“The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism” by Doris Kearns Goodwin

“Let us prohibit in effective fashion all CORPORATlONS from making CONTRlBUTlONS for any political purpose, directly or indirectly.


Click for Source Review of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Outstanding Book

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

“A tale so gripping that one questions the need for fiction when real life is so plump with drama and intrigue” — Associated Press


“This country has nothing to fear from the crooked man who faiIs. We put him in jaiI. It is the crooked man who succeeds who is a threat to this country.”

— President Theodore Roosevelt (R) 1905

“This country will not be a permanently good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a reasonably good place for all of us to live.”

— President Theodore Roosevelt (R)


Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “The Bully Pulpit” = History of first decade of Progressive Era = A tumultuous time of unseemly fraud and demand for reform.

Intense friendship = Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft = It ruptures in 1912 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 = Changing the country’s history BACK TO MASSIVE CORPORATE BANKING/FINANCIAL SCAMS AGAINST AMERICANS!

Roosevelt from the beginning of his political career as youngest member of NY assembly he “understood that the most effective means of circumventing the machines and transforming popular sentiment was to establish a good rapport with the press corps.”

Roosevelt NOT only courted the press but used the media to rally popular pressure to a level NEVER SEEN BEFORE. = Goodwin calls it “authentically collegial.” Teddy Roosevelt = Split GOP to advance a progressive agenda.

Green Movement = Started with Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir just hanging out in Yosemite.

MUCKRAKERS HELPED ROOSEVELT AND TAFT TO SELL PROGRESSIVE AGENDA: 1893 publisher Sam McClure assembled a dream team of young writers and started a magazine, bearing his own name, that aimed to rattle the ramparts of power and mobilize the literate middle class. The muckraking press aroused the spirit of reform to help 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 perhaps the greatest group of journalists ever assembled at one magazine under the mercurial genius of publisher S. S. McClure.

McClure – Use new technology of photo engraving to highlight the corrupt hegemony of trusts and political machines to help create a growing national discontent among an eager audience. McClure’s published wave upon wave of exquisitely researched exposés. JANUARY 1903 McCLURE published Ida Tarbell on the predatory practices of the Standard Oil Company + Lincoln Steffens on the avaricious political cabal that ran Minneapolis + Ray Stannard Baker on turmoil in the labor unions. = The public LOVED IT AND CAME BACK FOR EVER MORE DETAILS OF THE CRIMES OF CORPORATIONS COLLUDING WITH GOVERNMENT! = “Month after month they would swallow dissertations of ten or twelve thousand words without even blinking — and ask for more.” = McClure’s writers became the SHOCK TROOPS of the progressive movement = “putting faces and names to the giant corporations, shining a bright light on the sordid maneuvers that were crushing independent businessmen in one sector after another.” In Roosevelt they found the most effective patron a journalist could hope for.

“Change” was not just a slogan as Goodwin writes = “There are but a handful of times in the history of our country when there occurs a transformation so remarkable that a molt seems to take place, and an altered country begins to emerge.” We look afresh at our own time because in 1890s economic inequality was large – NO WHERE AS BIG AS IT IS NOW! + A BITTERLY DIVIDED GOP! But back then the GOP insurgents were progressives like Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, challenging the party’s long defense of laissez-faire and building a federal regulatory apparatus. GOP insurgents fought against “bomb-throwing obstructionism” and “empty nihilism” in an effort to dismantle the regulatory machinery the progressives constructed. = TODAY we see the same kinds of propaganda and lies on “Morning Joe” and right to “Charlie Rose’s” face.

“I believe that there should be a very much heavier progressive tax on very large incomes, a tax which should increase in a very marked fashion for the gigantic incomes.”

— President Theodore Roosevelt (R)

“Of all forms of tyranny the least attractive & the most vuIgar is the tyranny of mere weaIth, the tyranny of pIutocracy.”

— President Theodore Roosevelt (R)

“We demand that big business give the people a square deal; in return we must insist that when anyone engaged in big business honestly endeavors to do right he shall himself be given a square deal.”

— President Theodore Roosevelt (R) Letter to Sir Edward Gray, November 15, 1913

Adored wives = Edith Roosevelt (literary and reclusive, a brake on her impetuous husband) + Nellie Taft (politically aware and astute, a goad to her chronically circumspect husband) = Essential partners + Insightful commentators + Guiding the careers of their mates. Progressive allies = Labor leaders + Cabinet members + Especially, fired-up journalists.

Progressive Enemies = ROBBER BARON INDUSTRIALISTS + Corporate Political Rivals

Roosevelt = Irresistible + Almost comically energetic + Charging hero of the Rough Riders + Naturalist and hyperactive sportsman + High-speed, off-path hikes through Rock Creek Park + Intellectual omnivore – Wrote 40 books – hunting + meditation + Natural history + Biographies of public figures + Literary essays + Commentaries on war and peace + Sketches of birds + American frontier. Roosevelt = Born sickly and timid was bathed in unquestioning love + Taken on global adventures + Driven by his father to triumph over any obstacle including severe asthma and other childhood infirmities. Teddy Roosevelt was a full-blooded political animal who loved giving speeches and confrontations. Roosevelt had an original and active nature opposite but complementary to his close friend Taft

Taft = Many Contributions to the new, more compassionate America = A favored child in a family that prized public service. Taft experienced his parents’ love “as a conditional reward dependent upon his achievements.” He was affable and morally conscientious but not a voracious scholar. Born in robust health, he eventually settled into a lifelong battle with obesity with many diets. An achiever that makes most of today’s politicians seem slight. Henry Adams called Taft “the best equipped man for the presidency who had been suggested by either party during his lifetime.” But Taft was averse to speechmaking and public confrontation. Taft would have been perfectly happy to spend his life presiding over courtrooms = He ended his life as chief justice of the United States.

TAFT and ROOSEVELT met in the 1890s as up and comers in President Benjamin Harrison’s Presidency. Roosevelt as a civil service commissioner, Taft as solicitor-general. They bonded over civil service reform, and became so close that their correspondence reads like love letters. = Roosevelt addresses Taft in one missive as “you beloved individual.” As WAR secretary Taft would become the most indispensable member of President Roose­velt’s cabinet, a “veritable pack horse” for the administration, the overseer of the Philippines and the Panama Canal commission, the president’s campaign surrogate, an effective lobbyist of Congress and Roosevelt’s confidant in all things.

TAFT and ROOSEVELT = Strikingly different temperaments that proved complementary, allowing them to forge a powerful camaraderie and rare collaboration. Together they would “fundamentally enlarge the bounds of economic opportunity and social justice.” writes Goodwin.


“Let the watchwords of all our people be the old familiar watchwords of honesty, decency, fair-dealing, and commonsense….We must treat each man on his worth and merits as a man. We must see that each is given a square deal, because he is entitled to no more and should receive no less. The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us.”

— President Theodore Roosevelt (R) September 7, 1903

NOTE: Goodwin’s uses the correspondence of more than four hundred letters between Roosevelt and Taft from their early thirties to 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. + Letters of Captain Archie Butt, who served as a personal aide to both Roosevelt and Taft, provide an intimate view of both men. = An examination of leadership in a rare moment of activism and reform that brought the country closer to its founding ideals. = STORY of a grubby spectacle in Washington at the turn of the 20th century full of shame and despair = LIKE TODAY! But at that time this country had politicians of stature and conscience, when the public believed that government could right great wrongs by galvanizing a reluctant Congress. The villains seemed bigger and more brazen = industrial barons and political bosses who monopolized entire industries, strangled entire cities.

Please Leave Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s