Monday, June 21, 2004

Kerry Most Active Prez Since T.R.? Ha!

While vacationing in Nantucket, the press secretary for presumptive Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry predicted the junior senator from Massachusetts will be "the most active president since Theodore Roosevelt," says a New York Times story today.

If elected, Kerry (or G.W. Bush, for that matter) could never hope to match T.R.'s frenetic pace, nor his style, in recreational choices.

For release from the pressures of running the country, T.R. would repair to Rock Creek Park and mount his favorite steed. Then, he would take off at a breakneck pace and tear through the park, passing other horsemen left and right while pulling a sidearm from its holster and shooting at various inanimate targets. European observors who read of the president's activities were appalled.

Kerry can kite surf and bicycle his tookus off, and Bush can chainsaw mesquite from dusk til dawn in Crawford, but neither will match the T.R. recreational model.

Roosevelt, of course, was an avid hunter, besides being a pioneer in the country's conservation effort.

Before he became president, prior to the turn of the century, he hunted buffalo in the Dakotas. He was, in fact, a friend of legendary lawman Seth Bullock, which may interest fans of the HBO Original Series Deadwood.

After he became president following the assassination of President William McKinley at the hands of an anarchist in 1901, T.R. went on a bear-hunting trip in Mississippi.

A sizeable press contingent followed him and dutifully reported every day for five days that the president could not find a bear to shoot. Then, one day, the hunting dogs finally did find a bear. The creature was chased into a pond, where it broke the back of one of the hunting dogs in a fight to survive.

Roosevelt's hunting guide cracked the bear's skull with the butt of his gun, then lassoed the creature, so the president could be summoned to dispatch it.

But when Roosevelt got one look at the pitiful creature -- "a stunned, bloody, mud-caked runt tied to a tree" according to Edmund Morris in his biography Theodore Rex -- he could not bring himself to shoot. Someone else put the bear out of its misery with a knife.

Journalists reported on the incident, and the American public seized on the president's refusal to kill the bear, applauding his "sportmanship."

Political cartoonists soon were churning out bear cartoons, and the reading public loved it. The bear drawn by the Washington Post cartoonist gradually grew cuter and cuddlier until it was eventually an adorable little cub that became a standard feature of every T.R.-related cartoon.

That winter, little stuff bears with button eyes and movable joints were apearing in the country's finest toy stores. They sold briskly and soon everyone began calling them Teddy bears.

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