In a January 26, 1900 letter to Henry L. Sprague, Theodore Roosevelt penned the immortal words “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” In the popular memory that saying has transformed to “Walk softly and carry a big stick,” but the core meaning remains the same—be strong, but don’t shoot your mouth off about it—a lesson which seems to have been lost on the current crop of professional athletes and politicians.
The lesson also seems to be lost on our current crop of Presidential candidates, especially the Republican nominee, who seems to have reversed the maxim to “Bluster loudly and shoot off a big mouth,” as evidenced by his latest statements about military strategy: “Wouldn’t it be nice if we attacked first, and talked about our great victory later?” Perhaps. But publicly suggesting such a stratagem is irresponsible.
Of course, Trump isn’t the only one who speaks loudly and carries a twig. I remember back in 2011 when our current president declared “Assad must go!” And then he began to flog Assad with his twig. Five years later Assad has gone nowhere and Russia threatens to shoot our planes down if we intervene in Syria. Putin feels perfectly safe in making such a threat because of the multi-year record of courageous resolve that Obama has compiled in the Middle East.
And then we have “What Difference Does It Make” Clinton, who claims great knowledge of international affairs but seems to have displayed neither great courage nor good judgment in conducting them. Where can America find a leader with the courage of a Teddy Roosevelt when one is so desperately needed?