Now earlier in this series, I told one of Carnegie’s stories, a story about “Two Gun” Crowley who was a murderer who didn’t blame himself. He said he was incarcerated only for defending himself. Here are two more stories from Carnegie that make the same point and in terms much closer to home. I’m going to quote these stories as Carnegie tells them, because he lived much closer to them in time than I do and had a greater feeling for them than I do.
Take for example the famous quarrel between Theodore Roosevelt and President Taft, a quarrel that split the Republican party, put Woodrow Wilson in the White house, and wrote bold luminous lines across the world war and altered the flow of history. When Teddy Roosevelt stepped out of the White House in 1908, he made Taft president. And then he went off to Africa to shoot lions. When he returned, he exploded at Taft. He denounced Taft for his conservatism, tried to secure the nomination for a third term himself, formed the Bull Moose party, and all but demolished the Republican party. In the election that followed, William Howard Taft and the Republican party carried only two states, Vermont and Utah. It was the most disastrous defeat the old party had ever known up to that time.
Teddy Roosevelt blamed Taft. But did President Taft blame himself? Well of course not. With tears in his eyes, Taft said “I do not see how I could have done any differently from what I have done.” Who was to blame, was it Roosevelt or Taft? I don’t know, and I don’t care. The point is that all of Roosevelt’s criticism didn’t persuade Taft that he was wrong.
Here’s another story. It has to do with the Teapot Dome scandal, which has come to light recently because of more recent scandals in Washington. This scandal kept the newspapers ringing with indignation for years. It rocked the nation. Nothing like it had ever happened before in America. A. B. Fall, who was Secretary of the Interior in President Harding’s cabinet, was entrusted with the leasing of government oil reserves at Elk Hill and Teapot Dome, oil reserves that had been set aside for future use by the Navy. Now, Secretary Fall could have done it through competitive bidding, but he didn’t. He handed the contract outright to his friend Edward L. DeHaney, and DeHaney gave Secretary Fall what he was pleased to call a loan of $100,000, a very large sum at that time. And then, in a very high-handed manner, Secretary Fall ordered U.S. Marines into the district to drive off competitors whose adjacent wells were sapping oil out of the Elk Hill reserves. These competitors, driven off their grounds at the ends of guns and bayonets, rushed into court and blew the whistle off the $100,000 Teapot Dome scandal.
Well, a smell arose so vile that it ruined the Harding administration, made the entire nation sick, threatened to wreck the Republican party, and put Albert B. Fall behind prison bars. Fall was condemned viciously. He was condemned as few men in public life had ever been. “But did he repent?” asked Carnegie. Never. Years later Herbert Hoover intimated in a public speech that President Harding’s death had been due to mental anxiety and worry because a friend had betrayed him. When Mrs. Fall heard that, she sprang from her chair, she wept, she shook her fists at fate and screamed, “What? Harding betrayed by Fall? No, my husband never betrayed anyone. This whole house full of gold would not tempt my husband to do anything wrong. He is the one who has been betrayed here, led to the slaughter and crucified.”
The feud between Roosevelt and Taft, and the Teapot Dome scandal are two examples of human nature in action. The wrongdoer blaming everybody but himself. And we are all like that. That’s the point. We sin, but we cover up the sin. We refuse to acknowledge it, even to ourselves. No wonder, then, that Jesus taught we are to acknowledge our anger first of all.