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With best sellers on FDR (No Ordinary Time) and Lincoln (Team of Rivals), Pulitzer Prize winner Goodwin tackles the period between those subjects, when President Theodore Roosevelt (TR) and his successor William Howard Taft, with a new breed of investigative reporter, took on greedy industrialists and corrupt politicians. Goodwin excels in capturing the essences of TR and Taft as well as the opposing personalities of their wives. Her main figures are presented objectively and sympathetically. Ironically, as Goodwin clearly shows, the teddy bear should have been named after Taft-for his personality-rather than after TR. Taft was heavily dependent on his wife Nellie's political acumen. Until she had a stroke, Nellie was almost as active as Eleanor Roosevelt was to be. The best part of this volume is the author's presentation of the muckrakers (investigative reporters), whose research TR, in contrast to Taft, was willing to use. Just as TR assembled a talented political team in his administration, Sam McClure of McClure's magazine assembled Ida Tarbell, Lincoln Steffens, Ray Baker, and William Allen White. -McClure's "golden age" muckraker empire soon crashed as a result of his manic depression, just as TR's political career ended prematurely. VERDICT It's a long book, but it marks Goodwin's page-turner trifecta on the evolution of the modern presidency. Both presidential buffs and scholars will discover new aspects of the progressive era here. Highly recommended.-William D. -Pederson, Louisiana State Univ., Shreveport (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Memorable characters and episodes of modern US history spring to life in this sprawling book. Goodwin's compelling narrative features these elements: an ebullient president who changed the political game in the first decade of the 20th century; his collaboration with brilliant investigative journalists who roused public opinion and thereby provided the necessary impetus for important reforms; an intense friendship that frayed and broke under the pressure of different political priorities; and a dramatic presidential campaign in 1912 that left the book's major protagonists, Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, on the losing end. While the fundamentals of this story have been retailed many times previously, this account is worth reading because of the way Goodwin has conceptualized it--connecting subjects usually treated separately, interweaving private lives with public policy, interspersing anecdotes and apt quotes in just the right measure, and highlighting the subjects' complementary strengths as public figures. Never before has the Taft-Roosevelt dynamic been brought more fully to life. Never before has TR's canny cultivation of the press corps served better to illuminate Progressivism's advent at the national level. Both edifying and entertaining, this is popular history at its best. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. M. J. Birkner Gettysburg College
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
*Starred Review* In this hyperpartisan era, it is well to remember that a belief in an activist federal government that promoted both social and economic progress crossed party lines, as it did during the Progressive movement of the early twentieth century. Goodwin, the acclaimed historian, repeatedly emphasizes that fact in her massive and masterful study of the friendship, and then the enmity, of two presidents who played major roles in that movement. Roosevelt, unsurprisingly, is portrayed by Goodwin as egotistical, bombastic, and determined to take on powerful special interests. He saw his secretary of war, Taft, as a friend and disciple. When Taft, as president, seemed to abandon the path of reform, Roosevelt saw it as both a political and a personal betrayal. Taft, sadly remembered by many as our fattest president, receives nuanced, sympathetic, but not particularly favorable treatment here. But this is also an examination of some of the great journalists who exposed societal ills and promoted the reforms that aimed to address them. Many of these muckrakers, including Ida Tarbell and Lincoln Steffens, worked for McClure's magazine. This is a superb re-creation of a period when many politicians, journalists, and citizens of differing political affiliations viewed government as a force for public good. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: This author's new book has been greatly anticipated; much prepublication discussion has occurred; and reader interest will be intense.--Freeman, Jay Copyright 2010 Booklist