“Now we’ve got that damned cowboy as President!”
— Senator Mark Hanna upon learning that President William McKinley’s had died from an assassin’s gunshot in September 1901 and that Theodore Roosevelt was now President of the United States
The Frontier Partisan President gets the History Channel prestige documentary treatment over Memorial Day Weekend. Theodore Roosevelt holds a special place in the Frontier Partisans pantheon, for a number of reasons: He lived the life, for one thing, as a cowboy/rancher in the Dakotas, and in his crowded hour in Cuba, 1898 (we keep landing in Cuba lately). He counted among his friends some of the greatest of the late-period Frontier Partisans like Frederick Russell Burnham and Frederick Courteney Selous. Roosevelt’s Winning of the West was a singularly important work of frontier history, though it is often denigrated these days as triumphalist propaganda. It was that, but it remains an important work of its own sake — and as a means of understanding America’s sense of its identity as it moved into an imperial 20th Century.
This two-night premium documentary event “Theodore Roosevelt” will explore the breadth and depth of one of history’s most interesting men—a cowboy, soldier, statesman, conservationist, adventurer, reformer and author who suffered profound personal loss and became at age 42 the youngest president of the United States, having a monumental impact that is still felt today. From coming to understand Roosevelt’s privileged yet sickly childhood, viewers will see how his early motivation and perseverance to “make” his body set him up for a lifelong pursuit of fighting injustice.
His resilience, humility, empathy, ambition, political acumen, and humor are on full display as he moves seamlessly through a long and winding career from the Dakota Badlands to the halls of power in New York, from the battlefields of Cuba leading the “Rough Riders” to victory during the Spanish-American War and eventually to the White House when the assassination of William McKinley catapulted him to the presidency during one of the most turbulent periods in American history.
By combining expert interviews, premium dramatic live-action sequences as well as Roosevelt’s own words and rich archival material, this documentary event will chart Roosevelt’s riveting journey and timely story showcasing how his relentless and compassionate determination to fight for the working man reshaped the political landscape forever and helped propel America into the 20th century. “Theodore Roosevelt” includes interviews with renowned historians and authors Dr. H.W. Brands, Col. USMC Ret. Doug Douds, Dr. Kathleen Dalton, Dr. Douglas Brinkley, Dr. Megan Kate Nelson, Dr. Leroy G. Dorsey, Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Clay Jenkinson, Roosevelt’s great-grandson Tweed Roosevelt and more. Rufus Jones (Camping, Hunderby) portrays Theodore Roosevelt in the series.
History Channel’s docos have been hit-and-miss. The previous ones in this series — featuring Washington and Grant — got strong marks. The Men Who Made America frontier series was egregiously bad. I will certainly give this a go and hope for the best.