This political cartoon is referring to the behind the scenes details of Elihu Root's nomination to U.S. Secretary of State. Roosevelt was the subject of numerous accusations of patronage abuse to further his own political interests. In various public statements, Roosevelt defended his nominations, assuring that they were always merit-based. In specifically acknowledging Root's nomination, Roosevelt explained that Root's exceptional experience at the bar made him an obvious candidate for Secretary of State.
Ironically, despite these accusations, during his time under Roosevelt, Root sponsored a multitude of reforms enforcing merit-based systems. Root aligned with Wilbur J. Carr, head of the Consular bureau, and Senator Henry Cabot Lodge to place the Consular Service under the Civil Service. Root subsequently uprooted the existing patronage-based system in the Consular Service, replacing it with a merit system.