September 22, 2007

Question about Teddy Roosevelt and Winston Churchill

On the Baseball Reference website, you can get a listing for each player in baseball history of the ten most similar batters or pitchers based on a statistical formula. For example, the most statistically similar hitters to Babe Ruth are Barry Bonds, Ted Williams, and Lou Gehrig, which probably won't come as a big surprise.

It would be interesting to have similarity scores for other types of famous people. There are personality tests, but we don't have scores for the really interesting people in history. For example, I've always thought that Teddy Roosevelt and Winston Churchill were remarkably similar in personality. (Apparently, they didn't like each other.)

Yet, I wonder whether statements like that are too subjective to be valid. Perhaps it may just seem to me that they were a lot alike because I don't know much about them. If I had known them both close up, would I agree? Or do intimate acquaintances get overwhelmed by small differences and miss the big similarities that are visible from a distance? In general, are personalities too kaleidoscopic for us to form mutually consistent, reasonably valid judgments about them, or not?

Anyway, at least one man knew each of them very well: Teddy's kinsman FDR. Franklin Roosevelt not only was a distant cousin of Teddy Roosevelt, but he married Teddy's niece Eleanor, and held the same job as Teddy had before him: assistant secretary of the Navy. FDR idolized TR, and TR looked fondly upon FDR as a fine young fellow with a lot of potential. TR died when FDR was in his late 30s, so they weren't too far distant in age for FDR to lack a mature appreciation of his hero.

And of course, FDR worked closely with Winston Churchill during WWII, in person, in writing, and on the telephone.

So, here's my question: did FDR think Teddy and Winston were similar? Did he ever express an opinion on the subject? Of course, during the 4 years and 11 months when FDR and WC were peers as President and Prime Minister, FDR was too busy and too sickly to write his memoirs, but did he ever express a judgment on this question to anyone?

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

28 comments:

Steve Sailer said...

For baseball nuts, that raises the question of who were the two most similar Hall of Famers? The greats tend to be fairly unique.

I'd guess off the top of my head Eddie Matthews and Mike Schmidt: slugging third basemen who hit for low averages but got lots of walks. (The great NL outfield triumvirate of Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Frank Robinson was rather similar too.) But their careers, while summing up pretty similarly had different shapes -- Matthews started strong (47 homers at age 21) while Schmidt his .196 his rookie year, but Matthews was a drinker so he tailed off and Schmidt passed him in career homers.

Steve Sailer said...

Conversely, a fan took a look at the two most unique offensive players in 2001 and came up with Pete Rose followed by Ricky Henderson (Paul Molitor was most similar to each, but a long way off from each.)

beowulf said...

Who knows what FDR really thought of Churchill. It was in both our nations' interests that the two men appear to be thick as thieves.

As for Teddy Roosevelt, after the death of his loser brother Elliott, he became Eleanor's father figure (he walked her down the aisle). So FDR's relationship with Teddy was that of a young groom with a friendly father-in-law. So it would have been difficult for FDR to give any sort of objective opinion of Teddy.

Beyond that, Churchill was clearly bipolar, when he wasn't struck by the black dog, he was exuberant to the point of insanity. On the other hand, Teddy Roosevelt was hypomanic. The only episodes of depression I've read about were for the understandable reasons of the deaths of his first wife and later, a son in World War I. He appears to have been far more emotionally balanced than Churchill.

DrZebra.com is a great site where a physician catalogues the medical history of all the presidents. His classic article on JFK begins, "From a medical standpoint, Kennedy was a mess.", and it goes downhill from there.

The most interesting part of the doc's Tedddy Roosevelt article is when he quotes Roosevelt's friend Oscar King Davis on his mental state:

"His chief characteristics were vision, courage, decision, instant readiness for action, the simplest honesty and the most wholesome sanity. His mental engine ran at a higher speed than that of any other man I have ever known. His foresight was uncanny. His sympathy was so quick, his emotion so intensely human, that he penetrated the feelings of others often as if by magic."

Ed said...

I'm not so sure if Winston Churchill and Teddy Roosevelt were so similar. Churchill was a drinker, as Steve says about Eddie Matthews, and TR doesn't seem to have been. TR was much more affectionate towards his children and a better father. Churchill was a better writer. I think a better explanation of the two is that the late Victorian era was unusually encouraging for people born into its elite to have colorful personailities and careers.

Mencken liked to say that Teddy Roosevelt had a similar personality to Kaiser Wilhelm II (the two disliked each other), and I think he had a point.

Colin said...

I'm not sure WSC and TR had such similar personalities. Churchill clearly looks to have been a classic bipolar case; his depressions ("black dog") were frequent and cyclical. Teddy on the other hand had only two "depressive" phases in his entire life, both triggered by family deaths: his first wife's in 1884 and his son's in WWI in 1918. Both phases he snapped out of pretty quickly, by dying himself in the latter case.

There's also the question of alcohol. TR was not a teetotaler but I've never seen any account of him as overindulgent. Churchill--we all know the score there. In fact, the first time FDR and Churchill met was in London at a reception in 1918, while Teddy was still alive and very much in Franklin's mind (TR was the all-but-certain GOP nominee for 1920). Franklin remembered that meeting and was not at the time that impressed by Churchill; certainly he didn't equate him with his cousin. Churchill had no memory of the encounter years later--and historians checking third party accounts of that reception have pretty much concluded that WSC was drunk.

James Kabala said...

I once thought of Theodore Roosevelt in connection with an observation Bill James made. James claimed that players who peak young have a tendency to die at young ages, whereas late bloomers have a tendency to live to advanced ages. He speculated that this fact might have parallels in other fields as well but admitted that he didn't have good evidence. TR, however, would be an interesting example from the political world that would seem to reinforce this trend - president at 42, seemingly full of youth and vitality, yet dead at 60. Churchill sort of defies the paradigm - his death at age 90 conflicts with the fact he was a Cabinet minister at a young age, but on the other hand he was not actually prime minister until age 65.

Anonymous said...

First, I think you overestimate the amount of actual personal contact the 2 men had (Churchill and FDR). August 1941 to April 1945. A little over 3 1/2 years. The number of face to face meetings probably no more than 10.

FDR didn't do much writing. I've never read a book where anyone of his associates wrote about FDR discussing TR vs. Churchill.

Peter said...

TR, however, would be an interesting example from the political world that would seem to reinforce this trend - president at 42, seemingly full of youth and vitality, yet dead at 60. Churchill sort of defies the paradigm - his death at age 90 conflicts with the fact he was a Cabinet minister at a young age, but on the other hand he was not actually prime minister until age 65.

If Churchill had died at age 60, he'd be largely forgotten today.

David Davenport said...

Did FDR think Teddy and Winston were similar?

I doubt if FDR ever made any direct comparison of Winston C. and TR.

Bios I've read of FDR indicate that he didn't favor Churchill's desire to continue maintain the British Empire after WWII . FDR was very "progressive" in this regard. On the other hand, I don't think FDR ever offered to give Puerto Rico or the P.I. independence.

Overall, FDR considered the UK to be a has-been great power, especially as compared to Stalin's USSR. In fact, Churchill thought FDR snubbed him in favor of Stalin at the ( Casablanca? ) three-way conference.

The American leadership in general didn't think much of Churchill's military ideas.

Another thing that interests me about FDR and Churchill is that they basically made Charles de G. boss Frenchperson. A partial error, in my view. France after 1944 should have been treated as a former Nazi ally, requiring a thorough program of de-Vichy-fication. ... But then the fear as of post-1945 or so was that both France and Japan might go Communist, if not handled carefully. So I suppose that de Gaulle and France were allowed to keep their pretensions for the same reason Japan was allowed to keep its Emperor.

Anonymous said...

James Kabala: TR, however, would be an interesting example from the political world that would seem to reinforce this trend - president at 42, seemingly full of youth and vitality, yet dead at 60.

Somebody on a basketball board recently made a comment which I thought about posting in one of the "athletic Q" threads:

Blazers don't deserve Bowie 2.0
Bill Simmons
Sep. 13, 2007
espn.go.com

...He walked like a 50-year-old man. His posture was screwed up. He had the Fred Sanford walk going. If you saw him from behind and just studied his walk, you would have thought it was a retired player, someone like Patrick Ewing or Robert Parish. I couldn't believe it. I didn't stop talking about it the rest of the night. Greg Oden walked like a guy who had bad knees. If I were Portland's GM and watched Oden walk across the room, that would have been it for me. The next day, I even called my buddy Sully (who works for the Celtics) just to have the obligatory, "Yo, we might have dodged a bullet May 22; Greg Oden walks like a 50-year-old man" conversation...

Oden out for the season
mbd.scout.com

koellema: You know how you get gut feelings about certain things.....

Well...I have had one about Oden for quite some time. My gut tells me that Durant is and will always be the better player and should have therefore been picked #1. Beyond that though, many joke about how old Oden looks - including me - but I just have another gut feeling that this seemingly premature aging of Oden is really an as yet undetected illness that will come out down the road that will prevent him from being as good as he can be....just a gut feeling. Just think it is weird and potentially serious how old the guy looks. It ain't normal.....Hope I am wrong and of course I am not a doctor but there have been many instances of guys/gals that are very large with undetected heart problems that I just have a bad feeling for the kid that something is up with him too....

Anonymous said...

There are similarities between TR and Churchill for sure. They were both white nationalists who understood the threat from the Asiatic races. Both men would puke their guts out if they saw what has become of their nations today.

But Churchill was a chess player prone to overthinking. TR was Jacksonian in the belief that crushing your enemy is always the solution. Teddy Roosevelt never would've sat down to negotiate with Joseph Stalin at Yalta. Never! But if for some reason it had to happen, he would've strangled the pychotic midget Stalin with his bare hands. Churchill just sat there and gave away Eastern Europe.

You'll know the Marxists are finally expunged from our schools and media when there is a savaging of the reputations of Churchill and FDR ... and any discussion whatsoever is allowed of Venona.

Study Yalta. Study the Venona Project.

Anonymous said...

Churchill lived to age 90, but his last few years were wretched. And his second period as Prime Minister during the fifties was pretty much a washout - he simply wasn't up to the job any more. Check out the diaries of his personal physician, Lord Moran - he wasn't in such great shape during the war, even.

Now, Adenauer, there was a late bloomer! - though even he got a bit creaky towards the end of his chancellorship.

intellectual pariah

Indian Anglophile said...

"so they weren't too far distant in age for FDR to lack a mature appreciation of his hero."

Surely you mean:
"to HAVE a mature appreciation of his hero."

Anonymous said...

"Churchill sort of defies the paradigm - his death at age 90 conflicts with the fact he was a Cabinet minister at a young age, but on the other hand he was not actually prime minister until age 65."

"Churchill had no memory of the encounter years later--and historians checking third party accounts of that reception have pretty much concluded that WSC was drunk."

I think the more important question is - was Churchill able to achieve late in life and live to a ripe old age because he was somewhat of a drunk?

Anonymous said...

Big difference between Churchill and TR:

TR never smoked, rarely drank, believed in vigorous exercise. Died at 60.

Churchill drank to exces, he was in fact a functioning alcoholic. Smoked cigars, rarely exercised. Lived to 90.

Churchill - a painter, TR a hunter.

TR - President at 42, Churchill considered a failure in the 1920s and 1930s became Prime Minister at 66.

Churchill seemed to have no real interest in Literature or world history, he was more interested in writing than reading. TR was a bookworm, with a keen interest in literature.

Churchill liked to watch film and go to the literature. TR despised the theater and considered it "passive" and a waste of time.

Anonymous said...

Short of fighting it out with Stalin in Eastern Europe (which wasn't going to happen, the American public was tired of war and casualties) there wasn't much either Churchill or FDR could do about Soviet control of Eastern Europe. Or Stalin for that matter could do about Western Europe. Even his control was not absolute.

Agreed that Adenauer was a very good leader, perhaps the best that Germany has produced. A bit ironic given his flirtation with Rhenish separatism in the early 1920's.

But lost in DeGaulle's later obnoxiousness was how close Britain and France were in the Fourth Republic before Suez. It was Ike who essentially derailed the final aspect of European military power and independence. Now we have a dependent, helpless Europe that's our charge. Ike may have had little choice given Soviet (nuclear) backing for Nasser but there it is.

Guy Mollet wanted to unify France and the UK. See it here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6261885.stm

Had something along those lines happened, and Europe retained power independent of the US, DeGaulle would have been a footnote.

I think Steve is right to ponder the personality of leaders, on such things often big issues hang.

Pete said...

I just read the medical histories of the presidents accroding to www.doctorzebra.com. There are practically no alcoholics. If our system screens them out, I question it's value.

Anonymous said...

"Mencken liked to say that Teddy Roosevelt had a similar personality to Kaiser Wilhelm II (the two disliked each other), and I think he had a point."

Yes, in the sense that TR believed in a "Prussian" type militarism. TR wanted peace time universal service, and was for total war during WW I. He believed in war as instrument of national policy and also that giving your life for your country was the ultimate virtue. I love TR, but he was closest thing to a warmonger we've ever had as President.

Its a good thing we had Wilson as President in 1914-1918 and not TR.
Although TR would have been much better at the Peace Conference.
A

James Kabala said...

The two known alcoholics American presidents among are Pierce and Grant. Johnson got publicly drunk at his vice-presidential inauguration but it seems that this was actually due to drinking too much whiskey for medical reasons and he was not a habitual drinker. And, of course, George W. Bush is probably a recovering alcoholic.

Anonymous said...

He believed in war as instrument of national policy and also that giving your life for your country was the ultimate virtue.

How the hell else do you build a great country? Maybe you think great civilizations spring from the pronouncements of a lesbian roundtable.

James Kabala said...

"How the hell else do you build a great country? Maybe you think great civilizations spring from the pronouncements of a lesbian roundtable."

Actually, conquest of the Philippines and U.S. involvement in World War I played very little role in making the U.S. "a great country." TR was a charismatic and in many ways admirable man, but it's no surprise that he is a hero to people like John McCain and Bill Kristol. I believe in going to war for just causes in the true national interest, not as a means of merely showing off the national strength.

Anonymous said...

TR regretted our taking the Philippines because he recognized it was a strategic liability. But that only occurred about 17 years after we took them over.

TR grew up among the 19th century's version of the "greatest Generation", that is the men who fought the civil war and saved the Union. He wanted to emulate them and fight in a war.

Finally, he also believed in the "white man's burden". He had some good points but he was a dangerous man in many ways.

Mentioning TR and Bill Kristol in the same breath is funny, like talking Wally Cox and Marlon Brando.

Colin said...

TR grew up among the 19th century's version of the "greatest Generation", that is the men who fought the civil war and saved the Union. He wanted to emulate them and fight in a war.

More to the point, he was deeply embarrassed by his father (a man he otherwise idolized) having bought a substitute (a "$300 man") to fight in his place in the Union Army. Most scholars of TR would agree you don't need to be a psycho-historian to recognize that a lot of Roosevelt's belligerence and militarism was an attempt to overcompensate for his shame at his father being something of a draft dodger.

James Kabala said...

Point taken; TR and McCain, both men who walked the walk as well as talked the talk, have a lot more in common than TR and Kristol. Kristol and the rest of The Weekly Standard gang do profess to be TR admirers, however.

Anonymous said...

James Kabala: Point taken; TR and McCain, both men who walked the walk as well as talked the talk, have a lot more in common than TR and Kristol. Kristol and the rest of The Weekly Standard gang do profess to be TR admirers, however.

That's because TR ["FDR-lite"] launched the war on private property [busting trusts, "conserving" property out of private ownership and into public or pseudo-public ownership in perpetuity, split with Taft which allowed Wilson & the Democrats to create the Federal Reserve, leading to deflation, the Great Depression, FDR & Marxism, etc etc etc], and of course they're all a bunch of commies over at TWS.

Hell, they're all a bunch of Commies pretty much everywhere nowadays.

Reading most of the crap at The Corner is getting to be almost nauseating.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: I love TR, but he was closest thing to a warmonger we've ever had as President.

Allow me to introduce you to this fellow, name of Abraham   Lincoln.

Anonymous said...

More to the point, he was deeply embarrassed by his father (a man he otherwise idolized) having bought a substitute (a "$300 man") to fight in his place in the Union Army. Most scholars of TR would agree you don't need to be a psycho-historian to recognize that a lot of Roosevelt's belligerence and militarism was an attempt to overcompensate for his shame at his father being something of a draft dodger.

Paint me skeptical. I've read the same thing, but its never based on anything TR said, but simply amateur psychology. TR said his father was "the greatest man he ever knew".

And given his mother was from the Georgia, and TR's uncles fought for the Confederacy, his father had a good reason not to fight.

Anonymous said...

If TR were alive today, McCain and kristol would hate his guts, for this quote alone:

"We can have no "50-50" allegiance in this country. Either a man is an American and nothing else, or he is not an American at all."

Many of the TWS crowd are proudly 50 percent Americans and 50 percent something else. Of course, your not supposed to say that.