Tuesday, September 2, 2008

St. Paul - Blessed are the Peacemakers

I had the most fascinating time in St. Paul, Minnesota at the Minnesota State Fair and the Republican National Convention.

It was on this date, September 2, 1901, that then Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, first implored his fellow Americans to “speak softly and carry a big stick,” and he said it at the Minnesota State Fair. Minnesotans know their history and they love their state fair, ranking second in state fair attendance behind Texas.

From late August through Labor Day, September 1st, I had a wonderful time welcoming fairgoers from throughout the country to the historic J.V. Bailey House, built on the fairgrounds in 1912. That same year marked T.R.’s final visit to the Minnesota State Fair. In that same year, Minnesota was one of five states to deliver electoral votes for T.R., the Bull Moose Progressive candidate.

I had a wonderful time performing for hours each day and had a great show at the Carousel Park stage on Sunday. The parents and kids were great.

Today, in downtown St. Paul, I had a wonderful time visiting with Republican delegates from throughout the nation, indeed, people from throughout the world. Yes, I met Democrats from throughout the country, too. You may not be surprised that I met some people who were from “way out there somewhere,” too.

I hope it doesn’t surprise or offend you that my Theodore Roosevelt enjoyed the Republican National Convention and enjoyed endorsing John McCain on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews and with various television, raido and print journalists from around the country.

Even while he was fighting the “malefactors of great wealth” for control of the Republican Party, Theodore Roosevelt was a Republican. While he ran as a Bull Moose Progressive in 1912, it was only after he succeeded in winning eleven of thirteen state contests held for the GOP nomination, including the primary in Taft’s home state of Ohio. Taft’s forces controlled, and in T.R.’s views stole, the 1912 nomination in Chicago. He and the Progressives were duty bound to make the effort to take the White House for the American people.

In 1916, T.R. refused the Progressive Party nomination for President, instead leading the Progressives to join him in endorsing Republican nominee Charles Evans Hughes. When T.R. died in 1919, he was the leading candidate for the 1920 Republican nomination and he was seriously pursuing it.

So, as I portrayed T.R. and explained and defended my McCain button and my enthusiasm, I did so with a thorough appreciation for the issues and dynamics inherent in this election nearly a century hence. Like T.R., John McCain knows what it’s like to fight against corruption and big-moneyed special interests. Like T.R., John McCain not only knows the sacrifice of military service and combat, he understands that “the big stick” is an important diplomatic tool. We are at war, and I strongly believe that T.R. would be backing the Republican Navy combat veteran over the Democratic attorney.

Like me, T.R. would know that Senator Obama has been missing in action on the issue of public corruption in Chicago, Cook County and Illinois. The Chicago Democratic Machine under Richard Daley, Rod Blagojevich and Emil Jones, Jr. is nothing but the Tammany Hall Machine in another city in another century.

If you look to the title of today’s blog, you’ll see the name of the GOP Convention’s host city, St. Paul, and you’ll see an excerpt from St. Matthew’s version of the Sermon on the Mount. These words caught my eye at the Law Enforcement Memorial at the St. Paul Capitol grounds. In total the ninth verse of Matthew on the memorial is “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God.” From police commissioner to Rough Rider to President, T.R. understood that making and keeping peace meant having the wisdom, courage and willingness to do battle, to use the “big stick” as a means of securing the peace.

This quotation was in stark contrast to the anarchists and provocateurs who attacked Republican delegates and smashed windows in St. Paul on Monday night.

President Theodore Roosevelt instructed us that every movement has its “lunatic fringe,” and those lunatics were in force at the anti-McCain demonstrations. History knows that T.R. was vilified by the ultra-pacifists, the socialists and the anarchists. Those same forces are opposed to Senator McCain and, in great part, supportive of the Democratic nominee.

In these circumstances, I was happy to show my enthusiasm for the candidacy of Senator John McCain, a man who calls T.R. his role model and a man I believe T.R. would have backed with enthusiasm.

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