Author: Doris Kearns Goodwin
Review by: Bruce Allen, honorary consul of Liechtenstein in Georgia
I love biographies, so I began “The Bully Pulpit” thinking it would be a dual biography of two presidents. While it did provide a vividly personal account of the lives of Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft and their families as well as several pivotal journalists from McClure Magazine, it was also a well-researched account about our country’s coming of age in the early 20th century, shedding light on how the United States got where it is today.
Goodwin’s character development is incredible. She begins the book by contrasting the families, careers, loves, tragedies and inner struggles of Roosevelt and Taft. The two men wind up living close to each other in Washington at the beginning of their very different careers. They become close friends. One is married to a woman who wishes to repair her family’s lost social standing with an opportunistic tie-up to a rising political star. The other wife is the childhood friend of her husband who had lost him to another woman but comes back into his life when his mother and first wife die on the same Valentine’s Day.
Roosevelt rises to become president first and depends heavily on Taft during his administration. Roosevelt helps make sure that his friend, Taft, will succeed him as president, but the times are drastically changing and political images are in the hands of a newly powerful muckraking press, pioneered by the various journalists of McClure Magazine.
In the end, the two presidents become vicious political enemies. Through them, we see the seeds of the polarized Washington D.C. we know today.