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Not your granddaddy's GOP

A complex symmetry visited Charleston this week. The Republican National Committee chairman and U.S. Senate minority leader handily sold out 400 tickets for a fundraiser/Obama-basher at the Marriott. At the Culture Center several blocks away, another 400 people gathered to hear Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Edmund Morris talk about legendary Republican Theodore Roosevelt.

"Finally, a politician we can all agree on," West Virginia Humanities Council Executive Director Ken Sullivan joked as people filled the theater for the Council's annual McCreight Lecture.

Morris, author of three volumes on TR starting with "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt," outlined a privileged, but determined and hardworking, child who overcame debilitating asthma and other ailments to become the famous hunter, soldier, politician, conservationist, scholar and expert in foreign affairs. Young Theodore Roosevelt spoke several languages, read a book a day, made four world tours, lived with ruling families in Europe and understood cultures from Scotland to Japan. His accomplishments are so extraordinary that most of the apocryphal stories about him turn out to be true, Morris said. The nation has not had such a well-rounded president since TR stepped into the job after the assassination of President McKinley in 1901.

Morris noted that 100 years ago, Theodore Roosevelt stopped in Charleston while campaigning to get back into office. Sure enough, I found in the April 4, 1912, Gazette that 2,000 people risked forfeiting their dinner to stand in a cutting wind at the train station to see "the most picturesque character in public life today." Roosevelt spoke for six minutes before the train pulled out.

I read in my Friday Gazette that Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called President Obama's the "most meddlesome, intrusive administration in history," presumably for making it easier for people to afford education that leads to careers and employment, and for pushing a health-care law that begins to control costs and guarantee access to health care, and for enforcing existing laws to protect air, water and soil.

Meanwhile, an actual historian described how Theodore Roosevelt's love of hunting and careful study of nature led him to discover the need for conservation.

Theodore Roosevelt wanted big businesses and Wall Street banks to be subject to strong regulation, Morris said. Here he was interrupted by a brief eruption of spontaneous applause.

"This is the exact issue we're debating today," Morris said.

Back at the fundraiser for the heirs of Roosevelt's party, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus told his contributors: "We're not dealing with your daddy's Democrat in the White House."

Clearly, we're not dealing with our granddaddy's Republican, either.Miller, the Gazette's editorial page editor, can be reached at dawn@wvgazette.com.


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