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

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  5,130 ratings  ·  836 reviews
Doris Kearns Goodwin, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author of Team of Rivals, captures the Progressive Era through the story of the broken friendship between Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, culminating in their running against one another for president in 1912.
Hardcover, 910 pages
Published November 5th 2013 by Simon & Schuster (first published January 1st 2013)
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Cheryl
Doris Kearns Goodwin's success in writing this sweeping tale of early 20th century politics, the relationship between Roosevelt and Taft, and the investigative impact of journalism is her ability to humanize the past.

This is a swiftly moving account of a friendship that turned sour, broke a political party in two and involved an omnipresent press corps. Goodwin's focus on those in the background layers the reader's understanding of the era enriching the reading experience. Unsung heroes populate
...more
Tony
I read about American Presidents - and I read a lot about American Presidents - in part because of the Shakespearean themes that confront them and the Shakespearean characters they become. Lyndon Johnson as Hamlet. Nixon as Macbeth. Kennedy as ...... Lothario? What kind of person wants such a position? The Presidency is not being King, where, you know, you get tenure. One has to run every four years with brutal, often dishonest opposition and scrutiny. And, once there, people expect results. It' ...more
Erik Simon
Great read, but here's the problem. We know Doris Kearns Goodwin got nailed for some pretty serious plagiarism--not just a sentence here or there but massive chunks of text. Also, her editor, to whom she dedicated this book, was also the editor of Stephen Ambrose, who was nailed for serial plagiarism as well as lying, elision, and fabrication in his books. Dame Mayhew also edits Bob Woodward, who is also pretty tough to trust. Thus, in Alice Mayhew, you have an editor who is especially adept at ...more
John
Written by the popular historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, "The Bully Pulpit" is an extremely engaging yet ultimately aimless book about the Progressive Era in American politics.

Like Kearns Goodwin's past books, "The Bully Pulpit" combines extensive research with lively writing and an eye for interesting characters in an attempt to illuminate the lives and times of particular American political leaders, in this case President Theodore Roosevelt and his friend and successor, President William Howard
...more
Steven Z.
One of the most important friendships in American History was the relationship between Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. They had a strong bond that lasted for years and then over a short period of time their friendship began to sour resulting in a schism in the Republican Party that caused them to lose the presidential election of 1912 to the Democrat, Woodrow Wilson. Many historians have reached numerous conclusions as to why Teddy and Will went from being the best of friends to poli ...more
Joyce Lagow
Compared with other periods in US history, the late 19th century is not popularly known very well. While most Americans have heard of Teddy Roosevelt (if for no other reason than Mt. Rushmore being a popular tourist attraction) and a good many of William Howard Taft, there was very little drama in the form of wars and other unnatural catastrophes to excite popular imagination. Yet that era was critical, forming the basis, really, of US society as we know it today. The Republican Party began its ...more
Karla
Random thoughts:
* There's a sad irony that Nellie Taft's ambition to see her hubby president - persuading him to pass on being a Supreme Court justice to pursue higher "better" office - instead saw her suffering a stroke a month after the inaugural and becoming a virtual recluse during the whole of his administration. Her aim was to rule the social scene of being First Lady, and instead she shut herself away because she wasn't her old presentable self.

More as I think of them. :P
Scott Schneider
Another great read from Doris Kearns Goodwin. Most people don't know much about the period in American History between the Civil War and WW I. We know a caricature of Roosevelt as the trust busting Rough Rider and Taft who couldn't fit in a regular bathtub. But they were much more complex individuals and Presidents. Roosevelt and Taft were reformers but were stymied at every turn by the Republican party bosses. They had an incredibly close relationship, until Taft became President and Roosevelt ...more
Jaylia3
Two men with very different temperaments but similar political goals are the best of friends and then bitter and public enemies in this dual biography of former presidents Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft that’s as gripping and deeply moving as a novel. Doris Kearns Goodwin, who also authored the Lincoln bio Team of Rivals, seems to have a knack for finding fascinating angles on history. The Bully Pulpit brings back to life the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century American Progr ...more
Dan Edgar
A very good telling about the peak kickoff of progressives in the US.

The Edmund Morris books, and River of Doubt have more detailed accounts of the life and presidency of Theodore Roosevelt.

This book does an amazing job retelling the presidential election of 1912 where Roosevelt forced a Republican Party split which allowed Woodrow Wilson to become president.

The author really makes Taft come to life. In my education I learned that Taft was more of a do nothing kind of guy. Nothing could be fu
...more
Jim Marshall

Doris Kearns Goodwin has an uncanny knack for locating and describing historical events that anticipate and illuminate the present. In 1994, she gave us No Ordinary Time, a study of the complicated marriage between Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, just as Bill and Hillary Clinton were making their own power-marriage all too visible. In 2005, Goodwin wrote Team of Rivals, which described the political dynamics of Lincoln’s cabinet just as the decision on freeing the slaves was being debated in con
...more
Ted Hunt
I think I would rate this book more of a 3.5 than a 4. Doris Kearns Goodwin is a very fine writer and you can't go wrong with a book that has Theodore Roosevelt in it, but when I was finished, I found myself wondering what the thesis of the book was. She tells very well the story of the relationship between Roosevelt and Taft, bringing in details of their early friendship and Taft's time in the Philippines that I was unfamiliar with. I also enjoyed reading about the history of McClure's Magazine ...more
Adele Fasick
The first decade of the 20th century seems a long time ago, but the political scene in Washington had some uncanny similarities to day's world. Theodor Roosevelt and William Howard Taft tried to bring progressive ideas into the Republican party, but found that corporations and business leaders fought them every step of the way. The idea that the government should regulate business or set limits on the hours of employees was rejected by men who thought that each business should set its own rules. ...more
Eric Kibler
It's not often that I get misty-eyed at the ending of a history book. But the conclusion of this story of a great friendship did it to me.

At its heart, this book is about the friendship of two men. Theodore "The Colonel" Roosevelt: energetic, impulsive, combative, abrasive, but with a gung-ho charm that made him the most enduringly popular man in America for two decades. William Howard Taft: laid-back, thoughtful, guileless, genial, conciliatory, a true mensch who got along with everyone. I alre
...more
Caroline
The American title for this book was 'The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism'. Presumably the publishers pulled Taft from the title and the cover since they assumed UK readers wouldn't know who he was? Theodore Roosevelt has long been one of my favourite political figures - such a vivid, vibrant larger-than-life personality, he's hard not feel a great deal of fondness for. Taft, on the other hand, was a character I knew very little about, so t ...more
Lynne Marrs
This was a great read as part of our Bullmoose Bookclub roster....(appropriate selection, right?) Goodwins' steady presentation was fascinating, but should this have been 3 separate books? The primary themes of the Presidents, the Press and the Women behind it all are well presented, but all leave you wanting more on each as the book ties too many threads together.

We all came away with a new found respect and dare I say it, love for President Taft. Goodwin's presentation of his life and accompli
...more
Jack
Another fantastic DKG book! I have read a lot about Teddy already, so his part of the book wasn't all that necessary for me, but Goodwin writes it well. I very much appreciated the Taft component, as he is less well known and discussed. He was a really good guy, and by many modern standards too. I sympathized with him quite a bit as a president who carried out a lot of a worthy progressive agenda, but received little credit for it. Most pleasantly surprising was the coverage of the muckraker jou ...more
Tom
Sweeping examination of the Roosevelt - Taft administrations. Details how and why they were times of tremendous change, but not as much as could have been. The book is very valuable for publicizing Taft's achievements, , given that he is often overlooked compared to the larger-than-life image we have of TR. the book adds to our knowledge of Roosevelt, too, with sometimes exhaustive discussion of meetings and schedules: hard to believe he didn't have an iPhone. The book also discusses the importa ...more
Jerry Delaney
It's a damn big book to drag back and forth on the El to work every day. But that is the only drawback I can think of with this book. I am not ignorant of US history but I certainly leaned a lot, about Roosevelt, about the Muckrakers and definitely about Taft.

Goodwin is is using their stories, in part, to comment on politics today. Both Roosevelt and Taft were stymied getting their policies through Congress. Roosevelt's tactic was to go directly to the press, become friends with them, and have
...more
Dennis Henn
Doris Goodwin remains unrivaled in her ability to write a well-researched, exciting narrative of history. Her book Team of Rivals may be the best book on Lincoln I have read. Her achievements, however, may have clouded her judgment in assembling this overly large book. She placed character bios on Roosevelt's two wives, Taft's wife, and all the muckrakers. None of it was necessary. Most of it was distracting.
The heart of Bully Pulpit was the relationship between Roosevelt and Taft, and, second
...more
Elin
book from giveaway.

while not as good as team of rivals, which to me is THE essential book about lincoln, this is a very excellent TR book and i enjoyed it very much. the crux of the story is the relationship between roosevelt and the investigative journalists whose work defined the progressive age, and the book is at its best when these two elements are drawn most closely together. the story of the progressive press drives the narrative, and the early chapters and taft-focused sections which are
...more
Cate
Although an exceptionally long book, it was brilliant. Beautifully researched and written, I think even Ida Tarbell would be proud.

Also, this is not a book to be skimmed. Every page has some piece of fascinating information to note, and which adds to the tapestry of the story. I recommend a comfy chair, a warm drink, and no interruptions. Or a very long car ride, which is what I did. I could have used the comfy chair.
Mark Roth
This book covers the lives of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, their relationship with each other, and the story of how investigative journalism helped influence the great issues of their day. It also covers the lives of the team of McClure's magazine, who were some of the first serious investigative journalists in America: Sam McClure, Ida Tarbell (one of the first successful female journalists in the country), Ray Stannard Baker, Lincoln Steffans, and William Allen White. ...more
Steve Smits
There are a number of TR biographies on my bookshelf (including the Edmund Morris trilogy), but this may be the best. Doris Kearns Goodwin brings together the stories of Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the muckraking journalists of the early 1900's (principally S.S. McClure, Ray Stannard Baker, Lincoln Steffans, Ida Tarbell and William Allen White) to give a fascinating portrayal of the persons and the era.

Roosevelt and Taft were close friends from their early careers when Roosevelt was civil
...more
Joan
May 03, 2014 Joan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: American history students
What struck me most was that for substantial parts of the book, if you stripped names and dates from the text, it could be a description of our times politically and socially. I do wonder if that was what motivated Goodwin to write this book to begin with. It only took her 7 years to research and write! The fact that she won't allow herself to be rushed until the book is properly done is what makes this book excellent. It is over 750 pages, excluding notes and index! Yet every page was worth it ...more
Peter Mcloughlin
This book is about two men who were friends who became estranged over the presidency of the United States. It is also about McClure's magazine which the original term "muckraker" was coined. This magazine had the ear of Teddy Roosevelt and helped launch the progressive movement and played a large part in forming America as we knew it in the 20st century both politically and Journalistically. In fact it was a time when serious journalism exposing the corruption of gilded age America worked with p ...more
Katherine
Wow, this book was excellent. Though at 750 pages, I had to put myself on a schedule to get through it in a reasonable amount of time.

This is a history that humanizes its characters so much that you'll feel as if you have met them. As I read, I rejoiced when Roosevelt won his political battles and worried when Taft started to flounder in the presidency. I nearly cried on the train reading about the stroke of Taft's wife, Nellie, which left her unable to speak. I mourned the rift in Roosevelt's a
...more
Lois
What a wonderful book! I listened to this book on tape and learned so much. I admire the way that Goodwin includes so much information on the wives of T Roosevelt and Taft. They are both instrumental in the lives of their husbands and also in the presidencies that they held.

I was unaware of the phenomenon of McClure's and the influence of journalism during this time period. How wonderful it would be if we could return to this type of "uninfluenced by capitalism" journalistic writing.

My largest
...more
Nickole Cheron
I don't usually read historical non-fiction and I have to say I am so impressed! Goodwin does an amazing job painting history not as a regurgitation of facts but as a an epic tale filled with visceral imagery and emotion. The book is about three major stories in my mind: The effect of journalism on politics; American history and the lives of two presidents and their legacy; and friendship. Goodwin navigates and interweaves these three stories masterfully through the book. It is hard at times lis ...more
Susan
My only complaint about Doris Kearns Goodwin's new book, The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the Golden Age of Journalism, is that it ends too soon. That's saying a lot for a 900 page book! But I'd have been happy for it to go on in great detail instead of wrapping up the lives of the major figures relatively quickly after the election of 1912

Goodwin has made a career about writing about American Presidents in the context of the people and ideas of their own time: FDR a
...more
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Also credited as "Doris Kearns" on the first editions of Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream.
More about Doris Kearns Goodwin...
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“Roosevelt declared, arguing that “the insistence upon having only the perfect cure often results in securing no betterment whatever.” 1 likes
“I am a vague, conjectural personality, more made up of opinions and academic prepossessions than of human traits and red corpuscles.” 1 likes
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