“The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism” (Simon & Schuster), by Doris Kearns Goodwin
In her beautiful new account of the lives of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin spins a tale so gripping that one questions the need for fiction when real life is so plump with drama and intrigue.
“The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism” takes readers from cradle to grave of these men who led the nation during a pivotal time. Poignant details of their childhoods and courtships combine with painstaking explanations of the legislative battles they fought that helped shape the future of the country.
The former presidents are thoroughly humanized with accounts like these: Taft won over his future wife in part by offering to cut the meat for her younger sister at a picnic. Roosevelt’s earliest memories involve having asthma attacks and being unable to sleep except in the arms of his father, who would carry “the gasping child from room to room.”
Kearns Goodwin’s behind-the-scenes accounts put on full display life’s unexpected twists. Roosevelt’s mother and first wife died within the same day, a mere two days after his daughter was born; in his grief, Roosevelt escaped to the wilderness and considered a full-time career in ranching. Later in his tumultuous career, after party bosses nominated him as vice president in an attempt to muzzle him, Roosevelt was frustrated in the do-nothing role and made plans to begin law school. Soon after, President William McKinley was assassinated and Roosevelt became the nation’s youngest president.
Taft’s life dream was to be a Supreme Court justice and he often expressed dislike for politics. It’s ironic, then, that he felt compelled by prior commitments to decline Roosevelt’s numerous offers to appoint him to the bench, and ultimately became president himself.