Audie Award, History/Biography, 2015
After Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, Doris Kearns Goodwin wields her magic on another larger-than-life president, and another momentous and raucous American time period as she brings Theodore Roosevelt, the muckraking journalists, and the Progressive Era to life.
As she focused on the relationships between Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt in No Ordinary Time, and on Lincoln and his team in Team of Rivals, Goodwin describes the broken friendship between Teddy Roosevelt and his chosen successor, William Howard Taft. With the help of the "muckraking" press - including legendary journalists Ida Tarbell, Lincoln Steffens, William Allen White, and editor Sam McClure - Roosevelt had wielded the Bully Pulpit to challenge and triumph over abusive monopolies, political bosses, and corrupting money brokers. Roosevelt led a revolution that he bequeathed to Taft only to see it compromised as Taft surrendered to money men and big business. The rupture between the two led Roosevelt to run against Taft for president, an ultimately futile race that resulted in the election of Democrat Woodrow Wilson and the diminishment of Theodore Roosevelt's progressive wing of the Republican Party.
Like Goodwin's chronicles of the Civil War and the Great Depression, The Bully Pulpit describes a time in our history that enlightened and changed the country, ushered in the modern age, and produced some unforgettable men and women.
©2013 Doris Kearns Goodwin (P)2013 Simon & Schuster
“Few audio productions this year are likely to match, or deserve as much praise as, this history of the Progressive Era and the presidential friendship that shaped, and was destroyed by, its politics… Edward Herrmann is simply her most simpatico reader…his steady, unflagging delivery is perfectly attuned to her narrative voice and, without mimicry, to the broad array of voices, personalities, and events that highlight this rich personal and social drama.” (AudioFile)
“Swiftly moving account of a friendship that turned sour, broke a political party in two and involved an insistent, omnipresent press corps. . . . It’s no small achievement to have something new to say on Teddy Roosevelt’s presidency, but Goodwin succeeds admirably. A notable, psychologically charged study in leadership.”(Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review)
As in Team of Rivals, Kearns shows her talent here for coming up with a unique angle to examine a familiar topic. The relationship between the two likeable, but different men, Roosevelt and Taft takes a couple of twists and turns. The perspective of the "Muckraker" journalists into the politics surrounding these two larger-than-life Presidents worked well. The only downside to this book is that there are a couple of times where the action dies as the writing gets a bit long-winded.
The story tells a part of history from a human side sadly over looked in history classes but possibly one of the most important in American history.
Goodwin's research is so detailed she manages not only to weave together an engaging plot, but these larger than life characters actually grow and change. We see their vices and virtues and how they impact the nation overtime. I can't say enough about this book.
This may be the best of Goodwin's already impressive body of work.
Doris K-G makes the Roosevelt & Taft years come alive. Names change but politics in a capitalist society stays the same. There are those who are eager to serve the very wealthy, make excuses for them, and pass legislation that increases their monopoly rents while claiming it is for the good of all. Roosevelt was the great reformer seeking to limit the power of the monopolists, first in New York State where those in power sought to park him in the least influential position, the vice presidency, and then in the White House when McKinley was assassinated. Teddy was a superstar in his day, commanding huge audiences and positive relationship with the press including the muckrakers. He worked hand in hand with reform minded journalists in effect creating a bully pulpit. Taft yearned for acceptance and praise. He did well in his stint in the Philippines but he preferred making judicial decisions. K-G describes how the two became fast friends and collaborators in the reform movement so much so that TR saw Taft as his successor. Things did not work out so well. Taft was an easy mark for the enemies of reform who found him open to manipulation. Roosevelt grew so disgusted with Taft that he ended up forming the Bull Moose Party in 1912 allowing the Woodrow Wilson to win the presidency against a split Republican party.
The book is a sprawling work with lots of background details on the historical figures. At 800 pages it tips the scale a bit too heavily toward too much detail. Nevertheless it is an insightful book. It would probably be better read than listened to since skipping some of the voluminous details would be easier to do in the print version.
Doris Kearns Goodwin is a terrific narrator, and does a good job relating the sweep of history and how her various characters fit into the sweep (and influence the sweep as well). With respect to Taft & Roosevelt, and especially the latter, there is not a lot of new information here, but it is the "how" of the narration that is new, the connecting of the dots between the two of them, and between them & the history of the US that is novel here.
It would be impossible and indeed undesirable to read this in just one sitting, it is a sprawling story, in the way Kearns Goodwin tells it. And it is better to take smaller bites over a longer period, to appreciate the story.
A strength of this book and indeed of all of this author's books, is her strength as a narrator. A weakness is the absence of analysis. And, often, along with that lack, the portrayal of the protagonists with a substantial deemphasis of their flaws. Not so much their flaws as people but the flaws of their policies.
Listening to the breakup and reuniting of Taft and Roosevelt
When Roosevelt returned from Africa to discover Taft had let him down.
It's history that hasn't been told before. And no one can write history better than Doris Kearns Goodwin. Talking about a "progressive" Republican. Fighting some of the same battles being fought today.
Doris Kearns Goodwin once again demonstrates her ability to show how history impacts our lives today. I was fascinated to learn the nature of the Progressive legislation that was being proposed by Roosevelt and Taft and how we as a nation still struggle with balance on these issues.
She is fair in showing both strengths and weaknesses in Roosevelt, Taft and the journalists of that day. As in Team of Rivals, the reader (listener) could see how Roosevelt grew as a leader, learning that persuasion and timing are as essential to the art of leading, as ideas.
You can also see the essential role that the news media played in the political changes that were so necessary at that time in our history.
For anyone interested in, or studying American history, this is a must read.
No, I love both forms. The print version has beautiful photos. I love that.
The personalization of the characters. Doris Kearns Goodwin really knows how to bring those characters into your home. It was wonderful. I feel like I know Presidents Roosevelt and Taft and their wives personally.
The description of Roosevelt and Taft walking together along the streets of Washington, DC. Both men are physically distinct, and for some reason, I found that scene amusing and beautifully memorable - a picture of a great friendship.
Took me almost 2 years to finish this 30-hour plus book partially due to the fact of the first half was a bit tedious. The second half, however, was superb and the last few charming chapters made the time well worth it.
This is a good overview of the entire Progressive Era and a great look at the relationship and split between the two presidents. I especially enjoyed hearing about WHT as I have always looked at him as a second fiddle to TR. I have now revised my views on him and actually like WHT much more than his predecessor in the presidency. He seems a much more genuine person.
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