Theodore Roosevelt

With limitless energy and a passionate sense of the nation, he set the stage for the American century

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    Abroad he would admire our willingness to challenge foreign despots and praise the generosity with which we finance the development of less-fortunate economies. At home he would want to do something about Microsoft, since he had been passionate about monopoly from the moment he entered politics. Although no single trust a hundred years ago approached the monolithic immensity of Mr. Gates' empire, the Northern Securities merger of 1901 created the greatest transport combine in the world, controlling commerce from Chicago to China.

    T.R. busted it. In doing so he burnished himself with instant glory as the champion of American individual enterprise against corporate "malefactors of great wealth." That reputation suited him just fine, although he privately believed in Big Business and was just as wary of unrestrained, amateurish competition. All he wanted to establish, early in his first term, was government's right to regulate rampant entrepreneurship.

    Most of all, I think, Theodore Roosevelt would use the power of the White House in 1998 to protect our environment. His earliest surviving letter, written at age 10, mourns the cutting down of a tree, and he went on to become America's first conservationist President, responsible for five new national parks, 18 national monuments and untold millions of acres of national forest. Without a doubt, he would react toward the great swaths of farmland that are now being carbuncled over with "development" as he did when told that no law allowed him to set aside a Florida nature preserve at will.

    "Is there any law that prevents me declaring Pelican Island a National Bird Sanctuary?" T.R. asked, not waiting long for an answer. "Very well, then," reaching for his pen, "I do declare it."

    Edmund Morris, whose biography of Ronald Reagan will be published this fall, won a Pulitzer for his 1980 biography of Theodore Roosevelt

    Power Pairs

    The century's First Couples showed that love and politics can mix — for better and for worse

    The Chiangs
    Soong Mei-ling, who spent her childhood in Piedmont, Ga., married Chiang Kai-shek in 1927. A year later he seized control of China. During China's war with Japan, Mme. Chiang led the Chinese air force and charmed the U.S. Congress. Communists overthrew Chiang in 1949.

    The Perons
    Poorly educated and hugely ambitious, Eva Duarte met General Juan Peron in 1944. Elected President of Argentina in 1946, Peron mixed populism with repression. As First Lady, Evita was revered for her glamour and largesse. On Christmas in 1947, she gave away 5 million toys.

    The Marcoses
    During their 20 years as the Philippines' First Couple, Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos ruled with gold-plated fists. Overthrown in 1986, the couple plundered millions from the country's treasury, much of which financed Imelda's wardrobe of 508 floor-length gowns, 888 handbags and 1,060 pairs of shoes.

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