The Bully Pulpit

The Bully Pulpit

Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism

Book - 2013
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One of the Best Books of the Year as chosen by The New York Time s , The Washington Post, The Economist, Time, USA TODAY, Christian Science Monitor, and more. "A tale so gripping that one questions the need for fiction when real life is so plump with drama and intrigue" (Associated Press).

The gap between rich and poor has never been wider...legislative stalemate paralyzes the country...corporations resist federal regulations...spectacular mergers produce giant companies...the influence of money in politics deepens...bombs explode in crowded streets...small wars proliferate far from our shores...a dizzying array of inventions speeds the pace of daily life.

These unnervingly familiar headlines serve as the backdrop for Doris Kearns Goodwin's highly anticipated The Bully Pulpit -a dynamic history of the first decade of the Progressive era, that tumultuous time when the nation was coming unseamed and reform was in the air.

The story is told through the intense friendship of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft-a close relationship that strengthens both men before it ruptures in 1912, when they engage in a brutal fight for the presidential nomination that divides their wives, their children, and their closest friends, while crippling the progressive wing of the Republican Party, causing Democrat Woodrow Wilson to be elected, and changing the country's history.

The Bully Pulpit is also the story of the muckraking press, which arouses the spirit of reform that helps Roosevelt push the government to shed its laissez-faire attitude toward robber barons, corrupt politicians, and corporate exploiters of our natural resources. The muckrakers are portrayed through the greatest group of journalists ever assembled at one magazine-Ida Tarbell, Ray Stannard Baker, Lincoln Steffens, and William Allen White-teamed under the mercurial genius of publisher S. S. McClure.

Goodwin's narrative is founded upon a wealth of primary materials. The correspondence of more than four hundred letters between Roosevelt and Taft begins in their early thirties and ends only months before Roosevelt's death. Edith Roosevelt and Nellie Taft kept diaries. The muckrakers wrote hundreds of letters to one another, kept journals, and wrote their memoirs. The letters of Captain Archie Butt, who served as a personal aide to both Roosevelt and Taft, provide an intimate view of both men.

The Bully Pulpit , like Goodwin's brilliant chronicles of the Civil War and World War II, exquisitely demonstrates her distinctive ability to combine scholarly rigor with accessibility. It is a major work of history-an examination of leadership in a rare moment of activism and reform that brought the country closer to its founding ideals.
Publisher: New York ; Toronto : Simon & Schuster, 2013.
Edition: 1st Simon & Schuster hardcover ed. --
ISBN: 9781416547860
Branch Call Number: 973.911 Goo
Characteristics: xiv, 910 p. : ill.


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Vincent T Lombardo May 23, 2016

As in "Team of Rivals", Goodwin takes a well-worn subject, in this case Theodore Roosevelt, and looks at him from a different perspective, analyzing his relationships with William Howard Taft and the muckrakers. This is a fascinating book. I learned a great deal not only about TR, Taft, and the muckrakers, but their families, the Progressive movement, and politics and journalism as practiced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a slow read because Goodwin packs a lot in each page, but this book is informative, insightful, well written, often riveting, and well worth reading.

Aug 14, 2015

Hate to be the spoilsport among the commenters, but I'm afraid I find Ms. Goodwin's history, or historiocity, quite underwhelming, and her failure at truth-telling or factual history, is why we are at the point today, with the top 100 to 200 papers having the same major investors [the Big Four: Vanguard Group, BlackRock, State Street and Fidelity, and contrary to NY TImes reports, that also includes them]. Ida Tarbell never meant to really break up Standard Oil, nor did she [read John Moody's books: The Masters of Capital and The Truth About the Trusts, together with Wall Street, by William C. Moore, to better understand the financial ruse]. Bad reportage back then, even worse today among Dumbed Down America!

Feb 08, 2015

Excellent book for those who want to familiarize themselves with the turn of the century political scene and Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, as well as investigative journalism. It made me nostalgic for a time when major print news outlets felt compelled to really research the current day's problems and write about them in such a way that the public read about them, talked about them, and took their thoughts into the voting booth. It's not that there is no journalism like that now, but it is more difficult to find. Of course, the country was different in many ways at that time which contributed to this dynamic. It relates the effect of communicating with the press and trying to 'bring people along with you', versus being unaware of how something may be viewed outside the halls of government.

Sep 05, 2014

By contrasting the personalities of T.R. and Taft, Goodwin shows how Roosevelt was able to capitalize on the mass media of his age and create a true dialogue with the public leading to major reforms. Taft's failure to move T.R.'s policies significantly forward was more about his personality than his politics. Certainly not every U.S. President since has been able to utilize the bully pulpit so well.

simpkins99 Aug 27, 2014

I don't feel that author Goodwin is advocating a 'tight embrace' between the Oval Office and the media. I think it's more of a wistful nostalgia for a time before news outlets were simply stenographers to power, when regurgitation of press releases would not be used as substitutes for actual reporting and before the 'press' were shills for the corporate party line. And if by 'fawning over the Obamas' the author of the Journal of Books review means 'dutifully reporting every right-wing lie as fact,' then that's certainly true, but if it means honest reporting on the president's fealty to Wall Street and the Pentagon even as he gives a big middle finger to working Americans, well........

By highlighting journalism’s political clout and popular appeal before and after Theodore Roosevelt’s administration Goodwin brings new insights to a period in American history as few others can. A readable history lesson that Roosevelt enthusiasts as well as those interested in the development of journalism will enjoy.

Jun 25, 2014

Doris Kearns Goodwin provides a good context. Theodore Roosevelt faced a difficult situation, but handled it differently. He used reporters to get information and to reinforce his views. the author also puts Robert Taft into context. The two men were friends and thought very much alike, but had different personalities that led them to conflict. Roosevelt has mostly been caricaturized, but here I can appreciate he was dynamic and deep in his thinking.

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