The Bully Pulpit
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Simon & Schuster
This is a story about income inequality, with corporations ducking regulation in the early years of a new century as special interest groups manipulate for political gains and we see costly defeats and victories in a couple foreign wars; but it’s 1913, …not 2013.
The Bully Pulpit goes back a hundred years to Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft’s ascending political careers, their almost brotherly bond in friendship, on through both man’s respective administrations and through their nasty falling-out over what Roosevelt saw as Taft’s betrayal of his progressive policies. But Doris Kearns Goodwin’s thorough account also covers, more intriguingly so, Roosevelt’s somewhat inadvertent ignition of the Progressive Agenda along with what would prove to be a golden era in journalism, through his uniquely close collusions (and disputes) with four remarkable writers at McClure’s Magazine. These journalists, as much the star of this 800 page history as the two well-known Presidents, came to be known as “muckrakers,” or, rather, dogged investigative reporters with a patriotic drive to root out corruption.
Goodwin wrote what ostensibly served as source material for Spielberg’s recent award winner Lincoln (with her biography, Team Of Rivals), and she is comparably extensive in her portraits of two very close, yet very different men, with Roosevelt the brash, iconoclastic firebrand who yearned for and thrived in the White House and Taft, the affable, consummate civil servant addled with self-doubt during his presidency and anxious, however futile, not to defy his predecessor and friend. But this book proves more the portrait of the bygone art of investigative journalism, a careful craft dependent on research and serving a call to illuminate the inner-workings of their government.
An age when the “media,” (print-only back then) could exert a positive and motivational influence over the American consciousness? You’ll believe it when you read it.