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Publisher's Summary

William Howard Taft never wanted to be president and yearned instead to serve as chief justice of the United States. But despite his ambivalence about politics, the former federal judge found success in the executive branch as governor of the Philippines and secretary of war, and he won a resounding victory in the presidential election of 1908 as Theodore Roosevelt's handpicked successor.

In this provocative assessment, Jeffrey Rosen reveals Taft's crucial role in shaping how America balances populism against the rule of law. Taft approached each decision as president by asking whether it comported with the Constitution, seeking to put Roosevelt's activist executive orders on firm legal grounds. But unlike Roosevelt, who thought the president could do anything the Constitution didn't forbid, Taft insisted he could do only what the Constitution explicitly allowed. This led to a dramatic breach with Roosevelt in the historic election of 1912.

Nine years later, Taft achieved his lifelong dream when President Warren Harding appointed him chief justice, and during his years on the Court he promoted consensus among the justices and transformed the judiciary into a modern, fully equal branch. Though he had chafed in the White House as a judicial president, he thrived as a presidential chief justice.

©2018 Jeffrey Rosen (P)2018 Tantor

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  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 09-06-18

Excellent Concise Biography

I watched the interview on CSPAN of Jeffrey Rosen discussing his new book “William Howard Taft: The 27th President 1909-1913”. It is the newest title in The American President Series. Rosen discussed the challenge he faced in staying within the Series’ guidelines of a concise short book.

I have read a number of the biographies of Taft as well as his wife, Helen (Nellie). Taft is one of the forgotten presidents. In all the books about Taft, it was clear Taft did not want to be president but his wife did. Taft wanted to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. President Harding appointed Taft to the Supreme Court as its Chief. Rosen approached this biography from a different viewpoint than other biographers of Taft. He emphasized the fact that Taft looked and did everything from the viewpoint of constitutional law during his presidency. This viewpoint made for a most interesting discussion of Taft. Rosen is a legal scholar and law professor. If you want to learn about Taft but have little time, this is an excellent book to read.

The book is five and a half hours. David Colacci does an excellent job narrating the book. Colacci is an actor and audiobook narrator. Colacci has won numerous Earphone Awards as well as a nomination for the Audie. Colacci is one of my favorite narrators.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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unexpectedly inspiring!

The things that are of most important...not the most popular is what lasts through the halls of time... Chief Justice/ President Taft life's. work is best described as most important and. and its effects. are with us still today... This book tells you why!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jim
  • Topeka, KS, United States
  • 06-01-18

Instructive For Our Times

I greatly enjoyed the author’s ability to explore the two Tafts. One is the judicial Chief Executive. The other is the Presidential Chief Justice. Outstanding!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful