Doris Kearns Goodwin has done it again. Bully for "The Bully Pulpit, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism". Just published this past November and coming in at 750 pages, DKG adds to her legacy as a historian with her follow-up effort to "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln".
While I had previously read a biography of Teddy Roosevelt, "T.R., The Last Romantic" by H.W.Brands, I never had much interest in Taft or his one term presidency. I didn't know that in 1901 he was made governor general of the Philippines. I never knew how close his relationship was with TR until their 1912 split.
The New York Times review of Bully Pulpit points out the contrasts in the republican party today and in TR's time: "In the 1890s, as now, there was a growing preoccupation with economic inequality. Then, as now, the liveliest political drama played out within a bitterly divided Republican Party. But back then the Republican insurgents were progressives, among them Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, challenging the party’s long defense of laissez-faire and building a federal regulatory apparatus. Now, as William Howard Taft’s great-grandson pointed out in a recent Op-Ed lament, the Republican insurgents champion “bomb-throwing obstructionism” and “empty nihilism” in an effort to dismantle the regulatory machinery the progressives constructed."
TR in my opinion was the last great republican president. Today he would be more likely to align himself with the democratic party. On a speaking tour in 1910 after his trip to Africa, TR talked about what he called "The New Nationalism". It "puts the national need before sectional or personal advantage". Such an approach he explained, "regards the executive power as the steward of public welfare. It demands of the judiciary that it shall be interested primarily in human welfare rather than in property." This is in stark contrast with today's republican party and the corporate coddling, right wing supreme court.
The Golden Age of Journalism described in Bully Pulpit deals primarily with Ida Tarbell, Ray Stannard Baker, Lincoln Steffens and William Allen White who at one time all worked for publisher S.S. McClure. The Washington Post's review of Bully Pulpit begins "The January 1903 issue of McClure's Magazine has been considered the high-water mark of the Progressive Era investigative journalism known as Muckraking". The expression "Muckraking" however didn't appear til after a 1906 speech by TR in which he said "The men with the muck rakes are often indispensable to the well being of society; but only if they know when to stop raking the muck". Although he had a very good relationship with the press and often praised the S.S. McClure's Magazine gang of Tarbell, Baker, Steffens and White, his castigation of those dishonest or sensationalist writers to some extent hurt his own progressive agenda.
About 8 or 9 years ago I was at a used book sale at a branch of the New York Public Library near the main branch at 42nd Street. I was surprised to find a book by Ida Tarbell. Since she's best known for "The History of the Standard Oil Company", I was even more surprised to see that it was a biography of Napoleon. I bought the book, "A Life of Napoleon Bonaparte, With a Sketch of Josephine, Empress of the French." by Ida M. Tarbell, published by McClure, Phillips & Co. in 1901 (first copyright - 1894 by S.S. McClure, Limited). The sketch of Josephine begins on pg 322 and ends on 452. I love old books. Hold off on that Kindle.
"River of Doubt, Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey" by Candice Millard. Published in 2005, it's about 350 pages in my paperback edition from Anchor Books. This tale of Teddy's trip to the Amazon rainforest region of South America began in 1913. TR, 55 at the time, was accompanied by son Kermit. (See my post of January 7, 2012.)