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FDR vs. TR: Who wins the presidential ‘Tale of the Tape’?

TALE OF THE TAPE



In honor of the latest President’s Day vacation, Dave ‘Dino’ DeNatale breaks down the matchup between two legendary presidents who had been truly associated.

CLEVELAND — Right here we go!

In honor of the latest President’s Day vacation and since I may need seen one too many political documentaries not too long ago, I’ve introduced again the “Story of the Tape,” which compares the deserves of two of our nation’s former chief executives.

4 years in the past, I matched up George Washington towards Abraham Lincoln in response to C-SPAN’s ‘Presidential Historians Survey’ which ranked the presidents primarily based on standards comparable to ‘ethical authority’ and ‘public persuasion.’

In that ballot, Lincoln positioned first, adopted by Washington, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower. So far as presidents are involved, I agreed with C-SPAN, though I might price Washington as crucial American in our historical past. 

For this yr’s “Story of the Tape,” we are going to do a comparability of the No. Three and No. Four presidents on the C-SPAN checklist. The fifth-cousin mixture of Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Like in 2017, my standards can be primarily based on the next:

  • Life earlier than the presidency
  • Signature occasion in workplace
  • Controversy or scandal in workplace
  • Film/TV references
  • Honors/Monuments

1. Life earlier than the presidency

So what did you do earlier than you took the oath of workplace? Ronald Reagan was an actor earlier than he received into politics, whereas Donald Trump made billions and hosted a actuality tv present. Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer.

Let us take a look at the resumes of Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt. What’s superb concerning the two males is that they adopted almost related paths to the White Home:

  • State Legislature: TR was within the New York Basic Meeting, FDR was a New York state senator
  • Each had been Assistant Secretary of the Navy
  • Each had been Governor of New York

Whereas Theodore Roosevelt was elected Vice President in 1900 and would ascend to the presidency a yr later when William McKinley was assassinated, Franklin Roosevelt misplaced his bid to be the VP in 1920 when he and presidential operating mate James Cox had been defeated by Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge. (Enjoyable aspect word, each Harding and Cox had been from Ohio, as was McKinley)

The opposite distinction between the 2 previous to serving as president was Theodore Roosevelt’s army service within the Spanish-American Conflict. TR left his put up as Assistant Secretary of the Navy and fashioned a cavalry regiment referred to as the “Tough Riders.” Col. Theodore Roosevelt would obtain nice notoriety for main his males up San Juan Hill in Cuba en path to victory. 

Franklin Roosevelt needed to comply with in his fifth cousin’s footsteps once more and go into army service throughout World Conflict I. President Woodrow Wilson ordered FDR to stay on the Navy Division. 

2. Signature occasion in workplace

Some presidents, you’ll be able to argue, had a couple of landmark occasion throughout their administrations. John F. Kennedy handled the Cuban Missile Disaster and in addition pointed the way in which for Individuals to land on the Moon. Richard Nixon inherited Vietnam, opened relations with Pink China, and resigned in shame from Watergate. 

Let us take a look at the presidential phrases of the Roosevelts and discover the watershed second or moments that they handled.

Theodore Roosevelt: He served for seven years and guided the nation into a brand new period to start out the 20th Century. Whereas he had no main wars or occasions to grapple with, TR’s administration had no scarcity of vital achievements. He grew to become the primary American to win the Nobel Peace Prize for brokering an settlement to finish the Russo-Japanese Conflict. He was capable of get the Panama Canal undertaking off the bottom and promised a “Sq. Deal” for all Individuals as he busted trusts, regulated meals security, and put aside land for conservation and nationwide parks.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Served longer than any president in U.S. historical past as he was elected to 4 phrases in workplace. Subsequent to the Civil Conflict, FDR handled arguably the 2 greatest crises in American historical past with the Nice Despair and World Conflict II. His “New Deal” laws helped to stabilize an financial system that was on the point of collapse when he took workplace in 1933, when an estimated 15 million Individuals had been unemployed. When battle was on the horizon, Roosevelt started to mobilize the nation and led the U.S. into battle towards each Germany and Japan. Though he did not dwell to see the tip of the battle, his management was important to the Allied victory. 

3. Controversy or scandal in workplace

We talked about Mr. Nixon’s resignation. Andrew Johnson, Invoice Clinton, and Donald Trump had been all impeached. Reagan had Iran-Contra, Lyndon Johnson put the nation totally into the Vietnam Conflict, and John F. Kennedy handled the Bay of Pigs simply over three months after taking the oath. The flexibility of a president to face up to the black clouds that hold over his administration goes a good distance into defining his legacy. How did Franklin and Theodore fare in laborious occasions?

Theodore Roosevelt: Roosevelt’s handing of the Brownsville Affair was one of many few black marks in an in any other case spectacular profession. In 1906, the city of Brownsville, Texas was rocked by an incident the place a white bartender was killed and a white police officer was wounded by gunfire. The Buffalo Troopers, a gaggle of Black cavalry troops stationed close by had been blamed, even though their commanding officer reported all males had been at their fort that evening.

Roosevelt ordered the discharge of 167 troopers of the 25th Infantry Regiment, denying them their pensions or the power to carry any federal civil service jobs. A few years later following an investigation, Congress reversed TR’s order and supplied restitution to the lads of the 25th.

Franklin Roosevelt: Following the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor, there have been fears a couple of doable invasion of the American west coast. In February of 1942, FDR signed an government order that known as for the compelled relocation of roughly 120,000 Japanese Individuals dwelling on the West Coast. In response to the FDR Library, greater than two-thirds of those individuals had been native born Americans. They had been confined in inland internment camps operated by the army all through the battle. 

It will take many years for the U.S. to apologize to the Japanese Individuals who had been interned and to offer reparations.

The sting: FDR’s internment order provides the nod to TR

4. Film/TV references

In the beginning, if you wish to know extra about these two males, plus Eleanor Roosevelt, the niece of TR and spouse of FDR, I can not advocate Ken Burns’ PBS miniseries The Roosevelts: An Intimate Historical past sufficient. This is the introduction to the collection:


Now, so far as who will get the sting by way of motion pictures or tv appearances, it is FDR by a mile. Take a look at a few of these movies:

  • Dawn at Campobello
  • Heat Springs
  • Hyde Park on Hudson

My private favourite is Heat Springs, which offers with FDR’s lengthy street again to politics after affected by polio in 1921.


There was additionally a pair of miniseries made about Franklin and Eleanor within the 1970s: Eleanor and Franklin and Eleanor and Franklin: The White Home Years.

Poor TR has been largely neglected of the films and tv, save for Robin Williams’ enjoyable portrayal within the Night time on the Museum movies. There was additionally a Tough Riders tv film and the character of TR additionally makes an look in The Wind and the Lion.

5. Honors/Monuments

Theodore Roosevelt is on Mount Rushmore. I nearly really feel like we now have to drop the microphone proper there.

However not so quick my buddies. 

Franklin Roosevelt has a monument in Washington D.C.


And as historian William Leuchtenburg factors out in The Roosevelts, each Democratic president since 1945 has been within the shadow of FDR, from Harry Truman to Joe Biden. His New Deal affect continues to today. 

For that cause, the sting on this class and within the “Story of the Tape” goes to FDR. 



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