The Bully Pulpit

  • by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • Narrated by Edward Herrmann
  • 36 hrs and 42 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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.


What the Critics Say

“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)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Makes You Forget You Live in the 21st Century Good

Until I listened to Doris Kearns Goodwin's "The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism" (2013) it didn't occur to me that anyone - other than George Washington - had been 'drafted' into the presidency. I'd assumed that people who become president have a burning desire for the office, and plan and maneuver over many years to get there.

Theodore Roosevelt, the brilliant, adventurous and beloved scion of a wealthy New York family, positioned himself his whole life to be president. Throughout his life, he was also a prolific and influential conservation and naturalist author. Roosevelt was such a maverick that the Republican Party tried to derail "that cowboy" by making him William McKinley's Vice Presidential running mate for the 1900 election. McKinley was assassinated in 1901, and secretly gleeful, Roosevelt became president.

William Taft, Roosevelt's long time friend and politically progressive ally, had one life long ambition: the Supreme Court. Taft's judicial decisions in the lower courts and later, the Supreme Court, were well reasoned and supported and are still used today. On the way to becoming Chief Justice in 1921, he was inveigled into the presidency by Roosevelt, and elected in 1908.

Four years later, Roosevelt wanted the presidency back. His long friendship with Taft had fractured, and Roosevelt's ego split the Republican Party in two. In the 1912 election, Taft, Roosevelt and Democrat Woodrow Wilson ran. With Republican votes split, Wilson won.

Roosevelt's close relationship with journalists, including Ray Stannard Baker, who wrote "What the United States Steel Corporation Is" (1901) for McClure's Magazine (1893-1929). That lengthy piece, along with Ida Tarbell's groundbreaking "The Standard Oil Company" (1902), described trusts that ruthlessly snuffed out competition and endangered the country's resources. Roosevelt instituted such strong trust-busting reforms, he'd more aptly be a Democrat today. Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" (1906) lead to the "Pure Food and Drug Act" (1906) and what eventually became the FDA. Taft, while much more reserved with the press than Roosevelt, relied on journalists to investigate and publicize one of his main goals as president: tariff reform. Taft didn't get everything he wanted, but he got a lot.

Taft was a genuinely nice man who hard to make people comfortable, build consensus, and as appointed Governor General of the Philippines, showed an unparalleled empathy and understanding of that culture that enabled him to ensure that country's transition to peace. Roosevelt, however - well, he was dominating, extremely aggressive, pro-war, and hurt people that got in his way. The "Speak softly" part of his motto was aspirational. "The Bully Pulpit" disillusioned me about Roosevelt, whose lionization is even stronger than it was a century ago.

I listened to Goodwin's "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln" (2005) and had trouble with that as an Audible. There were so many people that it was hard to remember who was who, and there's no Audio index. I had a much easier time with the Audible of "The Bully Pulpit". Goodwin 'reintroduced' people that had been mentioned much earlier in her book, and that was enough to remember who they were. I got a little mired in the chapter on Taft and tariffs, and had to listen to it twice to understand the problem and what Taft wanted, but I didn't mind.

"The Bully Pulpit" is fascinating and accidentally-drive-by-your-freeway exit absorbing. I got so into the book and the vivid descriptions of the people and places, I actually misdated a check "1914" instead of "2014". And Edward Herrmann as a narrator - let's just say that I heard a bushy mustache, waistcoat with a watch fob, and a Panama Straw Boater.

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- Cynthia "Always moving. Always listening. Always learning. "After all this time?" "Always.""

A true Masterpiece!

Meant for Audio!!! I'm not sure if I would have attempted this book in print, but I was addicted to the audiobook!

I don't have the words to describe the experience of listening to this audiobook. It is a true masterpiece of Historic Nonfiction.
Yes, it's compelling, amazingly well-researched, well-written, interesting and very important. The book has won many awards, no surprise there! It is a remarkable work.
Don't let that scare you away!
This great forgotten piece of history is accessible and tremendously interesting.

Initially, I had no particular interest in the topic. I have read/listened River of Doubt by Candice Millard. It is the brilliantly written story of Teddy Roosevelt's unbelievably dangerous and semi-suicidal trip through unknown lands of the Amazon. The trip actually takes place after the events in this book. I was more than impressed with Roosevelt after that story. That was my only real frame of reference, besides the story that goes around about Taft becoming so corpulent that he became stuck in a bathtub.

A whole world was opened for me through The Bully Pulpit. These men and their wives and friends became three dimensional. I felt the entire range of human emotion listening to this book. Why doesn't history get taught like this in school??

This topic turned out to be far more essential and important than I could have realized. I think it is a book everyone should read (listen to actually) because it tells of a pivotal time in American History. These were the last decades of America as a fledgling country. As this book ends, and through the actions of the very characters if this book, America begins a new chapter as an emerging superpower.
This is also the story of a friendship that guides the country. Ultimately that friendship will turn into something ugly and sad. It will change the career and lives of Taft and Roosevelt forever.

I was actually a little bit lost when I finished this mammoth audiobook. I had a hard time finding anything to hold my interest, much less anything up to the standard of this writing. I hope to see much more from this author in the future!!!
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- Benoibe "audio addict! Mostly interested in history and some historical fiction. Will Durant is my all time favorite. Loving the Great Courses too."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 11-05-2013
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio