Sunday, January 2, 2011

Lunch at the White House, January 2, 1908

One of the several lunches Howard Pyle enjoyed at the White House occurred on this day in 1908. This time, Theodore Roosevelt hosted Pyle and his two eldest sons, Theodore, 18, and Howard Jr., 16, as well as Eugene A. Philbin and William Howard Taft, then Secretary of War.

Pyle was an ardent supporter of Roosevelt and Taft, and the propaganda he contributed to their respective campaigns in 1904 and 1908 helped both men get elected. After the latter beat William Jennings Bryan in November 1908, Pyle wrote to the President-elect:
I believe that the country will look to this epoch as one of the greatest in its history - first upon the heroic figure of Theodore Roosevelt inaugurating the new purposes of a new national life, and secondly upon you, who are so preeminently fitted for the task, carrying forward the work which he has so magnificently begun to an equally magnificent fullfilment [sic].

This I know you will do, just as the whole country knows that you will do it.

I do not know whether you will recollect that I and my two boys lunched in your company at the White House last December [sic], and that as we left the White House together I said to you that my two boys would not be able to vote for you this time but that they would both vote for you for a second term. You see that, under Providence, my prediction is in the way of being fulfilled.
Pyle could really lay it on thick, sometimes. While Taft thanked him for his “earnest and enthusiastic expressions of good will and of hopefulness for the coming administration,” he added, self-deprecatingly (if presciently), “I am a good deal in doubt about it myself, as I am under the load. I have got to do the best I can to lift it.”

In view of Taft’s abandonment of many of his predecessor’s policies, I wonder if Pyle’s enthusiasm ever waned - and (as I’ve mentioned elsewhere) I wonder what he would have made of the 1912 presidential race, had he lived to see it unfold.

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