Vice President Mike Pence went to the Panama Canal last week and gave a speech comparing his boss to President Teddy Roosevelt, who played a key role in getting the canal built.
“And in President Donald Trump, I think the United States once again has a president whose vision, energy, and can-do spirit is reminiscent of President Teddy Roosevelt,” said Pence. “Think about it. Then, as now, we have a builder of boundless optimism, who seeks to usher in a new era of shared prosperity all across this new world.”
In truth, the only way Trump could possibly inspire a discussion of the quintessential progressive is to remind us how far the GOP has drifted from its conservationist roots, and how desperately we need a Teddy Roosevelt now.
For while Roosevelt was at times a builder of boundless optimism, he was far more a conservationist of boundless optimism, the exact reverse of Trump.
In drawing his comparison between the two presidents, Pence failed to mention Roosevelt’s commitment to protecting America’s natural resources — a legacy Trump is now seeking to undo. Roosevelt put a remarkable 230 million acres of this country under public protection. He created 18 national monuments, five national parks, 150 national forests (including the first), and the U.S. Forest Service.
The United States at this moment occupies a lamentable position as being perhaps the chief offender among civilized nations in permitting the destruction and pollution of nature. Our whole modern civilization is at fault in the matter. But we in America are probably most at fault… Here in the United States we turn our rivers and streams into sewers and dumping-grounds, we pollute the air, we destroy forests and exterminate fishes, birds and mammals — not to speak of vulgarizing charming landscapes with hideous advertisements.