Dear Sen. McCain:
Washington watchers know that you are a Teddy Roosevelt fan. That’s a good choice; TR didn’t get everything right, but no one does. He was one of our greatest leaders and I admire your taste.
The way the profiles tell it, Edmund Morris’ biography was a key element in your choice of a political hero. I’ve never read it; just as I’ve never read Morris’ Reagan biography. I always prefer to read my heroes straight up in the form of their own words – speeches, letters, autobiographies, etc. When I run out of those, I go to biographers who are sympathetic to the views of the subjects. My last choice is to depend on someone left-of-center to explain my conservative heroes to me.
Maybe no one ever told you this, Senator, but Teddy Roosevelt was not what we would now call an "environmentalist".
In fact, TR and Gifford Pinchot (his right-hand man on forestry issues) were battled by, and in turn, battled against the people who we now call environmentalists. That’s because the president and his director of the Department of Forestry Services never intended that America’s wildlife reserves should remain pristine and untouched by human industry. In fact, the men who founded the Wildlife Reserve system (of which the Atlantic National Wildlife Reserve is but a recent example) intended them to be dug, logged and drilled by us. Believe it or not, that’s why they were created in the first place.
TR, Pinchot and others were what we would now call "conservationists" as opposed to "preservationists." They believed that they had a moral obligation to prevent industry from using all of the nation’s natural resources in one generation. Lumber, metals, fuels, were to be conserved in such a way that future generations would be able to use them in the future. This was called "wise-use" and it emphasized efficiency rather than abstinence. Development was deemed to be good -- so good, in fact, that no one generation should be permitted to have it all. Some should be saved for, well, us…