Taft, whom Rosen calls “the only president to approach the office in constitutional terms above all.”
Wilson was the first president to criticize the American founding, particularly for the separation of powers that crimps presidential supremacy. Roosevelt believed that presidents are free to do whatever the Constitution does not forbid. Taft’s constitutional modesty held that presidents should exercise only powers explicitly granted by the document.
.. Romanticizers of Roosevelt ignore his belief that no moral equivalent of war could be as invigorating as the real thing
.. Taft“extended federal environmental protection to more land than Roosevelt” — and he created 10 national parks — “and brought more antitrust suits in one term than Roosevelt brought in nearly two.”
.. Roosevelt thought that, in industry, big was beautiful (because efficiently Darwinian) if big government supervised it... Taft unsuccessfully resisted President William McKinley’s entreaties that he become governor of the Philippines (“I have never approved of keeping the Philippines”)... In 1912, Roosevelt’s “New Nationalism” promised populism rampant and a plebiscitary presidency untethered from constitutional inhibitions: “I don’t think that any harm comes from the concentration of powers in one man’s hands.”.. And “I believe in pure democracy,” the purity being unmediated, unfiltered public opinion empowered even to overturn state court decisions by referendums... The 1912 strife between conservative and progressive-populist Republicans simmered until Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980 sealed conservatism’s ascendancy in the party.