On This Date in History: President Theodore Roosevelt got a boost to his re-election campaign from an unlikely source on this date in in 1904. The benefactor was an Islamist terrorist. Did you think that was a late 20th century phenomena? Of course not. They’ve been around for quite awhile as I’ve pointed out numerous times on these here pages. However, this event really wasn’t that long ago when you consider that the seamstress for one of the main characters just died in 2004.
This guy inadvertently helped out Teddy when he kidnapped a wealthy American, Ion Perdicaris, in Morocco. Mubu (Mulai) Ahmed er Raisuli was considered to be a Barbary Pirate who was unhappy with the sultan of Morocco for allowing the French to have great sway and influence in the country as long as they gave him toys. See, Sultan Abdul Aziz got bicycles, 25 grand pianos, over 600 cameras and even a gold car even though Morocco had no roads. Well, Raisuli had enough so he decided to act. Not in the violent way that seemed more prevalent in the early 20th Century in general and has been pervasive in Islamic politics for generations. No…he decided to follow a script that could have been written in Hollywood.
By kidnapping Perdicaris and ransoming him to the Moroccan government, he hoped to involve the United States and bring great shame in disrepute to the government which would lead to it’s demise. His plan worked. He got the attention of none other than the old Rough Rider himself, Teddy Roosevelt, whose re-election campaign was in need of a boost. Roosevelt seized the opportunity and sent a negotiator even though Raisuli had a reputation for sending messengers back with their throats slit or even just sending back their heads. In this case, Raisuli didn’t provoke Roosevelt that directly but he was being difficult. He finally agreed to release the tycoon for $70,000 then he changed his mind. That provoked TR.
Teddy sent a telegram to the envoy instructing him to proceed cautiously and also included numeorus other items for the envoy to consider. But, it also included the phrase, “the government wants Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead.” In typical Roosevelt fashion, TR sent a bunch of warships to the coast of Morroco. The Republican convention had unanimously re-nominated President Roosevelt but the atmosphere was dull and listless until….they read the one “bully” phrase from the telegram to the negotiator. When the conventioneers heard that TR wanted the prisoner back alive or the captor dead, wild cheers and applause errupted on the convention floor and the campaign was off and running. It turns out it was all for naught because by the time the telegram reached Raisuli he had already changed his mind again, accepted the money and released Perdicaris. Of course the perception of the public was that it was Teddy’s dead or alive demand that caused the release. The campaign never did anything to change that perception nor did it point out that the United States had given in to every one of the pirate’s demands.
They also didn’t tell the electorate that it had been found out that Perdicaris wasn’t even an American citizen. The administration had found out that during the Civil War, Perdicaris had renounced his US citizenship and become a Greek citizen so that when he refused his draft call into the Confederacy, his land holdings would not be confiscated. The fact that the captive was not an American was not known to the public for 40 years, well after Roosevelt’s death. I don’t think anyone shouted out “Teddy lied!” Nor was there a movement to blow up his face from Mt. Rushmore.
Now, this Hollywood script worked better than Raisuli bargained for. He got the $70,000 but he made the Sultan look so incompetent that the Sultan’s brother overthrew the government and the new administration clamped down on the pirate Raisuli. The French were so angered by the whole thing that they exerted even greater influence. Perhaps there is a reason why those who wish to topple a government don’t follow a drama line…
But Hollywood liked the script and in 1975 produced The Wind and the Lion that was based on the incident. But, producers being as it is…they made some changes. Instead of a wealthy expatriated American man getting kidnapped, the lovely Candice Bergen was held by her captive…Sean Connery…who just a few years later was named the Sexiest Man Alive!!!
Does the picture at the upper left look like Sean Connery to you?
Here’s a link to more details if you like:
Weather Bottom Line:
Snow White and I had a wonderful time at Pimlico this past weekend. But, they didn’t allow anyone to bring their own beer (BYOB) into the infield this year and attendance suffered. It was down 35,000 from last year. Usually, its very wild and there is no space to be found anywhere. There were plenty of green places this year. Beer sold for $3.50 and a pack of cigarettes sold for $10! I talked to one guy who said the local colleges boycotted the event. But, that was better for me because I got to see ZZ Top on the infield from about 10 feet away.
Paul Richardson has a birthday today, but I don’t know how old he is but he’s closer to retirement than me. I may have been in the Baltimore Sun because I was standing behind a woman who got her photo taken. I met a couple from Tampa who told me that my old buddy Dave Reynolds suffered the same fate as I did. But, because it happened to me, I was able to go to the Preakness for the first time.
You can tell I’m dodging the weather. That’s because there’s nothing to say except a big ridge will be building in from the Southwest. After a chilly Monday start, we begin moderating and will be quite warm by midweek. No rain likely for the week ahead. However, there will be a low wandering in to Florida from the Atlantic that will skid along the Gulf Coast. It’s progged at 1008 mb and it will be interesting to see if they call it a depression. Hurricane Season doesn’t start until June 1 but it’s not unusual for the boys at the National Hurricane Center to get aggressive with the classification of pre-season storms. Often, it doesn’ t warrant such a thing but I think they bend the parameters a bit sometimes to get everyone’s attention. Sorta a marketing tool. But, I don’t know that for certain.