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T. R. On The Telephone
By private wire from Oyster Bay Roosevelt angled for the 1916 Progressive and Republican nominations, but his strategy backfired and killed the Progressive party
December 1957 | Volume 9, Issue 1
Perkins: I am sorry you mentioned Lodge. We are in the position, as it stands now, of not submitting any choice to those people except you. That is perfectly all right because they have never submitted anyone to us. … Still, I don’t like our record. Somebody might say that you should have suggested someone else. … [Yet Lodge] is the only man familiar with the international situation and one who could be agreed on by both conventions. Is there anything you can think of in Lodge’s record that would be against that proposition?
Roosevelt: I know Lodge’s record like a book. There has never been anything against it at any time, except, of course, George, that he does not have as advanced views as you and I.
Perkins: I think we could take care of that.
Roosevelt: We have, first of all, to deal with preparedness and Americanism, because they are questions of internal relations. Then foreign relations. [Lodge] is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. He is just as straight as a string. Do you want me to talk to Hiram Johnson?
Perkins: Not on your life; not for an hour or two.
Roosevelt: Then I won’t say a word. I want to add this, if you will, George. Keep Hiram Johnson in touch with me so he won’t fly off the handle and think I am neglecting him.
Perkins: Of course I’ll do that, but at the right moment. … I think it was a very grave mistake to suggest Wood. He is not acceptable to anybody. He is a military man. It puts you in a bad light.
Roosevelt: It has been rejected and I will not follow it up at all. I am glad you have come to the conclusion to suggest Lodge. Fortunately, Lodge has voted for me on the second ballot, so that we can use that with our wild-eyed Progressive friends.
Perkins: I may want to call you up in the morning and get a statement from you giving your reasons why you support Lodge.
Roosevelt: From now on I will not go to bed.
Perkins: All right, I will call you pretty often.
Saturday, June 10 Butler evidently got an unfavorable response to Perkins’ suggestion from his Republican colleagues, for he makes no mention of it in his memoirs and there is no further record of it in the transcript of the telephone conversations. The Republican members of the conference committee decided finally that Hughes could not be stopped and, making the best of the situation, agreed to present his name to the joint committee as their “compromise” candidate.
In the meantime Roosevelt worked on a message to the two conventions suggesting Lodge’s name, while Perkins routed the Senator from his bed and got him to agree to accept if chosen. At a quarter to nine on Saturday morning Perkins was again on the phone with Roosevelt. The Colonel offered to come to Chicago to argue on behalf of Lodge if the nominations could be postponed until Monday, but that was clearly impossible.
When the compromise committee met again, the Republicans offered Hughes as their choice. The three Progressives (Hiram Johnson and John M. Parker had dropped out in disgust when they learned that Roosevelt wanted them to support the conservative Lodge) excused themselves to think this over. Ruefully, Perkins called Oyster Bay.
Roosevelt: Now, did you read my letter [recommending Lodge] to them?
Perkins: In view of this I do not think we should deliver that. …
Roosevelt: Well, George, I am awfully sorry about that. … Of course I am not going to accept Mr. Hughes, and I am going to ask you to put my letter before that committee.
Perkins: … You understand, of course, that Johnson and Parker will not stand for the counter-proposition, so we will just turn it in as the major report of our committee, submitted to you. Perhaps we might just as well put it in as coming from you and not as coming from the committee.
Roosevelt: Put it right in as from me, that’s right.
Several Progressives urged Roosevelt to reconsider his decision about the Lodge letter. One of these was Walter Brown, a conservative member of the Progressive National Committee.