Reviews for Bully Pulpit : Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism


Booklist Reviews 2013 November #2
*Starred Review* In this hyperpartisan era, it is well to remember that a belief in an activist federal government that promoted both social and economic progress crossed party lines, as it did during the Progressive movement of the early twentieth century. Goodwin, the acclaimed historian, repeatedly emphasizes that fact in her massive and masterful study of the friendship, and then the enmity, of two presidents who played major roles in that movement. Roosevelt, unsurprisingly, is portrayed by Goodwin as egotistical, bombastic, and determined to take on powerful special interests. He saw his secretary of war, Taft, as a friend and disciple. When Taft, as president, seemed to abandon the path of reform, Roosevelt saw it as both a political and a personal betrayal. Taft, sadly remembered by many as our fattest president, receives nuanced, sympathetic, but not particularly favorable treatment here. But this is also an examination of some of the great journalists who exposed societal ills and promoted the reforms that aimed to address them. Many of these muckrakers, including Ida Tarbell and Lincoln Steffens, worked for McClure's magazine. This is a superb re-creation of a period when many politicians, journalists, and citizens of differing political affiliations viewed government as a force for public good. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: This author's new book has been greatly anticipated; much prepublication discussion has occurred; and reader interest will be intense. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

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Choice Reviews 2014 June
Memorable characters and episodes of modern US history spring to life in this sprawling book. Goodwin's compelling narrative features these elements: an ebullient president who changed the political game in the first decade of the 20th century; his collaboration with brilliant investigative journalists who roused public opinion and thereby provided the necessary impetus for important reforms; an intense friendship that frayed and broke under the pressure of different political priorities; and a dramatic presidential campaign in 1912 that left the book's major protagonists, Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, on the losing end. While the fundamentals of this story have been retailed many times previously, this account is worth reading because of the way Goodwin has conceptualized it--connecting subjects usually treated separately, interweaving private lives with public policy, interspersing anecdotes and apt quotes in just the right measure, and highlighting the subjects' complementary strengths as public figures. Never before has the Taft-Roosevelt dynamic been brought more fully to life. Never before has TR's canny cultivation of the press corps served better to illuminate Progressivism's advent at the national level. Both edifying and entertaining, this is popular history at its best. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. General Readers; Lower-division Undergraduates; Upper-division Undergraduates; Graduate Students; Researchers/Faculty; Two-year Technical Program Students; Professionals/Practitioners. M. J. Birkner Gettysburg College Copyright 2014 American Library Association.

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Kirkus Reviews 2013 November #1
Swiftly moving account of a friendship that turned sour, broke a political party in two and involved an insistent, omnipresent press corps. Cantor and Boehner? No: Teddy and Taft. Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Goodwin (Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, 2005, etc.) may focus on the great men (and occasionally women) of history, but she is the foremost exponent of a historiographic school that focuses on the armies of aides and enactors that stand behind them. In this instance, one of the principal great men would revel in the title: Theodore Roosevelt wanted nothing more than to be world-renowned, change the world and occasionally shoot a mountain lion. His handpicked successor, William Howard Taft, was something else entirely: He wished to fade into legal scholarship and was very happy in later life to be named to the Supreme Court. The two began as friends of what Taft called "close and sweet intimacy," and the friendship ended--Goodwin evokes this exquisitely well in her closing pages--with a guarded chance encounter in a hotel that slowly thawed but too late. A considerable contributor to the split was TR's progressivism, his trust-busting and efforts to improve the lot of America's working people, which Taft was disinclined to emulate. Moreover, Taft did not warm to TR's great talent, which was to enlist journalists to his cause; problems of objectivity aside, they provided him with the "bully pulpit" of Goodwin's title. She populates her pages with sometimes-forgotten heroes of investigative reporting--Ida Tarbell, Ray Blake, Lincoln Steffens--just as much as Roosevelt and Taft and their aides. The result is an affecting portrait of how networks based on genuine liking contribute to the effective functioning of government without requiring reporters to be sycophants or politicians to give up too many secrets. It's no small achievement to have something new to say on Teddy Roosevelt's presidency, but Goodwin succeeds admirably. A notable, psychologically charged study in leadership. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 May #2

Drawing support from muckraking journalists, Theodore Roosevelt used the bully pulpit to stare down monopolies, money brokers, and corrupt politicians--only to see his anointed successor, William Howard Taft, dilute many of the reforms he had put in place. Trust Goodwin to work her best-selling, Pulitzer-worthy magic here.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 December #1

With best sellers on FDR (No Ordinary Time) and Lincoln (Team of Rivals), Pulitzer Prize winner Goodwin tackles the period between those subjects, when President Theodore Roosevelt (TR) and his successor William Howard Taft, with a new breed of investigative reporter, took on greedy industrialists and corrupt politicians. Goodwin excels in capturing the essences of TR and Taft as well as the opposing personalities of their wives. Her main figures are presented objectively and sympathetically. Ironically, as Goodwin clearly shows, the teddy bear should have been named after Taft--for his personality--rather than after TR. Taft was heavily dependent on his wife Nellie's political acumen. Until she had a stroke, Nellie was almost as active as Eleanor Roosevelt was to be. The best part of this volume is the author's presentation of the muckrakers (investigative reporters), whose research TR, in contrast to Taft, was willing to use. Just as TR assembled a talented political team in his administration, Sam McClure of McClure's magazine assembled Ida Tarbell, Lincoln Steffens, Ray Baker, and William Allen White. McClure's "golden age" muckraker empire soon crashed as a result of his manic depression, just as TR's political career ended prematurely. VERDICT It's a long book, but it marks Goodwin's page-turner trifecta on the evolution of the modern presidency. Both presidential buffs and scholars will discover new aspects of the progressive era here. Highly recommended.--William D. Pederson, Louisiana State Univ., Shreveport

[Page 110]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 November #3

Bestselling author Goodwin (Team of Rivals) continues her presidential coverage in her latest history book, this time constructing a narrative around the friendship of two very different Presidents, Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. The complex relationship and soured political camaraderie between Roosevelt and Taft is beautifully played out over the course of the book in quotes and letters. When they angrily part ways it has ramifications for them and the country, eventually leading to Woodrow Wilson's election. Though the book is primarily concerned with the intervening private lives of two politicians, a prominent second narrative emerges as Goodwin links both presidents' fortunes to the rise of ‘muckraking' journalism, specifically the magazine McClure's and its influence over political and social discussion. Women figure largely in both narratives. In addition to journalist Ida Tarbell, both wives, Nellie Taft and Edith Roosevelt appear to have shaped history in their own ways. By shining a light on a little-discussed President and a much-discussed one, Goodwin manages to make history very much alive and relevant. Better yet--the party politics are explicitly modern. Agent: Amanda "Binky" Urban, ICM. (Nov.)

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Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews

Bestselling author Goodwin (Team of Rivals) continues her presidential coverage in her latest history book, this time constructing a narrative around the friendship of two very different Presidents, Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. The complex relationship and soured political camaraderie between Roosevelt and Taft is beautifully played out over the course of the book in quotes and letters. When they angrily part ways it has ramifications for them and the country, eventually leading to Woodrow Wilson's election. Though the book is primarily concerned with the intervening private lives of two politicians, a prominent second narrative emerges as Goodwin links both presidents' fortunes to the rise of ‘muckraking' journalism, specifically the magazine McClure's and its influence over political and social discussion. Women figure largely in both narratives. In addition to journalist Ida Tarbell, both wives, Nellie Taft and Edith Roosevelt appear to have shaped history in their own ways. By shining a light on a little-discussed President and a much-discussed one, Goodwin manages to make history very much alive and relevant. Better yet--the party politics are explicitly modern. Agent: Amanda "Binky" Urban, ICM. (Nov.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

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