Teddy Roosevelt’s Advice on Dealing with a President You Mistrust

In 1918, former President Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, was in disagreement with President Wilson, a Democrat, over what Roosevelt felt was a lack of leadership by Wilson in America’s involvement in World War I. Some critics complained that Roosevelt was wrong in criticizing the sitting President during a war. Roosevelt’s response is below. It is good advice to follow when you do not agree with the President and do not believe the President is telling the American people the truth.

“The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.”

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