But I ac­tu­ally think it’s cute, and I think it’s in­ter­est­ing. Why shouldn’t he be in­cluded?”

John G. Taft, great-grand­son of Wil­liam Howard Taft, whose like­ness will be in­cluded in the Nats’ pres­i­dents’ race.

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - D.C. Sports Bog DAN STEIN­BERG stein­bergd@wash­post.com

The Na­tion­als’ rac­ing pres­i­dents will ap­pear at Mount Rush­more this week in honor of Pres­i­dents’ Day. For four of them, this is a nat­u­ral des­ti­na­tion — the orig­i­nal quar­tet, af­ter all, were once called the Rush­mores, and are chis­eled in South Dakota stone.

Now there is a fifth, though, and the new Wil­liam Howard Taft mas­cot is also head­ing to the Black Hills. Taft is not typ­i­cally ref­er­enced in Pres­i­dents’ Day cel­e­bra­tions, nor is he typ­i­cally as­so­ci­ated with Jef­fer­son and Lin­coln. Does he — or his rac­ing like­ness, any­how — de­serve such an honor?

“You’re get­ting a whole lot more se­ri­ous about this than I would ever get,” John G. Taft, great-grand­son of the 27th pres­i­dent, said with a laugh. “But I ac­tu­ally think it’s cute, and I think it’s in­ter­est­ing. Why shouldn’t he be in­cluded? Sec­re­tary of War, gov­er­nor of the Philip­pines, pres­i­dent of the United States, Supreme Court jus­tice? His face isn’t on Mount Rush­more, but I’ll tell you what: my great-grand­fa­ther has done a lot more for this coun­try than I have.”

The younger Taft — chief ex­ec­u­tive of RBC Wealth Man­age­ment and the au­thor of “Ste­ward­ship,” a book-length re­flec­tion on his in­dus­try’s role in cre­at­ing the fi­nan­cial cri­sis — is not in pol­i­tics. Nei­ther is he a Nats fan — he grew up in Con­necti­cut root­ing for the Yan­kees, and later “re­formed” and be­came a Min­nesota Twins sup­porter.

But, not sur­pris­ingly, he re­ceived dozens of e-mails af­ter the Nats an­nounced the ad­di­tion of the Big Chief over the off­sea­son. Fam­ily mem­bers have al­ready dis­cussed an in­for­mal re­u­nion at Nats Park dur­ing one of Taft’s first races this spring, and have con­tacted the fran­chise about work­ing to­gether on a pos­si­ble event. And the great­grand­son said he “ab­so­lutely” will fol­low Taft’s rac­ing ca­reer.

“It’s an­other in a se­ries of data points that lead me to think we’re go­ing through a mini-re­vival of in­ter­est in Wil­liam Howard Taft,” he said, cit­ing the re­cent novel “Taft 2012” and a surge of sto­ries about the former pres­i­dent’s weight. “There has been a no­tice­able in­crease in pub­lic in­ter­est in my great-grand­fa­ther. I’m not sure I can en­tirely ex­plain it. But there was a lot of hu­man­ity to my great-grand­fa­ther, start­ing with his weight, and of course that’s very top­i­cal to­day.”

Here Taft was re­fer­ring to spec­u­la­tion about the po­lit­i­cal fu­ture of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. The younger Taft has been an ac­tive cru­sader for work­place di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion, and said he con­sid­ers weight “a dif­fer­ence that, quite frankly, can lead to prej­u­dice in the way peo­ple are treated.”

“The no­tion that Chris Christie, merely be­cause of his weight, is some­how un­qual­i­fied to be pres­i­dent of the United States?” he asked. “My great-grand­fa­ther is a case his­tory that you can weigh a lot and still serve your coun­try ef­fec­tively over decades.”

Taft said he had toyed with the idea of invit­ing Christie to the Taft fam­ily gath­er­ing at Nats Park, although he ac­knowl­edged the New Jersey gov­er­nor would prob­a­bly de­cline. He said the Taft legacy — which he at­tempted to up­hold in his book — is of in­tegrity and ad­her­ing to prin­ci­ples, so he hoped rac­ing Taft would be a stick­ler for the rules.

He said he has no hard feel­ings to­ward the descen­dants of Roo­sevelt, although “I have to see how Teddy treats my great­grand­fa­ther in the races.”

And as ab­surd as this whole thing is, I told Taft that the Nats’ off­sea­son de­ci­sion had prompted sev­eral fans — and at least one blog­ger — to re-ex­am­ine the life and ca­reer of his fa­mous rel­a­tive.

“I’m pretty sure I know why they brought Wil­liam Howard Taft in — I think it’s to give Teddy some com­pany at the tail of the race,” he joked, be­fore hu­mor­ing me by turn­ing se­ri­ous. “Quite frankly, there’s a hu­man­ity to him — as there is to Roo­sevelt, as there is to Jef­fer­son, as there is to Lin­coln. There’s a hu­man­ity to all of them. He doesn’t run as fast as Teddy, and can lose a few races now and then, but there is a con­nec­tion be­tween th­ese pres­i­dents that, to me, is not so far­fetched.”

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