in everything Quentin did. When the boy dropped a four-foot snake in the lap of the attorney general, then trotted into the adjoining room to present it to four waiting congressmen, the President could barely restrain his laughter.
TWEED ROOSEVELT, Great-grandson: Even as a child, I think T.R. knew that there was something special about Quentin, and that of all his children, Quentin, in many ways, had the most promise. And in many ways, he was so like his father that T.R., I think, thought that Quentin might well be the one that followed in his footsteps.
NARRATOR: Events in far-off Asia had worried Theodore Roosevelt ever since his days as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Now Japan and Russia were fighting a bloody war there for control of the region.
WALTER LaFEBER, Historian: Roosevelt thought Asia was very important to the United States. He thought that the United States was entering into what he called ''the Pacific century,'' and he believed that the United States had to dominate the Pacific in the 20th century.
NARRATOR: Roosevelt feared that if either Russia or Japan overwhelmed the other, the balance of power in the region would be upset. By 1905, after a year of fighting, Japan was beating Russia badly.
WALTER LaFEBER, Historian: Roosevelt watches this and understands that what is emerging here is a new Japan, a Japan that is in the position, essentially, to dominate Asian politics, a Japan which was now becoming militarily paramount on the mainland of Asia, especially in Korea and South Manchuria. And there began to be a fear in the United States in 1905 that the next place that Japan might move might be the Philippines, which the United States, of course, had taken in 1898. And, as a consequence, Roosevelt believed that we had to come to terms with Japan.
NARRATOR: Determined to stop the fighting and protect the Philippines, Roosevelt sent his good friend, Secretary of War William Howard Taft to negotiate a secret deal with the Japanese prime minister. To conceal the real purpose of this sensitive mission, Roosevelt billed the trip as purely a goodwill tour and sent along his 21-year-old daughter by his first marriage, Alice.
The eyes of the world focused on Alice as she was showered with gifts and attention. ''The Japanese were firmly convinced,'' the American ambassador wrote, ''that Alice was the princess royal of America. While the women bowed double again and again, Alice clutched my arm and exclaimed, 'I love it! I love it!'''
From her reception by the emperor to her tour of his private gardens, the press reported every detail of Alice's triumph.
WALTER LaFEBER, Historian: This is a bad mistake because, as they're following Alice around, Taft sits down with the Japanese prime minister and secretly they work out a deal. And the deal is that the United States will recognize that Japan can take over Korea and, in return, it is understood that Japan will not touch the Philippines. It is so secret that Taft and Roosevelt keep it secret. It's not revealed for another 20 years. I think that they're ashamed of what they did to Korea -- they essentially sold the Koreans out to the Japanese.
NARRATOR: Roosevelt had placated the Japanese, but to restore order to the region, he still needed a full-fledged peace. That summer he invited Russian and Japanese envoys to the United States. They met on the presidential yacht anchored in the harbor near his home at Sagamore Hill.
The Russians were weary of war. The Japanese were weary, too, and now they knew that they were free to take Korea. But Roosevelt could still not be certain of a settlement. ''I have led the horses to water,'' Roosevelt wrote a friend, ''but heaven only knows whether they will drink or start kicking one another beside the trough.''
Officially, the President played no part in the negotiations, but he remained active behind the scenes, pushing and prodding the negotiators toward a settlement. ''I'm having my hair turn gray,'' he wrote his son. ''The Japanese ask too much, but the Russians are ten times worse than the Japs, because they are so stupid and won't tell the truth.'' ''What I really want to do,'' he confided to a friend, ''is to give utterance to whoops of rage and jump up and knock their heads together. Well, all I can hope for is that self-repression will be ultimately good for my character.''
The future of Asia was at stake. The bickering and bargaining grew heated. But after three tense weeks, the delegates agreed to end the war.
JOHN MORTON BLUM, Historian: The settlement was essentially fair. It accomplished Roosevelt's purpose. It re-established the balance of power in Asia, which is what he'd set about to do.
NARRATOR: Although neither side was completely satisfied, Roosevelt was delighted. ''This is splendid, this is magnificent,'' Roosevelt told a friend. ''It's a mighty good thing for Russia, and a mighty good thing for Japan, and a mighty good thing for me, too!'' Congratulations poured in from around the world, and Theodore Roosevelt, who believed in the cleansing moral power of war and first won fame for leading the charge up San Juan Hill, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.
In late 1905, Alice Roosevelt again made headlines for her father. Following her triumph in Japan, ''Princess Alice'' announced her engagement to Congressman Nicholas Longworth. ''Alice is really in love,'' Edith Roosevelt told a friend. America was swept up in the romance. The Roosevelts were relieved. Alice's eccentric, erratic behavior had made life difficult for the President and the First Lady.
Alice had been an insecure child, always clamoring for attention. In the close-knit Roosevelt family, she was always an outsider. ''Father doesn't care for me,'' she once confided to her diary, ''one-eighth as much as he does for the other children.'' Alice had been told nothing about her own mother, because her father never could bring himself to speak about the death of his beloved first wife.
But Americans knew none of this. On the day of the wedding, long lines waited outside the White House for a glimpse of the bride and groom. Hundreds of guests crowded into the East Room, and reporters peeking through the door were encouraged to cover every detail. Alice's cousin, Franklin Roosevelt, arranged the train of her gown for the official wedding photograph.
''My father always wanted to be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral,'' Alice once said, but at her own wedding, she made sure she remained the center of attention, even borrowing a sword from one of the President's military aides to cut the wedding cake.
The marriage would be a failure, but the wedding was a spectacular success. Thanks to the press and the President's eagerness to cooperate with it, millions of Americans had been made to feel as if they had attended it as privileged guests.
At the traditional New Year's Day reception on January 1, 1907, thousands of ordinary citizens turned out to shake the President's hand. Roosevelt delighted in the task, pumping 50 hands a minute, 3,000 an hour. Midway through his second term in office, he was at the height of his power and popularity, and America was at the height of prosperity.
On that same New Year's Day, the Washington Evening Star reported that the country's wealth ''has been rolling up at the rate of $4.6 billion per year.'' As Roosevelt put it, ''we are the mightiest republic on which the sun ever shone.''
JEAN STROUSE, Biographer of J. Pierpont Morgan: Everybody's prospering. There's a lot of speculation on Wall Street. There's actually been a boom for the years between 1904 and 1907.
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: Everything has gone right up to that point. He's put through major legislation, he's mediated the Russo-Japanese War. He's done all of these great things. Things are going great. From there on -- as far as politics goes, as far as effectiveness goes -- it's downhill for him, and it's downhill fast.
NARRATOR: In the fall of 1907, Roosevelt was stalking game in Louisiana when word reached him that there was trouble on Wall Street. A large trust company had failed. The stock market spun out of control. An obsolete banking system was not up to handling the demands of a modern industrial economy. Stock prices collapsed. Interest rates soared. There was a run on the banks. It was called the Panic of 1907.
JEAN STROUSE, Biographer of J. Pierpont Morgan: There was an unstable underlying economic situation, but if people hadn't gotten terrified and all tried to get their money out of the banks at once, it wouldn't have mattered. Roosevelt isn't paying a lot of attention to this part of his job. It's just not really been thought of as part of his job. He's interested in politics, in his policies with conservation and against the trusts, but economics was never his strong suit.
NARRATOR: Deep in the Louisiana canebrakes, the President seemed unconcerned. Instead of talking to reporters about the panic, he talked about hunting. ''We got three bears, six deer, one wild turkey, 12 squirrels, one duck, one opossum, and one wildcat. We ate them all, except the wildcat.'' But Wall Street was blaming the panic on Roosevelt, and the President quickly returned to Washington.
JEAN STROUSE, Biographer of J. Pierpont Morgan: His policies that were trying to regulate the railroads, trying to bust up some of the trusts, trying to put food and drug regulations they thought were hampering business. That was actually not the case, and Roosevelt said so. He pointed out very carefully that this was a worldwide situation.
NARRATOR: It was the Wall Street tycoon whose power he had challenged in 1902 who now came to the nation's rescue -- J.P. Morgan. Morgan organized teams of Wall Street financiers to put up millions of dollars and, working around the clock for the next two weeks, he effectively stopped the panic and forestalled a depression.
But Roosevelt had become vulnerable. For more than five years, he had skillfully manipulated Congress. Now, with the end of his presidency in sight, old guard Republicans rejected his leadership.
JOHN MORTON BLUM, Historian: His power on the Hill began to wane because he wasn't going to run in 1908. Congressmen no longer had to worry about looking over their shoulder at the White House.
NARRATOR: Charges that he was autocratic, impulsive, obstinate, arbitrary and that, above all else, he wanted power resounded in Congress.
JOHN MORTON BLUM, Historian: The criticism that he himself was sensitive to is that he's power-grabber. His critics are always leveling that at him, and with some justification. I mean, this is a man who dearly loved power and sought it and aggrandized it.
NARRATOR: ''He is the most dangerous foe to human liberty that has ever set foot on American soil,'' warned one newspaperman.
JEAN STROUSE, Biographer of J. Pierpont Morgan: Roosevelt has a great many critics at this time, partly because he's so autocratic and takes himself as the measure of value -- he is the state, he is going to decide what the government should do and what it shouldn't do. He did have the charisma and the force to make the executive office more powerful. It's also what caused him a lot of trouble.
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: His critics believe he's gone too far. They believe that he has been interfering with the economy too much, that he has been grasping radical ideas, and he runs into this brick wall of opposition from the conservatives of his own party. What they do is effectively stymie any further domestic initiatives that he tries.
WILLIAM HARBAUGH, Historian: T.R. knew that he was a lame duck president. He knew that he could not get much through the Congress of the United States, and I think that that partly explain the almost frenzied quality of these last two years in office.
NARRATOR: On January 31, 1908, Roosevelt abandoned any effort to compromise. Defying the conservatives in his own party, he sent a blistering message to Congress, lashing out at ''those rich men whose lives are evil and corrupt, the representatives of predatory wealth accumulated by all forms of iniquity, from the oppression of wage workers to unfair methods of crushing out competition.''
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: In Theodore Roosevelt there is this combative element, there's this joy in struggle, joy in combat. In all of American history, there's nobody else I can think of who more fits that term ''the happy warrior,'' somebody who just genuinely enjoyed a good scrap.
NARRATOR: Roosevelt challenged Congress, calling for a whole series of reforms: workmen's compensation, child labor laws, the eight-hour work day, an income tax, an inheritance tax, and the strict regulation of securities, arguing that there ''is no moral difference between gambling at cards and gambling in the stock market.'' Conservatives beat back every bill. Roosevelt was now powerless to stop them.
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: He goes much further in this progressive reformist direction than he has gone before. I think part of it is frustration. It is frustration with the opposition, the stymieing that it's happening from the conservative barons on Capitol Hill. He is also sensitive to the rising tide of reform in the country.
I think there may be another element, too. I think there may be a personal element in it. He sees the end of his presidency approaching, and he's beginning to think about what he has and, especially, has not accomplished. T.R.'s great role model, ideal and standard of comparison is Abraham Lincoln, and what he's seeing is that he's had a successful presidency, but a presidency not in greatly demanding times -- not with a war, not with a great cause. I think it's hard to miss a tone of regret there, that, ''I didn't have that,'' you know, ''I wish I had.''
NARRATOR: ''A man has to take advantage of his opportunities,'' Roosevelt said, ''but the opportunities have to come. If there is not the great occasion, you don't get the great statesmen. If Lincoln had lived in times of peace, no one would have known his name now.''
Roosevelt's presidency was coming to a close. He was nearly 50 years old. His wrists and knuckles now swelled painfully when he wrestled, and a blow he received while boxing left him blind in one eye, a tightly-held White House secret. ''Three or four persons close to the President have assured me,'' one observer reported, ''that for the first time even he complains of fatigue.'' As the election drew near, Roosevelt felt bound by his promise four years earlier not to run again.
WILLIAM HARBAUGH, Historian: I think he was much saddened by the fact that he was leaving office. He was tired, but only to a point. I think that he would have liked to have continued as President of the United States.
JOHN MORTON BLUM, Historian: He hated to leave the presidency. It also forced him to look for a successor.
NARRATOR: The President chose his friend, the Secretary of War, William Howard Taft, and determined to win him the Republican nomination and then make him president. Americans liked Taft. They joked about his 300 pounds of undulating flesh, but Taft never seemed to mind. ''I think Taft has the most lovable personality I've ever come in contact with,'' Roosevelt said. ''I almost envy a man possessing a personality like Taft's. One loves him at first sight.''
WILLIAM HARBAUGH, Historian: Roosevelt and Taft liked each other very much. They trusted each other. I think that Roosevelt believed that Taft was more attuned to him than he was, because Taft would acquiesce, he was a loyal subordinate.
NARRATOR: Roosevelt was convinced that Taft was as committed to reform as he was. Taft appeared to believe it, too. ''I agree heartily and earnestly,'' he said, ''with the policies which have come to be known as the Roosevelt policies.'' In fact, Taft would have preferred to sit on the Supreme Court, but his ambitious wife and brother wanted him to be President, and so he reluctantly agreed to run.
At the Republican Convention, Roosevelt secured Taft his party's nomination for President, although not until after a 49-minute demonstration in favor of a third term for Roosevelt himself. Then, as the campaign got under way, Roosevelt lent him support and counsel. ''Hit them hard, old man,'' he told him, ''and don't,'' he warned, ''let the photographers take your picture on the golf course.'' But the good-natured Taft didn't object. ''Let the audience see you smile,'' Roosevelt advised, ''because I feel that your nature shines out so transparently when you do smile, you big, generous, high-minded fellow.''
Taft won the election by the largest popular majority until that time except for one presidential candidate, Roosevelt himself. It was, for Roosevelt, the perfect victory. The President-elect sent him his thanks. ''The first letter I wish to write is to you, because my selection and election are chiefly your work.'' Never again would the two men be so close.
As Roosevelt's final days as President wound down, White House reporters were openly upset. Most of them genuinely liked the President, and he made such good copy. His seven and a half years in office all came floating back: the battles with the trusts; the coal strike; the regulation of the railroads and the food and drug industries; the Panama Canal; the interventions in Latin America; the conservation program; the Nobel Prize.
''I have enjoyed myself in the White House,'' Roosevelt said. "I am going to enjoy myself thoroughly when I leave the White House.''
February 1909 -- with only 10 days left in office, Roosevelt made his last dramatic show of presidential power. Fourteen months earlier, Roosevelt had sent the fleet around the world to display American might and impress the Japanese. Congress had refused to allocate the funds, but Roosevelt ignored them. He told the enraged congressmen he would send the ships to the Pacific, anyway. It would be up to them to provide the money to get them back. Now, after steaming 46,000 miles, the Great White Fleet was returning home.
''It was essential,'' Roosevelt wrote, ''that we should have it clearly understood that the Pacific was as much our home waters as the Atlantic.'' Roosevelt knew that the Japanese had not been especially impressed by the Great White Fleet, but he was keeping that knowledge to himself. The ships boomed their salutes, the crowds cheered, and the entire nation rejoiced. ''I could not ask,'' the President said, ''a finer concluding scene to my administrations.''
On March 4, 1909, the day of Taft's inauguration, a bitter winter storm cut Washington off from the rest of the world. T.R. took the oath, then promised to preserve and enforce his predecessor's reforms. ''God bless you, old man,'' Roosevelt said afterwards. ''It is a great state document.''
But Roosevelt's brave exterior masked deep disappointment. ''My dear fellow,'' he told a friend, ''for heaven's sake, don't talk about my having a future. My future is in the past.''
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: This man, when he left the White House, was only 50 years old, younger when he left the White House than all but four men have been when they entered the White House. What's Theodore Roosevelt going to do with the rest of his life?
NARRATOR: Three weeks after leaving office, Roosevelt set off for an African safari with his son Kermit, two white hunters, and three scientists for what he called ''the realization of a golden dream.'' ''I feel,'' he said, ''that this is my last chance for a great adventure.''
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: He hated to leave the White House, and he hated giving up all that power and that center-stage role that he had. So what does he do? He goes off to hunt big game in Africa. Get action, seize the moment, as his father said so often.
NARRATOR: Throughout his life, in moments of sharpest pain, Roosevelt withdrew from the world and sought sanctuary in action and the great outdoors. ''I speak of Africa and the joy of wandering through lonely lands,'' he wrote, ''the joy of hunting the mighty and terrible lords of the wilderness. There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm.''
The former President wanted to be known simply as ''Colonel Roosevelt,'' but he did not object when his porters called him ''Bwana Mkubwa'' -- ''Great Master.''
THEODORE ROOSEVELT IV, Great-grandson: He had a huge number of bearers with him to carry all the equipment. The logistics of this was an extraordinary undertaking. It was not unlike getting ready for a major military expedition.
NARRATOR: Roosevelt brought with him some 200 crates of supplies -- tents, bedding, cans of Boston baked beans, cases of champagne, four tons of salt for preserving skins, an immense American flag to fly wherever the ex-President set up camp, and some 60 carefully-chosen books: Dante, Homer, Shakespeare, and Alice in Wonderland. ''I almost always had some volume with me,'' he said. ''Often my reading would be done while resting under a tree at noon or perhaps beside the carcass of a beast I had killed.'' Each volume had been specially bound in pigskin so that the blood from his kills could easily be wiped off.
A whole arsenal of arms came with him, too -- shotguns, revolvers, rifles.
TWEED ROOSEVELT, Great-grandson: But perhaps his most impressive weapon that he took was a Holland & Holland 450-500 Nitro Express elephant gun, and this was some gun. It is reputed to give bystanders nosebleeds.
NARRATOR: He shot elephants and water buffalo, zebras and rhinoceroses, but what he wanted more than anything was Africa's most prized trophy. ''If only I can get my lion,'' he said, ''I shall be happy, even if he is small, but I hope he will have a mane.'' In the end, he and his son got 17 of them, along with 495 other animals, from ardwolves to wart-hogs, the great bustard to the giant eland.
TWEED ROOSEVELT, Great-grandson: Many people wondered whether T.R. was a good shot. In fact, one of the newspaper reporters asked him, ''Sir, are you a good shot?'' And he said, ''No, I'm not a good shot, but I shoot often.''
NARRATOR: Roosevelt had come to Africa, he said, primarily as a naturalist. Most of his kills were stuffed and shipped back to the Smithsonian Institution. A scientist who was part of the expedition reported that ''Roosevelt had at his command the entire published literature concerning the game mammals and birds of the world, a feat of memory that few naturalists possess.''
Although he was no longer President, Roosevelt was still big news. Even movie audiences enjoyed his adventures. ''The people follow your African wanderings,'' a friend wrote, ''as if you were a new Robinson Crusoe.''
Roosevelt had promised to keep out of things political, but he did not like what he was reading in the newspapers. Taft was having a difficult time holding the Republican Party together. With the progressive wing pushing for reform, Taft had begun siding with the conservatives. But, deep in the African interior, Roosevelt had little choice but to remain aloof from politics, although he had begun to think of coming home.
''Oh, sweetest of all sweet girls,'' he wrote Edith, ''last night I dreamed that I was with you, and that our separation was but a dream. And when I woke up, it was almost too hard to bear. Well, one must pay for everything. You have made the real happiness of my life, and so it is natural and right that I should constantly be more and more lonely without you. Darling, I love you so. In a very little over four months, I shall see you.''
Edith traveled to Africa in March 1910 to be reunited with her husband. He had gone for almost a year. Together, they enjoyed the wonders of the desert, traveled down the Nile to Cairo, then set off for Europe where, once again, Roosevelt would claim the world's attention.
Roosevelt toured Europe for nearly three months, delighted to see that he had not been forgotten.
TWEED ROOSEVELT, Great-grandson: It was a tremendous, triumphal tour. At the time, he was the most popular man in the world, and the kings and queens of the various European countries were vying to get him to come.
NARRATOR: The king and queen of Norway, he said, ''were dears.'' The crown prince of Sweden was ''a thoroughly good fellow.'' King Emmanuel of Italy could, in American politics, ''have carried his ward.'' ''I thoroughly liked and respected almost all the various kings and queens,'' Roosevelt said, ''but I cannot imagine a more appallingly dreary life for a man of ambition and power.''
While Roosevelt was touring Europe, King Edward VII of England died, and the former president represented the United States at the funeral. It was the last great gathering of the crowned heads of Europe. As the royals anxiously jockeyed for pride of place in the funeral procession, Roosevelt walked behind, proud to be an ordinary American citizen. By the time King Edward had been safely buried, the Colonel was ready to leave for home. He had seen enough of Old World royalty and yearned to be back in the thick of the action. ''I felt,'' he said, ''if I met another king, I should bite him.''
On June 18, 1910, after 15 months abroad, Roosevelt came home to a reception worthy of a head of state. ''If there is to be a great crowd,'' he had written a friend, ''do arrange so that the whole crowd has a chance to see me.'' There was a great crowd, one of the greatest crowds in the history of New York City, including his niece Eleanor and her husband, Franklin Roosevelt. Franklin had come to ask the former president's blessing as he began his own political career. Theodore Roosevelt was Franklin's hero, too.
Naval guns thundered, whistles shrieked, the bands played. Roosevelt was back. A former aide observed, ''He is bigger, broader, capable of greater good or greater evil, I don't know which.''
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: When Theodore Roosevelt comes back in 1910, the people who knew him best said Theodore was not the same person. I think Africa gave him a time to brood and to brood more about his place in history, about what he believed he had not accomplished as President. ''I've missed my great moment in history, or have I?''
NARRATOR: Roosevelt was at a crossroads. He was 51 years old, still ambitious, still driven to wield power, yet he held no political office and had little hope of one. William Howard Taft was now President, and Roosevelt himself had put him in office, but he believed that Taft was turning against him, siding more and more with the conservative wing of the Republican Party, crippling many of the reforms for which Roosevelt had fought so hard.
WILLIAM HARBAUGH, Historian: Taft was a man of considerable ability, but of what I would call limited imagination. He lacked the expansive quality of Roosevelt's mind. Taft was not, in any sense, as gifted politically as Roosevelt was, and Taft simply could not bridge the gap between the progressives and the conservatives.
NARRATOR: Roosevelt was troubled. He did not want to further divide his party, but his differences with his old friend Taft slowly deepened. In public, Roosevelt refused to criticize the President. Privately, he told his son Ted, ''Taft is utterly helpless as a leader.''
JOHN MORTON BLUM, Historian: Once Roosevelt was out of office, he probably would have found reasons to object to what any of his successors might have done, but as it was, he and Taft disagreed on certain principles. They had disagreements about environmental policy -- Taft was less of an environmentalist than Roosevelt -- and most of all, they disagreed about how to handle trust policy, where Taft tended to look to the judiciary for solutions and Roosevelt to administrative agencies. But those differences, in and of themselves, don't explain the degree to which their falling out led to brutal recriminations mutually on both sides.
NARRATOR: In the summer of 1910, tension between the two former friends headed to a breaking point. With mid-term congressional elections just months away, Roosevelt set off on a speaking tour to promote party unity, but he would only drive progressive and conservative Republicans farther apart, and widen his split with Taft. As he swept through the Midwest, his speeches grew more and more provocative.
In Kansas, Roosevelt called for a ''New Nationalism,'' bringing cheers from the crowd and alarming conservative Republicans and his hand-picked successor in the White House. ''The New Nationalism,'' he declared, ''implies far more governmental interference with social and economic conditions. Every man holds his property subject to the general right of the community to regulate its use.''
Everywhere he went, the former President drew huge crowds. In St. Louis, he was invited for a ride on a biplane built by the Wright brothers. Thousands watched as Roosevelt soared 200 feet above the ground. The pilot, afraid of upending the plane, had to ask Roosevelt to stop waving to the crowd cheering below.
Back on the ground, he attacked the courts as pro-business, advocated taxes on income and inherited wealth, stronger conservation measures, workman's compensation laws, the prohibition of child labor. Taft had been expecting his former benefactor's endorsement. Instead, Roosevelt was demanding reform on almost every front.
Taft was hurt, and he was angry. When he heard that Roosevelt had attacked the courts, he flung his golf club across the fairway. In private, Taft berated Roosevelt's ''ego,'' his ''swell-headedness,'' his ''wild ideas.'' ''I could not subordinate my administration to him and retain my self-respect,'' Taft told an aide, ''but it is hard, very hard to see a devoted friendship going to pieces like a rope of sand.''
A bruising Democratic victory in the mid-term elections postponed a confrontation between the two men. The Republicans were overwhelming, including candidates the Colonel had personally endorsed. For Roosevelt, it was a crushing defeat. ''Since the election,'' he wrote a friend, ''I have been almost ashamed of my emotions.'' ''The one comfort,'' he said, ''is that I think it prevents my having to face the very unpleasant task of deciding whether or not to accept the Republican nomination in 1912.''
Downcast, he returned to Sagamore Hill, torn about his own political future. Should he challenge Taft for the presidential nomination in 1912, or wait? Many friends and advisers urged caution. Confronting a sitting President, they warned him, could shatter his own party.
But former Cabinet members, newspapermen, progressive politicians and ordinary citizens appealed to him from across the country. They all wanted just one thing -- Roosevelt in 1912. One old Rough Rider dared to tell his former colonel that if he did not lead them into political battle, he would be ''yellow.'' Finally, after a year of vacillation, Roosevelt made the most difficult decision of his political career: he would oppose Taft for the Republican nomination.
WILLIAM HARBAUGH, Historian: It was a very difficult and wrenching decision. And his wife was upset by it, all of his intimates were upset by it. He himself was upset by it, because he liked Taft more than he liked any other human being, except his wife.
NARRATOR: On February 21, 1912, coining a phrase that other politicians would use for years to come, Roosevelt said, ''My hat is in the ring.'' Then he added, ''The fight is on, and I am stripped to the buff.''
Campaigning for the Republican nomination, Roosevelt roared through the 12 states that then held primaries. Taft was President, but Roosevelt was determined to prove that the people wanted him.
Roosevelt's decision came as a heavy blow to the man in the White House. Taft still hoped to remain close to Roosevelt and even announced that he would refrain from personal attack and denunciation, but it was not to be. The campaign quickly degenerated into a brawl between two old friends, wounding their party and each other. Roosevelt called Taft a ''puzzlewit,'' ''fathead,'' with ''brains less than a guinea pig.'' Taft branded Roosevelt a ''dangerous egotist,'' a ''demagogue,'' ''a man who can't tell the truth.''
As the campaign wore on, Taft grew convinced that he would not be re-elected President, but he refused to quit. He told a crowd in Maryland, ''Even a rat will fight when he is driven into a corner.'' The strain on Taft was proving unbearable. In Boston, reporters found him alone and depressed in his private railway car. ''Roosevelt was my closest friend,'' he told them, and then the President broke down and wept.
When the primaries were over, Roosevelt had overwhelmed his former friend, even beating Taft in his own home state of Ohio.
JOHN GABLE, Theodore Roosevelt Association: T.R. swept the primaries, and therefore the had the mandate of the majority of Republican voters, the vast majority of Republican voters. He often beat Taft in those primaries two and three to one.
NARRATOR: But the final decision would rest with the delegates to the Republican Convention, and most of them were chosen not by primaries but by state parties controlled by Taft.
JOHN GABLE, Theodore Roosevelt Association: There were almost no Republican voters in the South, but there were delegates sent to the Republican Convention based on the population of the South, not on the percentage of Republican voters, and almost all of those delegates were postmasters and federal appointees, so that Taft started off with that situation, having almost the entire South in his pocket.
NARRATOR: In June 1912, the Republicans met in Chicago. With more than 250 delegates in dispute, they were headed for one of the rowdiest showdowns in the history of American politics.
JOHN GABLE, Theodore Roosevelt Association: There were near-riot conditions on the floor of the Republican Convention. They had put barbed wire around the speaker's platform, covered it over with bunting in order to protect the chairman from being rushed.
NARRATOR: Taft supporters were confident of victory, but Roosevelt came ready to fight. ''They will have to steal the delegates outright to prevent my nomination,'' Roosevelt told a reporter. The galleries chanted, ''We want Teddy, we want Teddy,'' but in the end, Taft's grip on the party machinery held firm. Party bosses awarded Roosevelt only 19 of the disputed seats.
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: It's a steal, it's an absolute steal. It infuriates the Roosevelt supporters -- they denounce it.
NARRATOR: Roosevelt delegates cried, ''swindler,'' ''robber,'' ''thief.'' Fistfights broke out on the floor, but Taft was nominated on the first ballot. Chanting ''Thou shalt not steal,'' Roosevelt's 344 delegates rose as one and marched from the hall. That night, the angry delegates formed a new party, the Progressive Party, and pledged to support Roosevelt, who was now burning with indignation.
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: He is willing to bolt the party. This is a major step -- he's always been a party regular up to this point. The whole notion of ever leaving the Republican Party, and the Republican Party is like a religion for him.
JOHN MORTON BLUM, Historian: Moved by personal ambition, moved by pride, he was cracking the Republican Party wide open, thus crippling the institution to which he had given his political life.
NARRATOR: In August, Roosevelt returned to the very hall he had walked out five weeks before to address the first convention of the Progressive Party, a gathering of crusaders. ''Our cause is based on the eternal principles of righteousness,'' he told an audience wild with delirium. ''We stand at Armageddon, and we battle for the Lord.''
JOHN MORTON BLUM, Historian: He had always stood at Armageddon, he had always battled for the Lord. The Ten Commandments were his platform almost from youth, and all that moral fervor was instilled into the party. Indeed, the delegates, as their marching song, sang ''Onward, Christian Soldiers.''
NARRATOR: Roosevelt's progressives endorsed a sweeping charter for reform: votes for women, a minimum wage, abolition of child labor, unemployment insurance, old-age pensions.
JOHN MORTON BLUM, Historian: He came out for a social welfare program far more advanced than anything the nation was going to know until the 1930's.
WILLIAM HARBAUGH, Historian: Here is the inception, you might say, of Social Security, even of Medicare in that platform.
NARRATOR: ''I feel as strong as a bull moose,'' Roosevelt said, and gave his Progressive Party its nickname, the ''Bull Moose'' party. Under its banner, he had the chance to be President one more time. But the Democrats had chosen as their candidate another able reformer, the governor of New Jersey, Woodrow Wilson.
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: Woodrow Wilson is the best adversary Theodore Roosevelt ever had. He's cool to Roosevelt's hot. He's restrained to Roosevelt's expansive-- if you could compare the musical instruments, I think the way that they perform is Wilson's a violin and Roosevelt's kind of like a ukelele.
NARRATOR: Reserved and scholarly, Wilson was well aware that he did not campaign with Roosevelt's style or spirit. ''Roosevelt appeals to their imagination,'' Wilson said. ''I do not. He is a real, vivid person whom they have seen and shouted themselves hoarse over and voted for, millions strong. We shall see what will happen.''
JOHN MORTON BLUM, Historian: When Woodrow Wilson was nominated, the Democratic Party had picked a relatively progressive candidate, so the contest was not going to be progressivism against conservatism, it was going to be what kind of progressivism.
NARRATOR: The candidates differed sharply over the trusts. Wilson wanted to break them up. Roosevelt wanted to regulate them. President Taft became identified with the old guard conservative view that business should be free from government interference, but it was never a real three-way race. Taft barely put up a fight. ''There are so many people in the country who don't like me,'' he said.
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: He stays in the race, frankly, because he knows he hasn't got a chance, but he wants to spoil it for Roosevelt. He wants to make sure Roosevelt doesn't win.
NARRATOR: The real struggle was between Roosevelt and Wilson, and Wilson was the odds-on favorite. Even Roosevelt himself recognized that he was in a losing fight. He had the support of Republican progressives, but they were vastly outnumbered by the Democratic reformers who favored Wilson. He quietly told a friend, ''I would have had a sporting chance if the Democrats had put up a reactionary candidate.''
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: He knows he can't win. He knows this is not going to come off, but he believes -- for the sake of his ideas, for the sake of the people who are following him -- this is something that he needs to do. He does something hopeless. I mean, he does something really hopeless.
WILLIAM HARBAUGH, Historian: There was no possibility whatever that the Progressive Party could actually win the election. It's simply inconceivable that, on its first run, a third party should have polled enough votes. Roosevelt would have been much better advised to have sat out 1912, and then run behind a consolidated Republican Party in 1916. He felt that he had no alternative, that it had become his obligation to run as a progressive.
JOHN MORTON BLUM, Historian: Roosevelt characteristically gave it the good try. He campaigned with ardor, with enthusiasm, and all over the country that he could reach, and campaigned on this remarkably reformist platform.
THEODORE ROOSEVELT (archival): We stand for a living wages. Wages are subnormal if they fail to provide a living for those who devote their time and energy to industrial occupation. A standard high enough to make morality possible, to provide for education and recreation, to care for immature members of the family, to maintain the family during periods of sickness, and to permit a reasonable saving for old age. We hold the seven-day working week is abnormal and hold that one day of rest in seven should be provided by law.
JOHN GABLE, Theodore Roosevelt Association: He once said, ''I am in the prophet business,'' and so he was a prophet in 1912, laying down the agenda for the future.
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: Theodore Roosevelt could give free rein to the crusader, to the agitator in him. He doesn't have to worry about the practical politics, about how it's going to appeal to this side or that group. He can really let it out.
EDITH DERBY WILLIAMS, Granddaughter: My mother said it was the most exciting year of their life. The enthusiasm was so great. I guess you either loved him or hated him, but there were a great many more people who loved him.
NARRATOR: Roosevelt criss-crossed the country, reveling in the boisterous reception given his new Progressive Party. Nearly 10,000 people welcomed him at Providence, Rhode Island. Two hundred thousand cheered him through the streets of Los Angeles. ''I am in what is, in all probability, a losing fight,'' Roosevelt wrote a friend, ''yet I really do not think I was ever in my life better contented.''
Even a madman's bullet couldn't stop him. On October 14th, in Milwaukee, Roosevelt was on his way to deliver a speech when a man lurched out of the crowd, pointed a revolver at Roosevelt's heart and fired. The bullet tore through his overcoat, pierced the manuscript of his speech, flattened his steel spectacle case, and drove into his flesh.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: And he's bleeding, and the crowd is aghast, horrified, and he insists on making his speech.
NARRATOR: Roosevelt refused to be taken to a hospital. Instead, he demanded to be driven, as scheduled, to a rally in a downtown auditorium. ''Friends,'' he told an unsuspecting audience, ''I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don't know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot.''
P. JAMES ROOSEVELT, Cousin: The crowd at first thought he was cracking a joke and laughed, so with that, he opened his coat and revealed this bloody shirt, and then they gasped -- I mean, ''Ah'' -- and he says, ''But it takes more than a bullet to stop a bull moose.''
NARRATOR: ''Friends,'' Roosevelt continued, ''I am thinking of the movement. What we Progressives are trying to do is to enroll rich or poor to stand together for the most elementary rights of good citizenship. My friends, don't you waste any sympathy on me. I have had an A-1 time in life, and I am having it now.''
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: No, I think he really wanted to die at that moment. I think he saw that as the greatest exit there had ever been in American political life.
NARRATOR: He went on for an hour and a half before aides could persuade him to leave the platform and go to the hospital.
TWEED ROOSEVELT, Great-grandson: The bullet came within practically a millimeter of his lungs, and one of the side comments of the doctor is that he had said he had never seen such a powerful chest before in any other man, and that, of course, saved his life.
NARRATOR: Even opposition newspapers were admiring. As one cartoonist put it, ''We are against his politics, but we like his courage.'' But courage alone could not change the outcome. Roosevelt lost in a landslide, and the Democrats captured both houses of Congress. Roosevelt swamped Taft, but that was hardly consolation. His defeat struck a blow to the progressives from which they never recovered, and shifted the balance of power in the Republican Party.
JOHN MORTON BLUM, Historian: When the party came back together again, it was the old guard that controlled it, not the progressives, and the Republican Party was rapidly going to become the ''stand pat'' party in American politics, which Roosevelt never would have wanted.
NARRATOR: Roosevelt returned to Sagamore Hill. Shorn of power, he was left with only his pride. His rebellion had made a Democrat President, and the Republicans would not forgive him.
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: The loss in 1912 put Theodore Roosevelt into the political wilderness. They hated him for what he tried to do to the party. He tried to destroy the party in 1912. I mean, this guy's an apostate, and he's-- you know, he's betrayed them.
After 1912, Theodore Roosevelt's life takes a tragic turn. The rest of his life, the qualities that had made him so constructive, so successful and so great turn on him.
NARRATOR: Deeply troubled, Roosevelt once again fled to the wilderness, this time into the jungles of Brazil. He had heard of an unmapped river flowing north towards the Amazon, and joined an expedition organized to chart its course. Fifty-five years old, Roosevelt was about to embark on what would be the most harrowing adventure of his life. ''I have already lived and enjoyed as much of life as any other nine men I know,'' he said, ''and if I must leave my bones in South America, I am quite ready to do so.''
With his son Kermit at his side, Roosevelt headed into the jungle toward the unexplored river, collecting animal and botanical specimens along the way. After 40 days, they reached their destination, the headwaters of a river churning with mile after mile of treacherous whitewater. The Brazilians called it ''the River of Doubt.''
TWEED ROOSEVELT, Great-grandson: A river that wasn't supposed to be there, and had never been mapped, nobody knew where it went. It was complete wilderness and unknown. And this 55-year-old man, who was many, many pounds overweight and clearly not in good physical condition, took off on one of the wildest adventures of his career.
NARRATOR: On February 27, 1914, at the height of the rainy season, Roosevelt and 21 fellow explorers turned to face the river. ''Shortly after midday,'' he wrote, ''we started down the River of Doubt into the unknown.''
TWEED ROOSEVELT, Great-grandson: The river itself is extremely dangerous, with rapids of the most fierce kind. The boats they were in were these huge dugout canoes -- weighed 2,500 to 3,000 pound each -- very hard to maneuver, and very difficult to go down the rapids, so they had to be portaged about these rapids. We're talking about a 2,500- to 3,000-pound wooden canoe that had to be moved only with block and tackle on the long roads that they built and used rollers of logs that they cut. It might take them four, five, six days to portage around one rapid.
And then they would get back in their boats, load them up again, start down the river, and maybe 15 minutes later come to another rapid where they had to start it all over again, and they did this 36 times.
NARRATOR: Roosevelt and his men were caught in torrential downpours. Insects ate through their clothes and bit painfully into their flesh. One man drowned. Another went mad under the strain, murdered a member of the party, and escaped into the jungle. The trip had already turned into a nightmare when suddenly two canoes capsized and caught in the rapids.
TWEED ROOSEVELT, Great-grandson: T.R. had to spring into the water to try to save one of the canoes, and banged his leg quite seriously on a rock, reactivating an old bone infection.
NARRATOR: In the humid jungle air, the wound quickly grew infected. Roosevelt came down with malaria and dysentery.
TWEED ROOSEVELT, Great-grandson: This began to get worse and worse. His temperature went up to well over 105. Some nights Kermit didn't believe he'd live through the night. Unable to walk, in agony, he begged to be left behind. ''I feel I am only a burden to the party,'' he told his son. Delirious, he recited poetry, the same line over and over-- ''In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree.''
TWEED ROOSEVELT, Great-grandson: He said that, ''Whenever I went on an expedition like this, I always used to take enough morphine with me to kill myself if I found myself facing a lingering death.'' And he said, ''There was only one time I thought about using that morphine, and that was in the Brazilian trip. And the only reason I didn't do it,'' he said, ''is I realized that my son Kermit would take me out dead or alive, and it was marginally easier to take me out alive.''
NARRATOR: With his father growing weaker and weaker each day, Kermit had no choice but to continue into the seemingly endless rapids on the River of Doubt.
TWEED ROOSEVELT, Great-grandson: It began to look worse and worse as each time they thought they'd come to the end of the rapids, they'd go a little further and find a whole 'nother of them again, but pure pluck and perseverance pulled them through.
NARRATOR: After nearly four months, they emerged from the jungle. Roosevelt and his companions had explored the entire length of the river, 1,000 miles. In tribute, the Brazilian government changed the name of the River of Doubt to the River Teodoro.
But Roosevelt's powerful body would never be the same again. ''The Brazilian wilderness,'' a friend wrote, ''stole away 10 years of his life.'' Barely able to walk, still suffering from malaria, he had lost 50 pounds in six weeks. ''At your age,'' a friend asked, ''why did you do such a thing?'' ''I had to go,'' he said. ''It was my last chance to be a boy.''
In the spring of 1914, Roosevelt returned to the United States. Still suffering from malaria, he recuperated at Sagamore Hill. ''I am now an old man,'' he said. On August 1st, Roosevelt wrote a letter to a friend. ''As I am writing, the whole question of peace and war trembles in the balance, and at the very moment, our insincere chief, Mr. Wilson, is prattling about the steps he is taking to procure universal peace. It is not a good thing for a country to have a college president as head of state.''
Three days later, Germany invaded Belgium and drove toward France. Britain and Russia rallied to the aid of the beleaguered French. Austria-Hungary came in on the side of the Germans. America, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed, would remain neutral. World War I had begun. The Great War would embroil Roosevelt in his last struggle, and darken the final days of his life.
At first, Roosevelt thought World War I would be just another ''bully fight.'' War had always lifted his spirits. ''I am nearly sure as can be,'' he wrote a friend, ''that England and France will benefit immensely by the war. Perhaps it is necessary that their manhood should be tried and purged in the ordeal of this dreadful, fiery furnace.''
JOHN MORTON BLUM, Historian: Roosevelt, in his heart, of course, remained, as ever, convinced that war did something for urban industrialized man, that the act of fighting somehow restored the right spirit.
NARRATOR: Roosevelt now embarked on one more campaign, this one to prepare the country for a war he was sure it would one day have to fight. America had virtually no army, just 100,000 men -- tiny, compared to the millions of soldiers mustered by the great powers fighting in Europe.
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: In his eyes, the United States simply was not strong militarily. We needed a bigger navy. We needed a bigger and more efficient and modernized army.
NARRATOR: But Wilson refused to face the possibility that America might be drawn into the war. Roosevelt, fearing the President was leading the country towards disaster, poured out his scorn in letters to his friends. ''I abhor Wilson. The President is unscrupulous, utterly and coldly selfish, a hypocrite. He has trailed the honor of the United States in the dust.''
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: Theodore Roosevelt hated Woodrow Wilson, he just plain hated him, and I think the major element in that hatred was that Woodrow Wilson was in the place that he thought he ought to be. Theodore Roosevelt believed that great crises call forth great leaders. This should have been his moment in world history. Instead, this ''cold fish,'' this ''hypocrite,'' this ''deceiver''-- that man is in place. What he said, ''It's as if we were in the Civil War with Buchanan as President, instead of Lincoln.'' Definitely, there's jealousy, but it's not petty jealousy, it is grand jealousy. It's the jealousy of one great man for another.
NARRATOR: Roosevelt's campaign for preparedness grew more and more strident. Then, on May 7, 1915, the ocean liner Lusitania was attacked by a German submarine. Hundreds of women and children died, among them many Americans. Although the German government argued that the ship was secretly carrying war supplies, Americans everywhere were horrified. ''That's murder,'' Roosevelt told a journalist. ''It seems inconceivable that we can refrain from taking action, for we owe it not only to humanity, but to our own national self-respect.''
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: Now the Germans had done something to us. They had tarnished our honor. For Theodore Roosevelt, it's his chance to cast off restraints.
NARRATOR: Roosevelt was determined to persuade his countrymen to enter the war against the Germans, but Wilson stood with most Americans who were against sending their boys to fight far from American shores. Roosevelt denounce Wilson as the ''pacifist hero,'' with followers who were ''flubdubs'' and ''mollycoddles.'' Wilson replied, ''The way to treat an adversary like Roosevelt is to gaze at the stars over his head.''
The election of 1916 might have been Roosevelt's chance to confront Wilson head-on, but the Republicans could not forgive him for splitting the party four years earlier. Instead of Roosevelt, they chose Supreme Court justice Charles Evans Hughes. Roosevelt campaigned for Hughes, but privately called him ''the bearded lady.''
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: And, of course, I can't help thinking that he was thinking to himself, if he'd only cooled it, somehow stayed out of it in 1912, he would have been sitting pretty for the 1916 nomination. It would have been his. I mean, that can't help but rankle and eat at him.
NARRATOR: Wilson ran on his record. He had signed into law many of the progressive programs Roosevelt had advocated -- a graduated income tax, child labor laws, workman's compensation. But Roosevelt continued to despise the President, especially his slogan, ''He kept us out of war.'' ''This is yellow,'' Roosevelt told a friend, ''plain yellow.''
But with German U-boats torpedoing American merchant ships on April 6, 1917, just one month after Woodrow Wilson's second inauguration, the President suppressed his private doubts and took America into the war.
Just four days later, Roosevelt traveled to Washington to meet with the President. He wanted to fight in France at the head of a volunteer division much like his Rough Riders. At 58, he dreamed of leading one last crusade. ''I think I could do this country most good,'' he had written a friend, ''by dying in a reasonably honorable fashion.
JOHN MORTON BLUM, Historian: Roosevelt was blind in one eye, he was partially crippled, he was overweight. He wasn't old by the standards of our time, but he was by the standards of that time, and further, he was an amateur.
NARRATOR: The President received Roosevelt politely. ''He is a great big boy,'' Wilson said. ''There is a sweetness about him that is very compelling. You can't resist the man.''
WALTER LaFEBER, Historian: And President Wilson kept trying to explain to Roosevelt that we now have professionals doing this kind of thing. We don't send amateurs like you over to refight the wars of 1898. Now war was very dirty. It was the trench warfare the killed off a generation of Englishmen and Germans and French. It needed professional skills, and it needed the professional insights that Roosevelt didn't have. This was not the 1898 war where soldiers sailed off into the glorious battles with a stringed orchestra playing on the decks of the ships. This is something very different. Quite clearly, he was an anachronism by 1917 and 1918.
NARRATOR: ''The war in France is no 'Charge of the Light Brigade,''' President Wilson told him.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: And the President says no, and I really think it was at that moment that something -- some light in him -- went out.
EDITH DERBY WILLIAMS, Granddaughter: That was the first thing that broke his heart. He wanted to go so badly. He never forgave President Wilson for that. In fact, we none of us have.
NARRATOR: Roosevelt stayed home -- a civilian. It would be his sons who would go to war instead. ''It's rather up to us,'' Quentin said, ''to practice what Father preaches.'' Ted, who was now himself a father. became an officer in the American Expeditionary Force. So did Archie. Kermit, anxious to get immediately into the fighting, asked his father to pull strings and get him a commission in the British Army. ''It is, of course, asking a favor,'' Roosevelt explained to the British ambassador, ''but the favor is that the boy shall have a chance to serve, and, if necessary, be killed in serving.''
Quentin would be the last to leave home. His father had found a place for him in flight training school. He was only 19 and recently engaged to be married. Edith still thought of him as her baby. His last night at Sagamore Hill, his mother went upstairs to tuck him in. The next morning, Quentin left for France. ''They have all gone away from the house on the hill,'' Edith wrote, ''but it is all quite right and best.''
Tired, aging, half-blind, often in pain from malarial fever, Roosevelt threw himself into his last campaign, this time for the American war effort.
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: A lot of Americans went war-mad after we entered World War I, and Theodore Roosevelt spoke to and for them. He is the one who is calling for an all-out war effort. The Germans are ''evil Huns.'' ''Fight them to the end,'' ''unconditional surrender'' -- riproaring, total war effort.
Suddenly, this man that everybody had left for political dead is speaking for the American people. He becomes very respectable again. His own enemies within the Republican Party -- those conservative who were ''anybody but Roosevelt'' in 1916 -- are coming around. They're coming around. Several of them are supporting him, saying, ''He should be our nominee in 1920.''
This is one of the most amazing political comebacks in American history, this resurrection of Theodore Roosevelt. If Theodore Roosevelt had been the Republican nominee in 1920, he would have won. He would have been President again.
NARRATOR: For Roosevelt, the war was a test of the country's character, and his hostility towards enemies abroad extended to Americans opposing the war at home.
JOHN MORTON BLUM, Historian: And this took a rather ugly turn. Roosevelt took the view that, ''He who is not with us is against us,'' and he began to make a lot of what was then called ''hypenism,'' of the question of loyalty on the part of immigrants who were German-American or Irish-American.
WILLIAM HARBAUGH, Historian: He was so obsessed with 100-percent Americanism that he actually favored the abolition of the teaching of the German language in the public schools.
NARRATOR: Roosevelt condemned conscientious objectors as ''slackers, pure and simple,'' condoned mob action against radical labor leaders, and demanded that teachers who refused to take loyalty oaths be dismissed. ''He who is not with us absolutely and without reserve of any kind is against us, and should be treated as an alien enemy,'' he wrote. ''We have room in this country for but one flag. We have room for but one language.''
JOHN MILTON COOPER, Historian: The qualities that had made him great, that had been so constructive in his earlier career show this dark and ugly side. The virulence that Theodore Roosevelt shows after we get into the war -- that's the tragedy.
NARRATOR: In April, 1918, Roosevelt wrote Quentin, who was now in France. ''Here spring is now well under way. The woods are showing a green foam. The gay yellow of the forsythia has appeared.'' All four of his sons were at the front. ''I wake up in the middle of the night,'' Roosevelt said, ''wondering if the boys are all right, and thinking how I could tell their mother if anything happened.''
Pride mingled with envy as, one by one, his sons proved their courage in the face of danger. Archie won the Croix de Guerre after leading his platoon in an attack against the German lines that left him severely wounded. Kermit was awarded the British Military Cross. Ted survived a poison gas attack to win the Distinguished Service Cross.
Only 21-year-old Quentin remained untested. On July 5th, he saw action for the first time -- a dogfight over France. A few days later, he downed his first German plane. ''Of course, we are immensely excited by the press reports of Quentin's feat,'' Roosevelt wrote his daughter. ''Whatever now befalls Quentin, he has had his crowded hour.'' Then, on the morning of July 14th, Quentin took off and headed for the German lines.
Three days later, an Associated Press reporter knocked at the door at Sagamore Hill and asked to see the ex-President. There were tears in the reporter's eyes. Quentin was dead, he told Roosevelt, shot down behind enemy lines. Roosevelt was standing beneath a portrait of his father when he received the news. He paced back and forth, struggling to restrain himself. ''But Mrs. Roosevelt,'' he said. ''How am I going to break it to her?''
EDITH DERBY WILLIAMS, Granddaughter: It was a shattering experience, just shattering. It broke his heart.
DAVID McCULLOUGH, Biographer: All of his old romantic ideas about war as the great chance to be a man and to serve your country and to be heroic-- all of that was destroyed. And he must have understood how much of what he'd felt and believed in was ultimately proven wrong.
NARRATOR: As Quentin's last letters continued to arrive, Roosevelt took what comfort he could from his tightly-held lifelong convictions. ''It is very dreadful that Quentin should have been killed,'' he told a friend. ''It would have been worse if he had not gone.'' But even with all his iron will, he admitted to moments of doubt. ''To feel that one has inspired a boy to conduct that has resulted in his death,'' he wrote privately, ''has a pretty serious side for a father.''
As he steeled himself to carry on, he spent more and more time with his grandchildren. Early one morning, a servant came upon him staring into the distance, murmuring, ''Poor Quinikins. Poor Quinikins.''
On January 5, 1919, less than six months after Quentin's death, Theodore Roosevelt kissed Edith good night and went to bed. In the morning, he was dead. The man who had courted death on San Juan Hill, defied an assassin's bullet and survived the River of Doubt died quietly at home in his sleep. He was just 60 years old. Archie cabled his surviving brothers. ''The old lion is dead.''
Theodore Roosevelt was buried in a plain oak casket on a hillside near Sagamore Hill. Edith, as was the custom of the day, remained at home reading the funeral service. Among the mourners was the man he had wounded so deeply, and who had loved him so much -- William Howard Taft. After everyone else had left, Taft stood over his grave, weeping.
Earlier, Quentin's favorite prayer had been read -- ''Oh, Lord, protect us all the day long of this troublous life until the shadows lengthen and the busy world is hushed, the fever of life over, and our work done.''
Towards the end of his life, Roosevelt had written his friend, the poet Edwin Arlington Robinson. ''There is not one among us in whom a devil does not dwell. At some time on some point, that devil masters each of us. It is not having been in the dark house, but having left it that counts.''
My American Experience
Who is your favorite 20th-century American president? Was it FDR? Reagan? Clinton? Or one of the other 14 men who helped usher the United Sates through the 1900s? Who do you think was the most influential?