“The Bully Pulpit” is made up of many impeccably researched and deftly woven stories: a great, if disrupted, friendship; two shining, if sometimes lightly tarnished, political careers; our nation’s tumble into a Progressive era; and the “muckraker” journalists at McClure’s magazine who support Rooselvelt’s charge against corrupt politicians and business practices.
This is an intimidating looking book. With almost 750 thin pages of small print (not including the 100 plus pages of notes), this hardcover is a weapon—and not because learning history keeps us from repeating mistakes, or because the corner connecting with a skull could lead to a concussion—but because Goodwin galvanizes readers by describing a time when regular American people, a dedicated group of journalists, and a few good men in politics work together to fix a flawed system to the best of their ability, a time when apathy, for the average American, is unacceptable.
I long to be the journalist who reviews Roosevelt’s memoir, “The Rough Riders,” and says the book really needs the title, “Alone in Cuba,” only to find himself befriended by the good-humored author; or Ida Tarbell living in a tiny apartment in Paris, roaming the streets for her stories; or among the sledding party on the snowy Mt. Auburn Hill when Will Taft meets Nellie Herron. The words of Goodwin are as close as I will ever come: drawn from letters, diaries and memoirs, this is a powerful narrative about the power of press in politics—at a time when the news feels overly-focused on Beyonce and baby George.
Goodwin’s writing is sharp, funny, and brings history alive as only this Pulitzer-Prize-winning author can. I recommend this book for history buffs, and anyone interested in re-framing their concept of journalism.