"I care not what others think of what I do, but I care very much about what I think of what I do! That is character!" — Teddy Roosevelt
Has there ever been such a small, whiny, petulant president as Barack Obama?
Of course not. First and foremost, presidents are men. All before No. 44, rich or poor, had led demanding lives, filled with victory and loss, joy and heartache, tested by fire, made strong by triumphing over adversity.
Take Teddy Roosevelt: Sickly and asthmatic as a boy, he had to sleep propped up in bed to breathe.
When he was in his early 20s, his wife and his mother died the same day — just two days after the birth of his daughter. A city boy from New York, he struck off for the Dakota hills and built two ranches, riding, roping, even hunting down outlaws who stole his riverboat.
When he returned to NYC, he served as police commissioner, walking the streets after midnight to make sure his cops were on the beat.
The list goes on and on and on: assistant secretary of the Navy; founder of the Rough Riders that fought the Spaniards in Cuba; colonel of the regiment that charged San Juan Hill; governor; vice president; president.
All before he was 43. After serving two terms in office, he didn't sit in his rocker and reminisce. He went to Africa to hunt big game.
Now take Barack Obama. He attended an elite prep school near the Waikiki beaches of Oahu; then, it was off to the Ivy League Columbia and his first job — "community organizer," whatever that is.
From there, he hobnobbed at Harvard and held cushy jobs as a lawyer, a teacher and a state senator (where he voted "present" 129 times — think Teddy ever voted "present"?). Then he waltzed into the Senate after some Chicago-style dirty tricks and sowed division and disenchantment right into the White House.
Unlike TR, who liked to track white rhinos and once followed the Nile from Congo to Khartoum, this president likes to play golf and ride his bike (always with a helmet on, a real Rough Rider).
And unlike any other president in history, this one is a thin-skinned crybaby, bristling at the slightest criticism. More, he blames everyone but himself for his woes, targeting his opponents with personal attacks, unable to negotiate even the smallest compromise with the party that runs half of Congress — and represents the views of half of America.
(An aside, said Teddy: "To announce that there must be no criticism of the president ... is morally treasonable to the American public.")
That pettiness — the relentless condemnation of anyone who thinks differently from the way he does — has led to now: the federal government in shutdown, a fierce battle over the nation's debt limit, and no dialogue underway to end either standoff.
The president's smallness also has led to one of the most petty and contemptible actions a president has ever taken: the closings of America's war memorials and monuments.
Even though the memorials for World War I and II veterans and Vietnam veterans are open-air pedestrian pathways along the Mall, the president ordered the National Park Service to shut them down with barricades, and stand watch to make sure no 88-year-old man who stormed the beaches of Normandy 69 years ago can get in. Like a mouse, not a man, he blamed Republicans.
But America's veterans, like Teddy Roosevelt, are men of great character and strength. So, just as Teddy would have done, the veterans simply knocked down the Barrycades and walked onto the ground that they — and they alone — made hallowed. They pushed their way into the World War II Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall, the Iwo Jima memorials.
Park Service workers stood aside, no doubt aware of the sacrifice made by the men who had come — some for the last time in their lives — to see their memorials.
Said Teddy: "A man who is good enough to shed his blood for the country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards." He also said this: "Knowing what's right doesn't mean much unless you do what's right."
Barack Obama can't hold a candle to him — or America's military men.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times and is now editor of the Drudge Report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @josephcurl.