I've Seen the Elephant, published in 2000 (with Peter D. Franklin). Saxbe narrates his life's journey from his youth in a small Ohio town, to his military career during WWII and Korea, to his career as a public servant in Ohio, Washington, and overseas (he served as ambassador to India under President Ford). Saxbe's eldest son contributed the book's introduction. He lauds his father's "sense of adventure, love of travel and receptivity to new people and ideas," adding: "He's the kind of man you don't meet every day" (my emphasis). You can say that again! When is the last time this nation has encountered a politician who feels comfortable trumpeting the alter ego of an elephant seeker? That's if they have one, of course. President Bush famously had not traveled outside the continental United States before he became president. The same is true for most congresspeople and senators. Bill Clinton spent two years at Oxford at a Rhodes scholar but played down this detail of his biography during his campaign for fear it would alienate voters. Perhaps Barack Obama has seen more of the elephant than any previous president, having lived as a youth in Indonesia; but this portion of his life continues to raked over the coals by those who are on a mission to prove he's not an American citizen, to the point where he probably wishes he'd never set foot in Jakarta.
Will Rogers. Born in 1879 on a ranch in Oologah, Indian Territory (what is now Oklahoma), Rogers just about qualifies for membership in what I've labeled "elephant seekers of old." He traveled around the world three times, achieving acclaim as much for his ability to deliver zingers ("Our foreign policy is an open book — a checkbook") as for his trick roping. Likewise, Saxbe, while he may not have been a lasso spinner, was a tobacco-chewing cattle rancher who traveled the world as part and parcel of his career in public service. He became known for such homespun "Saxbeisms" as:
- "That's a ticket on the Titanic." [a disastrous cause]
- "There'll be blood and hair on every stump." [a good political fight]
- "He couldn't carry cold guts to a bear." [a weak advocate]
3) Saxbe brought home some especially quirky mementos from his travels, a practice this blog wholeheartedly endorses. His treasured white elephants from India included the tiger skin rugs that grace his home in Mechanicsburg (these, it should be noted, are no longer environmentally correct, if they ever were) and, more unusually, a supply of betel nut, which he'd grown fond of mixing with his chewing tobacco. (Although Saxbe was a nonagenarian, tobacco chewing, it should likewise be noted, is not a habit to be recommended: bad for health and teeth.)
Questions: Do you agree that William Saxbe merits the label "fearless leader"? Can you think of any other 20th-century statesmen who might qualify for this status?