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

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  14,150 ratings  ·  1,654 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 2013)
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Janet McQuaid With some books, including this one, I follow the "one word, one time" rule. Just keep going. You will not get frustrated and stop reading, and you…moreWith some books, including this one, I follow the "one word, one time" rule. Just keep going. You will not get frustrated and stop reading, and you will still get a lot out of the book. There will not be a quiz at the end.(less)
Kenneth Cook I've worked at this in fits and starts. Got bogged down and walked away for weeks. I had to do catch up. Keeping the families straight has been…moreI've worked at this in fits and starts. Got bogged down and walked away for weeks. I had to do catch up. Keeping the families straight has been difficult but I found the staffing of the magazine amazing. I have my degrees in history and had heard of all of them except Ray Baker and read a couple as required readings but never put it all together before. This period of American History was not my emphasis. I learned a lot.(less)

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Jul 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Doris Kearns Goodwin is one of this country's master historians, so it is always a treat to read her books. In this tome, she compares and contrasts how the muckraking journalists influenced the Roosevelt and Taft presidencies. From a historical perspective, I get exhilarated by her writing to learn about the cast of characters and important issues of the day. I was captivated by Alice Roosevelt, leading me to read her biography later in the spring. I would think that originally Goodwin would ha ...more
Nov 14, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: presidents
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
Feb 17, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Steven Z.
Jan 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I found this fascinating. The McClure's Magazine crew, Roosevelt, and Taft! Especially Taft. I really didn't know anything about him prior to this, and I was so impressed by what an utterly decent, dedicated man he was. Especially impressive in contrast with Theodore Roosevelt, who comes across here as dauntingly passionate and determined, but also as an egotistical warmonger. Taft, lacking Roosevelt's flash, was dutiful, but also loyal and forgiving. Goodwin does a wonderful job of presenting t ...more
Mar 29, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: listened-to
Book Thirty-Six of my Presidential Challenge.

I was ready to love this book. Ultimately, I fell in like with it. I read this book because I needed a book on Taft but because I'm all about overkill, it was also about Teddy Roosevelt and Muck-racking Journalism.

What I really enjoyed:

- The exploration of Taft and Teddy's friendship. I'd always known that Taft was the hand-picked successor to Teddy, but I'd always just assured it had been a political marriage of convenience and nothing more. In reali
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
Shawn Deal
Apr 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Doris Kearns Goodwin is my favorite writing historian. In fact, she is one of my favorite writers period. Her intense love of detail and research flow through every piece of work she writes. However, what truly captures you, as a reader, is her writing style, which pulls you into the scene. She expertly weaves quotes in with her language seemlessly to provide a fully rich flow to her books.

This is one of her best. She does a lot in this book. We get a good history on the political lives of Theo
Jan 09, 2014 rated it really liked it

Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the Golden Age of Journalism” was published in 2013. Goodwin is a Pulitzer Prize winning author and historian whose 2005 “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” remains enormously popular. She has also authored biographies of John F. Kennedy, LBJ and Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.

After completing “Team of Rivals” Goodwin set out to write a history of Th
If Howard Taft and Teddy Roosevelt were alive today, they’d be appalled at the state of America and the Republican Party. Reading The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin has been a treat. It’s also a reminder of how bad things used to be and yet how much better they were. The political and economic similarities between then and now are astonishing.

Goodwin’s wonderful book follows the life of two Republican presidents fr
Blaine DeSantis
Oct 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
I am done! I started this book way back in March and 7 months later I closed the cover on this book for the last time. Why did it take so long? Well, this is truly a weighty book with lots to digest and lots of really small type to navigate. It is a book that, in my opinion, one needs time to reflect upon and digest all that was going on over 100 years ago. So many similarities to today and such wonderful characters.
The bigger issue is where to begin in this review? The writing – superb but a
Jan 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Phew! That was a long one. It was excellent, though maybe a bit TR heavy. But that is how the relationship between TR and Taft was, TR sprinting ahead and dragging everyone in his wake while Taft plods along but still makes progress. Very well written and researched with a bonus focus on the progressive journalism of the time and how much of mutual relationship they had with TR.

PopSugar Reading Challenge 2015 | Task 1: Book with more than 500 pages
Ted Hunt
Jan 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Jill Hutchinson
Feb 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-history
This is not a biography of Roosevelt or Taft but an in-depth look at the political environment of the time with an extra added attraction of the role of journalism and muckraking that played a big part in shaping political opinion.
Roosevelt's dream was to be President.....Taft's dream was to sit on the US Supreme Court. These two men became fast friends and Roosevelt dragged Taft into his cabinet in his first term and as vice-president during his second. They were oil and water but seemed to com
Scott Schneider
Nov 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
On the whole, I did learn a lot from this book and I'm glad I read it as part of my presidential challenge. I learned that while he was a good president, I don’t much care for Teddy Roosevelt as a person. And I grew to greatly admire William Howard Taft as a person, although his presidency wasn’t much to write home about. And I pine for the golden olden days of journalism, when people would wait breathlessly for their copies of magazines with 30,000-word investigative articles about topics such ...more
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
Oct 21, 2013 rated it liked it
As always, I learned a ton from reading this Doris Kearns Goodwin book. However, I generally enjoyed this one less than I've enjoyed her others because the marriage of the two topics--the rise of investigative, socially-minded journalism and these two presidents--felt forced. In the beginning, I believed her premise was that Teddy Roosevelt was a more successful president than Taft because of his ability to rein the power of the journalists for his own benefit. But by the end, it was no longer c ...more
Sep 16, 2013 rated it liked it
The more things change….

“The cost to both his party and the country would be immense, [TR] believed, if ‘the people at large’ perceived ‘that the Republican party had become unduly subservient to the so-called Wall Street men – to the men of mere wealth, the plutocracy’.”

“The most important opinion Judge [Alphonso] Taft rendered on the superior court upheld the right of the local school board to prohibit the reading of the Bible in public schools…. ‘The school board has an obligation as well as
Jim Marshall
Feb 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing

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
Nov 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Dan Edgar
Jan 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-history
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
Adele Fasick
Dec 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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
A.J. Howard
Jan 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'm not 100% sure if I agree with her characterizations (her Taft seems almost too likable). And her take on the Taft-Roosevelt split left a little to be desired. Sure, Roosevelt's need to be the dominant personality and his tendency to classify people who slightly disagreed with him as his mortal enemies played a large part in it. But both Taft and Roosevelt were in different positions in 1912 than they were in 1908. Taft wasn't totally without agency in his shift to the right.

However, these a
Jimmy Reagan
May 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
You would have thought the design of this book would have caused it to collapse under its own weight. I mean how could a biography of two presidents along with the most influential journalists of the age possibly work? I mean the word that comes to mind is–unfocused! Believe it or not, Doris Kearns Goodwin pulled it off. Count this as one of the really enjoyable presidential biographies out there.

Having Teddy Roosevelt didn’t hurt its chances of holding interest with his colorful life. I’ve read
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: the-presidents
The Bully Pulpit is a dual biography of Theodore Roosevelt and his hand-picked successor to the presidency, William Howard Taft. Intertwined with these 2 biographies is the story of the beginning of the Progressive Era during which time investigative journalism, or "muckraking", was born. Several of these journalists, working at McClure's Magazine, promoted government reforms and exposed many of the practices of the robber barons and their monopolies. This is a very detailed book, but well worth ...more
Jan 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Biography of Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the best of the "muck-raking" investigative journalists all in one book! Doris Kearns Goodwin pulls this off by exploring the interaction of these three in promoting Progressivism in early twentieth century America. What Goodwin highlights in particular, justifying her title, was the skillful use of the "bully pulpit" of the presidency by Theodore Roosevelt, including the close relationships he developed with writers like William All ...more
Lynne Marrs
Feb 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
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DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN’s interest in leadership began more than half a century ago as a professor at Harvard. Her experiences working for LBJ in the White House and later assisting him on his memoirs led to her bestselling "Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream." She followed up with the Pulitzer Prize–winning "No Ordinary Time: Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II." She ...more
“I am a vague, conjectural personality, more made up of opinions and academic prepossessions than of human traits and red corpuscles.” 3 likes
“To find the best authors,” he boasted, “is like being able to tell good wine without the labels.” 3 likes
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