By Charley Reese
Rockwell" -- -- When President Teddy
Roosevelt attended the funeral of a member of British
royalty, he declined the offer of a gilded carriage for the
funeral procession. Roosevelt told his British hosts that it
would be inappropriate for the head of a republic. He would
One of President Franklin Roosevelt's favorite things to do
was to pack a lunch, drive up into the Pine Mountains, pull
off the road, spread a blanket and enjoy a picnic lunch with
two or three of his friends.
In 1933, an assassin opened fire on Roosevelt during an
appearance in an open car in Miami. The mayor of Chicago,
however, was in the way and took the bullets. The Secret
Service members immediately started to speed away, and
Roosevelt ordered them to stop and retrieve the wounded
mayor. At first they didn't, until he shouted, "Damn it,
back this car up and get the mayor!" They did, and carried
the wounded mayor to the hospital in the president's car.
The mayor later died.
President Harry Truman always took a vigorous daily walk –
on the streets of Washington. When his term ended, he and
his wife took a cab to the train station, where they
returned to Missouri. Truman, by the way, refused all offers
to serve on corporate boards of directors. "You don't want
me, you want the presidency, and that's not mine to sell,"
If you will recall the funeral procession for Princess
Diana, you will remember that the royal princes walked the
route to Westminster Cathedral. Imagine that – British
royalty walking down a street jammed with common people.
The last time President George W. Bush visited the British
Isles, the Air Force had to fly over a fleet of 16 armored
limousines for use of the president and his entourage.
If you are young and don't like to read (I hope this hasn't
become a redundancy), then you are probably unaware of the
transition from a republic to an empire. One of the reasons
I'm so contemptuous of modern politicians is that I don't
compare them with each other; I compare them with the great
men of the past. The last elected president who had
genuinely great accomplishments on his résumé was Dwight
There is no such thing as a flawless politician. We should
never expect perfection in anything involving human beings.
But there very much is such a thing as character, and that's
where we've gotten careless in our choice of leaders.
The foundations of character are honesty, courage and
fidelity. An adulterer who is unfaithful to his wife is
hardly likely to be faithful to his oath of office. John F.
Kennedy was an adulterer and a playboy, but he was the first
president to be marketed like a bar of soap or a tube of
toothpaste. It becomes more and more difficult these days to
distinguish between accomplishment and image.
To get even an idea of a person's character, you have to
look at his whole life, not just the public image. People
rarely, if ever, change their character after adolescence.
Hopefully, they will grow in knowledge and perhaps wisdom,
but most people remain the same people they always were as
far as character is concerned. Self-indulgent cowards don't
become brave stoics.
Viktor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist who survived the
Holocaust, discovered that the hellish experience didn't
change anybody. Those who were bad remained bad, and those
who were good remained good. I suppose the question for us
today is, Have we lost the ability to distinguish between
good and bad?
Charley Reese] has been a journalist for 49 years.
© 2007 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.
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